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

Posts Tagged ‘Neo-Feudalism’

In A System Of Coercion & Predetermined Choices, “Freedom” Is Just A Word

In Uncategorized on September 24, 2013 at 8:27 pm

Oldspeak: “For the overwhelming majority of us, our whole lives revolve around meeting our basic needs and keeping our families from starvation and homelessness. Most individuals are at the mercy of the economic system and have little time for anything else – survival is their main concern. What kind of a life is that? Is this a life lived in absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action? People spend most of their lives working for a ruthless system and benefit very little from the incredible work and labor they put into it. And despite their best efforts, they are barely making it.

But being a human is about more than just earning a living, working 40 plus hours a week for someone else’s benefit, and wasting countless more hours commuting to and from work. We get a few hours to ourselves for lunch or at home after work, and (if we are lucky) two weeks of vacation per year. This is not freedom – it’s more like temporary release. Living means more than merely existing; living is about experiencing life by expressing one’s passions, connecting with one another, and contributing creatively to our communities. For the most part of our existence, our bodies and our time belong to our employers, the “owners.” The only reason the current system “works” is because it threatens us with starvation and homelessness – this is coercion. It is not freedom by any definition.” –Kali Ma

“You are not your job, you’re not how much money you have in the bank. You are not the car you drive. You’re not the contents of your wallet. You are not your fucking khakis. You are all singing, all dancing crap of the world” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club

“The real hopeless victims of mental illness are to be found among those who appear to be most normal. “Many of them are normal because they are so well-adjusted to our mode of existence, because their human voice has been silenced so early in their lives, that they do not even struggle or suffer or develop symptoms as the neurotic does.” They are normal not in what may be called the absolute sense of the word; they are normal only in relation to a profoundly abnormal society. Their perfect adjustment to that abnormal society is a measure of their mental sickness. These millions of abnormally normal people, living without fuss in a society to which, if they were fully human beings, they ought not to be adjusted.”-Aldous Huxley

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free” –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

“Freedom is Slavery””Ignorance is Strength” –George Orwell

“Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.” –Nesta Robert Marley

Don’t believe the hype. All the consumables, you’re being encouraged to spend your life force acquiring in the name of “personalization”, “independence”, “freedom”, “convenience” are being used to control and enslave you. Let go of your attachments to stuff. Don’t live your life in insatiable and relentless pursuit of “more”. Our Mother Earth cannot support us if we don’t drastically re prioritize our civilizations to value conservation over consumption. Sustainable, clean, regenerative energy development over toxic, extractive and destructive development. Creation, abundance, and balance over destruction, scarcity and imbalance. The revolution begins in you.” –OSJ

By Kali Ma @ The Hampton Institute:

Freedom is a word and idea that has become synonymous with America. President George Bush told Americans in the wake of 911 that the reason terrorists attacked the country was because “they hate our freedoms.” The national anthem proudly proclaims that America is “the land of the free.” Every July 4, Americans celebrate Independence Day and the freedoms that America represents. But what does freedom actually mean? What do politicians, those in power, and everyday individuals mean when they use freedom to describe the essence of America? In the sense that we have been conditioned to think of freedom and America as synonymous, there is actually no true meaning or definition of freedom. It is what George Orwell termed a “meaningless word” because it conveys nothing specific.[1] In reality, freedom means different things to different people: the right to free speech; the right to vote and participate in the political process; the right to privacy; the ability to accumulate great wealth and consume various products; or the right to live unmolested and to move about freely without constraints. [2] Essentially, the meaning of freedom is a personal one that has no official consensus.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, freedom means: a)the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action; b) liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another. Freedom, then, is about autonomy and independence – to be in control of oneself and to choose one’s destiny. If we apply this definition as the standard, do we truly have freedom?
“Work Until We Keel Over and Die”

The reality for most people in the world today is one in which we serve the needs of the economic system, and in turn, those at the top who benefit from the status quo. For a human being to do anything in the world, his or her most basic needs – such as food, shelter, and clothing – must first be met. Since all individuals need money to survive, the economic system within a country is one of the primary – if not the primary – determinant of an individual’s course and quality of life. Since money is directly tied to survival, it serves as a major factor that guides our decisions.

Frontline’s recently released documentary Two American Families vividly depicts the extent to which money and the economic system affect our everyday reality. The film follows the lives of two working-class families (the Neumanns and the Stanleys) over the course of twenty years as they struggle to live the “American Dream.” Their troubles begin when both Tony Neumann and Claude Stanley lose their well-paying, unionized manufacturing jobs to overseas outsourcing. What follows in the next two decades for both families is a painful struggle to keep up with their bills, feed their children, and cope with the constant stress of being unemployed, underemployed, and on the brink of poverty and homelessness. Throughout the years, the Neumanns and Stanleys work various demanding jobs (sometimes two at a time) and eventually hope to live a life of “purpose and a lot more self-respect.” The Neumann kids worry about the family’s finances and, at one point, even offer to sell their baseball cards. The Stanley boys start their own lawn care business and have no time for fun during the summer because, as the oldest son Keith says, “You have to go out there and help your mom and dad.” Only one Stanley child makes it through college while the rest are unable to attend due to medical bills that put the family $30,000 in debt. Even with all their hard work, resilience, and refusal to give up, both families express their disappointments and blame themselves for the struggles they have endured over the years.

One of the most disturbing examples of the injustice and ruthlessness of our system is the foreclosure of Terry Neumann’s home. After 24 years, Terry loses her house in 2011 because her part-time job wages are not enough to cover the mortgage. If we assume that the monthly mortgage payments stayed the same for 24 years, the Neumann family paid JP Morgan close to $236,160 for a house the bank sold for $38,000 in foreclosure and for which they demanded an additional $120,000 from Terry as a buy-out.[3] After years of barely “making it,” Terry has little faith in the future and believes that most of us will simply “work until we collapse, keel over and die.”
Poverty – As American as Apple Pie

Unfortunately, the Stanleys and the Neumanns are not unique. Their stories are typical and happen to millions of Americans every day. According to recent surveys, 76% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck and 80% of Americans struggle with unemployment and near-poverty at some point in their lives. Since the 2008 economic crash, millions of Americans have slipped into poverty, lost their homes, gone bankrupt, become unemployed, and are now working part-time jobs in an economy where not even full-time wages are enough to make a decent living. But these conditions have always been present, as evidenced by families like the Stanleys and Neumanns; it’s just that now an increasing number of Americans are living this reality that had previously gone mostly unacknowledged. Currently, there are more than47 million Americans on food stamps (most of thememployed), and almost a third of working class families earn wages below the official poverty threshold. In the more updated poverty measures, which include additional living costs such as medical expenses, almost 50% of Americans – 146. 4 million people – are considered poor or low-income.[4] On top of all this, 69% of Americans today hold some form of debt with the median household owing $70,000. Unfortunately, the odds of overcoming these dire economic circumstances are slim: theU.S. ranks consistently at the bottom when it comes toincome equality and offers much less economic mobility than other developed countries. So, who is benefitting from this system?

The top 1% richest households in America received 121% of all income gains from 2009 to 2011, and median CEO pay increased to $15.1 million last year. Today, the richest 1% of Americans take in 24% of all new income, while in 1976 they took home 9%. The 400 wealthiest individuals – the real owners of America – have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans. Corporations have also raked in record profits, yet somehow none of this prosperity has “trickled down” to the rest of us.
Freedom to Live, Not Merely Exist

When we look at the Stanleys, Neumanns, and millions of other families struggling to (literally) survive, one has to ask: are they free human beings? What freedoms do they enjoy? For the overwhelming majority of us, our whole lives revolve around meeting our basic needs and keeping our families from starvation and homelessness. Most individuals are at the mercy of the economic system and have little time for anything else – survival is their main concern. What kind of a life is that? Is this a life lived in absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action? People spend most of their lives working for a ruthless system and benefit very little from the incredible work and labor they put into it. And despite their best efforts, they are barely making it.

But being a human is about more than just earning a living, working 40 plus hours a week for someone else’s benefit, and wasting countless more hours commuting to and from work. We get a few hours to ourselves for lunch or at home after work, and (if we are lucky) two weeks of vacation per year. This is not freedom – it’s more like temporary release. Living means more than merely existing; living is about experiencing life by expressing one’s passions, connecting with one another, and contributing creatively to our communities. For the most part of our existence, our bodies and our time belong to our employers, the “owners.” The only reason the current system “works” is because it threatens us with starvation and homelessness – this is coercion. It is not freedom by any definition.

According to studies, most workers today have completely checked out from their jobs and are practically sleepwalking through their workdays. This even includes high-income workers, which suggests that money has little effect on whether we actually enjoy our jobs. These statistics fly in the face of those who argue that our current system is necessary because it creates an incentive for people to be productive. Studies have repeatedly shown thatmoney is actually a bad motivator, and what people really care about is to have autonomy at their jobs and the opportunity to apply their talents and be recognized for their work. Turns out, self-expression and the ability to make one’s own decisions are more important than money. This may be surprising to many of us because we have been indoctrinated into an economic ideology that sees profit as the ultimate value without any consideration for human beings and the natural world. Today, our global economy is mostly geared toward consuming and producing products we don’t need at the expense of exploited workers and the degradation of our environment. In other words, we are lending our labor to forces of death and destruction while ignoring the consequences of our work. No wonder most people cannot relate to their jobs.

