Archive for the ‘U.S.A.’ Category

Chomsky Accuses the US of Aiding Israeli Atrocities in Gaza

August 27, 2015

Noam Chomsky. (photo: EPA)
Noam Chomsky. (photo: EPA)

By teleSUR

26 August 15

 

The United States is a violent nation that exports violence to other parts of the world, said Noam Chomsky.

.S. political commentator and analyst Noam Chomsky Tuesday accused the United States of providing the decisive ongoing support for the Israeli atrocities against the Palestinians.

The internationally renowned intellectual, writer and linguist said Israel used U.S.-made warplanes to indiscriminately bomb Gaza last year throughout 51 days.

“When what is called Israeli jet planes bomb defenceless targets in Gaza, that is U.S. jet planes with Israeli pilots,” he said, according to Mint Press. “And the same with the high-tech munition and so on and so forth. So this is, again, sadism masked as compassion. Those are the actions.”

Recently, Chomsky told Democracy Now that the United States is a violent state and is it exporting violence to other parts of the world like the Israeli occupation.

Chomsky also harshly criticized what Israel is doing in the Occupied Territories, saying it is much worse than apartheid.

“To call it apartheid is a gift to Israel, at least if by ‘apartheid’ you mean South African-style apartheid,” he said. “What is happening in the Occupied Territories is much worse. There is a crucial difference. The South African Nationalists needed the black population. That was their workforce.”

But, in the case of the relationship of Israel with the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is completely different, he said.

“They just do not want them. They want them out, or at least in prison,” he said.

He accused the United States’ mainstream media, such as CBS, of being subservient to Israeli propaganda agencies.

“It is a shameful moment for U.S. media when it insists on being subservient to the grotesque propaganda agencies of a violent, aggressive state,” he said, in reference to Israel.

According to a United Nations report, Israel killed 2,139 Palestinians in 51 days last Summer. Of those, 490 were children. More than 11,000 Palestinians were injured in the attacks. Three thousand of them were children. Over 20,000 homes were destroyed and at least 500,000 Palestinians were displaced. Damages were estimated at over US$5 billion.

 

The Raping of America: Mile Markers on the Road to Fascism

August 25, 2015

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“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”–Martin Luther King Jr.

There’s an ill will blowing across the country. The economy is tanking. The people are directionless, and politics provides no answer. And like former regimes, the militarized police have stepped up to provide a façade of law and order manifested by an overt violence against the citizenry.

Despite the revelations of the past several years, nothing has changed to push back against the American police state. Our freedoms–especially the Fourth Amendment–continue to be choked out by a prevailing view among government bureaucrats that they have the right to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation.

From youtube.com/watch?v=HjUXtMuurh8: Dashcam Video of Violent Arrest of Sandra Bland Was Edited...Why? Thom Hartmann talks with Ben Norton, Independent Journalist Website: bennorton.com, about the dash cam video recorded during the arrest of Sandra ...

Despite the recent outrage and protests, nothing has changed to restore us to our rightful role as having dominion over our bodies, our lives and our property, especially when it comes to interactions with the government.

From youtube.com/watch?v=HjUXtMuurh8: Dashcam Video of Violent Arrest of Sandra Bland Was Edited…Why? Thom Hartmann talks with Ben Norton, Independent Journalist Website: bennorton.com, about the dash cam video recorded during the arrest of Sandra …
Dashcam Video of Violent Arrest of Sandra Bland Was Edited…Why? Thom Hartmann talks with Ben Norton, Independent Journalist Website: bennorton.com, about the dash cam video recorded during the arrest of Sandra …
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Forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies, forced blood draws, forced breath-alcohol tests, forced DNA extractions, forced eye scans, forced inclusion in biometric databases–these are just a few ways in which Americans continue to be reminded that we have no control over what happens to our bodies during an encounter with government officials. Thus far, the courts have done little to preserve our Fourth Amendment rights, let alone what shreds of bodily integrity remain to us.

Indeed, on a daily basis, Americans are being forced to relinquish the most intimate details of who we are–our biological makeup, our genetic blueprints, and our biometrics (facial characteristics and structure, fingerprints, iris scans, etc.)–in order to clear the nearly insurmountable hurdle that increasingly defines life in the United States.

 

In other words, we are all guilty until proven innocent.

Worst of all, it seems as if nothing will change as long as the American people remain distracted by politics, divided by their own prejudices, and brainwashed into believing that the Constitution still reigns supreme as the law of the land, when in fact, we have almost completed the shift into fascism.

In other words, despite our occasional bursts of outrage over abusive police practices, sporadic calls for government reform, and periodic bouts of awareness that all is not what it seems, the police state continues to march steadily onward.

Such is life in America today that individuals are being threatened with arrest and carted off to jail for the least hint of noncompliance, homes are being raided by police under the slightest pretext, and roadside police stops have devolved into government-sanctioned exercises in humiliation and degradation with a complete disregard for privacy and human dignity.

Consider, for example, what happened to Charnesia Corley after allegedly being pulled over by Texas police for “rolling” through a stop sign. Claiming they smelled marijuana, police handcuffed Corley, placed her in the back of the police cruiser, and then searched her car for almost an hour. They found nothing in the car.

 

As the Houston Chronicle reported:

“Returning to his car where Corley was held, the deputy again said he smelled marijuana and called in a female deputy to conduct a cavity search. When the female deputy arrived, she told Corley to pull her pants down, but Corley protested because she was cuffed and had no underwear on. The deputy ordered Corley to bend over, pulled down her pants and began to search her. Then”Corley stood up and protested, so the deputy threw her to the ground and restrained her while another female was called in to assist. When backup arrived, each deputy held one of Corley’s legs apart to conduct the probe.”

As shocking and disturbing as it seems, Corley’s roadside cavity search is becoming par for the course in an age in which police are taught to have no respect for the citizenry’s bodily integrity. In fact, it’s gotten so bad that you don’t even have to be suspected of possessing drugs to be subjected to a strip search.

It must be remembered that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was intended to prevent government agents from searching an individual’s person or property without a warrant and probable cause (evidence that some kind of criminal activity was afoot). While the literal purpose of the amendment is to protect our property and our bodies from unwarranted government intrusion, the moral intention behind it is to protect our human dignity.

 

Unfortunately, the indignities being heaped upon us by the architects and agents of the American police state–whether or not we’ve done anything wrong–don’t end with roadside strip searches. They’re just a foretaste of what is to come.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government doesn’t need to strip you naked by the side of the road in order to render you helpless. It has other methods, less subtle perhaps but equally humiliating, devastating and mind-altering, of stripping you of your independence, robbing you of your dignity, and undermining your rights.

With every court ruling that allows the government to operate above the rule of law, every piece of legislation that limits our freedoms, and every act of government wrongdoing that goes unpunished, we’re slowly being conditioned to a society in which we have little real control over our lives.

Indeed, not only are we developing a new citizenry incapable of thinking for themselves, we’re also instilling in them a complete and utter reliance on the government and its corporate partners to do everything for them–tell them what to eat, what to wear, how to think, what to believe, how long to sleep, who to vote for, whom to associate with, and on and on.

In this way, we have created a welfare state, a nanny state, a police state, a surveillance state, an electronic concentration camp–call it what you will, the meaning is the same: in our quest for less personal responsibility, a greater sense of security, and no burdensome obligations to each other or to future generations, we have created a society in which we have no true freedom.

Government surveillance, police abuse, SWAT team raids, economic instability, asset forfeiture schemes, pork barrel legislation, militarized police, drones, endless wars, private prisons, involuntary detentions, biometrics databases, free speech zones, etc.: these are mile markers on the road to a fascist state where citizens are treated like cattle, to be branded and eventually led to the slaughterhouse.
If there is any hope to be found it will be found in local, grassroots activism. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., it’s time for “militant nonviolent resistance.”

First, however, Americans must break free of the apathy-inducing turpor of politics, entertainment spectacles and manufactured news. Only once we are free of the chains that bind us–or to be more exact, the chains that “blind” us–can we become actively aware of the injustices taking place around us and demand freedom of our oppressors.

_______

 

John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead’s aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and (more…)

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Noam Chomsky, Rogue States and Nuclear Dangers

August 22, 2015

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: Just a little late summer reminder that TomDispatch gets by largely thanks to the generosity of its readers. In other words, your contributions truly matter, even — perhaps especially — in the dog days of summer. They ensure that we can continue to bring you voices like Noam Chomsky’s with the kind of sharp analysis and reporting you’re unlikely to find elsewhere. Do check out our donation page. Right now, for a contribution of $100 (or more), you can get a signed, personalized book from Nick Turse, Christian Appy, Rory Fanning, or me — with our eternal thanks! Tom]

The first prime-time Republican primary debate of 2015 was an eye-opener of sorts when it came to the Middle East. After forcefully advocating for the termination of the pending nuclear deal with Iran, for example, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker unleashed an almost indecipherable torrent of words. “This is not just bad with Iran,” he insisted, “this is bad with ISIS. It is tied together, and, once and for all, we need a leader who’s gonna stand up and do something about it.” That prescription, as vague as it was incoherent, was par for the course.

When asked how he would respond to reports that Iranian Qods Force commander Major General Qassem Soleimani had recently traveled to Russia in violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution, GOP billionaire frontrunner Donald Trump responded, “I would be so different from what you have right now. Like, the polar opposite.” He then meandered into a screed about trading Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl for “five of the big, great killers leaders” of Afghanistan’s Taliban, but never offered the slightest hint that he had a clue who General Soleimani was or what he would actually do that would be “so different.” Questioned about the legacy of American soldiers killed in his brother’s war in Iraq, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush replied in a similarly incoherent fashion: “To honor the people that died, we need to — we need to stop the Iran agreement,” and then pledged to annihilate ISIS as well. Senator Ted Cruz seemed to believe that merely intoning the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” opened a surefire path to rapidly defeating ISIS — that, and his proposed Expatriate Terrorist Act that would stop Americans who join ISIS from using their “passport to come back and wage jihad on Americans.” Game, set, match, ISIS.

