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A Moral Fabulist

A couple of weeks ago Elie Wiesel, Nobel laureate and self-appointed moral conscience for Holocaust survivors, praised the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes to make way for yet more illegal settlements in Jerusalem. His chilling statement ran in an ad placed in Ha’aretz. Here are Wiesel’s appalling words:

“As Sukkot begins, we are thrilled to bless the tens of new families joining us at this time in the Jewish settlement in the City of David. We salute the Zionist action in Jerusalem of those involved. Strengthening the Jewish presence in Jerusalem is a challenge that we all face and with this act of settlement you are raising our stature. Together with you we will receive the pilgrims, the holiday visitors. We value and cherish you.”

Though Wiesel offers himself as a paragon of moral virtue, the truth is somewhat seamier. As detailed in this myth-shattering piece by Alexander Cockburn from the February 2006 print edition of CounterPunch, Wiesel assiduously campaigned for the Nobel Prize and has for decades tried to pass off his short book “Night” as a true account–a “testimony” in his words– of his experiences at Auschwitz, even though key scenes in the book have been exposed as fiction.
–Jeffrey St. Clair

When in trouble, head for Auschwitz, preferably in the company of Elie Wiesel. It’s as foolproof a character reference as is available today, at least within the Judeo-Christian sphere of moral influence. One can easily see why Oprah Winfrey and her advisers saw an Auschwitz excursion in the company of Wiesel as a sure-fire antidote to salve the wounds sustained by Oprah’s Book Club when it turned out that James Frey had faked significant slabs of his own supposedly autobiographical saga of moral regeneration, A Million Little Pieces.

Published in 2003, Frey’s irksome book swiftly became a cult classic. (The present author was offered it in the summer of 2004 by a young relative, presumably to assist in his moral regeneration, but after glancing through a few pages returned it, on the grounds that it wasn’t his kind of thing.) Winfrey picked it for her Book Club in September 2005, and it rocketed to the top of the bestseller lists.

For Frey the sky fell in when, on January 7, 2006, the Smoking Gun website published documents showing that Frey had fabricated many facts about himself, including a criminal record. There were later charges of plagiarism. Frey ran through a benign gauntlet of trial-by-Larry King on January 11, and Oprah called in to stand by her Pick of the Month. She said that what mattered was not whether Frey’s book was true (the Fundamentalist claim for the Holy Bible) but its value as a therapeutic tool (the modern Anglican position on the Good Book).

But by now every columnist and books page editor in America was wrestling the truth-or-fiction issue to the ground. Oprah turned on Frey. On her show on January 26, he clung to the ropes, offering the excuse that the “demons” that had driven him to drink and drugs had also driven him into claiming that everything he wrote about himself was true. Publishers including Random House, which has made millions off him, had rejected the book when he’d initially offered it as a “fiction novel”. Oprah brushed this aside.

“Say it’s all true” is what demons often whisper in an author’s ear. Ask T.E. Lawrence. Did the Bey of Deraa really rape him? Lawrence suggests it in the Seven Pillars of Wisdom in paragraphs of fervent masochistic reminiscence. This and other adventures in Lawrence’s account of British scheming in Mesopotamia against the Ottomans met with the ecstatic admiration of the Oxford-based equivalent of Oprah’s Book Club back in the early 1920s, after Lawrence had the 350,000-word “memoir” privately printed and circulated. He’d written an earlier version in 1919 but claimed this had been stolen while he was changing trains in Reading, on the way to Oxford from London. (Reading has surely been the site of more supposed thefts and losses of “completed manuscripts” and PhD dissertations — “I didn’t make a copy!” — than any railway station in the world.)

Half a century later it occurred to Colin Simpson and Phillip Knightley of the London Sunday Times to ask the supposed rapist for his side of the story. They hurried off to Turkey and tracked down the town to which the Bey had retired, arriving at his home only to learn he’d died not long before. Relatives told the British reporters that the Bey would not have found Lawrence appetizing prey. The Turk was a noted womanizer, and when in Mesopotamia was always getting the clap from consorting with whores on his excursions to Damascus.

It’s fun to think of Oprah grilling Lawrence about his claims, freshly exposed on Smoking Gun, telling him she felt “really duped” but that, “more importantly, I feel that you betrayed millions of Orientalizing masochists who believed you”.

But hardly had Frey been cast down from the eminence of Amazon.com’s top bestseller before he was replaced at number one by the new pick of Oprah’s Book Club, Elie Wiesel’s Night, which had the good fortune to see republication at this fraught moment in Oprah’s literary affairs. Simultaneous with the Night selection came news that Oprah Winfrey and Elie Wiesel would shortly be visiting Auschwitz together, from which vantage point Oprah, with the lugubrious Wiesel at her side, could emphasize for her ABC-TV audience that there is truth and there is fiction, that Auschwitz is historical truth at its bleakest and most terrifying, that Night is a truthful account and that Wiesel is the human embodiment of truthful witness.

The trouble here is that in its central, most crucial scene, Night isn’t historically true, and at least two other important episodes are almost certainly fiction. Below, I cite views, vigorously expressed to me in recent weeks by a concentration camp survivor, Eli Pfefferkorn, who worked with Wiesel for many years; also by Raul Hilberg. Hilberg is the world’s leading authority on the Nazi Holocaust. An expanded version of his classic three-volume study, The Destruction of the European Jews, was recently reissued by Yale University Press. Wiesel personally enlisted Hilberg to be the historical expert on the United States Holocaust Commission.

If absolute truth to history is the standard, Pfefferkorn says, then Nightdoesn’t make the grade. Wiesel made things up, in a way that his many subsequent detractors could identify as not untypical of his modus operandi: grasping with deft assurance what people important to his future would want to hear and, by the same token, would not want to hear.

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
Riots and the Underclass

What’s a riot without looting? We want it, they’ve got it! You’d think from the press that looting was alien to British tradition, imported by immigrants more recent than the Normans. Not so. Gavin Mortimer, author of The Blitz, had an amusing piece in the First Post about the conduct of Britons at the time of their Finest Hour:

“It didn’t take long for a hardcore of opportunists to realise there were rich pickings available in the immediate aftermath of a raid – and the looting wasn’t limited to civilians.

“In October 1940 Winston Churchill ordered the arrest and conviction of six London firemen caught looting from a burned-out shop to be hushed up by Herbert Morrison, his Home Secretary. The Prime Minister feared that if the story was made public it would further dishearten Londoners struggling to cope with the daily bombardments…

“The looting was often carried out by gangs of children organized by a Fagin figure; he would send them into bombed-out houses the morning after a raid with orders to target coins from gas meters and display cases containing First World War medals. In April 1941 Lambeth juvenile court dealt with 42 children in one day, from teenage girls caught stripping clothes from dead bodies to a seven-year-old boy who had stolen five shillings from the gas meter of a damaged house. In total, juvenile crime accounted for 48 per cent of all arrests in the nine months between September 1940 and May 1941 and there were 4,584 cases of looting.

