Archive for the ‘Militarism’ Category

Japan joins military exercises with U.S., UK and France off Guam

May 14, 2017


Today 06:53 am JST 10 Comments
Japanese troops on Saturday took part in amphibious military exercises on the U.S. Pacific island of Guam.

The weeklong drills involve U.S., British, French and Japanese troops. They are intended to show support for the free passage of vessels in international waters amid concerns China may restrict access to the South China Sea.

U.S. 3rd Marine Division spokesman 1st Lt Joshua Hays said Japanese soldiers practiced rubber craft raids.

The drills are being held around Guam and Tinian islands, U.S. islands that are about 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) south of Tokyo and east of Manila, Philippines.

The exercises feature two French ships currently on a four-month deployment to the Indian and Pacific oceans. Some 50 Japanese soldiers and 160 Japanese sailors are participating, along with UK helicopters and 70 UK troops deployed with one of the French ships.

© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



October 19, 2016


David Swanson via via

By David Swanson
The 2016 Republican presidential primary was rigged. It wasn’t rigged by the Republicans, the Democrats, Russians, space aliens, or voters. It was rigged by the owners of television networks who believed that giving one candidate far more coverage than others was good for their ratings. The CEO of CBS Leslie Moonves said of this decision: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” Justifying that choice based on polling gets the chronology backwards, ignores Moonves’ actual motivation, and avoids the problem, which is that there ought to be fair coverage for all qualified candidates (and a democratic way to determine who is qualified).

The 2016 Democratic presidential primary was rigged. It wasn’t rigged by bankers, misogynists, Russians, Republicans, or computer hackers. It was rigged by the Democratic National Committee and its co-conspirators in the media, many of whom have helpfully confessed (in case it wasn’t obvious) in emails leaked from the DNC and from John Podesta. The DNC chose Hillary Clinton and worked hard to make sure that she “won.” Nobody has produced a hint of evidence as to who leaked the emails that added unnecessary confirmation of this rigging, but they should be thanked for informing us, whoever they are.

The FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton’s misuse of email was as rigged as the non-prosecution of the CEO of Wells Fargo. The U.S. political system is bought and paid for. Without millions of dollars to funnel to television networks for advertising, any candidate is rigged right out of participating. This rigging of the system is not fixed by someone like Donald Trump pretending for a while that he won’t take bribes, that he’ll spend only his own money, because most people don’t have that kind of money to spend. This rigging is not fixed by making someone like Hillary Clinton take her bribes through her family foundation or requiring that her political action committees remain theoretically separate from the campaign they are collaborating hand-in-glove with, because money buys power.

The debates are rigged by a private entity with no official status that calls itself the Commission on Presidential Debates and transforms open debates among multiple candidates into exclusively bipartisan joint appearances with many large and fine points negotiated beforehand.

Actual governance of the United States is rigged. Congress plans to attempt to ram through a number of intensely unpopular measures just after the election, including a supplemental spending bill for more wars and including the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The hope is that most people will have tuned out after the election circus, and that most of them will forget what happened 2 or 4 years later.

The demonization of Vladimir Putin is rigged. Nobody has seen evidence that he or his government did us the favor of informing us of the DNC’s corruption. He proposed a ban on cyber “war” that was rejected by the United States, for goodness sake. There’s no evidence that Russia shot down an airplane in Ukraine or invaded Ukraine or seized Crimea or plotted attacks on the United States. The United States pulled out of the ABM treaty, expanded NATO to Russia’s border, built missile bases, arranged military “exercises,” facilitated a Ukrainian coup, and pushed a string of hostile lies. Russia has shown even more restraint than your typical U.S. voter (who usually sits home and does not vote, especially in primaries).

Military spending is rigged. Nobody knows it amounts to over half of U.S. discretionary spending. Nobody knows it’s as much in the U.S. as in the rest of the world (allies and otherwise) combined. Nobody pays attention to the bribes from war profiteers, or to the threats held over Congress members to pull weapons jobs out of districts or states. Supporters of both big candidates claim their candidate plans to cut military spending. Both candidates have said the exact opposite. The debates and interviews steer clear of the whole topic.

The shapes of the districts are blatantly rigged by gerrymandering. The existence of the Senate, in which Rhode Island and Wyoming each have as much say as California is rigged against the popular will. The electoral college is rigged against the popular will and in favor of concentrating national campaigns in a handful of “swing states.”

Voter registration is rigged. A handful of states have now made it automatic, as most states have long-since done for military draft registration. In the rest of the country, thousands of young people run around registering voters, imagining they are engaged in “activism.” Meanwhile, the right to vote can be denied to anyone by claiming they aren’t registered.

People’s names are stripped from voting rolls through a so-called justice system that brands them as felons, and through the careful rigging of those rolls by corrupt and partisan state governments that intentionally strip out people likely to vote for a particular party. This includes racial profiling. Bob Fitrakis, Harvey Wasserman, Greg Palast and others have reported extensively on these practices.

Election day is rigged as well. It’s not a holiday. Most people have to work. Poor districts and racial minority districts tend to have fewer machines and longer lines. ID requirements are used to deny people the right to vote. Intimidation and racial profiling by partisan activists serve the same function of rigging the election. The myths and lies about the virtually nonexistent phenomenon of “voter fraud” also serve to rig the election.

The election machines are also rigged. That is to say: instead of verifiable paper ballots publicly hand-counted in front of observers from all interested parties in each polling place, we have a faith-based system of voting on black-box machines that can never, even in theory, be checked for accuracy. These machines have been very easily hacked in demonstrations. These machines have visibly flipped votes before the eyes (and cameras) of countless voters. These machines have almost certainly played a key role in flipping the results of numerous elections.

Now, the wider the margin of victory, the less likely an electronic flipping. And the fact that machines can easily be used to steal an election does not mean that they always will be. But it was very odd during the late summer of 2016 to watch the U.S. media announce that these machines were totally unreliable — just what many of us had been saying for years. But the media said this in order to accuse Russia of planning to sabotage the coming U.S. election, or in order to accuse Russia of exactly what these media reports themselves did: plant seeds of doubt in U.S. minds.

Those doubts should be there. People should watch for visible problems with machines and with partisan and racist intimidators, and report all such to 1-866-OUR-VOTE, to county clerks, to secretaries of state, and to corporate and independent media. Then we should work for necessary reforms, including a respectful cessation of the U.S. government’s routine practice of interfering in elections and overthrowing governments in other people’s countries — a practice that has clearly resulted in the U.S. media projecting such behavior on others.

Ultimately, an unrigging of the U.S. system might take the form of amending the U.S. Constitution to slip in words like these:

The rights protected by the Constitution of the United States are the rights of natural persons only.

Artificial entities, such as corporations, limited liability companies, and other entities, established by the laws of any State, the United States, or any foreign state shall have no rights under this Constitution and are subject to regulation by the People, through Federal, State, or local law. The privileges of artificial entities shall be determined by the People, through Federal, State, or local law.

The judiciary shall not construe the spending of money to influence elections to be speech under the First Amendment.

All elections for President and members of the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate shall be entirely publicly financed. No political contributions shall be permitted to any federal candidate, from any other source, including the candidate. No political expenditures shall be permitted in support of any federal candidate, or in opposition to any federal candidate, from any other source, including the candidate. The Congress shall, by statute, provide limitations on the amounts and timing of the expenditures of such public funds and provide criminal penalties for any violation of this section.

State and local governments shall regulate, limit, or prohibit contributions and expenditures, including a candidate’s own contributions and expenditures, for the purpose of influencing in any way the election of any candidate for state or local public office or any state or local ballot measure.

The right of the individual U.S. citizen to vote and to directly elect all candidates by popular vote in all pertinent local, state, and federal elections shall not be violated. Citizens will be automatically registered to vote upon reaching the age of 18 or upon becoming citizens at an age above 18, and the right to vote shall not be taken away from them. Votes shall be recorded on paper ballots, which shall be publicly counted at the polling place. Election day shall be a national holiday.

Nothing contained in this amendment shall be construed to abridge the freedom of the press. During a designated campaign period of no longer than six months, free air time shall be provided in equal measure to all candidates for federal office on national, state, or district television and radio stations, provided that each candidate has, during the previous year, received the supporting signatures of at least five percent of their potential voting-age constituents. The same supporting signatures shall also place the candidate’s name on the ballot and require their invitation to participate in any public debate among the candidates for the same office.

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Let’s help army find its $6.5 trillion

August 16, 2016

David Swanson via

I volunteer to help the U.S. Army find its missing $6.5 trillion!

Click here to sign.

To: The U.S. Army

Please allow us to visit your facilities and to conduct unimpeded inspections until we determine exactly where the unaccounted for $6.5 trillion ended up — the $6.5 trillion that you said in the report linked below you just can’t locate. We are willing to do this on a contingency basis, accepting as payment a 0.0001% finder’s fee each.

Sign now.

Why is this important?

$30 billion a year could end starvation and hunger worldwide.

$11 billion a year could provide clean drinking water to everyone who needs it.

All the green energy projects ever envisioned that could preserve life on earth would collectively cost significantly less than this pocket change of yours that has gone missing.

We realize you didn’t drop it in the yard with your keys somewhere, that you SPENT it on things you don’t really want to go into details about with us, even though it was our money to begin with. Nonetheless, we’ll help you identify exactly where it all went. It shouldn’t be hard if you give us proper access.

Here’s your report on the unaccounted for money:

How the petition will be delivered

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State Capitalism on Behalf of Militarism

June 28, 2015

General News 6/26/2015 at 11:48:22

By Natylie Baldwin (about the author) Permalink (Page 1 of 3 pages)
Related Topic(s): Boeing; Capitalism; Defense; Economy; Economy; Fraud; Fraud; Lockheed; Manufacturing; Militarism; (more…) Add to My Group(s)
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From Boeing Wake of Destruction
Boeing Wake of Destruction
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There is much debate on what the nature of the Soviet Union’s economy actually was. It is agreed by many that it wasn’t in reality a true socialist or even a communist system. Some, like Seymour Melman and Jack Matlock, argue that it was something closer to a state-run capitalist system with a vanguard political party controlling it.

What is hard to argue with is the fact that what constituted a huge part of the Soviet economy in terms of input of resources — and, ironically, what it has had in common with the U.S. economy — was a sprawling and wasteful military-industrial complex guaranteed by the state to enable an arms race.

The Military-Industrial Complex in the United States

In 1864, President Lincoln expressed profound concern over the rise of corporations resulting from the Civil War and what it portended for the political and economic future of the country.

Advancement in industrialization led to more mechanized and phenomenally more destructive warfare in the 20th century, with the outcomes increasingly dependent upon material production and technology.

In World War I, military officers still played a critical role in the decisions to wage war which were based on previous strategies that were soon rendered outmoded due to a lack of technological expertise and inability to manage the more complicated industrial economics crucial to sustaining modern warfare. Thus, for expediency, government allowed responsibility for the war economy to be transferred from the Army to private industrialists who controlled the terms of war organization and procurement through the War Industries Board (WIB), a body comprised primarily of corporate executives and bankers.

Once this arrangement was established it was difficult to put the proverbial genie back in the bottle. Many of the major anti-competitive trusts running the war economy through the WIB had long desired a relationship with the state that would facilitate public subsidy of their interests. The war effort had proven a convenient means to this end.


Between 1918 and 1941, formal patronage was fostered between the War Department and Big Business for the first time outside the context of an actual war. Drawing on the WIB model, the War Production Board instituted favorable tax and profit standards for major industrialists who again dictated policies within their own economic sectors during World War II, usurping substantial decision-making from state actors.

Since 1945, the power, reach and ambition of multinational corporations have expanded, including encroachment into areas traditionally considered part of the public interest and outside of its domain.

More sophisticated, diversified and structured than historical mercenaries, Private Military Firms (PMF’s) have proliferated since the collapse of the Cold War. These companies have participated in conflicts from the civil war in Sierra Leone to the Balkans conflict. They played an increasing role in the Iraq war, with Blackwater (now Academi) being the most controversial with the September 2007 killing of 17 civilians and the wounding of 20 more in Nisour Square in Baghdad. Just prior to those killings, a high level manager of the company reportedly issued a death threat to a State Department official who was in Iraq investigating the company’s practices.

