Friday, October 17, 2008

“Never Having To Apologize”: An Imperial Mentality

It must be nice going though life never feeling you have to apologize. I know people like this. They are always right. They are extremely narcissistic. They never do harm to others, are never insensitive, and therefore never have to apologize for their actions. They never have to say: “Sorry, I was wrong to do that.” OR, “I am sorry, I was thinking only of myself and was insensitive to your needs.” They are often impervious to whatever injustices they may commit in life and generally go through life oblivious to the impact of their actions on others.

“Joe the Plumber,” the latest media star brought to prominence by John MC Cain, didn’t want to talk about the” small issues.” He said we should “never apologize for America.” Sounding like someone wired directly to FOX News, Joe said we “liberated” Iraq and brought them “freedom.” Nothing to apologize for.
This is an example of the imperial mentality par excellence, and it is found pretty much everywhere in America, certainly not just in the working class. You can find it in both political parties and in all classes.

Approximately 5 million Iraqi refugees wander the world homeless, but America has nothing to apologize for. Over a million Iraqi’s killed –nothing to apologize for. A humanitarian disaster ?–Nothing to apologize for.

Most Arabs believe America just wants Iraqi oil. So? Nothing to apologize for there. Every day new news reports come out of Afghanistan about so many civilians being killed by American bombing raids. Nothing to apologize for. Abu Graib, Guantanamo, “water-boarding” –nothing to apologize for. Hiroshima? –nothing to apologize for.

We are a people and a nation that never does wrong, that never commits injustices, so we have nothing to apologize for. Like a narcissist we only see our own self-interests, and they are the only interests that really count. Although the rest of the world thinks the US is the greatest threat to peace, that we have become arrogant, we have nothing to apologize for.

The jingoism found in Joe the Plumbers” comments is a form of narcissism writ large. It is linked to the militarization of American society and provides a never ending rationalization for American violence. If you want to see an example of it in its most corrosive and ugly form turn on FOX NEWS anytime of the day.

Of course, the US is not alone in suffering from this short sighted imperial mentality that says: ‘ I can do no wrong’. In his latest book of essays, THE AGE of THE WARRIOR(2008), Robert Fisk talks about the big mistake made by Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and a former High Commissioner for Human Rights. Fisk writes:
"She made a big mistake. She dared to criticize Israel. She suggested –horror of horrors –that ‘the root cause of the Arab –Israeli conflict is the occupation’. Now whoah there a moment. Mary! ‘Occupation’? Isn’t that a little bit anti-Israeli. Are you really suggesting that the military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip by Israel, its use of extrajudicial executions against Palestinian gunmen, the Israeli gunning down of schoolboy stone throwers, the wholesale theft of Arab land to build homes for Jews , is in some way wrong?" (p.129)

Fisk notes how sympathy for the victims of Israel, people who think that the Palestinians are getting a raw deal, is often translated into accusations of “anti-semitism.” Since Israel can do no wrong (ask VP candidate Joe Biden) and since there is no need to criticize and no need to ever apologize, it must be prejudice that motivates the criticism.

Lets face it, the same thing happens to critics of American policy in the Middle East who may have sympathy for the Iraqi people who have suffered immensely as a result of the illegal and aggressive American war–and who openly say that the war is a crime against humanity - they are called “anti-American.”

But then again there are those of us who believe that torture, aggressive war, and the bombing of civilians should be “anti-American.” Somehow we weren’t properly socialized to believe that “America Never Needs to Apologize”, that American violence is always benevolent, and that it is without fault on the world stage.

Like our media and intellectual elites, we are expected to sit silently in approval as they bomb countless children, women and men into their graves. Nothing to apologize for??? History will judge us differently.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Georgia On My Mind

The song “Georgia On My Mind has been one of my favorites for many years. I have several versions of the song on CD. But lately it has been another Georgia on the far eastern shores of the Black Sea that I have been worried about. She does not bring me peace of mind.

The worry emerged from hearing and reading the official American media and newspapers go into one-sided rants about the “unprovoked” Russian military attack on Georgia last August. Unprovoked? It was almost as if we were right back in the middle of the Cold War again, and our old nemesis the growling Russian bear was back and the Americans and Georgians were the innocents strolling in the woods.

The Bush administration made hilarious hypocritical speeches about respecting other states territorial integrity in the 21st century. A slew of hostile and alarmist American rhetoric from both political parties was followed by the arrival of American warships carrying aid to Georgia. A US Navy warship anchored in the southern Georgian port of Batumi. Then the heavily armed guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul arrived . The arrival of the warships came after a partial withdrawal of Russian military forces from Georgia. This after a Russian military invasion of Georgia – but only after Georgia itself had launched a bloody military incursion into Ossetia last month. The Georgian assault caused tens of thousands of South Ossetians to flee into Russia. Some observers claim that Russian-US relations are at their lowest point since the end of the Cold War.

Like every American of my generation “I learned to hate the Russians throughout my whole life,” as Bob Dylan sang it in his song WITH GOD ON OUR SIDE. The evil and godless “communist” empire was seen as the source of all evil in the world and conversely America was the source of all good and light. In the face of such an evil enemy, every American intervention on every continent was blessed with the impeccable label of defense. All North/South conflicts were dressed up as East/West conflicts. American defense spending grew rapidly.

From the end of World War Two until the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, the US pursued a policy of “containment,” often using the very existence of the Soviet Union to wage counterinsurgency wars in the third world against popular liberation movements. In the process, it turned Latin America into what author Greg Grandin called in his book an EMPIRE’S WORKSHOP - a dark and violent history of the use of imperial power and the reality of US sponsored coups, support for Contra terrorists, death squads, and massacres. A sordid history indeed! Documents now show that the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, which followed the botched CIA sponsored Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961, nearly caused a nuclear war. We are lucky to be alive today because the Soviet Union ultimately backed down from the military confrontation.

In addition to numerous US foreign interventions (both covert and overt) and regime changes, the Cold War containment policy involved several components directed at the Soviet Union –surrounding the Soviet Union with US military bases and American friendly states or client states, maintaining an official “first strike” nuclear policy (and a concomitant “defensive” anti ballistic missile program known as Star Wars), and last but not least, the development and expansion of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) in Europe.

As author Steve Breyman pointed out in an essay published in COUNTERPUNCH (September 12, 2008), the “benefits of NATO membership include hundreds of thousands of troops, thousands of tanks and aircraft, hundreds of warships,” and “thousands of American, British, and perhaps French missiles and bombs” ready for members collective defense. Breyman gets to the heart of why Georgia is on my mind with the following assertion: “The threat to use nuclear weapons first in a conflict is the cornerstone of NATO defense doctrine.”

The end of the COLD WAR did not bring an end to NATO’S horrid first use policy. If Georgia is integrated into NATO, it automatically becomes part and parcel of the American first strike strategy.

One would think that NATO would have been disbanded after the breakup of the Soviet Union, as occurred with the Warsaw Pact. Instead, with US encouragement and direction, NATO expanded into the Baltic Region and the former Soviet Republics who were encouraged to join and become part of the US military alliance. The NATO military attack on the former Yugoslavia in the late 1990’s against strong Russian and UN objections must have stimulated Russian nationalism among ruling circles. They likely perceived it as an expansion of an aggressive American military power into their former sphere of influence. Additionally, it is not inconsequential that NATO is now heavily involved in America’s growing commitment to the intensifying war in Afghanistan.

The recent US efforts to place 96 Patriot Missiles in Poland (now a signed deal), and attempts to place the accompanying radar equipment in the Czech Republic, have increased Russian fears of being surrounded and being vulnerable to a first strike nuclear attack. Both Poland and the Czech Republic are members of NATO. Georgia’s integration into NATO is at the heart of the crisis.

It is also important to note that the crisis has occurred in the wider historical context of an official US policy of world domination and global military superiority, unilateralism, a loosely defined “global war on terror,” and a declared policy of the right to wage pre-emptive war and engage in the “first use” of nuclear weapons anywhere and everywhere.

It is the same historical context in which the US has essentially abandoned the Geneva Protocols, abolished the ABM treaty, tried to block the establishment of the International Criminal Court and refused to ratify its Statute after it failed. Currently, the US is involved in two bloody protracted and expensive “wars without exits” in Afghanistan and Iraq, and has been threatening military action against Iran in spite of Iran’s cooperation in stabilizing Iraq. Apart from Russia’s historical ties with Ossetia, and the issue of the oil pipeline through Georgia, the overstretched nature of US military involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan may have been a factor in the Russian decision to militarily intervene in the Georgia/Ossetia crisis. America’s convulsive domestic economic crisis and financial meltdown on the home front, partly caused by the long expensive wars, is another factor.

The recent Georgia crisis during the China Olympics showed just how shallow those old “hate the Russians” prejudices that Dylan sang eloquently about have been buried, and how easily they can bubble to the surface with the slightest stimulation.

It is also relevant that the crisis occurred in the context of the 2008 US presidential election and brought many moldy Cold Warriors to the surface yelping for McCain’s election bid. They were all screaming for blood and punishment. The established media provided the accompanying dramatic music and the dramatis personae. Nevertheless, it is important to look at the historical contextual realities and the power politics behind the crisis before passing judgment.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Dolphin Manifesto

Note: This manifesto was found while walking on the cliffs of Ocean Beach in San Diego.

We cetacean ocean dwellers are increasingly concerned about the never ending stream of toxic, bacterial, and nutrient contaminants that are spilling daily into every nook and cranny of our watery ecosystem. Although we like humans, and have sometimes gone out of our way to help them when they were in distress, we do not understand why they persist in polluting our home. Perhaps we like them because we are like them in many ways – we live in groups, we are intelligent and playful, we make a lot of noise, and we are sensual warm blooded mammals with very little hair.

Yet, our kindness has not been repaid with kindness. For years hundreds of thousands of us died painfully in purse seine nets that were set by tuna fishing vessels. Additionally, hundreds were violently kidnapped and placed in marine parks where as prisoners they were forced to entertain and amuse human onlookers. Imagine – an intelligent animal imprisoned and forced to perform tricks!