Unfortunately, many individuals cannot afford to quit their jobs even if they find their work morally repugnant because they have to worry about paying their bills and taking care of their families. Moreover, in an economy based on consumption and exploitation, there are few meaningful jobs that provide us with a deep sense of purpose and that create a positive impact on society. If they do exist, these jobs are mostly reserved for privileged individuals who get to choose between careers of profit or lives of purpose. It is these kinds of choices that working class people do not have in our system today.

No one is suggesting that people should not be “productive” or contribute to society; on the contrary, people want to have a purpose in life and we should be able to utilize our talents and passions for the benefit of society while still working in harmony with each other and the environment. A coercive economy only creates widespread discontent and fails to meet even the basic physical and psychological needs of the majority of people.

Unfortunately, there are still those who blame others for being poor, unemployed, or struggling in this economy. While those in power often blame people for their misfortunate in order to evade responsibility for creating and perpetuating a system of oppression, there are also those within the working class who echo their sentiments. Clearly these individuals have internalized the authoritarian and coercive mindset that keeps them obedient to the needs of those in power. Their anger, criticism and disgust are misplaced and should be directed at the ruling class who benefits from this system of oppression and degradation. They have sharp words of “personal responsibility” for working people, yet no calls for accountability of Wall Street criminality and general belligerence of the ruling class. The victim-blamers never stop to ask themselves why there is no space in our economy for people to express their passions and talents; or why every person must adapt to the needs of the system – isn’t the system supposed to work for us, the people? But, of course, it is much easier to blame the victims than to confront our own powerlessness.
Limited, Predetermined Choices

Our every decision depends on the system’s approval, and we forego many of our wishes, desires, hopes, and dreams because we have to labor to survive. This is simply a sophisticated and updated version of slavery that has most people serving the interests of the powerful with minimal benefits to themselves. And make no mistake about it – the ruling class – if they could get away with it – would make all of us work for free. They are certainly not above slavery, as the history of African Americans and today’s corporate exploitation of farmworkers,temp workers, prisoners, and millions of sweatshop laborers around the world clearly shows. We are only putting up with this system because we have no other choice; we are blackmailed and rendered passive because our survival depends on our servitude to the interests of a ruthless authoritarian structure. No one in their right mind would willingly choose this type of existence because it goes against every natural human instinct that pushes against oppression and yearns for self-expression and creativity.

We cannot even choose our own education because we have to look to the system to determine which majors will land us a job or make us a lot of money. Knowledge and education have been commodified, stripped of their inherent value, and turned into assembly-line products to be bought and sold on the market. We have lost the most basic and personal freedoms to determine how we wish to cultivate our lives – it is all about the system and how we can be used to serve its needs. This type of thinking is so deeply ingrained into our psyche that most people do not even realize that this is how they approach life. Living our passions and having autonomy should not be a privilege – we all deserve the opportunity to express our talents, not just the lucky (mostly privileged) few. Anything less than that is psychological and spiritual suicide.

The issue of freedom boils down to autonomy – the dignity of self-determination which recognizes that we as human beings are more than just commodities to be used and exploited for the benefit of the few; to exercise our inherent rights as living beings to make decisions about our own lives without facing catastrophic consequences from a system created by those in power who benefit from our oppression. So the next time you hear the word “freedom,” ask yourself: do I have the autonomy to direct my life as I wish, to pursue my passions, interests, and desires without facing the consequences of starvation, homelessness or alienation? Am I free to do as I wish (without harming anyone) or am I dependent and beholden to a greater force and power than myself – one that makes those fundamental decisions for me? Do I have real choices in my life or only the superficial “choice” of Pepsi or Coke, Democrat or Republican, CNN or Fox News? In other words, do our choices have substance or is it just the same shit in a different package?

Notes

[1] Because the word “freedom” conveys nothing, individuals (and governments) can conceal the true nature of their ideas and actions behind such ambiguous words, while allowing their audience to fill in the missing definition. For instance, when politicians speak of a free economy (or economic freedom), what they really mean is an economy free to exploit workers and the environment without any regulation, rules, or oversight of corporations; however, many individuals interpret economic freedom to mean the right to work, decent wages, or better opportunities to start small businesses. Clearly, there is a disconnect between the politician’s meaning of the word and its interpretation by the audience.

[2] Even the rights we think we have are vanishing before our eyes: as a result of mass surveillance, the right to privacy no longer exists; our votes have become meaningless because regardless of who we vote for, Wall Street and the military industrial complex always win; many of us cannot even walk around freely without being harassed in the age of codified racial profiling under “Stop and Frisk”; and of course the “chilling” effect on free speech resulting from unprecedented persecutions of journalists and whistleblowers by an establishment so afraid of the truth that it jails those who expose corruption and war crimes.

[3] $820 (monthly mortgage) x 12 months x 24 years = $236,160. This sum does not include fees and penalties the Neumanns paid over the years when they fell behind on their mortgage.

[4] Some critics argue that even these figures are too low because the standards for calculating the poverty line have not been updated since the 1960s. If the measures had kept pace with living standards over the years, today the poverty threshold would be $34,000 for a family of four instead of the $25,222 in the more “updated” version under the Poverty Supplemental Measure. http://www.cepr.net/index.php/blogs/cepr-blog/raising-minimum-wage-to-9-not-enough-to-ensure-that-families-with-fulltime-workers-live-above-poverty-line

Can You Feel It? People are Getting More Tense As Anti-Human New Political Order Takes Shape

In Uncategorized on August 23, 2013 at 8:13 pm

Oldspeak:” As the loss of economic and political right increases, the population is getting spooked. The feeling I have is that of heightened generalized tension, the social/political equivalent of the sort of disturbance that animals detect in advance of earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, of pressure building up along major fault lines. The other way to articulate this vibe is that it is as if events are being influenced by a large unseen gravitational or magnetic force, as if a black hole had moved into the ‘hood. We can’t see the hidden superdense object, but we can infer that it’s distorting the space around it. -Yves Smith

“Happy to know that i’m not the only one… Feel this in the air every day walking the streets of New York. Anxiety, fear, tension, distortion, ignoring, frustration, hurriedness, anger, dysfunction… Really overwhelming at times. When you recognize that climate change increases violence, one can’t help but to anticipate dark days ahead. Watched a documentary today called “Wake Up” where they interviewed scientists who documented evidence of a global integrated supra-consciousness. And how the heightening of that consciousness makes a bunch of random number generators stationed around the planet stop generating random numbers and start generating coherent patterns. How it changes the magnetic field of the earth before major global events. Non-local consciousness.  i think we all intuitively and inter-connectedly know something bad is coming. The signs get harder and harder to ignore. Wages for the poorest are falling or stagnant, while the wages of the richest rise. People are beginning to resist the anti-human laws and policies being imposed on them. Witness the recent strikes by Wal-Mart and fast food workers. The prison strike in Pelican Bay in solidarity with prisoners in Palestine. The people know. There is a disturbance in the force…” –OSJ

By Yves Smith @ Naked Capitalism:

Perhaps I’m just having a bad month, but I wonder if other readers sense what I’m detecting. I fancy if someone did a Google frequency search on the right terms, they might pick up tangible indicators of what I’m sensing (as in I’m also a believer that what people attribute to gut feeling is actually pattern recognition).

The feeling I have is that of heightened generalized tension, the social/political equivalent of the sort of disturbance that animals detect in advance of earthquakes or volcanic eruptions, of pressure building up along major fault lines. The other way to articulate this vibe is that it is as if events are being influenced by a large unseen gravitational or magnetic force, as if a black hole had moved into the ‘hood. We can’t see the hidden superdense object, but we can infer that it’s distorting the space around it.

Now if you just want to go with the “maybe this is just your neurosis” view, we are in the midst of a counterrevolution, and it’s not exactly cheery to be watching its progress on a daily basis.

It isn’t just that the economic rights for ordinary workers and the social safety nets of the New Deal and the earlier labor movements here and abroad are being demolished. Major elements of a broad social and political architecture that served as the foundation for the Industrial Revolution are being torn apart: the Statute of Fraud (essential to give people of every level of society decent protection of property rights) and access to legal remedies; basic protection of personal rights (habeas corpus, due process, protection against unlawful search and seizure); local policing (as in policing being accountable to local governments). Decent quality public education and the freedom of the press are also under assault. People here have used various terms for this new political order that is being put in place; neofeudalism works as well as any, but it looks intended to dial the clock back on many economic and civil rights of ordinary people, not back to the Gilded Age, but to before the French and American Revolutions.

The sense of heightened tension isn’t that this program is underway, or the recent phases have moved rapidly (that’s bad enough) but that ordinary people are increasingly aware of it, and the folks behind it didn’t want to be caught out at this delicate stage. Imagine if you were executing a coup and got exposed, before you had seized all the critical installations you needed to capture for your victory to be complete.