A 2014 report issued by Remote Control Project in Britain found that the US Special Operations Command is outsourcing sensitive activities like flying drones, target acquisition oversight, communications, prisoner interrogations, translation of captured material and information management. The report raises concerns due to the challenges that remote warfare has in terms of accountability and oversight. The concern is compounded by the fact that the Obama administration has not decreased war and militarism but has increasingly reorganized it to be under the auspices of covert and special operations with a presence in nearly 70 percent of the world’s nations at 134, up from around 60 nations at the end of the Bush II era. Funding for the Special Operations Command has risen from $2.3 billion in 2001 to a total of $10.4 billion in 2013.

In an investigative report on Obama’s covert-special ops policy, Nick Turse detailed the administration’s militaristic foreign policy:


Although elected in 2008 by many who saw him as an antiwar candidate, President Obama has proved to be a decidedly hawkish commander-in-chief. While the Obama administration oversaw a US withdrawal from Iraq (negotiated by his predecessor), as well as a drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan (after a major military surge in that country), the president has presided over a ramping up of the US military presence in Africa, a reinvigoration of efforts in Latin America, and tough talk about a rebalancing or “pivot to Asia”. The White House has also overseen an exponential expansion of America’s drone war. While President Bush launched 51 such strikes, President Obama has presided over 330. Last year, alone, the US also engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen. Recent revelations from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden have [also] demonstrated the tremendous breadth and global reach of US electronic surveillance during the Obama years.
An article in The Daily Beast revealed that many employees of these contractors expect new opportunities with Obama’s long-term plan to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria without “boots on the ground” by following his established pattern of using covert players to obscure the extent of U.S. involvement: “One U.S. military contractor working in Iraq who asked not to be named said, ‘I can tell you the contractor-expat community is abuzz thinking this will lead to more work. We expect a much larger footprint than he is showing right now.'”
Then there are the more mundane support services for both overt and covert military operations provided by firms like KBR which provide ice delivery, trash disposal and portable toilet maintenance, among other services. These contractors and their sub-contractors, like Najilaa Catering Services International, have often performed poorly or committed outright fraud. But that usually doesn’t stop them from continuing to procure contracts with the US government.

Najilaa, for instance, had been under fire for non-payment of bills and fraud in both Iraq and Kuwait prior to being signed on to provide food preparation services to USAID in Iraq in February of 2010. KBR has been plagued with continuing allegations of overcharging and poor service for more than 10 years. In 2011, KBR was hit with an $85 million verdict for exposing members of the Oregon Army National Guard to toxic chemicals while serving in Iraq.

This kind of fraud and waste, however, is not unique to these relatively small players. It is indeed rampant among the top 5 defense contractors: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrup Grumann, General Dynamics, and Raytheon, with 3 of these 5 also occupying the top slots in federal contractor misconduct.

According to the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Lockheed Martin has more contracts with the federal government than any other company. It also has the most misconduct violations, ranging from age discrimination to contract fraud and unfair business practices, totaling over $600 million in fines, penalties and settlements.

A June 2011 POGO press release states that Boeing overcharged the Army millions in spare helicopter parts, such as $1,678.61 “for a plastic roller assembly that could have been purchased for $7.71 internally from the Department of Defense’s own supplies.” Boeing is ranked second in instances of contractor misconduct.

These kinds of antics have no effect on these companies’ status as government contractors. The fact that the top 5 defense contractors named above were among the top 6 defense industry contributors to federal political candidates and parties in the 2014 election cycle undoubtedly plays a major role.

Furthermore, this kind of waste has been largely built into the system of Pentagon contracting over the years in the form of cost-plus practices in the negotiation process. As the late Seymour Melman, an analyst who specialized in the workings of the military-industrial complex, detailed in his writings, the practice of cost-plus or cost-maximizing defense contracts, in which an agreed upon profit margin was simply added on to the previous cost of producing the product or service, had cropped up during WWII and was institutionalized during Robert McNamara’s tenure as Defense Secretary during the Vietnam War. Not only did this practice result in increasingly inflated price tags for the tax payer, it also discouraged quality control and increases in productivity, and encouraged labor unions in the affected industries to partner with management to the detriment of their own interests. Moreover, the practice bled over into other sectors of the government, such as health care contracts, and even into the private sector.

This cost-maximization, combined with the frequency of no bidding and the companies’ generous campaign contributions, makes these kinds of problems all too pervasive and easy to predict.

When more and more private corporations have entered the market with a profit motive in favor of military conflict, incentives to overcharge taxpayers built into the system, and legalized bribery that passes for campaign financing, what are the chances for a conversion from a war economy to a peaceful, civilian economy as the end of the Cold War provided an opportunity for?

A Formula for Economic Conversion

“Whatever else you can do with a tank, you can’t eat it, wear it, live in it or travel in it. And whatever else you can do with a nuclear-powered submarine or with a military helicopter, you can’t produce anything with it.” — Seymour Melman

Melman’s proposals for economic conversion were predicated upon a partnership between management and labor. For practical reasons, the workers needed to be part of the planning due to their intimate knowledge of the parts, tools and machinery involved in current production and its potential utility in manufacturing civilian goods and determining which ones would have the most successful possible outcome for conversion. Members of corporate management, who were typically far removed from the daily workings on the floor, would often make conversion plans on paper — if left to their own devices — that were unworkable when put into practice. Initial attempts at conversion in the Soviet Union failed due to this very problem.


The most comprehensive legislative bill proposed in 1988 to implement such a plan was one sponsored by Ted Weiss and called for the establishment of Alternative Use Committees, comprised of an equal number of representatives from management and labor. The committees would have been tasked with preparing “a complete technical economic plan for the use of the people and facilities following termination of work for the Pentagon.”

The legislation would have also mandated occupational retraining for engineers and managers who were veterans of Pentagon work for 10 years or longer. This was to ensure proper training for cost-minimizing instead of the entrenched practice of cost-maximizing fostered in the defense industry. The conversion program would have been overseen by the Commerce Department to encourage all levels of government to prepare their budgets accordingly in support of conversion.

This bill (HR 103) was the culmination of meetings that then-House Speaker Jim Wright had convened of congress members committed to the conversion opportunities that the end of the Cold War provided.

In the weeks following the bill’s historic introduction, however, a smear campaign against Speaker Wright was initiated — led by Newt Gingrich, who’s district just happened to be home to the headquarters of Lockheed Martin — based on trumped up charges of financial misconduct, forcing Wright’s resignation.

With the bill’s most powerful shepherd effectively eliminated, the legislation died quietly.


What Failure of the Peace Dividend Meant for the US

As the end of the Cold War beckoned in the late 1980s and, along with it, the potential for redirection of resources to improve the living standards of communities across America, Melman noted that 50 percent of the discretionary federal budget at that time went to the Pentagon. The percentage projected for the 2015 budget was 54 percent. Meanwhile, 3 percent is allotted to “international affairs” — meaning that some portion of that 3 percent goes to diplomacy, which speaks volumes about our leaders’ priorities and approach to international relations

What all that investment into militarism ultimately translates into is investment not made into the infrastructure for American citizens and their day-to-day needs. To illustrate this point, Melman also discussed the state of American domestic infrastructure by 1990 and how it had suffered from the diversion of resources into the MIC:

Instead of seizing the opportunity provided by the end of the Cold War and investing in the improvement of Americans’ lives, we have continued to feed the same amounts or more into the voracious military economy with our domestic infrastructure in worse shape than ever. The American Society of Civil Engineers Infrastructure Report Card for the US in 2013 was a D+; meanwhile, the New York Times just reported that the federal government will be investing as much as $1 trillion in modernizing our nuclear weapons arsenal over the next 30 years, using the confrontation with Russia over Ukraine as partial justification.

The early stages of another negative trend was observed by Melman with respect to the deindustrialization of the American economy whereby the nation gradually loses the ability to produce essential goods and to repair the basic infrastructure needed to create and repair those essential goods. For example, he described how the US was becoming dependent upon foreign production of basic machinery and tools that were no longer made in the US. This deindustrialization leads to loss of living wage jobs and loss of national independence and self-sufficiency in important areas of the economy. That trend has accelerated in the twenty-four years since and all of the social consequences one would likely expect are visible all around Americans, with the exception of the most wealthy and insulated.

One of the more pernicious consequences of this deindustrialization is that the lack of living wage jobs that used to be available to those with little or no post-secondary education drives more youth into the professional military as they seek a stable income and educational opportunities, reinforcing the militarist feedback loop.

One of the strangest blind spots that the American oligarchy seems to have is what their own system has in common with some of the failed aspects of the Soviet Union and that they somehow think they will avoid the same fate.

Note: This article is an expansion on issues relating to the military-industrial-complex that were discussed in Chapter 1 of Ukraine: Zbig’s Grand Chessboard & How the West Was Checkmated.

Natylie Baldwin is co-author of Ukraine: Zbig’s Grand Chessboard & How the West Was Checkmated, available from Tayen Lane Publishing. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in various publications including Sun Monthly, Dissident Voice, (more…)

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Global warring: how war and climate change are wired to the same engine

May 18, 2015

Neil Faulkner 31 March 2015. Posted in News

Catastrophic climate change is imminent, as the world’s rulers rearm for new wars and plunge the mass of humanity deeper into poverty.


Global warring

THE GLOBAL crisis is getting worse. Climate change, poverty, and war are tearing our world apart. These are not separate issues; they are not ‘single issues’. They are connected. They are part of a system of rival states and corporations. The driver of the system is competition for profit.

The carbon machine

The crisis can be imagined as a set of machines all wired to the same engine. A carbon machine is pumping pollution into the atmosphere and fast warming the planet.

Climate change is not some future threat: it is already happening. Floods temporarily covered 65% of Bangladesh in 1998, destroying villages, farms, and infrastructure. Half the island of Bhola, home to 1.6 million people, had been permanently washed away by 2004. The worst bushfires in Australia’s history ravaged the continent in 2011.

Around 20 million people were displaced by the effects of climate change in 2008 alone, and 150,000 people a year are now dying from its effects as diseases spread faster at higher temperatures.

The profit machine

The world is now more class-divided than ever before in history. The 80 richest people on Earth – who would fit on a double-decker bus – now have as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity (3.5 billion people).

The top 1% as a whole own half of all global wealth, while the bottom 80% own just 5.5%. These levels of inequality are unprecedented.

The fast growing gap between rich and poor is driven by a profit machine. Corporate power, privatisation, and austerity are tearing societies apart to enrich a tiny minority. Everything from housing to health to urban space is being commodified – turned into new sources of profit.

Democracy is hollowed out by technocratic regimes serving the rich, the banks, and the corporations. Society is hollowed out by poverty, debt, and fear.

The war machine

Our rulers spend $1.7 trillion on armaments every year. Armies are becoming ever more high-tech, ever more deadly and destructive.

Today’s wars – all fed by the same global arms conglomerates – are of two kinds. Some are imperialist wars waged by great powers for control of resources, especially oil and gas. Others are sectarian wars waged by right-wing militias filling the vacuum when societies are torn apart by poverty and violence.

Both types of war are rooted in the same system: the war machine – like the carbon machine and the profit machine – is hard-wired to the engine of capital accumulation.

A self-expanding and competitive system

Capitalism is a system of self-expansion. No bank or corporation invests without expecting to make a profit. Capital investment is always about making money: getting more out than you put in. It is therefore about uncontrolled, unlimited, unending growth.

There is no such thing as ‘steady-state’ capitalism. The idea of ‘green capitalism’ is therefore a pipedream.

The fossil-fuel economy – oil and gas corporations, mining companies, car manufacturers – represents the second biggest concentration of capital in the world (the biggest of all is the banks). Trillions of dollars worth of capital investment is at stake. All of it is geared to growth.

What drives the engine of growth is competition. The world is divided into competing banks, corporations, nation-states, and armies. The struggle between them is a struggle for energy, minerals, markets, and contracts. It is therefore a struggle for power.

Competition drives the engine of growth. And that engine powers the carbon, profit, and war machines. We live in a joined-up world: one system, one crisis.

One big movement

The system cannot concede either social justice or climate justice without imperilling its own existence. The profiteers and warmongers who run the system will not allow change which threatens their wealth and power.

Time has now run out. Catastrophic climate change is imminent. The rulers of the world are rearming to fight new wars. And they and their system are plunging the mass of humanity ever deeper into poverty.

