Wednesday, December 29, 2010
It's not news that establishment journalists identify with, are merged into, serve as spokespeople for, the political class: that's what makes them establishment journalists.
By Glenn Greenwald
December 28, 2010 "Salon" -- The video of the CNN debate I did last night about WikiLeaks with former Bush Homeland Security Adviser (and CNN contributor) Fran Townsend and CNN anchor Jessica Yellin is posted below. The way it proceeded was quite instructive to me and I want to make four observations about the discussion:
(1) Over the last month, I've done many television and radio segments about WikiLeaks and what always strikes me is how indistinguishable -- identical -- are the political figures and the journalists. There's just no difference in how they think, what their values and priorities are, how completely they've ingested and how eagerly they recite the same anti-WikiLeaks, "Assange = Saddam" script. So absolute is the WikiLeaks-is-Evil bipartisan orthodoxy among the Beltway political and media class (forever cemented by the joint Biden/McConnell decree that Assange is a "high-tech Terrorist,") that you're viewed as being from another planet if you don't spout it. It's the equivalent of questioning Saddam's WMD stockpile in early 2003.
It's not news that establishment journalists identify with, are merged into, serve as spokespeople for, the political class: that's what makes them establishment journalists. But even knowing that, it's just amazing, to me at least, how so many of these "debates" I've done involving one anti-WikiLeaks political figure and one ostensibly "neutral" journalist -- on MSNBC with The Washington Post's Jonathan Capehart and former GOP Congresswoman Susan Molinari, on NPR with The New York Times' John Burns and former Clinton State Department official James Rubin, and last night on CNN with Yellin and Townsend -- entail no daylight at all between the "journalists" and the political figures. They don't even bother any longer with the pretense that they're distinct or play different assigned roles. I'm not complaining here -- Yellin was perfectly fair and gave me ample time -- but merely observing how inseparable are most American journalists from the political officials they "cover."
(2) From the start of the WikiLeaks controversy, the most striking aspect for me has been that the ones who are leading the crusade against the transparency brought about by WikiLeaks -- the ones most enraged about the leaks and the subversion of government secrecy -- have been . . . America's intrepid Watchdog journalists. What illustrates how warped our political and media culture is as potently as that? It just never seems to dawn on them -- even when you explain it -- that the transparency and undermining of the secrecy regime against which they are angrily railing is supposed to be . . . what they do. (Editor: Recall that in the 1950's the CIA began a program of enlisting the help of journalists in carrying out their clandestine yet often immoral and illegal activities. This program was referred to as Operation Mockingbird and is still in effect today. The intelligence services have operatives/contract agents throughout the major US broadcast and print media who can be counted upon to faithfully spout the "party line.")
What an astounding feat to train a nation's journalist class to despise above all else those who shine a light on what the most powerful factions do in the dark and who expose their corruption and deceit, and to have journalists -- of all people -- lead the way in calling for the head of anyone who exposes the secrets of the powerful. Most ruling classes -- from all eras and all cultures -- could only fantasize about having a journalist class that thinks that way, but most political leaders would have to dismiss that fantasy as too extreme, too implausible, to pursue. After all, how could you ever get journalists -- of all people -- to loathe those who bring about transparency and disclosure of secrets? But, with a few noble exceptions, that's exactly the journalist class we have.
There will always be a soft spot in my heart for Jessica Yellin because of that time when she unwittingly (though still bravely) admitted on air that -- when she worked at MSNBC -- NBC's corporate executives constantly pressured the network's journalists to make their reporting favorable to George Bush and the Iraq War (I say "unwittingly" because she quickly walked back that confession after I and others wrote about it and a controversy ensued). But, as Yellin herself revealed in that moment of rare TV self-exposure, that's the government-subservient corporate culture in which these journalists are trained and molded.
(3) It's extraordinary how -- even a full month into the uproar over the diplomatic cable release -- extreme misinformation still pervades these discussions, usually without challenge. It's understandable that on the first day or in the first week of a controversy, there would be some confusion; but a full month into it, the most basic facts are still being wildly distorted. Thus, there was Fran Townsend spouting the cannot-be-killed lie that WikiLeaks indiscriminately dumped all the cables. And I'm absolutely certain that had I not objected, that absolute falsehood would have been unchallenged by Yellin and allowed to be transmitted to CNN viewers as Truth. The same is true for the casual assertion -- as though it's the clearest, most obvious fact in the world -- that Assange "committed crimes" by publishing classified information or that what he's doing is so obviously different than what investigative journalists routinely do. These are the unchallenged falsehoods transmitted over and over, day after day, to the American viewing audience.
(4) If one thinks about it, there's something quite surreal about sitting there listening to a CNN anchor and her fellow CNN employee angrily proclaim that Julian Assange is a "terrorist" and a "criminal" when the CNN employee doing that is . . . . George W. Bush's Homeland Security and Terrorism adviser. Fran Townsend was a high-level national security official for a President who destroyed another nation with an illegal, lie-fueled military attack that killed well over 100,000 innocent people, created a worldwide torture regime, illegally spied on his own citizens without warrants, disappeared people to CIA "black sites," and erected a due-process-free gulag where scores of knowingly innocent people were put in cages for years. (Editor: It should be obvious that Fran Townsend is a US intelligence disinformation agent who has seemlessly made the transition from the federal government payroll to that of the private sector. The fact that she serves as an expert/consultant contributor to CNN only serves to highlight the incestuous relationship between the media and the US intelligence community). Julian Assange never did any of those things, or anything like them. But it's Assange who is the "terrorist" and the "criminal."
Do you think Jessica Yellin would ever dare speak as scornfully and derisively about George Bush or his top officials as she does about Assange? Of course not. Instead, CNN quickly hires Bush's Homeland Security Adviser who then becomes Yellin's colleague and partner in demonizing Assange as a "terrorist." Or consider the theme that framed last night's segment: Assange is profiting off classified information by writing a book! Beyond the examples I gave, Bob Woodward has become a very rich man by writing book after book filled with classified information about America's wars which his sources were not authorized to give him. Would Yellin ever in a million years dare lash out at Bob Woodward the way she did Assange? To ask the question is to answer it (see here as CNN's legal correspondent Jeffrey Toobin is completely befuddled in the middle of his anti-WikiLeaks rant when asked by a guest, Clay Shirky, to differentiate what Woodward continuously does from what Assange is doing).
They're all petrified to speak ill of Bob Woodward because he's a revered spokesman of the royal court to which they devote their full loyalty (Editor: and Woodward has the kind of access to high government officials and a history of working military intelligence that suggests he is likely still operating as an intelligence operative). Julian Assange, by contrast, is an actual adversary -- not a pretend one -- of that royal court. And that -- and only that -- is what is driving virtually this entire discourse:
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
December 27, 2010 "Truth Dig" -- The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.
We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from “Brave New World” to “1984.” The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is sliding toward bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley’s feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled.
Orwell warned of a world where books were banned. Huxley warned of a world where no one wanted to read books. Orwell warned of a state of permanent war and fear. Huxley warned of a culture diverted by mindless pleasure. Orwell warned of a state where every conversation and thought was monitored and dissent was brutally punished. Huxley warned of a state where a population, preoccupied by trivia and gossip, no longer cared about truth or information. Orwell saw us frightened into submission. Huxley saw us seduced into submission. But Huxley, we are discovering, was merely the prelude to Orwell. Huxley understood the process by which we would be complicit in our own enslavement. Orwell understood the enslavement. Now that the corporate coup is over, we stand naked and defenseless. We are beginning to understand, as Karl Marx knew, that unfettered and unregulated capitalism is a brutal and revolutionary force that exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse.
