Tagged: United States

Empire and Its Consequences


by Robert C. Koehler

Ever notice the way certain basic human values quietly transform into their opposite on their way to becoming national policy?

At the human level, the immorality of murder is fundamental, and most people understand the insanity of armed hatred. Keeping these dark forces under wraps is essential to the existence of human society. So why is it, then, that at the abstract level of nationalism, those forces are honored, worshiped, saluted, extolled as glorious, and given command of an enormous budget?

Why is it that their perpetuation via increasingly sophisticated technology is equated with national security and no one talks about the completely predictable negative consequences of basing security on murder and hatred?

And why does it feel so naïve to be asking such questions?

It’s as though the arrangement was settled four or five millennia ago. Killing is wrong, but we have to kill one another, you know, in self-defense, in order to survive. And hating people is wrong — mocking them, dehumanizing them — but some people ask for it. They do it to us, so we have no choice but to do it back. Hate, dehumanize, eliminate our enemies and . . . voila, we’re safe, at least for the time being. What don’t you get about that?

Criticism of such policy is generally couched in terms that remove the alleged naïveté of the criticism, but I’m wondering if it isn’t time to stare directly at the fundamental wrongness of war. Let me put it as nakedly as I can: A policy of murder and hatred is, in itself, morally wrong as well as strategically untenable. Anything that flows from such a policy, even if it seems to be beneficial — such as regional dominance, access to oil, suppression of an enemy’s power or plain old revenge — is inherently unstable and doomed to disastrous failure. This may be the way empires act, but it’s bad policy. If it creates “collateral damage,” it’s bad policy.

I put it this way because I’m haunted by the statistic that U.S. military veterans are committing suicide at the rate of 18 per day and that the term for the condition of many, maybe most, veterans and soldiers after their deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq is moral injury, as I wrote about last week. Their lives have been seriously damaged not just by physical and psychological injury but by something else as well — by having transgressed a fundamental spiritual threshold and severed the connection that unites us. We can’t dehumanize others without doing the same to ourselves, and waking up to the reality of such a state is sometimes unbearable.

And it’s not just the deployment — the participation in an inhumane occupation and war — that dehumanizes. The military training that precedes deployment is where it starts. The training is not simply in the craft and technology of killing, but in the dehumanizing of self and other. The U.S. military, whatever else it is, is a cult of hatred with a virtually unlimited budget. This has been born out in the testimony of numerous vets over the years, testimony that could fill volumes, e.g.:

“I joined the Army on my 18th birthday. When I joined I was told racism was gone from the military,” Mike Prysner said during the 2008 Winter Soldier hearings. “After 9/11, I (began hearing) towel head, camel jockey, sand nigger. These came from up the chain of command. The new word was hadji. A hadji is someone who takes a pilgrimage to Mecca. We took the best thing from Islam and made it the worst thing.” Prysner was part of a panel called “Racism and War: the Dehumanization of the Enemy.”

Military recruits march to cadences that celebrate killing children in the marketplace and cry “kill” before they can eat a meal. They’re told they’re animals, stripped of “sentimental” feelings, trained to kill on command with cold efficiency. In that condition they serve U.S. foreign policy.

The argument, of course, is that we have enemies out there who despise us and want what we have, and our only protection is a layer of ruthless, well-armed killers that patrol the perimeter and keep our communities and our children safe. The argument is that our foreign policy is ultimately humane, that it spreads democracy, that it targets only bad guys and protects decent people everywhere.

But this argument breaks down when you look at what we do, from Dresden and Hiroshima to My Lai and Fallujah. It breaks down when you read about the rationale of our massive bombing of Baghdad at the start of the Iraq war, as spelled out by Harlan K. Ullman and James P. Wade in the 1996 Defense Department publication, “Shock and Awe: Achieving Rapid Dominance”:

“The intent here is to impose a regime of Shock and Awe through delivery of instant, nearly incomprehensible levels of massive destruction directed at influencing society writ large, meaning its leadership and public, rather than targeting directly against military or strategic objectives. . . .

“The employment of this capability against society and its values, called ‘counter-value’ . . . (consists of) massively destructive strikes directly at the public will of the adversary to resist.”

This is the morality of empire, the morality of domination. We didn’t invent it; we just carry on the tradition, which goes back through colonialism and slavery to the Inquisition (“kill them all, let God sort them out”) to Rome (“they create a wasteland and call it peace”) and beyond, to the dawn of civilization.

I think the consequences have finally caught up with us.

Robert Koehler is an award-winning, Chicago-based journalist and nationally syndicated writer. His new book, Courage Grows Strong at the Wound is now available. Contact him at koehlercw@gmail.com or visit his website at commonwonders.com.

 

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/10/11

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Another fine mess NATO has got us into


Can anyone still make a good argument in favour of NATO? Even ardent interventionists, chomping at the bit to assert Western military dominance over the globe, must be beginning to doubt the worth of this perennially panicking mob of confused military powers.

At its members’ emergency meeting in Brussels last week, following the accidental shelling of a Turkish border town by one of the government-supporting factions in Syria, NATO was shown to be in complete stasis. It condemned the incident in the strongest terms and clumsily cited it as another example of the Syrian authorities’ disregard ‘for international norms, peace and security, and human life’, despite there being no evidence that the rocket was fired by Syrian government troops.