The collective awareness of the degree of loss of economic and political rights we had all taken for granted, has risen considerably as a result of the Snowden/Greenwald/Poitras revelations. If you haven’t read it yet, the fact that the New York Times ran a favorable Sunday magazine cover story on Laura Poitras [3] (in striking contrast to its earlier hatchet job on Glenn Greenwald) and discussed in some detail how routine communication on the web are simply not secure and depicted the considerable measures Snowden, Greenwald, and Poitras have had to take (and by implication, ordinary people ought to be taking) is an indicator of the fault lines among the elites. A story like that (a story! not My Eyes Glaze Over reports on what sorts of surveillance might or might not be permissible under various programs most American can’t bother to keep track of) brings home in a visceral way how far Big Brother has gone to a large national audience. As Atlantic put it [4]:

The New York Times Magazine cover story by Peter Maass [3] detailing how Edward Snowden reached out to the two reporters that broke the NSA surveillance story isn’t about that surveillance. It’s only sort of about journalism. Instead, it’s largely a story about how close to the boundaries of civilization you must get — literally and figuratively — to be assured that you can protect your privacy. And it’s about how the United States government pushes people there.

But notice the Atlantic played it chicken by calling Poitras “paranoid” in its headline. If you read the abuse Poitras’ suffered when she would return to the US [5], including having her equipment repeatedly seized and the data searched, “paranoid” is the last word you’d use. “Prudent” is more like it.

And we have the drip drip drip of ongoing revelations such as XKeyscore, “mistaken” surveillance of thousands of ordinary Americans (and you can bet a lot more is dressed up as legit), CIA surveillance of Aaron Swartz and Noam Chomsky (Chomsky? Surveilling an academic successfully relegated to the “so left he’s irrelevant” ghetto? If he’s treated as a threat, the threat threshold is awfully low).

Now as a netizen, as well as someone who has been following the Big Brother story reasonably closely, I could be charged with overreacting to that. But Obama is losing his famous cool. It may simply be an coincidence of timing (as in he’s fighting his inevitable slide into lame duck status and none too happy about that) but he’s been visibly heavy handed of late. This is just off the top of my head:

Derailing Grayson’s session with Greenwald (which will go ahead in September, so what sort of victory was it to push it into a busier news period?)

Getting snippy in that Democratic caucus meeting when asked about Larry Summers and later calling senators who opposed Summers to his office to tell them to lay off

Launching a Big Lie speaking tour on how he’s creating middle class jobs (which seems to be landing like a lead balloon)

Launching a faux independent surveillance investigation (as I’ve said before, having Clapper on the committee is tantamount to saying, “So what are you going to do? Impeach me?”)

A bizarre flurry of “look, over there, an airplane” of actions that garner positive headlines. Mind you, this is standard operating procedure…except that there’s been a weird flurry in August, when most of them could have been held back to September: the London Whale prosecutions. Opposing the AMR-US Air merger. The announcement of an investigation into the use of antipsychotics on children [6].

Shorter: Obama looks off balance.

And we’ve got a whole ‘nother front opening up, that of municipal bankruptcies and restructurings, which puts the war against municipal workers and unions back in the headlines and creates another looting opportunity for Wall Street, in the form of privatizations. Ugh.

Or maybe the inchoate sense of pressure is real, but I’m looking in the wrong place for explanations. A newly-published study ascertained that climate change increases violence [7]. And we also have that long-standing Roubini call that 2013 will see a new outbreak of crisis, and winter October is coming.

So readers: do you have a similar sense of a collective rise in pressure, or tangible signs of disturbance among what passes for our elites? Or is this just me trying to draw a trend line through a random set of data?

Multinational Greed Is Threatening The Stability Of Societies Across the Planet

In Uncategorized on July 26, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Oldspeak: “Around the globe, people are getting increasingly frustrated by governments going out of their way to ensure an enabling environment for big business while making drastic cuts in public spending on social welfare. This is fuelling alienation among electorates, spurring protests. Of great concern, is that those seeking to expose the nexus between governments and big business are being subjected to various forms of persecution with state complicity….. while the power of transnational corporations has expanded exponentially, income and wealth disparities are threatening to tear societies apart. The World Economic Forum’s 2013 annual survey of global risks identifies severe income disparity as a key concern likely to manifest itself over the next decade. The International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director has admitted that the top 0.5 percent of the globe’s population holds 35 per cent of its wealth . Civil society group, Oxfam estimated that in 2012, the world’s top 100 billionaires earned enough money to end poverty four times over.  ….But despite the grave warnings from civil society, governments and financial institutions continue to spin arguments about the need to privatise services when they should be focusing on how to make the public sector fit for purpose. Shockingly, during a global economic downturn, political leaders and captains of industry have together managed to subject ordinary people to double jeopardy: having to pay taxes to the state and then having to fork out profit-adjusted higher costs for privatised health, education, public transport, telecommunications, road works, electricity, water supply and so on. These services are indeed governments’ responsibility to provide as part of the social contract between citizens and the state.” -Mandeep Tiwana

“It seems pretty obvious at this point that the people who’ve profited the most from the 2008 global economic collapse, our corporate citizens who’ve been bailed out and are constantly being supported by monthly taxpayer financed subsidies via “Quantitive Easing” policies are driving the current global economic and ecological  downturn. Depressing wages, eliminating workers, stripping worker protections, destroying food and water supplies, taking ownership of all,  replacing jobs with living wages with jobs with slave wages, asserting supra-governmental control via a number of secret laws, directives, policies, treaties and trade agreements.  Logic dictates that fewer workers with less spending power = failing economy.  Yet this logic is ignored. This is happening world wide for the most part. It’s clear that the governments worldwide are no longer representative of their people. They’re serving as facilitators and gatekeepers of a global neo-feudalist control system being emplaced. The people continue to honor the social contract between them and the state while the state has thrown it out, and entered into a new contract with the 0.5%. How else to explain half the world living in poverty, when the 100 people could end it 4 times over. How else to explain GM and Chrysler being bailed out while the city around them, Detroit, is being allowed to go bankrupt, not mentioned ONCE in Obama’s latest rhetorical master speech on the U.S. Economy, even as he crowed about saving the U.S. Auto Industry. How else to explain Citigroup’s profits increasing by 42% as it cuts its workforce and makes more than 50% of its profits outside of the U.S.? We have to have real conversations about the fatal corruption of the capitalist system by greed for money. The system is irreparably corrupted by money and amorality. What do we do when a computer’s system is corrupted? We fix it, or if it’s beyond repair, we replace it with a new system. This is what must be done with our economic system. We must replace it.” – OSJ

By Mandeep Tiwana @ Al Jazzera English:

The people are angry. In Turkey, Brazil, and most recently again, Egypt, thousands have taken to the streets to voice their anger and frustration at the lack of social and economic justice. Political and economic elites, working in tandem, have managed to neutralise the aspirations of ordinary people, in part spurring the disenfranchisement driving the protests.

Whether it is the removal of subsidies  [3]protecting the poor against inflation and price shocks in Egypt, or the enormous cost of hosting high profile sporting events  [4]in Brazil at the expense of social services, or government plans to commercialise  [5]a beloved public park in the heart of Istanbul, the headlong embrace of neoliberal economic policies by governments is likely to cause further dissatisfaction and unrest across the globe.

Neo-liberalism, using a dictionary definition, as a “modern politico-economic theory favouring free trade, privatisation, minimal government intervention, reduced public expenditure on social services etc.,” reduces the responsibility of the state while promoting privatisation to favour those with access to resources and influence. It is playing havoc with the lives and livelihoods of ordinary people.

Despite mainstream perceptions, the sad reality is that free markets don’t automatically regulate themselves nor do they naturally respect individual or community rights. In Indonesia [6], people are choking from fires set by agricultural companies to clear forests to allow mammoth palm oil plantations to flourish. In the United States [7], popular demands for effective gun control are being blocked by congressmen bankrolled by the arms industry. In Ethiopia [8], thousands have been displaced through forced villagisation programmes to make way for agricultural companies that want to make land more “productive.” In Spain  [9]and inGreece [10], public property such as hospitals and airports are being sold to private players to make the economy more “nimble.” In the UK [11], frustration is mounting about tax evasion by transnational corporations whose turnover exceeds the GDP of many countries, while the average citizen continues to dutifully pay their fair share of taxes.

Around the globe, people are getting increasingly frustrated by governments going out of their way to ensure an enabling environment for big business while making drastic cuts in public spending on social welfare. This is fuelling alienation among electorates, spurring protests. Of great concern, is that those seeking to expose the nexus between governments and big business are being subjected to various forms of persecution with state complicity.

In Cambodia [12], land rights activists opposing official plans to forcibly acquire land for big companies have been subjected to brutal attacks by security forces and lengthy prison terms. In Honduras [13], peasant farmers’ groups involved in land disputes with companies have been subjected to murderous attacks.  InIndia [14], peaceful activists ideologically opposed to the government’s economic policy have been charged under draconian laws of being members of outlawed terrorist organisations. In Canada [15], non-profit groups opposed to the conservative government’s policy of loosening environmental restrictions to enable extraction of oil and gas from ecologically sensitive zones have been subjected to surveillance and funding cuts, while being accused of being obstructive of the country’s economic development.

