Archive for the ‘U.S.A.’ Category

The Waste of War

July 22, 2014
JEFFREY D. SACHS
Published: Tuesday 22 July 2014
Rather than solving a single underlying problem, the chaos is growing, threatening an ever-widening war. Is this the result of too many governments shooting first, and thinking after?

 
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Karl Marx famously wrote that history repeats itself, “the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” Yet when we look around nowadays, we can’t help but wonder whether tragedy will be followed by yet more tragedy. Here we are, at the centenary of the outbreak of World War I, and we find ourselves surrounded by cascading violence, duplicity, and cynicism of the very sort that brought the world to disaster in 1914. And the world regions involved then are involved again.

WWI began with a mindset, one based on the belief that military means could resolve pressing social and political issues in Central Europe. A century earlier, the German military theorist Carl von Clausewitz had written that war is “a continuation of political intercourse carried on with other means.” Enough politicians in 1914 agreed.

Yet WWI proved Clausewitz tragically wrong for modern times. War in the industrial age is tragedy, disaster, and devastation; it solves no political problems. War is a continuation not of politics, but of political failure.

Follow Project Syndicate on Facebook or Twitter. For more from Jeffrey D. Sachs, click here.

WWI ended four imperial regimes: the Prussian (Hohenzollern) dynasty, the Russian (Romanov) dynasty, the Turkish (Ottoman) dynasty, and the Austro-Hungarian (Habsburg) dynasty. The war not only caused millions of deaths; it also left a legacy of revolution, state bankruptcy, protectionism, and financial collapse that set the stage for Hitler’s rise, World War II, and the Cold War.

We are still reeling today. Territory that was once within the multi-ethnic, multi-state, multi-religious Ottoman Empire is again engulfed in conflict and war, stretching from Libya to Palestine-Israel, Syria, and Iraq. The Balkan region remains sullen and politically divided, with Bosnia and Herzegovina unable to institute an effective central government and Serbia deeply jolted by the 1999 NATO bombing and the contentious independence of Kosovo in 2008, over its bitter opposition.The former Russian Empire is in growing turmoil as well, a kind of delayed reaction to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, with Russia attacking Ukraine and violence continuing to erupt in Georgia, Moldova, and elsewhere. In East Asia, tensions between China and Japan – echoes of the last century – are a growing danger.

As was the case a century ago, vain and ignorant leaders are pushing into battle without clear purpose or realistic prospects for resolution of the underlying political, economic, social, or ecological factors that are creating the tensions in the first place. The approach of too many governments is to shoot first, think later.

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Take the US. Its basic strategy has been to send troops, drones, or bombers to any place that would threaten America’s access to oil, harbors Islamic fundamentalists, or otherwise creates problems – say, piracy off the coast of Somalia – for US interests. Hence, US troops, the CIA, drone missiles, or US-backed armies are engaged in fighting across a region stretching from the Sahel in West Africa, through Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and beyond.All of this military activity costs hundreds of thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. But, rather than solving a single underlying problem, the chaos is growing, threatening an ever-widening war.

Russia is not handling itself any better. For a while, Russia backed international law, rightly complaining that the US and NATO were violating international law in Kosovo, Iraq, Syria, and Libya.

But then President Vladimir Putin took aim at Ukraine, fearing that the country was about to drop into Europe’s pocket. Suddenly, he was silent about obeying international law. His government then illegally annexed Crimea and is fighting an increasingly brutal guerrilla war in eastern Ukraine, through proxies and, it now appears, direct engagement of Russian forces.

In this context, the fate of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 is terrifying not only for its brutality, but also in its intimation of a world gone mad. At the time of this writing, those who aimed and fired the missile remain unknown, though Russian-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine are the most likely culprits. What is certain, however, is that the violence unleashed by Putin’s war on Ukraine has claimed hundreds of innocent lives and brought the world a step closer to disaster.

There are no heroes among the great powers today. Cynicism is rife on all sides. The US effectively violates international law by resorting to force without United Nations sanction. It sends drones and secret forces into sovereign countries without their approval. It spies relentlessly on friend and foe alike.

Russia does the same, inflicting death on Ukraine, Georgia, and other neighbors. The only constants in all of this are the easy resort to violence and the lies that inevitably accompany it.

There are four major differences between now and the world of 1914. For starters, we have since lived through two disastrous wars, a Great Depression, and a Cold War. We have had the opportunity to learn a thing or two about the stupidity and uselessness of organized collective violence. Second, the next global war, in this nuclear age, would almost surely end the world.

The third major difference is that today, with our wondrous technologies, we have every opportunity to solve the underlying problems of poverty, hunger, displacement, and environmental degradation that create so many dangerous tinderboxes.

Finally, we have international law, if we choose to use it. The belligerents in Europe and Asia 100 years ago could not turn to the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly, venues where diplomacy, rather than war, can be the true continuation of politics. We are blessed with the possibility to construct peace through a global institution that was founded to help ensure that global war would never recur.

As citizens of the world, our job now is to demand peace through diplomacy, and through global, regional, and national initiatives to address the scourges of poverty, disease, and environmental degradation. On this hundredth anniversary of one of the greatest disasters of human history, let us follow tragedy not by farce or more tragedy, but by the triumph of cooperation and decency.

New earthquake map reveals risks rising for much of the U.S.

July 21, 2014

July 2014 – CALIFORNIA – The U.S. Geological Survey released a new earthquake hazard map July 17, revealing increased seismic risks for many regions. Updated for the first time since 2008, the new map incorporates research from the surprising 2011 earthquake in Virginia. With a 5.8 magnitude, it was one of the largest earthquakes to hit the East Coast and helped scientists gauge the possibility of larger events in that area. As a result, the new map concludes that the Eastern U.S. has a higher potential for bigger earthquakes than previously estimated. While all states have some potential risk for an earthquake, scientists also concluded that 42 states have a reasonable chance of experiencing an earthquake in the next 50 years, which it notes is generally considered the typical lifetime of a building. The map also showed that 16 states are at high risk and have a relatively high likelihood of experiencing damaging ground shaking within the next 50 years. As in the past, the West remains the most at-risk region for earthquakes. The 16 states with the highest risk include Alaska, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Wyoming, according to the report. With a spike in earthquakes in Oklahoma and other regions of the central United States, researchers are examining whether industrial activities, such as wastewater disposal, are to blame. But no conclusive links have been found.
“Injection-induced earthquakes are challenging to incorporate into hazard models because they may not behave like natural earthquakes and their rates change based on man-made activities,” the USGS said. The government uses the updated report and maps to look at the potential ground shaking levels and does risk analysis based on things like how populated an area is and building construction practices, then considers that information when setting building codes. Local governments also use the information in setting emergency preparedness plans. In terms of some good news, the new findings slightly lowered the risk of earthquakes in the California locales of Irvine, Santa Barbara and Oakland, as well as in New York City. But if you want to skip earthquakes altogether, head over to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Florida. These states are almost entirely in the “lowest hazard” category of the map. –Tech Times
Black Swan EventCivilizations unravelingDormant fault activationEarth ChangesEarth WatchEarthquake Omens?High-risk potential hazard zoneLandslide & geological deformationPotential Earthchange hotspot,Seismic tremorsSigns of Magnetic Field weakeningTectonic plate movementTime – Event AccelerationVolcano Watch. Bookmark the permalink.

Nobel Economist Joseph Stiglitz Hails New BRICS Bank Challenging U.S.-Dominated World Bank & IMF

July 19, 2014

The 10 Most Inspirational Sustainability Initiatives in the US

July 16, 2014

BRANDON BAKER
ECOWATCH / NEWS ANALYSIS
Published: Wednesday 16 July 2014
Here are 10 inspiring urban sustainability and environmental practices taking place in communities throughout the U.S. Take note as the debate on climate change continues.

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As the debate about climate change continues, more examples of how to fight it are popping up around the world.

New York-based Recyclebank took note of sustainable solutions in the U.S. and issued a ranking of the 10 it believes set the bar for urban sustainability and environmental practices by inspiring other communities.

“We have watched many communities significantly reduce their negative impact on the environment; be it by reducing waste with the help of programs like Recyclebank, educating residents on sustainable practices through community volunteers, or growing food in a community garden that can be eaten for lunch at the local school,” said Javier Flaim, CEO of Recyclebank. “All of these practices are taking place in cities across the U.S and can be replicated in other communities. With this list, we hope to make positive examples out of programs and communities that are taking steps, big and small, to change America’s environmental path.”

