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 Book ReviewsTeasers

In a new book, “The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed,” I argue that Donald J. Trump is the quintessential post-constitutional candidate.

In the “Opening Statement,” titled “Welcome To The Post-Constitutional Jungle,” oldies will recognize a nod to the Guns N’ Roses classic, “Welcome to the Jungle,” as well as to broadcaster Mark Levin’s coinage.

We inhabit what Levin has termed a post-constitutional America. The libertarian (and classical conservative) ideal—where the chains that tether us to an increasingly tyrannical national government are loosened and power is devolved once again to the smaller units of society—is a long way away.

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Where the law of the jungle prevails, the options are limited: Do Americans get a benevolent authoritarian to undo the legacies of Barack Obama, George W. Bush and those who went before? Or, does the ill-defined entity called The People continue to submit to Demopublican diktats, past and present?

The quintessential post-constitutional candidate, Trump’s candidacy is for the age when the Constitution itself is unconstitutional. Like it or not, the original Constitution is a dead letter, having suffered decades of legislative, executive and judicial usurpation. The natural- and common law traditions, once loadstars for lawmakers, have been buried under the rubble of legislation and statute. However much one shovels the muck of lawmaking aside, natural justice and the Founders’ original intent remain buried too deep to exhume. The Constitution has become just another thing on the list of items presidential candidates check when they con constituents.

The dissembling words of many a Republican presidential candidate notwithstanding—for most promise constitutionalism—a liberty-lover’s best hope is to see the legacy of the dictator who went before overturned for a period of time. The toss-up in the 2016 election is therefore between submitting to the Democrats’ war on whites, the wealthy and Wal-Mart, or being bedeviled by mainstream Republicans’ wars on the world: Russia, China, Assad and The Ayatollahs.

Or, suffering all the depredations listed and more if Candidate Clinton is victorious.

Thus the endorsement over the pages of “The Trump Revolution” is not necessarily for the policies of Trump, but for The Process of Trump.

Until such time when the individual is king again, and a decentralized Constitution that guarantees regional and individual autonomy has been restored—this process of creative destruction begun by Donald Trump is likely the best Americans can hope for. Put differently, in this age of unconstitutional government—Democratic and Republican—the best liberty lovers can look to is action and counteraction, force and counterforce in the service of liberty.

And a force of nature Mr. Trump has most certainly proven to be. You name it; Trump has tossed and gored it. The well-oiled elements that sustain and make the American political system cohere are suddenly in Brownian motion, oscillating like never before. An entrenched punditocracy, a self-anointed, meritless intelligentsia (which is not very intelligent and draws its financial sustenance from the political spoils system), oleaginous politicians, slick media, big money: They’ve all worked in tandem to advance a grand government—national and transnational—that aggrandizes its constituent elements, while diminishing those it’s supposed to serve. These political players have built the den of iniquity Trump is destroying.

Against these forces—RNC, NRO, NATO, a whole alphabet soup of acronyms that stand for statism—is Trump, acting as a political Samson that threatened to bring the house crashing down on its patrons. The hope expressed is that by drastically weakening The Machine’s moving parts—Trump might just help loosen the chains that bind each one of us to government.

Trump, the book argues, evinces the necessary moxie to blast away at an overweening political system. Who can deny that he has already done a laudable job of fumigating some serious snake pits? Undeterred, the Trump holy terror has even blasted the scold from Fort Vatican for living walled-off in Vatican City, while preaching to Americans that for their security needs, they must reject walls and “build bridges.” Pope Francis’ shopworn shibboleths, currently disgorged non-stop by candidate Clinton, are straight out of a Chinese, fortune-cookie wrapper. (Or a Deepak Chopra lecture.)

In a sense, Trump is coming from a libertarian angle: Government lives off the people. Government must, at the very least, serve the people. More laudably, Trump doesn’t collapse the distinction between “America” and the U.S. government. To the political cast, “America” is the U.S. government. To them, making America great means making government great. Trump exhibits no confusion of category. He doesn’t equate “America” with the U.S. government. To Trump, making America great means making the people great.

Understandably, The Donald has the political players rising on their hind legs in defense of their realm. And he has hitherto shattered the totems and taboos these players enforce. Debated as never before are vexations like immigration, Islam, and, yes, the legitimacy of the Republican National Committee.