Of the 10 candidates on that stage, only Senator Rand Paul departed from faith-based reality by observing that “ISIS rides around in a billion dollars’ worth of U.S. Humvees.” He continued, “It’s a disgrace. We’ve got to stop — we shouldn’t fund our enemies, for goodness sakes.” On a stage filled by Republicans in a lather about nonexistent weaponry in the Middle East — namely, an Iranian A-bomb — only Paul drew attention to weaponry that does exist, much of it American. Though no viewer would know it from that night’s debate, all across the region — from Yemen to Syria to Iraq — U.S. arms are fueling conflicts and turning the living into the dead.  Military spending in the Middle East reached almost $200 billion in 2014, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which tracks arms sales. That represents a jump of 57% since 2005.  Some of the largest increases have been among U.S. allies buying big-ticket items from American weapons makers. That includes Iraq and Saudi Arabia ($90 billion in U.S. weapons deals from October 2010 to October 2014), which, by the way, haven’t fared so well against smaller, less well-armed opponents. Those countries have seen increases in their arms purchases of 286% and 112%, respectively, since 2005.

With the United States feeding the fires of war and many in its political class frothing about nonexistent nukes, leave it to the indomitable Noam Chomsky, a TomDispatch regular and institute professor emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to cut to the quick when it comes to Iran, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States, the regional balance of power, and arms (real or imagined). He wades through the spin and speechifying to offer a frank assessment of threats in the Middle East that you’re unlikely to hear about in any U.S. presidential debate between now and the end of time. Nick Turse

“The Iranian Threat” 
Who Is the Gravest Danger to World Peace? 
By Noam Chomsky

Throughout the world there is great relief and optimism about the nuclear deal reached in Vienna between Iran and the P5+1 nations, the five veto-holding members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany. Most of the world apparently shares the assessment of the U.S. Arms Control Association that “the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action establishes a strong and effective formula for blocking all of the pathways by which Iran could acquire material for nuclear weapons for more than a generation and a verification system to promptly detect and deter possible efforts by Iran to covertly pursue nuclear weapons that will last indefinitely.”

There are, however, striking exceptions to the general enthusiasm: the United States and its closest regional allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. One consequence of this is that U.S. corporations, much to their chagrin, are prevented from flocking to Tehran along with their European counterparts. Prominent sectors of U.S. power and opinion share the stand of the two regional allies and so are in a state of virtual hysteria over “the Iranian threat.” Sober commentary in the United States, pretty much across the spectrum, declares that country to be “the gravest threat to world peace.” Even supporters of the agreement here are wary, given the exceptional gravity of that threat.  After all, how can we trust the Iranians with their terrible record of aggression, violence, disruption, and deceit?

Opposition within the political class is so strong that public opinion has shifted quickly from significant support for the deal to an even split. Republicans are almost unanimously opposed to the agreement. The current Republican primaries illustrate the proclaimed reasons. Senator Ted Cruz, considered one of the intellectuals among the crowded field of presidential candidates, warns that Iran may still be able to produce nuclear weapons and could someday use one to set off an Electro Magnetic Pulse that “would take down the electrical grid of the entire eastern seaboard” of the United States, killing “tens of millions of Americans.”

The two most likely winners, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, are battling over whether to bomb Iran immediately after being elected or after the first Cabinet meeting.  The one candidate with some foreign policy experience, Lindsey Graham, describes the deal as “a death sentence for the state of Israel,” which will certainly come as a surprise to Israeli intelligence and strategic analysts — and which Graham knows to be utter nonsense, raising immediate questions about actual motives.

Keep in mind that the Republicans long ago abandoned the pretense of functioning as a normal congressional party.  They have, as respected conservative political commentator Norman Ornstein of the right-wing American Enterprise Institute observed, become a “radical insurgency” that scarcely seeks to participate in normal congressional politics.

Since the days of President Ronald Reagan, the party leadership has plunged so far into the pockets of the very rich and the corporate sector that they can attract votes only by mobilizing parts of the population that have not previously been an organized political force.  Among them are extremist evangelical Christians, now probably a majority of Republican voters; remnants of the former slave-holding states; nativists who are terrified that “they” are taking our white Christian Anglo-Saxon country away from us; and others who turn the Republican primaries into spectacles remote from the mainstream of modern society — though not from the mainstream of the most powerful country in world history.

The departure from global standards, however, goes far beyond the bounds of the Republican radical insurgency.  Across the spectrum, there is, for instance, general agreement with the “pragmatic” conclusion of General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that the Vienna deal does not “prevent the United States from striking Iranian facilities if officials decide that it is cheating on the agreement,” even though a unilateral military strike is “far less likely” if Iran behaves.

Former Clinton and Obama Middle East negotiator Dennis Ross typically recommends that “Iran must have no doubts that if we see it moving towards a weapon, that would trigger the use of force” even after the termination of the deal, when Iran is theoretically free to do what it wants.  In fact, the existence of a termination point 15 years hence is, he adds, “the greatest single problem with the agreement.” He also suggests that the U.S. provide Israel with specially outfitted B-52 bombers and bunker-busting bombs to protect itself before that terrifying date arrives.

“The Greatest Threat”

Opponents of the nuclear deal charge that it does not go far enough. Some supporters agree, holding that “if the Vienna deal is to mean anything, the whole of the Middle East must rid itself of weapons of mass destruction.” The author of those words, Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Javad Zarif, added that “Iran, in its national capacity and as current chairman of the Non-Aligned Movement [the governments of the large majority of the world’s population], is prepared to work with the international community to achieve these goals, knowing full well that, along the way, it will probably run into many hurdles raised by the skeptics of peace and diplomacy.” Iran has signed “a historic nuclear deal,” he continues, and now it is the turn of Israel, “the holdout.”

Israel, of course, is one of the three nuclear powers, along with India and Pakistan, whose weapons programs have been abetted by the United States and that refuse to sign the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT).

Zarif was referring to the regular five-year NPT review conference, which ended in failure in April when the U.S. (joined by Canada and Great Britain) once again blocked efforts to move toward a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East. Such efforts have been led by Egypt and other Arab states for 20 years.  As Jayantha Dhanapala and Sergio Duarte, leading figures in the promotion of such efforts at the NPT and other U.N. agencies, observe in “Is There a Future for the NPT?,” an article in the journal of the Arms Control Association: “The successful adoption in 1995 of the resolution on the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East was the main element of a package that permitted the indefinite extension of the NPT.”  The NPT, in turn, is the most important arms control treaty of all.  If it were adhered to, it could end the scourge of nuclear weapons.

Repeatedly, implementation of the resolution has been blocked by the U.S., most recently by President Obama in 2010 and again in 2015, as Dhanapala and Duarte point out, “on behalf of a state that is not a party to the NPT and is widely believed to be the only one in the region possessing nuclear weapons” — a polite and understated reference to Israel. This failure, they hope, “will not be the coup de grâce to the two longstanding NPT objectives of accelerated progress on nuclear disarmament and establishing a Middle Eastern WMD-free zone.”

A nuclear-weapons-free Middle East would be a straightforward way to address whatever threat Iran allegedly poses, but a great deal more is at stake in Washington’s continuing sabotage of the effort in order to protect its Israeli client.  After all, this is not the only case in which opportunities to end the alleged Iranian threat have been undermined by Washington, raising further questions about just what is actually at stake.

In considering this matter, it is instructive to examine both the unspoken assumptions in the situation and the questions that are rarely asked.  Let us consider a few of these assumptions, beginning with the most serious: that Iran is the gravest threat to world peace.

In the U.S., it is a virtual cliché among high officials and commentators that Iran wins that grim prize.  There is also a world outside the U.S. and although its views are not reported in the mainstream here, perhaps they are of some interest.  According to the leading western polling agencies (WIN/Gallup International), the prize for “greatest threat” is won by the United States.  The rest of the world regards it as the gravest threat to world peace by a large margin.  In second place, far below, is Pakistan, its ranking probably inflated by the Indian vote.  Iran is ranked below those two, along with China, Israel, North Korea, and Afghanistan.

“The World’s Leading Supporter of Terrorism”

Turning to the next obvious question, what in fact is the Iranian threat?  Why, for example, are Israel and Saudi Arabia trembling in fear over that country?  Whatever the threat is, it can hardly be military.  Years ago, U.S. intelligence informed Congress that Iran has very low military expenditures by the standards of the region and that its strategic doctrines are defensive — designed, that is, to deter aggression. The U.S. intelligence community has also reported that it has no evidence Iran is pursuing an actual nuclear weapons program and that “Iran’s nuclear program and its willingness to keep open the possibility of developing nuclear weapons is a central part of its deterrent strategy.”

The authoritative SIPRI review of global armaments ranks the U.S., as usual, way in the lead in military expenditures.  China comes in second with about one-third of U.S. expenditures.  Far below are Russia and Saudi Arabia, which are nonetheless well above any western European state.  Iran is scarcely mentioned.  Full details are provided in an April report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which finds “a conclusive case that the Arab Gulf states have… an overwhelming advantage of Iran in both military spending and access to modern arms.”