“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake,” Orwell wrote in “1984.” “We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”
The political philosopher Sheldon Wolin uses the term “inverted totalitarianism” in his book “Democracy Incorporated” to describe our political system. It is a term that would make sense to Huxley. In inverted totalitarianism, the sophisticated technologies of corporate control, intimidation and mass manipulation, which far surpass those employed by previous totalitarian states, are effectively masked by the glitter, noise and abundance of a consumer society. Political participation and civil liberties are gradually surrendered. The corporation state, hiding behind the smokescreen of the public relations industry, the entertainment industry and the tawdry materialism of a consumer society, devours us from the inside out. It owes no allegiance to us or the nation. It feasts upon our carcass.
The corporate state does not find its expression in a demagogue or charismatic leader. It is defined by the anonymity and facelessness of the corporation. Corporations, who hire attractive spokespeople like Barack Obama, control the uses of science, technology, education and mass communication. They control the messages in movies and television. And, as in “Brave New World,” they use these tools of communication to bolster tyranny. Our systems of mass communication, as Wolin writes, “block out, eliminate whatever might introduce qualification, ambiguity, or dialogue, anything that might weaken or complicate the holistic force of their creation, to its total impression.”
The result is a monochromatic system of information. Celebrity courtiers, masquerading as journalists, experts and specialists, identify our problems and patiently explain the parameters. All those who argue outside the imposed parameters are dismissed as irrelevant cranks, extremists or members of a radical left. Prescient social critics, from Ralph Nader to Noam Chomsky, are banished. Acceptable opinions have a range of A to B. The culture, under the tutelage of these corporate courtiers, becomes, as Huxley noted, a world of cheerful conformity, as well as an endless and finally fatal optimism. We busy ourselves buying products that promise to change our lives, make us more beautiful, confident or successful as we are steadily stripped of rights, money and influence. All messages we receive through these systems of communication, whether on the nightly news or talk shows like “Oprah,” promise a brighter, happier tomorrow. And this, as Wolin points out, is “the same ideology that invites corporate executives to exaggerate profits and conceal losses, but always with a sunny face.” We have been entranced, as Wolin writes, by “continuous technological advances” that “encourage elaborate fantasies of individual prowess, eternal youthfulness, beauty through surgery, actions measured in nanoseconds: a dream-laden culture of ever-expanding control and possibility, whose denizens are prone to fantasies because the vast majority have imagination but little scientific knowledge.”
Our manufacturing base has been dismantled. Speculators and swindlers have looted the U.S. Treasury and stolen billions from small shareholders who had set aside money for retirement or college. Civil liberties, including habeas corpus and protection from warrantless wiretapping, have been taken away. Basic services, including public education and health care, have been handed over to the corporations to exploit for profit. The few who raise voices of dissent, who refuse to engage in the corporate happy talk, are derided by the corporate establishment as freaks.
Attitudes and temperament have been cleverly engineered by the corporate state, as with Huxley’s pliant characters in “Brave New World.” The book’s protagonist, Bernard Marx, turns in frustration to his girlfriend Lenina:
“Don’t you wish you were free, Lenina?” he asks.
“I don’t know that you mean. I am free, free to have the most wonderful time. Everybody’s happy nowadays.”
He laughed, “Yes, ‘Everybody’s happy nowadays.’ We have been giving the children that at five. But wouldn’t you like to be free to be happy in some other way, Lenina? In your own way, for example; not in everybody else’s way.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” she repeated.
The façade is crumbling. And as more and more people realize that they have been used and robbed, we will move swiftly from Huxley’s “Brave New World” to Orwell’s “1984.” The public, at some point, will have to face some very unpleasant truths. The good-paying jobs are not coming back. The largest deficits in human history mean that we are trapped in a debt peonage system that will be used by the corporate state to eradicate the last vestiges of social protection for citizens, including Social Security. The state has devolved from a capitalist democracy to neo-feudalism. And when these truths become apparent, anger will replace the corporate-imposed cheerful conformity. The bleakness of our post-industrial pockets, where some 40 million Americans live in a state of poverty and tens of millions in a category called “near poverty,” coupled with the lack of credit to save families from foreclosures, bank repossessions and bankruptcy from medical bills, means that inverted totalitarianism will no longer work.
We increasingly live in Orwell’s Oceania, not Huxley’s The World State. Osama bin Laden plays the role assumed by Emmanuel Goldstein in “1984.” Goldstein, in the novel, is the public face of terror. His evil machinations and clandestine acts of violence dominate the nightly news. Goldstein’s image appears each day on Oceania’s television screens as part of the nation’s “Two Minutes of Hate” daily ritual. And without the intervention of the state, Goldstein, like bin Laden, will kill you. All excesses are justified in the titanic fight against evil personified.
The psychological torture of Pvt. Bradley Manning—who has now been imprisoned for seven months without being convicted of any crime—mirrors the breaking of the dissident Winston Smith at the end of “1984.” Manning is being held as a “maximum custody detainee” in the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico, in Virginia. He spends 23 of every 24 hours alone. He is denied exercise. He cannot have a pillow or sheets for his bed. Army doctors have been plying him with antidepressants. The cruder forms of torture of the Gestapo have been replaced with refined Orwellian techniques, largely developed by government psychologists, to turn dissidents like Manning into vegetables. We break souls as well as bodies. It is more effective. Now we can all be taken to Orwell’s dreaded Room 101 to become compliant and harmless. These “special administrative measures” are regularly imposed on our dissidents, including Syed Fahad Hashmi, who was imprisoned under similar conditions for three years before going to trial. The techniques have psychologically maimed thousands of detainees in our black sites around the globe. They are the staple form of control in our maximum security prisons where the corporate state makes war on our most politically astute underclass—African-Americans. It all presages the shift from Huxley to Orwell.
“Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling,” Winston Smith’s torturer tells him in “1984.” “Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves.”
The noose is tightening. The era of amusement is being replaced by the era of repression. Tens of millions of citizens have had their e-mails and phone records turned over to the government. We are the most monitored and spied-on citizenry in human history. Many of us have our daily routine caught on dozens of security cameras. Our proclivities and habits are recorded on the Internet. Our profiles are electronically generated. Our bodies are patted down at airports and filmed by scanners. And public service announcements, car inspection stickers, and public transportation posters constantly urge us to report suspicious activity. The enemy is everywhere.
Those who do not comply with the dictates of the war on terror, a war which, as Orwell noted, is endless, are brutally silenced. The draconian security measures used to cripple protests at the G-20 gatherings in Pittsburgh and Toronto were wildly disproportionate for the level of street activity. But they sent a clear message—DO NOT TRY THIS. The FBI’s targeting of antiwar and Palestinian activists, which in late September saw agents raid homes in Minneapolis and Chicago, is a harbinger of what is to come for all who dare defy the state’s official Newspeak. The agents—our Thought Police—seized phones, computers, documents and other personal belongings. Subpoenas to appear before a grand jury have since been served on 26 people. The subpoenas cite federal law prohibiting “providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.” Terror, even for those who have nothing to do with terror, becomes the blunt instrument used by Big Brother to protect us from ourselves.
“Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating?” Orwell wrote. “It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself.”
by Prof. Francis Boyle
December 24, 2010
During the 1950s I grew up in a family who rooted for the success of African Americans in their just struggle for civil rights and full legal equality. Then in 1962 it was the terror of my own personal imminent nuclear annihilation during the Cuban Missile Crisis that first sparked my interest in studying international relations and U.S. foreign policy as a young boy of 12: “I can do a better job than this!”
With the escalation of the Vietnam War in 1964 and the military draft staring me right in the face, I undertook a detailed examination of it. Eventually I concluded that unlike World War II when my Father had fought and defeated the Japanese Imperial Army as a young Marine in the Pacific, this new war was illegal, immoral, unethical, and the United States was bound to lose it. America was just picking up where France had left off at Dien Bien Phu. So I resolved to do what little I could to oppose the Vietnam War.
In 1965 President Lyndon Johnson gratuitously invaded the Dominican Republic, which prompted me to commence a detailed examination of U.S. military interventions into Latin America from the Spanish-American War of 1898 up to President Franklin Roosevelt’s so-called “good neighbor” policy. At the end of this study, I concluded that the Vietnam War was not episodic, but rather systemic: Aggression, warfare, bloodshed, and violence were just the way the United States Power Elite had historically conducted their business around the world. Hence, as I saw it as a young man of 17, there would be more Vietnams in the future and perhaps someday I could do something about it as well as about promoting civil rights for African Americans. These twins concerns of my youth would gradually ripen into a career devoted to international law and human rights.