We need to build a united mass movement against war, poverty, and global warming; a movement for total system change; one big movement fighting for equality, democracy, and sustainability.

Neil Faulkner is an archaeologist, historian, and activist. He was one of the organisers of the This Changes Everythinggathering in London on 28 March 2015.

Source: Stop the War Coalition

Neil Faulkner speaking at This Changes Everything conference

The paramilitary occupation of America

March 13, 2015
OpEdNews Op Eds 3/12/2015 at 13:11:53

By Joseph Kishore (about the author)     Permalink       (Page 1 of 2 pages)
Related Topic(s): America Culture Of Violence; American Capitalism;Murder; Police; Poor; Violence, Add Tags Add to My Group(s)


Reprinted from WSWS
(image by YouTube)

It is necessary to call things by their right names. The obscene regularity of police murders in the United States has reached the point where it is appropriate to speak of the police as an occupying army, whose daily violence and brutality can best be described as a war against the country’s poor and working people.

Practically every day brings a new outrage. The death toll mounts relentlessly, against the backdrop of harassment and beatings that are daily facts of life in much of the country. The government does not publish figures on police killings; however, according to statistics compiled from media reports, some 1,000 people lose their lives as a result of police violence every year in the United States. That averages out to almost three fatalities a day.

The list of victims reported just over the past three weeks includes:

  • Anthony Hill, 27, Atlanta, Georgia. Unarmed, naked, suffering from mental illness, reportedly seen hanging from his balcony and crawling on the ground. Shot dead by a police officer on March 9.
  • Anthony Robinson, Jr., 19, Madison, Wisconsin. Unarmed. Shot dead by a police officer who forced his way into the victim’s apartment building on March 6.
  • Naeschylus Vinzant, 37, Aurora, Colorado. Unarmed, wanted on an arrest warrant. Shot and killed by a heavily armed paramilitary SWAT team on March 6.
  • Derek Cruice, 26, Volusia County, Florida. Unarmed, killed in his home. Victim in a “no-knock” SWAT raid that turned up a few ounces of marijuana. Fatally shot in the face on March 4.
  • Ernest Javier Vanepa Diaz, 28, Santa Ana, California. Unarmed, killed in his car. Father of four, working two jobs. Shot dead on February 27 after, in the words of the local police chief, he “did not cooperate.”
  • Ruben Garcia Villapando, 31, Euless, Texas. Unarmed, killed in his car. Shot dead on February 20 after he allegedly disobeyed an officer’s commands during a traffic stop.
  • Antonio Zambrano-Montes, 35, Pasco, Washington. Unarmed. Accused of throwing rocks at police. Shot dead as his hands were raised on February 10.

These names must be added to a list that includes Akai Gurley and Eric Garner in New York; 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, Ohio; Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri; and many others.

The mind-boggling level of police violence in the United States far exceeds that of any other major industrialized country. In Germany, there were eight police killings in 2013 and 2014 combined. In Canada, about a dozen people are killed by police each year.

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In the past year, more people were killed by the police in Pasco, Washington (population of 68,000) than in all of Great Britain (population of 64,000,000) over the past three years.

Some of these killings are captured on videotape and become national news. Many more are barely reported or go unmentioned.

One web site that compiles local media reports, “Killed by Police,” documented 212 police killings in the first 70 days of this year, including at least seven on Wednesday alone. One brief media account is indicative: “A suspect has been fatally wounded after a brief police pursuit… The sheriff’s deputy discharged his weapon at the car after it finally stopped. The suspect was pronounced dead…”

The above incident could have happened in Iraq or Afghanistan. Such atrocities against civilians are commonplace in the countries occupied by the American military. There have been countless reports over the past 14 years of cars shot up by US military patrols because their drivers did not follow orders; of homes raided by American troops, their occupants beaten, arrested or shot.

Like the military, the police are trained to see the population as a hostile force. They demand that anyone they encounter act with complete submissiveness. Failure to obey is punishable by a beating, a jolt of electricity, arrest or summary execution.

The local police have intimate ties with the uniformed military and Pentagon. The latter has transferred billions of dollars in heavy weapons and military-grade equipment — including armored vehicles, helicopters and automatic weapons left over from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq — to police departments across the country, in a program fully endorsed by President Obama.

Aurora, Colorado, for example, where Naeschylus Vinzant was killed last week, has received $500,000 in military equipment since 2006, including a Mine Resistant (MRAP) vehicle, shields, and dozens of automatic rifles.

Volusia County, where Derek Cruice was shot, has received $1,251,000 in military equipment, mainly in the form of automatic rifles, a $250,000 personnel carrier, and a MRAP valued at nearly $700,000.

To account for the militarization of domestic policing over the past half-century, one must examine the far-reaching changes in the structure of American society that have occurred. While police violence — overwhelmingly directed against the working class and its struggles — has long been a basic feature of American life, the systematic militarization of the police has developed alongside the transformations that have taken place since the 1960s.

Heavily armed SWAT teams first made their appearance in the latter years of that decade, in response to the urban uprisings and social upheavals of the period. By the end of the decade, the ruling class was repudiating the policy of social reform it had followed since the New Deal of the 1930s.


At the end of the 1970s, the political establishment launched an offensive against the jobs, wages and living standards of the working class that has continued ever since. “Law and order” politics became the political cover for a rapid buildup of the police powers of the state, including a vast expansion of the prison system and the transformation of the police into a paramilitary force.

These processes were intensified after 9/11 under the banner of the “war on terror.” The police were integrated more directly into the massive military-intelligence apparatus — the FBI, CIA, NSA and Pentagon. The local police today are tied by a million threads to the national system of repression and control.

This is what underlies the Obama administration’s insistent interventions in defense of the police, including Obama’s statement supporting the exoneration of Darren Wilson, the Ferguson cop who killed Michael Brown, and his declaration last week that “the overwhelming number of law enforcement officers… do their job fairly, and they do it heroically.”

The political establishment views the whitewash of Wilson not as a local question, but as a national necessity. In defending the police, in ensuring that there is no accountability for their crimes, Obama is upholding a critical part of the apparatus of repression.

The police carry out “heroic” work not in the service of the people, but in defense of the capitalist system and the ruling corporate-financial oligarchy. As social struggles develop, the police are called on to ever more directly use the violent methods honed by the military abroad against the working class at home.

Police violence is not fundamentally a question of racism, as claimed by the various organizations that orbit the Democratic Party. Whatever role racism may play in any given act of brutality, police violence is embedded in the irreconcilable conflict between the interests of the capitalist class and those of its opposite — the working class. This basic class division of society has grown all the more explosive with the colossal growth of social inequality.

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This is why the fight against police violence must be rooted in the unification and mobilization of the working class, and the working class must see the fight against police violence as central to its own interests.

In drafting the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson included among the “long train of abuses and usurpations” of the British King the following: “Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us” and “protecting them, by mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they commit.” Then it was a question of overthrowing the British monarchy. Today it is a question of overthrowing the capitalist system.

Joe Kishore is the current National Secretary for the U.S. of the Socialist Equality Party (SEP)   which is a Trotskyist political party, one of several Socialist Equality Parties around the world affiliated to the (more…)

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Apartheid USA, Militarized Police and Corporate Government…

September 10, 2014
Published: Tuesday 9 September 2014
Washington should stop pushing the myth that the U.S. is an actual democracy and instead recognize the sanctioned apartheid spreading through this country.

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Apartheid and the concomitant police state, is here in the USA, sponsored under the auspices of ‘keeping the public safe–from terrorists.’ We have witnessed the specter of a police state in the small berg of Ferguson, Missouri, as the recoil from the murder of 18 year old Michael Brown continues to reverberate in the public psyche.

The resulting military response from a collective of local and state police departments in Missouri, presented as a ‘domestic army,’ occupying a small segment of Ferguson, reminiscent of official state-sanctioned apartheid in South Africa.

Apparently the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights agreed with this analysis, as she issued a formal statement of condemnation August 20th, in an interview with Reuters. Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay challenged the US government to

…”cherish…people’s right to protest.”

Pillay added that the police clashes with citizens in Ferguson were…

….”familiar to me, and privately I was thinking that there are many parts of the United States where apartheid is flourishing.”

Like the brutality and state sanctioned apartheid, previously widespread in South Africa; the growing militarized police state in the US has metastasized like a cancer on the myth pushed by the official DC public relations troops—that the US is an actual democracy.

As citizens, we are entertained with the disingenuous voices of our US Congress, as they do the political equivalent of ‘wringing their hands’ over this crime against our collective humanity. We are promised an investigation into the programs which provided military equipment to our local police departments; but we are not given the same stale promise regarding the legislative actions which officially neutered the Bill of Rights.

Senator Claire McCaskill vows to investigate…

Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill vows to investigate and review the overt militarization of our police. In her own newsletter, Senator McCaskill ..”called for local authorities in Ferguson to ‘de-militarize‘ the situation.”

It should be noted that Senator Claire McCaskill is conveniently the Chair of the Subcommittee on Financial & Contracting Oversight. As she hails from Missouri, she must be aware of major Pentagon suppliers in St .Louis, such as Boeing and Emerson Electric, who have a vested interest in programs such as Section 1033, the very program which has supplied the military equipment used to crush public dissent during the Michael Brown travesty. Regardless, her subcommittee will…

…”use the hearing to examine federal programs that enable local police departments to acquire military equipment, such as the Defense Department’s 1033 program for surplus property and grants made through the Department of Homeland Security. She plans to gather stakeholders in order to hear several perspectives, including those of local law enforcement.”

Given her position as Chair of the very Subcommittee tasked with ‘financial and contractual oversight’; her concern is not only late, but incomplete in scope.

Nowhere does the senator make any mention of the need to nullify and repeal multiple laws which strip away our rights–from Patriot, to the Military Commissions Act, to a section tucked away in the NDAA, (which allows any president the ‘right’ to assassinate alleged terrorists through waging indefinite war on any individual or group, ‘providing material support’);–without benefit of due process. She makes no mention of the de facto repeal of Posse Comitatus, the very law which forbids the use of troops on Americans.

And now, Senator McCaskill & chorus are confused as to how Michael Brown was executed by a militarized police force. Of course, this situation evolved over many decades, far beyond the senator’s purview. In fact, the history of domestic police militarization in the US traces back to before Michael Brown was ever born.

Furthermore the execution style killing of Michael Brown , and the systemic police abuse endured by communities of color and other groups who voice dissent against a growing corporate-controlled government–is the political…’canary in the coalmine.’ It is part of a choreographed effort to establish and maintain a constant state of fear and public demoralization. Its roots trace back as far as the first oligarch seeking to crush any democratic movement–from infancy.

In order to generate massive public fear and demoralization at a grandiose scale; power brokers find they require ‘enforcers,’ (or as the Italian Mafia dubbed them–‘capos’); and in a society drowning in political lies and social myths–a local army in the form of militarized police becomes necessary.

The first steps towards police militarization…

The genesis of post-modern police militarization in the USA traces back to the Nixon administration of the 1970’s. President Nixon was overseeing an increasingly unpopular Vietnam War and found a welcome distraction in the ‘law & order’ right wing chorus. Journalist Radley Balko described the first time in the 20th century, military equipment via a SWAT team was used to quell a domestic conflict in the US. Targeting a group of Black Panthers; Daryl Gates contacted the Department of Defense and obtained permission then required to use a grenade launcher. Balko described the raid as …”an utter disaster. But in terms of public relations, it was an enormous success.” (Source : Balko, Radley, Rise of the Warrior Cop.)

How SWAT became a money-maker…

Police militarization was dead in the water under the Carter administration, but resurfaced during Reagan. Besides signing the Military Cooperation With Law Enforcement Agencies Act in 1981; the Reagan administration expanded the civil asset forfeiture laws (which legalized state confiscation of any money or properties ‘related’ to merely alleged criminal activity); and aggressively worked to repeal the ‘exclusionary rule’ (which forbade the introduction of evidence illegally gained via Bill of Rights violations). The burden of proof regarding innocence in any alleged criminality was transferred from the state and dumped on the accused.

Drug raids were postponed until after the commission of multiple sales as a way to increase the profitability of the raid. SWAT teams outfitted with military equipment became de rigeur in these asset forfeiture actions–and …”SWAT became a money maker.”

