Thursday, January 27, 2011

Excusing Torture at ‘Justice’

Editor's Comment:

Ray McGovern's piece below demonstrates a great deal more about what is wrong with Roman Catholicism today than it does the poor grasp a senior member of the US Justice Department [Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights] has of his alleged "Catholic" faith. The tragic fact is that since the Second Vatican Council there now exists almost "3" generations of self-confessed "Catholics" who have no idea what traditional orthodox Roman Catholicism teaches about anything. Thomas Perez is apparently one among a virtual plethora of such individuals.

Traditional Roman Catholic moral theology as understood in the Aristotelian/Thomistic synthesis of St. Thomas Aquinas (see Summa theologiae) is strongly biased against capital punishment and torture. This is based in Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition and constant magisterial teaching something that prior to 1965 well catechized Roman Catholic adults could generally articulate quite well--no longer.

It should be understood however that the Roman Catholic Church prior to Vatican II never stated categorically that capital punishment should be illegal, recognizing that under certain dire circumstances it might be necessary while in the main undesired or even contraindicated unless absolutely necessary in order to protect the innocent.

Effect of Post-Conciliar "New Theology"

Since 1965, the situation with respect to "Catholic" moral theology has been confounded for a variety of reasons due at least in part to the invention and promulgation of the so-called "New-Theology" (by dissident Theologians) which is in many ways unorthodox if not out-right heretical--although that is a subject not germane to this topic or this blog. Interested readers may consult this site instead. Suffice it to say that it has been almost universally negative.

Post-Vatican II Popes

For those readers with greater interest in the moral theological literature produced by the Magisterium subsequent to Vatican II, the encyclicals of several popes have in large part stressed the fact that 1) capital punishment is unnecessary to protect the public, 2) it is often a reflection of the desire for revenge rather than justice and 3) it is incompatible with basic human dignity due primarily to man's creation in the Imago Dei "Image of God" and the full meaning of the Incarnation of Christ as a complete life-giving gift of self for the other (man).

In a very real sense, to intentionally kill or harm (as in torture) another human being is to attack God as He is "Imaged" in the human person--unless very specific criteria are met e.g only when necessary to protect the victim from death or serious harm as in the Just War Doctrinal Tradition which holds that war should be avoided at almost all cost and considered only as a last resort and with appropriate proportionality. Interested readers should also consult for example; Veritatis splendor and Evangelium vitae for further details.

Human Dignity is Grounded in the Imago-Dei

In any case the fundamental underlying (touchstone) concept is that capital punishment and torture are incompatible with basic human dignity grounded as it is in the Imago-Dei that is, the Image of the Triune God, literally stamped as it were into every human being (Gen 2:7; Wis 9:2-3). I will admittedly oversimplify by saying the following but such are the requirements of the time in which we live: nothing that degrades the Image of God in each person is morally permissible from the orthodox/Traditional Roman Catholic perspective and it is here that so much of the so-called “new moral theology” (read moral heterodoxy) has gone astray.

Input from Natural (Moral) Law

An understanding of the Natural Moral Law which flows from the "nature" (or as moral philosopher's say the quiddity or "whatness") of human being is extremely helpful here. Traditional Roman Catholic moral philosophers teach that the "ought" of human behavior flows from and is circumscribed by the "is" of human nature. It is in the ontological (metaphysical not embryological sense) specialness of what it means to be human that we find the proscription against capital punishment and torture.

Traditional Roman Catholic teaching holds that Jesus Christ (through the power of the incarnation, the one true hybrid God/man) serves as an example for human beings in way of understanding or teaching mankind the true meaning of humanity in all its fullness. That is, God has said everything He has to say to us in Jesus Christ. Put another way it is in the fullness of Christ’s humanity that we find the answer to the meaning of our own humanity. His is the humanity to which we all must aspire.

Input from Sacred Scripture

The following example is illustrative.  When Christ was confronted with the woman caught in adultery, the crowd expected Him to follow the Old Testament (Leviticus ) prescription of "stoning adulterers to death ", yet Christ said: "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone" (John 8: 3-11) and the crowd dispersed. Christ softened the Judaic (Old Testament) Law which allowed capital punishment under the rubric of an "eye for an eye" in the trajectory of greater mercy by teaching that it was not necessary to punish the perpetrators of seriously immoral acts by subjecting them to the death penalty. He taught that the New Law of mercy (Love) was perfect where the Old Law was necessary but in a sense insufficient. 

Christ told the woman in question, “I do not condemn you, go and leave your life of sin.” (John 8: 11), the point being that the emphasis was on the repenting (turning away) of the sin of adultery and beginning anew. Christ was asserting that it was necessary that the sinner undergo a total conversion/transformation of heart (spirit) which would be demonstrable in how he/she lived thereafter. In the secular criminal justice system this might be compared to the more modern notion of rehabilitation of criminals rather than condemning them to death or perpetual imprisonment.

"Christian" Fundamentalism is Judaized (Law of Christ [Love] is Removed)

Traditional Christianity therefore, properly understood (in contradistinction to much of "Christian" Fundamentalism which has Judaized traditional orthodox Roman Catholicism into an almost unrecognizable conterfit) has a very great bias against capital punishment (and a virtual sanction against torture as well) on the basis of the direct teaching of Jesus Christ. This strong bias against the death penalty can only be overcome by objective factual circumstances in which virtually no other option exists by which to protect the populace from murderers, a reality which almost never exists today in light of the modern penal system. In practice, the death penalty too often does represent revenge rather than the fair administration of justice or the necessary requirement to protect the population from the threat of murder or serious bodily harm.

False Arguments for Torture

Even if torture produced valuable information by which further crimes could be avoided (which thankfully it has not been demonstrated to do, rather, victims of torture say whatever they think will stop the torture), it would remain morally wrong to engage in torturing human beings, again on the basis of the Natural Law and direct scriptural (New Testament) injunction as well as over 2000 years of orthodox/Traditional Roman Catholic teaching albeit at times very imperfectly applied. To say that torture is acceptable because it provides important information with which to avoid future attacks is not only false but is to invoke rank Utilitarianism which is no moral philosophy at all.

Failure of Roman Catholic Church to be "Salt and Light"

The loss of Roman Catholic orthodoxy subsequent to Vatican II has seriously/negatively impacted the common morality of America and the world such that assistant attorney general Perez is not an aberation among self-professed "Catholics."  This is the fault of the post-conciliar "Catholic" Church in failing to preach the full Gospel of Jesus Christ as faithfully handed down for over 19 centuries.

In large part I agree with Ray McGovern that it is inappropriate of Mr. Perez to associate his remarks with anything having to do with the  Roman Catholic Faith given his unwillingness to either state his personal opinions clearly or to refer specifically to Traditional Roman Catholic teaching on justice.