So I commenced my formal study of International Relations with the late, great Hans Morgenthau in the first week of January 1970 as a 19 year old college sophomore at the University of Chicago by taking his basic introductory course on that subject. At the time, Morgenthau was leading the academic forces of opposition to the detested Vietnam War, which is precisely why I chose to study with him. During ten years of higher education at the University of Chicago and Harvard, I refused to study with openly pro-Vietnam-War professors as a matter of principle and also on the quite pragmatic ground that they had nothing to teach me.
In the summer of 1975, it was Morgenthau who emphatically encouraged me to become a professor instead of doing some other promising things with my life: “If Morgenthau thinks I should become a professor, then I will become a professor!” After almost a decade of working personally with him, Morgenthau provided me with enough inspiration, guidance, and knowledge to last now almost half a lifetime.
Historically, this latest eruption of American militarism at the start of the 21st Century is akin to that of America opening the 20th Century by means of the U.S.-instigated Spanish-American War in 1898. Then the Republican administration of President William McKinley stole their colonial empire from Spain in Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines; inflicted a near genocidal war against the Filipino people; while at the same time illegally annexing the Kingdom of Hawaii and subjecting the Native Hawaiian people (who call themselves the Kanaka Maoli) to near genocidal conditions.
Additionally, McKinley’s military and colonial expansion into the Pacific was also designed to secure America’s economic exploitation of China pursuant to the euphemistic rubric of the “open door” policy. But over the next four decades America’s aggressive presence, policies, and practices in the “Pacific” would ineluctably pave the way for Japan’s attack at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 194l, and thus America’s precipitation into the ongoing Second World War. Today a century later the serial imperial aggressions launched and menaced by the Republican Bush Jr. administration and now the Democratic Obama administration are threatening to set off World War III.
By shamelessly exploiting the terrible tragedy of 11 September 2001, the Bush Jr. administration set forth to steal a hydrocarbon empire from the Muslim states and peoples living in Central Asia and the Persian Gulf under the bogus pretexts of (1) fighting a war against international terrorism; and/or (2) eliminating weapons of mass destruction; and/or (3) the promotion of democracy; and/or (4) self-styled “humanitarian intervention.” Only this time the geopolitical stakes are infinitely greater than they were a century ago: control and domination of two-thirds of the world’s hydrocarbon resources and thus the very fundament and energizer of the global economic system – oil and gas. The Bush Jr./ Obama administrations have already targeted the remaining hydrocarbon reserves of Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia for further conquest or domination, together with the strategic choke-points at sea and on land required for their transportation. In this regard, the Bush Jr. administration announced the establishment of the U.S. Pentagon’s Africa Command (AFRICOM) in order to better control, dominate, and exploit both the natural resources and the variegated peoples of the continent of Africa, the very cradle of our human species.
This current bout of U.S. imperialism is what Hans Morgenthau denominated “unlimited imperialism” in his seminal work Politics Among Nations (4th ed. 1968, at 52-53):
The outstanding historic examples of unlimited imperialism are the expansionist policies of Alexander the Great, Rome, the Arabs in the seventh and eighth centuries, Napoleon I, and Hitler. They all have in common an urge toward expansion which knows no rational limits, feeds on its own successes and, if not stopped by a superior force, will go on to the confines of the political world. This urge will not be satisfied so long as there remains anywhere a possible object of domination--a politically organized group of men which by its very independence challenges the conqueror’s lust for power. It is, as we shall see, exactly the lack of moderation, the aspiration to conquer all that lends itself to conquest, characteristic of unlimited imperialism, which in the past has been the undoing of the imperialistic policies of this kind….
On 10 November 1979 I visited with Hans Morgenthau at his home in Manhattan. It proved to be our last conversation before he died on 19 July 1980. Given his weakened physical but not mental condition and his serious heart problem, at the end of our necessarily abbreviated one-hour meeting I purposefully asked him what he thought about the future of international relations. This revered scholar, whom international relations experts generally consider to be the founder of modern international political science in the post World War II era, responded:
Future, what future? I am extremely pessimistic. In my opinion the world is moving ineluctably towards a third world war—a strategic nuclear war. I do not believe that anything can be done to prevent it. The international system is simply too unstable to survive for long. The SALT II Treaty is important for the present, but over the long haul it cannot stop the momentum. Fortunately, I do not believe that I will live to see that day. But I am afraid you might.
The factual circumstances surrounding the outbreaks of both the First World War and the Second World War currently hover like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of all humanity. It is imperative that we undertake a committed and concerted effort to head-off Hans Morgenthau’s final prediction on the cataclysmic demise of the human race.
Monday, December 27, 2010
A major part of the intelligence agencies working for the US government are in fact Israeli companies, a former CIA officer has said.
“What is happening is that many of these state agencies are actually Israeli companies that are working for the States,” Philip Giraldi said on Tuesday.
“This happened recently in Pennsylvania, where an Israeli company was collecting information on war protesters and in the state of New Jersey an Israeli was appointed as homeland security director for the State,” he said in an interview with Press TV.
“So, this penetration of American security by Israeli companies and Israeli individuals has been going on for some years,” Giraldi emphasized.
A Washington Post investigative report shows the US government is using the largest and most technologically advanced system in the country's history to spy on its citizens.
The system collects, stores and analyzes information on thousands of US citizens with the help of every state and law enforcement agency and then feeds the information to the FBI.
US intelligence officials claim due to nearly two dozens of alleged acts of terrorism this year, the need to identify US-born or naturalized citizens that may be planning violent attacks has been more urgent than ever.
Moreover, former agents are helping local authorities turn thousands of garbage collectors into a spy force that reports to the police.
At least 935 organizations -- each with its own counterterrorism responsibilities and jurisdictions -- have been created or become involved in counterterrorism acts since the September 2001 terror incidents in New York and Washington.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
In Thick Layers On the Sea Floor Over An Area of Several Thousand Square Miles
by Washington's Blog
BP and the government famously declared that most of the oil had disappeared.
But as I've noted, as much as 98% of the oil is still in the ocean.
I have repeatedly pointed out that BP and the government applied massive amounts of dispersant to the Gulf Oil Spill in an effort to sink and hide the oil. Many others said the same thing.
BP and the government denied this, of course.
But the oil is not remaining hidden.
Indeed, as the Wall Street Journal noted on December 9th:
A university scientist and the federal government say they have found persuasive evidence that oil from the massive Gulf of Mexico spill is settling on the ocean floor.
The new findings, from scientists at the University of South Florida and from a broad government effort, mark the latest indication that environmental damage from the blowout of a BP PLC well could be significant where it's hardest to find: deep under the Gulf's surface.
Scientists who have been on research cruises in the Gulf in recent days report finding layers of residue up to several centimeters thick from what they suspect is BP oil.
The material appears in spots across several thousand square miles of seafloor, they said. In many of those spots, they said, worms and other marine life that crawl along the sediment appear dead, though many organisms that can swim appear healthy.
Tests now have started to link some oil in the sediment to the BP well could add to the amount of money BP ends up paying to compensate for the spill's damage.
The test results also raise questions about the possible downsides of the government's use of chemical dispersants to fight the spill.
Under federal direction, about 1.8 million gallons of dispersants were sprayed on the spilled oil in an effort to break it up into tiny droplets that natural ocean microbes could eat up. At the time, officials said the dispersants shouldn't cause oil from the spill to sink to the seafloor. However, more recently, a federal report said dispersants may have helped some spilled oil sink to the sediment.
Scientific teams have reported in recent months finding a strange substance on the Gulf floor, in some cases as far as about 80 miles from BP's ill-fated Macondo well, which blew out in April and spilled an estimated 4.1 million barrels of oil into the Gulf before it was capped.