Others have been forcefully taken from their ocean playground and turned into trained instruments of war by the US Navy. Reports of Navy trainers abusing dolphins have disturbed us greatly. We are peace loving and playful animals and object to being turned into programmed killers. Please stop using dolphins as militarized pawns in your infantile war games.

We object to the fact that our oceans and seas have been transformed into perilous nuclear battlefields by the world’s nuclear navies. From our vantage point, the large number of nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors still floating on the open seas are a threat to our existence. Some weapons and reactors have already accidentally dropped to the bottom of the ocean. We hoped that all of this would stop when the Cold War ended, but the mindless militaristic nonsense still goes on to this day.

While we are like humans in some respects, we do not understand their proclivity for fighting highly organized and destructive wars. Although humans allegedly have a high degree of intelligence, and undoubtedly rule the animal kingdom with “full spectrum dominance,” they do not seem to be intelligent enough to solve this fundamental problem. Dolphins do not engage in organized warfare and we do not make or sell weapons. Maybe humans can learn something from us in this regard.

Please listen to us and heed our call to get rid of all of your nuclear weapons. Make the ocean a Nuclear Free Zone and prohibit the development, testing, transportation, and usage of nuclear weapons within the ocean ecosystem. There should be a “zero tolerance” policy toward the dumping of radioactive nuclear waste into the oceans.

Enough. No more we say. Some of the river dolphins are endangered because humans have destroyed their habitat. If humans don't take care of the earth, it is likely that more dolphins will become endangered in the future.

So please stop dumping your toxic and bacterial waste into the natural water system – the streams, lakes, rivers, and oceans. End the dumping of hazardous industrial wastes (PCBs), heavy metals (arsenic, cadmium, copper, lead, zinc) as well as fertilizers, pesticides, medical wastes, and untreated sewage into out watery biosphere. Toxins can get into our food chain and bio-concentrate in our bodies.

Finally, please ban all offshore oil exploration and drilling. Avoid the conformist politically driven stampede to drill. It will only exacerbate your problems. The continental shelf is teeming with marine life which is threatened by the toxic chemicals and hydrocarbon compounds released by drilling operations. Humans must learn to reduce their addiction to fossil fuel consumption and develop rational alternatives to supply their transportation and energy needs. Otherwise they certainly will face the terrible consequences of rapid climate change and global warming. And certainly, on stormier seas, they face more mammoth oil spills like the “Exxon Valdez” that created an adverse impact on the marine environment for years. More “war for oil” is not out of the realm of possibility either.

We dolphins view the ocean as our home and source of livelihood. We reject all forms of human activity that endanger the natural balance of our ecosystem. Since we do not engage in organized warfare, we have no other recourse but to appeal to human reason and hope that our concerns are listened to before it is too late.

The degradation of our ocean habitat must stop now! It is in everyone’s universal interest, dolphins and humans, to keep our oceans clean and life enhancing.



Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The American Legitimacy Crisis

Whoever wins this 2008 Presidential election will face dangerous and near insurmountable problems. The problems involve the very future and survival of humanity – nuclear weapons proliferation, festering wars and conflicts in international relations, global warming and climate change, a shaky capitalist economy, and a greatly overextended and tottering American Empire worried about controlling the world’s oil and its growing list of enemies. This 2008 election places both America and humanity at a critical historical juncture – we may not have much more time to resolve these various crises.

There is undoubtedly an ongoing crisis in American legitimacy and authority. For the last 8 years unbridled imperial arrogance, unrestricted military violence, and narcissistic stupidity have radiated from Washington in every direction. The whole world now knows that the Bush administration lied its way into Iraq. The war of destruction and occupation has been a disaster, and there is now much cynicism about the US ability to do things any better in Iran or Afghanistan, two countries where our policies have actually fed the militant Islamic cause. Just today it was in the newspapers that the UN is reporting that the latest US bombings in Afghanistan killed 90 civilians, 60 of them children. Isn’t this what the critics call “state terrorism?”

So it appears we are dropping Napalm and bombs on Afghanistan, assuming I guess that such a display of American air power will work to win the war as effectively as it did in Vietnam. This method of “winning hearts and minds” is in reality a sure failure. Could someone please tell the Democrats and Republicans that bombing civilians will only provide more recruits for anti-American violence? Do Americans believe that there will be no consequences stemming from the violence of its military actions? We asked after 9/11: “Why do they hate us?” They hate us precisely because we bomb their villages and kill their children. Is that so difficult for Americans to comprehend?

It is important to understand that the US has been an expansive imperial system for over a hundred years through numerous Federalist, Democratic, and Republican administrations. Imperial violence has deep roots in American history and its capitalist system. So much of this behavior we are seeing today is unfortunately not very new. And I’m afraid that it is so deeply rooted in our history that it can’t be voted out of office.

What is new is how openly and apologetically we talk today about being an “empire” and the dominant military power on the earth. For example, Robert Kaplan , a correspondent for the ATLANTIC MONTHLY wrote in his book IMPERIAL GRUNTS: “By the turn of the Twenty First Century the United States military had appropriated the entire earth, and was ready to flood the most obscure areas of it with its troops.”

Historians tell us that wars have always been the main harbingers of empire. The objective picture is disturbing. American troops and military bases garrison the globe, and the USA spends more than the rest of the world nurturing its ever expanding “defense budget.” To promote success in these endless wars, a vast intelligence, counterintelligence and counterinsurgency apparatus has been built, along with a Pentagon directed authority over dozens of foreign trained military establishments. Add a financial and economic empire in foreign lands, and a world-wide imperial brain drain that absorbs foreign talent from other countries, and you begin to get the picture. The pattern supported by both political parties of building unregulated and increasingly unaccountable executive authority in the American Presidency, and the correlative constitutional erosions, is also part of the historical picture.

After reading the new NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY OF THE UNITED STATES (2002) which argues for unrivaled US military dominance over the globe, US willingness to launch preemptive wars against potential enemies, and the immunity of US citizens from prosecution by the International Criminal Court, Senator Teddy Kennedy commented in the NEW YORK TIMES (October 7, 2002): “The administrations doctrine is a call for a 21st century imperialism that no nation can or should accept.”

If Obama ignores the elder Kennedy's cautious warning and expands the war against Afghanistan and Pakistan, I’ll be the first to protest and criticize his actions. The current situation reminds me of a comment by Antonio Gramsci in his PRISON NOTEBOOKS: “The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

The old international system needs to die and a new international system needs to be born. The current system is unsustainable and is a threat to our human species. It needs to change. I am convinced there is a political crisis in America and that a majority of American people know that things are going seriously wrong. This has driven a lot of young people into the Obama campaign. Yet, neither party seems to have the capacity to face the fact that we have been acting like an empire, and that this fact is generating an economic crisis in the US and a legitimacy crisis around the globe. It must be very difficult for most people to listen to Bush and Rice lecture the Russians about the “territorial integrity” of other states, about the “inappropriateness of using military force to achieve political objectives in the 21st century.” Not surprisingly, in light of the recent US military invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and its threats of military violence against Iran, such comments are met with both incredulity and mocking laughter around the globe. Here in the US, they are being used to win votes by the McCain campaign.

40 Years of Republican Domination of The Executive Branch

It is important to note that over the last forty years, the Republican Party has dominated the executive branch of government for 28 of those years (Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush 1, and Bush 2) It has significantly altered the climate of discourse during that period of rule, helped along by the tragedy of 9/11. The Mc Cain Presidential candidacy has articulated positions that are far more militaristic and hawkish than Obama’s – he will end abortion, win the war in Iraq, and win the “war on terror.”

During this period, the Republican Party has increased and consolidated a rightwing totalizing power in the USA and has supplied the ideological rationales for its privatizing march through American institutions. It has forged coalitions with fundamentalist clergy, the judiciary, and the institutional and cultural forces of militarism, law and order, and irrationalism. The response from the Democrats has been admittedly feeble, if not enabling. The Democrats ruled only 12 of those last 40 years, with Carter receiving only one term, and Clinton two terms. While the Democrats have been weaker politically, it is an indisputable fact that more often than not they have caved in to corporate neo-liberalism and imperialist policies. Still, it is clear that they are less militaristic and repressive than the Republicans.

The Hope Behind Obama

Although the two parties are not very different on foreign policy, there are significant differences that should be of concern to progressives and the left regarding the domestic front. Allowing another four years of the rightwing consolidation of power in the judiciary and the executive branches of the US government could take us to an untenable and repressive situation. So I believe that a strategic historical compromise, a "united front" if you will, with the Democrats is preferable, although I don’t have naïve expectations that this will lead to qualitative change in our society, which is what we so desperately need. Still, a dramatic repudiation of Bush’s policies would be a step in the right direction and would redeem America internationally.

In my view, it is strategically in the left’s interests that the Democrats take the White House and both Houses of Congress. I agree with Tom Hayden that the progressive constituencies (unions, youth, women, environmentalists, civil libertarians) behind the Obama campaign cannot be ignored, and that they could very well become the basis of a wider social movement, which is what happened in the 1960’s when Democratic administrations expanded the war in Vietnam. Also, I think Obama would create a more open and discursive climate in America, a better climate for organizing opposition, even if his administration is ultimately the target of the antiwar protests. The country certainly needs a wiser and more cautious leadership. And that is not McCain.

There is much discontent and instability throughout the world. The latest crisis in Georgia while everyone was focused on the Olympic Games in China is an example of how fast tensions can escalate and how dangerous and precarious our security really is. The US has been acting like an imperial Godfather throughout the former Soviet Union and has been increasingly active in the region both politically and militarily. It is placing 96 short range Patriot missiles in Poland and this has generated legitimate Russian fears of a US first strike. It provided military training with Israel to the Georgians, and engaged in joint military exercises with Georgia's military forces this July just prior to the invasion. It has also been very involved in the whole oil pipeline project which runs through Georgia to its Black Sea port of Batumi, conveniently avoiding Russia and Iran. The US taunts and prods the Russian bear, pokes it out of its lethargy, and then wonders why it growls!