Excusing Torture at ‘Justice’

By Ray McGovern

January 26, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- On Sunday, I attended an informal talk given in a parish hall by the Justice Department’s Thomas Perez, assistant attorney general for civil rights. His topic: “The way his work for justice is defined by his faith.”
During the Q&A after his talk, I had a chance to pose some questions:

Question: “Thanks, Tom, for making yourself available to us. You raise the issue of torture, and intimated that there is consensus among Catholics that torture is wrong. Polling conducted two years ago indicates that this is far from the case.

[According to the Catholic News Agency, a survey by the Pew Center Forum on Religion & Public Life found that Catholics are more likely than the general U.S. population to favor the use of torture against suspected terrorists. More than half the Catholics surveyed said that torture could be often or sometimes justified, while another 27 percent said the practice could rarely be justified. Only 20 percent said it could never be justified.]

“You are head of the Civil Rights Division at Justice. I am sure you would agree that a person’s right not to be tortured is a civil right.

“Your immediate boss, Attorney General Eric Holder, has stated in testimony to Congress that waterboarding is torture. President Obama has said the same thing.

“Now the president… that is, former President George W. Bush… has written a book in which he brags about authorizing waterboarding and says he would do it again. Former Vice President Dick Cheney earlier endorsed waterboarding.

“Like you, Tom, I went to a Jesuit high school, and I know what a syllogism is. If waterboarding is torture, and those who authorized it now admit that and brag about it, is not your boss Eric Holder bound by his oath of office to prosecute those who admit to having authorized torture?

“I refer here not only to those tortured at Guantanamo, at the huge prison complex at Bagram, Afghanistan, and at ‘black sites’ around the world where my former colleagues at CIA were given carte blanche to ply their trade.

“I refer also to American citizens like José Padilla, born, like me, in New York City, who was deprived of his civil rights and subjected to the cruelest forms of debilitating torture right here in the U.S.A.

“Again, you are head of the Civil Rights Division at Justice. You have talked a good bit about conscience. Your boss, the attorney general, appears unwilling to see to it that the law be faithfully executed. Has your faith or your conscience led you to raise this subject with Eric Holder?”

Perez: “It’s a matter of prosecutorial discretion. We have discussed these matters, and I am not about to reveal information on those discussions.”

Question: “Your talk is billed as a discussion of how your faith defines your work for justice. I am not asking you to reveal information about the discussions you have been part of at the Justice Department; I am asking you how you come at the issue of torture from a faith perspective.”

Perez: “You are very clever, but I am not going to let myself be drawn into this discussion. Next questioner.”

Perez had begun by expressing appreciation for the education he had received from the Jesuits at Canisius High School in Buffalo – a sentiment I share from my four years at Fordham Prep in the Bronx.

As far as moral theology and justice are concerned, though, it appears that Perez was exposed to the same dictum at Canisius as I was at Fordham. Moral theology? Ethics? Simple. The whole deal is to: Do Good, and Avoid Evil.

It was not until the mid ’80s, when I completed a certificate in theological studies with the more up-to-date Jesuits at Georgetown, that I learned that the Do-Good-and-Avoid-Evil proposition was only half correct. Jesus of Nazareth called us to do good, certainly. But not to avoid evil; rather, to confront it.

This shows through clearly in the first chapter of the first Gospel written (Mark 1:16-28). After recruiting his fisherman freshman to enroll in Discipleship 101, Jesus brings them into the synagogue at Capernaum and provides a vivid illustration of what we are called to do in the face of evil – confront it.

His message: No confronting of evil, no true discipleship.

Making It at Harvard Law

Distinguished Catholic jurists who preceded Perez at Harvard Law School – for example, “where-does-the-Constitution-say-executions-have-to-be-painless” Antonin Scalia and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales – have amply demonstrated the validity of Lord Acton’s dictum about how power corrupts.

Perez’s response suggests to me that some of this may have rubbed off on him as well.

I am grateful for the insights gained during my years of theology at Georgetown (coincidentally, the same years Perez spent at Harvard Law). The one theme wending its way through all the courses was this: what Yahweh of the Hebrew and Jesus of the Christian scriptures care about, above all else, is that we do Justice – that disciples are called unambiguously, to Do Good and CONFRONT (not merely Avoid) Evil.

I was not surprised that Perez found my question unwelcome. I was surprised that he answered it so dismissively.

His reaction left the impression that, during whatever deliberations on executive accountability for torture he has been party to, he has held his nose in silence – like his seniors of malleable conscience at Justice and the White House, who choose to duck, rather then confront human rights abuses involving U.S. officials.

Worse still, his taking refuge in “prosecutorial discretion” is legally flat-out wrong.

Does he not know that the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment adopted by the UN General Assembly on Dec. 10, 1984, (now signed by some 150 nations – including the U.S., which also ratified it on Oct. 21, 1994) has been and remains the supreme law of the land? The Convention makes no allowance for “prosecutorial discretion.”

If evidence of a violation arises, the signatories are obliged to promptly investigate any allegation of torture and, if appropriate, prosecute. The Convention’s description of torture certainly includes waterboarding. And, as already mentioned, Attorney General Holder and President Obama have conceded the point.

(For that matter, even if waterboarding – best defined as “contrived drowning with intentional resuscitation” – were somehow not to be deemed torture, it would certainly constitute the “cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment” for which the Convention Against Torture also requires investigation as a matter of law.)

The Convention defines torture as “Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person, information or a confession….”

The Convention also declares torture an extraditable offense, and endorses the concept of universal jurisdiction to try cases of torture where an alleged torturer cannot be extradited.

Jesus and Empire

This may sound somewhat harsh, but it struck me that if Perez was not open to addressing “the way his work for justice is defined by his faith,” he ought not to have appeared under that rubric.

Comparisons can be invidious. And the one that follows is probably a bit unfair. But the exchange with Perez reminded me of another person of Christian faith, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, to whom CBS’s Leslie Stahl posed a difficult question on May 12, 1996.

Referring to the effect of the sanctions against Iraq, Stahl noted: “We have heard that half a million children have died. I mean, that is more children than died in Hiroshima. And, you know, is the price worth it?”

Albright: “The price, we think the price is worth it.”

In an address eight years later at the Yale Divinity School, Albright elaborated on her realpolitik approach to matters of state. She asked what would have happened if after 9/11 the president had said, “Resist not evil. Whosoever shall smite thee on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.”

Albright’s exegesis: “I suspect most of us would think it a preposterous prescription in a time of national crisis.”

She went on to speak of the dilemma that “we each face in trying to reconcile religious beliefs with professional duties,” and came down squarely on the side of “professional duties.”

Not stopping there, Albright went on to misquote Scripture in claiming that the president, in vowing to rid the world of evil, echoed the words of Jesus, “You are either with us or against us.”

In a gratuitous allusion to her empire-centric approach, the former secretary of state went on to endorse Vice President Dick Cheney’s “sincere” religious beliefs. She singled out as a “good thing,” his controversy-provoking Christmas card the year before (2003), which bore the inscription: “If a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without His aid?”