Turkish-Syrian relations have been frosty since the outbreak of the uprising. Turkey has continued to harbour Syrian refugees and has developed good relations with the rebels, who have seized most of the territory close to the Turkish border. Some observers believe that the Turkish government is even providing the rebels with arms. Turkey has already convened NATO under article four in June this year, when Syrian government forces shot down a Turkish plane which had strayed into Syrian air space over the coastal province of Lataika. Following the emergency meeting in June, the Dutch foreign minister indicated that NATO considered military intervention in the Syrian conflict, to defend Turkey or otherwise, to be ‘out of the question’. Many analysts agree that there is little chance of NATO undertaking a full-scale military intervention in Syria, at least for the time being.

So why not? NATO claimed to have proven the effectiveness of its interventions following the fall of Gaddafi in Libya. Writing in Foreign Affairs magazine earlier this year, the US permanent representative on the council of NATO, Ivo Daalder, wrote of how Libya had been ‘rightly described as a “model intervention”’. With NATO apparently riding high on its ‘victory’ in Libya, many have been asking why it has prevaricated over supporting the rebels in Syria.

Part of the answer is that no national leader wants to take responsibility for what will unfold in Syria if Assad falls. Although NATO officials describe the intervention in Libya as a ‘victory’, that intervention has left Libya in a state bordering on civil war. The unresolved political tensions which permeated the rebellion in Libya, drawing in fighters from all classes, regions and religions, have manifested themselves violently since the fall of Gaddafi. In the run-up to the first national elections earlier this year, the National Transition Council, the unelected transition government installed by the West after Gaddafi’s killing, banned political parties based on tribal or regional allegiances, many of which were calling for the nation to disband.

Indeed, Libya is still beset by regional violence from separatist movements who feel that the process of transition has left them worse off than they were under Gaddafi. The fractious and chaotic state in which Libya now finds itself is attributable to the intervention of NATO in the conflict. NATO lent artificial cohesion to a rebellion movement which lacked any democratic mandate to lead, or any clear direction for how to lead, once the old regime had fallen.

The fate of post-Assad Syria would be even more chaotic. Firstly, the ethnic make-up of the conflict is more complex. Syrian Christians tend to be either neutral or support the regime. The rebels are largely composed of Sunni Muslims who see the regime mainly constituted of Alawites, as heretical. The uprising in Aleppo is distinctly Islamist, whereas the uprising in Homs is led by rebel groups that cut across ethnic and religious divides. Like Libya, the uprising lacks any central leadership to cohere these groups. While NATO was quick to claim Libya as a ‘victory’, the shadow of the ongoing sectarian violence is undoubtedly serving as a warning against intervention in the already fractious rebellion in Syria.

Analysts have further pointed out that the scale of any intervention in Syria would have to be far greater than in Libya in order to be effective. Even establishing a no-fly zone would require destroying 22 early-warning radar sites and command-and-control facilities, 150 surface-to-air missile batteries, 27 surface-to-surface missile batteries, 12 anti-ship missile batteries, 32 airfield targets, and more than 200 hardened aircraft shelters. This would dwarf the military effort required to defend the air space over Libya. Of course, there are also realpolitik concerns standing in the way of intervention, with an American election in November and economic crisis in Europe.

When NATO’s approach to interventions appears so arbitrary, it raises the question: what is NATO for? The organisation was formed in 1949 under the North Atlantic Treaty to unify the military powers of America and Europe following the Second World War, and to stave off the threat of a Soviet invasion of Europe. The first NATO secretary general, Lord Ismay, indicated the singular purpose of the organisation when he stated in 1949 that its goal was ‘to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down’. To this end, article five of the treaty allows for an ‘armed attack against one or more of (member countries) in Europe or North America (to) be considered an attack against (all member countries)’.

Of course, that Russian invasion never came. Article five has only ever been invoked once – by the Americans following 9/11. NATO interventions have never relied on the provisions of the North Atlantic Treaty, but they have been dependent on UN resolutions. NATO is now effectively the armed wing of the UN. As the example of Syria suggests, the archaic North Atlantic Treaty seems ill-equipped to deal with the complex process of intervening in foreign civil wars.

In and of itself, NATO is a rudderless, incoherent institution whose ongoing existence serves to further destabilise and unsettle the countries in which it intervenes. The current stasis over Syria shows that NATO is (thankfully) blighted by a dearth of leadership and is lacking in any coherent idea of its own purpose. Whereas it was convened at a time when European governments saw themselves as facing a palpable military threat, it exists today solely as a medium for the West to cast itself as the arbitrator of global conflicts – a role which history suggests the West is ill-suited to play.

Even those who believe, in spite of its uniformly disastrous history, that NATO can bring good to the world through its military interventions must be scratching their heads after last week. What happened to the glorious saviours of Bosnia? Or the ‘victorious’ liberators of Libya? They were reduced to confused inaction by a stray rocket into Turkey. It is time to disband this archaic, flailing institution of Western intervention. After all, a confused babble of Western military powers, who act arbitrarily and without any democratic mandate, is likely to prove far more destabilising for the Middle East than a misfired rocket.

Luke Gittos is a paralegal working in criminal law and convenor of the London Legal Salon.

http://www.spiked-online.com/site/article/12953/

American Empire: A Disaster on Autopilot


The discrediting of US military power
by Tom Engelhardt

 

Americans lived in a “victory culture” for much of the twentieth century. You could say that we experienced an almost 75-year stretch of triumphalism — think of it as the real “American Century” — from World War I to the end of the Cold War, with time off for a destructive stalemate in Korea and a defeat in Vietnam too shocking to absorb or shake off.