“Joan Veazey, whose husband was a vicar in Kennington, south London, wrote in her diary after one raid in 1940: “The most sickening thing was to see people like vultures, picking up things and taking them away. I didn’t like to feel that English people would do this, but they did.”

“Perhaps the most shameful episode of the whole Blitz occurred on the evening of March 8 1941 when the Cafe de Paris in Piccadilly was hit by a German bomb. The cafe was one of the most glamorous night spots in London, the venue for off-duty officers to bring their wives and girlfriends, and within minutes of its destruction the looters moved in.

“Some of the looters in the Cafe de Paris cut off the people’s fingers to get the rings,” recalled Ballard Berkeley, a policeman during the Blitz who later found fame as the ‘Major’ in Fawlty Towers. Even the wounded in the Cafe de Paris were robbed of their jewellery amid the confusion and carnage.”

A revolution is not a tea party, sniffed Lenin, but he should have added that it often starts off with a big party. Perhaps he was acknowledging that when he said a revolution was “a festival of the oppressed.” After the storming of the Winter Palace in October 1917 everyone was drunk for three days, conduct of which the prissy Vladimir Illich no doubt heartily disapproved.

The riots in London in August 2011 started in Tottenham in an area with the highest unemployment in London, in response to the police shooting a young black man, in a country where black people are 26 times more likely to stopped and searched by the cops than whites. Stop-and-searches are allowed under Section 60 of the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, introduced to deal with football hooligans. It allows police to search anyone in a designated area without specific grounds for suspicion. Use of Section 60 has risen more than 300 per cent between 2005 and last year. In 1997/98 there were 7,970 stop-and-searches, increasing to 53,250 in 2007/08 and 149,955 in 2008/09. Between 2005/06 and 2008/09 the number of Section 60 searches of black people rose by more than 650 per cent.

The day after the heaviest night of rioting we saw Darcus Howe, originally from Trinidad and former editor of Race and Class, now a broadcaster and columnist, being questioned by a snotty BBC interviewer, Fiona Armstrong. We ran it last week as website of the day. Howe linked the riots to upsurges by the oppressed across the Middle East and then remarked that when KillingTrayvons1 he’d recently asked his son how many times he’d been stopped and searched by the police, his boy answered that it had happened too often for him to count. To which point Ms Armstrong, plainly irked by the trend in the conversation in which Howe was conspicuously failing in his assigned task – namely to denounce the rioters – said nastily, ““You are not a stranger to riots yourself I understand, are you? You have taken part in them yourself?”

“I have never taken part in a single riot. I’ve been on demonstrations that ended up in a conflict,” the 67-year old Howe answered indignantly. “Have some respect for an old West Indian negro and stop accusing me of being a rioter because you wanted for me to get abusive. You just sound idiotic — have some respect.” The BBC later apologized to those offended by what it agreed was “a poorly phrased question.”

Back in 1981, Cockburn interviewed Howe in his Race and Class office after the Brixton and Toxteth riots. Overweening police power and state racism were fuelling unofficial racism, with innumerable murderous attacks on blacks in a Britain ravaged by Margaret Thatcher’s economic policies. At the start of April, 1981, the police launched Operation Swamp 81 to combat street crime. More than 1,000 people were stopped and questioned in the first four days. The uprising in Brixton began on April 9 and lasted through April 11. There were 4,000 police in the area and 286 people arrested. By the weekend of July 10-12 riots were taking place in 30 towns and cities – black and white youths together and in some case white youths alone. They were scenes, as Lord Scarman said of Brixton, “of violence and disorder… the like of which had not previously been seen in this century in Britain.

“The riots opened up an entirely new political ethos,” Howe said back then. “To understand the organizational stages that we are moving to, it is essential to know that in the late 1960s there were black-power organizations in almost every city in this country. A combination of repression – not as sharp as in the United States – but repression British style and Harold Wilson’s political cynicism undermined that movement. What he did was offer a lot of money to the black community, which set up all kinds of advice centers and projects for this and projects for that. So, in some black communities, if you have a headache somebody is onto you saying, ‘Well, look, I have a project with blacks with headaches.’ That paralysed the political initiative of blacks. It was done for you by the state and, as you know, Britain is saturated with the concept of welfare.The riots have broken through that completely, smashed it to smithereens, indicating that it has no palliative, no cure for the cancer.”

AC: “You’re looking toward a black/white mass organization?”

“Black/white mass movement. But one must always point to what we are heading for. What are we aiming for? Are we aiming for the vulgarity of a better standard of living. I think a passion has arisen in the breasts of millions of people in the world for a kind of democratic form and shape which would equal parliamentary democracy in its creativity and innovation.”

AC: “Let’s look at a likely future for Britain: enormous structural unemployment, the creation of a permanent underclass..”

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Counterpunch Archives, Looting, Urban Riots 

The most compelling argument against the existence of a vast conspiracy orchestrating the assassinations of Jack and Bobby Kennedy is that the brothers were never threats to ruling power. The Kennedys were card-carrying members of the global elites, ran in their circles, catered to their whims, administered their political and economic bidding. (Just ask Fidel Castro.) With MLK, it could be a different matter. And with the infinitely more radical Malcolm X it certainly was. Whatever King’s actual function–and the Reverend was given a hard time as something of an Uncle Tom by radicals in the later Sixties–the ruling power construed him as a threat.

King was assassinated almost forty-six years ago, at just after 6 in evening, as he stood on a balcony of the Lorraine motel in Memphis, Tennessee. A single rifle bullet hit him in the jaw, then severed his spinal cord. James Earl Ray, a white man, was convicted of the killing and sentenced to 99 years. Ray was certainly the gunman.

But there are credible theories of a conspiracy, possibly involving US Army intelligence, whose role in the life and death of Martin Luther King was explored by Stephens Tompkins in the Memphis Commercial Appeal in 1993.

The Army’s interest in the King family stretched back to 1917 when the War Department opened a file on King’s maternal grandfather, first president of Atlanta’s branch of the NAACP. King’s father, Martin Sr., also entered Army intelligence files as a potential troublemaker, as did Martin Jr. in 1947 when he was 18. He was attending Dorothy Lilley’s Intercollegiate School in Atlanta and 111th Military Intelligence Group in Fort McPherson in Atlanta suspected Ms Lilley of having Communist ties.

King’s famous denunciation of America’s war in Vietnam came exactly a year before his murder, before a crowd of 3,000 in the Riverside Church in Manhattan. He described Vietnam’s destruction at the hands of ”deadly Western arrogance,” insisting that ”we are on the side of the wealthy, and the secure, while we create a hell for the poor We were taking the black young men who had been crippled by our society and sending them eight thousand miles away to guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem.”

US Army spies secretly recorded black radical Stokely Carmichael warning King, “The Man don’t care you call ghettos concentration camps, but when you tell him his war machine is nothing but hired killers you got trouble.” Carmichael was right.