Stanley Hauerwas, a Yale alumnus, now professor of theological ethics at Duke Divinity School, was moved to comment on Albright’s speech in a Yale Divinity School publication.

He noted that much of what she said was designed to “underwrite the assumption that we cannot follow Jesus and pursue the limited justice possible in foreign affairs.”

But wait. Was not “His” message a direct challenge to empire – in his day the Roman Empire and religious and civil collaborators in the Roman occupation? Isn’t that why the religious and civil authorities put their heads together and ended up torturing and executing him?

Had Jesus allowed himself to be co-opted by the empire and its Quislings, had he chosen to divorce his nonviolent but challenging vision of justice from the politics of the day, he could have died peacefully in his bed – as did the leaders of the institutional church in Nazi Germany.

And we can too. All that is required is a mind-trick to convince ourselves that Jesus did not really mean to say what he said, that he did not really mean to do what he did in exposing the evils of empire.

And help is at hand. It is easy to find a pastor preaching a domesticated Jesus – an ahistorical Jesus far more interested in “piety” than justice. I still find myself wondering how the Cheneys’ pastor reacted to their Christmas card.

Sinning for Us

Often it takes a compassionate but truth-telling outsider to throw light on our country, its leaders, its policies. Bishop Peter Storey of South Africa, who walked the walk in his courageous, outspoken resistance to the apartheid regime (and was chaplain to Nelson Mandela), provides this prophetic word:

“I have often suggested to American Christians that the only way to understand their mission is to ask what it might have meant to witness faithfully to Jesus in the heart of the Roman Empire.

“Certainly, when I preach in the United States I feel, as I imagine the Apostle Paul did when he first passed through the gates of Rome – admiration for its people, awe at its manifest virtues, and resentment of its careless power.

“America’s preachers have a task more difficult, perhaps, than those faced by us under South Africa’s apartheid, or by Christians under Communism. We had obvious evils to engage; you have to unwrap your culture from years of red, white, and blue myth.

“You have to expose and confront the great disconnect between the kindness, compassion, and caring of most American people and the ruthless way American power is experienced, directly and indirectly, by the poor of the earth. You have to help good people see how they have let their institutions do their sinning for them.

“This is not easy among people who really believe that their country does nothing but good. But it is necessary, not only for their future, but for us all.

“All around the world there are those who believe in the basic goodness of the American people, who agonize with you in your pain, but also long to see your human goodness translated into a different, more compassionate way of relating with the rest of this bleeding planet.”

Finally, let me add something I have learned thanks to the candid comments of my atheist friends.

“Hey, Ray,” one wrote, “please, not so heavy on this Judeo-Christian heritage you keep citing. I don’t buy any of it, but wake up: on torture it is not at all necessary to be a person ‘of faith.’

“It is abundantly clear to this atheist, and to most of us, that it is simply impermissible for human beings to torture one another. Humans do not do that to other humans. Period.”

I see the truth in that. At the same time, it does seem to me that we who claim to follow a courageous dissident activist who was tortured to death may have extra incentive to do all we can to prevent others from being subjected to “Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.”

The Doomsday Project, Deep Events, and the Shrinking of American Democracy

by Prof Peter Dale Scott

Global Research
January 22, 2011
Asia-Pacific Journal Vol 9, Issue 4 No 2, January 24, 2011.

"I know the capacity that is there to make tyranny total in America, and we must see to it that this agency [the National Security Agency] and all agencies that possess this technology operate within the law and under proper supervision, so that we never cross over that abyss. That is the abyss from which there is no return."-- Senator Frank Church (1975)

In recent years I have become more and more concerned with the interactions between three important and alarming trends in recent American history. The first is America’s increasing militarization, and above all its inclination, even obsession, to involve itself in needless and pernicious wars. The second, closely related, is the progressive shrinking of public politics and the rule of law as they are subordinated, even domestically, to the requirements of covert U.S. operations abroad.

The third, also closely related, is the important and increasingly deleterious impact on American history and the global extension of American power, of what I have called deep events. These events, like the JFK assassination, the Watergate break-in, or 9/11, which repeatedly involve law-breaking or violence, are mysterious to begin with, are embedded in ongoing covert processes, have consequences that enlarge covert government, and are subsequently covered up by systematic falsifications in media and internal government records.

One factor linking Dallas, Watergate, and 9/11, has been the involvement in all three deep events of personnel involved in America’s highest-level emergency planning, known since the 1980s as Continuity of Government (COG) planning, or more colloquially as “the Doomsday Project.” The implementation of COG plans on 9/11, or what I call Doomsday Power, was the culmination of three decades of such planning, and has resulted in the permanent militarization of the domestic United States, and the imposition at home of institutions and processes designed for domination abroad.

Writing about these deep events as they occurred over the decades, I have been interested in the interrelations among them. It is now possible to show how each was related both to those preceding it, and those which followed.

I would like in this essay to go further and propose a framework to analyze the on-going forces underlying all of the most important deep events, and how they have contributed to the political ascendance of what used to be called the military-industrial complex. I hope to describe certain impersonal governing laws that determine the socio-dynamics of all large-scale societies (often called empires) that deploy their surplus of power to expand beyond their own borders and force their will on other peoples. This process of expansion generates predictable trends of behavior in the institutions of all such societies, and also in the individuals competing for advancement in those institutions. In America it has converted the military-industrial complex from a threat at the margins of the established civil order, to a pervasive force dominating that order.

With this framework I hope to persuade readers that in some respects our recent history is simpler than it appears on the surface and in the media. Our society, by its very economic successes and consequent expansion, has been breeding impersonal forces both outside and within itself that are changing it from a bottom-up elective democracy into a top-down empire. And among these forces are those that produce deep events.

I am far from alone in seeing this degradation of America’s policies and political processes. A similar pattern, reflecting the degradation of earlier empires, was described at length by the late Chalmers Johnson:

"The evidence is building up that in the decade following the end of the Cold War, the United States largely abandoned a reliance on diplomacy, economic aid, international law, and multilateral institutions in carrying out its foreign policies and resorted much of the time to bluster, military force, and financial manipulation."1

But my analysis goes beyond that of Johnson, Kevin Phillips, Andrew Bacevich, and other analysts, in proposing that three major deep events – Dallas, Watergate, and 9/11 – were not just part of this degradation of American democracy, but played a significant role in shaping it.

As author Michael Lind has observed, there have for a long time been two prevailing and different political cultures in America, underlying political differences in the American public, and even dividing different sectors of the American government.One culture is predominantly egalitarian and democratic, working for the legal consolidation of human rights both at home and abroad. The other, less recognized but with deep historical roots, prioritizes and teaches the use of repressive violence against both domestic and Third World populations to maintain "order."

To some extent these two mindsets are found in all societies. They correspond to two opposing modes of power and governance that were defined by Hannah Arendt as “persuasion through arguments” versus “coercion by force.”3  Arendt, following Thucydides, traced these to the common Greek way of handling domestic affairs, which was persuasion (πείθειν) as well as the common way of handling foreign affairs, which was force and violence (βία)."