Iran’s military spending, for instance, is a fraction of Saudi Arabia’s and far below even the spending of the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  Altogether, the Gulf Cooperation Council states — Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE — outspend Iran on arms by a factor of eight, an imbalance that goes back decades.  The CSIS report adds: “The Arab Gulf states have acquired and are acquiring some of the most advanced and effective weapons in the world [while] Iran has essentially been forced to live in the past, often relying on systems originally delivered at the time of the Shah.”  In other words, they are virtually obsolete.  When it comes to Israel, of course, the imbalance is even greater.  Possessing the most advanced U.S. weaponry and a virtual offshore military base for the global superpower, it also has a huge stock of nuclear weapons.

To be sure, Israel faces the “existential threat” of Iranian pronouncements: Supreme Leader Khamenei and former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad famously threatened it with destruction.  Exceptthat they didn’t — and if they had, it would be of little moment.  Ahmadinejad, for instance, predicted that “under God’s grace [the Zionist regime] will be wiped off the map.”  In other words, he hoped that regime change would someday take place.  Even that falls far short of the direct calls in both Washington and Tel Aviv for regime change in Iran, not to speak of the actions taken to implement regime change.  These, of course, go back to the actual “regime change” of 1953, when the U.S. and Britain organized a military coup to overthrow Iran’s parliamentary government and install the dictatorship of the Shah, who proceeded to amass one of the worst human rights records on the planet.

These crimes were certainly known to readers of the reports of Amnesty International and other human rights organizations, but not to readers of the U.S. press, which has devoted plenty of space to Iranian human rights violations — but only since 1979 when the Shah’s regime was overthrown.  (To check the facts on this, read The U.S. Press and Iran, a carefully documented study by Mansour Farhang and William Dorman.)

None of this is a departure from the norm.  The United States, as is well known, holds the world championship title in regime change and Israel is no laggard either.  The most destructive of its invasions of Lebanon in 1982 was explicitly aimed at regime change, as well as at securing its hold on the occupied territories.  The pretexts offered were thin indeed and collapsed at once.  That, too, is not unusual and pretty much independent of the nature of the society — from the laments in the Declaration of Independence about the “merciless Indian savages” to Hitler’s defense of Germany from the “wild terror” of the Poles.

No serious analyst believes that Iran would ever use, or even threaten to use, a nuclear weapon if it had one, and so face instant destruction.  There is, however, real concern that a nuclear weapon might fall into jihadi hands — not thanks to Iran, but via U.S. ally Pakistan.  In the journal of the Royal Institute of International Affairs, two leading Pakistani nuclear scientists, Pervez Hoodbhoy and Zia Mian, write that increasing fears of “militants seizing nuclear weapons or materials and unleashing nuclear terrorism [have led to]… the creation of a dedicated force of over 20,000 troops to guard nuclear facilities.  There is no reason to assume, however, that this force would be immune to the problems associated with the units guarding regular military facilities,” which have frequently suffered attacks with “insider help.” In brief, the problem is real, just displaced to Iran thanks to fantasies concocted for other reasons.

Other concerns about the Iranian threat include its role as “the world’s leading supporter of terrorism,” which primarily refers to its support for Hezbollah and Hamas.  Both of those movements emerged in resistance to U.S.-backed Israeli violence and aggression, which vastly exceeds anything attributed to these villains, let alone the normal practice of the hegemonic power whose global drone assassination campaign alone dominates (and helps to foster) international terrorism.

Those two villainous Iranian clients also share the crime of winning the popular vote in the only free elections in the Arab world.  Hezbollah is guilty of the even more heinous crime of compelling Israel to withdraw from its occupation of southern Lebanon, which took place in violation of U.N. Security Council orders dating back decades and involved an illegal regime of terror and sometimes extreme violence.  Whatever one thinks of Hezbollah, Hamas, or other beneficiaries of Iranian support, Iran hardly ranks high in support of terror worldwide.

“Fueling Instability”

Another concern, voiced at the U.N. by U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, is the “instability that Iran fuels beyond its nuclear program.” The U.S. will continue to scrutinize this misbehavior, she declared.  In that, she echoed the assurance Defense Secretary Ashton Carter offered while standing on Israel’s northern border that “we will continue to help Israel counter Iran’s malign influence” in supporting Hezbollah, and that the U.S. reserves the right to use military force against Iran as it deems appropriate.

The way Iran “fuels instability” can be seen particularly dramatically in Iraq where, among other crimes, it alone at once came to the aid of Kurds defending themselves from the invasion of Islamic State militants, even as it is building a $2.5 billion power plant in the southern port city of Basra to try to bring electrical power back to the level reached before the 2003 invasion.  Ambassador Power’s usage is, however, standard: Thanks to that invasion, hundreds of thousands were killed and millions of refugees generated, barbarous acts of torture were committed — Iraqis have compared the destruction to the Mongol invasion of the thirteenth century — leaving Iraq the unhappiest country in the world according to WIN/Gallup polls.  Meanwhile, sectarian conflict was ignited, tearing the region to shreds and laying the basis for the creation of the monstrosity that is ISIS.  And all of that is called “stabilization.”

Only Iran’s shameful actions, however, “fuel instability.” The standard usage sometimes reaches levels that are almost surreal, as when liberal commentator James Chace, former editor of Foreign Affairs, explainedthat the U.S. sought to “destabilize a freely elected Marxist government in Chile” because “we were determined to seek stability” under the Pinochet dictatorship.

Others are outraged that Washington should negotiate at all with a “contemptible” regime like Iran’s with its horrifying human rights record and urge instead that we pursue “an American-sponsored alliance between Israel and the Sunni states.”  So writes Leon Wieseltier, contributing editor to the venerable liberal journal the Atlantic, who can barely conceal his visceral hatred for all things Iranian.  With a straight face, this respected liberal intellectual recommends that Saudi Arabia, which makes Iran look like a virtual paradise, and Israel, with its vicious crimes in Gaza and elsewhere, should ally to teach that country good behavior.  Perhaps the recommendation is not entirely unreasonable when we consider the human rights records of the regimes the U.S. has imposed and supported throughout the world.

Though the Iranian government is no doubt a threat to its own people, it regrettably breaks no records in this regard, not descending to the level of favored U.S. allies.  That, however, cannot be the concern of Washington, and surely not Tel Aviv or Riyadh.

It might also be useful to recall — surely Iranians do — that not a day has passed since 1953 in which the U.S. was not harming Iranians. After all, as soon as they overthrew the hated U.S.-imposed regime of the Shah in 1979, Washington put its support behind Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, who would, in 1980, launch a murderous assault on their country.  President Reagan went so far as to deny Saddam’s major crime, his chemical warfare assault on Iraq’s Kurdish population, which he blamed on Iran instead.  When Saddam was tried for crimes under U.S. auspices, that horrendous crime, as well as others in which the U.S. was complicit, was carefully excluded from the charges, which were restricted to one of his minor crimes, the murder of 148 Shi’ites in 1982, a footnote to his gruesome record.

Saddam was such a valued friend of Washington that he was even granted a privilege otherwise accorded only to Israel.  In 1987, his forces were allowed to attack a U.S. naval vessel, the USS Stark, with impunity, killing 37 crewmen.  (Israel had acted similarly in its 1967 attack on the USS Liberty.)  Iran pretty much conceded defeat shortly after, when the U.S. launched Operation Praying Mantis against Iranian ships and oil platforms in Iranian territorial waters.  That operation culminated when the USS Vincennes, under no credible threat, shot down an Iranian civilian airliner in Iranian airspace, with 290 killed — and the subsequent granting of a Legion of Merit award to the commander of the Vincennesfor “exceptionally meritorious conduct” and for maintaining a “calm and professional atmosphere” during the period when the attack on the airliner took place. Comments philosopher Thill Raghu, “We can only stand in awe of such display of American exceptionalism!”

After the war ended, the U.S. continued to support Saddam Hussein, Iran’s primary enemy.  President George H.W. Bush even invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to the U.S. for advanced training in weapons production, an extremely serious threat to Iran.  Sanctions against that country were intensified, including against foreign firms dealing with it, and actions were initiated to bar it from the international financial system.

In recent years the hostility has extended to sabotage, the murder of nuclear scientists (presumably by Israel), and cyberwar, openly proclaimed with pride.  The Pentagon regards cyberwar as an act of war, justifying a military response, as does NATO, which affirmed in September 2014 that cyber attacks may trigger the collective defense obligations of the NATO powers — when we are the target that is, not the perpetrators.

“The Prime Rogue State”

It is only fair to add that there have been breaks in this pattern. President George W. Bush, for example, offered several significant gifts to Iran by destroying its major enemies, Saddam Hussein and the Taliban.  He even placed Iran’s Iraqi enemy under its influence after the U.S. defeat, which was so severe that Washington had to abandon its officially declared goals of establishing permanent military bases (“enduring camps”) andensuring that U.S. corporations would have privileged access to Iraq’s vast oil resources.

Do Iranian leaders intend to develop nuclear weapons today?  We can decide for ourselves how credible their denials are, but that they had such intentions in the past is beyond question.  After all, it was asserted openly on the highest authority and foreign journalists were informed that Iran would develop nuclear weapons “certainly, and sooner than one thinks.” The father of Iran’s nuclear energy program and former head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization was confident that the leadership’s plan “was to build a nuclear bomb.” The CIA also reported that it had “no doubt” Iran would develop nuclear weapons if neighboring countries did (as they have).

All of this was, of course, under the Shah, the “highest authority” just quoted and at a time when top U.S. officials — Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Henry Kissinger, among others — were urging him to proceed with his nuclear programs and pressuring universities to accommodate these efforts.  Under such pressures, my own university, MIT, made a deal with the Shah to admit Iranian students to the nuclear engineering program in return for grants he offered and over the strong objections of the student body, but with comparably strong faculty support (in a meeting that older faculty will doubtless remember well).