"The chemical signatures are identical," said Mr. Hollander, who found the contaminated samples in an area of the Gulf floor off the Florida Panhandle. Although it's conceivable the tests could show a false match with the BP oil, "the statistical probability of something like that is unimaginable," Mr. Hollander said.
The federal government also has found oil matching Macondo oil in Gulf sediment, Steve Murawski, a top National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientist, said in an interview. He declined to disclose how much sediment contamination the government found, or exactly where in the Gulf it was, saying experts still are analyzing the test results.
Samantha Joye, a University of Georgia oceanographer, also has found what she believes to be evidence of BP oil in Gulf sediment. She is awaiting lab results tracing the chemical fingerprints of sediment samples she took.
On a research cruise in the Gulf that ended Friday, she saw worms that crawl along the Gulf floor "just decimated," she said. But eels and fish, which can swim away, often appeared fine, she said.
The Journal noted on December 18th:
Oil from BP PLC's blown-out well has lodged in the sediment of the Gulf of Mexico at levels that may threaten marine life, according to a federal report released Friday.
There is no practical way to clean up the spilled oil that has settled deep in the Gulf, officials said, adding that microbes in the water could eventually eat it up.
The massive application of dispersants to hide the amount of oil spilled has caused major problems to the Gulf:
--The use of dispersants prevented clean up of the oil by skimming, by far the easiest method of removing oil from the water.
--Dispersants make the toxins in crude oil more bioavailable to sealife, and scientists have found that applying Corexit to Gulf crude oil releases many times more toxic chemicals into the water column than would be released with crude alone.
--Dispersant might have caused some of the chemicals in oil to become airborne.
--The crude oil which does not become aerosolized sinks under the surface of the ocean, and can delay the recovery of the ecosystem by years or even decades (see the Wall Street Journal article quoted above).
--The overwhelming majority of studies find that dispersants slow the growth of oil-eating microbes.
--Dispersants cause Gulf fish to absorb more toxins and then make it harder for the fish to get rid of the pollutants once exposed.
--Dispersants may bioaccumulate in seafood.
--Blood tests show elevated levels of toxic hydrocarbons in Gulf residents.
Extend-And-Pretend Will Fail
As I noted in May - shortly after the spill started - the responses of the government to the Gulf Oil spill and to the financial crisis are remarkably similar, as both have focused on covering up the problems, instead of actually fixing them. Because the financial system was never really reformed, the next financial shock will send the economy reeling. Because the oil was never properly cleaned up, the next hurricane will stir up immense quantities of oil now lying on the sea floor.
Extend-and-pretend is being attempted in both cases, and - in both cases - it will fail, because nothing has been fixed, and the fundamentals can only remain hidden for so long.
Moreover, in both cases, the government used "highly toxic" measures to try to hide the real problems. The government has used "emergency measures" and virtually all of its resources to prop up the giant banks instead of using the proven methods of restructuring insolvent banks and prosecuting the criminals who caused the crisis, which has caused major problems for the real economy.
Similarly, the government applied close to 2 million gallons of highly toxic dispersant to hide the amount of oil instead of using it's resources to deploy tried-and-true clean up methods, which has caused significant problems for the Gulf.
Finally, new and potentially bigger crises will take place, because regulation hasn't been put in place to prevent them. Regulation of the financial system - including international agreements like Basil III - have been gutted. And as Time magazine notes:
Congress never managed to pass legislation that would have overhauled drilling safety.
Blood Tests Show Elevated Level of Toxic Hydrocarbons in Gulf Residents
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
A number of different chemists are finding elevated levels of toxic hydrocarbons in the bloodstream of Gulf coast residents.
What is most disturbing about these results is that people who simply live near the water are showing higher than normal levels of toxic chemicals. These are not fishermen, shrimpers, oil workers or others who work on the water.
Jerry Cope recently wrote about his test results in a must-read essay at Huffington Post.
Several Gulf coast residents described their test results in the following video:
And the Intel Hub has uploaded some of the other test reports.
The local ABC news affiliate in Pensacola, Florida - ABC3 Wear - covered the story:
Several residents of Orange Beach say the oil spill has been making them sick...and they have the test results to prove it.
Gerry Cope, Margaret Carrouth and Robin Young were all feeling the same symptoms of headaches, watery eyes, and breathing problems...
All three had blood samples taken at the beginning of August...
Tests revealed each had elevated levels of the Hydrocarbons Ethyl Benzene and Xylene.
Bob Naman, a chemist out of Mobile, analyzed the results.
"He shows three times the amount you typically find in someone's blood."
"These people are from different backgrounds, and from different walks of life, all showing same similar organic compounds in blood, says to me its very likely in the air."
Saturday, December 25, 2010
--100 years ago, a cabal of faux economists acted to protect the vital interests of the privileged few by hiding the true value of land.
--Today's economists peddle a mangled version of economics the equations of which are fictitious representing models which do not comport with the real world.
Friday, December 24, 2010
Professor Black Says:
--So far, no arrests, no prosecutions, no convictions have occurred in the wake of the Financial Crisis, in contrast to over 1000 convictions in the Savings and Loan debacle of the 1980's.
--The FBI and justice department can't be successful at bringing fraud cases unless the regulators do their jobs which they're not doing. They have submitted zero criminal referrals this decade.
--There has been a total coverup in this crisis, a death of regulation including the sham bank stress-tests.
--Everywhere you look you find massive fraud and millions of liars loans.
--There has been a really severe recession in the past 2 years which has reduced demand by almost 6 trillion dollars.
--The actual losses in this financial crisis have never been disclosed. The crooks are all still in place.
--The accounting rules via the Financial Accouting Standards Board (FASB) have been changed to help hide the debt and to allow the continued paying of exhorbitant bonuses to Bank executives.
--Citizens should demand that the government end Systemically Dangerous Institutions (SDI's) also known as too big to fail institutions and insist on accurate accounting standards!
Professor Michael Hudson on The Faux "Recovery" and the End of Capitalism
Professor Hudson Says:
--The post-industrial economy is nothing more than a return to Neo-Feudalism.
--The Federal Reserve is a sham. There is no reason the government of the United States should have to pay interest to a quasi-private body in order to print more money. The US Treasury should do so directly thereby eliminating the need to pay interest to the Fed which could be abolished or subsumed under the Treasury Department.
--Since the beginning of the Financial Crisis, the national debt has virtually tripled from roughly 5 trillion to 15 trillion dollars. In order to service the new debt, taxes will have to be increased markedly in order to avoid default.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Last updated (GMT/UTC): 21.12.2010 21:35
By Richard Solash
WASHINGTON -- World leaders have hailed the vote in the U.S. Senate ratifying a landmark nuclear arms-control treaty between the United States and Russia. After months of heated debate and closed-door negotiation, the Senate on December 22 ratified the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) with Russia, giving President Barack Obama a major foreign-policy victory and U.S.-Russian relations a significant boost.
Senators voted 71 to 26 to approve the treaty, which commits the United States and Russia to reduce their stockpiles of deployed nuclear warheads to 1,550 -- a reduction of nearly one-third -- within seven years. The treaty also sets new limits on ballistic-missile delivery systems and is accompanied by a verification regime.
A spokeswoman for Russian President Dmitry Medvedev noted that the U.S. amendments will need to be considered by Russian lawmakers before they vote in both houses to ratify. In a sign that a first vote in Moscow could come soon, Boris Gryzlov, speaker of the Russian State Duma, said the lower chamber could vote to ratify as early as December 24.
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called the U.S. ratification a "significant contribution to Euro-Atlantic security," while United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it sends a "clear message" in support of nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation.
Japan, site of the world's first and only atomic bombings at the end of World War II, said the move marked "important progress" in disarmament efforts by Washington and Moscow.
Speaking at a press conference after the vote, Obama said he was pleased that the Senate had passed what he called "my top national security priority for this session of Congress."