1. Green Building in Chicago, IL—It’s been more than a decade since Chicago became the epicenter for LEED-certified buildings with the opening of the Chicago Center for Green Technology. The city further focused on green architecture by implementing the Green Permit Program to offer an expedited permit process and the possibility of reduced fees for green projects. Chicago has the most LEED-certified projects in the U.S. with 295.2. Wind Energy in Corpus Christi, TX—Known as America’s Wind Power Port, Corpus Christi houses the continent’s first on-port wind farm. The Port serves as a shipping hub for wind turbines and also wants to harness Texas winds to generate more clean energy in what is already the nation’s top state for wind power. Additionally, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi houses 11 vertical-axis wind turbines that produce 92 kilowatts, which makes it the largest installation of its kind in the nation.

3. Xeriscaping in Denver, CO—Denver has pioneered a type of landscaping designed to conserve water, known as xeriscaping. Besides spreading the idea to nearby “dry” climate states like Arizona and Nevada, Denver created a program to make it easier than ever for residents to xeriscape around their homes. The city’s water board has developed easy-to-follow downloadable plans and resources so that every resident can remodel their yards. The city also has a xeriscape demonstration garden that is open daily for residents that appreciate a hands-on tutorial.

4. Organic Food in La Farge, WI—La Farge is home to Organic Valley, the largest organic farming co-op in North America. State, village, federal and private funding combined to make it possible, allowing the co-op to produce sustainable food products. The 45,000 square-foot barn that houses the company optimizes natural light, minimizes heat and was built with locally sourced materials, many of which were recycled. All of the construction waste was recycled after building. The farm also plays host to the Kickapoo County Fair, which hosts sustainability workshops and rural heritage exhibits, ensuring that the entire community stays educated. The surrounding area of Vernon County, also boasts more organic farms that any other county in the nation.

5. Solar Energy in Long Beach, CA—Photovoltaic systems on the structures of the Long Beach Convention Center and Long Beach Airport aid to California’s standing as the top state for solar energy. The Convention Center houses one of the largest public-facility solar installations on the West Coast, generating 1 million kilowatt-hours of pollution-free electricity. Meanwhile, the Long Beach government set up an easy to follow manual helping residents apply for the “Residential Renewable Tax Credit,” which offers a credit of 30 percent of qualified expenditures for a solar system from the federal government.

6. Landfill Rehabilitation in New York, NYFreshkills, formerly known as the world’s largest landfill at 2,200 acres, is being turned into a park with advanced landfill engineering techniques. Freshkills Public Park is three-times the size of Central Park. It once accepted more than 29,000 tons of trash per day, but now landfill mounds have been capped through a special process that will alleviate toxic fumes and the soil has been treated to promote proper drainage and ensure public health and safety regulations are not only met, but surpassed.

7. Climate Positive Community: Oberlin, OH—Oberlin is one of only three U.S. cities in the Climate Positive Development Program which works to revitalize the local economy, eliminate carbon emissions, restore local agriculture, food supply and forestry and create a sustainable base for communities. The Oberlin Project developed five goals, including reducing emissions by 50 percent by 2015 and developing local food sources to meet 70 percent of consumption. Additionally, Oberlin College’s Ecolympics, an energy reduction competition, was the precursor to the Campus Conservation Nationals, a national energy reduction competition. Oberlin’s program combined the city, Oberlin College and private partners in the community.

8. Sustainable Engagement in Philadelphia, PA—Mayor Michael A. Nutter developed the Greenworks initiative five years ago to explore sustainability through the lenses of energy, environment, equity, economy and engagement. Goals were set in each category to be achieved by next year. So far, the city has expanded recycling options at events and in public spaces; added additional types of plastics to the list of recyclable materials in Philadelphia; and instituted e-waste drop-off centers to reduce the amount of waste entering landfills and engage residents in sustainable action. The city also planted more than 89,000 new trees and retrofitted more than 5,500 homes with insulation, air sealing and cool roofs.

9. Alternative Transportation in Portland, OR—The Portland Bureau of Transportation continues adding new bike routes to advance alternative transportation while maintaining current routes. Portland is also home to the Bicycle Transportation Alliance whose mission is to create healthy, sustainable communities by making bicycling safe, convenient and accessible.

10. Organic Recycling in Wilmington, DE—The Wilmington Organic Recycling Center is the largest composting facility in North America, sitting on 27 acres and accepting 160,000 tons of organic waste per year. The plant reduces greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equivalent to removing 8,800 cars from area roads, per year. The center also lowers the cost of organic waste disposal by 20-50 percent, which makes it possible for more residents and businesses to participate in the program.

America Is the World Leader at Committing ‘Supreme International Crimes’

July 11, 2014

Intellectual, political activist, Professor Noam Chomsky. (photo: Russia Today)
Intellectual, political activist, Professor Noam Chomsky. (photo: Russia Today)

By Noam Chomsky, AlterNet

11 July 14

 

he U.S.’s sledgehammer worldview is destroying countless lives and future generations.

The front page of The New York Times on June 26 featured a photo of women mourning a murdered Iraqi.

He is one of the innumerable victims of the ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) campaign in which the Iraqi army, armed and trained by the U.S. for many years, quickly melted away, abandoning much of Iraq to a few thousand militants, hardly a new experience in imperial history.

Right above the picture is the newspaper’s famous motto: “All the News That’s Fit to Print.”

There is a crucial omission. The front page should display the words of the Nuremberg judgment of prominent Nazis – words that must be repeated until they penetrate general consciousness: Aggression is “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.”

And alongside these words should be the admonition of the chief prosecutor for the United States, Robert Jackson: “The record on which we judge these defendants is the record on which history will judge us tomorrow. To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well.”

The U.S.-U.K. invasion of Iraq was a textbook example of aggression. Apologists invoke noble intentions, which would be irrelevant even if the pleas were sustainable.

For the World War II tribunals, it mattered not a jot that Japanese imperialists were intent on bringing an “earthly paradise” to the Chinese they were slaughtering, or that Hitler sent troops into Poland in 1939 in self-defense against the “wild terror” of the Poles. The same holds when we sip from the poisoned chalice.

Those at the wrong end of the club have few illusions. Abdel Bari Atwan, editor of a Pan-Arab website, observes that “the main factor responsible for the current chaos [in Iraq] is the U.S./Western occupation and the Arab backing for it. Any other claim is misleading and aims to divert attention [away] from this truth.”

In a recent interview with Moyers & Company, Iraq specialist Raed Jarrar outlines what we in the West should know. Like many Iraqis, he is half-Shiite, half-Sunni, and in preinvasion Iraq he barely knew the religious identities of his relatives because “sect wasn’t really a part of the national consciousness.”

Jarrar reminds us that “this sectarian strife that is destroying the country … clearly began with the U.S. invasion and occupation.”

The aggressors destroyed “Iraqi national identity and replaced it with sectarian and ethnic identities,” beginning immediately when the U.S. imposed a Governing Council based on sectarian identity, a novelty for Iraq.

By now, Shiites and Sunnis are the bitterest enemies, thanks to the sledgehammer wielded by Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney (respectively the former U.S. Secretary of Defense and vice president during the George W. Bush administration) and others like them who understand nothing beyond violence and terror and have helped to create conflicts that are now tearing the region to shreds.

Other headlines report the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Journalist Anand Gopal explains the reasons in his remarkable book, No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War through Afghan Eyes.

In 2001-02, when the U.S. sledgehammer struck Afghanistan, the al-Qaida outsiders there soon disappeared and the Taliban melted away, many choosing in traditional style to accommodate to the latest conquerors.

But Washington was desperate to find terrorists to crush. The strongmen they imposed as rulers quickly discovered that they could exploit Washington’s blind ignorance and attack their enemies, including those eagerly collaborating with the American invaders.

Soon the country was ruled by ruthless warlords, while many former Taliban who sought to join the new order recreated the insurgency.

The sledgehammer was later picked up by President Obama as he “led from behind” in smashing Libya.

In March 2011, amid an Arab Spring uprising against Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi, the U.N. Security Council passed Resolution 1973, calling for “a cease-fire and a complete end to violence and all attacks against, and abuses of, civilians.”

The imperial triumvirate – France, England, the U.S. – instantly chose to violate the Resolution, becoming the air force of the rebels and sharply enhancing violence.