Widening income inequality

Worryingly, while the power of transnational corporations has expanded exponentially, income and wealth disparities are threatening to tear societies apart. The World Economic Forum’s 2013 annual survey of global risks identifies severe income disparity [16] as a key concern likely to manifest itself over the next decade. The International Monetary Fund’s Managing Director has admitted that the top 0.5 percent of the globe’s population holds 35 per cent of its wealth [17]. Civil society group, Oxfam estimated that in 2012, the world’s top 100 billionaires earned enough money to end poverty four times over [18]. CIVICUS, the global civil society alliance has argued in its annual report  [19]that the discourse on inequality is becoming commonplace with the 1 percent vs the 99 percent meme entering the mainstream.

But despite the grave warnings from civil society, governments and financial institutions continue to spin arguments about the need to privatise services when they should be focusing on how to make the public sector fit for purpose. Shockingly, during a global economic downturn, political leaders and captains of industry have together managed to subject ordinary people to double jeopardy: having to pay taxes to the state and then having to fork out profit-adjusted higher costs for privatised health, education, public transport, telecommunications, road works, electricity, water supply and so on. These services are indeed governments’ responsibility to provide as part of the social contract between citizens and the state.

In the past, the political and economic elite have erroneously sought to deride the occupy movements,indignados and anti-corruption protestors as fringe elements without clear vision or majority support. But with greater numbers of people taking to the streets to voice their dissatisfaction against corruption, environmental degradation and top down austerity policies, decision makers have a reality check staring them in the face. But will they right the ship on neo-liberal economic policies when they are privately profiting from it? Perhaps citizen action will help answer that.

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Links:
[1] http://english.aljazeera.net/
[2] http://www.alternet.org/authors/mandeep-tiwana
[3] http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/dec/21/egyptians-held-back-neoliberalism-not-religion
[4] http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2013/06/2013619134555233454.html
[5] http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/witness/2013/07/20137112549633235.html
[6] http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/press/releases/Palm-oil-companies-must-come-clean-on-Indonesian-fire-hotspots—Greenpeace/
[7] http://www.forbes.com/sites/frederickallen/2013/04/18/gun-control-a-congress-of-cowards/
[8] http://www.hrw.org/news/2012/01/16/ethiopia-forced-relocations-bring-hunger-hardship
[9] http://iberosphere.com/2013/06/spain-news-private-sector-moves-into-spains-public-hospitals/8701
[10] http://pathfinderbuzz.com/resilience-makes-greek-ports-attractive/
[11] http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/nov/12/starbucks-tax-avoidance-controversy
[12] https://www.civicus.org/media-centre-129/61-press-releases/1030-cambodia-civicus-calls-for-unconditional-release-of-detained-activists
[13] http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR37/003/2013/en/4fabe3f5-648c-4192-9383-06ae42fa9922/amr370032013en.html
[14] http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/06/26/india-stop-misuse-counterterrorism-laws
[15] http://socs.civicus.org/?p=3825
[16] http://reports.weforum.org/global-risks-2013/
[17] http://www.imf.org/external/np/speeches/2013/051513.htm
[18] http://www.oxfam.org/en/pressroom/pressrelease/2013-01-19/annual-income-richest-100-people-enough-end-global-poverty-four-times
[19] http://socs.civicus.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/2013StateofCivilSocietyReport_full.pdf
[20] http://www.alternet.org/tags/neoliberalism
[21] http://www.alternet.org/%2Bnew_src%2B

Colonized by Corporations: Corporations Are Colonizing Us With “Free Trade Agreements” – & Wall Street Wants In

In Uncategorized on June 19, 2013 at 8:12 pm

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Oldspeak: NAFTA, CAFTA, TPP, and on the horizon, the “Trans Atlantic Free Trade Agreement” or TAFTA, for short. Catchy acronyms are always a bad sign. The USA Patriot Act that essentially shredded the bill of rights  immediately comes to mind. This latest iteration of the Transnational Corporate Network’s stealth supra-government takeover of the global commons will serve to further degrade flesh and blood citizens’ rights while expanding rights of our newly minted corporate citizens to  “allow most food safety standards, financial stability measures and environmental protections to be dismantled in the name of reducing “barriers” –Ben BeachyThis ‘deal’ is shaping up to be just another vehicle for the largest U.S. and EU corporations to sneak in provisions they cannot enact through open democratic processes and leave citizens exposed to another financial crisis, unsafe foods and severe burdens on Internet freedom and innovation.” –Lori Wallach The colonizers are now colonizing their own populations.  Resist Neo-Colonialism.  Rebel. Protest.  Before the takeover is complete.”

By Richard Eskow @ Campaign For America’s Future:

After 237 years, we’re becoming a colony again. Our nation’s losing the right to self-determination it fought so hard to win, and it’s happening on a scale unseen since the days of George III.

As is so often the case these days, this wholesale loss of our rights is being underwritten by corporate interests.

And, as usual, it’s being called “bipartisan” – by corporations who “buy” both Republican and Democratic “partisans.”

Terms of Surrender

Republicans cheered George W. Bush for saying, “I will never place U.S. troops under U.N. command.” Democrats cheered Barack Obama for saying, “I want us to control our own energy destiny.”

But both leaders pushed trade agreements that surrender our sovereign rights to faceless bureaucrats in international bodies – bodies that are dominated by multinational corporations.

Where are those cheering crowds now? Republicans backed a president who supported a agreements which put Americans’ rights – and their environment – “under the command” of foreign bodies.  And unless something changes Democratic voters will soon see their president give up even more control of our economic destiny.

WTO Stands For “We’re Taking Over”

Public Citizen, which has been doing excellent work on this issue, reports on three U.S. laws that were nullified by the World Trade Organization (WTO):  country-of-origin labels on meat, dolphin-safe labels on tuna, and the ban on sweet-flavored cigarettes designed to get kids addicted to the tobacco companies’ carcinogenic products. (What’s next:  Cherry-flavored crack?)

The WTO and the WTO “Appellate Body” – two bodies most Americans don’t even know exist – overruled these laws in a preemptory manner that would have outraged the Continental Congress.

We didn’t elect them. We can’t communicate with them. But they’ve issued three decrees which we must obey:

1) We are not to know where the meat we’re eating comes from.

2) We must accept the fact that we may unknowingly wind up eating the flesh of dolphins, arguably the most intelligent nonhuman species on the planet. And,

3) We must continue to allow the distribution of products designed to addict our children to a deadly and habit-forming substance.

How’s that for “controlling our own destiny”?

The Next Front

The next stage of our war for economic independence is being determined in trade talks that are being conducted in deep secrecy by a president who once promised “the most transparent administration in history.”

Laurel Sutherlin calls the Trans-Pacific Partnership “a worldwide corporate power grab of enormous proportions,” and that pretty accurately sums it up. (It’s hard to write about these deals without sounding hyperbolic, even if you’re only being descriptive.) As Sutherlin points out, the TPP “is among the largest and potentially most important ‘free trade’ agreements the world has ever seen …”

And yet, as Sutherlin notes, “one can hardly be blamed for not being familiar with it yet. The corporate cabal behind it … has done an exceptional job of maintaining an almost total lack of transparency as they literally design the future we will all inhabit.”

Although 600 corporate representatives have seen drafts of the agreement, access has been denied to even high-ranking members of Congress. Dave Johnson excerpts some provisions being considered in the secret talks, and they’re truly terrifying.

In fact, as Lori Wallach and Ben Beachy point out in a must-read editorial, the treaty’s provisions are so unpopular that the last negotiator felt it could only be concluded in secret. And now sovereignty-killing provisions are being considered for a trade agreement with member nations of the European Union.

Wall Street Wants a Piece

Now Wall Street’s trying to use these draft agreements to undermine our ability to protect ourselves from bank predation or another financial crisis. They’ve already tried to use the WTO’s archaic and destructive financial rules (Americans for Financial Reform has the details). Now Bloomberg News reports that banks and insurance companies are trying to use new proposed trade deals to overrule or further dilute portions of the Dodd-Frank Act.

That legislation was weakened by bipartisan negotiation, and a number of agencies have “slow-walked” its implementation by delaying the completion of draft regulations. But that’s not enough for trade groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Coalition of Service Industries, and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA).

They see this as an opportunity to unleash their member companies, corporations with names like Citi and AIG, to plunder and pillage – we mean, “unleash the innovative creativity of the financial sector” once again.

Easily Confused

They don’t say that, of course.  One of their favorite gambits is to say that it’s too “confusing” to deal with different countries’ rules.  A group of compliant House Republicans, for example, recently wrote to complain that “the regulatory landscape (is) too difficult for financial firms to navigate.”

Imagine.  The five largest banks in America earned more than $20 billion in the first quarter of this year alone and still can’t figure out how to “navigate” regulations. But here’s a funny thing: They don’t always want the same rules as other countries. Nobody on Wall Street mentioned “an easier landscape” when the EU set limits on bankers’ bonuses, for example.

They don’t want a “common” set of rules. They want the “lowest common denominator” of rulemaking, established by international, corporate-controlled bodies accountable to no one.

Freedom Ain’t Free

There have been some heroes in this fight. The organizations cited above have done excellent work. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren has been speaking out forcefully. So has Florida Rep. Alan Grayson, who has started a petition against the proposed inclusion of WTO-like oversight bodies in the new European trade agreement.