After the 1967 Detroit riots 496 black men under arrest were interviewed by agents of the Army’s Psychological Operations Group, dressed as civilians. It turned out King was by far the most popular leader. That same year, watching the great antiwar march on Washington in October 1967 from the roof of the Pentagon Major General William Yarborough, assistant chief of staff for Army intelligence, concluded that “the empire was coming apart at the seams”. He thought there were too few reliable troops to fight the war in Vietnam and hold the line at home.

The Army increased surveillance on King. Green Berets and other Special Forces veterans from Vietnam began making street maps and identifying sniper sites in major American cities. The Ku Klux Klan was recruited by the 20th Special Forces Group, headquartered in Alabama, as a subsidiary intelligence network. The Army began offering 30.06 sniper rifles to police departments, including that of Memphis. King was dogged by spy units through early ’67. A Green Beret unit was operating in Memphis the day he was shot. The bullet that killed him came from a 30.06 rifle purchased in a Memphis store. Army intelligence chiefs became increasingly hysterical over the threat of King to national stability.

After his Vietnam speech the major US newspapers savaged King. Fifteen years later the New York Times was still bitter when the notion of a national holiday honoring the civil rights leader was being pressed–with ultimate success–by labor unions and black groups. “Why not a Martin Luther King Day?” an NYT editorial asked primly. “Dr King, a humble man, would have objected to giving that much importance to any individual. Nor should he be given singular tribute if that demeans other historical black figures.” Give one of them a holiday and they’ll all be wanting one.

Within hours of King’s murder rioting broke out in 80 cities across the country. Dozens of people, mostly black were killed. On April 6 the Oakland cornered the Black Panther leadership and when one of the young leaders, Bobby Hutton, emerged with his shirt off and his hands up, shot him dead. Further police executions of Panthers followed, most notoriously the killing of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, as they slept, by the Chicago police, with FBI complicity, in December, 1969.

In contrast to Hutton, the Panthers and above all Malcolm X, slain in 1965, white liberal opinion, resentments at the disloyalty of the Riverside Church speech conveniently forgotten, has hailed King as a man who chose to work within the system and who furthermore failed to make any significant dent on business as usual.

In his last years King was haunted by a sense of failure. Amid a failed organizing campaign in Chicago he was booed at a mass meting there and, as he lay sleepless that night he wrote later that he knew why: “I had urged them [his fellow blacks ] to have faith in America and in white society They were now booing because they felt were unable to deliver on our promises They were now hostile because they were watching the dream they had so readily accepted turn into a nightmare.”

As the radical journalist Andrew Kopkind wrote shortly after King’s assassination, “That he failed to change the system that brutalizes his race is a profound relief to the white majority. As a reward they have now elevated his minor successes into major triumphs.”

Forty years on, America is still disfigured by racial injustice. Militant black leadership has all but disappeared. To black radicals Obama’s sedate homilies and respectful paeans to America’s ladders of advancement available to the industrious are to the fierce demands for justice of Malcolm X and of King in his more radical moments, as Muzak is to Charlie Parker.

Obama is caught, even as King was. The moment whites fear he is raising the political volume, he’s savaged with every bludgeon of convenience, starting with the robust sermons of the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whose sin is to have reminded whites that there are black Americans who are really angry. “Damn America,” roared the Rev Wright. King was just as rough at Riverside Church in the speech that so terrified the white elites: “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.”

Honesty of this sort from a black politician in America extorts due retribution.

This article is adapted and expanded from a piece which originally appeared in the January 2009 print edition of CounterPunch.

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: History • Tags: Counterpunch Archives, Martin Luther King 

Note: On the eve of the fateful Israeli elections in 2001, Alex and I wrote a long profile of the vicious, sinister career of Ariel Sharon. In the wake of Sharon’s death, I revamped the essay as a corrective to the drooling eulogies which have gone so far as to label him an “Israeli Moses.” — JSC

Ariel Sharon was elected prime minister of Israel on February 
6, 2001. Some incorrigible optimists then suggested that only a right-wing extremist
 of Sharon’s notoriety would boast the credentials to broker lasting peace
 with the Palestinians.

Maybe so. History 
is not devoid of such examples. But Sharon’s record was not encouraging.
 His crucial role in provoking Palestinian uprisings by his excursions 
under heavy military protection to holy sites in Jerusalem is well known. A 
little more faintly perhaps people recall the verdict of an Israeli commission
of inquiry finding that Sharon bore some responsibility for the dreadful Phalangist 
massacres in Palestinian refugee camps outside Beirut.

But in fact 
Sharon’s history as a terrorist, with documented participation in what 
can be fairly stigmatized as war crimes, goes back to the early 1950s. Here 
is a brief resume, culled in part from a two-part series on Sharon in
 the well-respected Hebrew-language Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz.

Sharon was 
born in 1928 and as a young man joined the Haganah, the underground military 
organization of Israel in its pre-state days. In 1953 he was given command of
 Unit 101, whose mission is often described as that of retaliation against Arab 
attacks on Jewish villages. In fact, as can be seen from two terrible onslaughts, 
one of them very well known, Unit 101’s purpose was that of instilling 
terror by the infliction of discriminate, murderous violence not only on able-bodied 
fighters but on the young, the old, the helpless.

Sharon’s
 first documented sortie as a terrorist was in August of 1953 on the refugee
 camp of El-Bureig, south of Gaza. An Israeli history of the unit records 50 
refugees as having been killed; other sources allege 15 or 20. Major-General
 Vagn Bennike, the UN commander, reported that “bombs were thrown”
 by Sharon’s men “through the windows of huts in which the refugees 
were sleeping and, as they fled, they were attacked by small arms and automatic 
weapons.”

In October
 of 1953 came the attack by Sharon’s Unit 101 on the Jordanian village of
 Qibya, whose “stain” Israel’s foreign minister at the time, Moshe
 Sharett, confided to his diary, “would stick to us and not be washed away 
for many years.”

Israeli historian Avi Shlaim, cited in a petition demanding 
retribution against Sharon for war crimes, describes the massacre thus:

“Sharon’s 
order was to penetrate Qibya, blow up houses and inflict heavy casualties on
its inhabitants. His success in carrying out the order surpassed all expectations.
 The full and macabre story of what happened at Qibya was revealed only during
 the morning after the attack. The village had been reduced to rubble: forty-five
 houses had been blown up, and sixty-nine civilians, two thirds of them women
 and children, had been killed. Sharon and his men claimed that they believed
 that all the inhabitants had run away and that they had no idea that anyone
 was hiding inside the houses.

“The UN 
observer who inspected the scene reached a different conclusion: ‘One story 
was repeated time after time: the bullet splintered door, the body sprawled
 across the threshold, indicating that the inhabitants had been forced by heavy 
fire to stay inside until their homes were blown up over them.’ The slaughter 
in Qibya was described contemporaneously in a letter to the president of the
 United Nations Security Council dated October 16, 1953…from the Envoy Extraordinary 
and Minister Plenipotentiary of Jordan to the United States. On 14 October 1953 
at 9:30 at night, he wrote, Israeli troops launched a battalion-scale attack
 on the village of Qibya in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan (at the time the
 West Bank was annexed to Jordan).