Their campaign culminated in the assault on Gadhafi’s refuge in Sirte, which they left “utterly ravaged,” “reminiscent of the grimmest scenes from Grozny, towards the end of Russia’s bloody Chechen war,” according to eyewitness reports in the British press. At a bloody cost, the triumvirate accomplished its goal of regime change in violation of pious pronouncements to the contrary.

The African Union strongly opposed the triumvirate assault. As reported by Africa specialist Alex de Waal in the British journal International Affairs, the AU established a “road map” calling for cease-fire, humanitarian assistance, protection of African migrants (who were largely slaughtered or expelled) and other foreign nationals, and political reforms to eliminate “the causes of the current crisis,” with further steps to establish “an inclusive, consensual interim government, leading to democratic elections.”

The AU framework was accepted in principle by Gadhafi but dismissed by the triumvirate, who “were uninterested in real negotiations,” de Waal observes.

The outcome is that Libya is now torn by warring militias, while jihadi terror has been unleashed in much of Africa along with a flood of weapons, reaching also to Syria.

There is plenty of evidence of the consequences of resort to the sledgehammer. Take the Democratic Republic of Congo, formerly the Belgian Congo, a huge country rich in resources – and one of the worst contemporary horror stories. It had a chance for successful development after independence in 1960, under the leadership of Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba.

But the West would have none of that. CIA head Allen Dulles determined that Lumumba’s “removal must be an urgent and prime objective” of covert action, not least because U.S. investments might have been endangered by what internal documents refer to as “radical nationalists.”

Under the supervision of Belgian officers, Lumumba was murdered, realizing President Eisenhower’s wish that he “would fall into a river full of crocodiles.” Congo was handed over to the U.S. favorite, the murderous and corrupt dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, and on to today’s wreckage of Africa’s hopes.

Closer to home it is harder to ignore the consequences of U.S. state terror. There is now great concern about the flood of children fleeing to the U.S. from Central America.

The Washington Post reports that the surge is “mostly from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras” – but not Nicaragua. Why? Could it be that when Washington’s sledgehammer was battering the region in the 1980s, Nicaragua was the one country that had an army to defend the population from U.S.-run terrorists, while in the other three countries the terrorists devastating the countries were the armies equipped and trained by Washington?

Obama has proposed a humanitarian response to the tragic influx: more efficient deportation. Do alternatives come to mind?

It is unfair to omit exercises of “soft power” and the role of the private sector. A good example is Chevron’s decision to abandon its widely touted renewable energy programs, because fossil fuels are far more profitable.

Exxon Mobil in turn announced “that its laserlike focus on fossil fuels is a sound strategy, regardless of climate change,” Bloomberg Businessweek reports, “because the world needs vastly more energy and the likelihood of significant carbon reductions is ‘highly unlikely.’”

It is therefore a mistake to remind readers daily of the Nuremberg judgment. Aggression is no longer the “supreme international crime.” It cannot compare with destruction of the lives of future generations to ensure bigger bonuses tomorrow.

 

Independence Day Special: Thirteen Facts About America Conservatives Would Like You to Forget

July 6, 2014

attribution: None Specified

1. Conservatives opposed the Founding Fathers, the American Revolution and a lot of other righteous stuff as well.By definition a conservative is one who wishes to preserve and/or restore traditional values and institutions, i.e. to “conserve” the established order. No surprise then that 18th century American conservatives wanted no part of breaking away from the British Empire and the comforting bonds of monarchical government. Those anti-revolutionary conservatives were called Tories, the name still used for the conservative party in England. The Founding Fathers? As radically left-wing as they came in the 1770s. The Boston Tea Party? The “Occupy Wall Street” of its day.

Some of the other “traditional” values supported by conservatives over the course of American history have included slavery (remember that the Republican Party was on the liberal fringe in 1860), religious persecution, the subjugation of women and minorities, obstacles to immigration, voter suppression, prohibition and segregation.  Conservatives started off on the wrong side of American history, and that’s where they’ve been ever since.

2. The United States is not a Christian nation, and the Bible is not the cornerstone of our law.

Don’t take my word for it. Let these Founding Fathers speak for themselves:

John Adams: “The government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion.” (Treaty of Tripoli, 1797)

Thomas Jefferson: “Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law.” (Letter to Dr. Thomas Cooper, February 10, 1814)

James Madison: “The civil government … functions with complete success … by the total separation of the Church from the State.” (Writings, 8:432, 1819)

George Washington: “If I could conceive that the general government might ever be so administered as to render the liberty of conscience insecure, I beg you will be persuaded, that no one would be more zealous than myself to establish effectual barriers against the horrors of spiritual tyranny, and every species of religious persecution.” (Letter to the United Baptist Chamber of Virginia, May 1789)

You can find a multitude of similar quotes from these men and most others who signed the Declaration of Independence and/or formulated the United States Constitution. These are hardly the words of men who believed that America should be a Christian nation governed by the Bible, as a disturbing fundamentalist trend today would have it be.

3. Long before the United States even existed, it was drawing “problem” immigrants.

After being pretty much run out of England as anti-government radicals, the religious dissidents we know today as the Pilgrims settled in Leiden, Holland, where they set about making themselves that nation’s immigrant problem. Sticking to themselves and refusing to “blend in” with their new homeland, the Pilgrims grew alarmed by the unpalatable ideas to which their children were being exposed, such as religious tolerance (good for the Pilgrims, bad for everyone else) and national service (like all Dutch residents, the Pilgrims were eligible for the draft). When their children began picking up the Dutch language, the Pilgrims had had enough. By then the Dutch had, too. Next stop: Plymouth Rock.

4. Those Pilgrims were commies… and it saved their lives.

Governor William Bradford’s memoirs confirm that the first thing the settlers did upon arrival in the Plymouth Colony was to set up a textbook communist system of production and distribution. Every resident of the colony was expected to share, to the extent of his or her ability, the chores of hunting, farming, cooking, building, making clothing, etc., and, in exchange, everyone shared the products of that communal labor.

That commie-pinko economy sustained the Pilgrims through their first brutal year in the New World, after which it was decided that the colony was sufficiently stable to allow householders their own plot of land on which to grow crops they were free to keep for themselves. The fact that the colonists’ productivity increased exponentially with their own land begs the question: were the Pilgrims working harder now that they got to keep the product of their own labor or, conversely, were they prone to slacking off when the goods came whether they worked hard or not?

I guess you could say the Pilgrims were the kind of lazy, shiftless “takers” that conservatives are always railing against.

5. One of the Founding Fathers, Thomas Jefferson, hated Thanksgiving.

In fact, Thomas Jefferson once called a national day of Thanksgiving “the most ridiculous idea” he’d ever heard of.

Despite being first proclaimed by George Washington in 1789, Jefferson believed a national day of thanksgiving was not consistent with the principle of separation of church and state and refused to recognize the holiday in any of the eight years in which he was president of the United States. “Every one must act according to the dictates of his own reason,” Jefferson once wrote, “and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.”

For the record, Presidents Andrew Jackson and Zachary Taylor refused to issue Thanksgiving Day proclamations during their administrations, too. Can you imagine what Fox News Channel would have made of these administrations’ “War on Thanksgiving”?

6. The Pledge of Allegiance was written by a socialist.

The Pledge was written in 1892 for public school celebrations of the 400th anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in the Americas. Its author was Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, Christian socialist and cousin of socialist utopian novelist Edward Bellamy. Christian socialism maintains, among other ideas, that capitalism is idolatrous and rooted in greed, and the underlying cause of much of the world’s social inequity. Kinda puts the red in the ol’ red, white and blue, doesn’t it?

7. Roe v. Wade was a bipartisan decision made by a predominantly Republican-appointed Supreme Court.

Technically, Roe v. Wade did not make abortion legal in the United States, the Supreme Court merely found that the state of Texas’ prohibition on abortion violated the 14th Amendment Due Process Clause and that states could exercise varying degrees of discretion in regulating abortion, depending upon the stage of pregnancy. The Court also held the law violated the right to privacy under substantive due process.
That being said, the landmark 1973 ruling that conservatives love to hate, was decided on a 7-2 vote that broke down like this:

Majority (for Roe): Chief Justice Warren Burger (conservative, appointed by Nixon), William O. Douglas (liberal, appointed by FDR), William J. Brennan (liberal, appointed by Eisenhower), Potter Stewart (moderate, appointed by Eisenhower), Thurgood Marshall (liberal, appointed by LBJ), Harry Blackmun (author of the majority opinion and a conservative who eventually turned liberal, appointed by Nixon), Lewis Powell (moderate, appointed by Nixon). Summary: 3 liberals, 2 conservatives, 2 moderates.