When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, it all seemed so obvious. Fate had clearly dealt Washington a royal flush. It was victory with a capital V. The United States was, after all, the last standing superpower, after centuries of unceasing great power rivalries on the planet. It had a military beyond compare and no enemy, hardly a “rogue state,” on the horizon. It was almost unnerving, such clear sailing into a dominant future, but a moment for the ages nonetheless. Within a decade, pundits in Washington were hailing us as “the dominant power in the world, more dominant than any since Rome.”

And here’s the odd thing: in a sense, little has changed since then and yet everything seems different. Think of it as the American imperial paradox: everywhere there are now “threats” against our well-being which seem to demand action and yet nowhere are there commensurate enemies to go with them. Everywhere the U.S. military still reigns supreme by almost any measure you might care to apply; and yet — in case the paradox has escaped you — nowhere can it achieve its goals, however modest.

At one level, the American situation should simply take your breath away. Never before in modern history had there been an arms race of only one or a great power confrontation of only one. And at least in military terms, just as the neoconservatives imagined in those early years of the twenty-first century, the United States remains the “sole superpower” or even “hyperpower” of planet Earth.

The Planet’s Top Gun

And yet the more dominant the U.S. military becomes in its ability to destroy and the more its forces are spread across the globe, the more the defeats and semi-defeats pile up, the more the missteps and mistakes grow, the more the strains show, the more the suicides rise, the more the nation’s treasure disappears down a black hole — and in response to all of this, the more moves the Pentagon makes.

A great power without a significant enemy? You might have to go back to the Roman Empire at its height or some Chinese dynasty in full flower to find anything like it. And yet Osama bin Laden is dead. Al-Qaeda is reportedly a shadow of its former self. The great regional threats of the moment, North Korea and Iran, are regimes held together by baling wire and the suffering of their populaces. The only incipient great power rival on the planet, China, has just launched its first aircraft carrier, a refurbished Ukrainian throwaway from the 1990s on whose deck the country has no planes capable of landing.

The U.S. has 1,000 or more bases around the world; other countries, a handful. The U.S. spends as much on its military as the next 14 powers (mostly allies) combined. In fact, it’s investing an estimated $1.45 trillion to produce and operate a single future aircraft, the F-35 — more than any country, the U.S. included, now spends on its national defense annually.

The U.S. military is singular in other ways, too. It alone has divided the globe — the complete world — into six “commands.” With (lest anything be left out) an added command, Stratcom, for the heavens and another, recently established, for the only space not previously occupied, cyberspace, where we’re already unofficially “at war.” No other country on the planet thinks of itself in faintly comparable military terms.

When its high command plans for its future “needs,” thanks to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Martin Dempsey, they repair (don’t say “retreat”) to a military base south of the capital where they argue out their future and war-game various possible crises while striding across a map of the world larger than a basketball court. What other military would come up with such a method?

The president now has at his command not one, but two private armies. The first is the CIA, which in recent years has been heavily militarized, is overseen by a former four-star general (who calls the job “living the dream”), and is running its own private assassination campaigns and drone air wars throughout the Greater Middle East. The second is an expanding elite, the Joint Special Operations Command, cocooned inside the U.S. military, members of whom are now deployed to hot spots around the globe.

The U.S. Navy, with its 11 nuclear-powered aircraft carrier task forces, is dominant on the global waves in a way that only the British Navy might once have been; and the U.S. Air Force controls the global skies in much of the world in a totally uncontested fashion. (Despite numerous wars and conflicts, the last American plane possibly downed in aerial combat was in the first Gulf War in 1991.) Across much of the global south, there is no sovereign space Washington’s drones can’t penetrate to kill those judged by the White House to be threats.

In sum, the U.S. is now the sole planetary Top Gun in a way that empire-builders once undoubtedly fantasized about, but that none from Genghis Khan on have ever achieved: alone and essentially uncontested on the planet. In fact, by every measure (except success), the likes of it has never been seen.

Blindsided by Predictably Unintended Consequences

By all the usual measuring sticks, the U.S. should be supreme in a historically unprecedented way. And yet it couldn’t be more obvious that it’s not, that despite all the bases, elite forces, private armies, drones, aircraft carriers, wars, conflicts, strikes, interventions, and clandestine operations, despite a labyrinthine intelligence bureaucracy that never seems to stop growing and into which we pour a minimum of $80 billion a year, nothing seems to work out in an imperially satisfying way. It couldn’t be more obvious that this is not a glorious dream, but some kind of ever-expanding imperial nightmare.

This should, of course, have been self-evident since at least early 2004, less than a year after the Bush administration invaded and occupied Iraq, when the roadside bombs started to explode and the suicide bombings to mount, while the comparisons of the United States to Rome and of a prospective Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East to the Pax Romana vanished like a morning mist on a blazing day. Still, the wars against relatively small, ill-armed sets of insurgents dragged toward their dismally predictable ends. (It says the world that, after almost 11 years of war, the 2,000th U.S. military death in Afghanistan occurred at the hands of an Afghan “ally” in an “insider attack.”) In those years, Washington continued to be regularly blindsided by the unintended consequences of its military moves. Surprises — none pleasant — became the order of the day and victories proved vanishingly rare.