“According 
to the diplomat’s account, Israeli forces had entered the village and systematically
 murdered all occupants of houses, using automatic weapons, grenades and incendiaries.
On 14 October, the bodies of 42 Arab civilians had been recovered; several more 
bodies had been still under the wreckage. Forty houses, the village school and
a reservoir had been destroyed. Quantities of unused explosives, bearing Israel
 army markings in Hebrew, had been found in the village. At about 3 a.m., to 
cover their withdrawal, Israeli support troops had begun shelling the neighboring
 villages of Budrus and Shuqba from positions in Israel. The U.S. Department
 of State issued a statement on 18 October 1953, expressing its ‘deepest
 sympathy for the families of those who lost their lives’ in the Qibya attack
as well as the conviction that those responsible ‘should be brought to
 account and that effective measures should be taken to prevent such incidents 
in the future.’”

Let us move
 next to Sharon’s conduct when he was head of the Southern Command of Israel’s
 Defense Forces in the early 1970s. The Gaza “clearances” were vividly 
described by Phil Reeves in a piece in The London Independent on January
 21, 2001:

“Thirty
 years have elapsed since Ariel Sharon was the head of the Israel Defence Forces’ southern command, 
charged with the task of ‘pacifying’ the recalcitrant Gaza Strip after 
the 1967 war. But the old men still remember it well. Especially the old men
 on Wreckage Street. Until late 1970, Wreckage, or Had’d, Street wasn’t 
a street, just one of scores of narrow, nameless alleys weaving through Gaza
 City’s Beach Camp, a shantytown cluttered with low, two-roomed houses, 
built with UN aid for refugees from the 1948 war who then, as now, were waiting 
for the international community to settle their future. The street acquired
 its name after an unusually prolonged visit from Mr Sharon’s soldiers. 
Their orders were to bulldoze hundreds of homes to carve a wide, straight street.
 This would allow Israeli troops and their heavy armoured vehicles to move easily
 through the camp, to exert control and hunt down men from the Palestinian Liberation
 Army.

“‘They
 came at night and began marking the houses they wanted to demolish with red 
paint,’ said Ibrahim Ghanim, 70, a retired labourer. ‘In the morning 
they came back, and ordered everyone to leave. I remember all the soldiers shouting 
at people, Yalla, yalla, yalla, yalla! They threw everyone’s belongings 
into the street. Then Sharon brought in bulldozers and started flattening the
street. He did the whole lot, almost in one day. And the soldiers would beat 
people, can you imagine? Soldiers with guns, beating little kids?’

“By the
 time the Israeli army’s work was done, hundreds of homes were destroyed,
 not only in Wreckage Street but through the camp, as Sharon ploughed out a grid
of wide security roads. Many of the refugees took shelter in schools, or squeezed
 into the already badly over-crowded homes of relatives. Other families, usually 
those with a Palestinian political activist, were loaded into trucks and taken 
to exile in a town in the heart of the Sinai Desert, then controlled by Israel.”

The devastation of Beach Camp was far from the exception. As Reeves reported:

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
The Bombing of Pearl Harbor: What FDR Knew

Each Pearl Harbor day offers a fresh opportunity for those who correctly believe 
that Franklin Roosevelt knew of an impending attack by the Japanese and welcomed it as
 a way of snookering the isolationists and getting America into the war. And year by year the evidence continues to mount. The Naval 
Institute’s website featured a detailed article by Daryl Borgquist to
 the effect that high Red Cross officials with close contacts to Roosevelt quietly 
ordered large quantities of medical supplies and experienced medical personnel
 shipped to Hawaii well before Dec. 7, 1941.

In 1995, Helen Hamman, the daughter
of one of these officials, wrote to Bill Clinton a letter disclosing that her 
father had told her in the 1970s that shortly before the Pearl Harbor attack Roosevelt 
had told her father of the impending raid and told him to send Red Cross workers
 and supplies to the West Coast to be deployed in Hawaii. Roosevelt, Ms. Hamman 
wrote, told her father “the American people would never agree to enter the
 war in Europe unless they were attack [sic] within their own borders.” Borgquist’s 
research, now published in Naval History magazine, shows 
that the Red Cross was indeed staffed up and on a war footing in Hawaii by November 
1941.

Foreknowledge 
by FDR of the “surprise attack” on Pearl Harbor has been demonstrated
 about every five years, ever since the Republicans made a huge issue of it after
 World War II. Each time there’s a brief furor, and then we slide back into
 vaguer language about “unproven assertions” and “rumors.”
 It’s one of the unsayables of 20th-century history, as Charles Beard discovered 
in 1948 when he published his great book President Roosevelt and the Coming 
of the War (1941), subtitled “A Study in Appearances and Realities.” 
Beard effectively disposed of the “surprise attack” proposition after 
researching official government documents and public hearings. For example, the 
State Dept.’s own record showed that FDR’s Secretary of State Cordell
 Hull conferred with the British ambassador on Nov. 29, 1941, and imparted the 
news that “the diplomatic part of our relations with Japan was virtually 
over and the matter will now go to the officials of the Army and Navy.” As 
Beard and others pointed out, the U.S. had already not only undertaken the blockade 
and embargoes that forced Japan into the war, but also knew that Japan was about 
to attack and waited for it to do so, so the isolationists could be outmaneuvered 
and the U.S. could enter the war on a tide of popular feeling.

At
dawn on Dec. 7, 1941, the first wave of Japanese planes flew in from the east
over the Waianae Mountains, leaving about 4000 American casualties with 2400 dead. 
Beard’s scholarly but passionate investigation into secret presidential diplomacy 
incurred venomous abuse, as did his judgment that the ends (getting the U.S. into 
the war) did not justify the deceptive means.

Back 
in the early 1980s John Toland published his excellent book Infamy, which
 mustered all the evidence extant at that time about U.S. foreknowledge. He advanced 
the thesis that though FDR and his closest associates, including Gen. Marshall, 
knew the Japanese naval force was deployed with carriers in the North Pacific, 
they were so convinced of the impregnability of the base that they didn’t 
believe the attack would have much serious effect. They thought a surprise Japanese
 raid would do little damage, leave a few casualties but supply the essential trigger 
for entering the war. Toland quoted from Labor Secretary Frances Perkins’
 diary an eerie description of Roosevelt’s ravaged appearance at a White House 
meeting the night of Dec. 7. He looked, Perkins wrote with extraordinary perception,
”not only as though a tragedy had occurred but as though he felt some more 
intimate, secret sense of responsibility.”

The 
U.S. military commanders on Honolulu, Husband Kimmel and Walter Short, were pilloried,
 destroyed, set up to bear the major responsibility. For many years they fought 
to vindicate themselves, only to face hidden or destroyed evidence and outright 
perjury from their superiors.