Sarah Stillman writing a major piece on civil assets forfeiture, for the New Yorker, explains the arbitrary injustice of the system. Put bluntly, asset forfeiture is legalized theft by the police.

…”In general, you needn’t be found guilty to have your assets claimed by law enforcement; in some states, suspicion on a par with “probable cause” is sufficient. Nor must you be charged with a crime, or even be accused of one. Unlike criminal forfeiture, which requires that a person be convicted of an offense before his or her property is confiscated, civil forfeiture amounts to a lawsuit filed directly against a possession, regardless of itsowner’s guilt or innocence.”

Police indoctrinated as erzatz combat troops…

It should be noted that the Military Cooperation With Law Enforcement Act of 1981 provided far more than receipt of surplus military equipment such as grenade launchers and military assault rifles; it authorized civilian police access to military bases, equipment, research and–military training.

Since 1981 civilian police forces in the US have been indoctrinated into a military mission mindset which values shock and awe and views any Bill of Rights with derision and contempt. Our civilian police have been militarized to the point that any of us can be viewed as a potentially deadly enemy. This is Robo-Cop on steroids, dangerous and insane.

Posse Comitatus killed by death of a thousand cuts…

The founding fathers and their descendants were cognizant of the dangers military policing brings to a civilian population demanding the right to self-govern; subsequently a law titled ‘Posse Comitatus’ was drafted over 130 years ago. Posse Comitatus explicitly forbids by law, the use of military troops for domestic policing.

Since the1980’s members of both parties in Congress have skillfully used their law licenses to carve exceptions out of the Posse Comitatus statute. The result has been to make our civilian police forces act and think like the military; the exact antithesis of community based policing.

Section 1033 and a police buying spree–with our taxes…

Every major Pentagon vendor and police chief in the nation knows this program as–Section 1033; I call it–graft. In the 90’s, as a response to the ‘war on drugs’–Congress agreed that our police officers had to be outfitted like uber-soldiers going to battle. This tidy little arrangement also made use of excess equipment from a …”bloated military” with nowhere to go. The National Defense Authorization Act aka NDAA of 1990, Section 1208 allowed the Secretary of Defense to …

“transfer to Federal and State agencies personal property of the Department of Defense, including small arms and ammunition, that the Secretary determines is— (A) suitable for use by such agencies in counter-drug activities; and (B) excess to the needs of the Department of Defense.”

In 1996, the 1208 Program was renamed–Section 1033.

Section 1033 also… “permits the Secretary of Defense to transfer, without charge, excess U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) personal property (supplies and equipment) to state and local law enforcement agencies (LEAs),” according to the National Law Enforcement and Corrections Technology Center.”

Notice the part of the regulation which allows the Secretary of Defense …”to transfer, without charge…” various military equipment to law enforcement. This has been truly a ‘free lunch’ for local and state law enforcement, so–our police departments held out their arms for the Pentagon’s second hand weapons.

Section 1033 expands into direct grants for new equipment–post 911…After 911, Congress authorized direct grants to police departments to purchase all sorts of military equipment. Even though there were calls to cut expenditures on Medicare, Social Security, public education, and similar public needs–claiming our deficit was destroying the economy–there was money to buy military equipment forOfficer Friendly.

Weapons vendors line up…

Bill Moyers described the feeding frenzy in his usual erudite manner;

…” It’s a boon to contractor profits. The trend towards police militarization has given military contractors another lucrative market where they can shop their products. Companies like Lockheed Martin and Blackhawk Industries are making big bucks by selling their equipment to agencies flush with Department of Homeland Security grants.

In addition to selling equipment, contractors also sponsor training events for SWAT teams, like Urban Shield, a major arms expo that has attracted increasing attention from activists in recent years. SWAT teams, police agencies and military contractors converge on Urban Shield, which was held in California last year, to train SWAT teams and promote the equipment.”

Moyers expands upon the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) grants, and how this taxpayer money directly subsidizes new military equipment, and not merely the Pentagon’s leftovers.

…”In addition to the Pentagon budget provision, another agency created in the aftermath of 9/11 is helping militarize the police. The Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) grants funnel military-style equipment to local police departments nationwide. According to a 2011 Center for Investigative Reporting story published by The Daily Beast, at least $34 billion in DHS grants have gone to police agencies to buy military-style equipment. This money has gone to purchase drones, tactical vests, bomb-disarming robots, tanks and more.” (Source)

Congressman Alan Grayson enters the fray..

In response to the military style executions of persons of color, and the growing police occupation of communities like Ferguson daring to engage in civil disobedience; Congressman Alan Grayson sponsored an amendment to the newest incarnation of the National Defense Authorization Act in an effort to…”prohibit the use of funds to transfer aircraft (including unmanned aerial vehicles),…”etc., which would effectively begin the process of demilitarizing civilian police. The amendment was H.Amdt.918 to H.R.4870, aka the Department of Defense Appropriations Act , 2015. The fact that the amendment went down in flames by a vote of 355 to 62, was striking, but the demographics of the vote were even more damning. The amendment merely required half of the House to pass, yet a large number of Democrats voted against the action.

Rep. Grayson defended his amendment stating that these military weapons are not being reserved for potential domestic terrorists. He called out the police and their congressional collaborators on this weapons stockpile gifted to civilian police departments.  Grayson saw the lunacy of aiming military weapons at the local barber—for the crime of what—split ends?

…”Where is the terrorism on our streets? Instead, these weapons are being used to arrest barbers and to terrorize the general population.” Grayson added that …”one ventures to say that the weapons are often used by a majority to terrorize a minority.”

The vote on this amendment was very telling in that Missouri Congressmen William Lacy Clay voted against the Grayson action. It should be mentioned that Congressman Clay‘s district extends into–Ferguson.

Section 1033 motto…’from war-fighter to crime-fighter’…

The DOD operates both the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) and the Law Enforcement Support Office (LESO) within the confines of the Section 1033 program. The LESO agency sports an ominous motto for the times–”from war-fighter to crime-fighter.” This mentality is further supported by the Department of Justice (DOJ), which has dedicated a comprehensive program designed to support…”military veterans and the law enforcement agencies that hire them as our veterans seek to transition into careers as law enforcement officers.”


There is a very cogent reason for discouraging recent veterans from becoming civilian police officers; namely conflicting missions. Police are allegedly here to ‘serve and protect,’ civilians. Legitimate civilian policing is limited in legal scope by the Bill of Rights in order to prevent a ‘police state.’

We do not want—bullies with a badge.

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This limited mission, confined by due process rights is not necessarily extended to the war zone. Soldiers are not required to restrain their fire, nor are they concerned with due process. A soldier’s job is to win the battle, survive while always keeping in mind that anyone could be ‘the enemy.’Soldiering, post-911, is rife with human rights concerns. Former compliance with the Geneva Conventions have been abandoned in favor of savage guerrilla tactics.

Torture is redefined as …’enhanced interrogation,’ and kidnapping renamed as ‘rendition.’ A secretive life sentence in prison has been re-titled as …’indefinite detention.’

Federal attorneys in the DOJ have worked feverishly to provide our troops and legislators—complete legal immunity from any charges, including ‘crimes against humanity.’ No savagery in battle is spared, as the military trains soldiers to be brainwashed killing machines. Many recent veterans have spoken out against the military, once they are back in civilian life. The current psychological profile of soldiering in the US military is directly the antithesis of the civilian police officer.

As former Reagan administration official Lawrence Korb explained the difference between civilian police duties and the military quite succinctly;

…”Soldiers are trained to vaporize, not Mirandize.”

The legal cover for police abuse/civil liberties abuse…

Since 911, a flurry of federal laws has surfaced under the auspices of protection from ‘terrorism.’ A series of laws including Patriot, Military Commissions Act, Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, NDAA, etc., are engineered to criminalize the actual use of the rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

These laws use such overly vague terms that the act of breathing could become a criminal offense.

The average American is caught in a Catch 22, use free speech and free association rights, etc. and risk criminal prosecution as a terrorist or terrorist sympathizer, or self-censor and live in a virtual jail of our own making. No reasonable person can follow the folly of these legal contrivances designed to deceive and defraud the public. Both Democrats and Republicans are equally guilty on the dismantling of the Bill of Rights. The criteria used to legally identify a ‘terrorist’ or a person/group ‘lending material support’ is so vague that it defies sanity.

The following actions may label any of us …terrorists/terrorist sympathizers:

–complaining about the taste of tap water,

–using social media,

–working as a journalist,

–speaking out against government policies,

–questioning the present never-ending state of war,


–wearing a hoodie,

taking pictures or videos, etc.

The list continues on—like our never-ending state of war, with no break in sight. Recently, the Obama administration covertly expanded the official ‘terrorist watch-list system’. A secret process is engaged which requires no ‘concrete facts’ or ‘irrefutable evidence’ to label any person—citizen or alien—as a ‘terrorist.’ This information was based on documents obtained by The Intercept.

Ironically, while the people of Ferguson regarded DOJ Secretary Eric Holder’s arrival on the scene, as manna from heaven; they didn’t know how Holder was providing legal cover for additional arbitrary presidential power. Just this May, Holder quashed the disclosure of watch listing guidelines in litigation instituted by an American presently on the no fly list; by invoking the ‘state secrets privilege.’ Holder claimed that disclosure of The Watch listing Guidance document…”could cause significant harm to national security.” The Watch listing Guidance report is unclassified. Holder has no right to withhold these documents.

The “March 2013 Watch listing Guidance” document features new guidelines including the assignment of a single White House staffer to unilaterally designate entire ‘categories’ of persons onto the no fly lists and the main terrorist database. This document also grants unnamed government officials the power to ‘nominate’ people to these watch lists with no more criteria that what is now called…”fragmentary information.” The issue of “fragmentary information” is purposely kept impossibly vague, so no standing to sue for civil rights violations would be possible. This guidance document has one more provision so stupid in scope it reflects a lack of ‘grey matter’–it watch lists dead people.

New York Bill of Rights Defense Campaign…

The New York Bill of Rights Defense Campaign has listed various civil liberties erosions since 911; charging the USA Patriot Act and other subsequent legal actions as the culprit. Because of the extra-judicial nature of these ‘laws’–we have become enslaved to our corporate-controlled government ‘minders.’

It doesn’t matter who is President; the expansion of presidential power has approached that of an ‘imperial presidency.’

We have witnessed the erosion of the 1st, 4th, 5th , 6th 8th and 14th Amendment rights, as a result of the increasing secrecy of the government, in the name of ‘national security.’

In terms of the 1st Amendment, we have lost the right to: free speech, free association, and the right to access government information without constant secretive censorship. This level of secrecy is incompatible with a free nation, as it provides camouflage for government crimes. Any act of civil disobedience can be classified as ‘terrorism’ or ‘lending material support’ to terrorists—no burden of proof is required on the government’s part. In essence any of us are guilty until the government decides otherwise.

4th amendment losses came directly from the Patriot Act. Law enforcement agencies no longer need ‘probable cause’ to conduct secret searches of anyone or anything. Our privacy rights are now a quaint joke in the eyes of the police. All the police or prosecutors have to claim is some vague suspicion of ‘terrorist activity’–even before any activity takes place.

Our 5th amendment right to due process and the freedom from being held without charge—is gone. Americans can now be held in military jails, without any formal charges or evidence, in what is benignly called—indefinite detention.

The 6th amendment guarantees a right to a speedy and public trial. No such right has existed since Gitmo. Just look to the secret trial of Bradley Manning to see the arbitrary injustice of this insane system.

The 8th amendment simply states …’no cruel and inhuman punishment.’ To any reasonable person that clearly says—no torture.

The 14th amendment guaranteed the right to equal protection under the law. To the citizens of Ferguson, Missouri—this cut must be the cruelest. The city of Ferguson, Missouri remains segregated, both in terms of racial makeup and economic caste. The area of the Canfield apartments (where the shooting took place), is treated as an economic wasteland, with police standing around watching the ‘Mom & Pop’ stores being looted; while a mile down the road stands a new shopping strip mall literally a parking lot away from global Pentagon supplier Emerson Electric. I sincerely doubt if any employees from Emerson were arbitrarily threatened with arrest for walking to slow ie. ‘failure to disperse’–or suffered a teargas attack. Nothing about the military/police occupation of one small segment of Ferguson resembles …’equal protection under the law.’