But President Obama, like presidents Bush and Clinton before him, appears to be on the wrong side of this fight. He needs to hear from voters who insist on transparent talks and a return to full American sovereignty.

Senators and representatives need to get those emails and calls, too. Better make your voice heard quickly, while your vote still matters.

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.

Related Stories:
Feast Of Fools

Revealed: The Transnational Corporate Network That Runs The World

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

The Politics of Disimagination and the Pathologies of Power

In Uncategorized on February 28, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Eye reflecitng TVOldspeak: ” A popular governemt without popular information of the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives” – James Madison (1798)The politics and machinery of disimagination and its production of ever-deepening ignorance dominates American society because it produces, to a large degree, uninformed customers, hapless clients, depoliticized subjects and illiterate citizens incapable of holding corporate and political power accountable. At stake here is more than the dangerous concentration of economic, political and cultural power in the hands of the ultrarich, megacorporations and elite financial services industries. Also at issue is the widespread perversion of the social, critical education, the public good, and democracy itself. –Henry A. Giroux (2013)The founding fathers knew all too well the indispensable importance of an informed citizenry to a vibrant democracy. My how things have changed in the ensuing 215 years. Learned ignorance is ubiquitous. As more and more actions of government, business &  industry are executed in secret (no pun intended), the further democracy recedes from view. The press which had the task of providing a check for the people against government and oligarchical overreach has been co-opted by the omnipresent corptalitarian state, becoming its formidable and highly effective propaganda arm. More information about the workings of government and business is conducted behind closed doors than ever before. Industry friendly lobbyists write entirely too much of the legislation our so-called elected officials pass in to law, that the people who know nothing about said laws must live under. Elected officials don’t have time to educate themselves sufficiently about the laws they pass because they spend most of their time collecting money from corprocrats who direct them what laws to pass and what laws to do away with. At some point the status quo will become untenable to the people. It’s probably why voting rights are being done away with. It’s probably why rights to free speech, free assembly and petitioning the government for grievances are being restricted. It’s probably why freedom from warrantless surveillance, search and seizure has been removed. It’s probably why protest has been designated as “low-level terrorism” and it’s frightfully easy to be labeled a “terrorist”. It’s probably why the Obama Administration refuses to definitively state that it’s claimed the right to assassinate Americans on American soil, that it has conveniently designated as a “battlefield“. The pieces have been put in to lock down this “turnkey totalitarian state“. As conditions deteriorate, it will begin to take a more tangible shape.” “Ignorance Is Strength”.

By Henry A. Giroux @ Truthout:

You write in order to change the world knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that [writing] is indispensable to the world. The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter even by a millimeter the way people look at reality, then you can change it.” – James Baldwin

The Violence of Neoliberalism

We live in a time of deep foreboding, one that haunts any discourse about justice, democracy and the future. Not only have the points of reference that provided a sense of certainty and collective hope in the past largely evaporated, but the only referents available are increasingly supplied by a hyper-market-driven society, megacorporations and a corrupt financial service industry. The commanding economic and cultural institutions of American society have taken on what David Theo Goldberg calls a “militarizing social logic.”[1] Market discipline now regulates all aspects of social life, and the regressive economic rationality that drives it sacrifices the public good, public values and social responsibility to a tawdry consumerist dream while simultaneously creating a throwaway society of goods, resources and individuals now considered disposable.[2] This militarizing logic is also creeping into public schools and colleges with the former increasingly resembling the culture of prison and the latter opening their classrooms to the national intelligence agencies.[3] In one glaring instance of universities endorsing the basic institutions of the punishing state, Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, concluded a deal to rename its football stadium after the GEO Group, a private prison corporation “whose record is marred by human rights abuses, by lawsuits, by unnecessary deaths of people in their custody and a whole series of incidents.” [3A] Armed guards are now joined by armed knowledge.  Corruption, commodification and repressive state apparatuses have become the central features of a predatory society in which it is presumed irrationally “that market should dominate and determine all choices and outcomes to the occlusion of any other considerations.”[4]

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The political, economic, and social consequences have done more than destroy any viable vision of a good society. They undermine the modern public’s capacity to think critically, celebrate a narcissistic hyperindividualism that borders on the pathological, destroy social protections and promote a massive shift towards a punitive state that criminalizes the behavior of those bearing the hardships imposed by a survival-of-the-fittest society that takes delight in the suffering of others. How else to account for a criminal justice stacked overwhelmingly against poor minorities, a prison system in which “prisoners can be held in solitary confinement for years in small, windowless cells in which they are kept for twenty-three hours of every day,”[5] or a police state that puts handcuffs on a 5-year old and puts him in jail because he violated a dress code by wearing sneakers that were the wrong color.[6] Why does the American public put up with a society in which “the top 1 percent of households owned 35.6 percent of net wealth (net worth) and a whopping 42.4 percent of net financial assets” in 2009, while many young people today represent the “new face of a national homeless population?”[7] American society is awash in a culture of civic illiteracy, cruelty and corruption. For example, major banks such as Barclays and HSBC swindle billions from clients and increase their profit margins by laundering money for terrorist organizations, and no one goes to jail. At the same time, we have the return of debtor prisons for the poor who cannot pay something as trivial as a parking fine. President Obama arbitrarily decides that he can ignore due process and kill American citizens through drone strikes and the American public barely blinks. Civic life collapses into a war zone and yet the dominant media is upset only because it was not invited to witness the golf match between Obama and Tiger Woods.

The celebration of violence in both virtual culture and real life now feed each other. The spectacle of carnage celebrated in movies such as A Good Day to Die Hard is now matched by the deadly violence now playing out in cities such as Chicago and New Orleans. Young people are particularly vulnerable to such violence, with 561 children age 12 and under killed by firearms between 2006 and 2010.[8] Corporate power, along with its shameless lobbyists and intellectual pundits, unabashedly argue for more guns in order to feed the bottom line, even as the senseless carnage continues tragically in places like Newtown, Connecticut, Tustin, California, and other American cities. In the meantime, the mainstream media treats the insane rambling of National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre as a legitimate point of view among many voices. This is the same guy who, after the killing of 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, claimed the only way to stop more tragedies was to flood the market with more guns and provide schools with more armed guards. The American public was largely silent on the issue in spite of the fact that an increase of police in schools does nothing to prevent such massacres but does increase the number of children, particularly poor black youth, who are pulled out of class, booked and arrested for trivial behavioral infractions.

At the same time, America’s obsession with violence is reinforced by a market society that is Darwinian in its pursuit of profit and personal gain at almost any cost. Within this scenario, a social and economic order has emerged that combines the attributes and values of films such as the classics Mad Max and American Psycho. Material deprivation, galloping inequality, the weakening of public supports, the elimination of viable jobs, the mindless embrace of rabid competition and consumption, and the willful destruction of the environment speak to a society in which militarized violence finds its counterpart, if not legitimating credo, in a set of atomizing and selfish values that disdain shared social bonds and any notion of the public good. In this case, American society now mimics a market-driven culture that celebrates a narcissistic hyperindividualism that radiates with a new sociopathic lack of interest in others and a strong tendency towards violence and criminal behavior. As John le Carré once stated, “America has entered into one of its periods of historical madness.”[9] While le Carré wrote this acerbic attack on American politics in 2003, I think it is fair to say that things have gotten worse, and that the United States is further plunging into madness because of a deadening form of historical and social amnesia that has taken over the country, further reproducing a mass flight from memory and social responsibility. The politics of disimagination includes, in this instance, what Mumia Abu-Jamal labeled “mentacide,” a form of historical amnesia “inflicted on Black youth by the system’s systematic campaign to eradicate and deny them their people’s revolutionary history.”[10]

America’s Plunge Into Militarized Madness

How does one account for the lack of public outcry over millions of Americans losing their homes because of corrupt banking practices and millions more becoming unemployed because of the lack of an adequate jobs program in the United States, while at the same time stories abound of colossal greed and corruption on Wall Street? [11] For example, in 2009 alone, hedge fund manager David Tepper made approximately 4 billion dollars.[12] As Michael Yates points out: “This income, spent at a rate of $10,000 a day and exclusive of any interest, would last him and his heirs 1,096 years! If we were to suppose that Mr. Tepper worked 2,000 hours in 2009 (fifty weeks at forty hours per week), he took in $2,000,000 per hour and $30,000 a minute.”[13] This juxtaposition of robber-baron power and greed is rarely mentioned in the mainstream media in conjunction with the deep suffering and misery now experienced by millions of families, workers, children, jobless public servants and young people. This is especially true of a generation of youth who have become the new precariat[14] – a zero generation relegated to zones of social and economic abandonment and marked by zero jobs, zero future, zero hope and what Zygmunt Bauman has defined as a societal condition which is more “liquid,”less defined, punitive, and, in the end, more death dealing.[15]