In line with advancing a positive analysis of The Process that is Trump, a close reading of “The Trump Revolution” will reveal that matters of process are being underscored, such as the differences between political incentives in operation and apolitical incentives in operation: Trump’s.

Trump cannot be compared to a politician. While his Republican rivals were sponsored by super PAC puppet masters; Trump put-up and pledged to the American People a chunk of his life, his fortune and sacred honor. Other than his position statements over the years, Trump has no policy making past. In the nomenclature of law, one might say Trump’s record is clean. The candidate has no political criminal record. (Come to think of it, El Chapo has a cleaner criminal record than the last two American presidents: He had fewer people killed.)

While “The Trump Revolution” deconstructs the evolution of the Political Trump, this book, at the same time, applauds The Donald’s destructive creativity. A masculine force at full tilt, Mr. Trump is creating new reality on the ground. The modest hope expressed in “The Trump Revolution” is that an utterly different political animal, Donald Trump, might actually do some good for the countrymen he genuinely seems to love.

*****
ILANA Mercer is the author of “The Trump Revolution: The Donald’s Creative Destruction Deconstructed” (June, 2016), and “Into The Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America From Post-Apartheid South Africa” (2011). She has been writing a popular, weekly, paleolibertarian column—begun in Canada—since 1999. Ilana’s online homes are www.IlanaMercer.com & www.BarelyABlog.com. Follow her on https://twitter.com/IlanaMercer.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: 2016 Election, BookReview, Donald Trump 

We who seek to promote rational immigration policy have set out on a road both long and hard. Arrayed against us is the mighty political-commercial power of crony capitalism which has, in the post-industrial West, filled the vacuum left by the collapse of socialist ideology.

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The culture of our age is also against us. In North America, immigration romanticism—famine ships,huddled masses, sweatshops—runs strong. Layered on this today is a peculiar racial death-wish afflicting white people everywhere in the West: a sickly blend of ethnomasochism and xenophilia, colored by guilt over slavery and colonialism.

However, the gods of Reason and Truth do not send us unarmed to face the enemy. We have some impressive assets of our own. Among them are two brilliant polemical journalists, both female.

By vigor of presentation, force of personality, and good instinctive judgment (better than mine, alas) as to how much reality humankind can bear, these two ladies have managed to keep themselves acceptable to major TV and publishing outlets.

Ann Coulter struck lightning through the fog of open-borders propaganda in June this year with her bestseller ¡Adiós America! We reviewed or passed comments on the book here, here, here, here (by Ann herself), and here.

This week sees the publication of Sold Out: How High-Tech Billionaires and Bipartisan Beltway Crapweasels Are Screwing America’s Best and Brightest Workers by Michelle Malkin and John Miano.

Having read three of Michelle’s previous books, I confidently surmise that the spirited polemical style of Sold Out is mainly hers. I guess with equal confidence (I have not asked either author) that John Miano, a fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies and a leading expert on our guest-worker programs, must have supplied the detailed case studies that the book’s arguments are built around.

¡Adiós America! and Sold Out are from different publishers—Regnery and Simon & Schuster, respectively—but they complement each other very well; they could be boxed together and sold as a set.

Boxed, boxing: this is what pugilists call “the old one-two.”

Ann’s book is a broad survey of U.S. immigration lunacy with emphases on our open southern border, criminal aliens, the “refugee” rackets, and “family reunification” as a means of importing entire Third World villages. Her coverage of guest-worker programs is incidental and brief, most of it in a chapter memorably titled “Every Single Immigration Category Is a Fraud.”

Sold Out is all about those guest-worker programs.

The book is structured in three parts:

  • The H-1B visa and its abuses (128 pages).
  • The hijacking of other visa categories—visitors, investors, company transfers, and students/trainees—for guest-worker purposes (108 pages).
  • The politics of “immigration reform” (78 pages).

H-1B abuse has made the news recently. Anyone who pays much attention to current affairs has heard of the Disney employees terminated in fall of 2014, their jobs given to cheaper foreign workers imported on H-1B visas, whom the original employees were forced to train under threat of losing their severance packages.

This, Sold Out shows, is the merest tippy-tip of the H-1B-abuse iceberg. This stuff has been going on for at least twenty years:

In 1994, the insurance giant AIG was very profitable. In September of that year, computer workers at the company received a mysterious memo. They were all ordered to report to mandatory meetings …

AIG had contracted with an offshoring company called Syntel Inc. to import foreign workers to run their computer operations. Syntel would hire the workers in India and bring them into the U.S. on H-1B guest worker visas …

AIG heaped another insult on these workers. They would get sixty days of severance—but only if they trained their foreign replacements. [Sold Out, pp. 80-81.]