Asked later why he supported such programs under the Shah but opposed them more recently, Kissinger responded honestly that Iran was an ally then.

Putting aside absurdities, what is the real threat of Iran that inspires such fear and fury? A natural place to turn for an answer is, again, U.S. intelligence.  Recall its analysis that Iran poses no military threat, that its strategic doctrines are defensive, and that its nuclear programs (with no effort to produce bombs, as far as can be determined) are “a central part of its deterrent strategy.”

Who, then, would be concerned by an Iranian deterrent?  The answer is plain: the rogue states that rampage in the region and do not want to tolerate any impediment to their reliance on aggression and violence.  In the lead in this regard are the U.S. and Israel, with Saudi Arabia trying its best to join the club with its invasion of Bahrain (to support the crushing of a reform movement there) and now its murderous assault on Yemen, accelerating a growing humanitarian catastrophe in that country.

For the United States, the characterization is familiar.  Fifteen years ago, the prominent political analyst Samuel Huntington, professor of the science of government at Harvard, warned in the establishment journalForeign Affairs that for much of the world the U.S. was “becoming the rogue superpower… the single greatest external threat to their societies.” Shortly after, his words were echoed by Robert Jervis, the president of the American Political Science Association: “In the eyes of much of the world, in fact, the prime rogue state today is the United States.” As we have seen, global opinion supports this judgment by a substantial margin.

Furthermore, the mantle is worn with pride.  That is the clear meaning of the insistence of the political class that the U.S. reserves the right to resort to force if it unilaterally determines that Iran is violating some commitment.  This policy is of long standing, especially for liberal Democrats, and by no means restricted to Iran.  The Clinton Doctrine, for instance, confirmed that the U.S. was entitled to resort to the “unilateral use of military power” even to ensure “uninhibited access to key markets, energy supplies, and strategic resources,” let alone alleged “security” or “humanitarian” concerns.  Adherence to various versions of this doctrine has been well confirmed in practice, as need hardly be discussed among people willing to look at the facts of current history.

These are among the critical matters that should be the focus of attention in analyzing the nuclear deal at Vienna, whether it stands or is sabotaged by Congress, as it may well be.

Noam Chomsky is institute professor emeritus in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ATomDispatch regular, among his recent books are Hegemony or SurvivalFailed StatesPower SystemsHopes and Prospects,and Masters of Mankind. Haymarket Books recently reissued twelve of his classic books in new editions. His website is www.chomsky.info. 

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book,Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2015 Noam Chomsky

Jimmy Carter: The US Is an “Oligarchy With Unlimited Political Bribery”

August 6, 2015

President Jimmy Carter. (photo: Pete Muller/AP)
President Jimmy Carter. (photo: Pete Muller/AP)

By Jon Schwarz, The Intercept

05 August 15

 

ormer president Jimmy Carter said Tuesday on the nationally syndicated radio show the Thom Hartmann Program that the United States is now an “oligarchy” in which “unlimited political bribery” has created “a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors.” Both Democrats and Republicans, Carter said, “look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves.”

Carter was responding to a question from Hartmann about recent Supreme Court decisions on campaign financing like Citizens United.

Transcript:

HARTMANN: Our Supreme Court has now said, “unlimited money in politics.” It seems like a violation of principles of democracy. … Your thoughts on that?

CARTER: It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it’s just an oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or to elect the president. And the same thing applies to governors and U.S. senators and congress members. So now we’ve just seen a complete subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect and sometimes get favors for themselves after the election’s over. … The incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody’s who’s already in Congress has a lot more to sell to an avid contributor than somebody who’s just a challenger.

I’ve added Carter’s statement to this list of politicians acknowledging that money controls politics. Please  let me know if you have other good examples.

(Thanks to Sam Sacks for pointing this out.)

 

August 1, 2015

US Empire: American Exceptionalism Is No Shining City On a Hill

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The concept of American exceptionalism is as old as the United States, and it implies that the country has a qualitative difference from other nations. This notion of being special gives Americans the sense that playing a lead role in world affair is part of their natural historic calling. However there is nothing historically exceptional about this: the Roman empire also viewed itself as a system superior to other nations and, more recently, so did the British and the French empires.

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On the topic of American exceptionalism, which he often called “Americanism”, Seymour Martin Lipset noted that “America’s ideology can be described in five words: liberty, egalitarism, individualism, populism and laissez-faire. The revolutionary ideology, which became American creed, is liberalism in its eighteenth and nineteenth-century meaning. It departed from conservatism Toryism, statist communitarianism, mercantilism and noblesse-oblige dominant in monarchical state-church formed cultures.” Naturally identifying America’s system as a unique ideology, just like calling its successful colonial war against Britain a revolution, is a fallacy. For one, America was never based on social equality, as rigid class distinctions always remained through US history.

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In reality, the US has never broken from European social models. American exceptionalism implies a sense of superiority, just like in the case of the British empire, the French empire and the Roman empire. In such imperialist systems, class inequality was never challenged and, as matter of fact, served as cornerstone of the imperial structure. In American history, the only exception to this system based on social inequality was during the post World War II era of the economic “miracle”. The period from 1945 to the mid 1970s was characterized by major economic growth, an absence of big economic downturns, and a much higher level of social mobility on a massive scale. This time frame saw a tremendous expansion of higher education: from 2.5 million people to 12 million going to colleges and universities, and this education explosion, naturally, fostered this upward mobility where the American dream became possible for the middle class.

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Regardless of  real domestic social progress made in the United States after the birth of the empire in 1945, for the proponents of American exceptionalism — this includes the entire political class — the myth of the US being defined as a “shining city on a hill” has always been a rationale to justify the pursuit of imperialism. For example, when President Barack Obama addressed the nation to justify the US military intervention in Libya, he said that “America is different”, as if the US has a special role in history as a force for good. In a speech on US foreign policy, at West Point on May 28, 2014, Obama bluntly stated: “In fact, by most measures, America has rarely been stronger relative to the rest of the world. Those who argue otherwise — who suggest that America is in decline or has seen its global leadership slip away are misreading history. Our military has no peer….  I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”

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In his book, Democracy In America, Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville was lyrical in his propaganda-like adulation of American exceptionalism, defining it almost as divine providence. “When the earth was given to men by the Creator, the earth was inexhaustible. But men were weak and ignorant, and when they had learned to take advantage of the treasures which it contained, they already covered its surface and were soon obliged to earn by the sword an asylum for repose and freedom. Just then North America was discovered, as if it had been kept in reserve by the Deity and had risen from beneath the waters of the deluge”, wrote de Tocqueville.

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This notion, originated by the French author, and amplified ever since, which defined the US as the “divine gift” of a moral and virtuous land, is a cruel fairy tale. It is mainly convenient to ease up America’s profound guilt. After all, the brutal birth of this nation took place under the curse of two cardinal sins: the theft of Native American lands after committing a genocide of their population; and the hideous crime of slavery, with slaves building an immense wealth for the few, in a new feudal system, with their sweat, tears and blood.

Editor’s Notes: Photographs two and five by Vaticanus; photograph four by Gilbert Mercier; photograph six by Colin Poellot.

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VIDEO: Noam Chomsky on Why Israel and the U.S. Created the Myth of the Iranian Nuclear Threat

August 1, 2015

Posted on Jul 28, 2015

“The real question is: Why is the [Iran] deal being pursued?” the renowned linguist and political commentator asks in a discussion with Antonio Mora on Al-Jazeera America. “What exactly is the threat of Iran?”

—Posted by Natasha Hakimi Zapata

 

What’s Wrong with America?

June 9, 2015

americandecline6915

The world’s one-time sole surviving superpower is in decline. And what ails the U.S. can be seen through the experience of ordinary people—those who personify the existential rationale for “democracy.”

Three recent stories in the news nicely sum it up: the world’s one-time sole surviving superpower is in decline.  The cause is a sickness.  It’s not a disease of the skin, to coin a phrase.  No, we’re talking about a disease of the heart – the heart and soul, that is, of a society.

There’s no better way to get to the core of what ails U.S. America than through the experience of ordinary people – in other words, the very individuals who personify the existential rationale for “democracy” – the Greek word “demos” means populace or the common people.  In theory, RaDonna Kuekelhan and her sister, Cathy O’Mara, who live in a small town in southeast Kansas, are just the kind of people who stand to benefit the most from a democratic form of government, or even an indirect democracy in which people like RaDonna and Cathy vote for other people to represent them in a rule-making body called a legislature.  But, as RaDonna and millions of others in U.S. America are discovering, the deep and widening gulf between theory and practice is not only bad for working-class folks, but also potentially fatal.

Hyperbole, you say?  Left-wing propaganda?  Fear-mongering?   If you think so you probably haven’t read the story (“Life and Death in Brownback’s Kansas”) featured in the June 2 issue of The Nation magazine.  It’s hard reading because RaDonna is dying.  What makes it even harder is that it didn’t have to be that way.  The reason it happened goes to the core of what’s wrong with Kansas – and the country that has forsaken people like RaDonna.

Exactly what kind of people are RaDonna and her sister?  RaDonna is “a stout, white-haired 59-year-old who’s proudly willful, and she has cheated death twice before.” RaDonna lost her job at Emerson Electric making motors for small appliances, when the factory shut down.  She had worked there for two decades.

When RaDonna’s job was taken away, she lost her health insurance.  During that time she also battled cancer, a battle that entailed 35 rounds of radiation and, of course, a great deal of mental agony, to say nothing of the physical suffering.

The cancer returned in 2010, which just happened to be the same year President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law.  It was RaDonna’s salvation – almost.