In 
May of 1983 an officer from the Naval Security Group interviewed one of Toland’s 
sources who had previously insisted on remaining anonymous. The person in question
was Robert Ogg, who had been an enlisted man in Naval Intelligence during the 
war, and was one of those who detected the presence, through radio intercepts,
of a Japanese task force working its way toward Pearl Harbor in the first week
 of December 1941. This force had been under radio silence, but the “silence”
 had been broken on a number of occasions.

Both 
Ogg and his immediate superior, Lt. Hosner, reported their intercepts and conclusion 
to the chief of intelligence of the 12th Naval District in San Francisco, Capt.
Richard T. McCullough. McCullough was not only a personal friend of Roosevelt’s 
but enjoyed assured access to him through Harry Hopkins’ phone at the White
 House. Ogg confirmed in 1983 that McCullough had said at the time that the information 
about the Japanese task force had been passed to the White House. British code-breakers 
at Bletchley had also passed the news to Winston Churchill that Pearl Harbor was 
to be attacked.

The 
lesson here is that there is no construction too “bad” or too “outrageous” 
but that it cannot be placed upon the actions of powers great or small, though 
usually great. When Toland’s book was published there were many who scoffed 
at the “inherently implausible argument,” the “fine-spun conspiracy 
theory.” Gazing up the newly emerging national security state and the dawn 
of the Cold War, Beard argued that the ends did not justify the means, and concluded 
thus:

“In short, with the Government of the United States committed under 
a so-called bipartisan foreign policy to supporting by money and other forms of
 power for an indefinite time an indefinite number of other governments around 
the globe, the domestic affairs of the American people became appendages to an 
aleatory expedition in the management of the world… At this point in its history 
the American Republic has arrived under the theory that the President of the United
States possesses limitless authority publicly to misrepresent and secretly to 
control foreign policy, foreign affairs and the war power.”

Truer words were 
never written.

The 
”Good War”

Just as FDR’s foreknowledge of the attack is rediscovered every few years, so, too, is the fact that the Pacific war was a very nasty affair. Every so often new accounts and photographs emerge documenting the cruelties of that war. In 2001, the BBC aired
 combat film of American soldiers shooting wounded Japanese and using bayonets
 to hack at Japanese corpses while looting them. “Former servicemen interviewed 
by researchers spoke of the widespread practice of looting gold teeth from the
 dead–and sometimes from the living.”

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: History • Tags: Classic, Counterpunch Archives, World War II 
“I’ve Never Met a Mormon Man Who Has Any Real Respect for Women”

Editor’s Note: Tonight Mitt Romney will accept the Republican nomination for president and publicly embrace his Mormon faith. For the first time, a Mormon stands a very good a chance of being the president. But what is Mormonism? What is it like to be a woman inside the Church of Latter Day Saints? Becky Grant, known to thousands of CounterPunchers as our business manager, was raised a Mormon. This spring Alexander Cockburn talked to her about the Church.

–Jeffrey St. Clair

What can we expect from a Mormon man in the White House?

All the Mormon men I know are good at justifying anything with the doctrine of the Church. Take my uncle, former Mormon bishop, a chemist and head of what used to be called Morton Thiokol. He’s a sweet guy, and would call himself a good Mormon. He believes his know-ledge of science is a gift from God that he needs to exercise to its fullest. He’s gone on to hold patents for most of the explosives used by the Army. He’s done some good things. He holds the patent for the propellent in the airbag. But he’s says that his patent for the explosive that’s used for fracking is for the environmental good.

You would assume that a Mormon guy would be honest and trustworthy and forthright, but the Mormon religion is not like branches of Christianity where they’re just basing things on the Bible. Mormons are basing it on doctrine that can be renewed all the time, whatever the current prophet – the president of the Church – says. If the prophet says, Support proposition 8 (the California Marriage Protection Act), for example, then the Church puts money into it. I think their ethics are completely backward.

What the prophet says goes?

Yes, he receives prophecies from God, I don’t know, maybe on a daily basis. LDS General Conference comes twice a year, and whatever he says is the new doctrine.

I’ve never met a Mormon man who has any real respect for women. First of all, if you’re a Mormon man, then you believe you’re going to have multiple wives in the afterlife. So, even though he’s not acting on the will of God at this point in time here, on earth, to have many wives, a Mormon will tell you that this will be a commandment again definitely in the afterlife. To Mormons, life on earth is just a twinkling of an instant in the rest of your life. If you’re a good Mormon, you can go on to become a god and have your own planet and worshippers. So, there’s no basis to really and truly love and respect your wife because there’s going to be another, or many more, in the afterlife.

So, Mitt Romney, clearly a devout Mormon, looks at Mrs. Romney and he’s thinking, I love Ann, but …

Yes, he might be looking at the Relief Society president of his ward and thinking, Wow, maybe she’ll be mine in the afterlife. It just doesn’t exactly lead to respect for women to have their husbands thinking like that.

Because here’s this wife you have just for the twinkling of an eye, and then, when you die…

Well, she’ll be your wife still, but maybe your sister-in-law will be your wife too.

What are women meant to think of this?

Women aren’t privy to all the information in the temple. For example, when you go to the temple – and I haven’t been because I was never worthy – the Mormon man in the temple gets a secret name, and his wife has a secret name that he knows and she knows, but she doesn’t get to know his secret name.

Women are the descendants of the “evil” Eve. Women aren’t allowed to hold the priesthood. For example, in my first marriage three bishops and my father all told me – these are all Mormon men – that my utmost duty as a new wife was to please my husband, make sure dinner was on the table, make sure he was well taken care of, to put on makeup before he came home from work, and to please him in any way. And when I went to a couple of different bishops, because I was sort of tattled on by my ex-husband (he went to the bishop and said I wasn’t doing my wifely duties), they told me that I was pushing him into affairs by not fulfilling my duties and that it was my job to please him any way he sought.

It’s a bit different these days because women work more outside of the home, but if you’re a real good Mormon woman, you stay at home, you don’t have a career. If you aim to have one, you can forget about it because right away it’s time to start breeding. My husband has cousins, and one of them was once asked, “How many kids are you planning to have?” And he said, “As many as my wife’s body can handle.” Most of the people I went to school with have four or five kids by the time they were 35.

I’m always struck by the fact that former Mormon women are quite feisty, get-up-and-go types.

Well, you might say that of me.

You mean the regular Mormon woman is a pretty oppressed creature. The husband rules.

The husband ultimately rules. My mom has been working for my dad her whole life. My grandmother wanted to go out and get a job after the kids left home, but my grandpa didn’t want her to. Most women are in charge of taking care of the home. Some of them are probably fine with that. The man is ultimately head of the house; he’s the one who holds the priesthood. So, if you hold the priesthood, when it comes to big decisions, you’re the one who has the ultimate say, to say the prayer to ask God to tell you what the answer should be. If you have the priesthood, you also have the power to heal, also the power to receive counseling from the Holy Ghost, more so than the wife would, even though the Holy Ghost is available to anyone who has been baptized. But women will never hold the priesthood – though maybe some day they will. They were never going to let blacks into the Church and ultimately they did.

