It turns out that Benito Mussolini, inventor of fascism and promulgator of vast atrocities in Ethiopia and elsewhere, had his sinister career kick-started with dollops of secret cash from -- where else? -- the intelligence service of one of the great and good world-leading democracies of his day.
The Guardian reports that Britain's MI5 reached out and touched young Mussolini when he was still a Fox News-style "journalist" railing against peaceniks opposed to Italy's involvement in the pointless slaughter of World War I. The British security organs were afraid that reason and human fellow-feeling would run rampant in Italy if the dirty hippies weren't crushed, so they began pumping a great deal of scratch to Mussolini -- who did not confine himself to Beckian media rants, but also marshaled various thugs to beat up war opponents:
Archived documents have revealed that Mussolini got his start in politics in 1917 with the help of a £100 weekly wage from MI5.
For the British intelligence agency, it must have seemed like a good investment. Mussolini, then a 34-year-old journalist, was not just willing to ensure Italy continued to fight alongside the allies in the first world war by publishing propaganda in his paper. He was also willing to send in the boys to "persuade'' peace protesters to stay at home.
Cambridge historian Peter Martland, who discovered details of the deal struck with the future dictator, said: "Britain's least reliable ally in the war at the time was Italy after revolutionary Russia's pullout from the conflict. Mussolini was paid £100 a week from the autumn of 1917 for at least a year to keep up the pro-war campaigning – equivalent to about £6,000 a week today."
British aid and comfort to Il Putze didn't stop with the war-goosing dosh, of course. Mussolini was widely admired by many of the elite in Britain (and elsewhere), who admired his strongman rule, which swept aside all that silly nonsense about law and democracy. Winston Churchill was a big fan, declaring that Mussolini -- "the Roman genius," as he called him -- was "the greatest lawgiver among men." He also lauded the violent and corrupt fascist dictatorship for "render[ing] a service to the whole world" by demonstrating how to crack down on "subversive forces."
Later, of course, thousands of British soldiers died fighting against the forces of the great lawgiver after he threw in with his pupil (and later master), Adolf Hitler. But what can you do? You live by the strongman, you die by the strongman. (Or rather, the cannon fodder you command dies by the strongman.) At least Winnie and Bennie had many years of fond mutual regard before that little falling-out at the end.
Meanwhile, Mussolini's corrupt, undemocratic influence lives on, in diluted (so far) form under Silvio Berlusconi, the egomaniacal media oligarch whose ruling coalition includes a party which openly boasts of its direct lineage to Mussolini's thuggish faction.
The legacy of this ugly episode also lives on in the never-ending replication of the MI5-Mussolini hook-up by our "leading democracies," whose chief foreign policy seems to be the fostering of violent thugs and "strongmen" to keep a lid on "recalcitrant tribes" (another evocative phrase of that Nobelist litterateur, Churchill) -- and to stoke any wars the great and good get going.
Saddam Hussein is of course a prime example. As everyone (except 97 percent of the US population) knows, Saddam was hired by the CIA when he was a mere stripling as part of a hit team to take down a once-favored Iraqi strongman who had, as so often happens, gotten above his raising. As Richard Sale explains:
[Saddam's] first contacts with U.S. officials date back to 1959, when he was part of a CIA-authorized six-man squad tasked with assassinating then Iraqi Prime Minister Gen. Abd al-Karim Qasim. In July 1958, Qasim had overthrown the Iraqi monarchy in what one former U.S. diplomat, who asked not to be identified, described as "a horrible orgy of bloodshed."
According to current and former U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, Iraq was then regarded as a key buffer and strategic asset in the Cold War with the Soviet Union. For example, in the mid-1950s, Iraq was quick to join the anti-Soviet Baghdad Pact which was to defend the region and whose members included Turkey, Britain, Iran and Pakistan.
Little attention was paid to Qasim's bloody and conspiratorial regime until his sudden decision to withdraw from the pact in 1959, an act that "freaked everybody out" according to a former senior U.S. State Department official.