One thing seems obvious: a superpower military with unparalleled capabilities for one-way destruction no longer has the more basic ability to impose its will anywhere on the planet. Quite the opposite, U.S. military power has been remarkably discredited globally by the most pitiful of forces. From Pakistan to Honduras, just about anywhere it goes in the old colonial or neocolonial world, in those regions known in the contested Cold War era as the Third World, resistance of one unexpected sort or another arises and failure ensues in some often long-drawn-out and spectacular fashion.

Given the lack of enemies — a few thousand jihadis, a small set of minority insurgencies, a couple of feeble regional powers — why this is so, what exactly the force is that prevents Washington’s success, remains mysterious. Certainly, it’s in some way related to the more than half-century of decolonization movements, rebellions, and insurgencies that were a feature of the previous century.

It also has something to do with the way economic heft has spread beyond the U.S., Europe, and Japan — with the rise of the “tigers” in Asia, the explosion of the Chinese and Indian economies, the advances of Brazil and Turkey, and the movement of the planet toward some kind of genuine economic multipolarity. It may also have something to do with the end of the Cold War, which put an end as well to several centuries of imperial or great power competition and left the sole “victor,” it now seems clear, heading toward the exits wreathed in self-congratulation.

Explain it as you will, it’s as if the planet itself, or humanity, had somehow been inoculated against the imposition of imperial power, as if it now rejected it whenever and wherever applied. In the previous century, it took a half-nation, North Korea, backed by Russian supplies and Chinese troops to fight the U.S. to a draw, or a popular insurgent movement backed by a local power, North Vietnam, backed in turn by the Soviet Union and China to defeat American power. Now, small-scale minority insurgencies, largely using roadside bombs and suicide bombers, are fighting American power to a draw (or worse) with no great power behind them at all.

Think of the growing force that resists such military might as the equivalent of the “dark matter” in the universe. The evidence is in. We now know (or should know) that it’s there, even if we can’t see it.

Washington’s Wars on Autopilot

After the last decade of military failures, stand-offs, and frustrations, you might think that this would be apparent in Washington. After all, the U.S. is now visibly an overextended empire, its sway waning from the Greater Middle East to Latin America, the limits of its power increasingly evident. And yet, here’s the curious thing: two administrations in Washington have drawn none of the obvious conclusions, and no matter how the presidential election turns out, it’s already clear that, in this regard, nothing will change.

Even as military power has proven itself a bust again and again, our policymakers have come to rely ever more completely on a military-first response to global problems. In other words, we are not just a classically overextended empire, but also an overwrought one operating on some kind of militarized autopilot. Lacking is a learning curve. By all evidence, it’s not just that there isn’t one, but that there can’t be one.

Washington, it seems, now has only one mode of thought and action, no matter who is at the helm or what the problem may be, and it always involves, directly or indirectly, openly or clandestinely, the application of militarized force. Nor does it matter that each further application only destabilizes some region yet more or undermines further what once were known as “American interests.”

Take Libya, as an example. It briefly seemed to count as a rare American military success story: a decisive intervention in support of a rebellion against a brutal dictator — so brutal, in fact, that the CIA previously shipped “terrorist suspects,” Islamic rebels fighting against the Gaddafi regime, there for torture. No U.S. casualties resulted, while American and NATO air strikes were decisive in bringing a set of ill-armed, ill-organized rebels to power.

In the world of unintended consequences, however, the fall of Gaddafi sent Tuareg mercenaries from his militias, armed with high-end weaponry, across the border into Mali. There, when the dust settled, the whole northern part of the country had come unhinged and fallen under the sway of Islamic extremists and al-Qaeda wannabes as other parts of North Africa threatened to destabilize. At the same time, of course, the first American casualties of the intervention occurred when Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died in an attack on the Benghazi consulate and a local “safe house.”

With matters worsening regionally, the response couldn’t have been more predictable. As Greg Miller and Craig Whitlock of the Washington Post recently reported, in ongoing secret meetings, the White House is planning for military operations against al-Qaeda-in-the-Magreb (North Africa), now armed with weaponry pillaged from Gaddafi’s stockpiles. These plans evidently include the approach used in Yemen (U.S. special forces on the ground and CIA drone strikes), or a Somalia “formula” (drone strikes, special forces operations, CIA operations, and the support of African proxy armies), or even at some point “the possibility of direct U.S. intervention.”

In addition, Eric Schmitt and David Kilpatrick of the New York Times report that the Obama administration is “preparing retaliation” against those it believes killed the U.S. ambassador, possibly including “drone strikes, special operations raids like the one that killed Osama bin Laden, and joint missions with Libyan authorities.” The near certainty that, like the previous intervention, this next set of military actions will only further destabilize the region with yet more unpleasant surprises and unintended consequences hardly seems to matter. Nor does the fact that, in crude form, the results of such acts are known to us ahead of time have an effect on the unstoppable urge to plan and order them.

Such situations are increasingly legion across the Greater Middle East and elsewhere. Take one other tiny example: Iraq, from which, after almost a decade-long military disaster, the “last” U.S. units essentially fled in the middle of the night as 2011 ended. Even in those last moments, the Obama administration and the Pentagon were still trying to keep significant numbers of U.S. troops there (and, in fact, did manage to leave behind possibly several hundred as trainers of elite Iraqi units). Meanwhile, Iraq has been supportive of the embattled Syrian regime and drawn ever closer to Iran, even as its own sectarian strife has ratcheted upward. Having watched this unsettling fallout from its last round in the country, according to the New York Times, the U.S. is now negotiating an agreement “that could result in the return of small units of American soldiers to Iraq on training missions. At the request of the Iraqi government, according to General Caslen, a unit of Army Special Operations soldiers was recently deployed to Iraq to advise on counterterrorism and help with intelligence.”