(Republished from VDare.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Economics • Tags: BookReview, H-1B, Immigration, VDare Archives 
The Disasters of Neoliberalism

The following is a transcript of CounterPunch Radio – Episode 19(originally aired September 21, 2015). Eric Draitser interviews Michael Hudson.

Eric Draitser: Today I have the privilege of introducing Michael Hudson to the program. Doctor Hudson is the author of the new book Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy, available in print on Amazon and an e-version on CounterPunch. Michael Hudson, welcome to CounterPunch Radio.

Michael Hudson: It’s good to be here.

ED: Thanks so much for coming on. As I mentioned already, the title of your book – Killing the Host: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy – is an apt metaphor. So parasitic finance capital is really what you’re writing about. You explain that it essentially survives by feeding off what we might call the real economy. Could you draw out that analogy a little bit? What does that mean? How does finance behave like a parasite toward the rest of the economy?

MH: Economists for the last 50 years have used the term “host economy” for a country that lets in foreign investment. This term appears in most mainstream textbooks. A host implies a parasite. The term parasitism has been applied to finance by Martin Luther and others, but usually in the sense that you just talked about: simply taking something from the host.

But that’s not how biological parasites work in nature. Biological parasitism is more complex, and precisely for that reason it’s a better and more sophisticated metaphor for economics. The key is how a parasite takes over a host. It has enzymes that numb the host’s nervous system and brain. So if it stings or gets its claws into it, there’s a soporific anesthetic to block the host from realizing that it’s being taken over. Then the parasite sends enzymes into the brain. A parasite cannot take anything from the host unless it takes over the brain.

The brain in modern economies is the government, the educational system, and the way that governments and societies make their economic policy models of how to behave. In nature, the parasite makes the host think that the free rider, the parasite, is its baby, part of its body, to convince the host actually to protect the parasite over itself.

That’s how the financial sector has taken over the economy. Its lobbyists and academic advocates have persuaded governments and voters that they need to protect banks, and even need to bail them out when they become overly predatory and face collapse. Governments and politicians are persuaded to save banks instead of saving the economy, as if the economy can’t function without banks being left in private hands to do whatever they want, free of serious regulation and even from prosecution when they commit fraud. This means saving creditors – the One Percent – not the indebted 99 Percent.
2KillingTheHost_Cover_rule
It was not always this way. A century ago, two centuries ago, three centuries ago and all the way back to the Bronze Age, almost every society has realized that the great destabilizing force is finance – that is, debt. Debt grows exponentially, enabling creditors ultimately to foreclose on the assets of debtors. Creditors end up reducing societies to debt bondage, as when the Roman Empire ended in serfdom.

About a hundred years ago in America, John Bates Clark and other pro-financial ideologues argued that finance is not external to the economy. It’s not extraneous, it’s part of the economy, just like landlords are part of the economy. This means that if the financial sector takes more revenue out of the economy as interest, fees or monopoly charges, it’s because finance is an inherent and vital part of the economy, adding to GDP, not merely siphoning it off from producers to pay Wall Street and the One Percent. So our economic policy protects finance as if it helps us grow, not siphons off our growth.

A year or two ago, Lloyd Blankfein of Goldman Sachs said that the reason Goldman Sachs’ managers are paid more than anybody else is because they’re so productive. The question is, productive of what? The National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA) say that everybody is productive in proportion to the amount of money they make/take. It doesn’t matter whether it’s extractive income or productive income. It doesn’t matter whether it’s by manufacturing products or simply taking money from people, or simply by the fraud that Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Bank of America and others paid tens of millions of dollars in fines for committing. Any way of earning income is considered to be as productive as any other way. This is a parasite-friendly mentality, because it denies that there’s any such thing as unearned income. It denies that there’s a free lunch. Milton Friedman got famous for promoting the idea that there’s no such thing as a free lunch, when Wall Street knows quite well that this is what the economy is all about. It’s all about how to get a free lunch, with risks picked up by the government. No wonder they back economists who deny that there’s any such thing!

ED: To get to the root of the issue, what’s interesting to me about this analogy that we’re talking about is that we hear the term neoliberalism all the time. It is an ideology I that’s used to promote the environment within which this parasitic sort of finance capital can operate. So could you talk a bit about the relationship between finance capital and neoliberalism as its ideology.