Dissenting (for Wade): Byron White (generally liberal/sometimes conservative, appointed by JFK), William Rehnquist (conservative, appointed by Nixon). Summary: 1 liberal, 1 conservative.

By ideological orientation, it was an across-the-board decision for Roe: conservatives 2-1, liberals 3-1, moderates 2-0; by party of presidential appointment: Republicans 5-1, Democrats 2-1. No one can rightly say that this was a leftist court forcing its liberal beliefs on America.

8. Conservative icon Ronald Reagan once signed a bill legalizing abortion.

The Ronald Reagan conservatives worship today is more myth than reality. Reagan was a conservative for sure, but also a practical politician who understood the necessities of compromise. In the spring of 1967, four months into his first term as governor of California, Ronald Reagan signed a bill that, among other provisions, legalized abortion for the vaguely-defined “well being” of the mother. Reagan may have been personally pro-life, but in this instance he was willing to compromise in order to achieve other ends he considered more important. That he claimed later to regret signing the bill doesn’t change the fact that he did. As Casey Stengel liked to say, “You could look it up.”

9. Reagan also raised federal taxes eleven times.

Okay, Ronald Reagan cut tax rates more than any other president – with a big asterisk. Sure, the top rate was reduced from 70% in 1980 all the way down to 28% in 1988, but while Republicans typically point to Reagan’s tax-cutting as the right approach to improving the economy, Reagan himself realized the resulting national debt from his revenue slashing was untenable, so he quietly raised other taxes on income – primarily Social Security and payroll taxes – no less than eleven times. Most of Reagan’s highly publicized tax cuts went to the usual handout-takers in the top income brackets, while his stealth tax increases had their biggest impact on the middle class. These increases were well hidden inside such innocuous-sounding packages as the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982, the Deficit Reduction Act of 1984 and the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1987. Leave it to a seasoned actor to pull off such a masterful charade.

10. Barry Goldwater was pro-choice, supported gay rights, deeply despised the Religious Right, and – gasp! – liked Hillary Clinton.

It’s a measure of just how much farther right contemporary conservatism has shifted in just a generation or two that Barry “Mr. Conservative” Goldwater, the Republican standard-bearer in 1964, couldn’t buy a ticket into a GOP convention in 2014.

There’s no debating Goldwater’s deeply conservative bona fides, but check these pronouncements from the man himself:

“I am a conservative Republican, but I believe in democracy and the separation of church and state.  The conservative movement is founded on the simple tenet that people have the right to live life as they please as long as they don’t hurt anyone else in the process.” (Interview, Washington Post, July 28, 1994)

“A woman has a right to an abortion. That’s a decision that’s up to the pregnant woman, not up to the pope or some do-gooders or the Religious Right.” (Interview, Los Angeles Times, 1994)

“The big thing is to make this country… quit discriminating against people just because they’re gay. You don’t have to agree with it, but they have a constitutional right to be gay. … They’re American citizens.” (Interview, Washington Post, July 28, 1994)

“Politics and governing demand compromise. But these Christians believe they are acting in the name of God, so they can’t and won’t compromise. I know; I’ve tried to deal with them. Just who do they think they are? And from where do they presume to claim the right to dictate their moral beliefs to me? And I am even more angry as a legislator who must endure the threats of every religious group who thinks it has some God-granted right to control my vote on every roll call in the Senate. I am warning them today: I will fight them every step of the way if they try to dictate their moral convictions to all Americans in the name of ‘conservatism.’” (Congressional Record, September 16, 1981)

“If [Bill Clinton] let his wife run business, I think he’d be better off. … I just like the way she acts. I’ve never met her, but I sent her a bag of chili, and she invited me to come to the White House some night and said she’d cook chili for me.” (Interview, Washington Post, July 28, 1994)

11. The first president to propose national health insurance was a Republican.

He was also a trust-busting, pro-labor, Nobel Peace Prize-winning environmentalist. Is there any wonder why Theodore Roosevelt, who first proposed a system of national health insurance during his unsuccessful Progressive Party campaign to retake the White House from William Howard Taft in 1912, gets scarce mention at Republican National Conventions these days?

12. Those “job-killing” environmental regulations? Republican things.

Sometimes being conservative can be a good thing, like when it applies to conserving America’s clean air and water, endangered wildlife and awesome natural beauty. Many of Theodore Roosevelt’s greatest accomplishments as president were in the area of conserving America’s natural environment. In 1905, Roosevelt formed the United States Forestry Service. Under his presidential authority, vast expanses of American real estate were declared off limits for private development and reserved for public use. During Roosevelt’s time as president, forest reserves in the United States went from approximately 43 million acres to about 194 million acres. Talk about big government land grabs!

The United States Environmental Protection Agency, arch-enemy of polluters in particular and government regulation haters in general, was created by that other well-known GOP tree hugger, Richard Nixon. In his 1970 State of the Union Address, Nixon proclaimed the new decade a period of environmental transformation. Shortly thereafter he presented Congress an unprecedented 37-point message on the environment, requesting billions for the improvement of water treatment facilities, asking for national air quality standards and stringent guidelines to lower motor vehicle emissions, and launching federally-funded research to reduce automobile pollution. Nixon also ordered a clean-up of air- and water-polluting federal facilities, sought legislation to end the dumping of wastes into the Great Lakes, proposed a tax on lead additives in gasoline, and approved a National Contingency Plan for the treatment of petroleum spills. In July 1970 Nixon declared his intention to establish the Environmental Protection Agency, and that December the EPA opened for business. Hard to believe, but had it not been for Watergate, we might remember Richard Nixon today as the “environmental president”.

Oh, yes – conservatives would rather forget that Nixon was an advocate of national health insurance, too.

13. President Obama was not only born in the United States, his roots run deeper in American history than most conservatives’ – and most other Americans’ – do.

The argument that Barack Obama was born anywhere but at Kapiolani Maternity and Gynecological Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, is not worth addressing; the evidence is indisputable by any rational human being. But not even irrational “birthers” can dispute Obama’s well-documented family tree on his mother’s side. By way of his Dunham lineage, President Obama has at least 11 direct ancestors who took up arms and fought for American independence in the Revolutionary War and two others cited as patriots by the Daughters of the American Revolution for furnishing supplies to the colonial army. This star-spangled heritage makes Obama eligible to join the Sons of the American Revolution, and his daughters the Daughters of the American Revolution. Not bad for someone some conservatives on the lunatic fringe still insist is a foreigner bent on destroying the United States of America.

Celebrate the Revolution – And Keep It Going

July 4, 2014

(image: youtube)
(image: youtube)

By Bill Moyers and Bernard Weisberger, Moyers & Company

04 July 14

 

he Glorious Fourth is a day to let ‘er rip, be as red-white-and-blue as you like, hang out the flag, join the parade, keep an eye on the sky where those fireworks are bursting in air. Start early: pop a Sousa into the sound system, turn up the volume (not too loudly out of respect for the neighbors) and eat breakfast in march tempo. Later there’ll be hot dogs and potato salad, ball games to watch and the evening festivities on the Mall on PBS. And, if there are kids of all ages around and grown-up guests, or just the two or one of you, read aloud — or repeat from memory — the opening paragraphs of the Declaration, up to the Bill of Particulars of the King’s “usurpations and abuses.” Cherish the sound of those words — “the separate and equal station to which the laws of Nature and Nature’s God entitle us… unalienable rights…life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…consent of the governed…laying its foundations on such principles…to guarantee their safety and happiness,” that last word used in the 18th century sense of “well-being.”

But on this particular 7/4/14 don’t deny the reality that insists on breaking in. We’re being dragged back into the chaos of the Middle East. We are engaged in a “war on terror” that places security over liberty with the uncritical and tacit consent of too many people. We’re told that we’re a superpower and a superpower can never retire, even if it must become a “snooperpower.” Is that the “separate and equal station” among nations that the Declaration referred to? On this day in 1981 Ronald Reagan declared that “putting people first has always been America’s secret weapon.” Tell that to Wall Street titans, hedge fund managers, multinational CEOs and the US Chamber of Commerce for whom profits over people has become a mantra. Here at home “We, the people” are losing that ongoing battle in all societies between wealth and commonwealth as inequality blooms, the middle class withers and the poor are still with us, their numbers growing.

How do we restore the sense that it’s still terrific to be American?