ACLU 18 month review on Obama Administration…

The ACLU published an 18 month review on the Obama administration’s handling of civil liberties in a post-911 world. Published in 2010; it is titled: Establishing a New Normal, National Security, Civil Liberties, and Human Rights Under the Obama Administration. The report chronicled President Obama’s early actions aimed at reversing the egregious civil rights violations of the prior Bush administration; while documenting a disturbing pattern under Obama.

Like far too many attorneys, Obama’s gifted rhetoric is chock-full of devious qualifying terms. On his second day in office, Obama signed a series of executive orders which among other things—limited interrogations and prohibited torture—to specific techniques documented in the Army Field Manual.  What was omitted is the inconvenient truth that the Army Field Manual never forbade torture—it merely codified the procedures in vague terms.

The source appendix which document prescription punishment of solitary confinement (which does constitute torture if done for prolonged periods of time along with sensory deprivation); could not be found.  The link had been broken from the New York Times Editorial by Matthew Alexander.  Here is the broken link.

Matthew Alexander is quoted explaining the torture loopholes in the Army Field Manual:

…”The Field Manual, to its credit, calls for “all captured and detained personnel, regardless of status” to be “treated humanely.” But when it comes to the specifics the manual contradicts itself, allowing actions that no right-thinking person could consider humane.”

Matthew Alexander authored the book : “How to Break a Terrorist.”   He had previously worked as an intelligence officer using and advocating for humane interrogations.

Secret detention aka kidnapping, authorized by the CIA was struck down. The CIA’s foreign prisons were closed and Guantanamo closure was next.

To the president’s credit, he authorized the release of Justice Department memoranda, under Bush, which crafted the arguments that provided legal cover for our torture regime. Unfortunately, President Obama did not set the same lofty goals for his own administration.

Obama refused to comply with a court order demanding the release of photos documenting torture to date. Obama then helped orchestrate legislation gifting the Secretary of Defense authority to conceal any and all evidence of misconduct.

The report also found that Obama has continued to justify powers to detain anyone militarily, without trial, if deemed a terrorist anywhere in the world. He has blessed and enshrined in legal jargon, the institutional use of military detention without charges or a trial.

Regarding torture; the Obama administration has propped up the ‘state secrets’ theory, while publicly opposing any criminal investigation of the torture ‘architects,’ from the Bush administration.

The Obama administration has shown a gift of hypocrisy, refusing to dismantle a ‘torture regime’–while denouncing George W. Bush for the same. It could be argued that while Bush instituted the torture regime and a concurrent police state—Obama and his legal minions have worked feverishly to permanently codify such a legal prison. All of this deceit comes courtesy of a promise Obama made in a ‘Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act’; as he explained how

…”(a) democracy requires accountability, and accountability requires transparency.” (Source : 2 Presidential Memorandum on the Freedom of Information Act, 74 Fed. Reg. 4683 (Aug. 30, 2014)).

It was an effective public relations stunt.

The ACLU review further documented the secrecy surrounding the White House ‘targeted killing’ program. Every Tuesday the assassination committee would decide the kill list, which included US citizens. The authorization for this evil came from the NDAA, Section 1034 which grants any president the right to wage indefinite war on anyone at any time if they present …’an evolving threat’.   This law was crafted and passed by the US Senate under the leadership of Senator Levin and Senator John McCain.

Free Speech wasn’t safe under Obama either. Not only has Obama supported NSA abuses under General Keith Alexander; his administration has gone on record as the most vigilant in prosecuting whistleblowers using the Espionage Act of 1917.

Obama also instructed his DOJ under Eric Holder to fortify the Bush administration’s actions against free speech as it pertains to ‘lending material support’ to alleged terrorists. Obama’s own Solicitor General Elena Kagan ( who was later rewarded with a seat on the Supreme Court); advocated sending attorneys to prison for filing ‘friend of the court’ briefs on behalf of organizations or individuals designated by the State Department as ‘terrorists.’

(Source : ACLU 18 month review. Establishing A New Normal, National Security, Civil Liberties, and Human Rights Under the Obama Administration. July 2010).

Political ‘Stockholm Syndrome’…

Under the auspices of national security; our human rights enumerated in the US Bill of Rights have been eviscerated and reduced to a meager political mush. We have an imperial presidency armed with extra-judicial powers never intended for any president to possess and a Supreme Court effectively rubber-stamping our ongoing political imprisonment.

President Obama’s gift for rhetoric is recognized as an award winning ‘brand’ by the public relations industry.

As Obama receives laurels for his gift of rhetoric, his team works feverishly to permanently codify the crimes of his predecessor in a morass of  vague legal terminology the Oracle of Delphi couldn’t comprehend, while providing a maze of technical exceptions to these egregious policies—for the assumed imperial rulers. All of this has the appearance, of the ‘rule of law’–creating a safe haven for the historic appearance of this arrogant administration.

The military style murder of Michael Brown and the ensuing police state was not only predictable—it was inevitable. The ‘legal cover’ for this heinous crime was set on paper and blessed by both Democrats and Republicans. ‘Brand Obama’ only acts as intellectual anesthetic—temporary pain relief—and now the hangover is here.

We now have a choice in front of us; either continue with our present form of political Stockholm Syndrome—or see the truth in front of us, and fight for our rights. Fight the new corporate ‘nazi regime’ which crafted a police state re-dux. Fight for universal human rights. Honor the memory of all those slain by militarized brown shirts, including Michael Brown. His memory deserves better.


Jeanine Molloff is a veteran urban educator specializing in communications disorders.  She moonlights as a political commentator on various issues including civil liberties in an age of ‘terrorism’, ecological justice, collateral damage in war zones, economic equity and education.  Jeanine has published with Huffington Post, OpEdNews, FireDogLake, Counterpunch and Huffington Post Union of Bloggers.  In an era of state and corporate sanctioned censorship; she believes that journalism which demands answers to the tough questions is the last remaining bulwark of democracy.  Now more than ever we need the likes of I.F. Stone over the insipid voices of celebrity infotainment.  Jeanine works and lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Chris Hedges Interviews Noam Chomsky: The System Is Radically Anti-Democratic

July 24, 2014

Prof. Noam Chomsky, linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist and activist. (photo: The Real News Network)
Prof. Noam Chomsky, linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist and activist. (photo: The Real News Network)

By Chris Hedges, The Real News Network

24 July 14


A fascinating, wide-ranging interview on major issues facing the public.

et’s begin with a classic paradigm which is throughout the Industrial Revolution, which has been cited by theorists from Marx to Kropotkin to Proudhon and to yourself, that you build a consciousness among workers within the manufacturing class, and eventually you lead to a kind of autonomous position where workers can control their own production.

We now live in a system, a globalized system, where most of the working class in industrial countries like the United States are service workers. We have reverted to a Dickensian system where those who actually produced live in conditions that begin to replicate almost slave labor–and, I think, as you have written, in places like southern China in fact are slave [labor]. What’s the new paradigm for resistance? You know, how do we learn from the old and confront the new?

NOAM CHOMSKY, LINGUIST AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think we can draw many very good lessons from the early period of the Industrial Revolution. It was, of course, earlier in England, but let’s take here in the United States. The Industrial Revolution took off right around here, eastern Massachusetts, mid 19th century. This was a period when independent farmers were being driven into the industrial system–men and women, incidentally, women from the farms, so-called factory girls–and they bitterly resented it. It was a period of a very free press, the most in the history of the country. There was a wide variety of journals, ethnic, labor, or others. And when you read them, they’re pretty fascinating.

The people driven into the industrial system regarded it as an attack on their personal dignity, on their rights as human beings. They were free human beings who were being forced into what they called wage slavery, which they regarded as not very different from chattel slavery. In fact, this was such a popular view that it was actually a slogan of the Republican Party, that the only difference between working for a wage and being a slave is that working for a wage is supposedly temporary–pretty soon you’ll be free. Other than that, they’re not different.

And they bitterly resented the fact that the industrial system was even taking away their rich cultural life. And the cultural life was rich. You know, there are by now studies of the British working class and the American working class, and they were part of high culture of the day. Actually, I remembered this as late as the 1930s with my own family, you know, sort of unemployed working-class, and they said, this is being taken away from us, we’re being forced to be something like slaves. They argued that if you’re, say, a journeyman, a craftsman, and you sell your product, you’re selling what you produced. If you’re a wage earner, you’re selling yourself, which is deeply offensive. They condemned what they called the new spirit of the age: gain wealth, forgetting all but self. Sounds familiar.

And it was extremely radical. It was combined with the most radical democratic movement in American history, the early populist movement–radical farmers. It began in Texas, spread into the Midwest–enormous movement of farmers who wanted to free themselves from the domination by the Northeastern bankers and capitalists, guys that ran the markets, you know, sort of forced them to sell what they produced on credit and squeeze them with credit and so on. They went on to develop their own banks, their own cooperatives. They started to link up with the Knights of Labor–major labor movement which held that, as they put it, those who work in the mills ought to own them, that it should be a free, democratic society.

These were very powerful movements. By the 1890s, you know, workers were taking over towns and running them in Western Pennsylvania. Homestead was a famous case. Well, they were crushed by force. It took some time. Sort of the final blow was Woodrow Wilson’s red scare right after the First World War, which virtually crushed the labor movement.

At the same time, in the early 19th century, the business world recognized, both in England and the United States, that sufficient freedom had been won so that they could no longer control people just by violence. They had to turn to new means of control. The obvious ones were control of opinions and attitudes. That’s the origins of the massive public relations industry, which is explicitly dedicated to controlling minds and attitudes.

The first–it partly was government. The first government commission was the British Ministry of Information. This is long before Orwell–he didn’t have to invent it. So the Ministry of Information had as its goal to control the minds of the people of the world, but particularly the minds of American intellectuals, for a very good reason: they knew that if they can delude American intellectuals into supporting British policy, they could be very effective in imposing that on the population of the United States. The British, of course, were desperate to get the Americans into the war with a pacifist population. Woodrow Wilson won the 1916 election with the slogan “Peace without Victory”. And they had to drive a pacifist population into a population that bitterly hated all things German, wanted to tear the Germans apart. The Boston Symphony Orchestra couldn’t play Beethoven. You know. And they succeeded.

Wilson set up a counterpart to the Ministry of Information called the Committee on Public Information. You know, again, you can guess what it was. And they’ve at least felt, probably correctly, that they had succeeded in carrying out this massive change of opinion on the part of the population and driving the pacifist population into, you know, warmongering fanatics.

And the people on the commission learned a lesson. One of them was Edward Bernays, who went on to found–the main guru of the public relations industry. Another one was Walter Lippman, who was the leading progressive intellectual of the 20th century. And they both drew the same lessons, and said so.

The lessons were that we have what Lippmann called a “new art” in democracy, “manufacturing consent”. That’s where Ed Herman and I took the phrase from. For Bernays it was “engineering of consent”. The conception was that the intelligent minority, who of course is us, have to make sure that we can run the affairs of public affairs, affairs of state, the economy, and so on. We’re the only ones capable of doing it, of course. And we have to be–I’m quoting–“free of the trampling and the roar of the bewildered herd”, the “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders”–the general public. They have a role. Their role is to be “spectators”, not participants. And every couple of years they’re permitted to choose among one of the “responsible men”, us.

And the John Dewey circle took the same view. Dewey changed his mind a couple of years later, to his credit, but at that time, Dewey and his circle were writing that–speaking of the First World War, that this was the first war in history that was not organized and manipulated by the military and the political figures and so on, but rather it was carefully planned by rational calculation of “the intelligent men of the community”, namely us, and we thought it through carefully and decided that this is the reasonable thing to do, for all kind of benevolent reasons.

And they were very proud of themselves.

There were people who disagreed. Like, Randolph Bourne disagreed. He was kicked out. He couldn’t write in the Deweyite journals. He wasn’t killed, you know, but he was just excluded.

And if you take a look around the world, it was pretty much the same. The intellectuals on all sides were passionately dedicated to the national cause–all sides, Germans, British, everywhere.

There were a few, a fringe of dissenters, like Bertrand Russell, who was in jail; Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, in jail; Randolph Bourne, marginalized; Eugene Debs, in jail for daring to question the magnificence of the war. In fact, Wilson hated him with such passion that when he finally declared an amnesty, Debs was left out, you know, had to wait for Warren Harding to release him. And he was the leading labor figure in the country. He was a candidate for president, Socialist Party, and so on.