With the Iranian crisis unresolved and simmering, with two protracted counterinsurgency wars going on in Afghanistan and Iraq, with the entire Israeli/Palestinian conflict simmering and threatening to explode, with Russia and America brandishing their nuclear arsenals at each other, with both Presidential candidates threatening to expand the "war on terror, it appears Americans are facing a time of endless conflict and multiple wars. My fear is that the US cannot pull back from its proclaimed “manifest destiny” of bringing freedom and an unregulated capitalist economy to the entire world, that it is so addicted to its control of oil and it’s self-proclaimed role as the CEO of the Western imperial system, that it's political leadership will inadvertently risk complete nuclear destruction rather than change.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

HIROSHIMA: Remembering The Bomb

I was almost a year old when the US dropped the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Since then I have read and watched numerous accounts of that historic event. It is difficult for me to explain my lingering concern about these events throughout my life. Yet, in the late 1980s I worked with Greenpeace Action in San Diego for a few years, and this rekindled my passion for nuclear issues.

To this day I am worried about nuclear proliferation and the fact that we still have 26,000 nuclear weapons in the world and the delivery systems to send them into the world’s major cities. And I do not see an honest “anti nuclear proliferation” position from my own government. What happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki still worries me.

During the peak of the rush hour on the morning of August 6, 1945, a nuclear bomb exploded 600 meters above the Shima Hospital in Central Hiroshima. A huge fireball expanded with a temperature of about 300,000 degrees, and a blast wave soon incinerated all it came in contact with. It is estimated that 100,000 people died instantly,and that 95,000 of them were civilians. Another 100,000 civilians died an excruciatingly slow death from radiation poisoning.

Truman justified the horrible deed of dropping the nuclear bombs by claiming that it saved a million American lives, the number he said it would take to invade and occupy the main Japanese island. This is an arbitrary number that Truman estimated from somewhere deep in his brain. Yet some scholars disagree that such an invasion would be necessary.

In his excellent scholarly study entitled The Decision To Use The Bomb and The Construction of an American Myth, Gar Alperovitz presents evidence that Japan had already communicated an offer of surrender to the US, and that the only Japanese condition was that they be allowed to retain Emperor Hirohito and his office. The US would not talk and demanded an “unconditional surrender." Alperopvitz quotes several high ranking US military men who felt the use of the bomb was unnecessary and immoral.

By late July and early August 1945, the allied bombing campaign had left Japan in ruins. There was no Air Force to defend their cities from the American bombers that would obliterate Hiroshima and Nagasaki with nuclear firebombs. The American bombers floated calmly over the cities and dropped their payload, then calmly flew away without a scratch. There was no effective resistance from the air.

Most of Japan’s major cities had already been destroyed through the allies horrifying “firebombing” campaigns. A hundred thousand died horrendous deaths in the firebombing of Tokyo alone.

By July, the destruction of Japan's six largest cities pressured Japanese diplomats to seek American allies to discuss terms of peace. No response was forthcoming. Hirohito even sent a telegraph message to Truman asking for peace. But it was too late. On July 26, 1945, the POTSDAM DECLARATION threatened Japan with complete destruction if it did not accept the American and British ultimatum of unconditional surrender. The US never warned Japan that it had the atom bomb.

Germany had already surrendered on May 8, 1945, so the Nazi war machine had already been neutralized. Eisenhower and other generals protested the decision stating that dropping the nuclear weapon was “unnecessary” and that Japan had already offered to surrender. This took courage.

In July of 1946, the US STRATEGIC BOMBING SURVEY offered the government’s official report on the Air War Against Japan. It reads:

Japan would have surrendered even if atom bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.

The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs did not defeat Japan, nor by the testimony of the leaders who ended the war did they persuade Japan to accept unconditional surrender.

However, a constant rewriting of history by nationalist and “patriotic” historians since then has continually buried this report and replaced it with the current myth that it was absolutely necessary, a myth which is repeated on the locale news and in local newspapers every August 6th.

For years I have questioned the mythology that says we had to drop nukes on Japan. I guess you could say I have never accepted it. Still don’t.

We should have negotiated a surrender for Japan. We had a choice - dropping the atom bomb was as unnecessary as invading Iraq. But rationality did not prevail. Why can't we admit it?

Such a decision would have still ended the war and most likely saved hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilian lives and perhaps, a good deal of American dignity and honor as well.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

America in 2008: Unequal and Less Free

It is impolite and bad manners to talk about “class” or “class politics” in American society. It is almost forbidden to mention the homeless. These topics do not make friends and influence people. Yet, the evidence shows that over the last 30 years, the rich have been getting richer, and the poor have become relatively poorer. To paraphrase Bill Moyers succinct explanation on one of his recent programs: “Capital has enhanced its power over working Americans.”

So let me be impolite and put forward the following proposition – privileged and affluent Americans of the dominant class have been doing rather well for themselves over the last three decades. As a self-interested class, they have deliberately built structures and pursued neoliberal (market fundamentalism) globalization policies and structural “reforms” (privatization of public services) that have produced a worsening mal-distribution of wealth and power in American society and throughout the globe. These growing mal-distributions of wealth invariably cause social instability, conflict, and lead to increased violence and human strife.

What’s worse, it is increasingly obvious that these policies intentionally excluded large portions of humanity from a life of material comfort and dignity. Instead they imposed a large measure of injustice, senseless degradation, oppression, and unnecessary material suffering on untold numbers of human beings. Naomi Klein has documented the deliberate nature of these neo-liberal policies and much of the human suffering they have engendered in her excellent book THE SHOCK DOCTRINE: THE RISE OF DISASTER CAPITALISM.

While Americans get prepared to go to the polls and vote for the next President, many may not be aware that they live in an increasingly unequal society. There is little discussion of this in the newspapers or on network news. Yet, the reality is undeniable. Over the last thirty years, economic inequality has grown dramatically in the United States. Not surprisingly, so has the size of its prison population.

A new study, entitled The Measure of America, ( provides data demonstrating the worsening social inequality of the United States. Oxfam charity and several foundations commissioned the study. Published by Columbia University Press, the report documents the declining performance of American society relative to other advanced industrialized countries, and stresses the mounting social inequality within the US.

Here are a few social indicators gleaned from the report.

(1)There has been concentration of wealth at the top – with the top 1 percent of U.S. households now possessing a full third of America’s wealth. Along side of this tremendous concentration and accumulation of wealth, the US has the distinction of being number one among the world’s twenty-five richest countries in the percentage of children living in poverty. Nearly one in five American children lives in poverty, with more than one in thirteen living in extreme poverty.

(2)The U.S. ranks number 24 among the 30 most affluent countries in life expectancy - yet spends more on health care than any other nation. Worse, the U.S. ranks forty-second in “global life expectancy.”

(3) The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s people - but 24 percent of the world’s prisoners. Currently, 2.1 million people are in prison in America, and around 3,400 are on death row. How can this be in the land of the free? Are our social relations producing that many more criminals than other societies, or are we imprisoning too many people unnecessarily? Are we enacting policies such as the three strikes initiative and stiffer sentencing guidelines that keep more people behind bars for longer periods of time?

(4) In spite of our massive multi-leveled educational system, fourteen (14%) percent of the population - some 30 million Americans - lacks the literacy skills to perform simple, everyday tasks like understanding newspaper articles and instruction manuals.

(5) In 98 countries, new mothers are granted 14 or more weeks of paid maternity leave. Yet, the U.S. has no federally mandated paid maternity leave.

In his recent (2007) book entitled CATEGORICALLY UNEQUAL (Russell Sage Foundation), sociologist Douglas Massey notes that the gains of the New Deal and Fair Deals have essentially been wiped out since the 1970s. Noting that “the United States is vastly more unequal than it was thirty years ago,” Massey offers the following statistics to demonstrate his point:
“Whereas the share of income earned by the top ten percent grew by 31% between 1973 and 2000, the share going the top 5% rose by 45 %, and the share going to the top 1% nearly doubled.”

Massey argues that race-based, class based, and gender based structural mechanisms of stratification are still very active and have combined to make the US “the most unequal society in the developed world.”

Under the rubric of neoliberal globalization, Massey argues that both of the dominant political parties have been complicit in enacting policies that have increased social inequality and disenfranchised larger and larger numbers of Americans. Some of these policies such as regressive tax cuts for the rich, reduced social welfare spending, deregulation of private industry, privatization of public functions, have combined with an increase in arbitrary and corrupt practices among American corporations. Enron was just the tip of the iceberg.

Big Brother Has Grown Stronger, Americans Less Free

Not only are more Americans spending their time behind bars, but as a whole Americans now have less freedom of speech and action than they have traditionally been accustomed to.
The overall trend since 9/11 is clear - Big Brother is growing and individual privacy is diminishing. There has been a concerted political assault on our civil liberties that reaches well beyond protecting us from terrorists. The documented surveillance of Quakers and peace activists in the name of the “war on terror” is just one example of such overreach.

Big Brother can now listen in on your phone conversations with no accountability. He can and does torture people in your name. The laws governing wiretapping and surveillance have been loosened, and the new FISA bill gave Big Brother too much latitude while at the same time protecting the telecoms from invasion of privacy lawsuits. The attitude of Congress : “we just have to place our trust in Big Brother!”