What happened to RaDonna assumes a human form:  Governor Sam Brownback and a Jurassic-Republican juggernaut otherwise known the Kansas legislature.  The context reads like the predicate to a parable:

In 2010, as RaDonna grew ill, 16 percent of Americans had no coverage; in Montgomery County, RaDonna’s home, the uninsured rate was nearly 22 percent. Few of these people qualified for Medicaid, the national program designed to insure poor people, because Kansas has…one of the more restrictive programs in the country…working parents couldn’t earn more than…$5,859 a year for a family of three.  Childless adults like RaDonna didn’t qualify no matter how little they took home.

But then came the Affordable Care Act (ACA), “which promised a massive nationwide expansion of Medicaid.”

States were asked to open…[health insurance exchanges] to all adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or just about $27,000 a year for a family of three. In return, Washington would pay the full costs of new enrollees through 2016 and 90 percent from 2020 forward. It would be hard to overstate the magnitude of this change. It was arguably the largest expansion of an anti-poverty program since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, when Medicaid was created—and it could very well have saved RaDonna’s life.

When in 2011 Sam Brownback, having fought Medicaid expansion, gave the federal grant money ($31.5 million) his financially distressed state had gotten for health care reform back to Washington (!), he was reacting to reactionaries in his own party and serving notice of his intent not to implement the ACA on his watch.

In 2012, the Supreme Court opened the door for states to refuse set up health insurance exchanges – in other words, not to play nicely.  Roughly two-dozen red states are opting out of the ACA.  Kansas is one of them.

There’s no point in questioning the Governor’s motives:  he bears no ill will toward RaDonna or any other fellow Kansans facing a similar fate.  He’s just doing his job as he sees fit.  But by refusing to set up a state health exchange he unwittingly signed RaDonna’s death warrant.

And that, Virginia, is what we call tragedy.

It so happens that about the same time as the “Life and Death” story appeared, a prominent journalist named Thomas B. Edsall published a piecein the New York Times posing this simple but elegant question:  How Do We Get More People to Have Good Lives?

The search for an answer begins, not surprisingly, with education policy and the role of education in fostering a society conducive to success for the greatest possible number. “It has been widely recognized,” Edsall observes, “that the premium on cognitive skills stems from the shift to a knowledge-based economy driven by the decline in manufacturing employment, the growth of the technology and financial sectors, and labor recruitment from a global talent pool.”

The “decline in manufacturing employment” and “labor recruitment from a global talent pool” (a euphemism for off-shoring, outsourcing, and the trend toward replacing human factory workers with robots) explains what happened to RaDonna’s job – and her health insurance.

What is the root cause of the desperate straits so many decent, hard-working people like RaDonna Kuekelhan face?  Edsall cites several empirical studies that find a close correlation between income levels and educational achievement manifested in “high order” cognitive skills necessary to compete and succeed in today’s job market.  This is a not a problem “we can expect even the best teachers to single-handedly remediate. Whatever you think of the educational reform movement — in its charter-school form or its district-takeover form — the forces contributing to contemporary class stratification are beyond the reach of the classroom alone.”

The most recent New York Times/CBS poll finds that most people (nearly 60 percent) want government to work harder to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor:  “Only one-third of Republicans supported a more active government role, versus eight in 10 of Democrats.”  Another finding is more surprising: “Far from a strictly partisan issue, inequality looms large in the minds of almost half of Republicans and two-thirds of independents, suggesting that it will outlive the presidential primary contests and become a central theme in next year’s general election campaign.”  Meanwhile, people who think the system is rigged in favor of the rich now outnumber people who believe everyone has a fair chance in today’s economy (17 percent fewer than in early 2014).

Taken together, these three stories point to the symptoms of what’s causing this nation’s decline.  Unemployment, outsourcing and offshoring, gross economic inequality, low wages, random benefits, weak unions, rising health care costs, and a badly torn social safety net.  The causes are complex but surely the corrupting effects of unlimited campaign contributions, corporate control of the mainstream media, and massive lobbying efforts in Washington are a big part of The Problem.

Time alone will tell whether or not the illness is fatal, but there is no question that what’s the matter with Kansas is also what’s ailing the nation.

Ex-intel officials: Pentagon report proves US complicity in ISIS — INSURGE intelligence — Medium

June 8, 2015

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From youtube.com/watch?v=VcJFm1zaC0w: from ISIS propaganda video
from ISIS propaganda video
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This story is published by INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a new crowd-funded investigative journalism project.
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According to leading American and British intelligence experts, a declassified Pentagon report confirms that the West accelerated support to extremist rebels in Syria, despite knowing full well the strategy would pave the way for the emergence of the ‘Islamic State’ (ISIS).

The experts who have spoken out include renowned government whistleblowers such as the Pentagon’s Daniel Ellsberg, the NSA’s Thomas Drake, and the FBI’s Coleen Rowley, among others.

Their remarks demonstrate the fraudulent nature of claims by two other former officials, the CIA’s Michael Morell and the NSA’s John Schindler, both of whom attempt to absolve the Obama administration of responsibility for the policy failures exposed by the DIA documents.

Foreseeing ISIS
As I reported on May 22nd, the US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document obtained by Judicial Watch under Freedom of Information confirms that the US intelligence community foresaw the rise of ISIS three years ago, as a direct consequence of the support to extremist rebels in Syria.

The August 2012 ‘Information Intelligence Report’ (IIR) reveals that the overwhelming core of the Syrian insurgency at that time was dominated by a range of Islamist militant groups, including al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI). It warned that the “supporting powers” to the insurgency”–“identified in the document as the West, Gulf states, and Turkey”–“wanted to see the emergence of a “Salafist Principality” in eastern Syria to “isolate” the Assad regime.

The document also provided an extraordinarily prescient prediction that such an Islamist quasi-statelet, backed by the region’s Sunni states, would amplify the risk of the declaration of an “Islamic State” across Iraq and Syria. The DIA report even anticipated the fall of Mosul and Ramadi.

Divide and rule
Last week, legendary whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, the former career Pentagon officer and US military analyst who leaked Pentagon papers exposing White House lies about the Vietnam War, described my Insurge report on the DIA document as “a very important story.”

 

From commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Daniel_Ellsberg_(15802061252).jpg: Daniel Ellsberg
Daniel Ellsberg
(image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org)) License DMCA
Daniel Ellsberg, the former US military analyst who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, revealing how the US public had been misled about the Vietnam War.
In an extensive podcast interview, he said that the DIA document provided compelling evidence that the West’s Syria strategy created ISIS. The DIA, he said, “in 2012, was asserting that Western powers were supporting extremist Islamic groups in Syria that were opposing Assad”

“They were not only as they claimed supporting moderate groups, who were losing members to the more extremist groups, but that they were directly supporting the extremist groups. And they were predicting that this support would result in an Islamic State organization, an ISIS or ISIL” They were encouraging it, regarding it as a positive development, because it was anti-Assad, Assad being supported by Russia, but also interestingly China” and Iran” So we have China, Russia and Iran backing Assad, and the US, starting out saying Assad must go” What he [Nafeez Ahmed] is talking about, the DIA report, is extremely significant. It fits into a general framework that I’m aware of, and sounds plausible to me.”
Ellsberg also noted that “it’s pretty well known” in the intelligence community that Saudi Arabia sponsors Islamist terrorists to this day:

“It’s kind of a deal that the Saudis will support various Islamic extremists, all around the world, and the deal is that they [extremists] will not try to overthrow the corrupt, alcohol-drinking clique in Saudi Arabia.”
Ellsberg, who was a former senior analyst at RAND Corp, also agreed with the relevance of a 2008 US Army-commissioned RAND report, quoted in my Insurge story, and also examined in-depth for Middle East Eye.

The US Army-funded RAND report advocated a range of policy scenarios for the Middle East, including a “divide and rule” strategy to play off Sunni and Shi’a factions against each other, which Ellsberg describes as “standard imperial policy” for the US.

The RAND report even confirmed (p. 113) that its “divide and rule” strategy was already being executed in Iraq at the time:

“Today in Iraq such a strategy is being used a tactical level, as the United States now forms temporary alliances with nationalist insurgent groups that it had been fighting for four years” providing carrots in the form of weapons and cash. In the past, these nationalists have cooperated with al-Qaeda against US forces.”
The confirmed activation of this divide-and-rule strategy perhaps explains why the self-defeating US approach in Syria is fanning the flames of both sides: simultaneously allying with states like Turkey who have continued to covertly sponsor ISIS, while working with Assad through the Russians to fight ISIS. Ellsberg added:

“As Assad is the main opponent of ISIS, we are covertly coordinating our airstrikes against ISIS with Assad. So are we against Assad, or not? It’s ambivalent” I think that Obama and everybody around him is clear that they do not any longer as they’ve been saying want Assad to leave power. I don’t believe that that is their intention anymore, as they believe anyone who succeeds Assad would be far worse.”
If true, Ellsberg’s analysis exposes the deep-rooted hypocrisy of the previous campaign against Assad, the current campaign against ISIS, and why both appear destined for failure.

Frankenstein script

Coleen Rowley, retired FBI Special Agent described my report on the DIA document as “excellent.”

From commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coleen_rowley_1785.JPG: Coleen Rowley
Coleen Rowley
(image by Wikipedia (commons.wikimedia.org)) License DMCA
Former FBI Special Agent Coleen Rowley testified before the Senate and 9/11 Commission on how FBI Head Quarters in Washington DC had sabotaged investigations that could have uncovered the 9/11 plot
Rowley, who was selected as TIME ‘Person of the Year’ in 2002 after revealing how pre-9/11 intelligence was ignored by superiors at the FBI, said of the document:

“It’s like the mad power-hungry doctor who created Frankenstein, only to have his monster turn against him. It’s hard to feel sorry when the insane doctor gets his due. But in our case, that script is constantly repeating. The quest for ‘full spectrum dominance’ and blindness of exceptionalism seems to mean we are doomed to keep repeating the ‘Charlie Wilson’s Frankenstein War’ script” The various neocon warmongers and military industrial complex, most of them inept Peter Principles, just don’t care.”
Also commenting on the declassified Pentagon report, former NSA senior executive Thomas Drake”–“the whistleblower who inspired Edward Snowden”–“condemned “the West’s role in ISIS and threat of ‘violent extremists’, justifying surveillance and libercide at home.”
Thomas Drake, former NSA senior executive, who leaked information in 2006 about the NSA’s corrupt and dysfunction Trailblazer project.
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Wedge strategy
Alastair Crooke, a former senior MI6 officer who spent three decades at the agency, said yesterday that the DIA document provides clear corroboration that the US was covertly pursuing a strategy to drive an extremist Salafi “wedge” between Iran and its Arab allies.

From youtube.com/watch?v=HdOSTlw1mYg: Talking to Islamists Workshop – Alistair Crooke .Talking to Islamists: An Overdue Task or an Exercise in Appeasement?. A public lecture by Alistair Crooke – Founder and Co-Director of Conflicts Forum.
Talking to Islamists Workshop – Alistair Crooke .Talking to Islamists: An Overdue Task or an Exercise in Appeasement?. A public lecture by Alistair Crooke – Founder and Co-Director of Conflicts Forum.
(image by YouTube) License DMCA
Alistair Crooke worked for MI6 for three decades at a senior level, specialising in the politics of the Muslim world. He went on to advise the EU on Middle East foreign policy, and is currently founding director of the Conflicts Forum in Beirut.
The strategy was, Crooke confirms, standard thinking in the Western intelligence establishment for about a decade.

“The idea of breaking up the large Arab states into ethnic or sectarian enclaves is an old Ben Gurion ‘canard,’ and splitting Iraq along sectarian lines has been Vice President Biden’s recipe since the Iraq war,” wrote Crooke, who had coordinated British assistance to the Afghan mujahideen in the 1980s. After his long MI6 stint, he became Middle East advisor to the European Union’s foreign policy chief (1997–2003).

“But the idea of driving a Sunni ‘wedge’ into the landline linking Iran to Syria and to Hezbollah in Lebanon became established Western group think in the wake of the 2006 war, in which Israel failed to de-fang Hezbollah,” continued Crooke. “The response to 2006, it seemed to Western powers, was to cut off Hezbollah from its sources of weapons supply from Iran”

“” In short, the DIA assessment indicates that the ‘wedge’ concept was being given new life by the desire to pressure Assad in the wake of the 2011 insurgency launched against the Syrian state. ‘Supporting powers’ effectively wanted to inject hydraulic fracturing fluid into eastern Syria (radical Salafists) in order to fracture the bridge between Iran and its Arab allies, even at the cost of this ‘fracking’ opening fissures right down inside Iraq to Ramadi. (Intelligence assessments purpose is to provide ‘a view'”–“not to describe or prescribe policy. But it is clear that the DIA reports’ ‘warnings’ were widely circulated and would have been meshed into the policy consideration.)
“But this ‘view’ has exactly come about. It is fact. One might conclude then that in the policy debate, the notion of isolating Hezbollah from Iran, and of weakening and pressurizing President Assad, simply trumped the common sense judgment that when you pump highly toxic and dangerous fracturing substances into geological formations, you can never entirely know or control the consequences” So, when the GCC demanded a ‘price’ for any Iran deal (i.e. massing ‘fracking’ forces close to Aleppo), the pass had been already partially been sold by the US by 2012, when it did not object to what the ‘supporting powers’ wanted.”
Intel shills
Crooke’s analysis of the DIA report shows that it is irrelevant whether or not “the West” should be included in the “supporting powers” described by the report as specifically wanting a “Salafist Principality” in eastern Syria. Either way, the report groups “the West, Gulf countries and Turkey” as supporting the Syrian insurgency together”–“highlighting that the Gulf states and Turkey operated in alliance with the US, Britain, and other Western powers.

The observations of intelligence experts Ellsberg, Rowley, and Drake add further weight to Crooke’s analysis. They come in addition to comments I had previously received on the DIA document from former MI5 counter-terrorism officer, Annie Machon, and former counter-terrorism intelligence officer, Charles Shoebridge.

The comments undermine the recent claims ofdisgraced US national security commentator, John Schindler, a retired NSA intelligence officer, to the effect that the August 2012 DIA report is “almost incomprehensible,” “so heavily redacted that its difficult to say much meaningful about it,” “Nothing special here, not one bit,” “routine,” “a single data point,” and so on.

Schindler cites the DIA’s use of ‘Curveball'”–“the Iraqi informant who fabricated claims about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD)”–“as evidence of the agency’s “less than stellar reputation.” But this misrepresents the fact noted by the CIA’s Valerie Plame Wilson that “it was widely known [in the intelligence community] that CURVEBALL was not a credible source and that there were serious problems with his reporting.”

As I’ve documented elsewhere, the WMD threat mythology was not the outcome of an ‘intelligence failure’, as Schindler and his ilk like to claim, but a consequence of the corruption and politicization of intelligence under the influence of dubious vested interests.

Also contrary to Schindler’s misinformation, an IIR provides raw intelligence data from human sources (HUMINT), not simply rumour, gossip or opinion. Before wider distribution, the IIR is vetted to determine whether it is worthy of dissemination to the intelligence community. IIRs then provide a source basis for evaluation, interpretation, analysis and integration with other information.

Far from justifying the dismissal of the relevance of the declassified DIA documents, this shows that urgent questions must be asked:

What happened to this raw intelligence data, described by six US UK intelligence experts as providing damning confirmation of how Western strategy led to the rise of ISIS?

And why did it not lead to a change in policy, despite DIA analysts’ clear warning of the outgrowth of an ISIS-entity from Western allies’ desire to see a ‘Salafist Principality’ in the region”–“a warning which was, in hindsight, quite accurate?

Are intel critics traitors?
Schindler previously characterized NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden as a traitor and “pawn” of America’s adversaries.”

He now declares that those who cite the DIA report as proof the intelligence community “knew more about the rise of the Islamic State than they let on” are at best “fools; at worst, they’re deceivers who have lied to the American people.”

On the contrary, six decorated former senior US and British intelligence officials, many with direct experience of IIRs and their function, agree that the DIA report provides significant insight into the kind of intelligence available to the US intelligence community at the time.

Yet for Schindler, it seems, Ellsberg, Drake, Rowley, Crooke, Machon and Shoebridge are all, effectively, traitors simply for lending their expertise to public understanding of the newly declassified documents.

As Marcy Wheeler points out in Salon, the large corpus of secret DIA documents obtained by Judicial Watch demonstrates, at the least, that:

“The Intelligence Community (IC) knew that AQI had ties to the rebels in Syria; they knew our Gulf and Turkish allies were happy to strengthen Islamic extremists in a bid to oust Assad; and CIA officers in Benghazi (at a minimum) watched as our allies armed rebels using weapons from Libya. And the IC knew that a surging AQI might lead to the collapse of Iraq. That’s not the same thing as creating ISIS. But it does amount to doing little or nothing while our allies had a hand in creating ISIS. All of which ought to raise real questions about why we’re still allied with countries willfully empowering terrorist groups then, and how seriously they plan to fight those terrorist groups now. Because while the CIA may not have deliberately created ISIS, it sure seems to have watched impassively as our allies helped to do so.”
However, Wheeler overlooks that the reliance on foreign allies is a standard proxy war strategy”–“as Ellsberg explained in his interview”–“used by the covert operations arm of the US government to guarantee ‘plausible deniability.’

 

As I noted in my Middle East Eye analysis of the DIA document, there is extensive evidence against which to contextualize the DIA report’s assertions. This evidence shows that the CIA did not merely watch “impassively” as the Gulf states and Turkey supported violent extremists in Syria, but actively supervised, facilitated and accelerated this policy.

The August 2012 DIA document further corroborates this by repeatedly pointing out that the support to the Syrian insurgency from its allies was itself backed by “the West””–“despite awareness of their intent to establish an extremist Salafi political entity.

While the DIA document was, indeed, just one data-point, analyzing it in context with the other DIA reports along with incontrovertible facts in the public record, establishes that the Pentagon was complicit in its allies’ support of Islamist terrorists, despite recognizing this could create an “Islamic State” in Iraq and Syria.

These revelations show that the real traitors are not the courageous whistleblowers who sacrifice everything to speak out on behalf of the public interest, but shameless shills like Schindler and Morell who willfully sanitize a dysfunctional and dangerous ‘national security’ system from legitimate public scrutiny.

This exclusive is being released for free in the public interest, and was enabled by crowdfunding. I’d like to thank my amazing community of patrons for their support, which gave me the opportunity to work on this in-depth investigation. If you appreciated this story, please support independent, investigative journalism for the global commons via Patreon.com, where you can donate as much or as little as you like.

 

http://www.nafeez.blogspot.com

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is an investigative journalist, bestselling author and international security scholar. A former Guardian writer, he writes the ‘System Shift’ column for VICE’s Motherboard, and is also a columnist for Middle East Eye. He is the winner of a 2015 Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian work.