Writing amid the protests and riots of the 1960s, Arendt feared that traditional authority was at risk, threatened (in her eyes) by the contemporary “loss of tradition and of religion.” A half century later, I would argue that a far greater danger to social equilibrium comes now from those on the right who invoke authority in the name of tradition and religion. (Editor's NOTE: I have lived through both time periods and agree with Scott here)  With America’s huge expansion into the enterprise of covertly dominating and exploiting the rest of the world, the open processes of persuasion, which have been America’s traditional ideal for handling domestic affairs, have increasingly tilted towards top-down violence.

This tilt towards violent or repressive power is defended rhetorically as a means to preserve social stability, but in fact it threatens it. As Kevin Phillips and others have demonstrated, empires built on violent or repressive power tend to rise and then fall, often with surprising rapidity.Underlying the discussion in this essay is the thesis that repressive power is unstable, creating dialectical forces both within and outside its system. Externally, repressive power helps create its own enemies, as happened with Britain (in India), France (in Indochina) and the Netherlands (in Indonesia).

The Socio-dynamics of Repressive Power in Large-scale Societies

But more dangerous and destabilizing has been the conversion of those empires themselves, into hubristic mechanisms of war. The fall of Periclean Athens, which inspired Thucydides’ reflections, is a case in point. Thucydides described how Athens was undone by the overreaching greed (pleonexia) of its unnecessary Sicilian expedition, a folly presaging America’s follies in Vietnam and Iraq.5  Thucydides attributed the rise of this folly in the rapid change in Athens after the death of Pericles, and in particular to the rise of a rapacious oligarchy. Paul Kennedy, Kevin Phillips, and Chalmers Johnson have described the recreation of this process in the Roman, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, and British empires.6  Its recurrence again in recent American history corroborates that there is a self-propelling dynamic of power that becomes repressive. (Editor's NOTE:  ala Lord Acton's dictum:  "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely")

It is useful to be reminded of the historical division between two cultures in America, which both underlay and predated the Civil War. But these two cultures have evolved and been reinforced by many factors. For example urbanization in America’s South and West worked for most of the 20th century to meld the two cultures, but after about 1980 the increasing disparity of wealth in America tended to separate them to an extent recalling the Gilded Age of the 19th century.

More importantly, postwar U.S. history has seen the institutions of domestic self-government steadily displaced by an array of new institutions, like the CIA and Pentagon, adapted first to the repressive dominance and control of foreign populations abroad, and now increasingly dominant domestically. The manipulative ethos of this repressive bureaucracy promotes and corrupts those who, in order to be promoted, internalize the culture of repressive dominance into a mindset.

The egalitarian mindset is widely shared among Americans. But Washington today is securely in the hands of the global repressive dominance mindset, and a deepening of the military-industrial complex into what in my most recent book I call the American war machine. This transformation of America represents a major change in our society. When Eisenhower warned against the military-industrial complex in 1961 it was still a minority element in our political economy. Today it finances and dominates both parties, and indeed is now also financing threats to both parties from the right (Editor's NOTE: Tea Party), as well as dominating our international policy. As a result, liberal Republicans are as scarce in the Republican Party today as Goldwater Republicans were scarce in that party back in 1960.

That change has been achieved partly by money, but partly as a result of deep events like the JFK assassination, the Watergate break-in, and 9/11. As a rule, each of these deep events is attributed by our government and media to marginal outsiders, like Lee Harvey Oswald, or the nineteen alleged plane hijackers.

I have long been skeptical of these “lone nut” explanations, but recently my skepticism has advanced to another level. (Editor's NOTE: it is now clear to a metaphysical degree of certainty that the JFK Assassination was the result of a complex conspiracy both in its operative phase and in the extensive cover-up which ensued). My research over four decades points to the conclusion that each of these deep events

1) was carried out, at least in part, by individuals in and out of government who shared and sought to promote this repressive mindset;

2) enhanced the power of the repressive mindset within the U.S. government;

3) formed another stage in a continuous narrative whose result has been a transformation of America, into a social system dominated from above, rather than governed from below.

Please note that I am talking about the result of this continuous narrative, not about its purpose. In saying that these deep events have contributed collectively to a major change in American society, I am not attributing them all to a single manipulative “secret team.” (Editor's NOTE: as the late Colonel Fletcher Prouty has documented the existence of in his book The Secret Team)  Rather I see them as flowing from the workings of repressive power itself, which (as history has shown many times) transforms both societies with surplus power and also the individuals exercising that surplus power.

We are conditioned to think that the open institutions of American governance could not possibly provide a milieu for plots like 9/11 against public order. But since World War Two covert U.S. agencies like the CIA have helped create an alternative world where power is exercised with minimal oversight, often at odds with public agencies’ proclaimed policy objectives of law and order, and often in conjunction with lawless and even criminal foreign and domestic elements.

The expansion of this covert world has occurred principally in Asia. There covert U.S. decisions were made to build up drug-financed armies in Burma, Thailand, and Laos, in a series of aggressive actions that by the 1960s involved America in a hot Indochina War. This war, like the related wars that ensued later in Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan, was initiated by America for a mix of geostrategic and economic reasons, above all the desire to establish a dominant U.S. presence an important region of petroleum reserves.

The country most deeply affected by the succession of Asian Wars has been America itself. Its expansive forces, backed by powerful interest groups, are now out of control, as our managers, like other empire managers before them, have “come to believe that there is nowhere within their domain – in our case, nowhere on earth – in which their presence is not crucial.”7

To illustrate this, loss of control, let us look for a moment at a milieu which I believe to have been an important factor in all of America’s major domestic deep events: the CIA’s ongoing interactions with the global drug connection.

Unaccountable Power: The CIA and the Return of the Global Drug Connection

Since World War Two the CIA has made systematic use of drug trafficking forces to increase its covert influence -- first in Thailand and Burma, then in Laos and Vietnam, and most recently in Afghanistan.8  With America’s expansion overseas, we have seen more and more covert programs and agencies, all using drug traffickers to different and opposing ends.

In 2004 Time and USA Today ran major stories about two of the chief Afghan drug traffickers, Haji Juma Khan and Haji Bashir Noorzai, alleging that each was supporting al-Qaeda, and that Khan in particular “has helped al-Qaeda establish a smuggling network that is peddling Afghan heroin to buyers across the Middle East, Asia and Europe.”9  Later it was revealed that both traffickers were simultaneously CIA assets, and that Khan in particular was “paid a large amount of cash by the United States,” even while he was reportedly helping al-Qaeda to establish smuggling networks.10

There is no longer anything surprising in the news that large U.S. payments were made to a drug trafficker who was himself funding the Taliban and al-Qaeda. The arrangement is no more bizarre than the CIA’s performance during the U.S. “war on drugs” in Venezuela in the 1990s, when the CIA first set up an anti-drug unit in Venezuela, and then helped its chief, Gen. Ramon Guillén Davila, smuggle at least one ton of pure cocaine into Miami International Airport.11

It would be easy to conclude from these reports that the CIA and Pentagon intentionally use drugs to help finance the enemy networks that justify their overseas operations. Yet I doubt that such a cynical Machiavellian objective is ever consciously voiced by those responsible in Washington (Editor's NOTE: It doesn't have to be voiced it is understood).