MH: Today’s vocabulary is what Orwell would call DoubleThink. If you’re going to call something anti-liberal and against what Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill and other classical economists described as free markets, you pretend to be neoliberal. The focus of Smith, Mill, Quesnay and the whole of 19th-century classical economics was to draw a distinction between productive and unproductive labor – that is, between people who earn wages and profits, and rentiers who, as Mill said, “get rich in their sleep.” That is how he described landowners receiving groundrent. It also describes the financial sector receiving interest and “capital” gains.

The first thing the neoliberal Chicago School did when they took over Chile was to close down every economics department in the country except the one they controlled at the Catholic University. They started an assassination program of left wing professors, labor leaders and politicians, and imposed neoliberalism by gunpoint. Their idea is you cannot have anti-labor, deregulated “free markets” stripping away social protections and benefits unless you have totalitarian control. You have to censor any idea that there’s ever been an alternative, by rewriting economic history to deny the progressive tax and regulatory reforms that Smith, Mill, and other classical economists urged to free industrial capitalism from the surviving feudal privileges of landlords and predatory finance.

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
What the Classroom Didn't Teach Me About the American Empire

[Republished from April 1, 2008]

With an occupying army waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan, with military bases and corporate bullying in every part of the world, there is hardly a question any more of the existence of an American Empire. Indeed, the once fervent denials have turned into a boastful, unashamed embrace of the idea.

However, the very idea that the United States was an empire did not occur to me until after I finished my work as a bombardier with the Eighth Air Force in the Second World War, and came home. Even as I began to have second thoughts about the purity of the “Good War,” even after being horrified by Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even after rethinking my own bombing of towns in Europe, I still did not put all that together in the context of an American “Empire.”

I was conscious, like everyone, of the British Empire and the other imperial powers of Europe, but the United States was not seen in the same way. When, after the war, I went to college under the G.I. Bill of Rights and took courses in U.S. history, I usually found a chapter in the history texts called “The Age of Imperialism.” It invariably referred to the Spanish-American War of 1898 and the conquest of the Philippines that followed. It seemed that American imperialism lasted only a relatively few years. There was no overarching view of U.S. expansion that might lead to the idea of a more far-ranging empire — or period of “imperialism.”

I recall the classroom map (labeled “Western Expansion”) which presented the march across the continent as a natural, almost biological phenomenon. That huge acquisition of land called “The Louisiana Purchase” hinted at nothing but vacant land acquired. There was no sense that this territory had been occupied by hundreds of Indian tribes which would have to be annihilated or forced from their homes — what we now call “ethnic cleansing” — so that whites could settle the land, and later railroads could crisscross it, presaging “civilization” and its brutal discontents.

Neither the discussions of “Jacksonian democracy” in history courses, nor the popular book by Arthur Schlesinger Jr., The Age of Jackson, told me about the “Trail of Tears,” the deadly forced march of “the five civilized tribes” westward from Georgia and Alabama across the Mississippi, leaving 4,000 dead in their wake. No treatment of the Civil War mentioned the Sand Creek massacre of hundreds of Indian villagers in Colorado just as “emancipation” was proclaimed for black people by Lincoln’s administration.

That classroom map also had a section to the south and west labeled “Mexican Cession.” This was a handy euphemism for the aggressive war against Mexico in 1846 in which the United States seized half of that country’s land, giving us California and the great Southwest. The term “Manifest Destiny,” used at that time, soon of course became more universal. On the eve of the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Washington Post saw beyond Cuba: “We are face to face with a strange destiny. The taste of Empire is in the mouth of the people even as the taste of blood in the jungle.”

The violent march across the continent, and even the invasion of Cuba, appeared to be within a natural sphere of U.S. interest. After all, hadn’t the Monroe Doctrine of 1823 declared the Western Hemisphere to be under our protection? But with hardly a pause after Cuba came the invasion of the Philippines, halfway around the world. The word “imperialism” now seemed a fitting one for U.S. actions. Indeed, that long, cruel war — treated quickly and superficially in the history books — gave rise to an Anti-Imperialist League, in which William James and Mark Twain were leading figures. But this was not something I learned in university either.