You can kill, jail and torture who you like -- as long as you play on our team, and do what we say. If not, why then, you are a rogue, an outlaw, a new Hitler, an urgent and imminent danger to the world.
In the event, Saddam -- like many intelligence "assets" (and bosses) over the years -- botched the job completely. But he had shown he was a team player, so the Americans kept the cash flowing to him, while also backing the Baath Party's later, successful coup, giving the faction the usual assistance (as in Indonesia a couple of year later) with tracking down and slaughtering "leftists". As historian Roger Morris noted in the New York Times:
According to Western scholars, as well as Iraqi refugees and a British human rights organization, the 1963 coup was accompanied by a bloodbath. Using lists of suspected Communists and other leftists provided by the C.I.A., the Baathists systematically murdered untold numbers of Iraq's educated elite -- killings in which Saddam Hussein himself is said to have participated. No one knows the exact toll, but accounts agree that the victims included hundreds of doctors, teachers, technicians, lawyers and other professionals as well as military and political figures. [As happened yet again years later, in the latest American-assisted "regime change in Iraq -- CF.]
Later, after their boy Saddam had risen through the ranks to become one of their very own -- head of the Party's secret intelligence service -- the American security organs helped his family faction outgun their party rivals to take sole control. The rest, as we know, is history: the famous "tilt" toward Iraq in the Iran-Iraq War (which included supplying Saddam with U.S. military intelligence to direct bombing raids on Iranian cities and chemical attacks on Iranian forces); the big grip-and-grin with Ronnie Reagan's "special envoy," Don Rumsfeld; George Bush Senior's eager arming and funding of Saddam after the war (and after the gassing of the Kurds), Bush's secret directives to government agencies to cut sweetheart deals with Saddam, Bush's sale of "dual-use" technology to Saddam; the inevitable falling-out when Saddam attacked the Bush Family's long-time business partners in Kuwait; the glorious Gulf War, with its "Turkey Shoots" and massive bombing; the years of bipartisan "sanctions" which enriched Saddam and many Western interests but killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children; and of course, the American-launched war in 2003, which has now killed well over a million innocent people, and is still going on. [For more background on the Saddam's relationship with Washington, see "Prelude to a Quagmire."]
This kind of blowback is endemic to the policy of buying thugs and supporting tyrants to do the dirty work for coddled imperial elites. You buy them, you build them up, you support them, and then, when they go off the reservation -- or when the horrific suffering, death and repression they've inflicted with your help blows up in their faces (as with the Shah of Iran) -- you have to step in and slaughter even more people, either directly (Iraq 2003, Panama 1989, etc.), or indirectly (the Iran-Iraq War, the Reagan-backed genocidal repressions in Latin America, the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, etc.).
And on and on it goes. For example, many of the justifications offered for Barack Obama's Nobel Prize centered largely on one thing: the fact that he went to Cairo and made a speech about America's good intentions toward the Muslim world -- a speech nearly identical to many that George W. Bush had made in the Middle East. Yet where did Obama choose to make this world-changing clarion call? In the heart of one of the most undemocratic regimes in the region, a corrupt, brutally repressive regime heavily sustained by the United States for decades -- and now embraced by the Continuer-in-Chief. As the Washington Post reports:
Since the speech, Egyptian security forces have launched a fresh campaign against the banned Muslim Brotherhood, an influential Islamist opposition group, arbitrarily arresting hundreds of members, from young bloggers to senior leaders. The government has prevented a centrist opposition movement from legally becoming a political party. In this Nile Delta industrial city, the epicenter of recent worker strikes, the government has appeared unresponsive to labor concerns -- or is cracking down.
"We are very disgruntled with President Obama," said Kamal al-Fayoumi, a labor leader who was jailed by the government for launching a major strike last year. "He has given the regime the green light to do what it wants with the Egyptian people."
[Although the facts are solid and revelatory, As'ad AbuKhalil points out one glaring absurdity in the story: its construction around the false premise that George W. Bush had "pressured" Egypt to enact democratic reforms. As AbuKhalil says: "The notion that people in Egypt credit Bush for promotion of democracy -- which he never undertook -- is rather laughable."]