But the lesson that came out is we believe you can and of course ought to control the public, and if we can’t do it by force, we’ll do it by manufacturing consent, by engineering of consent. Out of that comes the huge public relations industry, massive industry dedicated to this.

Incidentally, it’s also dedicated to undermining markets, a fact that’s rarely noticed but is quite obvious. Business hates markets. They don’t want to–and you can see it very clearly. Markets, if you take an economics course, are based on rational, informed consumers making rational choices. Turn on the television set and look at the first ad you see. It’s trying to create uninformed consumers making irrational choices. That’s the whole point of the huge advertising industry. But also to try to control and manipulate thought. And it takes various forms in different institutions. The media do it one way, the academic institutions do it another way, and the educational system is a crucial part of it.

This is not a new observation. There’s actually an interesting essay by–Orwell’s, which is not very well known because it wasn’t published. It’s the introduction to Animal Farm. In the introduction, he addresses himself to the people of England and he says, you shouldn’t feel too self-righteous reading this satire of the totalitarian enemy, because in free England, ideas can be suppressed without the use of force. And he doesn’t say much about it. He actually has two sentences. He says one reason is the press “is owned by wealthy men” who have every reason not to want certain ideas to be expressed.

But the second reason, and the more important one in my view, is a good education, so that if you’ve gone to all the good schools, you know, Oxford, Cambridge, and so on, you have instilled into you the understanding that there are certain things it wouldn’t do to say–and I don’t think he went far enough: wouldn’t do to think. And that’s very broad among the educated classes. That’s why overwhelmingly they tend to support state power and state violence, and maybe with some qualifications, like, say, Obama is regarded as a critic of the invasion of Iraq. Why? Because he thought it was a strategic blunder. That puts him on the same moral level as some Nazi general who thought that the second front was a strategic blunder–you should knock off England first. That’s called criticism.

And sometimes it’s kind of outlandish. For example, there was just a review in The New York Times Book Review of Glenn Greenwald’s new book by Michael Kinsley, and which bitterly condemned him as–mostly character assassination. Didn’t say anything substantive. But Kinsley did say that it’s ridiculous to think that there’s any repression in the media in the United States, ’cause we can write quite clearly and criticize anything. And he can, but then you have to look at what he says, and it’s quite interesting.

In the 1980s, when the major local news story was the massive U.S. atrocities in Central America–they were horrendous; I mean, it wasn’t presented that way, but that’s what was happening–Kinsley was the voice of the left on television. And there were interesting incidents. At one point, the U.S. Southern Command, which ran–you know, it was the overseer of these actions–gave instructions to the terrorist force that they were running in Nicaragua, called the Contras–and they were a terrorist force–they gave them orders to–they said “not to (…) duke it out with the Sandinistas”, meaning avoid the Nicaraguan army, and attack undefended targets like agricultural cooperatives and, you know, health clinics and so on. And they could do it, because they were the first guerrillas in history to have high-level communications equipment, you know, computers and so on. The U.S., the CIA, just controlled the air totally, so they could send instructions to the terrorist forces telling them how to avoid the Nicaraguan army detachments and attack undefended civilian targets.

Well, this was mentioned; you know, it wasn’t publicized, but it was mentioned. And Americas Watch, which later became part of Human Rights Watch, made some protests. And Michael Kinsley responded. He condemned Americas Watch for their emotionalism. He said, we have to recognize that we have to accept a pragmatic criterion. We have to ask–something like this–he said, we have to compare the amount of blood and misery poured in with the success of the outcome in producing democracy–what we’ll call democracy. And if it meets the pragmatic criterion, then terrorist attacks against civilian targets are perfectly legitimate–which is not a surprising view in his case. He’s the editor of The New Republic. The New Republic, supposedly a liberal journal, was arguing that we should support Latin American fascists because there are more important things than human rights in El Salvador, where they were murdering tens of thousands of people.

That’s the liberals. And, yeah, they can get in the media no problem. And they’re praised for it, regarded with praise. All of this is part of the massive system of–you know, it’s not that anybody sits at the top and plans at all; it’s just exactly as Orwell said: it’s instilled into you. It’s part of a deep indoctrination system which leads to a certain way of looking at the world and looking at authority, which says, yes, we have to be subordinate to authority, we have to believe we’re very independent and free and proud of it. As long as we keep within the limits, we are. Try to go beyond those limits, you’re out.

HEDGES: But that system, of course, is constant. But what’s changed is that we don’t produce anything anymore. So what we define as our working class is a service sector class working in places like Walmart. And the effective forms of resistance–the sitdown strikes, you know, going back even further in the middle of the 19th century with the women in Lowell–I think that was–the Wobblies were behind those textile strikes. What are the mechanisms now? And I know you have written, as many anarchists have done, about the importance of the working class controlling the means of production, taking control, and you have a great quote about how, you know, Lenin and the Bolsheviks are right-wing deviants, I think, was the–which is, of course, exactly right, because it was centralized control, destroying the Soviets. Given the fact that production has moved to places like Bangladesh or southern China, what is going to be the paradigm now? And given, as you point out, the powerful forces of propaganda–and you touched upon now the security and surveillance state. We are the most monitored, watched, photographed, eavesdropped population in human history. And you cannot even use the world liberty when you eviscerate privacy. That’s whattotalitarian is. What is the road we take now, given the paradigm that we have, which is somewhat different from, you know, what this country was, certainly, in the first half of the 20th century?

NOAM CHOMSKY, LINGUIST AND POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it’s pretty much the same, frankly. The idea still should be that of the Knights of Labor: those who work in the mills should own them. And there’s plenty of manufacturing going on in the country, and probably there will be more, for unpleasant reasons. One thing that’s happening right now which is quite interesting is that energy prices are going down in the United States because of the massive exploitation of fossil fuels, which is going to destroy our grandchildren, but under the, you know, capitalist morality, the calculus is that profits tomorrow outweigh the existence of your grandchildren. It’s institutionally-based, so, yes, we’re getting lower energy prices. And if you look at the business press, they’re, you know, very enthusiastic about the fact that we can undercut manufacturing in Europe because we’ll have lower energy prices, and therefore manufacturing will come back here, and we can even undermine European efforts at developing sustainable energy because we’ll have this advantage.

Britain is saying the same thing. I was just in England recently. As I left the airport, I readThe Daily Telegraph, you know, I mean, newspaper. Big headline: England is going to begin fracking all of the country, even fracking under people’s homes without their permission. And that’ll allow us to destroy the environment even more quickly and will bring manufacturing back here.

The same is true with Asia. Manufacturing is moving back, to an extent, to Mexico, and even here, as wages increase in China, partly because of labor struggles. There’s massive labor struggles in China, huge, all over the place, and since we’re integrated with them, we can be supportive of them.

But manufacturing is coming back here. And both manufacturing and the service industries can move towards having those who do the work take over the management and ownership and control. In fact, it’s happening. In the old Rust Belt–you know, Indiana, Ohio, and so on–there’s a significant–not huge, but significant growth of worker-owned enterprises. They’re not huge, but they’re substantial around Cleveland and other places.

The background is interesting. In 1977, U.S. Steel, the, you know, multinational, decided to close down their mills in Youngstown, Ohio. Youngstown is a steel town, sort of built by the steelworkers, one of the main steel-producing areas. Well, the union tried to buy the plants from U.S. Steel. They objected–in my view, mostly on class lines. They might have even profited from it. But the idea of worker-owned industry doesn’t have much appeal to corporate leaders, which means bankers and so on. It went to the courts. Finally, the union lost in the courts. But with enough popular support, they could have won.

Well, the working class and the community did not give up. They couldn’t get the steel mills, but they began to develop small worker-owned enterprises. They’ve now spread throughout the region. They’re substantial. And it can happen more and more.

And the same thing happened in Walmarts. I mean, there’s massive efforts right now, significant ones, to organize the service workers–what they call associates–in the service industries. And these industries, remember, depend very heavily on taxpayer largess in all kinds of ways. I mean, for example, let’s take, say, Walmarts. They import goods produced in China, which are brought here on container ships which were designed and developed by the U.S. Navy. And point after point where you look, you find that the way the system–the system that we now have is one which is radically anticapitalist, radically so.

I mean, I mentioned one thing, the powerful effort to try to undermine markets for consumers, but there’s something much more striking. I mean, in a capitalist system, the basic principle is that, say, if you invest in something and, say, it’s a risky investment, so you put money into it for a long time, maybe decades, and finally after a long time something comes out that’s marketable for a profit, it’s supposed to go back to you. That’s not the way it works here. Take, say, computers, internet, lasers, microelectronics, containers, GPS, in fact the whole IT revolution. There was taxpayer investment in that for decades, literally decades, doing all the hard, creative, risky work. Does the taxpayer get any of the profit? None, because that’s not the way our system works. It’s radically anti-capitalist, just as it’s radically anti-democratic, opposed to markets, in favor of concentrating wealth and power.

But that doesn’t have to be accepted by the population. These are–all kinds of forms of resistance to this can be developed if people become aware of it.

HEDGES: Well, you could argue that in the election of 2008, Obama wasn’t accepted by the population. But what we see repeatedly is that once elected officials achieve power through, of course, corporate financing, the consent of the governed is a kind of cruel joke. It doesn’t, poll after poll. I mean, I sued Obama over the National Defense Authorization Act, in which you were coplaintiff, and the polling was 97 percent against this section of the NDAA. And yet the courts, which have become wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state, the elected officials, the executive branch, and the press, which largely ignored it–the only organ that responsibly covered the case was, ironically, The New York Times. We don’t have–it doesn’t matter what we want. It doesn’t–I mean, and I think, you know, that’s the question: how do we effect change when we have reached a point where we can no longer appeal to the traditional liberal institutions that, as Karl Popper said once, made incremental or piecemeal reform possible, to adjust the system–of course, to save capitalism? But now it can’t even adjust the system. You know, we see cutting welfare.

CHOMSKY: Yeah. I mean, it’s perfectly true that the population is mostly disenfranchised. In fact, that’s a leading theme even of academic political science. You take a look at the mainstream political science, so, for example, a recent paper that was just published out of Princeton by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page, two of the leading analysts of these topics, what they point out is they went through a couple of thousand policy decisions and found what has long been known, that there was almost no–that the public attitudes had almost no effect. Public organizations that are–nonprofit organizations that are publicly based, no effect. The outcomes were determined by concentrated private power.

There’s a long record of that going way back. Thomas Ferguson, a political scientist near here, has shown very convincingly that something as simple as campaign spending is a very good predictor of policy. That goes back into the late 19th century, right through the New Deal, you know, right up till the present. And that’s only one element of it. And you take a look at the literature, about 70 percent of the population, what they believe has no effect on policy at all. You get a little more influence as you go up. When you get to the top, which is probably, like, a tenth of one percent, they basically write the legislation.

I mean, you see this all over. I mean, take these huge so-called trade agreements that are being negotiated, Trans-Pacific and Transatlantic–enormous agreements, kind of NAFTA-style agreements. They’re secret–almost. They’re not secret from the hundreds of corporate lawyers and lobbyists who are writing them. They know about it, which means that their bosses know about it. And the Obama administration and the press says, look, this has to be secret, otherwise we can’t defend our interests. Yeah, our interests means the interests of the corporate lawyers and lobbyists who are writing the legislation. Take the few pieces that have been leaked and you see that’s exactly what it is. Same with the others.

But it doesn’t mean you have to accept it. And there have been changes. So take, say–in the 1920s, the labor movement had been practically destroyed. There’s a famous book. One of the leading labor historians, David Montgomery, has a major book called something like The Fall of the House of Labor. He’s talking about the 1920s. It was done. There had been a very militant labor movement, very effective, farmers movement as well. Crushed in the 1920s. Almost nothing left. Well, in the 1930s it changed, and it changed because of popular activism.

HEDGES: But it also changed because of the breakdown of capitalism.

CHOMSKY: There was a circumstance that led to the opportunity to do something, but we’re living with that constantly. I mean, take the last 30 years. For the majority of the population it’s been stagnation or worse. That’s–it’s not exactly the deep Depression, but it’s kind of a permanent semi-depression for most of the population. That’s–there’s plenty of kindling out there which can be lighted.