The “Sole Superpower” Comes into View

Reading outside the classroom, however, I began to fit the pieces of history into a larger mosaic. What at first had seemed like a purely passive foreign policy in the decade leading up to the First World War now appeared as a succession of violent interventions: the seizure of the Panama Canal zone from Colombia, a naval bombardment of the Mexican coast, the dispatch of the Marines to almost every country in Central America, occupying armies sent to Haiti and the Dominican Republic. As the much-decorated General Smedley Butler, who participated in many of those interventions, wrote later: “I was an errand boy for Wall Street.”

At the very time I was learning this history — the years after World War II — the United States was becoming not just another imperial power, but the world’s leading superpower. Determined to maintain and expand its monopoly on nuclear weapons, it was taking over remote islands in the Pacific, forcing the inhabitants to leave, and turning the islands into deadly playgrounds for more atomic tests.

In his memoir, No Place to Hide, Dr. David Bradley, who monitored radiation in those tests, described what was left behind as the testing teams went home: “[R]adioactivity, contamination, the wrecked island of Bikini and its sad-eyed patient exiles.” The tests in the Pacific were followed, over the years, by more tests in the deserts of Utah and Nevada, more than a thousand tests in all.

When the war in Korea began in 1950, I was still studying history as a graduate student at Columbia University. Nothing in my classes prepared me to understand American policy in Asia. But I was reading I. F. Stone’s Weekly. Stone was among the very few journalists who questioned the official justification for sending an army to Korea. It seemed clear to me then that it was not the invasion of South Korea by the North that prompted U.S. intervention, but the desire of the United States to have a firm foothold on the continent of Asia, especially now that the Communists were in power in China.

Years later, as the covert intervention in Vietnam grew into a massive and brutal military operation, the imperial designs of the United States became yet clearer to me. In 1967, I wrote a little book called Vietnam: The Logic of Withdrawal. By that time I was heavily involved in the movement against the war.

When I read the hundreds of pages of the Pentagon Papers entrusted to me by Daniel Ellsberg, what jumped out at me were the secret memos from the National Security Council. Explaining the U.S. interest in Southeast Asia, they spoke bluntly of the country’s motives as a quest for “tin, rubber, oil.”

Neither the desertions of soldiers in the Mexican War, nor the draft riots of the Civil War, not the anti-imperialist groups at the turn of the century, nor the strong opposition to World War I — indeed no antiwar movement in the history of the nation reached the scale of the opposition to the war in Vietnam. At least part of that opposition rested on an understanding that more than Vietnam was at stake, that the brutal war in that tiny country was part of a grander imperial design.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 
It’s Safe to Be Paranoid in the U.S.

Given the cluttered landscape of the last 14 years, can you even faintly remember the moment when the Berlin Wall came down, the Cold War ended in a stunned silence of shock and triumph in Washington, Eastern Europe was freed, Germany unified, and the Soviet Union vanished from the face of the Earth? At that epochal moment, six centuries of imperial rivalries ended. Only one mighty power was left.

There hadn’t been a moment like it in historical memory: a single “hyperpower” with a military force beyond compare looming over a planet without rivals. Under the circumstances, what couldn’t Washington hope for? The eternal domination of the Middle East and all that oil? A planetary Pax Americana for generations to come? Why not? After all, not even the Romans and the British at the height of their empires had experienced a world quite like this one.

Now, leap a quarter of a century to the present and note the rising tide of paranoia in this country and the litany of predictions of doom and disaster. Consider the extremity of fear and gloom in the party of Ronald “It’s Morning Again in America” Reagan in what are called “debates” among its presidential candidates, and it’s hard not to imagine that we aren’t at the precipice of the decline and fall of just about everything. The American Century? So much sawdust on the floor of history.

If, however, you look at the country that its top politicians can now hardly mention without defensively wielding the words “exceptional” or “indispensable,” the truly exceptional thing is this: as a great power, the United States still stands alone on planet Earth and Americans can exhibit all the paranoia they want in remarkable safety and security.

Here, then, are three exceptional facts of our moment.

Exceptional Fact #1: Failure Is Success, or the U.S. Remains the Sole Superpower

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If you were to isolate the single most striking, if little discussed, aspect of American foreign policy in the first 15 years of this century, it might be that Washington’s inability to apply its power successfully just about anywhere confirms that very power; in other words, failure is a marker of success. Let me explain.