More likely, it is an inevitable consequence of the U.S. repressive style of conducting covert operations. Great emphasis is put on recruiting covert assets; and in unstable areas with weak governance, drug traffickers with their own ample funds and repressive networks are the most obvious candidates for recruitment by the CIA. The traffickers in turn are happy to become U.S. assets, because this status affords them at least a temporary immunity from U.S. prosecution.12

In a nutshell: I am describing a development that is not so much intentional, as a consequence of repressive dynamics. A related example would be the CIA’s recurring use of double agents, again for the reason just suggested. In the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, the chief planner was a double agent, Ali Mohammed, who surveyed the Embassy and reported to Osama bin Laden in 1993, just months after the FBI had ordered the Canadian RCMP to release him from detention.13 

In the Mumbai terrorist attack of 2008, the scene was initially surveyed for the attackers by a DEA double agent, David Headley (alias Daood Sayed Gilani) whom “U.S. authorities sent … to work for them in Pakistan…despite a warning that he sympathized with radical Islamic groups.”14

The central point is that expansion beyond a nation’s borders engenders a pattern of repressive power with predictable results -- results that transcend the conscious intentions of anyone (Editor's NOTE:  obviously, some do intend it given the writings of  prominent neo-conservatives [read Neo-Nazi's] in the now infamous PNAC document) within that repressive power system. Newly formed and ill-supervised agencies spawn contradictory policies abroad, the net effect of which is usually both expansive and deleterious – not just to the targeted nation but also to America.

This is especially true of covert agencies, whose practice of secrecy means that controversial policies proliferate without either coordination or review. Asia in particular has been since 1945 the chief area where the CIA has ignored or overridden the policy directives of the State Department. As I document in American War Machine, CIA interventions in Asia, especially those that escalated into the Laotian, Vietnam, and Afghan wars, fostered an ongoing global CIA drug connection, or what I have called elsewhere a dark quadrant of unaccountable power.

This drug connection, richly endowed with huge resources and its own resources of illegal violence, has a major stake in both American interventions and above all unwinnable wars to aggravate the conditions of regional lawlessness that are needed for drug trafficking. Thus it makes perfect sense that the global drug connection has, as I believe, been an ongoing factor in the creation of an overseas American empire that most U.S. citizens never asked for (Editor's NOTE: and unfortunately are largely unware of). More specifically, the dark quadrant has contributed to all the major deep events – including Dallas, Watergate, and 9/11, that have helped militarize America and overshadow its public institutions.

Doomsday Power and the Military Occupation of America

I have said that, underlying the surface of America’s major deep events, there has been a pattern of conflict between two mindsets – that of openness and that of repressive dominance – dating back to the Civil War and the Indian wars of the mid-nineteenth century (and before that to the American Revolution).15 But it would be wrong to conclude from this on-going pattern of conflict that there is nothing new in our current situation. On the contrary, America is in the midst of a new crisis arising from this very old antagonism.

Since World War Two, secrecy has been used to accumulate new covert bureaucratic powers under the guise of emergency planning for disasters, planning known inside and outside the government as the “Doomsday Project.” Known more recently (and misleadingly) as “Continuity of Government” (COG) planning, the Doomsday Project, under the guiding hands in the 1980s of Oliver North, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and others, became the vehicle on 9/11 for a significant change of government. This package of extreme repressive power accumulated under the guise of the Doomsday Project can be referred to as Doomsday Power. In concrete terms, the repressive power developed to control the rest of the world is now, to an unprecedented extent, treating America itself as an occupied territory.

What I mean by “doomsday power” is the package of repressive mechanisms (which I have discussed elsewhere under their official name of “continuity of government” or COG plans), that was prepared over two decades by the elite COG planning group, and then implemented beginning on 9/11. The package includes 1) warrantless surveillance, 2) warrantless detention, (including unprecedented abridgments of the right to habeas corpus), and 3) unprecedented steps towards the militarization of domestic security enforcement and shrinking of the posse comitatus acts.

One recent development of Doomsday power, for example, has been the deployment since 2008 of a U.S. Army Brigade Combat Team to be stationed permanently in the United States. A major part of its dedicated assignment is to be "called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control.”16  Many people seem to be unaware that Americans, together with this Brigade, have lived since 2002 under a U.S. Army Command called NORTHCOM.17 Yet if nothing is done to change the present course of events, historians may come some day to compare the stationing of this brigade in 2008 CE to the date, in 49 BCE, when Caesar, along with his legion, crossed the Rubicon. (Editor's bold emphasis throughout except sub-headings)

And I believe that the forces that have worked for decades to create Doomsday power have, like the global drug connection, been involved in every one of the deep events, from Dallas to 9/11, that have helped bring us here.

Notes1 Chalmers Johnson, Blowback: The Costs and Consequences of American Empire (New York: Henry Holt, 2000), 217. Cf. Chalmers Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire: Militarism, Secrecy and the End of the Republic (New York: Metropolitan/Henry Holt, 2004).

2 Michael Lind, Made in Texas: George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover of American Politics (New York: Basic Books, 2003), 143.

3 Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future: Eight Exercises in Political Thought (New York: Penguin Books, 1993), 93. Adapting Arendt’s distinction, Jonathan Schell made a Gandhian case in support of nonviolent persuasive or community power as a means of challenging top-down violent power and thus reforming the world. I developed this case myself in The Road to 9/11 (Jonathan Schell, The Unconquerable World: Power, Nonviolence, and the Will of the People [New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 2003], 227-31; Peter Dale Scott, Road to 9/11, 249-66, 269).

4 Kevin Phillips, Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich (New York: Broadway Books, 2002), 171-200.

5 Carl A. Huffman, Archytas of Tarentum: Pythagorean, philosopher, and mathematician king (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005), 207: “In Diodotus’ speech in the Mytilenian debate, wealth is particularly identified as producing arrogant “overreaching” (pleonexia –iii.45.4). Thus pleonexia seems to be associated with the abuse of power by either a tyrant or a wealthy oligarchy.”

6 Paul M. Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers (New York: Random House, 1987); Phillips, Wealth and Democracy; Johnson, The Sorrows of Empire.