And what happened in the ’30s is primarily CIO organizing, the militant actions like sit-down strikes. A sit-down strike’s very frightening. It’s a step before taking over the institution and saying, we don’t need the bosses. And that–there was a cooperative administration, Roosevelt administration, so there was some interaction. And significant legislation was passed–not radical, but significant, underestimated. And it happened again in the ’60s. It can happen again today. So I don’t think that one should abandon hope in chipping away at the more oppressive aspects of the society within the electoral system. But it’s only going to happen if there’s massive popular organization, which doesn’t have to stop at that. It can also be building the institutions of the future within the present society.

HEDGES: Would you say that the–you spoke about propaganda earlier and the Creel Commission and the rise of the public relations industry. The capacity to disseminate propaganda is something that now you virtually can’t escape it. I mean, it’s there in some electronic form, even in a hand-held device. Does that make that propaganda more effective?

CHOMSKY: Well, and it’s kind of an interesting question. Like a lot of people, I’ve written a lot about media and intellectual propaganda, but there’s another question which isn’t studied much: how effective is it? And that’s–when you brought up the polls, it’s a striking illustration. The propaganda is–you can see from the poll results that the propaganda has only limited effectiveness. I mean, it can drive a population into terror and fear and war hysteria, like before the Iraq invasion or 1917 and so on, but over time, public attitudes remain quite different. In fact, studies even of what’s called the right-wing, you know, people who say, get the government off my back, that kind of sector, they turn out to be kind of social democratic. They want more spending on health, more spending on education, more spending on, say, women with dependent children, but not welfare, no spending on welfare, because Reagan, who was an extreme racist, succeeded in demonizing the notion of welfare. So in people’s minds welfare means a rich black woman driving in her limousine to the welfare office to steal your money. Well, nobody wants that. But they want what welfare does.

Foreign aid is an interesting case. There’s an enormous propaganda against foreign aid, ’cause we’re giving everything to the undeserving people out there. You take a look at public attitudes. A lot of opposition to foreign aid. Very high. On the other hand, when you ask people, how much do we give in foreign aid? Way beyond what we give. When you ask what we should give in foreign aid, far above what we give.

And this runs across the board. Take, say taxes. There’ve been studies of attitudes towards taxes for 40 years. Overwhelmingly the population says taxes are much too low for the rich and the corporate sector. You’ve got to raise it. What happens? Well, the opposite.

It’s just exactly as Orwell said: it’s instilled into you. It’s part of a deep indoctrination system which leads to a certain way of looking at the world and looking at authority, which says, yes, we have to be subordinate to authority, we have to believe we’re very independent and free and proud of it. As long as we keep within the limits, we are. Try to go beyond those limits, you’re out.

HEDGES: Well, what was fascinating about–I mean, the point, just to buttress this point: when you took the major issues of the Occupy movement, they were a majoritarian movement. When you look back on the Occupy movement, what do you think its failings were, its importance were?

CHOMSKY: Well, I think it’s a little misleading to call it a movement. Occupy was a tactic, in fact a brilliant tactic. I mean, if I’d been asked a couple of months earlier whether they should take over public places, I would have said it’s crazy. But it worked extremely well, and it lit a spark which went all over the place. Hundreds and hundreds of places in the country, there were Occupy events. It was all over the world. I mean, I gave talks in Sydney, Australia, to the Occupy movement there. But it was a tactic, a very effective tactic. Changed public discourse, not policy. It brought issues to the forefront.

I think my own feeling is its most important contribution was just to break through the atomization of the society. I mean, it’s a very atomized society. There’s all sorts of efforts to separate people from one another, as if the ideal social unit is, you know, you and your TV set.

HEDGES: You know, Hannah Arendt raises atomization as one of the key components of totalitarianism.

CHOMSKY: Exactly. And the Occupy actions broke that down for a large part of the population. People could recognize that we can get together and do things for ourselves, we can have a common kitchen, we can have a place for public discourse, we can form our ideas and do something. Now, that’s an important attack on the core of the means by which the public is controlled. So you’re not just an individual trying to maximize your consumption, but there are other concerns in life, and you can do something about them. If those attitudes and associations and bonds can be sustained and move in other directions, that’ll be important.

But going back to Occupy, it’s a tactic. Tactics have a kind of a half-life. You can’t keep doing them, and certainly you can’t keep occupying public places for very long. And was very successful, but it was not in itself a movement. The question is: what happens to the people who were involved in it? Do they go on and develop, do they move into communities, pick up community issues? Do they organize?

Take, say, this business of, say, worker-owned industry. Right here in Massachusetts, not far from here, there was something similar. One of the multinationals decided to close down a fairly profitable small plant, which was producing aerospace equipment. High-skilled workers and so on, but it wasn’t profitable enough, so they were going to close it down. The union wanted to buy it. Company refused–usual class reasons, I think. If the Occupy efforts had been available at the time, they could have provided the public support for it.

This happened when Obama virtually nationalized the auto industry. There were choices. One choice was what he took, of course, was to rescue it, return it to essentially the same owners–different faces, but the same class basis–and send them back to doing what they had been doing in the past–producing automobiles. There were other choices, and if something like the Occupy movement had been around and sufficient, it could have driven the government into other choices, like, for example, turning the auto plants over to the working class and have them produce what the country needs.

I mean, we don’t need more cars. We need mass public transportation. The United States is an absolute scandal in this regard. I just came back from Europe–so you can see it dramatically. You get on a European train, you can go where you want to go in no time. Well, the train from Boston to New York, it may be, I don’t know, 20 minutes faster than when I took it 60 years ago. You go along the Connecticut Turnpike and the trucks are going faster than the train. Recently Japan offered the United States a low-interest loan to build high-speed rail from Washington to New York. It was turned down, of course. But what they were offering was to build the kind of train that I took in Japan 50 years ago. And this was a scandal all over the country.

Well, you know, a reconstituted auto industry could have turned in that direction under worker and community control. I don’t think these things are out of sight. And, incidentally, they even have so-called conservative support, because they’re within a broader what’s called capitalist framework (it’s not really capitalist). And those are directions that should be pressed.

Right now, for example, the Steelworkers union is trying to establish some kind of relations with Mondragon, the huge worker-owned conglomerate in the Basque country in Spain, which is very successful, in fact, and includes industry, manufacturing, banks, hospitals, living quarters. It’s very broad. It’s not impossible that that can be brought here, and it’s potentially radical. It’s creating the basis for quite a different society.

And I think with things like, say, Occupy, the timing wasn’t quite right. But if the timing had been a little better (and this goes on all the time, so it’s always possible), it could have provided a kind of an impetus to move significant parts of the socioeconomic system in a different direction. And once those things begin to take off and people can see the advantages of them, it can become quite significant.

There are kind of islands like that around the country. So take Chattanooga, Tennessee. It happens to have a publicly organized internet system. It’s by far the best in the country. Rapid internet access for broad parts of the population. I suspect the roots of it probably go back to the TVA and the New Deal initiatives. Well, if that can spread throughout the country (why not? it’s very efficient, very cheap, works very well), it could undermine the telecommunications industry and its oligopoly, which would be a very good thing. There are lots of possibilities like this.

HEDGES: I want to ask just two last questions. First, the fact that we have become a militarized society, something all of the predictions of the Anti-Imperialist League at the end of the 19th century, including Carnegie and Jane Addams–hard to think of them both in the same room. But you go back and read what they wrote, and they were right how militarized society has deformed us economically–Seymour Melman wrote about this quite well–and politically. And that is a hurdle that as we attempt to reform or reconfigure our society we have to cope with. And I wondered if you could address this military monstrosity that you have written about quite a bit.

CHOMSKY: Well, for one thing, the public doesn’t like it. What’s called isolationism or one or another bad word, as, you know, pacifism was, is just the public recognition that there’s something deeply wrong with our dedication to military force all over the world.

Now, of course, at the same time, the public is frightened into believing that we have to defend ourselves. And it’s not entirely false. Part of the military system is generating forces which will be harmful to us, say, Obama’s terrorist campaign, drone campaign, the biggest terrorist campaign in history. It’s generating potential terrorists faster than it’s killing suspects.

You can see it. It’s very striking what’s happening right now in Iraq. And the truth of the matter is very evident. Go back to the Nuremberg judgments. I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but in Nuremberg aggression was defined as “the supreme international crime,” differing from other war crimes in that it includes, it encompasses all of the evil that follows. Well, the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq is a textbook case of aggression. By the standards of Nuremberg, they’d all be hanged. And one of the things it did, one of the crimes was to ignite a Sunni-Shiite conflict which hadn’t been going on. I mean, there was, you know, various kinds of tensions, but Iraqis didn’t believe there could ever be a conflict. They were intermarried, they lived in the same places, and so on. But the invasion set it off. Took off on its own. By now it’s inflaming the whole region. Now we’re at the point where Sunni jihadi forces are actually marching on Baghdad.

HEDGES: And the Iraqi army is collapsing.

CHOMSKY: The Iraqi army’s just giving away their arms. There obviously is a lot of collaboration going on.

And all of this is a U.S. crime if we believe in the validity of the judgments against the Nazis.

And it’s kind of interesting. Robert Jackson, the chief prosecutor, a U.S. justice, at the tribunal, addressed the tribunal, and he pointed out, as he put it, that we’re giving these defendants a “poisoned chalice”, and if we ever sip from it, we have to be treated the same way, or else the whole thing is a farce and we should recognize this as just victor’s justice.

HEDGES: But it’s not accidental that our security and surveillance apparatus is militarized. And you’re right, of course, that there is no broad popular support for this expanding military adventurism. And yet the question is if there is a serious effort to curtail their power and their budgets. They have mechanisms. And we even heard Nancy Pelosi echo this in terms of how they play dirty. I mean, they are monitoring all the elected officials as well.

CHOMSKY: Monitoring. But despite everything, it’s still a pretty free society, and the recognition by U.S. and British business back 100 years ago that they can no longer control the population by violence is correct. And control of attitude and opinion is pretty fragile, as is surveillance. It’s very different than sending in the storm troopers. You know, so there’s a lot of latitude, for people of relative privilege, at least, to do all sorts of things. I mean, it’s different if you’re a black kid in the ghetto. Yeah, then you’re subjected to state violence. But for a large part of the population, there’s plenty of opportunities which have not been available in the past.

HEDGES: But those people are essentially passive, virtually.

CHOMSKY: But they don’t have to be.

HEDGES: They don’t have to be, but Hannah Arendt, when she writes about the omnipotent policing were directed against the stateless, including ourself and France, said the problem of building omnipotent policing, which we have done in our marginal neighborhoods in targeting people of color–we can have their doors kicked in and stopped at random and thrown in jail for decades for crimes they didn’t commit–is that when you have a societal upheaval, you already have both a legal and a physical mechanism by which that omnipotent policing can be quickly inflicted.

CHOMSKY: I don’t think that’s true here. I think the time has passed when that can be done for increasing parts of the population, those who have almost any degree of privilege. The state may want to do it, but they don’t have the power to do it. They can carry out extensive surveillance, monitoring, they can be violent against parts of the population that can’t defend themselves–undocumented immigrants, black kids in the ghetto, and so on–but even that can be undercut. For example, one of the major scandals in the United States since Reagan is the huge incarceration program, which is a weapon against–it’s a race war. But it’s based on drugs. And there is finally cutting away at the source of this and the criminalization and the radical distortion of the way criminalization of drug use has worked. That can have an effect.

I mean, I think–look, there’s no doubt that the population is passive. There are lots of ways of keeping them passive. There’s lots of ways of marginalizing and atomizing them. But that’s different from storm troopers. It’s quite different. And it can be overcome, has been overcome in the past. And I think there are lots of initiatives, some of them being undertaken, others developing, which can be used to break down this system. I think it’s a very fragile system, including the militarism.

HEDGES: Let’s just close with climate change. Like, I read climate change reports, which–.

CHOMSKY: Well, unfortunately, that’s–may doom us all, and not in the long-distance future. That just overwhelms everything. It is the first time in human history when we not only–we have the capacity to destroy the conditions for a decent survival. And it’s already happening. I mean, just take a look at species destruction. Species destruction now is estimated to be at about the level of 65 million years ago when an asteroid hit the earth and ended the period of the dinosaurs, wiped out huge numbers of species. Same level today, and we’re the asteroid. And you take a look at what’s happening in the world, I mean, anybody looking at this from outer space would be astonished.