In the post-9/11 years, American power in various highly militarized forms has been let loose repeatedly across a vast swath of the planet from the Chinese border to deep in Africa — and nowhere in those 14 years, despite dreams of glory and global dominion, has the U.S. succeeded in any of its strategic goals. That should qualify as exceptional in itself. After all, what are the odds that, in all that time, nothing should turn out as planned or positively by Washington’s standards? It could not win its war in Afghanistan; nor its two wars, one ongoing, in Iraq; nor has it had success in its present one in Syria; it failed to cow Iran; its intervention in Libya proved catastrophic; its various special ops and drone campaigns in Yemen have led to chaos in that country; and so, as novelist Kurt Vonnegut used to say, it goes.

Though there was much talk in the early years of this century of “nation building” abroad, American power has been able to build nothing. Its effect everywhere has been purely disintegrative (unless you count the creation of a terror “caliphate” in parts of collapsed Syria and Iraq as a non-disintegrative act). Under the pressure of American power, there have been no victories, nor even in any traditional sense successes, while whole countries have collapsed, populations have been uprooted, and peoples put into flight by the millions. No matter how you measure it, American power has, in other words, been a tempest of failure.

Where, then, does success lie? The answer: despite 15 years bouncing from one militaristic disaster to another, can there be any question that, signs of decline or not, the United States remains the uncontested sole superpower of planet Earth? Consider that a testimony to the wealth and strength of the country. In many ways — certainly, in military terms (despite the hue and cry at the recent Republican debates) — there is no power that could or would contest it.

If you listen to the Republicans, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, now seems to stand in almost alone for the former Soviet Union. He and his country are, so Republicans, neocons, and t op military figures agree, hands down the country’s greatest enemy, a genuine “existential threat” to the U.S. But looked at in a clear-eyed fashion, this monstrous (yet strangely familiar) enemy is in many ways a house of cards. Or put another way, Putin as a leader has managed to do a remarkable amount (much of it grim indeed, from Ukraine to Syria) with remarkably little. To compare him, no less his country, to the former Soviet Union in its heyday is, however, simply a bad joke (except perhaps when it comes to its still superpower-sized nuclear arsenal). He is, in fact, the head of a rickety, embattled energy state at a time when the price of oil seems to be headed for the sub-basement.

As for China, always assumed to be the coming superpower of the later twenty-first century,don’t count on it. As recent economic events there have reminded us, it’s a country on the edge. Despite more than four “to get rich is glorious” decades and remarkable economic growth, it remains a relatively poor land whose leadership doesn’t know what might happen if, as in any capitalist economy, bubbles were to burst, things went south, and the economy began to tank. Yes, its military budget, though still modest by Pentagon standards, is rising and it’s growing increasingly aggressive in the neighborhood, but its leaders still show no sign of wanting to garrison the planet or become a true military competitor to the U.S. in anything but the most local terms.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 
How China and Russia Are Running Rings Around Washington

Let’s start with the geopolitical Big Bang you know nothing about, the one that occurred just two weeks ago. Here are its results: from now on, any possible future attack on Iran threatened by the Pentagon (in conjunction with NATO) would essentially be an assault on the planning of an interlocking set of organizations — the BRICS nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa), the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), the EEU (Eurasian Economic Union), the AIIB (the new Chinese-founded Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank), and the NDB (the BRICS’ New Development Bank) — whose acronyms you’re unlikely to recognize either. Still, they represent an emerging new order in Eurasia.

Tehran, Beijing, Moscow, Islamabad, and New Delhi have been actively establishing interlocking security guarantees. They have been simultaneously calling the Atlanticist bluff when it comes to the endless drumbeat of attention given to the flimsy meme of Iran’s “nuclear weapons program.” And a few days before the Vienna nuclear negotiations finally culminated in an agreement, all of this came together at a twin BRICS/SCO summit in Ufa, Russia — a place you’ve undoubtedly never heard of and a meeting that got next to no attention in the U.S. And yet sooner or later, these developments will ensure that the War Party in Washington and assorted neocons (as well as neoliberalcons) already breathing hard over the Iran deal will sweat bullets as their narratives about how the world works crumble.

The Eurasian Silk Road

With the Vienna deal, whose interminable build-up I had the dubious pleasure of following closely, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and his diplomatic team have pulled the near-impossible out of an extremely crumpled magician’s hat: an agreement that might actually end sanctions against their country from an asymmetric, largely manufactured conflict.