7 Johnson, Blowback, 221.

8 Scott, American War Machine, 63-142, 239-53. The Karzai regime in Afghanistan is only the latest of CIA client governments to struggle to maintain itself with support from drug traffickers. Cf. Peter Dale Scott, "Can the US Pacify the Drug-Addicted War in Afghanistan? Opium, the CIA and the Karzai Administration", The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, April 5, 2010; Ryan Grim, “Karzai Releasing Scores Of Drug Traffickers In Afghanistan, WikiLeaks Cables Show,” Huffington Post, December 31, 2010.

9 Tim McGurk, Time, August 2, 2004; cf. USA Today, October 26, 2004.

10 James Risen, New York Times, December 11, 2010. Both traffickers were ultimately arrested by DEA officials: Noorzai in 2005, and Khan in 2008. The U.S. probably came to prefer Khan over Noorzai, because he was more closely allied to Abdul Wali Karzai, another drug trafficker and CIA asset, as well as a central figure in the power apparatus of his brother Hamid Karzai, the U.S. client president of Afghanistan.

11 Time, November 29, 1993; Scott, American War Machine, 14-15; Tim Weiner, New York Times, November 23, 1996.

12 It is too early to report the ultimate fate of Noorzai and Khan after their arrest and indictment by the United States. But it is clear that Guillén Davila’s arrest and indictment never led to conviction or imprisonment. On the contrary, he appears to have continued to enjoy CIA favor in Venezuela. (Scott, American War Conspiracy, 14-15).

13 Scott, Road to 9/11, 152-58.

14 “D.E.A. Deployed Mumbai Plotter Despite Warning,” New York Times, November 8, 2009; cf. Scott, American War Machine, 246-47. In another essay I will develop the thesis that what I call surplus repressive power – power developed exclusively by one society for the repressive dominance of others -- is doomed, in this and other ways, to encourage the proliferation of its enemies. My point here is a more modest and general one. Maybe save the sentence for the later work?

15 Cf. Peter Dale Scott, "Atrocity and its Discontents: U.S. Double-Mindedness About Massacre," in Adam Jones, ed. Genocide, War Crimes and the West: Ending the Culture of Impunity (London: Zed Press, 2004).

16 “Brigade homeland tours start Oct. 1,” Army Times, September 30, 2008.

17 Scott, Road to 9/11, 241-42.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

We Will Oppose Obama As Long As He Supports War

From: Warisacrime

On-Line Petition

We the undersigned share with nearly two-thirds of our fellow Americans the conviction that our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq should be ended and that overall military spending should be dramatically reduced. This has been our position for years and will continue to be, and we take it seriously. We vow not to support President Barack Obama for renomination for another term in office, and to actively seek to impede his war policies unless and until he reverses them.

Since he became president, Obama has had three opportunities to work with Congress to reduce military spending, but instead has championed increases in that spending each time, despite the fact that this spending represents a clear threat to the economic future of our country. He has continued as well to try to hide the true costs of the wars by funding them with off-the-books supplemental spending bills, despite the fact that he campaigned against this very practice.

The President has escalated a war on Afghanistan in which rising civilian deaths and atrocities have become routine.

He has given the CIA even greater freedom of action to launch lethal drone strikes against civilian houses in Pakistan on mere assumption of some connection with Taliban or other organizations, despite the warning from the U.S. Ambassador in late 2009 -- revealed in a Wikileaks cable -- that such attacks could "destabilize" the Pakistani government, despite many reports that civilians, including children, are disproportionately victims, and despite the contention of the United Nations and many U.S. allies that this practice is illegal.

Obama has approved an increase in covert operations by CIA-controlled Afghan troops into Pakistan, and his administration has remained silent while the U.S. command in Afghanistan leaked to the New York Times plans for new Special Operations Forces raids into Pakistan aimed at Afghan Taliban targets.

The President has expanded the use of Special Operations Forces (SOF), operating in virtually total secrecy and without any accountability to Congress, in one country after another. SOF troops are presently in some 75 nations -- 15 more than when Obama took office.
President Obama has, on a later schedule than he campaigned on, finally reduced U.S. troop presence in Iraq. But he has not fully withdrawn U.S. combat forces from Iraq or ended U.S. combat there, his claims to have done so notwithstanding. His vice president has suggested, without correction by the President, the possibility of a U.S. military presence in the country even after the deadline for withdrawal under the U.S.-Iraq withdrawal agreement, if only through the use of military contractors.

The Obama administration has announced plans to form an army of mercenary troops from private military contractors in Iraq which is to have its own air force and its own fleet of mine-resistant military vehicles. The plan includes continued contracts with the company formerly called Blackwater, despite the knowledge that it was guilty of atrocities against civilians in that country, and despite the openly declared opposition of the Iraqi government to such a continued role.

Obama has overseen increased weapons sales to foreign nations, and assisting in those sales has been a major function of his State Department. He has approved increased funding for work on nuclear weapons, even while supporting an arms control treaty. He has established a policy of potential nuclear first strike against Iran or North Korea.

President Obama has argued for the justness of war-making in widely watched speeches from the Oval Office and in Oslo, Norway, where he was accepting a Nobel Peace Prize. He has, in his Oval Office speech last August, defended false statements that took our nation into the current wars and false statements that have prolonged them.

The President has supported sanctions against Iran and Syria that punish the people, especially children, and not the leadership, of those countries. He has sent ships and missiles to Iran's border. He has risked hostilities with North Korea through the ongoing construction of new military bases in South Korea and provocative war games exercises. His administration has helped a military coup succeed in Honduras.

President Obama has sought to allow more Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories. He has protected Israel's killing of activists on a humanitarian aid ship, not even protesting at the murder of an unarmed American youth. He issued a presidential memorandum on October 25, 2010, giving U.S. approval for the use of child soldiers by Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan, and Yemen. He has backed Indonesian armed forces that assassinated civilian activists in late 2009. He has expanded the U.S. military presence in Colombia, Costa Rica, Haiti, Guam, Italy, and Diego Garcia, as well as overseeing an enormous military base construction project in Afghanistan.

President Obama has not closed the prison at Guantanamo Bay and continues to maintain a network of detention facilities in Afghanistan through which prisoners, according to the most recent information available, are still being subjected to harsh treatment. He has claimed the right to imprison people, including American citizens, indefinitely without charge or trial, thus further cementing in place the elimination of the rights of prisoners of war and the elimination of the right of habeas corpus for anyone, as well as the rights found in the Fourth through Eighth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The President has claimed the power of rendition. His CIA Director Leon Panetta and his senior advisor David Axelrod have asserted, without correction by the President, that the President maintains the power to torture. In the recent case of Gulet Mohamed, the Obama administration, for a time, claimed the power to forbid an American to reenter the country, absent any conviction or even any charge of a crime, and apparently collaborated with Kuwait to torture that American. The President has also openly claimed the power to order the assassination of Americans abroad. In Iraq, the U.S. military has continued to work with and protect from accountability an Iraqi military that is known to regularly use torture.