I mean, there are sectors of the global population that are trying to impede the catastrophe. There are other sectors that are trying to accelerate it. And you take a look at who they are. Those who are trying to impede it are the ones we call backward: indigenous populations, the First Nations in Canada, you know, aboriginals from Australia, the tribal people in India, you know, all over the world, are trying to impede it. Who’s accelerating it? The most privileged, advanced–so-called advanced–educated populations in the world, U.S. and Canada right in the lead. And we know why.

There are also–. Here’s an interesting case of manufacture of consent and does it work?You take a look at international polls on global warming, Americans, who are the most propagandized on this–I mean, there’s huge propaganda efforts to make it believe it’s not happening–they’re a little below the norm, so there’s some effect of the propaganda. It’s stratified. If you take a look at Republicans, they’re way below the norm. But what’s happening in the Republican Party all across the spectrum is a very striking. So, for example, about two-thirds of Republicans believe that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and all sorts of other things. You know. So it’s stratified. But there’s some impact of the propaganda, but not overwhelming. Most of the population still regards it as a serious problem.

There’s actually an interesting article about this in the Columbia Journalism Reviewwhich just appeared, current issue, the lead critical review of journalism. They attribute this to what they call the doctrine of fairness in the media. Doctrine of fairness says that if you have an opinion piece by 95, 97 percent of the scientists, you have to pair it with an opinion piece by the energy corporations, ’cause that’d be fair and balanced. There isn’t any such doctrine. Like, if you have an opinion piece denouncing Putin as the new Hitler for annexing Crimea, you don’t have to balance it with an opinion piece saying that 100 years ago the United States took over southeastern Cuba at the point of a gun and is still holding it, though it has absolutely no justification other than to try to undermine Cuban development, whereas in contrast, whatever you think of Putin, there’s reasons. You don’t have to have that. And you have to have fair and balanced when it affects the concerns of private power, period. But try to get an article in the Columbia Journalism Review pointing that out, although it’s transparent.

So all those things are there, but they can be overcome, and they’d better be. This isn’t–you know, unless there’s a sharp reversal in policy, unless we here in the so-called advanced societies can gain the consciousness of the indigenous people of the world, we’re in deep trouble. Our grandchildren are going to suffer from it.

HEDGES: And I think you would agree that’s not going to come from the power elite.

CHOMSKY: It’s certainly not.

HEDGES: It’s up to us.

CHOMSKY: Absolutely. And it’s urgent.

HEDGES: It is. Thank you very much.


Japan set for landmark easing of constitutional limits on military

June 28, 2014


Japan is poised for a historic shift in its defense policy by ending a ban that has kept the military from fighting abroad since World War Two, a major step away from postwar pacifism and a big political victory for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The change will significantly widen Japan’s military options by ending the ban on exercising “collective self-defense”, or aiding a friendly country under attack. It will also relax limits on activities in U.N.-led peace-keeping operations and
“grey zone” incidents short of full-scale war, according to a draft government proposal made available to reporters.

For now, however, Japan is likely to remain wary of putting boots on the ground in future multilateral operations such as the 1990-1991 Gulf War or the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, activities Abe himself has ruled out.

The change will likely rile an increasingly assertive China, whose ties with Japan have chilled due to a maritime row, mutual mistrust and the legacy of Japan’s past military aggression, but will be welcomed by Tokyo’s ally Washington, which has long urged Japan to become a more equal partner in the alliance.

Abe’s cabinet is expected to adopt as early as Tuesday a resolution revising a long-standing interpretation of the U.S.-drafted constitution to lift the ban after his ruling party finalizes an agreement with its junior partner.

Legal revisions to implement the change must be approved by parliament and restrictions could be imposed in the process.

“If this gets through the Japanese political system it would be the most significant change in Japan’s defense policy since the Self-Defense Forces were established in 1954,” said Alan Dupont, a professor of international security at the University of New South Wales in Sydney.

Since its defeat in 1945, Japan’s military has not engaged in combat. While successive governments have stretched the limits of the U.S.-drafted pacifist charter not only to allow the existence of a standing military but also to permit non-combat missions abroad, its armed forces are still far more constrained legally than those in other countries.

Conservatives say the charter’s war-renouncing Article 9 has excessively restricted Japan’s ability to defend itself and that a changing regional power balance including a rising China means Japan’s security policies must be more flexible.

Abe, whose first term as premier ended when he abruptly quit in 2007, returned in triumph in December 2012 pledging to revive Japan’s stagnant economy and bolster its global security clout. He has pushed for the change despite surveys showing voters are divided and wary.

“In my view, Japan is finally catching up with the global standard of security,” said former Japanese diplomat Kunihiko Miyake. “Japan can now do as every other United Nations member under the U.N. charter.”

According to the draft cabinet resolution, Japan could exercise force to the minimum degree necessary in cases where a country with which it has close ties is attacked and the following conditions are met: there is a threat to the existence of the Japanese state, a clear danger exists that the Japanese people’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness could be subverted, and there is no appropriate alternative.

Precisely how the change might work in practice remains unclear. Junior coalition partner New Komeito is stressing that the scope of revision is limited, and Japanese voters are still wary of entanglements in conflicts far from home.

“Symbolically, it is a big step. The fundamental change to post-war Japanese security and defense policies which basically said we would defend ourselves but not help others by using force – philosophically this will be a fundamental change,” said Narushige Michishita, a security expert at the National Graduate School for Policy Studies (GRIPS) in Tokyo.

But he added: “The Japanese people are not going to support a significant military commitment of Japan to foreign contingencies and wars, quite apart from how you could interpret the words.”

Examples floated by the government of what the change could allow Japan’s military to do range from defending a U.S. ship evacuating Japanese nationals and aiding a U.S. ship under attack near Japan to shooting down a ballistic missile headed for U.S. territory and taking part in international mine-sweeping operations when a conflict has closed vital sea lanes.

Some of the scenarios, however, have been dismissed by experts as a public relations exercise to persuade wary voters of the need for the change, rather than realistic possibilities.

Japan might, for example, be too busy coping with North Korean missiles headed for its territory to shoot down ones headed for America, some experts said.

Unforeseen contingencies, meanwhile, could also well arise.

“The idea of identifying specific cases is a red herring, because we never really know,” said Richard Samuels, director of the Center for International Studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “What we need to know is whether an ally will help us.”

The change will make it easier for Japan to take part in bilateral and multilateral military exercises with countries other than the United States, including Southeast Asian nations such as the Philippines that have maritime disputes with China and are welcoming Japan’s expanded security role, GRIPS’ Michishita said.

“It is not for joint war fighting, but for capacity building. It would be a very difficult step if we were to fight together,” Michishita said.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino said after meeting Abe this week that Manila welcomed Japan’s more assertive policy.

Critics say revising the interpretation of the constitution will gut pacifist Article 9 and make a mockery of formal amendment procedures, which are politically much tougher.

“Cabinets can change often. If we change the interpretation of the constitution each time the cabinet changes, the stability of law will be fundamentally overturned and we will be unable to exist as a constitutional state,” Seiichiro Murakami, a ruling Liberal-Democratic Party lawmaker who is a rare, outspoken critic of Abe, told a news conference.

Still, experts say the impact of Article 9 remains strong.

“They are still genuflecting to the constitution,” said MIT’s Samuels. “I think there is a lot left of Article 9. The Japanese public has made it clear that it is ‘not so fast’ in getting rid of it.”

(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2014.


‘Corporate Colonialism’: Protesters Slam TPP, US Military ‘One-Two Punch’

April 23, 2014

Ahead of Obama visit, Asia-Pacific voices demand ‘U.S. out’

– Sarah Lazare, staff writer

Protest against Malaysia’s participation in Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations in Kuala Lumpur on July 19, 2013. (Photo: EPA/AZHAR RAHIM)As President Barack Obama prepares to embark on his fifth visit to the Asia-Pacific region, grassroots protests against U.S. efforts to ram through the Trans-Pacific trade deal and the U.S. military pivot to Asia are mounting on both sides of the Pacific.

“People are saying we don’t want more U.S. militarization in our countries,” said Rhonda Ramiro, Vice Chair of BAYAN-USA—an alliance of Filipino organizations in the U.S.—in an interview with Common Dreams. “This is about U.S. military power and economic domination.”

In the coming days, protests against the TPP and U.S. military pivot will sweep U.S. embassies in Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, with more actions slated for the “weeks and months to come,” said Ramiro.Channel News Asia reports that in Tokyo, where Obama will land Wednesday, protests against the TPP by workers, farmers, and community groups are already heating up.

Meanwhile, BAYAN-USA is organizing a day of action on Friday in major cities across the U.S. to oppose military buildup throughout the Philippines and the Asia-Pacific region. And Monday marked the beginning of a U.S. week of action against the TPP backed by a coalition of environmental, labor, internet freedom, and numerous other organizations.

Obama is widely expected to use his upcoming trip to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, and the Philippines to push for the TPP and secure a U.S. military buildup in the region.

Critics charge that this economic and military agenda is part of a broader strategic plan to bolster U.S. geopolitical control of the region and hedge against China.

People in Seattle, Washington participate in the North American Day of Action on Jan. 31st, marking the 20-year anniversary of NAFTA with protest sof ongoing and future free trade agreements, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (Photo Alex Garland)

The TPP, which has been referred to as NAFTA on steroids, is a so-called “free trade agreement” currently under negotiation between 12 countries — the United States, Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam — together comprising 40 percent of the world’s GDP. Despite the breadth of this potential agreement, the TPP negotiations have been highly secretive, with the bulk of publicly available information exposed by WikiLeaks.

Documents show that negotiators are pushing for inclusion of NAFTA’s infamous corporate tribunals, in which corporations “settle disputes” with governments in secrecy and trample domestic protections from public health to environmental regulations, completely circumventing their own national legal systems.

Cassidy Regan of Flush the TPP told Common Dreams that the TPP is “nothing but corporate colonialism.” She added, “The supposed environmental protections chapter includes nothing substantive. The intellectual property chapter raised major concerns among internet freedom activists, as well as public health workers who know the expansion of monopoly drug patents for major pharmaceutical companies will only further raise the price of and threaten access to life-saving medicines worldwide.”

Christine Ahn writes for Foreign Policy in Focus that the U.S. push for the TPP is part of a “one-two punch,” with the second blow dealt by the so-called U.S. military pivot to the Asia-Pacific.

The renewed U.S. military interest in the Asia-Pacific region, pushed in 2011 by Hillary Clinton, aims to deploy 60 percent of the U.S. Navy fleet to the Asia Pacific region by 2020. This effort includes: the re-building and occupation of U.S. military installations in the Philippines; the deployment of thousands of troops; the building of new military bases across the region; expansion of military exercises; shifting of weapons—including long-range bombers and drones—to the Pacific; and increased military alliances.

This is in a region where there are already approximately 320,000 U.S. troops.

“The U.S. is trying to establish neoliberal policies,” said Ramiro. “If anyone is opposed, the military will be there to back up economic plans. The militarization is also a way for the U.S. to flex its muscles around China.”

According to Ramiro, the U.S. military presence has brought environmental destruction and an epidemic of violence and sexual assaults against women. Furthermore, bolstered U.S. military alliances are further strengthening repressive governments.

“We have a Philippine military has been implicated in major human rights abuses against peace, labor, and environmental activists and journalists,” said Ramiro. “The military has silenced dissent and engaged in outright killings torture. This is the Philippine military that trained with U.S. military.”

Yet Bernadette Ellorin, Chairperson of BAYAN-USA, told Common Dreams that the legacies of resistance throughout the region are cause for hope.

“People in the Asia-Pacific have been struggling for decades against U.S. intervention. This is nothing new to people in the region,” said Ellorin. “In the Philippines we have been fighting us presence for 114 years. Other countries have been fighting for decades. Those struggles and movements still exist, and they are intensifying now.”

She added, “These movements in the region continue to frustrate the U.S. geopolitical agenda in the region and have endured countless U.S. counter-insurgency campaigns. The U.S. Pacific Command is the largest and oldest of the U.S. global commands. As long as U.S. intervention is present, people’s resistance will not only persist, but grow.”