Think of that meeting in Ufa, the capital of Russia’s Bashkortostan, as a preamble to the long-delayed agreement in Vienna. It caught the new dynamics of the Eurasian continent and signaled the future geopolitical Big Bangness of it all. At Ufa, from July 8th to 10th, the 7th BRICS summit and the 15th Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit overlapped just as a possible Vienna deal was devouring one deadline after another.

Consider it a diplomatic masterstroke of Vladmir Putin’s Russia to have merged those two summits with an informal meeting of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). Call it a soft power declaration of war against Washington’s imperial logic, one that would highlight the breadth and depth of an evolving Sino-Russian strategic partnership. Putting all those heads of state attending each of the meetings under one roof, Moscow offered a vision of an emerging, coordinated geopolitical structure anchored in Eurasian integration. Thus, the importance of Iran: no matter what happens post-Vienna, Iran will be a vital hub/node/crossroads in Eurasia for this new structure.

If you read the declaration that came out of the BRICS summit, one detail should strike you: the austerity-ridden European Union (EU) is barely mentioned. And that’s not an oversight. From the point of view of the leaders of key BRICS nations, they are offering a new approach to Eurasia, the very opposite of the language of sanctions.

Here are just a few examples of the dizzying activity that took place at Ufa, all of it ignored by the American mainstream media. In their meetings, President Putin, China’s President Xi Jinping, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi worked in a practical way to advance what is essentially a Chinese vision of a future Eurasia knit together by a series of interlocking “new Silk Roads.” Modi approved more Chinese investment in his country, while Xi and Modi together pledged to work to solve the joint border issues that have dogged their countries and, in at least one case, led to war.

The NDB, the BRICS’ response to the World Bank, was officially launched with $50 billion in start-up capital. Focused on funding major infrastructure projects in the BRICS nations, it is capable of accumulating as much as $400 billion in capital, according to its president, Kundapur Vaman Kamath. Later, it plans to focus on funding such ventures in other developing nations across the Global South — all in their own currencies, which means bypassing the U.S. dollar. Given its membership, the NDB’s money will clearly be closely linked to the new Silk Roads. As Brazilian Development Bank President Luciano Coutinho stressed, in the near future it may also assist European non-EU member states like Serbia and Macedonia. Think of this as the NDB’s attempt to break a Brussels monopoly on Greater Europe. Kamath even advanced the possibility of someday aiding in the reconstruction of Syria.

You won’t be surprised to learn that both the new Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank and the NDB are headquartered in China and will work to complement each other’s efforts. At the same time, Russia’s foreign investment arm, the Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), signed a memorandum of understanding with funds from other BRICS countries and so launched an informal investment consortium in which China’s Silk Road Fund and India’s Infrastructure Development Finance Company will be key partners.

Full Spectrum Transportation Dominance

On the ground level, this should be thought of as part of the New Great Game in Eurasia. Its flip side is the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the Pacific and the Atlantic version of the same, the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, both of which Washington is trying to advance to maintain U.S. global economic dominance. The question these conflicting plans raise is how to integrate trade and commerce across that vast region. From the Chinese and Russian perspectives, Eurasia is to be integrated via a complex network of superhighways, high-speed rail lines, ports, airports, pipelines, and fiber optic cables. By land, sea, and air, the resulting New Silk Roads are meant to create an economic version of the Pentagon’s doctrine of “Full Spectrum Dominance” — a vision that already has Chinese corporate executives crisscrossing Eurasia sealing infrastructure deals.

For Beijing — back to a 7% growth rate in the second quarter of 2015 despite a recent near-panic on the country’s stock markets — it makes perfect economic sense: as labor costs rise, production will be relocated from the country’s Eastern seaboard to its cheaper Western reaches, while the natural outlets for the production of just about everything will be those parallel and interlocking “belts” of the new Silk Roads.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 
A review of Ron Paul's exploration of the American malaise

Dr. Ron Paul has written many books but I would highly recommend his latest, Swords into Plowshares: A Lifetime in Wartime and a Future of Peace and Prosperity, for those who are particularly interested in how his political views developed and what his assessment of today’s political landscape might be. As the title suggests, the focus of the book is on turning America’s apparent love affair with foreign wars into something much more responsible, notably a nation self-confident and secure enough to desist from intervening in other peoples’ quarrels and turning instead to the development of the type of liberty rich republic envisioned by our country’s founders.