Nafeez has also written for The (more…)

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Tomgram: Engelhardt, Going for Broke in Ponzi Scheme America

June 3, 2015

General News 6/2/2015 at 10:08:21

By Tom Engelhardt (about the author) Permalink
Related Topic(s): Education; Graduation; Jobs Finding Them; PATRONS; Ponzi Scheme; Student Debt, Add Tags Add to My Group(s)
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From flickr.com/photos/110402963@N02/15601597778/: The Graduates
The Graduates. What are we celebrating?
(image by Game of EPL5 & LUMIX G20/F1.7) License DMCA

[Note to TomDispatch Readers: I’ve long had a weakness for commencement addresses, or at least for what they might be rather than what they usually are, which is why, I suppose, I’ve written them relatively regularly myself. Since no actual college or graduating class has ever asked me to give such a speech, I’ve addressed the graduates of 2014 and other years from what I’ve called “the campus of my mind.” This year, given the increasing strangeness of our American world and the rising debt under which college students labor, I couldn’t resist doing so again. Tom]
This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

You’ve Been Scammed!
Kept Politicians and Demobilized Americans in a System Without a Name
By Tom Engelhardt

It couldn’t be a sunnier, more beautiful day to exit your lives — or enter them — depending on how you care to look at it. After all, here you are four years later in your graduation togs with your parents looking on, waiting to celebrate. The question is: Celebrate what exactly?

 

In possibly the last graduation speech of 2015, I know I should begin by praising your grit, your essential character, your determination to get this far. But today, it’s money, not character, that’s on my mind. For so many of you, I suspect, your education has been a classic scam and you’re not even attending a “for profit” college — an institution of higher learning, that is, officially set up to take you for a ride.

Maybe this is the moment, then, to begin your actual education by looking back and asking yourself what you should really have learned on this campus and what you should expect in the scams — I mean, years — to come. Many of you — those whose parents didn’t have money — undoubtedly entered these stately grounds four years ago in relatively straitened circumstances. In an America in which corporate profits have risen impressively, it’s been springtime for billionaires, but when it comes to ordinary Americans, wages have been relatively stagnant, jobs (the good ones, anyway) generally in flight, and times not exactly of the best. Here was a figure that recently caught my eye, speaking of the world you’re about to step into: in 2014, the average CEO received 373 times the compensation of the average worker. Three and a half decades ago, that number was a significant but not awe-inspiring 42 times.

Still, you probably arrived here eager and not yet in debt. Today, we know that the class that preceded you was the most indebted in the history of higher education, and you’ll surely break that “record.” And no wonder, with college tuitions still rising wildly (up 1,120% since 1978). Judging by last year’s numbers, about 70% of you had to take out loans simply to make it through here, to educate yourself. That figure was a more modest 45% two decades ago. On average, you will have rung up least $33,000 in debt and for some of you the numbers will be much higher. That, by the way, is more than double what it was those same two decades ago.
We have some sense of how this kind of debt plays out in the years to come and the news isn’t good. Those of you with major school debts will be weighed down in all sorts of ways. You’ll find yourselves using your credit cards more than graduates without such debt. You’ll be less likely to buy a home in the future. A few decades from now, you’ll have accumulated significantly less wealth than your unindebted peers. In other words, a striking percentage of you will leave this campus in the kind of financial hole that — given the job market of 2015 — you may have a problem making your way out of.
For those who took a foreign language in your college years, in translation you’ve paid stunning sums you didn’t have to leave yourself, like any foreclosed property, underwater. Worse yet, for those of you who dream of being future doctors, lawyers, financial wizards, architects, or English professors (if there are any of those anymore), that’s only the beginning. You’ll still have to pay exorbitantly for years of graduate school or professional training, which means ever more debt to come.

Does this really sound like an education to you or does it sound more like a Ponzi scheme, like you’ve been scammed?

Do I understand how all this works? No. I’m no expert on the subject. What anyone should be able to see, however, is that the promise of higher education has, in this century, sunk low indeed and that what your generation has been learning how to endure while still in school is a form of peonage. I’d binge drink, too, under the circumstances!

Nobody feels good when they’ve been scammed, but at least you’re not alone on this great campus in needing to reassess what higher education means. Many of your teachers turned out to be untenured part-timers, getting pitiful salaries. They, too, were being scammed. And even some of their esteemed tenured colleagues (as I know from friends of mine) are remarkably deep in the Ponzi pits. It turns out that, as government money flowing onto campus has dried up, the pressure on some of those eminent professors, particularly in graduate programs, to essentially raise their own salaries has only been rising — a very highbrow version of peonage. They increasingly need patrons, which generally means “friendly” corporations. Talk about a scam!

Demobilizing You

Many of you undoubtedly think that your education is now over and it’s time to enter the “real world.” I have news for you: you’ve been in that world for the last four years, hence the debt you’re dragging around behind you. So, on a day when the sun’s in your eyes and it couldn’t be more apparent that the world’s not what you’ve been told it was, maybe you should apply the principles of the scam artist to the world you’re about to enter. Unless you do so, you’ll simply be scammed again in the next phase of your life.

Like the rest of us, presidents and politicians of every stripe have regularly told you that you belong to the one “indispensible” nation on the planet, a country “exceptional” in every way. As a college-educated American, you’ve similarly been assured of how important you’ll be to that exceptional land.

Get over it. You’re going to find yourself living in an ever greyer, grimmer country — if you don’t believe me, check out the government’s unwillingness to fund essential infrastructure maintenance — to which you will be remarkably irrelevant. And if the political elite, the plutocratic class, and the national security state have anything to do with it, in the future you’ll become ever more so. In other words, you are to be relegated to the sidelines of what now passes for American life.

Behind this reality, there’s a history. Since the Vietnam era, the urge to demobilize Americans, to put them out to pasture, to stop them from interfering in the running of “their” country has only grown stronger. When it comes to the military, for instance, the draft was sent to the trash bin of history in 1973 and most Americans were long ago demobilized by the arrival of an “all volunteer” force. So, today, you have no obligation whatsoever to be part of that military, to serve in what is no longer, in the traditional sense, a citizen’s army.

If that military isn’t really yours, the wars it’s been fighting since the dawn of the twenty-first century haven’t been your wars either, nor — despite the responsibility the Constitution reserves to Congress for declaring war — have they been that body’s. Congress still has to pony up sums so extravagant for what’s charmingly called “defense” that the military budgets of the next seven countries combined don’t equal them. It has, however, little genuine say about what wars are fought. Even when, as with the Islamic State, it is offered the modest opportunity to pass a new authorization for a war already long underway, its representatives, like most Americans, now prefer to remain on the sidelines. In the meantime, the White House runs its own drone assassination campaigns via the CIA without anyone else’s say-so, while secretive paramilitaries and a secret military — the Special Operations forces — cocooned inside the larger military and growing like mad have changed the face of American war and it’s none of your business.

Your role in all this is modest indeed: to pay as little attention as you want, endlessly thank the troops for their “service” when you run across them at airports or elsewhere, and leave it at that. Of course, given the sums, verging on a trillion dollars a year, that “we” now put into the U.S. military and related national security outfits, and given our endless wars, conflicts, raids, and secret operations, that military does at least provide some job opportunities, though it has its own version of job flight — to so-called private contractors (once known as “mercenaries”).

And if you think it’s only the military from which you’ve been demobilized, think again. In these last years, so much of what the American government does has been swallowed up in a blanket of heavily enforced secrecy and fierce prosecutions of whistleblowers. An expanding national security state, accountable neither to you nor to the legal system, has proven eager indeed to surveil your life, but not be seen by you. In growing realms, that is, what once would have been called “the people’s business” is no longer your business.

Your role, such as it is, is to get out of the way of the real players. As with the military, so with that national security state: Americans are to thank its officials and operatives for their service and otherwise, for their own “safety,” remain blissfully ignorant of whatever “their” government does, unless that government chooses to tell them about it.

The Corruption Sweepstakes

It hardly needs to be said that this isn’t the normal definition of a working democracy or, for that matter, of citizenship. Other than casting a vote every now and then, you are to know next to nothing about what your government does in your name. And speaking of that vote, you’re being sidelined there, too, and buried in an avalanche of money. Admittedly, in the media campaign season that now goes on non-stop from one election to the next, sooner or later you can still enter a polling place, if you care to, and cast your ballot. Otherwise step aside. These days, the first primary season or “Koch primary” is no longer for voters at all. Instead, prospective candidates audition for the blessings and cash of plutocrats.

Just how the vast sums of money flooding into American politics do their dirty work may not matter that much. Specific contributions from the .01%, enacting their version of trickle-down politics, may not even elect specific candidates. What matters most is the deluge itself. These days in the American political system, money quite literally talks (especially on TV). Via ads, it screams. In the 2016 election season in which an unprecedented $10 billion is expected to be spent and just about every candidate will need his or her “sugar daddies,” the politicians will begin to resemble you; that is, they will find themselves dragging around previously unheard of debts to various plutocrats, industries, and deep pockets of every sort for the rest of their careers.

Take just two recent examples of the new politics of money. As the New York Times reported recently, Florida Senator Marco Rubio has been supported by a single billionaire auto dealer, Norman Braman, for his entire political career. Braman hired him as a lawyer, hired his wife as a consultant to a family foundation, financed his legislative agenda, helped cover his salary at a local college, helped him right his personal finances and deal with his debt load, and is now about to put millions of dollars into his presidential campaign. Rubio, as the article indicates, has returned the favor. Though no one would write such a thing, this makes the senator quite literally a “kept” candidate. Other plutocrats like the Koch brothers and their network of investors, reputedly ready to drop almost a billion dollars into the 2016 campaign, have been more profligate in spreading around their support and favors.

Now, jump across the political aisle and consider Hillary Clinton. As the Washington Post reported recently, she received a payment from eBay of $315,000 for a 20-minute talk at a “summit” that tech company sponsored on women in the workplace. Over the last 16 months, in fact, she and her husband have raked in more than $25 million for such talks. Hillary’s speeches pulled in $3.2 million from the tech sector alone, which she’s now pursuing for more direct contributions to her presidential campaign. “Less than two months [after the eBay summit],” the Post added, “Clinton was feted at the San Francisco Bay-area home of eBay chief executive John Donahoe and his wife, Eileen, for one of the first fundraisers supporting Clinton’s newly announced presidential campaign.”