The President has expanded the use of warrantless spying. Under his leadership, the FBI has infiltrated peace groups and raided the homes of peace activists. It has set up and entrapped in terrorism charges people whose training and motivation came largely or even entirely from the FBI. He has supported the re-authorization of the PATRIOT Act, which strips away Americans' civil liberties.

President Obama, in direct violation of the Nuremberg Charter, a U.S. treaty commitment, has publicly instructed his Attorney General not to prosecute individuals responsible for crimes, including torture. His administration has worked hard to provide retroactive immunity to corporations engaged in warrantless spying and individuals engaged in sanctioning torture. He has kept secret a vast trove of documents, photos, and videos pertaining to prisoner abuse. He has advanced unprecedented claims of secrecy powers in defending the crimes of his predecessor. President Obama's White House has put great pressure on European states not to investigate or prosecute U.S. war crimes.

This president has restricted the release of the names of White House visitors and has pursued the prosecution and punishment of government whistleblowers more aggressively than any previous president. His administration is responsible for the cruel and unusual lengthy confinement in a 6' by 12' cell, prior to any trial, of alleged whistleblower Bradley Manning. His vice president, Joe Biden, has publicly labeled an Australian journalist, Julian Assange, a "terrorist." President Obama has used a private propaganda firm that had been exposed planting lies in Iraqi media, to screen potential embedded reporters for coverage of the U.S. military. He has used the military to restrict reporting by American journalists on an oil spill in American waters.

Perhaps most perilously, President Obama has claimed the right to engage in many of these activities without the authorization of Congress. He has even claimed the power first developed by his predecessor to rewrite new laws through the extra-Constitutional use of presidential signing statements. Expanded powers that are not opposed now will be far more difficult to oppose later with another president able to claim past precedent.

The President's own deficit commission recommended cuts of $100 billion to the military budget. The United States spends about $1 trillion each year on the military, through a variety of departments, and has spent over $1 trillion already on the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan. Over half of every U.S. dollar of income tax is going to war making. The Department of Defense budget alone is larger than the military expenditures of the next largest 16 militaries in the world combined. That budget could be cut by 85% and still be the largest in the world. In addition to the lessening of hostility toward our country that would result from a significant decrease in U.S. military presence around the world, by shifting our financial resources we could create jobs, green energy, top quality free education, public transportation and infrastructure. We could also end all talk of reducing our Social Security or health coverage. We intend to support public servants who put our money where it serves the public.

We are not concerned with whether President Obama is acting enthusiastically or reluctantly in pursuing a militaristic policy abroad and more repression of dissent at home. It matters little whether he is submitting to powerful forces or freely following his preferred course. We do not elect his soldiers or spies, his advisors, his campaign funders, or the owners of our major media outlets. We elect the president. We will not support his nomination for another term, and we believe that a large proportion of Americans who voted for him in 2008 will not do so again unless he reverses the most egregious policies to which we have referred -- especially by taking decisive steps to end the war on Afghanistan and to make deep cuts in the military and war budgets.

Add your name

"Democracy is Long Gone"

The Financial Elite In America - Same As Dictators Elsewhere

Tunisia And US Smugness

By Sam Hamod, PH.D

January 21, 2010 "Information Clearing House" --- While pointing to Tunisia, America, under the direction of Obama and his messenger, Hillary Clinton, are telling the Arab world to reform and to close the gap between the rich and the poor—while at the same time, the gap between the rich, the ultra rich and the common man in America is growing at an alarming rate so much so that the “middle class” is all but destroyed! So why is America so smug? Perhaps it’s because it is easier to point the finger at others than to examine our own situation.

The revolution in Tunisia is a wake up call for the Arab world, as was put so brilliantly by H.E. Amr Moussa of the Arab League. But it should also be a wake up call for America as well, for our disparity of the rich and the rest of us is phenomenal, but few realize that only 1% of the American population control 95% of the wealth, and among that 1%, 35% of them control most of that wealth—the rest of us are left to fend for ourselves while the very rich have offshore bank accounts, are drawing outrageous and gluttonous multi-million dollars salaries (even while their corporations are losing money, as happened in the last 48 hours with the bonuses paid by Goldman Sachs while it’s profits dropped by 48% or more!).

In truth, there is no one in this world who is worth, as a CEO, or president or whatever, a MILLION DOLLARS OR MORE! And yet, it goes on and on and no one stops them from this pandering to each other, and the regulatory agencies in America are a joke. Take for instance, for 3 years, evidence was given to the SEC of the scams and fraud of Madoff, yet nothing was done to stop his ponzi schemes and his ripping off people for over a billion dollars; the same is true of the frauds perpetrated by the banks, who then were rescued by Obama and his Bill Clinton cronies, when it was the same set of banks who perpetrated the real estate bubble that robbed the American people and left many homeless and bereft. When he got the congress to give him the “stimulus money,” Obama did not build one road, create one job or fix any sewers or waterways, instead he gave it to the ultra rich, bankers who were getting million dollar salaries, or insuarance companies such as AIG, who gave bonuses to their incompetent and spoiled executives from the money Obama gave them (but no squawk was heard from Obama or his Clinton buddies).

The bankers were also involved in the further crimes they perpetrated against you and me because they then wrote off the loans, then were reimbursed by the government for the full value of the loans; thus, they ended up making a profit from us, the taxpayers, while they double-dipped into the losses that became a profit for them. It was tricky bookkeeping, but it worked because few noticed how it was done and no government agency, or government audit screamed about it. It made Madoff’s con job look like child’s play, but it was all done with the consent of “our government”, which I call “the new dictators” (the president, his cabinet, the Supreme Court and Congress, allied with the warmonger corporations). They all prefer wars to go on indefinitely, to win them would be to stop the profits from the war corporations and our “security companies,” so that the American people are afraid and also keep giving the corporations unlimited profits from the ongoing “wars against terrorism.” As anyone with half a brain knows, you can’t make a war against a concept, but somehow, the American people have been led into this idiocy by their dictators who control the money, the media and the society.

Thus, it is interesting that we can be so smug about the dictators elsewhere and say, “shame on you,” yet we are under the control of dictators who are part of the two party system that elects a president and a congress that, like dictators, don’t care about the people at all, but only use them for their own ends. Thus, though many liberals and neo-cons, and alleged “conservatives “ may mock Ben Ali, and I have no brief for him, he was small potatoes because he was only the dictator of a small and relatively weak country economically and militarily. On the other hand, we have a mega-slave state in America with people being treated as criminals if they speak out-- so much for our "freedom of speech" (that is allowed only to the corporate controlled media) that went away with Patriot Act One and Patriot Act Two, and the loss of habeas corpus, and the new dicta by President Obama that allows him to arrest or to kill anyone, including American citizens, without trial or witnesses at his will, or at the will of his underlings who he’s given power to.

We are smug at our own peril. The parallels between Tunisia and America are not that far off, it’s only a matter of degree and size—but we have our own dictators who are in charge, and they are called the Democratic and Republican parties, our presidents, our congress’, our corporations and our warlord generals who continue calling for more and more unlimited warfare all over the world so that they may justify their over 900 military bases worldwide—and of course, we are the slaves who work and pay for all these elite dictators.