Don’t you just want to speak to those negotiators the way you might to a child: No, don’t do that! The urge to return to the scene of their previous disaster, however, seems unstaunchable. You could offer various explanations for why our policymakers, military and civilian, continue in such a repetitive — and even from an imperial point of view — self-destructive vein in situations where unpleasant surprises are essentially guaranteed and lack of success a given. Yes, there is the military-industrial complex to be fed. Yes, we are interested in the control of crucial resources, especially energy, and so on.

But it’s probably more reasonable to say that a deeply militarized mindset and the global maneuvers that go with it are by now just part of the way of life of a Washington eternally “at war.” They are the tics of a great power with the equivalent of Tourette’s Syndrome. They happen because they can’t help but happen, because they are engraved in the policy DNA of our national security complex, and can evidently no longer be altered. In other words, they can’t help themselves.

That’s the only logical conclusion in a world where it has become ever less imaginable to do the obvious, which is far less or nothing at all. (Northern Chad? When did it become crucial to our well being?) Downsizing the mission? Inconceivable. Thinking the unthinkable? Don’t even give it a thought!

What remains is, of course, a self-evident formula for disaster on autopilot. But don’t tell Washington. It won’t matter. Its denizens can’t take it in.

© 2012 TomDispatch.com

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050. His other most recent book is The United States of Fear (Haymarket Books). Previous books include: The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing.  

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/10/09-4

 

The Make-Believe Crisis in Iran


More Lies and Misinformation

Weekend Edition October 5-7, 2012

 

by PATRICK FOY

What if the White House were deliberately misleading America and the world about a major foreign policy issue involving war and peace, would it not be something worth investigating? What if, on top of that, the US Congress and Senate were going along with the subterfuge, remaining silent and not questioning it in the slightest? Wouldn’t that phenomenon be remarkable?

What if the mainstream news media, both television and print, were also enabling the same White House campaign of misrepresentation? Would this not be even more shocking? Should not a free press be checking the facts, asking basic questions, instead of blindly parroting a government party line which could be little more than war propaganda?

If you guessed I am describing Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program, hyped at every opportunity by the Obama White House and the Congress and by the Republicans and Mitt Romney, you would be on target. The nonstop campaign of harassing and demonizing Tehran, premised upon the existential threat supposedly posed by an Iranian atomic bomb, is a determined bipartisan affair in Washington.

Every Tom, Dick and Jane has a stake in the game, the only difference being the extent to which a particular Tom, Dick and Jane is willing to proclaim his or her outrage and commit the United States to punitive action, ranging from ruinous economic sanctions to a bunker-busting military assault in tandem with our dauntless nuclearized ally, Israel.

True, this scenario has been in place for years and is becoming tedious, but we now seem to have arrived at a new plateau of mass hysteria thanks to the 2012 U.S. Presidential campaign. Why? In a word, leverage. The leverage to determine who gets elected in Washington and under what conditions. I am referring in part to a foreign leader who is acting in concert with his American lobbyists and financial backers.

As part of this electioneering process, extravagant commitments have been extracted from craven American officials to further the interests and expand the greater territorial ambitions of the nuclear-armed foreign entity at issue, in exchange for campaign contributions and votes. Nothing new here, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Let me dramatize the problem with a recent example. I have not spoken with John McLaughlin in over ten years, but I believe we remain on good terms. I watch his weekly Washington-based show, the McLaughlin Group, to hear in particular what Patrick Buchanan has to say about the week’s events. The Group remains informative and a partial antidote to the mainstream media. McLaughlin often wanders off the MSM reservation, but never too far.

Last Friday, September 28th, something occurred on the program which blew this fake Iranian crisis sky high. Issue One was, naturally, the interminable and largely irrelevant 2012 Presidential campaign. Issue Two was Iran and Bibi Netanyahu’s speech the day before, at the UN General Assembly, in which he explained why the world must set “red lines” to Iran’s enrichment of uranium to halt its quest for an atomic bomb.

Two days prior to Bibi’s speech, President Barack Obama had proclaimed from the same dais: “…America wants to resolve this issue through diplomacy…there is still time and space to do so. But that time is not unlimited… Make no mistake: a nuclear-armed Iran is not a challenge that can be contained… And that is why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.” Where’s the daylight between the two?

John McLaughlin turned to Mort Zuckerman for a comment. Zuckerman repeated the party line that the development of an Iranian nuclear bomb would be an existential threat to Israel which must be stopped. As in all such pronouncements, just like those of Barack and Bibi at the UN, the indisputable assumption was that the Iranians are, of course, working to build The Bomb. Then Buchanan weighed in with this bombshell:

“But John, Iran has no nuclear weapons program. There is no nuclear weapons program according to 16 United States intelligence agencies in 2007, reaffirmed in 2011. Even the Israelis are now saying we think the Americans were right. They don’t have a nuclear weapons program. The Ayatollah [Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei] has said nuclear weapons on Iran’s part would be immoral, unjust and un-Islamic. So why are we now considering talking about a war on a country to deprive it of weapons of mass destruction it does not have?