Say no more, right? I mean, it’s obvious that no one pays such sums for words (of all things!), not without ulterior motives. No deal has to have been made. No direct or even indirect exchange of promises is necessary. On the face of it, there is a word for such fees, as for Rubio’s relationship with Braman, as for the investor primaries of the new election season, as for so much else that involves “dark money” and goes to the heart of the present political process. It’s just not a word normally used about our politicians or our system, not by polite pundits and journalists. If we were in Kabul or Baghdad, not Washington or Los Angeles, we would know just what that word was and we wouldn’t hesitate to use it: corruption.

The Un-Kept Americans

We are, it seems, enmeshed in a new hybrid system, which fits the Constitution, the classic tripartite separation of powers, and the idea of democracy increasingly poorly. We have neither an adequate name for it, nor an adequate language to describe it. I’m talking here about the “real world” in which, at least in the old-fashioned American sense, you will no longer be a “citizen” of a functioning “democracy.”

As that system, awash in plutocratic contributions to politics and taxpayer contributions to the military-industrial-homeland-security complex, morphs into something else, so will you, whether you realize it or not. Though never thought of as such, your debt is part of the same system. A society that programmatically trains its young into debt and calls that “higher education” is as corrupt as a wealthy country that won’t rebuild its own infrastructure. Talk about the hollowing out of America: you are it. No matter how substantial you may be in private, you are being impersonally emptied in what passes for the real world.

If Marco Rubio and Hillary Clinton are kept politicians, then you are un-kept Americans. You are the ones that no one felt it worth giving money to, only taking money from.

Being on the sidelines, it turns out, is an expensive affair. The question is: What are you going to do so that you aren’t there, and in debt, forever?

Of course, there’s a simple answer to this question. Think of it as the Rubio Solution. You could each try to find your own billionaire. But given the numbers involved and what you don’t have to offer in return, that seems an unlikely option. Or, if you don’t want the version of higher education you experienced to morph into the rest of your lives, you — your generation, that is — could decide to stop thanking others for their “service” and leave those sidelines.

They’re counting on you not to serve. They assume that you’ll just stay where you are and take it, while they fleece the rest of us. If instead you were to start thinking about how to head for the actual playing fields of America, I guarantee one thing: you’d screw them up royally.

As you form into your processional now to exit this campus, let me just add: don’t underestimate the surprises the future has in store for all of us. The people who sidelined you aren’t half as good at what they do as they think they are. In so many ways, in fact, they’re a crew of bumblers. They have no more purchase on what the future holds than you do.

You’ve proved in these years that you can get by despite lousy odds. You’ve lived a life to which no one (other than perhaps your hard-pressed parents) has made a contribution. You’re readier than you imagine to take our future into your hands and make something of it. You’re ready to become actual citizens of a future democracy. Go for broke!

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World. This graduation speech was given only on the campus of his mind.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Nick Turse’s Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2015 Tom Engelhardt

Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute’s Tomdispatch.com (“a regular antidote to the mainstream media”), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch Interviews (more…)

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Big Lie: America Doesn’t Have #1 Richest Middle-Class in the World: We’re Ranked 27th!

May 17, 2015

ECONOMY

America is the richest country on Earth. We have the most millionaires, the most billionaires—and an increasingly poor middle-class.

By Les Leopold / AlterNet

June 18, 2013

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236 COMMENTS

America is the richest country on Earth. We have the most millionaires, the most billionaires, and our wealthiest citizens have garnered more of the planet’s riches than any other group in the world. We even have hedge fund managers who make in one hour as much as the average family makes in 21 years!

This opulence is supposed to trickle down to the rest of us, improving the lives of everyday Americans. At least that’s what free-market cheerleaders repeatedly promise us.

Unfortunately, it’s a lie, one of the biggest ever perpetrated on the American people.

Our middle class is falling further and further behind in comparison to the rest of the world. We keep hearing that America is number one. Well, when it comes to middle-class wealth, we’re number 27.

The most telling comparative measurement is median wealth (per adult). It describes the amount of wealth accumulated by the person precisely in the middle of the wealth distribution—50 percent of the adult population has more wealth, while 50 percent has less. You can’t get more middle than that.

Wealth is measured by the total sum of all our assets (homes, bank accounts, stocks, bonds etc.) minus our liabilities (outstanding loans and other debts). It the best indicator we have for individual and family prosperity. While the never-ending accumulation of wealth may be wrecking the planet, wealth also provides basic security, especially in a country like ours with such skimpy social programs. Wealth allows us to survive periods of economic turmoil. Wealth allows our children to go to college without incurring crippling debts, or to get help for the down payment on their first homes. As Billie Holiday sings, “God bless the child that’s got his own.”

Well, it’s a sad song. As the chart below shows, there are 26 other countries with a median wealth higher than ours (and the relative reduction of U.S. median wealth has done nothing to make our economy more sustainable).
Why?

Here’s a starter list:

  • We don’t have real universal healthcare. We pay more and still have poorer health outcomes than all other industrialized countries. Should a serious illness strike, we also can become impoverished.
  • Weak labor laws undermine unions and give large corporations more power to keep wages and benefits down. Unions now represent less than 7 percent of all private sector workers, the lowest ever recorded.
  • Our minimum wage is pathetic, especially in comparison to other developed nations. (We’re # 13.) Nobody can live decently on $7.25 an hour. Our poverty-level minimum wage puts downward pressure on the wages of all working people. And while we secure important victories for a few unpaid sick days, most other developed nations provide a month of guaranteed paid vacations as well as many paid sick days.
  • Wall Street is out of control. Once deregulation started 30 years ago, money has gushed to the top as Wall Street was free to find more and more unethical ways to fleece us.
  • Higher education puts our kids into debt. In most other countries higher education is practically tuition-free. Indebted students are not likely to accumulate wealth anytime soon.
  • It’s hard to improve your station in life if you’re in prison, often due to drug-related charges that don’t even exist in other developed nations. In fact, we have the largest prison population in the entire world, and we have the highest percentage of minorities imprisoned. “In major cities across the country, 80% of young African Americans now have criminal records” (from Michelle Alexander’s 2010 book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness).
  • Our tax structures favor the rich and their corporations that no longer pay their fair share. They move money to foreign tax havens, they create and use tax loopholes, and they fight to make sure the source of most of their wealth—capital gains—is taxed at low rates. Meanwhile the rest of us are pressed to make up the difference or suffer deteriorating public services.
  • The wealthy dominate politics. Nowhere else in the developed world are the rich and their corporations able to buy elections with such impunity.
  • Big Money dominates the media. The real story about how we’re getting ripped off is hidden in a blizzard of BS that comes from all the major media outlets…brought to you by….
  • America encourages globalization of production so that workers here are in constant competition with the lower-wage workers all over the world as well as with highly automated techonologies.

Is there one cause of the middle-class collapse that rises above all others?

Yes. The International Labor organization produced a remarkable study (Global Wage Report 2012-13) that sorts out the causes of why wages have remained stagnant while elite incomes have soared. The report compares key causal explanations like declining bargaining power of unions, porous social safety nets, globalization, new technologies and financialization.

Guess which one had the biggest impact on the growing split between the 1 percent and the 99 percent?

Financialization!

What is that? Economist Gerald Epstein offers us a working definition:

“Financialization means the increasing role of financial motives, financial markets, financial actors and financial institutions in the operation of the domestic and international economies.”

This includes such trends as:

  • The corporate change during the 1980s to make shareholder value the ultimate goal.
  • The deregulation of Wall Street that allowed for the creation of a vast array of new financial instruments for gambling.
  • Allowing private equity firm to buy companies, load them up with debt, extract enormous returns, and then kiss them goodbye.
  • The growth of hedge funds that suck productive wealth out of the economy.
  • The myriad of barely regulated world financial markets that finance the globalization of production, combined with so-called “free trade” agreements.
  • The increased share of all corporate profits that go to the financial sector.
  • The ever increasing size of too-big-to-fail banks.
  • The fact that many of our best students rush to Wall Street instead of careers in science, medicine or education.

In short, financialization is when making money from money becomes more important that providing real goods and services. Here’s a chart that says it all. Once we unleashed Wall Street, their salaries shot up, while everyone else’s stood still.

Do we still know how to fight!

The carefully researched ILO study provides further proof that Occupy Wall Street was right on the money. OWS succeeded (temporarily), in large part, because it tapped into the deep reservoir of anger toward Wall Street felt by people all over the world. We all know the financiers are screwing us.

Then why didn’t OWS turn into a sustained, mass movement to take on Wall Street?

One reason it didn’t grow was that the rest of us stood back in deference to the original protestors instead of making the movement our own. As a result, we didn’t build a larger movement with the structures needed to take on our financial oligarchs. And until we figure out how to do just that, our nation’s wealth will continue to be siphoned away.

Our hope, I believe, lies in the young people who are engaged each day in fighting for the basic human rights for all manner of working people—temp workers, immigrants, unionized, non-union, gays, lesbians, transgender—as well as those who are fighting to save the planet from environmental destruction. It’s all connected.

At some point these deeply committed activists also will understand that financialization both here and abroad stands in the way of justice and puts our planet at risk. When they see the beast clearly, I am confident they will figure out how to slay it.

The sooner, the better.

Les Leopold is the director of the Labor Institute. His most recent book is How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour: Why Hedge Funds Get Away with Siphoning off America’s Wealth (Wiley, 2013).


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