Narcissism and unchecked greed have morphed into more than a psychological category that points to a character flaw among a marginal few. Such registers are now symptomatic of a market-driven society in which extremes of violence, militarization, cruelty and inequality are hardly noticed and have become normalized. Avarice and narcissism are not new. What is new is the unprecedented social sanction of the ethos of greed that has emerged since the 1980s.[16] What is also new is that military force and values have become a source of pride rather than alarm in American society. Not only has the war on terror violated a host of civil liberties, it has further sanctioned a military that has assumed a central role in American society, influencing everything from markets and education to popular culture and fashion. President Dwight D. Eisenhower left office warning about the rise of the military-industrial complex, with its pernicious alignment of the defense industry, the military and political power.[17] What he underestimated was the transition from a militarized economy to a militarized society in which the culture itself was shaped by military power, values and interests. What has become clear in contemporary America is that the organization of civil society for the production of violence is about more than producing militarized technologies and weapons; it is also about producing militarized subjects and a permanent war economy. As Aaron B. O’Connell points outs:

Our culture has militarized considerably since Eisenhower’s era, and civilians, not the armed services, have been the principal cause. From lawmakers’ constant use of “support our troops” to justify defense spending, to TV programs and video games like “NCIS,” “Homeland”and “Call of Duty,” to NBC’s shameful and unreal reality show “Stars Earn Stripes,” Americans are subjected to a daily diet of stories that valorize the military while the storytellers pursue their own opportunistic political and commercial agendas.[18]

The imaginary of war and violence informs every aspect of American society and extends from the celebration of a warrior culture in mainstream media to the use of universities to educate students in the logic of the national security state. Military deployments now protect “free trade” arrangements, provide job programs and drain revenue from public coffers. For instance, Lockheed Martin stands to gain billions of dollars in profits as Washington prepares to buy 2,443 F-35 fighter planes at a cost of $90 million each from the company. The overall cost of the project for a plane that has been called a “one trillion dollar boondoggle” is expected to cost more “than Australia’s entire GDP ($924 billion).”[19] Yet, the American government has no qualms about cutting food programs for the poor, early childhood programs for low-income students and food stamps for those who exist below the poverty line. Such misplaced priorities represent more than a military-industrial complex that is out of control. They also suggest the plunge of American society into the dark abyss of a state that is increasingly punitive, organized around the production of violence and unethical in its policies, priorities and values.

John Hinkson argues that such institutionalized violence is far from a short-lived and aberrant historical moment. In fact, he rightfully asserts that: “we have a new world economy, one crucially that lacks all substantial points of reference and is by implication nihilistic. The point is that this is not a temporary situation because of the imperatives, say, of war: it is a structural break with the past.”[20] Evidence of such a shift is obvious in the massive transfer upward in wealth and income that have not only resulted in the concentration of power in relatively few hands, but have promoted both unprecedented degrees of human suffering and hardship along with what can be called a politics of disimagination.

The Rise of the “Disimagination Machine”

Borrowing from Georges Didi-Huberman’s use of the term, “disimagination machine,” I argue that the politics of disimagination refers to images, and I would argue institutions, discourses, and other modes of representation, that undermine the capacity of individuals to bear witness to a different and critical sense of remembering, agency, ethics and collective resistance.[21] The “disimagination machine” is both a set of cultural apparatuses extending from schools and mainstream media to the new sites of screen culture, and a public pedagogy that functions primarily to undermine the ability of individuals to think critically, imagine the unimaginable, and engage in thoughtful and critical dialogue: put simply, to become critically informed citizens of the world.

Examples of the “disimagination machine” abound. A few will suffice. For instance, the Texas State Board of Education and other conservative boards of education throughout the United States are rewriting American textbooks to promote and impose on America’s public school students what Katherine Stewart calls “a Christian nationalist version of US history” in which Jesus is implored to “invade” public schools.[22] In this version of history, the term “slavery” is removed from textbooks and replaced with “Atlantic triangular trade,” the earth is 6,000 years old, and the Enlightenment is the enemy of education. Historical figures such as Jefferson, Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin, considered to have suspect religious views, “are ruthlessly demoted or purged altogether from the study program.”[23] Currently, 46 percent of the American population believes in the creationist view of evolution and increasingly rejects scientific evidence, research and rationality as either ‘academic’ or irreligious.[24]

The rise of the Tea Party and the renewal of the culture wars have resulted in a Republican Party which is now considered the party of anti-science. Similarly, right-wing politicians, media, talk show hosts and other conservative pundits loudly and widely spread the message that a culture of questioning is antithetical to the American way of life. Moreover, this message is also promoted by conservative groups such as The American Legislative Exchange Council, (ALEC) which has “hit the ground running in 2013, pushing ‘model bills’ mandating the teaching of climate change denial in public school systems.”[25] The climate-change-denial machine is also promoted by powerful conservative groups such as the Heartland Institute. Ignorance is never too far from repression, as was recently demonstrated in Arizona, where State Rep. Bob Thorpe, a Republican freshman Tea Party member, introduced a new bill requiring students to take a loyalty oath in order to receive a graduation diploma.[26]

The “disimagination machine” is more powerful than ever as conservative think tanks provide ample funds for training and promoting anti-public pseudo-intellectuals and religious fundamentalists while simultaneously offering policy statements and talking points to conservative media such as FOX News, Christian news networks, right-wing talk radio, and partisan social media and blogs. This ever growing information/illiteracy bubble has become a powerful force of public pedagogy in the larger culture and is responsible for not only the war on science, reason and critical thought, but also the war on women’s reproductive rights, poor minority youth, immigrants, public schooling, and any other marginalized group or institution that challenges the anti-intellectual, anti-democratic worldviews of the new extremists and the narrative supporting Christian nationalism. Liberal Democrats, of course, contribute to this “disimagination machine” through educational policies that substitute critical thinking and critical pedagogy for paralyzing pedagogies of memorization and rote learning tied to high-stakes testing in the service of creating a neoliberal, dumbed-down workforce.

As John Atcheson has pointed out, we are “witnessing an epochal shift in our socio-political world. We are de-evolving, hurtling headlong into a past that was defined by serfs and lords; by necromancy and superstition; by policies based on fiat, not facts.”[27] We are also plunging into a dark world of anti-intellectualism, civic illiteracy and a formative culture supportive of an authoritarian state. The embrace of ignorance is at the center of political life today, and a reactionary form of public pedagogy has become the most powerful element of the politics of authoritarianism. Civic illiteracy is the modus operandi for creating depoliticized subjects who believe that consumerism is the only obligation of citizenship, who privilege opinions over reasoned arguments, and who are led to believe that ignorance is a virtue rather than a political and civic liability. In any educated democracy, much of the debate that occupies political life today, extending from creationism and climate change denial to “birther” arguments, would be speedily dismissed as magical thinking, superstition and an obvious form of ignorance. Mark Slouka is right in arguing that, “Ignorance gives us a sense of community; it confers citizenship; our representatives either share it or bow down to it or risk our wrath…. Communicate intelligently in America and you’re immediately suspect.”[28] The politics and machinery of disimagination and its production of ever-deepening ignorance dominates American society because it produces, to a large degree, uninformed customers, hapless clients, depoliticized subjects and illiterate citizens incapable of holding corporate and political power accountable. At stake here is more than the dangerous concentration of economic, political and cultural power in the hands of the ultrarich, megacorporations and elite financial services industries. Also at issue is the widespread perversion of the social, critical education, the public good, and democracy itself.

Toward a Radical Imagination

Against the politics of disimagination, progressives, workers, educators, young people and others need to develop a a new language of radical reform and create new public spheres that provide the pedagogical conditions for critical thought, dialogue and thoughtful deliberation. At stake here is a notion of pedagogy that both informs the mind and creates the conditions for modes of agency that are critical, informed, engaged and socially responsible. The radical imagination can be nurtured around the merging of critique and hope, the capacity to connect private troubles with broader social considerations, and the production of alternative formative cultures that provide the precondition for political engagement and for energizing democratic movements for social change – movements willing to think beyond isolated struggles and the limits of a savage global capitalism. Stanley Aronowitz and Peter Bratsis point to such a project in their manifesto on the radical imagination. They write:

This Manifesto looks forward to the creation of a new political Left formation that can overcome fragmentation, and provide a solid basis for many-side interventions in the current economic, political and social crises that afflict people in all walks of life. The Left must once again offer to young people, people of color, women, workers, activists, intellectuals and newly-arrived immigrants places to learn how the capitalist system works in all of its forms of exploitation whether personal, political, or economic. We need to reconstruct a platform to oppose Capital. It must ask in this moment of US global hegemony what are the alternatives to its cruel power over our lives, and those of large portions of the world’s peoples. And the Left formation is needed to offer proposals on how to rebuild a militant, democratic labor movement, strengthen and transform the social movements; and, more generally, provide the opportunity to obtain a broad education that is denied to them by official institutions. We need a political formation dedicated to the proposition that radical theory and practice are inextricably linked, that knowledge without action is impotent, but action without knowledge is blind.[29]

Matters of justice, equality, and political participation are foundational to any functioning democracy, but it is important to recognize that they have to be rooted in a vibrant formative culture in which democracy is understood not just as a political and economic structure but also as a civic force enabling justice, equality and freedom to flourish. While the institutions and practices of a civil society and an aspiring democracy are essential in this project, what must also be present are the principles and modes of civic education and critical engagement that support the very foundations of democratic culture. Central to such a project is the development of a new radical imagination both through the pedagogies and projects of public intellectuals in the academy and through work that can be done in other educational sites, such as the new media. Utilizing the Internet, social media, and other elements of the digital and screen culture, public intellectuals, cultural workers, young people and others can address larger audiences and present the task of challenging diverse forms of oppression, exploitation and exclusion as part of a broader effort to create a radical democracy.