Start with that other publication of 1776, Common Sense. Yes, admire, respect, cherish the words of the Declaration. But allow yourself to be set on fire by the blunt, fiery salvos against the “royal brute of Britain” fired from the pen of Tom Paine. It’s not just because he was such a tremendous journalist and propagandist, who spoke the language of the ordinary folks from whom he himself came. No, not just that. It’s because Paine understood and gave voice to the essential and potential radicalism of the American Revolution.” We have it in our power,” he said, “to begin the world anew!!” America’s was the first large-scale application of the idea of revolution. Resist the seductive idea of some historians that the Constitution was first and foremost a kind of conservative reaction to the free-swinging proclamation of human rights in the Declaration, that it made rules, set boundaries, protected contracts and property rights (including property in Negro slaves) and deliberately made the Senate a conservative assembly, serving longer terms and not elected directly by the people.

All true, but the Constitution set no religious or property qualifications for any Federal office, gave the power of the purse to the chamber elected directly by the people of the states, guaranteed to them a “republican form of government,” abolished hereditary aristocracy, proclaimed in its Preamble (conveniently ignored by the political and financial powers-that-be) that it was “We, the People” who ordained and established the Union, in order, among other aspirations, to “promote the general welfare.” That was new and dazzling in 1787 and it began to clear the ground for beginning the world anew, setting the pace for democratic revolutions that burst into being around the globe, and pushing Americans themselves to keep expanding the zone of freedom.

Think on these and of Paine’s sparkplug role. Then summon his spirit to remind yourself that we can, if we really care, pick up the broken thread of democratic zeal. We are not a people content with a yellow stripe down our backs. We know the difference between compromise and surrender of ideals. We are not of a nature to be contented with “the lesser of two evils.”

So on Friday supplement your reading of the Declaration of Independence with a passage or two chosen from Common Sense or Paine’s later work to rally the weary Continental armies, The Crisis. You might like to visit your local library, take out a copy and do likewise on our nation’s 238th birthday. And start fighting back!

How?

Recognize that for all of us, these, too, are the times that try our souls. Be peacefully but persistently aggressive. Demand of your representatives at national, state and local levels: either they deliver their votes to break the Money Power or they don’t get yours. Nothing less will get their attention. This weekend and in the coming elections they will be showing up in person; find out when they will be where you live and turn up to challenge them. Don’t wait for some far-off organization to send you a petition. Get off the couch and picket their home offices. If you are ignored, or they protest that your defection will lead to their defeat, remind them of the advice of General Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox of Revolutionary fame: “We fight, get beat, rise and fight again.” That’s why the Constitution provides for frequent elections, new chances to turn opinion in your favor. And that’s why it ensures your right to be as demonstrative as it takes to be heard. Don’t leave it to others. Be as immovable on your side as the tea party is on theirs and don’t shrink when the corporate media and partisans on the cable channels and talk radio equate you with them as “extremists” and sing their love songs to “centrism.” Write to the editors of your newspapers or what is left of them, go see them, call on the heads of the networks and tell them to fire their carnival barkers for the one tenth of one percent who have bought our government, or at the very least open their pages and their mikes and cameras to genuine debate with bona fide reformers and radicals of many stripes.

Make your first absolute demand an amendment to strip corporations of their personhood, nothing less. The Supreme Court isn’t sacrosanct either; Congress can change its size and the scope of its jurisdiction. Remind your representatives and senators that Citizens United can be reversed.

And watch those state legislatures, where revolutions — of right or left — can get started. Make so-called “off year” elections meaningful; get to know your state legislators, follow the example of North Carolina’s “Moral Monday” protestors, demand of your local news outlets more news of what’s being done in your name in the state capitals. Declare your opposition to legislators in bed with ALEC, Big Money’s spin machine and treasury that’s enacting the legal agenda of corporate control of our economy and our lives, one law at a time.

Take direct action: it’s your right. Boycott restaurants that won’t pay minimum wages to their staffs the way the black citizens of Montgomery boycotted their segregated buses and won. Eat at home and put the money you save into the campaigns of candidates who take no corporate money and will vote for public financing of elections. Don’t wait for new parties to form, for organizations to draft platforms. Deny your dollars to food industry conglomerates that push sweet and fattening drinks on your kids. Make the Almighty Dollar your weapon instead of theirs.

Be as passionate and involved as those populists of the First Gilded Age who wrested hymns from their original context and gathered to sing battle songs against Mammon. Christianity began as a radical religion of the lower classes. Remember the Hebrew prophets of old: Jeremiah, Amos, Isaiah and their poetic and pulsing cries for social justice. Speak out in your churches and congregations of whatever faith, or in your professional and social clubs. Be willing to work with others who disagree with you on social issues but recognize that inequality is an equal-offender crime; it poisons the lives of pro-choice and anti-choice, gay and straight, black, white and brown with cold impartiality. Parade, picket and protest wherever figures of power and authority gather to plan new devices of enrichment for the few at the expense of the many. If the police attempt to herd you into “protest zones” far from the action try the old radical but nonviolent tactic of refusing en masse and filling up the jails.

Off the wall? Too extreme? Our situation is extreme; this is no time for summer soldiers and sunshine patriots. Even a sensible billionaire like entrepreneur Nick Hanauer gets it. “The oldest and most important conflict in human societies,” he says, “is the battle over the concentration of wealth and power.” Of capitalism he writes:

It can be managed either to benefit the few in the near term or the many in the long term. The work of democracies is to bend it to the latter…We should never forget that, or forget that the United States of America and its middle class made us, rather than the other way around. Or we could sit back and do nothing, enjoy our yachts. And wait for the pitchforks.

The tea party gets its strength from the commitment of members who see themselves as fighting an oppressive government run by social engineers. They’ve got the right idea but the wrong villains and their successes only deliver us into the hands of government owned by robber barons. What we need this Independence Day is to take aim at that “long train of abuses and usurpations” visited on us by monied interests, invoking as the Declaration tells us, our right, our duty to “throw off such government and provide new guards for [our] security and well being.”

We haven’t come this far by crawling on our knees. Stand up – and reclaim the patriot’s dream.

 

Our Most Important Struggle Remains: “To Be Self Evident”

July 4, 2014

(photo: Getty Images)
(photo: Getty Images)

By Charles Pierce, Esquire

04 July 14

 

he greatest time bomb ever laid beneath history was laid 238 years ago today.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

They knew they were doing it. They knew a lot of things, of course. They knew they were committing what the entire rest of the human history would have reckoned to be treason. They knew they were formally declaring war, although there is no declaration of war present anywhere in the document they signed, and they knew the formidable nature of the military arrayed against them. But they also knew they were committing themselves, and the nation they were seeking to form, to a constant redefinition and expansion of the nature of freedom. They knew they were leaving themselves, and the nation they were seeking to form, wide open to charges that they had pronounced a cause of rebellion while guilty of the same offenses against Nature and Nature’s god of which they were accusing a feckless monarch and his blundering ministers. (At his most acidic, Samuel Johnson wondered, “”How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?”) The New England merchants and smugglers knew it. The Pennsylvania Quakers knew it. The slaveholders of the South knew it, and they knew it so well that they had a passage critical of the institution of slavery excised from the document that was written by one of their own. But they knew it anyway, and they were scared to the depths of their sin-wracked souls. The document was silent on slavery, but slavery was assumed in every syllable.

As the late Pauline Maier wrote:

“The Americans were destined to receive criticism enough for asserting the “inalienable” rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” while themselves owning slaves. Some people recognized the contradiction and were ready to move toward greater consistency between principle and practice, but so monumental a change as the abolition of slavery could not be accomplished in a moment. For the time being, it was wise at least not to call attention to the persistence of the slave trade and to the anomaly of American slavery.”

So out of the document went slavery, and in the document, slavery stayed, tick-tick-ticking away until it detonated, 87 years later, on the hills of southern Pennsylvania’ And 100 years after that, Martin Luther King, Jr. stood on the National Mall and explained in terms so plain and firm as to command the world’s assent—which was the charge put on the authors of the document in the first place—that something better must be built from the bloody rubble.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

The explosive in that time bomb is not yet exhausted. There have been small detonations throughout our history. You can hear them every time freedom is extended and every time it changes form as it moves forward. There also have been small detonations throughout our history every time we fell short of the promise of those words, the promise that is the essential charge in the device.

How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from the jailers of Guantanamo, from the keepers of the black sites, from those willing to hand our inalienable rights to faceless men in the cubicles of the intelligence bureaucracy? How is that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty from paymasters of torturers?