What about Mormon men and money?

Well, if you’re making a lot of money, you’re blessed; so, the more you make, the more blessed you must be.

So, if Romney makes $23 million in 2010, which he did, that’s a sign that God is blessing him powerfully?

Exactly.

And he’d tithe 10 per cent to the Church?

Yes, and you’re also supposed to be giving to the missionary fund and other funds. There’s a whole list of them on the tithing slip. They expect you to give a lot more. At the end of the year you go to tithing settlement, and they call you in, you meet with the bishop – the head of your ward, that is – and he says, did you give 10 per cent? My parents and most of the people in the ward took their checkbooks in because they wanted to make sure they were going to get all their blessings. Everyone paid more than 10 per cent.

And if you don’t pay your 10 per cent, presumably God isn’t too happy.

Yes, if you’re not paying tithing, that’s a sin, basically. I wouldn’t say it’s akin to adultery, but it’s really looked down upon if you don’t pay tithing.

Let’s say there are three candidates for the White House – a Southern Baptist, a Mormon, and an Episcopalian – would you think we’d be worse off with a Mormon president?

Yes, I think so, because, on the environmental front especially, he’ll have no qualms. If you’re a good Mormon, you’re going to be a god someday and you’re going to have your own planet, so, it doesn’t matter what happens on this earth.

Just move on.

Yes, it doesn’t really matter because this is so temporary – earth is practically like a motel on the interstate. So, there are no ethics about what happens to the environment; plus, if you’re doing something for science, that’s backed by God, so environmental considerations get overruled.

(Republished from CounterPunch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Tags: Counterpunch Archives 
CounterPunch Diary

Two years after he was sacked by President Obama as the top commander in Afghanistan for suggesting to Rolling Stone magazine that the real enemy were “the wimps in the White House”, General Stanley A McChrystal has recycled a perennial chestnut: Bring back the draft – i.e. a conscripted army, not the volunteer army of today.

These days McChrystal teaches at Yale with what must be a protection unique in the annals of academic freedom. According to CounterPunch’s David Price, everything he tells his students is by contractual agreement off the record.

But he made his proposal about the draft in a public venue. McChrystal claimed:

“I think we ought to have a draft. I think if a nation goes to war, it shouldn’t be solely be represented by a professional force, because it gets to be unrepresentative of the population,” McChrystal said at a late-night event June 29 at the 2012 Aspen Ideas Festival. “I think if a nation goes to war, every town, every city needs to be at risk. You make that decision and everybody has skin in the game.”

It’s certainly true that the volunteer army is a mess. Suicides are surging among the troops. According to AP, the 154 suicides for active duty troops in the first 155 days of the year far outdistance the US forces killed in Afghanistan. The volunteer army also struggles with increased sexual assaults, alcohol abuse, and domestic violence.? ?Liberals like the idea of a draft army because they think it would curb any president’s eagerness to go to war. There are indeed sound arguments for a draft. They were put eloquently not so long ago by Bill Broyles, a Vietnam vet: “In spite of the president’s insistence that our very civilization is at stake, the privileged aren’t flocking to the flag.”

The war, Broyles wrote, is being fought by Other People’s Children. If the children of the nation’s elites were facing enemy fire without body armor, riding through gauntlets of bombs in unarmored Humvees, fighting desperately in an increasingly hostile environment because of arrogant and incompetent leadership, then those problems might well find faster solutions.

But the truth is that despite all these fine words, a draft is never going to happen. The military industrial complex needs the money – it’s why they’re cutting back troops right now.

When Obama introduced ‘the new strategy’ last year, he emphasized that the Pentagon will be getting more money not less. In the past five years the US has spent $2.59 trillion on defense. The new plans call for an allocation of $2.725 trillion between 2013 and 2017. So much for any peace dividend when the troops come home from Afghanistan.? ?As my brother Andrew Cockburn recently predicted, the budget will grow but the military will shrink. There will be no more “nation building” with its long and expensive occupations. Overall, troop levels will be cut by about 100,000 soldiers and marines. Fewer new planes will be built. America will no longer be equipped to fight two full-scale wars at the same time – an official requirement for decades.

Such was the military-cultural context for calls for the draft: huge ground forces stocked with draftees. What we have now is precisely the opposite – robot/drone wars, with no need for suicidal soldiers or politically awkward draftee casualties. The money all goes to Lockheed and the other big aerospace companies.

Remember there’s a good reason why they abolished the conscript army. It mutinied in Vietnam and thus was a prime factor in America’s defeat.

(Republished from CounterPunch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Afghanistan, Counterpunch Archives 

Since what is now going is being described as “the greatest financial scandal in the history of Britain” — the Barclays imbroglio – I have a question to ask. Where are those tents outside St Pauls? Or ones in solidarity this side of the Atlantic? Where are the vibrant reminders that – as has happened in the Barclays case – there is most definitely one law for the 1% (none, in fact) and another for the 99 %?

It was very hard not to be swept away by the Occupy movement which established itself in New York’s Zuccotti Park last September and soon spread to Oakland, Chicago, London and Madrid. And indeed most people didn’t resist its allure.? ?Leninists threw aside their Marxist primers on party organisation and drained the full anarchist cocktail.

The Occupiers , with their “people’s mic”, were always a little hard to understand. And as with all movements involving consensus, everything took a very long time.? ?Was there perhaps a leader, a small leadership group, sequestered somewhere among the tents and clutter? It was impossible to say and at that point somewhat disloyal to pose the question. Cynicism about Occupy was not a popular commodity.? ?But new movements always need a measure of cynicism dumped on them. Questions of organization were obliterated by the strength of the basic message – we are 99 per cent, they are one per cent. It was probably the most successful slogan since ‘peace, land, bread’.

The Occupy Wall Street assembly in Zuccotti Park soon developed its own cultural mores, drumming included. Like many onlookers, I asked myself, Where the hell’s the plan?

But I held my tongue. I had no particular better idea and for a CounterPuncher of mature years to start laying down the program seemed cocky. But, deep down, I felt that Occupy, with all its fancy talk, all its endless speechifying, was riding for a fall.

Before the fall came there were heroic actions, people battered senseless by the police. These were brave people trying to hold their ground.

There were other features that I think quite a large number of people found annoying: the cult of the internet, the tweeting and so forth, and I definitely didn’t like the enormous arrogance which prompted the Occupiers to claim that they were indeed the most important radical surge in living memory.

Where was the knowledge of, let along the respect for the past? We had the non-violent resistors of the Forties organising against the war with enormous courage. The Fifties saw leftists took McCarthyism full on the chin. With the Sixties we were making efforts at revolutionary organisation and resistance.? ?Yet when one raised this history with someone from Occupy, I encountered total indifference.