Obama has also given the ritual green light to Saudi Arabia to continue its long-running religious tyranny with ever-eager American support. The ultimate blowback from the cynical meddling in Egypt and Saudi Arabia could well dwarf the monstrous results in Iraq. (Where, of course, the same policy is continuing, with the American-installed regime of "strongman" Nouri al-Maliki taking on the Saddam/Mubarak/Shah role.)
From Mussolini to Mubarak -- there is nothing new under the sun, as the Preacher saith. Nothing new, that is, except for the fresh graves of the unique, unrepeatable, individual lives snuffed out by the venality and inhumanity of our ruling elites.
Let me guess. The people of the moon will greet US missiles with "sweets and flowers". The people of the Middle East will be inspired by the US invasion of the moon. Bernard Lewis and Fouad Ajami will assure Obama that the people of the moon only understand the language of force. I would say that the Al-Qa`idah cells on the moon will be wiped out.
The logical conclusion of militarist nationalism (often called "patriotism") is always, in one way or another, a "Final Solution."
Set foot on that road, and you will get there. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not in this generation -- but you will get there. The blood-and-iron logic of domination -- of self-assertion and self-aggrandizement at the expense of all others -- will take you there.
The choice is simple, the choice is stark, the choice is laid upon us all.
To give a peace prize to the commander-in-chief of a war machine now churning its way through the populations of three countries (Iraq/Af-Pak), with innumerable black ops, lightning raids and drone shots on the side .... to a man who even as we speak is deciding just how he wants to kill even more civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan ... a man who has enthusiastically embraced as "an extraordinary achievement" one of the most heinous and barbaric acts of military aggression since Hitler rolled across the border into Poland ... a man who blusters about leaving "all options on the table," including the use of mass-murdering nuclear weapons, to bully other nations into compliance with American wishes ... to give a peace prize to such a man, while all over the world, there are men and women who have devoted their entire lives to non-violence and reconciliation, many of them suffering imprisonment, torture and ruin for their efforts ... well, like I said, it's beyond words.
But it's good to see that the spirit of arms merchant Alfred Nobel -- purveyor and profiteer of death and destruction -- is being honored so perfectly with today's award.
UPDATE: Arthur Silber has some choice thoughts on the great honour, with a title that says it all: "Depraved, Obscene Absurdities." Here's an excerpt:
Almost no one will acknowledge the single, fundamental truth about Barack Obama, the truth of greatest and most terrifying consequence:
Barack Obama is a war criminal.
Many facts overwhelmingly and conclusively compel this judgment, and no other. Not because I say so, but because an honest application of the relevant language of international law, as well as of the Nuremberg Principles, necessitates the conclusion.
Silber then points us to some excellent chapter and verse backing up that statement of truth. Later on:
History, facts, unimaginable brutality, torture, widescale murder, bodies ripped apart, guts spilling out of blood-drenched bodies, arms, legs and heads sundered and tossed aside to be gnawed on by starving animals, souls destroyed, never again to experience joy or happiness for even a moment -- all of this is minimized, ignored, denied, even mocked as the perpetrators of this immense evil and those who enable and support them (which is most people) claim that those who identify the truth are "exaggerating." "Oh, don't be such a doomsayer. Don't be so gloomy and dire. It's not that bad!"
These denials are easily known to be lies: an honest observer need only open his eyes, look and see. This is precisely what the great majority of people will never do.
Large-scale denial and avoidance impose terrifying costs. Today's story may simply be absurd, and it undeniably is. The man or woman, or child, whose life and mind are seared beyond recognition in the next minute, and hour, and day, and year, in all the nightmare years to come, is condemned to torment and death by the lies upon which we insist, the lies we refuse to give up or even question.
But read the whole thing, and follow the links. Words may have failed me in this instance; but they have most assuredly not failed Silber.
"I don't know how he can get this prize," said Najeeb, a 30-year-old shopkeeper attending a friend's wedding party. "Maybe it's been awarded for all the houses they are bombing, or perhaps it's for all his soldiers that are dying in Afghanistan and Iraq."