The time bomb laid beneath history 238 years ago is a time bomb of pure conundrum, and the people who put it there knew that the essential engine of democracy is paradox, noble bluffs to be called, high-minded promises in savage conflict with each other. And they knew that, too, all of them, when they piled the dirt atop the time bomb they had laid beneath history, wiped their hands daintily, and walked away.

Happy Independence Day.

Listen for the small explosions. Listen for them well. They call us home.

 

America’s Real Foreign Policy: Global Corporatization by Force

July 2, 2014

Whose security is the U.S. military and foreign service protecting?

US soldiers participating in live fire drills during NATO training in Germany. (Photo: flickr / cc / MATEUS_27:24&25)The question of how foreign policy is determined is a crucial one in world affairs.  In these comments, I can only provide a few hints as to how I think the subject can be productively explored, keeping to the United States for several reasons.  First, the U.S. is unmatched in its global significance and impact.  Second, it is an unusually open society, possibly uniquely so, which means we know more about it.  Finally, it is plainly the most important case for Americans, who are able to influence policy choices in the U.S. — and indeed for others, insofar as their actions can influence such choices.  The general principles, however, extend to the other major powers, and well beyond.

There is a “received standard version,” common to academic scholarship, government pronouncements, and public discourse.  It holds that the prime commitment of governments is to ensure security, and that the primary concern of the U.S. and its allies since 1945 was the Russian threat.

There are a number of ways to evaluate the doctrine.  One obvious question to ask is: What happened when the Russian threat disappeared in 1989?  Answer: everything continued much as before.

The U.S. immediately invaded Panama, killing probably thousands of people and installing a client regime. This was routine practice in U.S.-dominated domains — but in this case not quite as routine. For first time, a major foreign policy act was not justified by an alleged Russian threat.

Instead, a series of fraudulent pretexts for the invasion were concocted that collapse instantly on examination. The media chimed in enthusiastically, lauding the magnificent achievement of defeating Panama, unconcerned that the pretexts were ludicrous, that the act itself was a radical violation of international law, and that it was bitterly condemned elsewhere, most harshly in Latin America.  Also ignored was the U.S. veto of a unanimous Security Council resolution condemning crimes by U.S. troops during the invasion, with Britain alone abstaining.

All routine.  And all forgotten (which is also routine).

From El Salvador to the Russian Border

The administration of George H.W. Bush issued a new national security policy and defense budget in reaction to the collapse of the global enemy.  It was pretty much the same as before, although with new pretexts.  It was, it turned out, necessary to maintain a military establishment almost as great as the rest of the world combined and far more advanced in technological sophistication — but not for defense against the now-nonexistent Soviet Union.  Rather, the excuse now was the growing “technological sophistication” of Third World powers.  Disciplined intellectuals understood that it would have been improper to collapse in ridicule, so they maintained a proper silence.

The U.S., the new programs insisted, must maintain its “defense industrial base.” The phrase is a euphemism, referring to high-tech industry generally, which relies heavily on extensive state intervention for research and development, often under Pentagon cover, in what economists continue to call the U.S. “free-market economy.”

One of the most interesting provisions of the new plans had to do with the Middle East.  There, it was declared, Washington must maintain intervention forces targeting a crucial region where the major problems “could not have been laid at the Kremlin’s door.”  Contrary to 50 years of deceit, it was quietly conceded that the main concern was not the Russians, but rather what is called “radical nationalism,” meaning independent nationalism not under U.S. control.

All of this has evident bearing on the standard version, but it passed unnoticed — or perhaps, therefore it passed unnoticed.

Other important events took place immediately after the fall of the Berlin Wall, ending the Cold War.  One was in El Salvador, the leading recipient of U.S. military aid — apart from Israel-Egypt, a separate category — and with one of the worst human rights records anywhere.  That is a familiar and very close correlation.

The Salvadoran high command ordered the Atlacatl Brigade to invade the Jesuit University and murder six leading Latin American intellectuals, all Jesuit priests, including the rector, Fr. Ignacio Ellacuría, and any witnesses, meaning their housekeeper and her daughter.  The Brigade had just returned from advanced counterinsurgency training at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and had already left a bloody trail of thousands of the usual victims in the course of the U.S.-run state terror campaign in El Salvador, one part of a broader terror and torture campaign throughout the region.  All routine.  Ignored and virtually forgotten in the United States and by its allies, again routine.  But it tells us a lot about the factors that drive policy, if we care to look at the real world.

Another important event took place in Europe.  Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to allow the unification of Germany and its membership in NATO, a hostile military alliance.  In the light of recent history, this was a most astonishing concession.  There was a quid pro quo.  President Bush and Secretary of State James Baker agreed that NATO would not expand “one inch to the East,” meaning into East Germany.  Instantly, they expanded NATO to East Germany.

Gorbachev was naturally outraged, but when he complained, he was instructed by Washington that this had only been a verbal promise, a gentleman’s agreement, hence without force.  If he was naïve enough to accept the word of American leaders, it was his problem.

All of this, too, was routine, as was the silent acceptance and approval of the expansion of NATO in the U.S. and the West generally.  President Bill Clinton then expanded NATO further, right up to Russia’s borders.  Today, the world faces a serious crisis that is in no small measure a result of these policies.

The Appeal of Plundering the Poor

Another source of evidence is the declassified historical record.  It contains revealing accounts of the actual motives of state policy.  The story is rich and complex, but a few persistent themes play a dominant role.  One was articulated clearly at a western hemispheric conference called by the U.S. in Mexico in February 1945 where Washington imposed “An Economic Charter of the Americas” designed to eliminate economic nationalism “in all its forms.” There was one unspoken condition.  Economic nationalism would be fine for the U.S. whose economy relies heavily on massive state intervention.

The elimination of economic nationalism for others stood in sharp conflict with the Latin American stand of that moment, which State Department officials described as “the philosophy of the New Nationalism [that] embraces policies designed to bring about a broader distribution of wealth and to raise the standard of living of the masses.” As U.S. policy analysts added, “Latin Americans are convinced that the first beneficiaries of the development of a country’s resources should be the people of that country.”

That, of course, will not do.  Washington understands that the “first beneficiaries” should be U.S. investors, while Latin America fulfills its service function.  It should not, as both the Truman and Eisenhower administrations would make clear, undergo “excessive industrial development” that might infringe on U.S. interests.  Thus Brazil could produce low-quality steel that U.S. corporations did not want to bother with, but it would be “excessive,” were it to compete with U.S. firms.

Similar concerns resonate throughout the post-World War II period.  The global system that was to be dominated by the U.S. was threatened by what internal documents call “radical and nationalistic regimes” that respond to popular pressures for independent development.  That was the concern that motivated the overthrow of the parliamentary governments of Iran and Guatemala in 1953 and 1954, as well as numerous others.  In the case of Iran, a major concern was the potential impact of Iranian independence on Egypt, then in turmoil over British colonial practice.  In Guatemala, apart from the crime of the new democracy in empowering the peasant majority and infringing on possessions of the United Fruit Company — already offensive enough — Washington’s concern was labor unrest and popular mobilization in neighboring U.S.-backed dictatorships.

In both cases the consequences reach to the present.  Literally not a day has passed since 1953 when the U.S. has not been torturing the people of Iran.  Guatemala remains one of the world’s worst horror chambers.  To this day, Mayans are fleeing from the effects of near-genocidal government military campaigns in the highlands backed by President Ronald Reagan and his top officials.  As the country director of Oxfam, a Guatemalan doctor, reported recently,

“There is a dramatic deterioration of the political, social, and economic context.  Attacks against Human Rights defenders have increased 300% during the last year.  There is a clear evidence of a very well organized strategy by the private sector and Army. Both have captured the government in order to keep the status quo and to impose the extraction economic model, pushing away dramatically indigenous peoples from their own land, due to the mining industry, African Palm and sugar cane plantations.  In addition the social movement defending their land and rights has been criminalized, many leaders are in jail, and many others have been killed.”

Nothing is known about this in the United States and the very obvious cause of it remains suppressed.

In the 1950s, President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles explained quite clearly the dilemma that the U.S. faced.  They complained that the Communists had an unfair advantage.  They were able to “appeal directly to the masses” and “get control of mass movements, something we have no capacity to duplicate.  The poor people are the ones they appeal to and they have always wanted to plunder the rich.”

That causes problems.  The U.S. somehow finds it difficult to appeal to the poor with its doctrine that the rich should plunder the poor.