Be aware! Big Brother can more easily access your financial and phone records and your email. In THE END OF AMERICA, Naomi Wolf argues that Americans tend to take their civil liberties and freedoms for granted, expecting that they will always remain viable. She cries out eloquently that “the nation’s freedoms are being dismantled,” and shows us how the safeguards against abuse are disappearing. Tom Paine must be turning over in his grave. And polls show that most (80 %) of Americans are uneasy with the way things are going. They should be. Now we’ll see if they can get away from their television sets and do something about it. The sleep is deep.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Botox Nation: Applying The Cosmetic Fix

by Richard Nadeau

While Botox is derived from a bacteria that carries a low risk of botulism, many Americans spend millions every year injecting it to reduce wrinkles around the eyes with the hope that it will make them look younger and hide their years. In fact, the cosmetic fix permeates every nook and cranny of American society and is propped up by a multi-million dollar industry. Tummy tucks, facelifts, breast implants, liposuction, hair implants, and penis enlargements are readily available to change our appearance and make us feel better about ourselves.

We are indeed a Botox Nation, and every day we celebrate the big lie and the big fix. The cosmetic fix is applied everywhere –to our politics, our wars, our environment, our news. We are incapable of seeing who we are, what we do.

We cannot see our own violence and its impact on the rest of the world. We are a nation that needs to lie about our war in Iraq. The war is now in the process of being “Botoxed” –the wrinkles are being removed and a smooth brow now shows. The environmental crisis has also been Botoxed - all we need to do is drill for more oil; buy up Iraqi oil contracts, and we can drive our big trucks and SUVs as carelessly as before. In politics, it is the same –Presidential candidates are symbolically Botoxed and polished to remove obvious wrinkles and contradictions. Reality must not be allowed to intrude. Let’s face it, the Bush Presidency has been a Botox Presidency par excellence –everything we were told and sold actually served to hide reality from our eyes.

And what do the wrinkles represent? On an individual level they represent the realities we don’t want to see, the wear and tear of living and aging that eventually leaves us with a furrowed brow. But we can’t face aging so we botox the reality as if we can fool mother nature and postpone the inevitable. People do this for practical reasons(jobs, love), but now we have a whole industry telling them they should, that they must, do this. And why not? After all, every other aspect of reality in America has already gotten the cosmetic fix.

Just take a look at our Botox Congress. They are incapable of impeaching the President because they themselves can’t face reality - that they sent over 4000 American youths and over a million Iraqis to their unnecessary deaths. They prefer the “culture of make believe” which says that there was something honorable in our mission in Iraq, that our boys are fighting to “defend America.” So what does Congress do when the Botox has worn off and the realities of war become visible? They vote over and over again to refund the war, and apply more verbal cosmetics and nostrums to make it look better than it really is! The mass media didn’t want us to hear about the real ongoing violence so they completely blacked out the 2008 Winter Soldier testimonies last March. The picture of the war and its every day brutality that the soldiers testified about would have interrupted the ongoing cosmetic fix, shown the wrinkles, and further weakened support for the war.

The network news is the biggest supplier of symbolic Botox to our make believe world. Most of them, including the so called “liberal” New York Times, lied us into this 6 year Iraq war. They told us it was about WMDs, told us that Iraq had a role in 9-11, told us that Iraq was an immediate threat to the United States, even though the country had been militarily devastated in the First Gulf War. We were told that if we didn’t launch a pre-emptive war and attack first, we would be seeing mushroom clouds outside our bedroom windows. Of course, we were told that our own motives were exemplary. We now know that we actually fought the war to liberate the Iraqi people and sow the seeds of democracy throughout the Middle East. Only in a Botox world could this preposterous lie be given even a smidgeon of credibility.

Few of the media or politicians have really accepted responsibility. They may soon be lying us into another war against Iran, or Venezuela, or some other chosen enemy of the Botox oil hungry empire. Since the Iraq war and occupation, the media have been systematically applying the cosmetic fix to the war – the military slaughter in Falluja, Haditha, the realities of the “surge”, were deliberately hidden from our perceptions. I guess such depictions would have been just too real for us to see.

Remember the attempt by the Bush administration at the beginning of the war to prevent us from seeing pictures of caskets filled with dead Americans? That’s what I mean when I say this war has been “Botoxed.” Its been made to look a lot better than it is.

The war is in reality a crime against humanity, an unnecessary war of aggression, according to the standard set down at Nuremburg. But we cannot be allowed to see or grasp this reality, can we? So Congress keeps on funding the war. And why not? In the Botox nation no one’s responsible because no one has been or will be made accountable! Everything in America finally gets the cosmetic fix!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Obama Disappoints on Jerusalem and the Middle East

by Richard Nadeau

While it should be understood that Obama is a shrewd politician on the make and looking for votes, his recent statements on the Middle East indicate that he will represent less change than expected. While it is clear he is better than McCain on most domestic and foreign policy issues, it is also becoming clear that he is a middle of the road Democrat who will not rock the Imperial Love Boat or significantly change the course of the American Empire toward endless war and militarism.

On the Middle East, Obama leaves much to be desired. He stated that Jerusalem should belong to Israel as its capital, even if this would violate international law and the legitimate claims of the Palestinians as defined by several UN resolutions. In his speech before the Israeli lobby group, APAIC, Obama , stated: “Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided.”

To his credit, Obama later backed down and corrected himself saying that the final status of Jerusalem would have to be negotiated as part of a two state solution, but this provided little reassurance to the Palestinians who have no reason to expect American even handedness regarding their 60 year dispute with the Israeli occupation since 1948.

Jerusalem, a city with a long history of conquest and war, has also been a key source of the current conflict between Israel, the Palestinians, and the Muslim world. Admittedly, Jerusalem has a mythical place in Zionist historical narratives as the ancient capital of David and Solomon’s kingdoms, the place of the Second and Third Temples, and as the location of the Wailing Wall.

For Christians, it is the city of “the Passion” where Jesus preached, was arrested, crucified, and rose from the dead. Christian sacred sites include the Basilica of the Holy Sepulcher, the tomb of the Virgin Mary, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the place of Ascension.

For Muslims it is the place of the Temple Mount where Mohammad is alleged to have ascended to heaven. All three major monotheistic faiths, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity consider Jerusalem a holy city at the center of their faith.

In November of 1947, just prior to the founding of Israel, the UN Partition Plan constituted Jerusalem as a “corpus seperatum,” a special international regime demilitarized and administered by the UN and a neutral governor that was neither Israeli or Palestinian. This was felt necessary to guarantee the interests of the three major religions and access to their holy sites. In 1949, the UN passed UN Resolution 303, making Jerusalem an international city administered by the UN. Israel did everything in its power to prevent implementation of this and subsequent UN resolutions on Jerusalem.

In 1950, the Knesset defiantly declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel, declaring that it had been the capital unofficially since the founding of Israel in1948. Yet, Israel was only in control of the western part of the city. In the 1967 war, however, Israel conquered the entire city, including Arab East Jerusalem. Two weeks after the war ended, Israel infuriated the Arab and Muslim world by extending the law, administration, and jurisdiction of the state of Israel to East Jerusalem, and declared it the reunified “eternal” capital of Israel.

On June 30, 1980, the Knesset adopted a fundamental law claiming the whole of Jerusalem as the undivided capital of the state of Israel. In 1982, the Arab Fez Plan called for “a Palestinian State with Jerusalem as its capital.” Nevertheless, successive Israel governments began demolishing buildings, sacking the Moroccan Quarter, and ethnically cleansing the city as tens of thousands of Arabs were expelled so their land and homes could be given to Jews. By 1994, Jews were finally a majority in Jerusalem. The story of Jerusalem is a microcosm of the story of Israel/Palestine writ large.

The 2003 Geneva Accord

By mid-October, 2003, many prominent Israelis and Palestinians initialed a "virtual" final status peace agreement in Geneva called the "Geneva Accord," The participants worked on it for three years. It is an elaboration of the "Clinton parameters" and the tentative agreement negotiated at Taba in January 2001.

The Geneva Accord is unofficial, but it offers hope to both Israelis and Palestinians that peace is possible as an alternative to the current violent impasse and diplomatic vacuum. It offers a rational plan that draws on wide support from Israelis and Palestinians and addresses such issues as borders, settlements, security, refugees, and Jerusalem.

In December 2003, the Geneva Peace Project stated that Jerusalem should be placed under “joint sovereignty.” Under this scheme, the Jewish quarters will become Israel and the Arab, Muslim, and Christian quarters will become Palestinian. In the old city, the Wailing Wall and the Jewish quarters would be retained by Israel, but the rest, including the Temple Mount, would remain Palestinian.

It is essential that Obama understand that Jerusalem is still contested territory between the Palestinians and Israeli, even while Israel unilaterally incorporates it into the Jewish State and fills it with Jewish settlements. It is unlikely that peace will come to the Middle East as long as Jerusalem is defined as exclusively belonging to Israel. Only a compromise can offer a just solution. Most governments in the world recognize this by placing their diplomatic offices in Tel Aviv.

Jerusalem is one of the remaining key items on the list of outstanding issues yet to be resolved satisfactorily by the parties in Middle East peace negotiations. Obama’s one-sided statement was foolish and clearly a mistake.

Some say it was merely opportunism and that Obama was playing to Jewish voters in the forthcoming Presidential elections. Nothing new there. Nevertheless, it does not augur a “new politics” for the Middle East, only more of the same.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Pro-empire Liberals and Pre-emptive Neo-Cons: The 2008 Presidential Election

By Richard Nadeau

For years it was impossible to even mention the phrase “American Empire” without being labeled a “left wing extremist,” a term that Bill O’Reilly now throws around to smear more cautious pro-empire liberals like Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama who speaks of the need for more diplomacy and a less aggressive and unilateralist foreign policy. In 2008, numerous books are being published with the phrase “American Empire” in their title such as Chalmers Johnson’s THE SORROWS OF EMPIRE.

The concept now has a legitimacy in academic and publishing circles that was inconceivable 20 years ago, so something has changed in the realm of perception. America now has close to 800 military bases around the world and is involved in a permanent “war against terror” and claims unilaterally a right to intervene anywhere in the world for the rest of time. But time may not be so kind. Time has also made possible what seemed impossible thirty years ago –that a black man named Barack Obama could be chosen as the Democratic nominee for the American Presidency. So much for the silly myth about the end of history!