There is a need to invent modes of pedagogy that release the imagination, connect learning to social change and create social relations in which people assume responsibility for each other. Such a pedagogy is not about methods or prepping students to learn how to take tests. Nor is such an education about imposing harsh disciplinary behaviors in the service of a pedagogy of oppression. On the contrary, it is about a moral and political practice capable of enabling students and others to become more knowledgeable while creating the conditions for generating a new vision of the future in which people can recognize themselves, a vision that connects with and speaks to the desires, dreams and hopes of those who are willing to fight for a radical democracy. Americans need to develop a new understanding of civic literacy, education and engagement, one capable of developing a new conversation and a new political project about democracy, inequality, and the redistribution of wealth and power, and how such a discourse can offer the conditions for democratically inspired visions, modes of governance and policymaking. Americans need to embrace and develop modes of civic literacy, critical education and democratic social movements that view the public good as a utopian imaginary, one that harbors a trace and vision of what it means to defend old and new public spheres that offer spaces where dissent can be produced, public values asserted, dialogue made meaningful and critical thought embraced as a noble ideal.

Elements of such a utopian imaginary can be found in James Baldwin’s “Open Letter to My Sister, Angela Davis,” in which he points out that “we live in an age in which silence is not only criminal but suicidal.”[30] The utopian imaginary is also on full display in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” where King states under the weight and harshness of incarceration that an “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere … [and asks whether we will] be extremists for the preservation of injustice – or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?”[31] According to King, “we must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy.”[32] We hear it in the words of former Harvard University President James B. Conant, who makes an impassioned call for “the need for the American radical – the missing political link between the past and future of this great democratic land.” [33] We hear it in the voices of young people all across the United States – the new American radicals – who are fighting for a society in which justice matters, social protections are guaranteed, equality is insured, and education becomes a right and not an entitlement. The radical imagination waits to be unleashed through social movements in which injustice is put on the run and civic literacy, economic justice, and collective struggle once again become the precondition for agency, hope and the struggle over democracy.

Endnotes

1.
David Theo Goldberg, “Mission Accomplished: Militarizing Social Logic,”in Enrique Jezik: Obstruct, destroy, conceal, ed. Cuauhtémoc Medina (Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2011), 183-198.

2.
See, for example, Colin Leys, Market Driven Politics (London: Verso, 2001); Randy Martin, Financialization of Daily Life (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002); Pierre Bourdieu, Firing Back: Against the Tyranny of the Market 2. Trans. Loic Wacquant (New York: The New Press, 2003); Alfredo Saad-Filho and Deborah Johnston, Neoliberalism: A Critical Reader (London: Pluto Press, 2005); Henry A. Giroux, Against the Terror of Neoliberalism (Boulder: Paradigm, 2008); David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); Manfred B. Steger and Ravi K. Roy, Neoliberalism: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010); Gerad Dumenil and Dominique Levy, The Crisis of Neoliberalism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011). Henry A. Giroux, Twilight of the Social (Boulder: Paradigm, 2013); Stuart Hall, “The March of the Neoliberals,” The Guardian, (September 12, 2011). online at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/sep/12/march-of-the-neoliberals

3.
See most recently  Kelly V. Vlahos, “Boots on Campus,” Anti War.com (February 26, 2013). On line: http://original.antiwar.com/vlahos/2013/02/25/boots-on-campus/ and David H. Price, Weaponizing Anthropology (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2011).

3A. Greg Bishop, “A Company that Runs Prisons Will Have its Name on a Stadium,” New York Times (February 19, 2013). Online: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/sports/ncaafootball/a-company-that-runs-prisons-will-have-its-name-on-a-stadium.html?_r=0

4.
Ibid. Goldberg, pp. 197-198.

5.
Jonathan Schell, “Cruel America”, The Nation, (September 28, 2011) online: http://www.thenation.com/article/163690/cruel-america

6.
Suzi Parker, “Cops Nab 5-Year-Old for Wearing Wrong Color Shoes to School,” Take Part, (January 18, 2013). Online: http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/01/18/cops-nab-five-year-old-wearing-wrong-color-shoes-school

7.
Susan Saulny, “After Recession, More Young Adults Are Living on Street,” The New York Times, (December 18, 2012). Online: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/us/since-recession-more-young-americans-are-homeless.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

8.
Suzanne Gamboa and Monika Mathur, “Guns Kill Young Children Daily In The U.S.,” Huffington Post (December 24, 2012). Online: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/24/guns-children_n_2359661.html

9.
John le Carre, “The United States of America Has Gone Mad,” CommonDreams (January 15, 2003). Online: http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0115-01.htm

10.
Eric Mann Interviews Mumbia Abu Jamal, “Mumia Abu Jamal: On his biggest political influences and the political ‘mentacide’ of today’s youth.” Voices from the Frontlines Radio (April 9, 2012).

11.
See, for example, Charles Ferguson, Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America (New York: Random House, 2012).

12.
Michael Yates, “The Great Inequality,” Monthly Review, (March 1, 2012).

13.
Ibid.

14.
Guy Standing, The New Precariat: The New Dangerous Class (New York: Bloomsbury, 2011).

15.
Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007).

16.
This issue is taken up brilliantly in Irving Howe, “Reaganism: The Spirit of the Times,” Selected Writings 1950-1990 (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990), pp. 410-423.

17.
I take up this issue in detail in Henry A. Giroux, The University in Chains: Challenging the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex (Boulder: Paradigm, 2007).

18.
Aaron B. O’Connell, “The Permanent Militarization of America,” The New York Times, (November 4, 2012). Online: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/05/opinion/the-permanent-militarization-of-america.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

19.
Dominic Tierney, “The F-35: A Weapon that Costs More Than Australia,” The Atlantic (February 13, 2013). Online: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/03/the-f-35-a-weapon-that-costs-more-than-australia/72454/

20.
John Hinkson, “The GFC Has Just Begun,”Arena Magazine 122 (March 2013), p. 51.

21.
Georges Didi-Huberman, Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz, trans. Shane B. Lillis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), pp. 1-2.

22.
Katherine Stewart, “Is Texas Waging War on History?”AlterNet (May 21, 2012). Online: http://www.alternet.org/story/155515/is_texas_waging_war_on_history

23.
Ibid.

24.
See, for instance, Chris Mooney, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science – and Reality (New York: Wiley, 2012).

25.
Steve Horn, “Three States Pushing ALEC Bill to Require Teachng Climate Change Denial in Schools,”Desmogblog.com (January 31, 2013). Online: www.desmogblog.com/2013/01/31/three-states-pushing-alec-bill-climate-change-denial-schools

26.
Igor Volsky, “Arizona Bill to Force Students to Take a Loyalty Oath,” AlterNet (January 26, 2013).

27.
John Atcheson, “Dark ages Redux: American Politics and the End of the Enlightenment,” CommonDreams (June 18, 2012). Online: https://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/06/18-2

28.
Mark Slouka, “A Quibble,” Harper’s Magazine (February 2009).

29.
Manifesto, Left Turn: An Open Letter to U.S. Radicals, (N.Y.: The Fifteenth Street Manifesto Group, March 2008), pp. 4-5.

30.
James Baldwin, “An Open Letter to My Sister, Miss Angela Davis,” The New York Review of Books, (January 7, 1971). Online: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1971/jan/07/an-open-letter-to-my-sister-miss-angela-davis/?pagination=false

31.
Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” (1963), in James M. Washington, The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Harper Collins, 1991), pp.290, 298.

32.
Ibid, 296.

33.
James B. Conant, “Wanted: American Radicals”, The Atlantic, May 1943.

Henry A Giroux

Henry A. Giroux currently holds the Global TV Network Chair Professorship at McMaster University in the English and Cultural Studies Department. His most recent books include: Youth in a Suspect Society (Palgrave, 2009); Politics After Hope: Obama and the Crisis of Youth, Race, and Democracy (Paradigm, 2010); Hearts of Darkness: Torturing Children in the War on Terror (Paradigm, 2010); The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence (co-authored with Grace Pollock, Rowman and Littlefield, 2010); Zombie Politics and Culture in the Age of Casino Capitalism (Peter Lang, 2011); Henry Giroux on Critical Pedagogy (Continuum, 2011). His newest books:   Education and the Crisis of Public Values (Peter Lang) and Twilight of the Social: Resurgent Publics in the Age of Disposability (Paradigm Publishers) will be published in 2012). Giroux is also a member of Truthout’s Board of Directors. His web site is http://www.henryagiroux.com.