The Cuban Example

A clear illustration of the general pattern was Cuba, when it finally gained independence in 1959.  Within months, military attacks on the island began.  Shortly after, the Eisenhower administration made a secret decision to overthrow the government.  John F. Kennedy then became president.  He intended to devote more attention to Latin America and so, on taking office, he created a study group to develop policies headed by the historian Arthur Schlesinger, who summarized its conclusions for the incoming president.

As Schlesinger explained, threatening in an independent Cuba was “the Castro idea of taking matters into one’s own hands.”  It was an idea that unfortunately appealed to the mass of the population in Latin America where “the distribution of land and other forms of national wealth greatly favors the propertied classes, and the poor and underprivileged, stimulated by the example of the Cuban revolution, are now demanding opportunities for a decent living.” Again, Washington’s usual dilemma.

As the CIA explained, “The extensive influence of ‘Castroism’ is not a function of Cuban power… Castro’s shadow looms large because social and economic conditions throughout Latin America invite opposition to ruling authority and encourage agitation for radical change,” for which his Cuba provides a model.  Kennedy feared that Russian aid might make Cuba a “showcase” for development, giving the Soviets the upper hand throughout Latin America.

The State Department Policy Planning Council warned that “the primary danger we face in Castro is… in the impact the very existence of his regime has upon the leftist movement in many Latin American countries… The simple fact is that Castro represents a successful defiance of the U.S., a negation of our whole hemispheric policy of almost a century and a half” — that is, since the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, when the U.S. declared its intention of dominating the hemisphere.

The immediate goal at the time was to conquer Cuba, but that could not be achieved because of the power of the British enemy.  Still, that grand strategist John Quincy Adams, the intellectual father of the Monroe Doctrine and Manifest Destiny, informed his colleagues that over time Cuba would fall into our hands by “the laws of political gravitation,” as an apple falls from the tree.  In brief, U.S. power would increase and Britain’s would decline.

In 1898, Adams’s prognosis was realized. The U.S. invaded Cuba in the guise of liberating it.  In fact, it prevented the island’s liberation from Spain and turned it into a “virtual colony” to quote historians Ernest May and Philip Zelikow.  Cuba remained so until January 1959, when it gained independence.  Since that time it has been subjected to major U.S. terrorist wars, primarily during the Kennedy years, and economic strangulation.  Not because of the Russians.

The pretense all along was that we were defending ourselves from the Russian threat — an absurd explanation that generally went unchallenged.  A simple test of the thesis is what happened when any conceivable Russian threat disappeared.  U.S. policy toward Cuba became even harsher, spearheaded by liberal Democrats, including Bill Clinton, who outflanked Bush from the right in the 1992 election.  On the face of it, these events should have considerable bearing on the validity of the doctrinal framework for discussion of foreign policy and the factors that drive it.  Once again, however, the impact was slight.

The Virus of Nationalism

To borrow Henry Kissinger’s terminology, independent nationalism is a “virus” that might “spread contagion.” Kissinger was referring to Salvador Allende’s Chile.  The virus was the idea that there might be a parliamentary path towards some kind of socialist democracy.  The way to deal with such a threat is to destroy the virus and to inoculate those who might be infected, typically by imposing murderous national security states.  That was achieved in the case of Chile, but it is important to recognize that the thinking holds worldwide.

It was, for example, the reasoning behind the decision to oppose Vietnamese nationalism in the early 1950s and support France’s effort to reconquer its former colony.  It was feared that independent Vietnamese nationalism might be a virus that would spread contagion to the surrounding regions, including resource-rich Indonesia.  That might even have led Japan — called the “superdomino” by Asia scholar John Dower — to become the industrial and commercial center of an independent new order of the kind imperial Japan had so recently fought to establish.  That, in turn, would have meant that the U.S. had lost the Pacific war, not an option to be considered in 1950.  The remedy was clear — and largely achieved.  Vietnam was virtually destroyed and ringed by military dictatorships that kept the “virus” from spreading contagion.

In retrospect, Kennedy-Johnson National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy reflected that Washington should have ended the Vietnam War in 1965, when the Suharto dictatorship was installed in Indonesia, with enormous massacres that the CIA compared to the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.  These were, however, greeted with unconstrained euphoria in the U.S. and the West generally because the “staggering bloodbath,” as the press cheerfully described it, ended any threat of contagion and opened Indonesia’s rich resources to western exploitation.  After that, the war to destroy Vietnam was superfluous, as Bundy recognized in retrospect.

The same was true in Latin America in the same years: one virus after another was viciously attacked and either destroyed or weakened to the point of bare survival.  From the early 1960s, a plague of repression was imposed on the continent that had no precedent in the violent history of the hemisphere, extending to Central America in the 1980s under Ronald Reagan, a matter that there should be no need to review.

Much the same was true in the Middle East.  The unique U.S. relations with Israel were established in their current form in 1967, when Israel delivered a smashing blow to Egypt, the center of secular Arab nationalism.  By doing so, it protected U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, then engaged in military conflict with Egypt in Yemen.  Saudi Arabia, of course, is the most extreme radical fundamentalist Islamic state, and also a missionary state, expending huge sums to establish its Wahhabi-Salafi doctrines beyond its borders.  It is worth remembering that the U.S., like England before it, has tended to support radical fundamentalist Islam in opposition to secular nationalism, which has usually been perceived as posing more of a threat of independence and contagion.

The Value of Secrecy

There is much more to say, but the historical record demonstrates very clearly that the standard doctrine has little merit.  Security in the normal sense is not a prominent factor in policy formation.

To repeat, in the normal sense.  But in evaluating the standard doctrine we have to ask what is actually meant by “security”: security for whom?

One answer is: security for state power.  There are many illustrations.  Take a current one.  In May, the U.S. agreed to support a U.N. Security Council resolution calling on the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes in Syria, but with a proviso: there could be no inquiry into possible war crimes by Israel.  Or by Washington, though it was really unnecessary to add that last condition.  The U.S. is uniquely self-immunized from the international legal system.  In fact, there is even congressional legislation authorizing the president to use armed force to “rescue” any American brought to the Hague for trial — the “Netherlands Invasion Act,” as it is sometimes called in Europe.  That once again illustrates the importance of protecting the security of state power.

But protecting it from whom? There is, in fact, a strong case to be made that a prime concern of government is the security of state power from the population.  As those who have spent time rummaging through archives should be aware, government secrecy is rarely motivated by a genuine for security, but it definitely does serve to keep the population in the dark.  And for good reasons, which were lucidly explained by the prominent liberal scholar and government adviser Samuel Huntington, the professor of the science of government at Harvard University.  In his words: “The architects of power in the United States must create a force that can be felt but not seen.  Power remains strong when it remains in the dark; exposed to the sunlight it begins to evaporate.”

He wrote that in 1981, when the Cold War was again heating up, and he explained further that “you may have to sell [intervention or other military action] in such a way as to create the misimpression that it is the Soviet Union that you are fighting. That is what the United States has been doing ever since the Truman Doctrine.”

These simple truths are rarely acknowledged, but they provide insight into state power and policy, with reverberations to the present moment.

State power has to be protected from its domestic enemy; in sharp contrast, the population is not secure from state power.  A striking current illustration is the radical attack on the Constitution by the Obama administration’s massive surveillance program.  It is, of course, justified by “national security.” That is routine for virtually all actions of all states and so carries little information.

When the NSA’s surveillance program was exposed by Edward Snowden’s revelations, high officials claimed that it had prevented 54 terrorist acts.  On inquiry, that was whittled down to a dozen.  A high-level government panel then discovered that there was actually only one case: someone had sent $8,500 to Somalia.  That was the total yield of the huge assault on the Constitution and, of course, on others throughout the world.

Britain’s attitude is interesting.  In 2007, the British government called on Washington’s colossal spy agency “to analyze and retain any British citizens’ mobile phone and fax numbers, emails, and IP addresses swept up by its dragnet,” the Guardian reported.  That is a useful indication of the relative significance, in government eyes, of the privacy of its own citizens and of Washington’s demands.

Another concern is security for private power.  One current illustration is the huge trade agreements now being negotiated, the Trans-Pacific and Trans-Atlantic pacts.  These are being negotiated in secret — but not completely in secret.  They are not secret from the hundreds of corporate lawyers who are drawing up the detailed provisions.  It is not hard to guess what the results will be, and the few leaks about them suggest that the expectations are accurate.  Like NAFTA and other such pacts, these are not free trade agreements.  In fact, they are not even trade agreements, but primarily investor rights agreements.