"This is the most significant arms control agreement in nearly two decades and it will make us safer and reduce our nuclear arsenals, along with Russia. With this treaty, our inspectors will also be back on the ground at Russian nuclear bases. So we will be able to trust but verify," Obama said.
John Kerry (Democrat-Massachusetts), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and one of the most vocal proponents of the treaty, told lawmakers in the moments before the vote that their decision would have global implications.
"Regardless of where we stand on the START treaty, this is one of those rare times in the United States Senate -- one of the only times in all of our service here -- when we have it in our power to safeguard or to endanger human life on this planet," he said.
Months Of Political Fighting
Obama and Medvedev signed the treaty, which replaces a 1991 agreement that expired in December 2009, on April 8 in Prague.
U.S. and Russian nuclear inspectors have not visited each other's facilities for more than a year -- a situation that officials in Washington say endangers national security.
Washington's deeply partisan political climate meant that challenges brought by opposition Republican lawmakers in the months since last spring's signing turned the ratification process into a bitter fight.
Republican senators, led by the party's second-most-senior member, Jon Kyl (Arizona), argued that because the treaty acknowledges an interrelationship between offensive and defensive systems, it constrains U.S. plans for a missile defense shield, which Russia views with skepticism.
Several Republicans also voiced concern that the treaty diverts attention away from what they said was a need to modernize the U.S. nuclear arsenal in the face of threats from Iran and North Korea.
The Obama administration spent months courting Kyl before today's vote and even sent a team across the country to his Arizona office in an effort to persuade him to drop his opposition. The White House also announced $85 billion in additional funding over the next 10 years to modernize the country's nuclear complex.
The push for ratification included multiple newspaper editorials, speeches, and letters of support from not only Obama, Vice President Joseph Biden, and Secretary of State Clinton, but also from military leaders and former presidents, secretaries of state, and defense secretaries from both the Democratic and Republican parties.
A December 17 "New York Times" editorial urging the Senate to ratify was even signed by the foreign ministers of 25 European countries.
It was not enough to erase Republican concerns, however.
On December 20, Democrats defeated three Republican amendments that they said would have killed the treaty by requiring additional negotiation with Moscow.
That led Kyl to say to lawmakers the following day: "Is the United States just to be a rubber stamp? We can't do anything to change the treaty or the protocol or just the resolution of ratification, which is what we're trying to do here, because the Russians would say no and therefore we can't do it? I thought we're the United States Senate."
In the end, Kyl voted against the treaty.
Capping 'Reset' With Russia
Before the vote, Democrats agreed to accept versions of two Republican amendments -- one recognizing the U.S. commitment to pursue a missile defense system and the other reiterating the U.S. commitment to weapons modernization. Neither one affects the language of the treaty itself.
All told, 13 Republican senators broke with the party leadership to give the treaty the two-thirds majority required for passage. Richard Lugar (Republican-Indiana), a longtime advocate of nuclear nonproliferation, led the Republicans who voted for the treaty.
Obama characterized the treaty as the lynchpin to Washington's reset of relations with Moscow, which he has pursued since taking office last year.
The White House has reaped rewards from the reset, including Russian flyover rights for military planes headed to Afghanistan and Moscow's agreement in June to support a strong set of UN sanctions against Iran for its nuclear ambitions, as Obama noted.
"We'll continue to advance our relationship with Russia, which is essential to making progress on a host of challenges, from enforcing strong sanctions on Iran to preventing nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists. And this treaty will enhance our leadership to stop the spread of nuclear weapons and seek the peace of a world without them," he said.
Matthew Rojansky, an expert on U.S. and Russian nuclear weapons policy at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says ratifying New START had become a "litmus test" for the reset in both the United States and Russia.
"We're at a point where it has been made something of a litmus test for the success of the reset from both sides, and so I think, that being the case, perceptions create the reality. You would be very hard-pressed to continue the reset with the same momentum if ratification failed," he says.
The Senate vote was also welcomed in Moscow, where Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called it "a gold standard" for arms control pacts, according to Interfax.
U.S. and Russian officials had pledged at the treaty's signing to try to synchronize their respective ratification efforts.
Moscow had voiced impatience in recent months over the U.S. delay in ratification, and on November 3, the Duma's Foreign Affairs Committee withdrew its recommendation to ratify the treaty.
Global Zero (campaign) to Eliminate Nuclear Weapons
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Global Zero is an international initiative launched in December 2008 to promote the elimination of nuclear weapons. It proposes a phased withdrawal and verification for the destruction of all devices held by official and unofficial members of the nuclear club. The Global Zero campaign works toward building an international consensus and a sustained global movement of leaders and citizens for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
Goals include the initiation of United States-Russia bilateral negotiations for reductions to 1,000 total warheads each and commitments from the other key nuclear weapons countries to participate in multilateral negotiations for phased reductions of nuclear arsenals. Global Zero works to expand the diplomatic dialogue with key governments and continue to develop policy proposals on the critical issues related to the elimination of nuclear weapons.
The Global Zero plan for the phased, verified elimination of all nuclear weapons is a four-phased strategy to reach a global zero accord over 14 years (2010–2023) and to complete the dismantlement of all remaining nuclear warheads over the following seven years (2024–2030).
Phase 1 (2010–2013) Following conclusion of a START replacement accord, negotiate a bilateral accord for the United States and Russia to reduce to 1,000 total warheads each.
Phase 2 (2014–2018) In a multilateral framework, the U.S. and Russia reach agreement to reduce to 500 total warheads each (to be implemented by 2021) as long as all other nuclear weapons countries agree to freeze their stockpiles until 2018, followed by proportional reductions until 2021. Establish a comprehensive verification and enforcement system, and strengthen safeguards on the civilian nuclear fuel cycle to prevent diversion of materials to build weapons.
Phase 3 (2019–2023) Negotiate a global zero accord, signed by all nuclear capable countries, for the phased, verified, proportional reduction of all nuclear arsenals to zero total warheads by 2030.
Phase 4 (2024–2030) Complete the phased, verified, proportional reduction of all nuclear arsenals to zero total warheads by 2030 and continue the verification and enforcement system.
In releasing the plan, the Commission noted that over the past twenty years (1989–2009), the United States and Russia retired and destroyed twice as many nuclear warheads (40,000+) as this action plan proposes (20,000+) over the next twenty years (2009–2030).
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
By Chris Hedges
December 20, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- The speeches were over. There was a mournful harmonica rendition of taps. The 500 protesters in Lafayette Park in front of the White House fell silent. One hundred and thirty-one men and women, many of them military veterans wearing old fatigues, formed a single, silent line. Under a heavy snowfall and to the slow beat of a drum, they walked to the White House fence. They stood there until they were arrested.
The solemnity of that funerary march, the hush, was the hardest and most moving part of Thursday’s protest against the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It unwound the bitter memories and images of war I keep wrapped in the thick cotton wool of forgetfulness. I was transported in that short walk to places I do not like to go. Strange and vivid flashes swept over me—the young soldier in El Salvador who had been shot through the back of the head and was, as I crouched next to him, slowly curling up in a fetal position to die; the mutilated corpses of Kosovar Albanians in the back of a flatbed truck; the screams of a woman, her entrails spilling out of her gaping wounds, on the cobblestones of a Sarajevo street. My experience was not unique. Veterans around me were back in the rice paddies and lush undergrowth of Vietnam, the dusty roads of southern Iraq or the mountain passes of Afghanistan. Their tears showed that. There was no need to talk. We spoke the same wordless language. The butchery of war defies, for those who know it, articulation.
What can I tell you about war?
War perverts and destroys you. It pushes you closer and closer to your own annihilation—spiritual, emotional and, finally, physical. It destroys the continuity of life, tearing apart all systems, economic, social, environmental and political, that sustain us as human beings. War is necrophilia. The essence of war is death. War is a state of almost pure sin with its goals of hatred and destruction. It is organized sadism. War fosters alienation and leads inevitably to nihilism. It is a turning away from the sanctity of life.