Next to him a local staff member of a western NGO called Elyas wondered whether Obama will ever be able to bring peace to Afghanistan. "Obama and his favourite president [Karzai] haven't been able to do anything here. We used to be able to drive to Kunduz and Mazar-i-Sharif [two northern cities considered safe until recently] but now we can't because fighters are coming to the roads and looting people."
They avidly, eagerly helped perpetuate militarist tyranny, torture, death squads and corruption in Latin America during the high and palmy days of the Reagan-Bush years – and now they're back in the saddle, riding as hired guns for the democracy-killing coup-coup birds in Honduras: Leader Ousted, Honduras Hires U.S. Lobbyists (New York Times):
In the months since soldiers ousted the Honduran president, Manuel Zelaya, the de facto government and its supporters have resisted demands from the United States that he be restored to power. Arguing that the left-leaning Mr. Zelaya posed a threat to their country’s fragile democracy by trying to extend his time in office illegally, they have made their case in Washington in the customary way: by starting a high-profile lobbying campaign.
The campaign has had the effect of forcing the administration to send mixed signals about its position to the de facto government, which reads them as signs of encouragement. It also has delayed two key State Department appointments in the region.
As the Times note, these retreads from the genocidal policies spawned and embraced by that beloved old pixie with a twinkle in his eyes, Ronald "Why No, This Isn't Rouge, I'm Just Flushed With Love for America" Reagan, are being joined by fresh (well, fresher) meat recruited from the courtiers who flit around imperial factionists Hillary Clinton and John McCain. (Bipartisan foreign policy in action!):
The campaign has involved law firms and public relations agencies with close ties to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Senator John McCain, a leading Republican voice on foreign affairs.
It has also drawn support from several former high-ranking officials who were responsible for setting United States policy in Central America in the 1980s and ’90s, when the region was struggling to break with the military dictatorships and guerrilla insurgencies that defined the cold war. Two decades later, those former officials — including Otto Reich, Roger Noriega and Daniel W. Fisk — view Honduras as the principal battleground in a proxy fight with Cuba and Venezuela, which they characterize as threats to stability in the region in language similar to that once used to describe the designs of the Soviet Union.
Naturally, the Obama Administration has been completely cowed by this fluttering of batwings from the far-right cave, and has continually diluted its already tepid opposition to the coup, no doubt in the earnest search of achieving "consensus" on Honduras policy:
...to placate its opponents in Congress, and have its nominations approved, the State Department has sometimes sent back-channel messages to legislators expressing its support for Mr. Zelaya in more equivocal terms.
“There’s been a leadership vacuum on Honduras in the administration, and these are the people who’ve filled it,” said [Chris Sabatini, editor of Americas Quarterly] of the Micheletti government’s backers. “They haven’t gotten a lot of support, but enough to hold the administration’s policy hostage for now.”
It is remarkable to see how in every case, the Obama Administration acts as if it is a minority government which won the White House by the slimmest of margins, and now must appease a powerful opposition party in control of Congress in order to get even watered-down fragments of its putative agenda passed – when in fact it was swept into office by one of the largest electoral margins in recent years and enjoys a comfortable majority control of both houses of Congress.
If Obama and crew actually had an agenda – as the hyper-militarist Dick Cheney had, when he and his front-man seized power in 2000 – then they could have pushed through any number of genuine, substantive reforms, with strong public support. But it should be clear to anyone by now that Obama, like Clinton before him, has no real idea of what he wants to do in government, or what he wants government to do: he just wants to enjoy the props and perks of power for awhile, to play the role of president, like Michael Douglas or Martin Sheen in a Aaron Sorkin fantasy, then bask in celebrityhood the rest of his days. The only real agenda of the Obama Administration is keeping Democrats in office, as Joe Biden revealed the other day, and winning a second term for the Prez. And then? Big book contracts, lucrative speaking engagements, corporate directorships, some charity PR....whatever.