So I’m thinking, whoa, we have arrived at the Emperor-has-no-clothes moment. It is out in the open at last. Buchanan has challenged the undeniable: the premise that Tehran has a program underway to build The Bomb. What’s more, he has done it by pointing to the conclusions of the U.S. Government itself, as embodied in its 16 intelligence agencies. Buchanan did not rely upon his own research or idle speculation. He cited the best available conclusions of the U.S. intelligence community.

All right, this is not new information. I wrote an article about it in 2007 for Taki’s Magazine when the news first broke regarding the National Intelligence Estimate. The NIE was a true revelation back then as well as a wake-up call. It demonstrated that Dick Cheney and G.W. Bush and their Neoconservative foreign-policy brain trust were actively deceiving their fellow-Americans by attempting to entice the country into yet another war, on top of Iraq, under false premises.

It was assumed at the time that the NIE ended this deceit and that the project to smack Iran could not go forward. How could it? There were no nuclear weapons in Iran and no program underway to develop them, just like there had been no WMD in Iraq when Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched at the beginning of 2003. Now we knew. The 2007 NIE was reaffirmed in a 2011 NIE update. The Neoconservatives had a cow. Where was the threat needed to start another conflict and continue their undertaking to remake the Middle East?

Please note, however, that during the interim since Peace Prize Obama was handed the torch in 2008, no one in the Executive Branch–not Obama or Hillary Clinton, and no one on Capitol Hill–dares mention these NIE conclusions. It is as if they do not exist. Only the disinformation from misguided and suborned office-holders matters. At the end of the day, only that counts, not reality. In essence, Peace Prize Obama and the Democrats have continued, under different packaging, the same Neoconized foreign policy of Dick Cheney and the Republicans. The question you might ask yourself is, why?

What was the reaction to Buchanan’s assertions? For me, the reaction of his fellow panelists was more interesting and eye-opening than what Buchanan actually said. You could have expected the Group to react in horror at Buchanan’s denial of what everyone else in Washington was taking for granted. But no, that is not what happened. No one challenged Buchanan. No one challenged the veracity of his pronouncement.

Not Mort Zuckerman, a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. Zuckerman is one of the top Zionists in the country and a personal friend of Netanyahu. Not Rich Lowry, the editor of the Neoconservative outlet, National Review, which competes with the Weekly Standard and Commentary for warmongering and American exceptionalism. And not the liberal columnist and professional Democrat, Eleanor Clift, who idolizes Obama. And not the former Jesuit priest and host, John McLaughlin.

All of them simply ignored what Buchanan had said, did not address it, even though its implications blew the legs out from under long-standing U.S. foreign policy and reduced the speeches of Barack and Bibi at the UN to nonsense.

The only reason I can think of why Zuckerman, Lowry, Clift and McLaughlin did not confront Buchanan is that they knew what Buchanan had said was the truth. To enter into a discussion with Buchanan would be to acknowledge the possibility that his view might be correct. This would reveal that a colossal con game was underway in which both political parties and the press were enablers.

The principal con man in this game would be the President of the United States, followed by his Secretary of State. The victims of the con game would be the American people, just like they were under Bush and Cheney. And of course the Iranians, who now must cope with crippling economic sanctions for no legitimate reason. The larger question remains, why is this happening? Why is the deception continuing from one Administration to the next? Cui bono?

PATRICK FOY is an essayist and short story writer as well as a former altar boy. He graduated from Canterbury School in New Milford, Connecticut and from Columbia University in New York City, where he studied English literature, European history and American diplomatic history. His work can be found at http://www.PatrickFoyDossier.com.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/10/05/the-make-believe-crisis-in-iran/

Anti-American Autumn Follows the Arab Spring


Beyond the manipulations underlying the film „Innocence of Muslims“ and the assassination of the U.S. ambassador to Libya, the emotions and violence that have rocked North Africa and the Middle East are the direct consequences of a strategy. Washington has opened a Pandora’s box and now must weather the storms it has itself unleashed. Unfortunately, being caught in its own web of contradictions, the U.S. administration is incapable of self-questioning and is sinking deeper into the chaos it wished upon others.

The more we listen to them the more distressing is the impression. The West has lost the conscience and does not even dare to recognize the fatal mistake committed to Colonel Gaddafi. A few days ago the US president speaking at the UN General Assembly repeated a terrific mantra:

We intervened in Libya alongside a broad coalition, and with the mandate of the UN Security Council, because we had the ability to stop the slaughter of innocents; and because we believed that the aspirations of the people were more powerful than a tyrant.

 And as we meet here, we again declare that the regime of Bashar al-Assad must come to an end so that the suffering of the Syrian people can stop, and a new dawn can begin.

First of all there was no UN Security Council mandate for intervention in Libya. If you essay a task reading the resolution 1973 (2011) on ‘no-fly zone in Libya’, you will find out that it does not contain a single word regarding possible intervention. The flexibility of that resolution was the only reason of its fatal approval by the Security Council.

 

Today Libya is being torn in parts by the rivaling tribes. During Gaddafi’s rule it was a confederation of tribes mostly loyal to central authority. Now they are not. Eastern tribes have already declared factual secession and ignored the parliamentary elections. They are trying to pocket the revenues of gas and oil fields exploration on their territories. One of the most economically prosperous countries of Maghreb is rapidly turning into Afghanistan or Somalia.