There also seemed to be a serious level of political naivety about the shape of the society they were seeking to change. They definitely thought that it could be reshaped – the notion that the whole system was unfixable did not get much of a hearing.? ?After a while it seemed as though, in Tom Naylor’s question in this site: “Is it possible that the real purpose of Occupy Wall Street has little to do with either the 99 per cent or the one per cent, but rather everything to do with keeping the political left in America decentralised, widely dispersed, very busy, and completely impotent to deal with the collapse of the American empire…

“Occupiers are all occupied doing exactly what their handlers would have them be doing, namely, being fully occupied. In summary, Occupy Wall Street represents a huge distraction.”

Then the rains of winter came. Zuccotti Park came under repeated assault, the tents were cleared from zucotti Park and from St Paul’s Cathedral and by early this year it was all over.

People have written complicated pieces trying to prove it’s not over, but if ever I saw a dead movement, it is surely Occupy.

Has it left anything worth remembering? Yes, maybe. With Bob Diamond squirming before British MPs, and politicians jostling to apportion blame for the Barclays scandal, memories of the 99 per cent and the one per cent are surely at least warm in the coffin.

Everything leftists predicted came true, just as everything hard-eyed analysts predicted about the likely but unwelcome course of ecstatic populism in Tahrir Square also came true. ·I do think it’s incumbent on those veteran radicals who wrote hundreds of articles more or proclaiming a religious conversion to Occupyism, to give a proper account of themselves, otherwise it will happen all over again.

(Republished from CounterPunch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Banking System, Britain, Counterpunch Archives 
CounterPunch Diary

The predictable word is in from Rio: failure. The conference twenty years on from the huge Earth Summit, Rio 92, has been unable to produce even the pretense of an energetic verbal commitment of the world’s community to “sustainable principles.”

The reason? These conferences have always been pretty fraudulent affairs, lofted on excited green rhetoric and larded with ominous advisories that “this time we cannot afford to fail” and that “the tipping point” is finally here. But failure has been a loyal companion, and many a tipping point has tipped without amiss. There is no such thing as a world “community.” There are rich nations and poor nations, all with differing national interests and the former will never accede willingly to the agendas of the latter, however intricate the language of the final windy “declaration”. Since Gro Bruntland lofted it to glory in 1987, the word “sustainable” has long been drained of all meaning.

The general absurdity of these earth summits – Rio, Kyoto, Copenhagen, Durban, and now Rio again, is summed up in what the green forces hoped could be a concluding declaration this time in Rio to which enough nations could fix their name and declare Victory for the planet. Originally it was to be the commitment to a “Green World” but not enough nations cared for that so the fall-back face-saver was a plan for a UN treaty to protect the international high seas.

To the greens’ utter astonishment, early on Tuesday, it turned out that the US and Venezuela were vetoing this plan. Whatever Hugo Chavez’s motives, the reason for the US veto was obvious and should have been so from the moment the plan was mooted. The International Treaty on the Law of Sea, was ratified in 1982 and the US has always refused to sign it. Shouts of betrayal mounted. “The future we want has gotten a little further away today. Rio+20 has turned into an epic failure. It has failed on equity, failed on ecology and failed on economy,” said Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace. “This is not a foundation on which to grow economies or pull people out of poverty, it’s the last will and testament of a destructive twentieth century development.” The businessman Maurice Strong, a big player at these events, said the world had gone backward since 1992.

The Brazilians threw in the towel, insisting on a spineless final declaration. “Sustainability” was suddenly thrust forward as a face-saver. Like some Trollopian parson, somehow surviving the bureaucratic infighting, was the Commission on Sustainable Development which had been leading a quiet and unassuming life in some UN back office. Now the hitherto toothless commission will be elevated into a high-level body charged with monitoring and enforcing “sustainable development goals” (SDGs) and will report to the UN General Assembly. Among its possible areas of concern: food security and sustainable agriculture; sustainable energy for all; water access and efficiency; sustainable cities; green jobs, decent work and something called social inclusion.

By the time the actual world leaders settled into their suites — U.S. President Barack Obama, Britain’s David Cameron and German leader Angela Merkel were all no-shows — there was absolutely nothing to do: no rousing declarations, just muted jawboning about how the mere fact that these sessions were taking place was important for the planet.

So much for the fantasy land of the Green conferences, touchingly evoked by last Sunday, by the Guardian’s newspaper’s “sustainable business editor” who wrote from Rio:? “While the politicians are finding it difficult to find common ground, we are elsewhere witnessing the movement… to multi-dimensional collaborations. This is probably one of the most exciting developments we are likely to see coming out of Rio+20 and will offer the first tantalizing evidence of the ability to start taking projects to scale.”

A friend of mine, based in the Middle East, came to know Yemen’s minister of the environment. A large portion of the Yemeni’s duties, decently remunerated by the UN, was attending not just the big green conferences, but also the preparatory ones, four times a year. These are where the so-called sherpas – itinerant bureaucrats whose life is give over to these grim tasks — draft the Zero document, which then becomes the object of months , even years of wrangling. Our Yemeni was of course only too happy to get out of Sana’a. Now multiply him and his diminutive delegation by the 170 odd nations whose platoons of Green delegates consume millions a year of UN money in travel fees, accommodation – often lavish – and of course remuneration. We can safely assume that many of these conferees form stimulating personal relationships, which only increases their loyalty to the process as it loiters through the decades.

These and other conferences continue, year by year, a kind of fiscal stimulus for NGOs and the hospitality industry. Ban Ki-moon himself admits nothing useful will be agreed in Rio but says calling such conferences “junkets” is irresponsible. He says: “If you can find any alternative, please let me know.”

The role of the left has been influential in the formation of this itinerant, gabby pantechnikon with its dramas and deadlines and final null termination. They’ve grown to love huge international assemblies, preferably located in pleasant surroundings, in which to palaver about issues of the economy, democracy and so forth. No less that 50,000 attended Rio+20, earnestly mooting ten thousand green schemes in the conference seminars.

For their part the western governments are prepared to take a mouldy cabbage or two tossed at them by disappointed greens. They’ve done nothing substantive in 20 years. Why should they start now?

Tumbril Time!

A tumbril (n.) a dung cart used for carrying manure, now associated with the transport of prisoners to the guillotine during the French Revolution.

Related to “play by the rules, ” justly guillotined a few weeks ago, is “pay your fair share” — a demand from those who aren’t paying their fair share for more from those they have already robbed. Eric Rosenbloom.