It’s time we understood these truths, though it may be a bit late. But who knows, perhaps the Tunisian people will be a wake up call for the world, not just for the Arab world, but also for the Western world, especially our own dictatorial society who enchants us with the magic word, “DEMOCRACY!” My friends, whatever “democracy” there ever was, is long gone.

'US Wars to Continue Until its Economy Busts'

By Chris Hedges

January 21, 2011 "Press TV" -- American wars will continue until the country's giant corporations, which pay the politicians in Washington's corridors of power, become financially unsustainable, says senior fellow at the Nation Institute, Chris Hedges.

Hedges told Press TV's U.S. Desk in a Wednesday interview that the economy will fail "because we're paying for it through debt, through borrowing."


"Well the fact is like that ... like most wars this is the business. Unlike previous wars we have privatized many of the functions that the traditional military used to do and whether the wars go badly, we're certainly losing the war in Afghanistan," he pointed out.

"And I think it ultimately has been covered in the New York Times that [the Afghan] war is also unwinnable. It doesn't really matter. There are huge corporations whose profits [have] swollen four by four," Hedges said.

"The continuation of these conflicts is good for their bottom-line. That's why we're seeing very little reticence on the part of the government which knows how drastic the situation is in Afghanistan to pull back because the people who hold the ultimate power in the United States, which are corporations want these wars to continue," he went on to say.

Hedges named a number of corporations including Halliburton and Blackwater/Xe and argued that the big firms have obtained substantial profits, saying, "These corporations are doing very, very well. All you have to do is look at the difference in their stock price before 1991 and now."

He said that U.S. President Barack Obama spoke tactically during his presidential campaign "when he said he would withdraw the combat troops from Iraq."

"Even during the campaign if you look at the fine print, Obama wasn't promising" what many expected, he noted.

"There was an acknowledgment that occupation troops would remain in Iraq for many, many years," Hedges concluded.


Roughly 48,000 American troops are still based in Iraq seven years after the start of the war, according to the Washington Post.

Since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, 4,435 U.S. troops have been killed and more than 31,827 wounded in Iraq, according to the media.

The total cost of the Iraq war has been estimated to be over $3 trillion, according to

Since 2003, more than 1,300,000 Iraqi civilians are estimated to have been killed.

An estimated 4.7 million Iraqis have been displaced as a result of the war, according to

In October 2001 when U.S. forces attacked Afghanistan they had no authorization from the United Nations Security Council. It was only later on, in December, that the UNSC authorized the forces to be present in that country. As such, the Afghanistan war was not authorized by the United Nations Security Council from the start and many experts call it illegal under international law.

There are about 97,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan who, under Washington's plan, were supposed to start withdrawing in July ahead of the scheduled transfer of responsibility for security to Afghan forces in 2014. WSJ

Since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan, more than 34,000 Afghan civilians have been killed in the country as a result of the war.

By the end of 2010, the war had resulted in 2,281 coalition casualties, including 1,445 American deaths. U.S. fatalities in 2010 (711) accounted for nearly half of all U.S. deaths since the war began over nine years ago. iCasualties

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Are We Headed for a Soviet-Style Collapse?

By: Dmitry Orlov

Video - Feb, 2009

Author Dmitry Orlov explains his notion of "Superpower Collapse Soup," and compares the modern United States to the USSR prior to that country's collapse in the early 1990s. Orlov argues the two nations are similar in a number of ways, including shortages in the production of crude oil, an expanding military budget, a severe trade deficit, and ballooning foreign debt.

With vintage Russian black humor, Dmitry Orlov describes the social collapse he witnessed in Russia in the 1990s and spells out its practical lessons for the American social collapse he sees as inevitable.

The American economy in the 1990s described itself as "Goldilocks" - just the right size - when in fact is was "Tinkerbelle," and one day the clapping stops.

As in Russia, the US made itself vulnerable to the decline of crude oil, a trade deficit, military over-reach, and financial over-reach. -- The Long Now Foundation

Dmitry Orlov is an engineer and a writer on subjects related to Peak Oil. He was born in Leningrad and moved to the United States at the age of 12. Orlov was an eyewitness to the collapse of the Soviet Union over several extended visits to his Russian homeland between the late 1980s and mid-1990s. He has a BS in Computer Engineering and an MA in Applied Linguistics. His latest book is Reinventing Collapse (June, 2008). His article Closing the Collapse Gap compares the collapse-preparedness of the USA and the USSR.

For full presentation see THIS...

Media Consolidation Includes the Internet

Olbermann Departs, as Media Consolidate Further

By Juan Cole

January 22, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- People are blaming the abrupt departure of Keith Olbermann from MSNBC on that company’s merger with Comcast and Olbermann’s loss of the protection and patronage of Jeff Zucker, the former head of NBC programming. MSNBC says that the issue has nothing to do with Comcast.

It seems Olbermann is too extreme for US television. But Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, now they are mainstream. What universe could that proposition be true in? That of cranky old white billionaires. And television news is owned by them. Not by you.

Whether Comcast is the villain of the piece directly, things like the Comcast merger with MSNBC are responsible for there being very few voices on American television (and despite the proliferation of channels) like Olbermann’s. And for there being relatively little news on the “news” programs. Time Warner, General Electric and Comcast (partners in NBC), Viacom, Disney, and Rupert Murdoch’s Newscorp own almost all television news. In other words, six big corporations determine what you will hear about the world if you get your news from television. There are fewer and fewer t.v. news outlets that do not belong to one of these six, a process called media consolidation.

For reasons of profit-seeking, when Disney acquired ABC, it looted the company’s news divisions. Profits are not to be had in hard news, but rather in tabloid news. It used to be that human interest stories would be ‘desert,’ but they have become the main meal.

Ironically,former NBC anchor Tom Brokaw was one of Olbermann’s biggest critics, afraid that the latter’s flamboyant and polarizing style would tarnish the reputation of regular NBC newsmen for objectivity.

What Brokaw seems not to have noticed is that NBC and MSNBC did, like most television news, a miserable job of covering the Iraq issue in 2002-2003–mainly buying White House propaganda. The powerful bias toward the point of view of the rich and powerful and well-connected in Washington demonstrated by all the major tv news outlets in 2002-2003 makes Olbermann look like a staid centrist. (Editor's bold emphasis throughout)

Senator Al Franken, a former NBC employee, fulminated against the Comcast/ MSNBC merger:

But the FCC has passed it.

We’ll miss Keith. But it isn’t about him. It is about the ever-narrowing character of public comment in the US, about the few having most of everything. It is about media consolidation.

Senator Al Franken and Increasing Corporate Control over Information Flow

Sen. Maria Cantwell Says No to Comcast-NBC Merger

Net Neutrality is Being Lost

More on Net Neutrality being lost.