The main thing is not to upset the golden applecart of the Empire and its Establishment. Thus the appearance of "weakness" consistently shown by the Administration is not due (or not solely due) to its own pusillanimousness; rather it comes from the inherent disconnect between the vague rhetoric of reform that it was forced to adopt to win popular support, and its real business: servicing the most powerful elements of a militarized, oligarchic state.
Try and name any powerful interest that Obama has taken on. The Pentagon? Whatever minor internal squabbles there may be about the exact details of escalating the "Af-Pak" war (which Obama firmly assures us will go on and on, apparently forever; pulling out is "not an option," he says), the American war machine (and the mercenaries and servicing industries that augment it) continues to grow unchecked -- in terms of size, scope, budget, destructive power and political influence. The health-care conglomerates, bane of most ordinary Americans? We all know that Obama has cut a cynical deal with these barracudas, pledging to protect (and expand) their profit margins in exchange for vast wads of cash for Democrats. The security organs? Obama has been steadfast in his support and protection of the torturers, death-squadders and black-opsters of the intelligence services, and his legal minions are constantly in the courts, seeking to uphold and expand the authoritarian encroachments of the Bush Regime. Wall Street? Please. In his cabinet choices and his "bailout" policies, Obama has given Wall Street the keys to the Treasury, to use as they please to cover up – and continue – the criminal recklessness that has plunged millions of people into misery around the world.
But let's give credit where it is due. Obama has bravely taken on one very powerful faction which exercises enormous, dominant sway over American society: poor blacks. Time and again, he has used the "bully pulpit" to admonish black men for being bad fathers, and to exhort black folk in general to quit whining about the deeply ingrained, systemic injustice and inequality of American society, which perpetuates an ever-deepening cycle of deprivation and abandonment that undermines generation after generation. They should get over this already, he says – while his wars and his Wall Street bailouts and his health-care corporate aggrandizement plans drain billions upon billions of dollars that could go to, oh, say, supporting education, nutrition, economic opportunity, neighborhood security, transportation, infrastructure legal aid, prison reform, recreation, culture and much else that could that could improve the lives and chances of the poor, of whatever race – as well as everyone else outside the tiny golden circle of the elite and their sycophants.
No, he's not afraid to stand up to African-Americans and tell them to get their own house in order. But to the Pentagon, Wall Street, war criminals, and corporate barracudas, the only message is: "Can I take your order? What do you need? Here's a blank check; just fill it in."
Thus it is not surprising to see the Administration waffling and dithering over the militarist coup in Honduras -- where the president, a wealthy businessman and member of the elite, made some noises about addressing, in some measure, a few of the immense inequalities of his society and was immediately branded a dangerous, radical Marxist whose extremism threatened the very soul and existence of the nation. Our own militarists and oligarchs (miligarchs?) have always reacted in the same way to even the slightest attempt to begin to think about the possibility of potentially taking some tiny steps toward finding a way to consider at some point in the distant future a few minor measures of limited scope and brief duration that could possibly be seen as trying to ameliorate slightly some of the deprivations of the useless and undeserving poor.
Indeed, because of the very, very faint noises that Obama himself made in this direction during his campaign, he too has faced identical charges from the Homeland miligarchs and their Fox-fed shock troops: a rich and bitter irony for a man whose obsequious services to the High Commanders of militarized Crony Capitalism are second to none.
But such charges, ludicrous as they are, do their job: they give fair warning to the current Oval Office occupant that he is there on sufferance, and that he must take the greatest pains to avoid any substantive deviation from the miligarch agenda. And so the little criminals of the Reagan-Bush years have re-emerged to re-assert the standard militarist line on Latin America: Coups R Us.
But "re-emerge" is perhaps the wrong term. These people never really go away; they are permanent representatives of the permanent American power structure: dull-witted, hard-hearted, cold-blooded apparatchiks of empire.