 

There’s a Violent World War Going On, With Millions of Casualties – Oligarchs vs. Everyone Else

In Uncategorized on January 23, 2013 at 5:12 pm

https://i1.wp.com/img.photobucket.com/albums/v238/iamnotanobject/structuralviolencediagramJames.jpgOldspeak: “We have become, in the United States, and increasingly all over the world, a society with only two classes: Those who own, and those who owe.” –Thom Hartmann When one generally thinks of world wars, the most easily identifiable examples that come to mind are World War I, World War II, and “The Cold War”. These wars were characterized by physical violence perpetrated by various nations armies engaging in armed combat. The World War being currently waged is also characterized by physical violence perpetrated by nations armies in armed combat, via more numerous small wars and regional wars. But what’s different about this war, is nations are gradually seceding their sovereignty to the transnational corporate network via various “trade agreements”, treaties, privatization and “austerity” measures.  Also different, vitally important, less apparent, vastly increased & near completely globalized is structural violence.

Johan Galtung originally framed the term “structural violence” to mean any constraint on human potential caused by economic and political structures (1969). Unequal accesses to resources, to political power, to education, to health care, or to legal standing, are forms of structural violence.  

It refers to a form of violence based on the systematic ways in which a given social structure or social institution “kills people” by preventing them from meeting their basic needs. Institutionalized elitism, ethnocentrism, classism, racism, sexism, adultism, nationalism, heterosexism and ageism are just some examples of structural violence. Life spans are reduced when people are socially dominated, politically oppressed, or economically exploited. Structural violence and direct violence are highly interdependent. Structural violence inevitably produces conflict and often direct violence, including family violence, racial violence, hate crimes, terrorism, genocide, and war.

Structural violence, however, is almost always invisible, embedded in ubiquitous social structures, normalized by stable institutions and regular experience. Structural violence occurs whenever people are disadvantaged by political, legal, economic, or cultural traditions. But structural violence produces suffering and death as often as direct violence does, though damage is slower, more subtle, more common, and more difficult to repair. Structural violence is problematic in and of itself, but it is also dangerous because frequently leads to direct violence. The chronically oppressed are often, for logical the world is easily traced to structured inequalities.

Galtung’s general definition of violence forms the foundation of his typology of violence. He identifies three ‘types’ of violence — direct, structural and cultural. These concepts clarify ‘violence’ by broadening its definition, and creating categories that help us to study violence more systematically and deeply. The basic distinction between direct and structural violence is that direct violence involves an identifiable actor causing intentional harm, while structural violence does not structural violence is an indirect and, arguably, unintentional violence. In reference to structural violence, Galtung states that ‘violence is built into structures and shows up as unequal power and consequently as unequal life chances’. Structural violence is both an accompanier to and underlying cause of direct violence.  Structural violence is found in most, if not all, structures in society — social, political and economic. It is not an accident, but rather the outcome of human action which generates these systems in the first instance.  Structural violence is present as exploitation, poverty, misery, denial of basic needs and marginalisation  all are types of inequality. In other words, inequality can be seen as structural violence.” –Dr.N.V.S.SURYANARAYANA

Structural violence is pervasive in all aspects our civilization at present. Oligarchy, Plutocracy, Polyarchy, Inverted Totalitarian Kleptocracy, all these systems around which we’ve organized our civilizations are built on structural violence. Global capitalism cannot exist without it. While wars of the past were called world wars, they were really only large regional conflicts. It’s sort of how Americans declare themselves “World Champions” in sports having only played teams in America. The whole world is not involved, just as the whole world was not at war. This current war, though it may not seem like it, is the only true World War. Casualties are global and cross untold species of life. The entire biosphere is under assault. Its weapons are far more devastating than bullets and bombs. Chemicals, Patents, Bribery, Corruption, Money, Laws, Knowledge Sequestration, Money, Politics, Influence peddling, Growth, Development are the weapons of choice in this war. With these weapons, the Transnational Corporate Network has extracted untold trillions from the earth and most of her inhabitants, destroying life, air, land and sea all along the way. Eradication of structural violence requires fundamental change in our civilizations.  Gandhi’s “Constructive Programme” would be a great template on which to build. Society civilization based on truth and non-violence. Cooperational governance  instead of corporate governance. Giving selflessly instead of gratuitous greed. Unity instead of competition. Actualization instead of illusion… What a wonderful world that would be. The change must begin within us.

By Thom Hartmann @ Alter Net:

History is littered with the corpses of those who thought they could conquer the world, or at least the “known” or “important” world, through force of arms.  Many come immediately to mind: Alexander the Great; Caesar; Hitler; the Celts, Ottomans, and Catholics; various European, Asian, and American empires from the 17th Century Dutch to the 18th Century French, to the 19th Century British and the 20th Century Soviets and Americans.  Others, like the Aztecs, are less well known to westerners, Europeans, and Asians, but no less ambitious.

All used some variation on war, the force of military power, to accomplish their goal. All won, over the short-term, and then collapsed over the long term (making the relatively safe assumption that the American Empire is in the process of collapse right now).

So, who’s next?

While the rising economies of the world, like the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) nations, all have the potential, particularly the Chinese, all also are pretty focused on regionalism.  But there is one group that has declared war on us – all of us, all over the world – and already won some significant victories.  And that’s the creditor class, what economist Henry George called the “rentiers,” and we generally today refer to as “the billionaires.”

The top story on the Sunday, January 6 2013 online edition of the Financial Times, [3] was headlined, “Banks win more flexible Basel rules” by Brooke Masters.  The lead paragraph noted that “International banks received a new year fillip” or gift, when the new regulations out of the Basel bank regulators meeting “announced that the first ever global liquidity standards would be less onerous than expected and not be fully enforced until 2019, four years later than expected.”  Perhaps the single most relevant sentence in the article started: “The results are largely good news for bank profits…”

We have become, in the United States, and increasingly all over the world, a society with only two classes: Those who own, and those who owe.

The owners (or “Takers”) own vast wealth, and loan it out at interest to everybody from students to governments.  They’re continually receiving that interest back in ways that are either tax-free or taxed at very low levels.  (Here in the US we call it “capital gains,” “Interest,” “dividends,” and “carried interest.”  While a working person will pay as much as 39% in federal income taxes, the federal income tax to the Mitt Romneys, Paris Hiltons, and Lloyd Blankfeins of the world is now capped at 20%.  As Leona Helmsley famously said, “Only little people pay taxes.”)

The owe-ers – the indebted – find themselves trapped on a lifelong treadmill paying interest and fees to the Takers.  The owe-ers are also mostly the workers, the people who make things (from manufactured goods to hamburgers), and so are rightly called the “Makers.”

For a brief period of American history, the rapaciousness and greed of the Takers  was kept in check by the Makers – mostly through the actions of their unions and elected officials like FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter.  Glass-Steagal prevented banksters from gambling with your savings account or pension.  The Sherman Anti-Trust Act and its heirs prevented the big fish from swallowing all the medium-sized and smaller fish, so cities and malls were filled with locally-owned businesses.  Social and economic mobility were higher in the United States than in most other countries of the world.

But with the election of Ronald Reagan, the Takers – whose favorite way of taking is through putting the Makers into debt – won a huge victory.  They killed or weakened democratic institutions, like unions and politicians not dependent on them.  They moved the Middle Class from prosperity into, first, credit card debt, then into second-mortgage debt, and finally into student loan debt.  And then, in the final Coup de grâce, they made the formerly democratic governments of Western Europe and the United States indebted to them.

They knew from the beginning it was war.  But a softer and more silent form of war than the world was used to.  Not since the ascendency of the British East India Company in the 1700s had the world seen an economic, rather than sovereign, force so dominate the world.

And now they’re in the final stages of their war.  Having taken most all the resources of the West’s Middle Classes and thrown them and their children into debt bondage, they’ve moved onto taking over entire nations.

This is what Republicans mean when they talk about “making government smaller” here in the United States, or “the austerity agenda” in Europe, Canada, and Australia.  It’s all the same thing – transfer even more wealth and political power from those in debt (be they individuals, cities, states, or nations) to those who made the loans.  From the middle-class Makers to the billionaire Takers.

And God forbid a politician should stand up to the Takers.  From Republicans refusing to raise taxes on billionaires, to international banking institutions leading the charge, via their captive governments, on “renegade” states [4] like Bolivia.

Longer work weeks in France.  Indexing the Inheritance Tax to inflation in the United States, but not the minimum wage.  Cutting Greeks off their national health-care system after a year of unemployment.  Slashing government support to schools, police, and health-care in Canada.  Banks committing crimes and getting slap-on-the-wrist fines.  Fossil Fuel corporations, the world’s most profitable, not only getting taxpayer subsidies but never, ever paying for the cancers, pollution, and global warming they cause.  The list goes on and on.

It’s war.  Rob, plunder, and pillage.  Take what little is left from those with a little, and give it all to those who have a lot.  Turn the Makers into slaves, while the Takers get an Inheritance Tax cut so their great-grandchildren can live the lives of the landed gentry.

When Ronald Reagan came into office, America was one of the most socially- and economically- mobile nations in the developed world.  Today it is among the least.

Democracy is being replaced by plutocracy.  Modern oligarchs are richer than the kings of old.  And, still not content, they’re amping up the war with a coming July 4th attempt to amend the US Constitution so the wealthy need never again fear tax increases.  It’s being led by the Goldwater Institute [5] with its “Compact For America.”

Look out.  We’re moving from trench warfare to aerial bombardment.  And when they’re done, Western Democracies will look far more like Italy in the 1930s…