Many excellent writers and intellectuals on the left” who focus on foreign policy issues and international relations like John Pilger, Joshua Holland, Stephen Lendman, the editors of COUNTERPUNCH, writers who I deeply respect and generally agree with, are now arguing forcefully that there is not a bit of difference between Obama and McCain, and that progressives should vote either for Nader or a socialist candidate that has no chance to win. I call this the pure land zero impact option which offers no prospect for change.

While I would agree that either Obama or McCain will inherit a tottering and overextended American Empire which they will be asked to manage, there is a difference in how it will be managed by the two candidates. For example, Obama has promised to withdraw American troops from Iraq in 16 months, while Mc Cain has insisted they will stay there “until victory.” Additionally, Obama has attacked Senator McCain and the Bush Administration for supporting a long-term US military presence in Iraq stating he opposed permanent military bases in Iraq. That at least is one difference that matters to me as an American citizen.

The Historical Context Is Important

It is important to examine how much real power has been consolidated by the far right in American society during the last 40 years, from Nixon’s withdrawal from Vietnam to the 9/11 Presidency of George W. Bush. We need to consider, as Naomi Wolf has in her book THE END OF AMERICA, just how close to fascism we have come, how much of a potentially fascist police , military, and a massive national intelligence infrastructure and homeland national security bureaucracy has already been built under our very noses in the name of the “war on terror,” a Crusading war with contradictory symbolic elements of a spectacular clash between a fundamentalist atavism and a destructive high tech Christianized modernism embodied in the American war machine and its bombing culture.

While every state has the responsibility to protect its citizens, the Bush administration has enacted policies that go way beyond protection and are unnecessarily invasive of American privacy. The Patriot Act, the violations of FISA and the surveillance and spying on peaceful American citizens and opponents of the war, the elimination of habeas corpus, the Bush signing statements, and the general pattern of the subversion of the rule of law are serious and troubling. We need to be cognizant of how the globalization of military intervention and neoliberal militarization of an ecologically unsustainable American society is anathema to the continuation of our democratic institutions and human well being. We Americans need to learn to share this earth with others in a fair and just manner, We need to see and reflect on the aggression and violence of our own government, otherwise we ourselves will continue to be seen by others around the world as we indeed are seen – as "the major threat to world peace.”

The social and historical context of this 2008 election must also be examined in its specificity, particularly with a view to how the election results could affect future Supreme Court decisions, environmental legislation , domestic civil liberties and habeas corpus rights, women’s rights, gay rights, the union’s right to organize, and the overall economic policies effecting the welfare of the American people. Here I believe progressive democrats which support an Obama Presidency trump the pure land leftists who refuse to compromise, preferring airy and clean theoretical conceptualizations disconnected from the specific historical reality of the present.

Overcoming The Vietnam Syndrome: War on the Installment Plan

During the 60s, elements of the left and the peace movement articulated a critique of “American imperialism” that went beyond anything found or discussed in liberal venues. The Vietnam war was correctly perceived as an imperialist war. The notion behind it that the US could monopolize the legitimate use of violence around the globe was imperialist in its very essence. Yet, in the pages of the established press and on the airwaves of network news, the terms “empire” and “American imperialism” were and are still strictly forbidden and an insult to good taste and manners.

It was said daily that our military was in Vietnam as a benefactor, to bring freedom and democracy to people and liberate them from communist tyranny. If America was becoming an aggressive and highly militarized imperial social formation, it remained unknown, unspeakable, and invisible to the vast majority of the American people. Vietnam, the second major war fought by Americans (Korea being the first) in Asia since the end of World War Two, was defined as an aberration and a mistake, another defensive proxy war against the Soviet Union. The pattern was clear. All American interventions on every continent around the globe were to be blessed with the impeccable label of defense. And so it is.

As we know now, the sixties social movements, the civil rights and anti-war movements, the counter-culture youth movement, and the women’s movement, sent shivers down the spines of established power elites in America and forced them to run to their snuff boxes. A preventative counter-revolution with an anti-modernist edge began to emerge with the aim of restoring the organic community of conservative Christian values and realities in America, rebuilding its economic and military strength, and burying “the Vietnam syndrome” - the American people’s reluctance to send military troops into foreign countries where they can get bogged down in a protracted conflict. What occurred subsequently was a gradual testing of the Vietnam syndrome in Panama , Grenada, Lebanon, Iraq, Afghanistan, etc, and on to the historical treadmill of what I call “war on the installment plan.

The Preventative Counter Revolution in the 1970s

After the end of the Vietnam War in 1973, three significant shockwaves hit the American foreign policy establishment in 1979. In February 1979 , an Islamic revolutionary movement gained power in Iran and expelled the dreaded Shah, a once powerful brutal dictator supported by the United States. Then in November of 1979 Iranian militants seized the American embassy in Iran just after the Shah was admitted into the US for medical treatment.

Another shock. In America’s back yard in Central America, a Sandinista inspired revolution expelled the Nicaraguan strongman, Anastasio Somosa. The Sandinista experiment immediately started addressing the needs of the Nicaraguan people through various social programs, but the experiment was soon sabotaged by the “contra war” and US threats of an invasion. Nevertheless, two client states, props of American imperialism in different parts of the world, had been deposed in one year. Loud and shrill lamentations from the right claimed “we lost Nicaragua and Iran” due to the weak leadership of the Carter administration. Finally, in December of 1979, the Soviets invaded Afghanistsan.

In the late 70s, while Jimmy Carter was still in office, his Secretary of State Brezinski developed a program to provide aid via a CIA covert operation to undermine the Soviet puppet state in Kabul, Afghanistan. He came up with a plan to provoke a Soviet invasion of Afghanistan by sending money and CIA aid to Islamic militants fighting the Kabul government. The plan worked and the Soviets launched a massive invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 to counter the efforts of the Islamic fighters and their US supporters. The movie “Charlie Wilson’s War” gets the chronology wrong –the US covert operations and ties with Islamic militants were actually developed before the Soviet invasion. Documentation for this can be found in Peter Dale Scott’s stimulating book THE ROAD TO 9/11: WEALTH, EMPIRE, AND THE FUTURE OF AMERICA.

After the Soviet invasion, the CIA expanded the war in Afghanistan by training , arming (with stinger missiles), and providing greater amounts of money to Islamic fundamentalist warriors. “Blowback” soon followed. Out of these groups emerged two future American enemies that the US would later militarily attack, the Taliban and Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization responsible for planning the 9/11 attacks on America.

The Conservative Counter-Revolution of the 1980s

Some argue that the 1980 election was essentially stolen. There is evidence that the CIA who preferred the presidential candidacy of former CIA Director George H. Bush and worked with agents in the Republican Party to undermine a deal where the hostages would be released to Jimmy Carter before the 1980 Presidential election. The plot offered to release Iranian assets held in Rockefellers Chase Manhattan Bank if the militants would wait until after the elections to release the American hostages. Critics argue that the failure to get the hostage crisis resolved weakened the Carter administration in the American public’s eyes and benefited Reagan, who promised he would be tougher on foreign enemies. Yet before his departure Carter had articulated the “Persian Gulf doctrine” claiming the Persian Gulf was an American lake, and threatening military force if necessary to repel “an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region.”

Internationally, the Reagan Presidency instituted a new wave a state organized terror around the world, but especially in Central America where massacres were organized against social change in El Salvador and Nicaragua. This was the time of Iran/Contra and notorious death squads in El Salvador.

Domestically, America under Reaganism started rebuilding its powerful capitalist machine by attacking liberals, the welfare state, environmental reforms, and privatizing what were formerly public sectors of the American economy. “Privatize everything” became the model of fast “shock” capitalism. We saw the rise of the HMOs and a privatized health care system that left tens of millions of Americans without medical benefits. Administrators in higher education began imposing privatization and corporatization schemes on the universities as well. Union membership in the private sector declined dramatically.

The Reagan revolution had begun. The gap between rich and poor grew both at home and abroad. Under “compassionate conservatism,” homeless people were thrown out into the streets and forced to fend for themselves. Money became scare for education, health and welfare programs as budget cuts became the word of the day.

Yuppification, consumerism, superficiality, and conformist careerism ran rampant through American society. The dumbing down of public discourse dominated network news. The environment was perceived as a large toilet, and concerns raised about global warming were dismissed in spite of the vigorous efforts of the environmental movement at the time of the Exxon Valdez to raise issues of our addiction to foreign oil.

The rise of the Christian right with theocratic tendencies to get involved in politics (with the Republican party), and a proliferation of conservative press and media, began to influence the ideological climate. Network news proved to be a weak counterweight, often selling the imperial cause. Finally, the warfare state and military industrial complex, which the neo-cons and Scoop Jackson democrats argued had been undernourished under the reign of the hated détente liberals like Kissinger, would now be attended to and nurtured in order to win the Cold War against the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union. Once this occurred, America could rule the world via its military supremacy and aggressively spread democracy and freedom everywhere without resistance. America Over All, absolute American military supremacy, became their war cry!

The implosion of the Soviet Union and the dismantling of its system was the major event of the early 90’s. This fed neo-con triumphalism as the US remained the world’s only super-power. Reagan was credited with winning the Cold War. But there would be no peace dividend. The Gulf War against Iraq in 1990 invoking the Carter doctrine, silenced the environmental movement as over 500,000 troops were placed in the Middle East to push Saddam and his armies out of Kuwait. Many suspected that the US would never again completely remove itself military forces from the oil rich region. The conquest of Iraq had begun.

Continued over-flights, devastating sanctions, and numerous accusations alleging Saddam’s attempt to fool inspectors from gaining access to alleged WMDs dominated the political discourse in the late 90s with Clinton essentially continuing the trajectory of the senior Bush’s policies.