We wrote here last week of Arthur Silber's telling insights into the misuses, abuses -- and ultimate uselessness -- of the "intelligence" reports produced by the security organs of powerful states....particularly the world's self-proclaimed "hyper-power" as it careens around the world in its obsessive-compulsive urge for domination. Silber's rule can be boiled down thusly: "Intelligence" is always -- always -- a political tool for the agenda of power, and it can never -- never -- be used to support an argument over policy. You can only argue and infer from the facts; if your case relies on "intelligence" – even if it seems temporarily favorable to your cause – then you are fighting on power's own turf, using power's own distorting terms, and making power's case, not yours. For once you accept that "intelligence" possesses some kind of objective truth when it seems to undercut some policy you abhor, what will you do when it suddenly changes and now supports that very policy? Again, Silber covers all this in eloquent detail, here and here.
This week gave us a glaring example of this principle in action. Scarcely had the pixels dried on Silber's posts when the New York Times came knocking with a story cobbled together from the usual anonymous "intelligence" sources to stoke the campaign of fearmongering over the "nuclear threat" from Iran.
The "intelligence" cited in the story is clearly aimed at undercutting the "intelligence" in the ballyhooed 2007 "National Intelligence Estimate" (NIE), in which America's security organs concluded that Iran did not have an active nuclear weapons program. As Silber notes, this report has been used incessantly by well-meaning dissidents who are rightly trying to head off the war of aggression against Iran that is the fervent – even wet – dream of America's powerful militarist factions. But as pointed out here years ago (again channeling Silber), that report was itself a trap for anti-war forces, because it also declared that Iran had been working actively on a nuclear weapon until 2003 – an assertion that flew in the face of all known facts and international inspection reports. To accept the claims of the NIE report as objective truth, you would also have to accept the warmongers' insistence that Iran was actively seeking a nuclear weapon, even though they may have temporarily put the program on hold. Again, you would be accepting the militarists' terms, and their deadly context: i.e., that Iran wants nukes, and must be stopped from getting them
In any case, the NYT story shows the "intelligence" worm turning to bite the citers of the NIE. The story cites a new report by unnamed staffers of the International Atomic Energy Agency which in turn cites unspecified, unconfirmed, tentative intelligence from unnamed sources that concludes – tentatively – that Iran might have re-started at least some parts of its nuclear weapons program (whose previous existence had, of course, never been proved). The money shot of the story is here:
A senior American official said last week that the United States was now re-evaluating its 2007 conclusions.
There you have it. "Intelligence" giveth, and "intelligence" taketh away. If the already flawed and falsified NIE report is now "re-evaluated," or replaced by a new, more scary report on the "imminent threat" from Iran, what then? Shall we simply accept the new report as the objective truth – as many of us did with the NIE paper – and bow to its conclusions and implications? Or shall we not see, once again, that "intelligence" is just a flag run up by power – or by various factions in the halls of power as they tussle for pre-eminence – to rally forces around its agenda?
The NYT piece on the leaked report by unnamed IAEA staffers was followed hard upon by yet another war-stoking story the next day. Where the first story sought to give aid and comfort to the hard-core warmongers, the second was aimed squarely at "moderates," those who still hope wanly that we can maybe, somehow, some way, inflict harsh punishments on the Persians for their uppitiness without actually bombing or invading them outright. (This, you understand, is the most "progressive" position on Iran allowed within the parameters of "serious" discussion in our political-media Establishment.) The headline says it all: "Black Market Shows Iran Can Adapt to Sanctions."
In fact, the headline is the point: it is the idea that is meant to lodge in readers' minds, something to lurk there, unconsciously, when considering the great "debates" on "what we should do about Iran." Whenever "moderates" try to damp down war fever with talk of more sanctions, there'll be a little flutter in the cellarage of the brain: "Say, sanctions don't really work, do they? Iran can just go around them. I'm sure I've read somewhere just how they do that."
Again, as with "intelligence," the goal is to seize the terms of the debate, to frame it so that it excludes all other alternatives but the one that suits power's agenda. Sanctions don't work, the story tells us. So what tools are left for leaders who must "do something" about Iran? (The idea of not doing something about Iran is, of course, inconceivable for imperial policymakers; the logic and telos of the militarist cult of domination impels them to slap down Iran one way or another until Tehran goes down on bended knee. And our cultists aren't concerned in the slightest if Iran has a brutally repressive government or is run by religious extremists (see Saudi Arabia); all they want is acquiescence, and access to the local loot.) The logic is clear: if you must meddle, and sanctions are ineffective, then that leaves only military action.