Every Libyan tribe now has its own armed militias with estimated total manpower exceeding 100,000. They permanently fight each other for lands, pastures, fresh water sources, but mainly – oil fields. For example a large scale war between Misratah and Benghazi clans for Sirte basin is looming nowadays. No one has a slightest intention to concede these assets to the central authorities in Tripoli.

Alexander Mezyaev from Strategic Culture Foundation describes the daily slaughterhouse routine in Libya:

‘On the whole, there are no signs that tensions are going down in Libya, where fighting flared up non-stop over the past 5-6 months. Serious clashes between the Toubou brigades and Arab groups began in Sabha, southern Libya, in June and took hundreds of lives. Later battles raged in Kufra, south-east Libya. The traditional inter-clan dispute over border control in the western part of Libya escalated into a three-day armed conflict between Zuwara city on the one side and the cities of al-Jumail and Reghladin on the other, with around 50 people being killed. Ten people died when Arabs and Tuaregs hammered each other in Ghadames, and around 1,600 Tuaregs were forced to flee to the nearby Derg later on. In June, the Zentan and Mashashia tribes locked horns in the Nafusa mountains, leaving over 70 people dead and some 150 – wounded. Government forces were deployed between Zentan and Shagiga to keep apart two local communities warring over land. The Barki council continued to pursue “federalist” policies in the east of Libya. Violence spilled even into the premier’s premises where a guard and a “rebel fighter” were killed in a shootout last May. Government facilities, international community representatives, and the security forces come under fire in east Libya with frightening regularity.’

The administration of Barack Obama not only supported ousting Colonel Gaddafi (just refresh in memory his delighted speech on October 20, 2011), but also facilitated raising Muslim Brotherhood to the power in Egypt. Today we witness anti-American demonstrations there as well (no victims yet by sheer luck). And they also support anti-Assad insurgents in Syria. What will happen to the feeding hand in Damascus in case the guerrillas succeed we can’t even imagine.

Unfortunately the lessons of history are not learned in Washington. They have already paid a lot for distinguishing ‘good’ and ‘bad’ jihad (we are sorry to use this sacred word in ungodly militant meaning here). They consider the terror against geopolitical rivals as an admissible form of ‘national liberation’, while anti-American actions – as crimes against humanity. The price of such political schizophrenia for the US will be rising.

‪We shouldn’t relate these landmark events of the anti-American autumn exclusively to a movie parody released in America. The problem is much deeper. A villain global genie has already been let out of the bottle and is busy crushing the ancient mausoleum in Tripoli, demolishing Christian shrines in Kosovo, Indonesia, Nigeria, killing Egyptian Copts etc.

To understand the geopolitical solitaire on the Middle East properly we should name the winners and losers of the ‘Arab Spring’ gamble. The Gulf monarchies are certainly among the first. It is an open secret that the Gulf countries aspired to control Libyan gas for a long time. Qatar, having ambitious plans over the huge European liquefied gas market, was the main interested party in ousting the Libyan leader. As a bonus Qatar’s Emir Al-Thani has managed to get rid of his personal adversary (several harsh exchanges between them during some pan-Arab meetings were not left unnoticed) and a penultimate powerful secular leader of the Arabic world (the last one is Syria’s president Bashar Assad). Today the influence of pro-Salafi Islamists is seriously strengthened in Libya. The former military governor of Tripoli Abdelhakim Belhadj, theQatar protégé, is considered one the most influential figures there. Despite a miserable result in the recently held ‘democratic’ elections to the General National Congress, he still plays a decisive role in Libya.

The main loser is obviously Europe (to say nothing of the Libyan people who would live in a new Afghanistan). It hasn’t achieved any goal originally pursued. The attempt to show its political and military might has nearly turned fiasco and factual second Suez crisis. The idea to establish a liberal secular state in Libya has failed as well. Those taking Mahmoud Jibril for liberal are deeply mistaken: he has already called for restoration of polygamy and, according to him, would strictly act in line with Sharia principles.

Moreover the operation in Libya has created new problems for the European continent. They have lost a reliable gas supplier (no serious company would invest into what is now called Libya). They face multiplied illegal immigration from Africa. The threat of the emergence of a huge oil-rich terrorist hub on the other side of Mediterranean armed by sophisticated weapons including MANPADS is as tangible as never before. But maybe the most dangerous is the loss of the Third World leaders’ confidence. Now they know that flirtations and secessions to the West would not guarantee them against democratic bombings.

What should be the lessons of the tragedy in Benghazi? First of all the party of war in the UN Security Council should contain its ambitions to reshuffle the Middle East. Their irresponsible policies have already cost a lot not only to the region, but its own reputations. The clearly expressed will to make Security Council act symphonic to maintain international peace and security would be a smart first step. (Unfortunately, Mrs.Clinton gave a wrong signal earlier this week leaving Security Council conference room while her Russian colleague Sergey Lavrov was about to switch on his microphone. The role of an offended girl does not correspond to the status of the US official.) They should understand that further attempts to destabilize Syria letting alone an apparent suicidal strike against Iran would catalyze irreversible processes in a global scale. The result will be shocking for the West: they would discover that they are definitely loosing subjectivity in international politics. The most retrograde forces will be advanced to the forefront putting an end to all human achievements in science, culture, arts, democracy and humanism. The agents of decadence are powerful even inside the US establishment. Will the sane and sober elements in national elites in America and other countries be able to cope with them is an issue critically important for the survival of contemporary world.