Many felt that the Olso agreements of 1993 would begin to bring peace to the Israel and the Palestinians via a two state solution, but that hope soon evaporated. The Clinton bombing of Kosovo following the Monica Lewinsky scandal was called a “humanitarian intervention,” but the Russian Federation suspected the US was trying to extend its influence into former Soviet Republics. A more aggressive and unilateral imperialism was on the agenda as George W. Bush beat out Gore in the 2000 Presidential elections. Gore won the popular vote but was denied the election as the Supreme Court intervened to stop a recount of the disputed Florida vote. Many have speculated that a Gore Presidency would have been more cautious and would not have launched an invasion and occupation of Iraq.

9/11 and the “War on Terror”

We now know that in 1998 before the 2000 elections, the neo-cons sent Clinton a letter suggesting he launch a military invasion of Iraq. Clinton refused the request saying it was “over the top.” Many of the neo-cons who signed the statement – Robert Kagan, Paul Wolfowitz, Dick Cheney, R. James Woolsey, William Kristol, Elliot Abrams, Richard Perle, John Bolton, Donald Rumsfeld, Richard Armitage, were soon comfortably placed in neocon think tanks and the Bush administration when the horrifying 9/11 attack on the twin towers occurred. Revelations in the Downing Street memos, Richard Clark’s book AGAINST ALL ENEMIES, and more recently Scott McLellan ‘s book WHAT HAPPENED provide plenty of evidence to suggest that the Bush administration deliberately manipulated the American people to get support from Congress for the the war on Iraq. Operation “shock and awe” would soon begin.

Manipulating the climate of fear generated by 9/11, George W. Bush “the decider” implemented the plans formulated earlier in the neocon policy document PNAC (PROJECT FOR THE NEW AMERICAN CENTURY) and invaded and occupied two Muslim countries in two years, creating the impression that the US was involved in a Crusade against Islam itself. Bush’s own words supported such a notion. At the beginning of the pre-emptive “shock and awe” war on Iraq, he introduced it as: “This Crusade, this war on terror.” Truer words were never spoken. Bush later said that he had talked to God and got God’s authorization to do what he did.

In the process of waging this crusade, the Bush administration instituted a repressive Gulag consisting of torture, rendition, and the endless terror bombing of civilians (not shown on television) in the two counterinsurgency wars that followed. Currently, the US is threatening to launch military strikes against a third Muslin country in Iran, urged on by the likes of zealots such as Christopher Hitchens, Normon Podhoretz, and the Israelis. The neocons just can’t seem to get enough war to satisfy their atavistic thirst for blood and oil.

Obama: A More Rational “Realpolitick” Imperial Policy?

The current historical conjuncture is fraught with danger for humanity and for the American people. McCain clearly represents a continuation of the disastrous interventionist and adventurous colonialist policies of Bush administration with an eye to victory and the probability of a deeper more dangerous quagmire. Like Bush , McCain seems to be deaf to what was disparaged as the “reality crowd.” Obama represents factions in the American and European ruling class and among the American people desiring a more cautious and rational approach to foreign policy.

While an Obama administration could not be called “anti-imperialist,” it is nevertheless true that an Obama administration would be less likely to attack Iran and would more likely implement a strategic withdrawal from Iraq while providing hope on the domestic front in the area of civil liberties, women’s rights, .and the rights of unions and communities to organize. An Obama administration, in spite of its recent tough campaign rhetoric supporting Israel, would also work harder to find a bridge to the crucial Palestinian and Israeli conflict. Finally, an Obama administration would negotiate an understanding with Hugo Chavez and would be less likely to engage in a unilateral military intervention in Venezuela.

If elected, Obama will be expected to manage and stabilize an empire that’s overextended, running out of control, and facing a legitimacy crisis around the world. Our job as progressives will be to build a social movement that will push for greater progressive change no matter who wins, and to break the cycle of permanent war and empire, the dualistic and diabolical dialectic of atavism and modernism, of threat and fear, of state terror and jihadist terror, and deconstruct the assumptions behind the “war on terror.” It will not be easy. But the promise of a climate of greater openness to dialogue that an Obama Presidency could bring might be a first step in that direction.

In November I will vote for Barack Obama in spite of the eloquent talking heads on the left who tell me “it won’t make a difference.” I am open to the possibility that they are right, but I do hope they are wrong. If Obama wins the Presidency, it will certainly make history and offer a ray of hope to a worried human planet.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Walled Fortress: The Consequences of 9/11

A Walled Fortress: The Consequences of 9/11

(Because People Matter, Editorial - July/August)

By Richard Nadeau

Scott McLellan’s latest book “What Happened?” has revelations on how the Bush administration and a complicit corporate media manipulated the climate of fear in the US to justify the invasion of Iraq. It is undoubtedly true that the neo-cons in the Bush administration treated 9/11 as “a new Pearl Harbor,” as their blessing in disguise.

While some “9/11 Truth” researchers focus on contradictions in “the official story” and possible administrative complicity with the terrorists, others argue that 9/11 was an “inside job” that would facilitate the project of the political right to dismantle long established constitutional protections and build an authoritarian state inside America. Of course, both of these scenarios would involve the worst form of treason.

Yet, even skeptics of this “9/11 truth theory” must admit that this reveals a significant emotional fact – just how little trust many Americans have in their government under the reign of this duplicitous administration that has constantly lied to us. This is supported by an October 2006 New York Times CBS poll which revealed that 53% of the American people were skeptical about the official 9/11 account and 28% rejected it outright. Only 16% believed the official story!.
(NY Times, “Americans Question Bush On 9/11 Intelligence,” October 14, 2006)

In the last BPM, we covered “the three trillion dollar war” and many of the costs of the two counterinsurgency wars and military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. The continuation of these wars has meant more resources for a more thoroughly militarized America. Not surprisingly, the 2008 request of a $515 billion dollar “defense” budget was combined with attacks on Medicare, Social Security, and myriad relief programs for the poor. It also meant less money was available for the development of renewable energy resources.

What does the future promise? A vastly expanded and costly homeland security budget is in the cards. The foolish “neocons” in the Bush administration have articulated and implemented a policy of worldwide US military supremacy, what some call “full spectrum dominance.” To accomplish this they need greater authoritarian social control of the American population at home. Apparently, support from the established media alone are not enough. Of course, China and Russia, who have brokered a military and energy alliance, may ultimately have something to say about this. So may the rest of the world.

Since 9/11, the US significantly expanded the homeland security apparatus and built a large invasive state bureaucracy around it. Even Republicans like Ron Paul are upset about this. This meant increased resources going into surveillance of American citizens and to domestic national security under the banner of protection and safety from terrorists. Immigrants from Mexico remain the most vulnerable targets in this climate of fear. We are building walls to keep them out.

In fact, America is rapidly becoming a walled fortress, a military Leviathan of historic proportions. Militarization of the border and the construction of an immigration wall and border outposts fits with the larger trend. This means greater repression of the so called “terro-immigrants.” Raids, roundups, deportations are already a fact. This whole repressive trend dehumanizes immigrant laborers. We already have a long history of dehumanizing Native Americans and the dispossessed Palestinians.

In spite of all the talk about national security in the “homeland,” the government did a miserable job in coming to the rescue when Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans, threatening the security of hundreds of thousands of Americans. When it counted, the Bush administration floundered in every conceivable way. New Orleans is still in a desperate condition.

While acknowledging these depressing trends, it is important to recognize that there are important counter trends since 9/11 that can still give us hope. People are fighting back. In spite of a lack of media coverage, there are signs that more young Americans are getting involved in the new peace movement. Also, many Americans are involved in sending relief to New Orleans. Citizen groups are fighting corporate encroachment. American border and immigration activists are providing relief and help to stressed out immigrants. These are the post 9/11 heroes we never hear about!

Right now it appears that many of the American people are asking questions and may be more progressive than their government. We can only hope.

Monday, April 28, 2008

The Slavery of Immigrants in Florida

I just finished watching a CNN video (April 28, 2008) on the slave labor conditions of immigrants working in Florida. Investigators say migrant workers enslaved in Florida have every movement controlled, and that they are not allowed to leave the space provided by the employer when they are done working. In other words, they are essentially prisoners of their employers. From the CNN video, it appears the immigrants are often beaten and maltreated as well.

What year is it anyway?? Can it really be 2008 in America? Or are we going backward so fast that we are too dizzy to recognize what is going on?

Section 1 of the 13th Amendment ratified by the 38th Congress on Dec. 6, 1865 states: “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

It appears that the draconian and repressive climate surrounding the issue of immigration in the US has contributed to this intolerable situation. Since the immigrants are illegal, and since we have not humanely fixed the immigration laws in this country, involuntary servitude programs flourish and the new forms of slavery remain hidden from the public eye.

Studies show that forced labor thrives in agricultural and domestic work, as well as in sweatshops or unregulated industries. Laurel Fletcher, a law professor at the University of California at Berkeley International Human Rights Law Clinic was one of several authors of a 2004 report believed to be the first comprehensive study of forced labor in the modern United States. That study, by Free The Slaves and the Human Rights Center of the University of California at Berkeley, concluded that at least 10,000 people are forced laborers at any time across the United States.

The study concluded that forced labor victims came from more than 35 countries, with the most from China, followed by Mexico and Vietnam. It reported forced labor in at least 90 U.S. cities, most often in areas with large immigrant populations. The study concluded that prostitution and sex services accounted for 46 percent of the documented forced labor. Domestic service made up 27 percent, agriculture 10 percent, sweatshop factory work 5 percent and restaurant and hotel work 4 percent.

Just recently I saw another program on the booming and profitable sex slave business in the US where upon arrival the women are sold to pimps, drugged, terrorized, caged in brothels and raped repeatedly. Like immigrant workers, many of these women and young girls were looking for a better life, a chance to earn a living and support a family.

The Florida case reported above should create a call for reform. The Constitution should be enforced, and those caught employing immigrant or other workers under conditions that fit the description of slavery ought to be arrested and tried, and the workers themselves released and compensated.

Furthermore, we need an approach to immigrants that is genuinely compassionate and treats these people as workers trying to feed their hungry families rather than as criminals. We need a new approach that reverses the repressive police state trend of criminalization which provides the perfect shadowy climate for illegal slavery.