And to whom does the Times turn for "expert" opinion on the inefficacy of sanctions against Iran? The sole analyst quoted is Michael Jacobson, of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy – a highly partisan extremist organization that was one of the chief instigators and incubators of the murderous war crime against Iraq, and one of the most enthusiastic cheerleaders for throttling Iran. There was of course not a single scrap of background or context regarding WINEP in the Times story. It was presented simply as an objective center for policy analysis. Whereas even the mildest, most moderate and milquetoasty "progressive" think-tank would invariably be described as "left-leaning," or identified as, say, "having opposed the Iraq War" or "a frequent critic of American foreign policy," etc.
But then again, those who advocate war in an imperial system based on war really need no further description; in such a system, the warmongers are thoroughly objective, mainstream, quite literally in the center of the prevailing worldview.
This week's one-two punch of pro-war propaganda from the Times is a classic squeeze play by the manipulators of "intelligence," designed to cut off all other options except the military one. We have seen a similar operation being carried out in recent days on the escalation in Afghanistan, with the high militarists – like General Stanley "Death Squads R Us" McChrystal and Pentagon holdover honcho Robert Gates – making showy public noises about the absolutely imperative need to throw more troops into the Central Asian cauldron. The clear intent is to ensure that Barack Obama remains faithful to the militarist faith he has so eagerly espoused, and doesn't start waving just because the war is unwinnable and the people don't want it.
This is life in a War State. And there can really be no serious argument that this is not what the United States has become: a structure and system of permanent war. Military action, military procurement, military bases, military needs, military dominance over diplomacy, budgets, "intelligence" and policy: these are the drivers of the modern American state. Beginning in the years just after World War II, the most powerful factions of the bipartisan American elite came to the conclusion that "an aggressive foreign policy based on military strength was the only real foundation of economic prosperity." (The quote is a description of Adolf Hitler's "doctrine of economic life" in the remarkable book by historian Adam Tooze, The Wages of Destruction.) "An aggressive foreign policy based on military strength" was also the only way to maintain the global hegemony American elites acquired at the end of the war – a position of power and privilege which, once gained, they felt was their divine birthright.
And although there is much that is irrational and atrociously inhumane in the practical application of such a system, the system itself has an iron logic: War makes us rich and powerful; thus we will make war.
In seeking to understand the actions and intentions of the American state in the modern world, it is important to keep this doctrine and its logic in mind.
The essay is eloquent, cogent, deeply informed, insightful – and important. In addition to his own unique insights, Silber mines wisdom from such trenchant observers as Chalmers Johnson, Ray McGovern, Barbara Tuchman and Gabriel Kolko to give the lie to the corrosive belief that any output from the "intelligence" agencies can or should be relied upon – and the accompanying lie that our leaders and their spies possess super-secret knowledge which we peons must defer to. As Silber notes, the historical facts demonstrate overwhelmingly and irrefutably that "intelligence" always has been – and, more importantly, cannot avoid being – manipulated, incompetent, corrupted and wrong. Thus his observation:
This is why I maintain that you must always argue the policy, and that you must never argue about the intelligence. To the extent you argue the intelligence, you are doing the ruling class's bidding. They can change the intelligence quickly enough when they think doing so is necessary, as they have done in the past and as they will again. If you grant the legitimacy and accuracy of intelligence assessments on even one occasion, and if you utilize those assessments in making your own arguments, you're making your own work that much harder, and your future arguments will be far less convincing than they would be otherwise.
But a brief excerpt risks doing the post an injustice. You should head over there now, and read the whole thing.
The Obama Adminstration has fired a top US diplomat at the UN for the heinous crime of insisting that the manifest and widespread fraud in the recent Afghan elections be vigorously investigated.
Peter Galbraith -- the deputy UN special envoy for electoral matters -- was technically fired by the United Nations, specifically by UN Secretary General Bai ki-Moon. But as the Guardian points out, "the recall of Galbraith would have required the agreement of the Obama administration."