Source
Oriental Review (Russia)

 

http://www.voltairenet.org/article176051.html

 

 

Declining US doctor visits: A product of social decay and the assault on health care


4 October 2012

The US Census Bureau reported this week that between 2001 and 2010, the average number of doctor visits by individuals aged 18 to 64 fell by nearly 20 percent, from 4.8 visits to 3.9 visits. The report is the latest evidence of a sharp decline in access to health care for millions of Americans.

The economic situation is a major factor in this decline. Millions of people have lost their jobs over the past decade, particularly since the onset of the global crisis in 2008. In the United States, losing one’s job generally means losing one’s health insurance, and uninsured people are much less likely to visit a doctor.

At the same time, insurance companies have been raising premiums and co-payments, making doctor visits a major expense even for those who have insurance. “It’s a widespread decline in the use of medical services,” commented the chief of the Census Bureau’s health and disability statistics branch.

These figures confirm earlier reports of falling doctor visits, fewer prescriptions and stagnant health care spending—a trend that accelerated in 2011 and 2012, years not covered by the Census report. The IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics reported earlier this year that doctor visits fell 4.7 percent in 2011 compared to 2010, and the number of prescriptions issued fell by 1.1 percent.

The decline in access to health care for millions of people has a predictable consequence: reduced life expectancy. A study released last month in the journal Health Affairs found that life expectancy for the poorest sections of the working class fell sharply between 1990 and 2008. For white women with less than a high school education, life expectancy fell from 78 to 74 years, and for men in this category from 70.5 to 67.5.

This shocking decline is a product not simply of abstract economic forces, but a deliberate policy carried out by the corporations and both big business parties. The aim is to establish a class-based health care system in which the vast majority of the population receives bare-bones care, while the rich have access to the best coverage money can buy.

The decline in health care spending and doctor visits will be welcome news to the Obama administration, which has been working for precisely such an outcome. Behind the administration’s health care “reform” is a bipartisan effort to reduce costs for corporations and the government by restricting medical tests, procedures and drugs, and rationing care—with the inevitable consequence of eroding the health and lifespan of large parts of the population.

One of the aims of Obama’s health care overhaul is to allow corporations to scrap their employee health care programs and force workers to purchase private insurance on the market. As many as 20 million people may lose employer-sponsored coverage by 2019, according to estimates. Individuals forced to buy private insurance will either pay more or receive less coverage, and they will likely be more vulnerable to rising co-payments and cuts in services.

The New York Times,which generally tracks the positions of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party, has spearheaded the media promotion of health care rationing. The Times regularly decries supposedly unnecessary tests and procedures—from mammograms and prostate screenings to stents. The newspaper argues that “excess” health care is positively harmful.

Last April, the Times published an article on health care costs under the headline “In Hopeful Sign, Health Spending is Flattening Out.” This “hopeful” trend was a result of the fact that “millions of Americans lost insurance coverage along with their jobs.” The article continued: “Worried about job security, others may have feared taking time off work for doctor’s visits or surgical procedures, or skipped non-urgent care when money was tight.”

The Census figures released this week cover individuals aged 18-64. They do not include the elderly. Older Americans, because they are covered by the federal Medicare program, have been less affected by the economic imperatives to forego health care.

Within US ruling circles, this is considered a serious problem. As far as the financial oligarchs are concerned, billions are being wasted keeping alive people who can no longer be exploited for profit.

While they have disagreements over the best means of accomplishing the job, a principal aim of both the Democrats and the Republicans is to find ways of imposing huge cuts in Medicare spending.

Steven Rattner—a multi-millionaire financier and former Obama administration “car czar”—spelled out the basic strategy in an opinion piece entitled “Beyond Obamacare” that appeared in the Times last month. Rattner was indicted on charges of corruption and insider-dealing while head of the private equity firm Quadrangle. As the leader of Obama’s Auto Task Force he oversaw the restructuring of the auto industry based on halving the pay of newly hired workers and imposing deep cuts in health care and pension benefits.

“We need death panels,” Rattner’s column began. “Well, maybe not death panels, exactly, but unless we start allocating health care resources more prudently—rationing, by its proper name—the exploding cost of Medicare will swamp the federal budget. But in the pantheon of toxic issues—the famous ‘third rails’ of American politics— none stands taller than overtly acknowledging that elderly Americans are not entitled to every conceivable medical procedure or pharmaceutical.”

Rattner went on to criticize both Obama and Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan—who has proposed privatizing Medicare and turning it into a voucher program—for avoiding stating the main issue: the need to deny medical treatment to some retirees.

“Medicare needs to take a cue from Willie Sutton, who reportedly said he robbed banks because that’s where the money was,” Rattner wrote. “The big money in Medicare is not to be found in Mr. Ryan’s competition or Mr. Obama’s innovation, but in reducing the cost of treating people in the last year of life, which consumes more than a quarter of the program’s budget.”

While Rattner presents his comments as a criticism, they point to what is, in fact, the aim of both the Democrats’ and Republicans’ proposals: reduce health care for the working class, and particularly the elderly. Obama’s proposal centers on government panels to recommend reduced coverage, while Ryan has advocated outsourcing this responsibility to private insurers.

The presidential elections are part of a general conspiracy against the American population, in which the real plans of the ruling class are concealed. Regardless of who wins the election, Obama or Romney, the financial aristocracy—which is responsible for the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression—is planning on vastly escalating its social assault on the American people.

Joseph Kishore

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2012/oct2012/pers-o04.shtml