“troubling” (don’t bother me with these grisly details)

“concerned” (ditto) Clancy Sigal

Hi Alex, Has Prosecutor Fouquier-Tinville done his due diligence on “due diligence”? Bill Hatch

Since I cited the Marquis de Sade’s narrow escape from the guillotine last week, several readers have urged I remind CounterPunchers of the much better known escape of Tom Paine. Herewith, courtesy of Mark Scaramela, assistant editor of the great Anderson Valley Advertiser:

Paine lived in France for most of the 1790s, becoming deeply involved in the French Revolution. He wrote the Rights of Man (1791) in part a defense of the French Revolution against its critics. His attacks on British writer Edmund Burke led to a trial and conviction in absentia in 1792 for the crime of seditious libel. In 1792, despite not speaking French, he was elected to the French National Convention. The Girondists regarded him as an ally. Consequently, the Montagnards, especially Robespierre, regarded him as an enemy. In December of 1793, he was arrested and imprisoned in Paris at the Bastille.

(Republished from CounterPunch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Counterpunch Archives, Environment 

Regard the Greek political landscape and how dramatically it has changed from last November. On November 2, 2011, Greek prime minister George Papandreou flew to Cannes before a G20 meeting and received one of the most humiliating rebuffs in European history since Pope Gregory VII left Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV shivering in the snow. (Actually that fracas ended well for Henry, badly for Gregory, which people often forget.)

Papandreou went to Cannes to moot his referendum aimed at coercing the Greeks to back the austerity program being imposed on their country. It was a tactic, not a bad one. Sarkozy and Merkel received Papandreou with insults and derision and sent him and his referendum packing. Papandreou’s colleagues in PASOK picked up the hint, and not long thereafter Papandreou’s political career was over.

Now move forward to May. There were new elections. This time there was a left coalition, Syriza (Coalition of the Radical Left) filling the void left by the utterly discredited PASOK. It had capable leaders like Alexis Tsipras.

In the election PASOK a party that has been in power longer than any other party in recent Greek history scored 13.20 per cent, its lowest score since 1974. New Democracy – rightist – did not manage to gain from the fall of PASOK, also had its worst electoral result (18.85 per cent) and saw the splinter ‘Independent Greeks’ party reaching more than 10 per cent. The total of all pro-austerity parties was less than 42 per cent, a clear evidence of the rejection of neoliberal policies.

Syriza was in second position with 16.78 per cent (the last time the Left had such a position was in 1958) and total percentage of the Left (Syriza, Communist Party and Anti-capitalist Left) was at almost 27 per cent, which is the largest electoral presence of the Left in modern Greek history.

Note that Tsipras and his Syriza colleagues have confined themselves to one substantive aim. They pledge to strike down the November 2011 agreement which locked Greece in banker-forged handcuffs of austerity. They don’t want to leave the Eurozone or challenge the EU. Tsipras says rather emolliently:

“Greece is a link in a chain. If it breaks it is not just the link that is broken but the whole chain. What people have to understand is that the Greek crisis concerns not just Greece but all European people so a common European solution has to be found.

“The public debt crisis is hitting the south of Europe but it will soon hit central Europe. People have to realise that their own country could be threatened.

“We are here to explain to people in Europe that we have nothing against them. We are fighting the battle in Greece not just for the Greek people but for people in France, Germany and all European countries.”

“I am not here to blackmail, I am here to mobilize,” he said.

“Greece gave humanity democracy and today the Greek people will bring democracy back to Europe.”

This is not the kind of talk a European banker likes to hear, particularly from a man who after this coming Sunday, may be negotiating a coalition in which he could be the next leader. Already in May the arrogant tones of the bankers modulated. The mere fact of a substantive left threat affected them greatly and they saw that a pose of constructive listening to Greeks might be more productive than hammering the table.

Sunday’s elections will see whether this Left challenge to the bankers can be sustained. Syriza is playing a delicate game. Greeks don’t actually want the huge upheavals of default, leaving the Eurozone. So Syriza, assuming it has any coercive power, will have to be very artful in its efforts to maneuver the bankers to less monstrous austerities.

I’m sure CounterPunchers will have anticipated the moral of this story. Obama treats the left just as Sarkozy and Merkel treated Papandreou, with contempt. There is no reason to do otherwise. And I am not treating this as an opportunity for a last-minute rallying call for the left to muster in some electorally crucial state to menace Obama.

I took my stand on this issue in November 2010, just as George Soros had called for a candidate of the left to prepare himself for a race against the dismal Obama. I wrote:

My view is that we have a champion in the wings and one whom I am sure George Soros would be only too happy to support. In fact he’s a candidate who could rally not only Soros but the Koch brothers to his cause.

This champion of the left with sound appeal to the populist or libertarian right was felled on November 2, and he should rise again before his reputation fades. His name is Russ Feingold, currently a Democrat and the junior senator from Wisconsin.

Why would he be running? Unlike Teddy Kennedy challenging Jimmy Carter in 1979, Feingold would have a swift answer. To fight against the Republicans and the White House in defense of the causes he has publicly supported across a lifetime. He has opposed the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. His was the single Senate vote against the Patriot Act; his was a consistent vote against the constitutional abuses of both the Bush and Obama administrations. He opposed NAFTA and the bank bailouts. He is for economic justice and full employment. He is the implacable foe of corporate control of the electoral process. The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision in January was aimed in part at his landmark campaign finance reform bill.

The left must abandon the doomed ritual of squeaking timid reproaches to Obama, only to have the counselors at Obama’s elbow contemptuously dismiss them, as did Rahm Emanuel, who correctly divined their near-zero capacity for effective challenge. Two more years of the same downward slide, courtesy of bipartisanship and “working together”?

All we can do in our humiliating prostration, is wish the Greek left the best of luck.

Tumbril Time!

A tumbril (n.) a dung cart used for carrying manure, now associated with the transport of prisoners to the guillotine during the French Revolution.

I’d never realized, until reading Neil Schaffer’s biography, how close Sade came to being guillotined by the Committee of Public Safety.

His trial, which would also have been his death sentence followed by instant decapitation, was scheduled for July 27, 1794. But the bailiff never came for him at his prison at Picpus. There’s no clear explanation why. Bribery of the bailiff by Sade’s faithful friend Mme Quesnet may have been Sade’s salvation. That same day, July 27, spelled Robespierre’s own doom, on 9 Thermidor, in the revolutionary calendar. The next day Robespierre was executed and Sade was safe. He was freed on October 15, 1794. This was not the end of his experience in prison. By the end of 1801 Sade was in Charenton, dying there in 1814, his final liaison being with Magdeleine LeClerc, a 17-year old. He was 74 and there seems to have been affection on both sides. He recorded her visits to the prison meticulously, as was his habit. The last embrace was their 94th.

Poor Mme de Sade. She had to run around Paris looking for glass test tubes that would serve as dildoes for her husband, the Marquis, to use in auto-erotic stimulation in his prison in Vincennes. She had to order them from a glass-blowing factory, where the salesfolk would ogle respectable Renee, indicating their view that these glass flasks –– Sade wanted some of them 9.5 inches in circumference –– were intended for her own gratification. In 27 months, Sade noted, he used such flasks a total of 6,536 times, an average of eight a day.

(Republished from CounterPunch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Economics • Tags: Counterpunch Archives, Eurozone, Greece