Galbraith clashed with UN and US officials over his insistence that the fraudulent election of putative Afghan President Hamid Karzai be subjected to "a full and robust investigation," the Guardian notes. Galbraith had been particularly critical of a decision by the so-called Afghan Independent Election Commission to reverse an earlier decision to throw out multitudes of obviously fraudulent votes. The reversal came after heavy political pressure from Afghanistan's true masters in Washington.
As the paper notes, the sacking of Galbraith comes hard on the heels of reports that Obama and NATO have decided to keep Karzai in office -- even if the vote probe showed that he won less than 50 percent of the vote, which legally would require a run-off with his opponent, Abdullah Abdullah.
In other words, the White House has decided to bite the bullet and keep the corrupt and ineffectual oil man that George W. Bush installed in office over the conquered land -- no matter what the Afghan voters might want. And Galbraith's continued insistence on actually investigating the vote fraud -- which mirrors almost exactly the manipulations in Iran over which Obama and his war partners shed so many salt tears scant weeks ago -- is now highly inconvenient. And so he is out.
But deep in the Guardian story comes the real money shot:
The exit of Galbraith would appear to further reduce Obama's scope for manoeuvre in Afghanistan at a time when he is facing calls from his military commander, General Stanley McChrystal, for up to 40,000 more soldiers.
One by one, the White House and Pentagon -- whatever their internal disputes, if any -- are closing the doors on any option other than a disastrous and literally murderous escalation of some kind on the "Af-Pak" front. We noted here a few days ago the machinations of the militarists to ensure that the civilian government remains firmly on board the war wagon. Today's action by the White House -- its clear acquiescence in the very public decapitation of a U.S. official pushing for the truth about the puppet regime in Kabul -- was entirely the free choice of the civilian government, and dovetails exactly with the militarist agenda.
So despite all the recent hand-wringing amongst the Establishmentry about "conflicts" between the military and civilian sides of the government, it looks like the White House and Pentagon are, as usual, singing from the same hymn sheet.
And the song being sung is, as always, that perennial old favorite from days of yore: "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition."
There are many good pieces out there at the moment, but not world enough and time today to dig into them properly. So here are some brief glimpses. In the immortal words of Rabbi Hillel: Go, and study.
Arthur Silber is back from a long, illness-induced hiatus, and as usual, he is firing with both barrels. The piece deserves more comment, but for now, just go read the whole thing: "Fools for Empire (Part I)."
Another master sometimes laid low by illness these days has re-emerged with harsh words for the new Potomac regime. We speak, of course, of America's biographer, the legendary Gore Vidal. Here he is in fine, bristling form, sparring with The Times: Gore Vidal: ‘We’ll have a dictatorship soon in the US’.
Same as it Ever Was
As Jon Schwarz says, the Founding Fathers were honest men: they said straight out that they wanted a legislative body that would preserve the power and privilege of the oligarchy – and so by George, they made one. It's called the United States Senate. See "Good Call, James Madison."
John Caruso provides a handy translation of the Obama Administration's scolding of Honduran President Manuel Zelaya for his "foolish" action in returning to his own country; an action which has upset the militarists and oligarchs who overthrew him – and has obviously piqued our homegrown miligarchs as well: "Translating Lewis Anselem on Honduras."
As George Monbiot points out, the great and good have decided to tackle the catastrophe of climate change in the time-honored way: blaming the poor and making them suffer, while letting the real perpetators off scot-free. This is another piece that deserves more comment (and may get it when time shall serve), but give it a good read now: "Stop blaming the poor. It's the wally yachters who are burning the planet."
One side is lying; the other side is not telling the truth.
Or to put it another way: One side is pretending that a wildly reactionary plan to further enrich rapacious corporations is really hardcore, gutbucket socialism from the Bolshevik trenches, while the other side is pretending that its "reform" is not really a wildly reactionary plan to further enrich rapacious corporations but something that will somehow, in some way, be good for some people at some point way down the line.
One often finds that dealing in such utter unreality makes it somewhat difficult to achieve workable solutions to real-life problems.