And yet the mythic narratives about war perpetuate the allure of power and violence. They perpetuate the seductiveness of the godlike force that comes with the license to kill with impunity. All images and narratives about war disseminated by the state, the press, religious institutions, schools and the entertainment industry are gross and distorted lies. The clash between the fabricated myth about war and the truth about war leaves those of us who return from war alienated, angry and often unable to communicate. We can’t find the words to describe war’s reality. It is as if the wider culture sucked the words out from us and left us to sputter incoherencies. How can you speak meaningfully about organized murder? Anything you say is gibberish.
The sophisticated forms of industrial killing, coupled with the amoral decisions of politicians and military leaders who direct and fund war, hide war’s reality from public view. But those who have been in combat see death up close. Only their story tells the moral truth about war. The power of the Washington march was that we all knew this story. We had no need to use stale and hackneyed clichés about war. We grieved together.
War, once it begins, fuels new and bizarre perversities, innovative forms of death to ward off the boredom of routine death. This is why we would drive into towns in Bosnia and find bodies crucified on the sides of barns or decapitated, burned and mutilated. That is why those slain in combat are treated as trophies by their killers, turned into grotesque pieces of performance art. I met soldiers who carried in their wallets the identity cards of men they killed. They showed them to me with the imploring look of a lost child.
We swiftly deform ourselves, our essence, in war. We give up individual conscience—maybe even consciousness—for the contagion of the crowd and the intoxication of violence. You survive war because you repress emotions. You do what you have to do. And this means killing. To make a moral choice, to defy war’s enticement, is often self-destructive. But once the survivors return home, once the danger, adrenaline highs and the pressure of the crowd are removed, the repressed emotions surface with a vengeance. Fear, rage, grief and guilt leap up like snake heads to consume lives and turn nights into long, sleepless bouts with terror. You drink to forget.
We reached the fence. The real prisoners, the ones who blindly serve systems of power and force, are the mandarins inside the White House, the Congress and the Pentagon. The masters of war are slaves to the idols of empire, power and greed, to the idols of careers, to the dead language of interests, national security, politics and propaganda. They kill and do not know what killing is. In the rise to power, they became smaller. Power consumes them. Once power is obtained they become its pawn. Like Shakespeare’s Richard III, politicians such as Barack Obama fall prey to the forces they thought they had harnessed. The capacity to love, to cherish and protect life, may not always triumph, but it saves us. It keeps us human. It offers the only chance to escape from the contagion of war. Perhaps it is the only antidote. There are times when remaining human is the only victory possible.
The necrophilia of war is hidden under platitudes about honor, duty or comradeship. It waits especially in moments when we seem to have little to live for and no hope, or in moments when the intoxication of war is at its pitch to be unleashed. When we spend long enough in war, it comes to us as a kind of release, a fatal and seductive embrace that can consummate the long flirtation with our own destruction. In the Arab-Israeli 1973 war, almost a third of all Israeli casualties were due to psychiatric causes—and the war lasted only a few days. A World War II study determined that, after 60 days of continuous combat, 98 percent of all surviving soldiers will have become psychiatric casualties. A common trait among the 2 percent who were able to endure sustained combat was a predisposition toward “aggressive psychopathic personalities.” In short, if you spend enough time in combat you go insane or you were insane to begin with. War starts out as the annihilation of the other. War ends, if we do not free ourselves from its grasp, in self-annihilation.
Those around me at the protest, at once haunted and maimed by war, had freed themselves of war’s contagion. They bore its scars. They were plagued by its demons. These crippling forces will always haunt them. But they had returned home. They had returned to life. They had asked for atonement. In Lafayette Park they found grace. They had recovered within themselves the capacity for reverence. They no longer sought to become gods, to wield the power of the divine, the power to take life. And it is out of this new acknowledgement of weakness, remorse for their complicity in evil and an acceptance of human imperfection that they had found wisdom. Listen to them, if you can hear them. They are our prophets.
The tears and grief, the halting asides, the catch in the throat, the sudden breaking off of a sentence, is the only language that describes war. This faltering language of pain and atonement, even shame, was carried like great, heavy boulders by these veterans as they tromped slowly through the snow from Lafayette Park to the White House fence. It was carried by them as they were handcuffed, dragged through the snow, photographed for arrest, and frog-marched into police vans. It was carried into the frigid holding cells of a Washington jail. If it was understood by the masters of war who build the big guns, who build the death planes, who build all the bombs and who hide behind walls and desks, this language would expose their masks and chasten their hollow, empty souls. This language, bereft of words, places its faith in physical acts of nonviolent resistance, in powerlessness and compassion, in truth. It believes that one day it will bring down the house of war.
As Tennyson wrote in “In Memoriam”:
Behold, we know not anything;
I can but trust that good shall fall
At last—far off—at last, to all,
And every winter change to spring.
So runs my dream: but what am I?
An infant crying in the night:
An infant crying for the light:
And with no language but a cry.
Copyright © 2010 Truthdig, L.L.C.
Witness at the White House Fence
By Ray McGovern
December 21, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- “Show me your company, and I’ll tell you who you are,” my grandmother would often say with a light Irish lilt but unmistakable seriousness, an admonition about taking care in choosing what company you keep.
On Thursday, I could sense her smiling down through the snow as I stood pinned to the White House fence with Daniel Ellsberg, Chris Hedges, Margaret Flowers, Medea Benjamin, Coleen Rowley, Mike Ferner, Jodie Evans, and over 125 others risking arrest in an attempt to highlight the horrors of war.
The witness was sponsored by Veterans for Peace, a group comprised of many former soldiers who have “been there, done that” regarding war, distinguishing them from President Barack Obama who, like his predecessor, hasn’t a clue what war is really about. (Sorry, Mr. President, donning a bomber jacket and making empty promises to the troops in the middle of an Afghan night does not qualify.)
The simple but significant gift of presence was being offered outside the White House. As I hung on the fence, I recalled what I knew of the results of war.
Into view came some of my closest childhood friends — like Bob, whose father was killed in WWII when Bob was in kindergarten. My uncle Larry, an Army chaplain, killed in a plane crash.
Other friends like Mike and Dan, whose big brothers were killed in Korea. So many of my classmates from Infantry Officers Orientation at Ft. Benning killed in the Big Muddy called Vietnam.
My college classmate with whom I studied Russian, Ed Krukowski, 1Lt, USAF, one of the very first casualties of Vietnam, killed, leaving behind a wife and three small children. Other friends, too numerous to mention, killed in that misbegotten war.
More recently, Casey Sheehan and 4,429 other U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, and the 491 U.S. troops killed so far this year in Afghanistan (bringing that total to 1,438). And their mothers. And the mothers of all those others who have died in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan. Mothers don’t get to decide; only to mourn.
A pure snow showered down as if to say blessed are the peacemakers. Tears kept my eyes hydrated against the cold.
The hat my youngest daughter knit for me three years ago when I had no hair gave me an additional sense of being showered with love and affirmation. There was a palpable sense of rightness in our witness to the witless ways of the White House behind the fence.
I thought to myself, this White House is a far cry from the “Camelot” administration of John F. Kennedy, who brought me, and so many others to Washington almost a half-century ago. And yet, I could not resist borrowing a song from the play, Camelot: “I wonder what the king is doing tonight. What merriment is the king pursuing tonight…”
Perhaps strutting before a mirror in his leather bomber jacket, practicing rhetorical flourishes for the troops, like, “You are making our country safer.” The opposite, of course, is true, and if President Obama does not know that, he is not as smart as people think he is.
More accurately, the troops are making Obama’s political position safer, protecting him from accusations of “softness” on Afghanistan, just as a surge of troops into Iraq postponed the inevitable, sparing George W. Bush from the personal ignominy of presiding over a more obvious American defeat in Iraq.
Both presidents were willing to sacrifice those troops on the altar of political expediency, knowing full well that it is not American freedom that “the insurgents” hate, but rather U.S. government policies, which leave so many oppressed, or dead.