Our own CIA estimates 14,500 to 17,500 victims of slavery are trafficked into the United States every year. Slavery is profitable, and experts estimate trafficking in the US yields $9 billion dollars in profit every year.

Didn’t we fight a Civil War to end all slavery? Looks like the abolitionists lost. Nat Turner and William Lloyd Garrison must be turning in their graves.

Compassion: the First Casualty of War

It has often been said that “truth is the first casualty of war.” But there is another immediate casualty –compassion. In fact, compassion may even be the first casualty. Once the war machine has geared up, the propaganda disseminated, hatred of an enemy proclaimed, a culture of malice becomes a necessary ingredient. The enemy must be portrayed as a monster of inhumanity, as an Other with no legitimate grievances, as a dark irrational object that must be destroyed.
Hatred cannot ask the following questions. Why are they the way they are? What social conditions and circumstances are they responding to? Have we done anything that would explain their negative or hostile behavior toward us? These types of questions are forbidden once malice has taken over and compassion has been thrown out the window. Necessarily, truth goes out with it. I got a first-hand lesson in the spring of 2003 during a visit to New England.

Friends I grew up with and went to high school with were enthused about the war against Iraq. Knowing I was against the war, they taunted and provoked me. When I asked them if they cared that innocent civilians were being killed, one of them laughed and mocked me, asking “who cares about a bunch of “ragheads?”The truth was irrelevant - we had to kill the Arab ragheads.

Hatred of the “ragheads” seemed more important to him than the truth of whether Iraq actually posed a threat to America or had WMDs, or had anything to do with 9/11. All Iraqis were racially characterized and all had to pay collectively for the crimes of Saddam Hussein even if such collective punishment is in violation of the Geneva Accords. So far, because greed for oil and malice has indeed triumphed, hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis have been killed and millions turned into refugees. Over four thousand Americans have also been killed, and the economic impact on American society has been devastating. And the war goes on and on.

Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, who voted to authorize the war on Iraq, recently sounded another war cry on the morning of the Pennsylvania primary when she bragged to the world that she would nuke Iran if it attacked Israel. This statement of an acceptable genocide was treated with reverence by the media, even though it is far worse than anything ever uttered by the controversial Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Hillary Clinton was clearly pandering to the paranoia of pro-Israeli voters in the American 2008 elections.

But what she said was objectively horrible - that she was willing to nuke over 70 million Iranians to protect Israel, even if most of them had no impact or say on Iranian policy. Ironically, it came in the context of numerous US and Israeli threats to launch a pre-emptive militarily attack on Iran should it try to obtain nuclear weapons. This is surely a road to madness.

Israel, which has a significant modern nuclear arsenal and superior conventional weapons systems and air power, obviously wants to maintain its nuclear monopoly and has opposed Iranian proposals for a “nuclear free Middle East.” Iran knows it would be suicidal to attack Israel and has not attacked another country in the modern period, although it did defend itself when it was attacked by Iraq in the 1980s.

Yet these facts are irrelevant to Hillary Clinton. Her malice is obviously what triumphed. Once she demonized the Iranian “Other,” no level of violence could be ruled out. Under no circumstances could I vote for the mad bomber Hillary Clinton as President. She is obviously too desperately hungry for power and will say anything to get elected.

The philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer argued that compassion was the highest human virtue, and humanity’s greatest mystery. Compassion, Schopenhauer wrote, is “the sole source of disinterested actions and hence the true basis of morality.” Compassion overrides odious and arrogant self-assertion and fosters self reflection –what would I do, how would I behave if I was in their shoes? Is the Other’s behavior understandable given the circumstances? Should I intervene to help them, to alleviate their suffering? Should I protest those responsible for the unnecessary suffering? So speaks compassion. It is the opposite of malice which is based upon the desire to do harm to others.

Compassion is a form of wisdom that requires us to look outside the narrow shell of our self, our gender, our group, our tribe, our religion, our ethnicity, our race, our nation state, our civilization. It is a form of wisdom that tries to understand and alleviate the sufferings of others who are different. It is an antidote to boundless egotism, anger, and hatred. It involves a different type of enlightenment than the cold western enlightenment based on science, rationality, knowledge, and technology. Compassion is different from pity, since the latter is condescending and further diminishes the suffering victim.

I see very little genuine compassion for others expressed in America’s ruling strata or in the mass media. They are blinded by their craving for power, money, and oil. For many in the third world, America is “the land of no Buddha” in as much as it deliberately pursues policies that starve and harm others. Under American supported neoliberal economic policies, the gap between the rich and poor is growing as is hunger and poverty at home and abroad. We are creating, as author Mike Davis argues. A PLANET OF SLUMS where the oppressed and impoverished live in misery in the shadow lands of the American empire. This is why President Chavez of Venezuela is viewed as such a threat by American elites– he is practicing a politics of compassion by redistributing some of Venezuela’s oil wealth to help the poor.

We see little commentary in our mass media of the innocent Iraqis that have lost their houses or their lives as a result of the American Crusade and occupation. Many Americans just refuse to examine the violence or suffering brought about by the policies of their own government. This was true in the Vietnam era when it was rare to hear any concern expressed for the millions of Vietnamese who were being bombed and pummeled by American B-52’s. I saw more compassion expressed for animals then I did for the burned human victims of napalm. Animals certainly deserve compassion, but so do humans even if our greatest danger comes from other humans.

While it may be true that most human beings in most societies are a mixture of egoism, malice and compassion, I have met many dedicated people in the peace movement and other oppositional social movements in America that display genuine compassion that goes beyond caring for one’s own little corner of the social world. They are people who are trying to change society for the better, who are protesting the bombings, the torture, the occupations, the rendition programs, and opposing the general drift of American society towards authoritarian rule, militarism and war. And they often do it while making sacrifices in their personal lives. They represent a hope for humanity, a compassionate and peaceful humanity that is still waiting to be born.

Aggressive war, as we see in Iraq, is the antithesis of compassion and truth –it requires lies, acts of revenge and hatred to continue. It is a true crime against humanity. Certainly, it is important to analyze the structural, political, ideological, and sociological tendencies that gave rise to it. Yet without compassion for the suffering of others, especially those others who are different from us, it is unlikely that anyone will ever raise a finger or take a risk to stop it.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

What Ever Happened to The Notion of A Public Good?
by Richard Nadeau

Recently, a long term public employee about to retire from the government told me: “I know from working on the inside that the effectiveness of Government is at its lowest level in my 30 years of service.” An American individualist who went into government in the name of “public service,” my acquaintance told me how depressing it was to watch the dismantling of the “public service” side of government during his career. In many ways, he is an old fashioned American - out of place precisely because he believed in working hard for “the public good.”

For years I worked for a faculty union in higher education as an “arbitration specialist.” It was my job to defend “academic and faculty rights” as they were defined in both the collectively bargained faculty contract and the University policy documents. Many of the difficult cases I worked on such as denial of retention, tenure or promotion, disciplinary actions, and allegations of age, racial, and gender discrimination, involved a complex hierarchical social setting with articulate and highly educated intellectual workers who were also employees.

Although the job was stressful I always felt that the faculty union was providing a public good by bargaining and enforcing a contract, defending faculty rights, and protecting academic freedoms. Giving people a “due process,” a right to be heard before a neutral arbitrator, was considered a public good. Today, this essential right of “due process,” the right to face and challenge your accusers and to be protected against arbitrary punishment, is under attack everywhere from Abu Graib to Guantanamo.

This notion of serving the “public good” has been under attack by a predatory corporatist and capitalist ideology called “neo-liberalism” for over two decades. The Republican Party, and its voice in the media, FOX NEWS, has been the chief sponsor of this frontal neo-liberal attack, although many Clinton Democrats have capitulated to it as well. “Neo-liberalism” is essentially a market fundamentalism that argues for the privatization of everything in order to reduce taxes for the rich and increase profits. In other words, less public revenues for the elderly and the poor, for public health ,education, and welfare, and more money for the deep silk pockets of the corporate millionaires.

The trend of reducing taxes along with public funds for health, education and welfare, has been central to the so called “Reagan revolution” since 1980. The Two Bush administrations have furthered the cause of this narcissistic neo-liberal empire, practicing what Naomi Klein in her book THE SHOCK DOCTRINE, calls economic shock therapy via "disaster capitalism.".

The defense budget also continued to grow alongside a gigantic private army (BLACKWATER), because the neo-liberal empire apparently needs endless war and “full spectrum” military dominance to maintain control of the world’s markets and natural resources. For many around the world, America is perceived as a tyranny that rules through fear and threats and punishes violently anyone who dares to be insubordinate to its “global interests.” Iraq is a showcase, an example of what happens to those who fail to comprehend that “what we say goes.”

The neoliberal shock troops want to privatize everything - our democracy, our culture, our health care, our educational institutions, our military, our work environments, and our food. And everything is in ruins! The entire American infrastructure is deteriorating, worn out, riddled with problems, and dysfunctional. Katrina showed us just how dysfunctional it has become. We can’t rescue a city in distress; we can’t even seem run a clean election anymore.

In the words of Ralph Nader: “Disintegration is everywhere. Public works are crumbling-schools, clinics, public transit, libraries, drinking water and sewage-treatment plants. Tax dollars are being used to destroy more of Iraq and to subsidize or bail out companies recklessly run by obscenely overpaid CEOs. Public deficits are soaring.”

Meanwhile, as everything deteriorates at home, corporate CEOs remain unaccountable and continue to rake in record amounts of money. Do we have to experience more ENRONs to make corporate America accountable?

America needs a new enlightenment where science, reason, the promotion of public service, the monitoring and regulation of corporate malfeasance, and a secular tolerance is a matter of public policy. We need a “truth movement “that is based on an American citizen’s right to know and receive accurate information. We need a politics where vacuousness is not treated as a virtue and intelligence a threat.