Again, secrecy is critically important to protect the primary domestic constituency of the governments involved, the corporate sector.

The Final Century of Human Civilization?

There are other examples too numerous to mention, facts that are well-established and would be taught in elementary schools in free societies.

There is, in other words, ample evidence that securing state power from the domestic population and securing concentrated private power are driving forces in policy formation.  Of course, it is not quite that simple.  There are interesting cases, some quite current, where these commitments conflict, but consider this a good first approximation and radically opposed to the received standard doctrine.

Let us turn to another question: What about the security of the population? It is easy to demonstrate that this is a marginal concern of policy planners.  Take two prominent current examples, global warming and nuclear weapons.  As any literate person is doubtless aware, these are dire threats to the security of the population.  Turning to state policy, we find that it is committed to accelerating each of those threats — in the interests of the primary concerns, protection of state power and of the concentrated private power that largely determines state policy.

Consider global warming.  There is now much exuberance in the United States about “100 years of energy independence” as we become “the Saudi Arabia of the next century” — perhaps the final century of human civilization if current policies persist.

That illustrates very clearly the nature of the concern for security, certainly not for the population.  It also illustrates the moral calculus of contemporary Anglo-American state capitalism: the fate of our grandchildren counts as nothing when compared with the imperative of higher profits tomorrow.

These conclusions are fortified by a closer look at the propaganda system.  There is a huge public relations campaign in the U.S., organized quite openly by Big Energy and the business world, to try to convince the public that global warming is either unreal or not a result of human activity.  And it has had some impact.  The U.S. ranks lower than other countries in public concern about global warming and the results are stratified: among Republicans, the party more fully dedicated to the interests of wealth and corporate power, it ranks far lower than the global norm.

The current issue of the premier journal of media criticism, the Columbia Journalism Review, has an interesting article on this subject, attributing this outcome to the media doctrine of “fair and balanced.” In other words, if a journal publishes an opinion piece reflecting the conclusions of 97% of scientists, it must also run a counter-piece expressing the viewpoint of the energy corporations.

That indeed is what happens, but there certainly is no “fair and balanced” doctrine. Thus, if a journal runs an opinion piece denouncing Russian President Vladimir Putin for the criminal act of taking over the Crimea, it surely does not have to run a piece pointing out that, while the act is indeed criminal, Russia has a far stronger case today than the U.S. did more than a century ago in taking over southeastern Cuba, including the country’s major port — and rejecting the Cuban demand since independence to have it returned.  And the same is true of many other cases.  The actual media doctrine is “fair and balanced” when the concerns of concentrated private power are involved, but surely not elsewhere.

On the issue of nuclear weapons, the record is similarly interesting — and frightening.  It reveals very clearly that, from the earliest days, the security of the population was a non-issue, and remains so.  There is no time here to run through the shocking record, but there is little doubt that it strongly supports the lament of General Lee Butler, the last commander of the Strategic Air Command, which was armed with nuclear weapons.  In his words, we have so far survived the nuclear age “by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.” And we can hardly count on continued divine intervention as policymakers play roulette with the fate of the species in pursuit of the driving factors in policy formation.

As we are all surely aware, we now face the most ominous decisions in human history.  There are many problems that must be addressed, but two are overwhelming in their significance: environmental destruction and nuclear war.  For the first time in history, we face the possibility of destroying the prospects for decent existence — and not in the distant future.  For this reason alone, it is imperative to sweep away the ideological clouds and face honestly and realistically the question of how policy decisions are made, and what we can do to alter them before it is too late.

Nine Reasons Our Foreign Policy Makes Us Look Like Complete Hypocrites

June 27, 2014
OpEdNews Op Eds 6/24/2014 at 14:40:20

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Cross-posted, with permission, fromReader Supported News

From youtube.com/watch?v=IW4ROepI7UE: US President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry
US President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry
(image by YouTube)
By *Carl Gibson

In Chapter 7 of the Book of Matthew, during Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, Jesus talks directly to hypocrites who judge the actions of others while being oblivious to their own faults.

“How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ and behold, the log is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.” 
– Matthew, Chapter 7, verses 4 and 5

Our political leadership should take some cues from this passage as we approach a solution to deal with the turmoil of Russia’s intrusion into Ukraine, Iraq’s impending downfall that came as a direct result of our past meddlings, and other foreign policy crises to come. We look tremendously foolish to the rest of the world when we try to dictate how other countries should behave, considering the vast number of critical problems the US faces internally.

Here are a few logs the US should take out of its own eye before telling Iraq and Russia how to handle the specks in theirs.

1. We have the worst health care system in the developed world.

A recent study showed that of the top Western industrialized nations, the United States has the worst health care system. That’s no surprise, considering that only in the US is it acceptable for the illness and injury of citizens to be a commodity from which others can profit. To put this into perspective, the average hip replacement in the US costs $40,364. In Spain, that same operation costs $7,731. This means one can fly to Spain, live in Madrid for two years, learn Spanish, run with the bulls, get trampled, get their hip replaced again, and fly back to the US while still coming out ahead. Britain’s National Health Services came out on top of the survey, as citizens who are critically ill or injured can get life-saving medical treatment and be sent home just as a result of paying taxes.

 

2. We intentionally saddle college students with a lifetime of debt servitude.

The student debt bubble has now surpassed the $1.2 trillion mark, which is even more than America’s accumulated credit card debt. This is a direct result of states investing less in public higher education and making students pay for the bulk of their education. And because wages are already so low, student loans are, in many cases, used for basic survival rather than tuition payments. The average amount of debt each college graduate owes isjust under $30,000. This means that even if a student manages to secure a job in an economy where there at least two applicants for every job opening, it will take years of consistent payments for that graduate to be in the black again.

To contrast, most other developed Western nations allow students to go to college for little to no cost of their own, seeing the education of a citizen as an investment in the country’s well-being. When Quebec proposed a tuition increase from $2,200 to $3,800 over a six-year period, hundreds of thousands of students took to the streets in protest.

3. We effectively have an oligarchy, where the rich can buy their own politicians.

The idea of the US invading Iraq to “spread democracy” is laughable, considering the complete absence of democracy in our own country. In a country of 310,000,000 people, we have a body of a little over 500 people making decisions on the behalf of all of us. Most of those few hundred people are millionaires. And most of the time, these millionaires who supposedly represent us spend more time — roughly 30 to 70 percent of it – with other millionaires, courting donations for their next re-election campaign, than they do listening and responding to the needs of their constituents.

One study from Princeton University concluded that the US government in its current form has more in common with an oligarchy — where a small number of wealthy people run the government — than a democracy. Another study found that members of Congress were more free to schedule meetings with people who identified as donors than with people who identified as constituents. It isn’t hard to see why there’s such an uptick of “insurgents” in Iraq who don’t want to see the US spread what we call “democracy” in their country.

4. We punish poor people for enduring the circumstances we forced them into.

In Detroit, Dan Gilbert, the billionaire owner of Quicken Loans, became known as “Subprime Dan” when he made a killing before the burst of the housing bubble by pressuring homeowners into risky subprime loans. Since the 2008 housing market crash, roughly 60,000 Detroit homeowners have been forced to vacate their homes, which has led to massive urban blight and enabled billionaires like Dan Gilbert to buy those homes for pennies on the dollar to gentrify and develop into housing that only the rich can afford.

Now, the few Detroiters who are still lucky to have a place to live are paying increasingly higher rates for water, and in the down economy of Detroit, many have fallen behind on water payments. The city of Detroit has responded by shutting off water for 150,000 households, and is doing so at a rapid rate of 1,500 to 3,000 houses per week. When Detroit raised $1 billion in bonds to pay for infrastructure like water in 2011, Detroit’s unelected emergency manager Kevyn Orr, appointed by bank-friendly governor Rick Snyder, allowed big banks to take a big $537 million bite in interest payments. Even after the big industries made a profit by shipping jobs overseas, and the big banks made a profit by swindling people out of their homes, Detroit’s corporate-owned government won’t allow people owing as little as $150 in water payments to have access to a basic human right.

Another example: a poor single mother in New York had landed a job interview, but no babysitter for her two children, ages 6 and 2, was available during the time scheduled for the interview. She had no choice but to leave her two children in the car for 70 minutes. After the interview, she was arrested for alleged child endangerment. And just recently, child protective services took the two children away from their mother for this alleged endangerment. To sum it up, a woman doing everything she could to earn an income to support her family was punished to the point of having her family taken from her, simply because she couldn’t find a babysitter for 70 minutes.

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