Despite our (Veterans for Peace) repeated requests over many months, Obama has refused to meet with us. On Wednesday, though, he carved out five hours to sit down with many of the fat cat executives who are profiteering from war.
It seems the President was worried that he had hurt the fat cats’ feelings – and opened himself to criticism as being “anti-business” – with some earlier remarks about their obscenely inflated pay.
Before our witness on Thursday, we read in the Washington Post that Obama told the 20 chief executives, “I want to dispel any notion we want to inhibit your success,” and solicited ideas from them “on a host of issues.” By way of contrast, the President has shown zero interest in soliciting ideas from the likes of us.
‘The Big Fool Said to Push On’
In another serendipitous coincidence, as we were witnessing against the March of Folly in Afghanistan, the President was completing his “review” of the war and sealing the doom of countless more soldiers and civilians (and, in my view, his own political doom) by re-enacting the Shakespearean tragedy of Lyndon the First.
Afraid to get crossways with the military brass, who have made it embarrassingly clear that they see no backbone under that bomber jacket, Obama has just sped past another exit ramp out of Afghanistan by letting the policy review promised for this month become a charade.
Hewing to the script of Lyndon the First, Barack Obama has chosen to shun the considered views of U.S. intelligence agencies, which, to their credit, show in no uncertain terms the stupidity of keeping U.S. troops neck-deep in this latest Big Muddy in Afghanistan — to borrow from Pete Seeger’s song from the Vietnam era.
There is one reality upon which there is virtually complete consensus as highlighted by the U.S. intelligence agencies: The U.S. and NATO will not be able to “prevail” in Afghanistan if Pakistan does not stop supporting the Taliban. Are we clear on that? That’s what the recent National Intelligence Estimate on Afghanistan says.
A companion NIE on Pakistan says there is not a snowball’s chance in hell that the Pakistani Army and security services will somehow “change their strategic vision” regarding keeping the Taliban in play for the time when the United States and its NATO allies finally leave Afghanistan and when Pakistan will want to reassert its influence there.
Should it be too hard to put the two NIEs together and reach the appropriate conclusions for policy?
It is difficult to believe that – after going from knee-deep to waist-deep in the Big Muddy by his early 2009 decision to insert 21,000 troops into Afghanistan, and then from waist-deep to neck-deep by deciding a year ago to send in 30,000 more — Obama would say to “push on.”
The answer lies in the kind of “foolish consistency” Emerson termed the “hobgoblin of little minds.” Out of crass political considerations, Obama continues to evidence a spineless persistence behind this fool’s errand. He seems driven by fear of offending other important Washington constituencies, such as the neoconservative opinion-makers, and having to face the wrath of the be-medaled and be-ribboned Gen. David Petraeus. This is pitiable enough — but a lot of people are getting killed or maimed for life.
‘When will we ever learn?’
To answer this other Vietnam-era song, well, we have learned — many of us the hard way. We need to tell the big fool not to be so afraid of neocon columnists and the festooned left breast of the sainted Petraeus — you know, the ten rows of medals and merit badges that made him so lopsided he crashed down on the witness table and was given a time-out by the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Outside the White House on Thursday, we found ourselves singing “We Shall Overcome” with confidence. And what we learned later of other witnessing conducted that same day provided still more affirmation, grit, and determination.
For example, 75 witnesses braved freezing temperatures at the Times Square recruiting station in New York to express solidarity with our demonstration in Washington.
There in Times Square stood not only veterans, but also grandmothers from the Granny Peace Brigade, the Raging Grannies, and Grandmothers Against the War. Two of the grandmothers were in their 90s, but stood for more than an hour in the cold. The Catholic Worker, War Resister League and other anti-war groups were also represented.
What? You didn’t hear about any of this, including the arrest of 135 veterans and other anti-war activists in front of the White House? Need I remind you of the Fawning Corporate Media and how its practitioners have always downplayed or ignored protests, large or small, against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Dave Lindorff summed the situation up HERE... .
A Rich Tradition
Civil Disobedience was Henry David Thoreau’s response to his 1846 imprisonment for refusing to pay a poll tax that violated his conscience. Thoreau was protesting an earlier war of aggression, the U.S. attack on Mexico.
In Civil Disobedience, Thoreau asked:
“Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward.
“It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.”
Imprisonment was Thoreau’s first direct experience with state power and, in typical fashion, he analyzed it:
“The State never intentionally confronts a man’s sense, intellectual or moral, but only his body, his senses. It is not armed with superior wit or honesty, but with superior physical strength. I was not born to be forced. I will breathe after my own fashion. Let us see who is the strongest.”
Prior to his arrest, Thoreau had lived a quiet, solitary life at Walden, an isolated pond in the woods about a mile and a half from Concord. He returned to Walden to mull over two questions: (1) Why do some men obey laws without asking if the laws are just or unjust; and, (2) why do others obey laws they think are wrong?
More recent American prophets have thrown their own light on the crises of our time while confronting the questions posed by Thoreau.
Amid the carnage of Vietnam, Fr. Daniel Berrigan, SJ, posed a challenge to those who hoped for peace without sacrifice, those who would say, “Let us have peace but let us loose nothing. Let our lives stand intact; let us know neither prison nor ill repute nor disruption of ties.”
Berrigan saw no such easy option. “There is no peace,” he said, “because the making of peace is at least as costly as the making of war — at least as liable to bring disgrace and prison.”
So, if the making of peace today means prison, that’s where we need to be. It is time to accept our responsibility to do ALL we can to stop the violence of wars waged in our name. Now it’s our turn to ponder those questions.
This article first appeared at Consortiumnews.com.
This is an excellent piece. I encourage readers to follow my end link to the original article and those which are referenced internally at Washington's Blog.
--Dr. J. P. Hubert
Prosecuting Wall Street Fraud: The US Economy is A Giant Ponzi Scheme
by Washington's Blog
December 14, 2010
Bill Gross, Nouriel Roubini, Laurence Kotlikoff, Steve Keen, Michel Chossudovsky and the Wall Street Journal all say that the U.S. economy is a giant Ponzi scheme.
Virtually all independent economists and financial experts say that rampant fraud was largely responsible for the financial crisis. See THIS and and THIS.
But many on Wall Street and in D.C. - and many investors - believe that we should just "go with the flow". They hope that we can restart our economy and make some more money if we just let things continue the way they are.
But the assumption that a system built on fraud can continue without crashing is false.
In fact, top economists and financial experts agree that - unless fraud is prosecuted - the economy cannot recover.
Fraud Leads to a Break Down in Trust and Instability in the Markets
Sunday, December 19, 2010
December 16, 2010
Two reports produced by US intelligence agencies sharply contradict the American military's claims of success in the nine-year-old war in Afghanistan.
The National Intelligence Estimates on Afghanistan and Pakistan were recently presented in secret to members of the Senate and House intelligence committees. They represent the consensus view of Washington's 16 separate intelligence agencies, led by the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, the State Department and the various arms of military intelligence.
Coming on the eve of the formal presentation by the Obama White House of its review of the US policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the reports stand in sharp contradiction to the rosy estimates being peddled by the US military.
This month marks one year since President Barack Obama, in a speech at West Point, ordered his military “surge” in Afghanistan. This escalation saw the deployment of 30,000 more US troops into the impoverished, war-torn country, bringing the total US force there to nearly 100,000. Another 50,000 NATO and other foreign troops are participating in the US-led colonial-style war.
On Tuesday, President Obama signed off on a report prepared by Gen. David Petraeus, the top US military commander in Afghanistan, which claims that the escalation of the war has proved successful.
Previewing the report, which will be formally presented by the president today, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Wednesday, “There has been some important progress in halting the momentum of the Taliban in Afghanistan.” He also claimed that the US has “seen greater cooperation over the course of the past 18 months, with the Pakistani government.”
According to unnamed senior government officials quoted in the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, however, US intelligence agencies challenge the veracity of such claims.