This would mean reforming our shameless corporate media that sold us the false bill of goods on the Iraq war, that continues to this day to be a mouthpiece for the Pentagonians and the Bush administration, and that continues to be a source of obfuscation, misinformation and disinformation instead of enlightenment. The complete “black out” of the antiwar efforts of the peace movement and the WINTER SOLDIER testimonies this mid-march only shows us how far we still have to go.

A new enlightenment would also entail creating a real democratic Congress that would hold the President accountable for failing to uphold the Constitution and Bill of Rights. We need a Congress that would have the courage and strength to impeach a President for waging a war of aggression, what the Nuremburg trials labeled a “crime against humanity.”

A new enlightenment should also have an eastern dimension of compassion and ecology focusing on our understanding of our connectedness and interdependence in a conditioned world. We have to find a way to live in this world together.

We also need to elect a Congress that would protect our civil liberties and our right to investigate facts and speak openly and critically. We need a Congress that would protect citizens from the kind of autocratic arrogance we have seen in Bush and Cheney.

So far we do not have such a Congress and the public opinion polls reflect it. To get such a Congress we would also have to have what Jim Hightower and COMMON CAUSE have called “clean elections” where all candidates receive no strings attached public funds to run their political campaigns. This would loosen the stranglehold that corporate money has had over the electoral process.

Currently, we live in a world run for profit by Washington, Halliburton, Exxon, Wal-Mart, Network News, and the Pentagonians. They are poisoning our world and our minds. They are destroying our hope. It is time to change, to reassert the notion of public good, and to take back our American society so that the politicians and private businesses work for us in a sustainable economy and a real democracy precisely “because people matter.”

Friday, April 4, 2008

A Pervasive Militarism Threatens American Democracy

It is a beautiful day in Sacramento. The freedom of wild wings, the flight of birds, bees, and butterflies blends with many colorful budding flowers to lift my spirits. It is difficult for me to believe that the world we live in is so fraught with violence and disaster. If it weren’t for my network of friends, my family, my wife, and my cats, it would be easy to lose my sanity and give up all hope for the fate of the planet and the foolish human species that seems determined to destroy it.

The news was dismal once again this morning. Associated Press reports that more troops will be sent to Afghanistan as part of an expanding counter-insurgency war effort there. Currently, we have 158, 000 American troops and over 100,000 American private contractors in Iraq. Another 30,000 soldiers are fighting in Afghanistan. The plan is to send thousands more to Afghanistan over the next year.

At the center of the violent whirlpool of the Middle East, the Israeli/Palestinian peace talks continue to flounder in the face of new Israeli settlement construction on the West Bank. Tensions mount in Lebanon threatening a new civil war, while Syria and Jordan struggle to accommodate the stream of millions of displaced Iraqi refugees fleeing into their countries. American supplied intelligence has helped Turkey bomb Kurdish sites in northern Iraq.

A greater violence threatens to erupt throughout the Middle East. Israel, for example, is talking about another military campaign against Hamas and Hezbollah. It is also threatening to attack Iran before it gets WMDs. Overall, it’s safe to say that the American Crusade in the region, with its state organized “terror from the skies,” the terrorist violence against Iraqi and Afghan civilians that comes from cluster bombs, B-52’s, and tomahawk cruise missiles, has destabilized the entire region and only beckons more “non-state” terrorist violence in response. Al Qaeda’s recruitment of new terrorists is up. Sadly, I see no end to this horrid cycle of violence in my lifetime.

The Bush administration has tried to sell the idea that “the surge” has been successful in Iraq, while Republican Presidential nominee John McCain talks about “victory” in Iraq and Afghanistan, even if it takes a hundred years. But there are signs that the whole devastated country of Iraq is likely to explode in violence independent of whether or not we leave. We should leave and try to get the international community to help forge a political settlement, but that is not in the cards. Our military occupation is unlikely to bring the peace.

The administration also continues its hostile rhetoric against both Venezuela and Iran, claiming the first is “a terrorist state,” and the second, already a designated member of the “axis of evil,” is building WMDs. While much of this may be rhetoric designed to alter behavior, there is not much evidence that either George W. Bush or pseudo maverick John McCain have learned anything from Iraq. With Israel pushing us for aggressive action, it is unlikely that either of the two Democratic Presidential contenders will be able to bring peace to the region. Once again progressives will be asked to vote for “the better of two evils.”

A Deeply Embedded Militarism

Like so many others, I see a pervasive and deeply embedded militarism in American life. Several recent scholarly works have reinforced that ominous perception.

Nick Turse’s book THE MATRIX: HOW THE MILITARY INVADES OUR DAILY LIVES, shows how the “unwarranted influence of the military/industrial complex” that Eisenhower warned against has expanded dramatically in American society sending its tentacles into every sector of the economy –the mainstream media, the university, the scientific community, the intelligence network, the entertainment industry, STARBUCK’s, the two dominant political parties, and the corporations, particularly the oil industry. The Department of Defense has gone from 22 thousand prime contractors in 1970 to 47 thousand in 2008. Many of these are big name retailers. Turse’s book follows a character named “Rick” through his daily life showing how dependent we all are on THE COMPLEX. Rick is against the war, but consumes numerous products that directly benefit the military/corporate complex. The pervasiveness of the military in /American life is amply demonstrated.

The “homeland security state” is also spying on Americans without warrant, detaining and torturing people without due process, and waging a continuous pre-emptive war against “terrorism” that has no clear objective, no boundaries, and no end. Naomi Wolf’s recent book, entitled THE END OF AMERICA: LETTER OF WARNING TO A YOUNG PATRIOT, has warned that we are moving to a new kind of fascism as our nation’s freedoms and civil liberties are being systematically dismantled and dissident speech criminalized. Wolf argues that America has already taken several steps toward fascism such as expanded surveillance, the development of paramilitary forces, the infiltration of citizens groups, the practice of Rendition and establishment of secret CIA “ghost prisons,” the arbitrary detention of citizens, increased press censorship, the open embrace of torture, and the targeting of key individuals to silence and make an example of.etc, etc. Wolf argues convincingly that we need a movement to save our democracy before it is too late.

In fact, much of this attack on our freedoms had been done in the name of the “war against terror” which in reality has been a “war of terror” as many civilians have died as a result of America’s attempt to bomb its way to an elusive victory against an ill defined foe that is found nowhere and everywhere. The ideology of endless war and of the need for increased national security has been woven into the very the fabric of American life in spite of the fact that polls show most Americans opposed to the war. Jeffery St. Clair, in his book GRAND THEFT PENTAGON, demonstrates the corruption and profiteering that accompanied the war on terror, how the manipulation of fear since the horror of 9/11 has been an essential ingredient of enhanced executive power and aggressive pre-emptive militarism. ST Clair shows how the Bush administration hired a team of marketing and PR executives to sell the war on terror to a compliant media and a panic stricken American public while at the same time refusing an offer by the Taliban to turn over Osama Bin Laden. Bush and his neo-con advisors wanted total war irrespective of the facts.

Andrew Bacevich’s THE NEW AMERCAN MILITARISM, argues that excessive militarism and a powerful defense establishment has become so deeply embedded in American society that elections will have no effect on it. Bacevich, a Vietnam Veteran, argues: “American militarism cannot be laid at the feet of a particular president or a particular set of advisors.” He adds that “no particular presidential election holds the promise of radically changing it.” Finally, Bacevich quotes James Madison who wrote in 1795: “No nation could preserve its freedom in the midsts of continual warfare.”

This notion that American militarism is a threat to America’s Democratic Republic is one of the key themes in Chalmers Johnson’s book THE SORROWS OF EMPIRE: MILITARISM, SECRECY, AND THE END OF THE REPUBLIC. Johnson notes that we have over 700 American military bases around the world which allow for the projection of American military violence into every continent. He argues that both wars in Afghanistan and Iraq are imperialist wars, and that America has become “a massive military power athwart an angry resistant globe.” Johnson sees imperialism and militarism as anathema to democracy. While he still has hope that our civil society is strong enough to reverse the trends, he concludes that at this late date “it is difficult to imagine how Congress, much like the Roman Senate in the last days of the Republic, could be cleansed of its endemic corruption.”

While most Americans say they oppose the war, they don’t want to talk about it or lift a finger to end it. A “post-modern” lethargy and apathy is fed by the mainstream media which has created a literal blackout of antiwar news such as the recent testimony of American atrocities committed in Afghanistan and Iraq by the 2008 “WINTER SOLDIERS.” This apathy and sense of hopelessness is a poisonous acid eating away at the American social body. Meanwhile, Congress continues to fund the wars and write the Pentagonians a blank check to the tune of over five hundred billion a year as America prepares for new overt and covert wars (eg: Iran, Venezuela ?) and modernizes its nuclear arsenal in an effort to maintain its tottering empire.

Meanwhile, as the war drags on endlessly, the American economy is on the brink of bankruptcy with a financial and housing crisis causing serious hardship for thousands of Americans. Thousands have lost their homes and a majority of economists argue that we have already entered a recession. Some economists link the tailspin in the economy directly to the war, with cost estimates running as high as three to five trillion dollars before it’s all over. The war has boosted oil prices from 25 dollars a barrel to 110 dollars a barrel, and this has generated a wave of inflation throughout the American economy as higher gas and transportation costs are translated into higher costs for American consumers at the grocery store. Now the politicians are saying we don’t have enough money to maintain Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as they vote for increased military spending each year.

All of this is, frankly, rather depressing. It augurs a dismal and dark future for the American people. Our only hope is that a new social movement for real change will arise to take up the challenge of deconstructing the corporate “complex” and ending its militarism. Although the prospect of such a wide scale social movement developing soon seems bleak, I continue to hope. We have to save America from the dark authoritarian forces that are threatening to engulf it.

Meanwhile, when we can, we must take time to love and smell the flowers and not allow the Pentagonians and their empire to destroy our humanity. We have to risk standing up for our civil liberties and our right to dissent before it is too late, before there is nothing worthwhile to defend.