The classified intelligence reports contend that large swaths of Afghanistan are still at risk of falling to the Taliban, according to officials who were briefed on the National Intelligence Estimates,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
The paper also reported that the reports, presented at a closed-door hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee recently, state that the Pakistani government “remains unwilling to stop its covert support for members of the Afghan Taliban who mount attacks against US troops from the tribal areas of the neighboring country.”
According to the New York Times, the reports conclude that “there is a limited chance of success unless Pakistan hunts down insurgents operating from havens on its Afghan border.”
The Washington Post carried an article Wednesday indicating that the administration's own review, at least in regard to Pakistan, appears to concur in part with the intelligence estimates. It quoted an official familiar with the review as stating that Pakistan has not “fundamentally changed its strategic calculus” regarding the use of the country's Federally Administered Tribal Areas by armed Afghan opposition groups as sanctuary.
The Pakistani military and intelligence apparatus has longstanding ties to the Taliban, which it views as a counterweight to the attempt by its regional rival, India, to exert its influence in Afghanistan.
The logic of this shared assessment of the role played by Pakistan is the escalation of US pressure on the government in Islamabad and the increasing extension of the US military intervention into Pakistani territory.
White House spokesman Gibbs advised that the results of the policy review will “not surprise” anyone who has been familiar with the administration's policies.
Indeed, the long-awaited review has become virtually a non-event. The Obama administration already spelled out its intentions at the NATO summit in Lisbon last month, where it embraced a new timeline that effectively jettisoned the pledge made by the US president last December to begin withdrawing US troops from Afghanistan in July of 2011.
The new deadline embraced in Lisbon is the end of 2014 when, supposedly, Afghan security forces would be capable of taking over most combat operations in the country. July 2011 will, at most, see a token withdrawal, that will leave the bulk of US forces in the country. And military commanders have indicated that they expect American troops to remain in Afghanistan well past 2014.
The inability of the Obama administration to hold off announcing this new policy until its policy review was formally presented is indicative of the crisis gripping the US enterprise in Afghanistan, and in particular the fear that any illusion that Washington planned a major withdrawal by next year would only strengthen the Taliban and other armed opposition groups.
The extreme sensitivity of the US military to any questioning of its claims of success was expressed in the Pentagon's reaction to the National Intelligence Estimates.
Both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times quoted an unnamed senior Pentagon official as dismissing the intelligence reports as out-of-date and irrelevant, having been produced by Washington bureaucrats unfamiliar with the situation on the ground in Afghanistan.
“They are not on the ground living it day in and day out like our forces are, so they don’t have the proximity and perspective,” the official told the Times.
But, as the New York Times pointed out, the CIA has built its largest station since the Vietnam War in Kabul and is commanding secret armies and death squads that number in the thousands in Afghanistan.
The Los Angeles Times article included an angry retort from an unnamed senior intelligence official. “The notion that intelligence officers aren't on the ground in Afghanistan and on the front lines in the fight against terrorism is preposterous,” he said.
This kind of backbiting within the US military-intelligence apparatus is symptomatic of the crisis atmosphere pervading the entire imperialist venture in Afghanistan.
The military's claims of progress in Afghanistan are linked to what is referred to by the Pentagon as the rise in “kinetic activity,” i.e., the escalating use of deadly force that has accompanied the Obama surge. It has resurrected the discredited method of “body counts,” claiming, for example, to have killed 952 “insurgents” during a 90-day period ending December 2. Many of these were the victims of special forces death squads, which have frequently assassinated unarmed civilians in the course of controversial night raids.
The US military has also sharply escalated the use of aerial bombardment, having dropped 5,465 bombs and missiles on Afghanistan in the first 11 months of this year. This already considerably outpaces the 4,184 that were dropped in all of 2009.
Now, for the first time, the Pentagon is bringing heavy battle tanks into Afghanistan, a move that will significantly increase the US military's firepower and the overall carnage.
The predictable result of this increased violence is a rise in civilian casualties, a sharp deterioration in economic and social conditions and growing popular anger against the foreign occupation.
More than 2,400 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan between the months of January and September alone, the most intense bloodshed since the US invaded the country in 2001. The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan reported a 31 percent rise in civilian casualties for the first six months of this year compared to the same period in 2009.
In the latest incident, NATO acknowledged on Wednesday that it is investigating a bombing by a US warplane in the Marjah district of Helmand province in which an Afghan civilian was killed and two children were wounded. “We are here to protect the Afghan people and initial indications are that in this case we may have failed,” a military spokesman said. Marjah was supposedly one of the “success” stories after the US Marines carried out a major offensive there earlier this year.
The International Committee of the Red Cross organized a press conference in Kabul Wednesday to decry what the agency said was the worst violence it has seen in Afghanistan in 30 years.
The proliferation of armed groups threatens the ability of humanitarian organizations to access those in need,” said Reto Stocker, head of the ICRC in Afghanistan. “Access for the ICRC has over the last 30 years never been as poor.”
Stocker said that the agency had called the press conference because it is “extremely concerned of yet another year of fighting with dramatic consequences for an ever-growing number of people in by now almost the entire country.” While the US has concentrated its surge in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, the Red Cross representative said that the growth of the insurgency had cut off its access to the previously peaceful north of the country.
This assessment was shared by a group of aid workers and others working in Afghanistan who addressed an open letter to President Obama last week.
The situation on the ground is much worse than a year ago because the Taliban insurgency has made progress across the country,” they wrote. “It is now very difficult to work outside the cities or even move around Afghanistan by road. The insurgents have built momentum, exploiting the shortcomings of the Afghan government and the mistakes of the coalition.”
The growing hostility of the Afghan people to the US occupation produced by the Obama surge found expression in a poll conducted earlier this month by the Washington Post, ABC News, the British Broadcasting Corporation and Germany’s ARD television.
The survey found that more than half of the Afghan population wants the US and other foreign forces to begin their withdrawal by mid-2011, if not immediately. Three-quarters of those surveyed supported negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban, the insurgent force that the US military is attempting to annihilate. And support for the Taliban in Kandahar province, the main focus of the ongoing US surge, has increased markedly, with 45 percent saying that they view the movement favorably.
Given the inherent dangers in expressing hostility to the US occupation and support for the Taliban, there is no doubt that the poll is a pale indication of both the popular outrage over the US military offensive and the level of support for the armed groups fighting against the occupation.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
The JFK Assassination is the key to understanding what is currently transpiring in the United States. One of the reasons why President John F. Kennedy was murdered is that he wanted to end the Cold War through negotiation with the Soviet Union rather than “win it” [which was the position of the war hawks in his own administration as well as the private corporations which were then part of the military industrial complex (MIC)]. Then as now the defense contractors were making incredible sums of money on armament production and loathed the idea that it might come to an end.
Today the so-called Global War on Terror (GWT) has replaced the “Cold-War” as a justification for continued massive military/intelligence spending that still inures to the benefit of the MIC (now the MIMIC). The basic arrangement is the same. The Regime creates a plausible justification for placing the country on a constant war footing and then proceeds to invent reasons why the war(s) must continue.
The actual reason a state of constant war has become "necessary" is that given our loss of traditional manufacturing base the US economy is critically dependent on creating a demand for the production of armaments. Munitions manufacturing after all is the only industry in which the US still leads the world. Virtually everything else has already been off-shored and out-sourced to third world countries where slave labor wages are utilized by US multinational corporations for the creation of immoral and obscene profits, the ill-gotten gains obtained in large part from the killing of innocent non-combatants in foreign wars.
The US economy then, is being artificially propped-up through the continual starting and prosecuting of unnecessary and immoral wars of aggression. The current situation benefits the private armament manufacturers and insures that no nation or combination thereof is able or willing to challenge American hegemony, thus perpetuating the status quo. This scenario will continue until the USA is recognizably bankrupt as a result of its total inability to service the now astronomically massive national debt. The powerful elites will then simply move on to another geographical location (read host nation) where they can repeat their rapacious activities having long since moved their bounteous personal assets off-shore. This is the real meaning of the vaunted "New World Order."