I have long been a great admirer of Dr. Paul and was, full disclosure, one of his foreign policy advisers when he ran for the Republican Party nomination for president in 2008. I have always respected the clarity of his vision and his willingness to address issues that other politicians avoid with an unflinching honesty. Indeed, during his long tenure in Congress he might well have been the most honest man in the chamber, which is an attribute that earned him both vilification from the ethically challenged and accolades of support from all across the political spectrum, even from those who normally would have been skeptical of some of the policies that he promoted.

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Most interestingly in Swords into Plowshares is how Dr. Paul describes his own personal journey starting with his youth in Pennsylvania and continuing on with his education, military service and eventual entry into Congress as a representative from Texas. His appreciation that America has been on the wrong course grew on him commensurate with his life experiences, most particularly his observation that the country had become addicted to war through the manipulation of its economy and political system as well as by its own delusional perception of its national interests. Undeclared and unconstitutional war became the new normal starting with Korea, following on two global wars that the United States could easily have avoided, and today’s world has become even more dangerous due to the web of entangling relationships that Washington has heedlessly entered into.

Dr. Paul’s account is rich in anecdotes, including my favorite about his puzzled and somewhat irritable reaction when people come up to him and “thank him for his service.” He also notes the ignorance of many in Congress and the White House regarding recent history and the ability of neoconservatives to exploit that, up to and including the role of the gaggle of neocon “chickenhawks” surrounding George W. Bush in using 9/11 as a “Pearl Harbor event” to declare war on Muslim regimes in the Middle East. Dr. Paul also makes many of the obvious points, for example observing that Americans are less secure now than when the “global war on terror” started. He notes that executing people randomly by drone deliberately depersonalizes the process of killing, making it more palatable to a disengaged American public but leaving a legacy of hatred in its wake among the families of the victims.

And war produces nothing positive. Carried out using borrowed money, war, as Dwight Eisenhower noted, is a waste of national resources that may lead to bankruptcy and ruin. It is also what should be a last option in international affairs unfortunately transformed into a first recourse for lazy politicians. It has killed tens of thousands Americans in our own lifetime for no good reason whatsoever and as well as millions of foreigners. It has led to abuses of our constitutional order, and created a national security state that is both lawless and reckless in its behavior, both at home and abroad. It has involved the United States in armed conflict in places that few Americans would be able to find on a map and it has made our country the most hated on earth.

Along the way, Dr. Paul also makes some shrewd observations about the dynamics of the warfare state. He is particularly critical of the way organized religion has gone along with the game, deferring to Caesar and seeking not to rock the boat even when the government is bent on policies that are hardly in sync with what most would regard as Christian doctrine. Indeed, I would go beyond that to note that some believers best described as “Armageddonites” have been among the leading enthusiasts for America the warlike, vociferously supporting regime change and destruction of Muslim governments and peoples.

There are some parts of the book that I would question. I am not a Libertarian and to be honest I find that many who define themselves by that label are sometimes lacking in any sense of community. Given that attribute, it is not surprising that they would oppose paying taxes and supporting wars or serving in uniform, which is of course a good thing, and it is where they and I see eye to eye, but while I desire much smaller and weaker government I do not share their disdain for government per se. In the area of what constitutes a reasonable defense establishment I believe that Washington must retain sufficient military capability to defend our borders as well as to deter Russia, which is the only world power that can literally destroy the U.S.

I do not agree with Dr. Paul’s rejection of trust fund based government programs like Medicare and Social Security, possibly because I am a current beneficiary of both. His recommendation that each American accept “responsibility to care for oneself and one’s family instead of relying on government or private theft” might appear admirable but it is clearly unworkable in practice as most people will kick the can down the road and not make hard choices. Many working class and even middle class Americans can no longer afford to save for retirement or medical expenses. Imagine what would have happened during the crash of 2008 if Americans had invested their Social Security accounts in equities.

Also, as a foreign policy “realist” I do believe that America has global interests that should normally be protected through diplomacy and the exercise of soft power and would disagree with Dr. Paul’s observation that realism automatically leads to intervention. If anything, the past fifteen years should have taught most realists that intervention is no option at all.

Some of Dr. Paul’s observations are based on his profound understanding of Austrian economics. His arguments for sound currency and against sanctions as a political tool are rock solid. Personally, I am an economic nitwit, my sole exposure consisting of taking a course with Milton Friedman in 1966 which I eventually dropped when it became clear to me that I had no idea what he was talking about. But that is not to say I have not observed an often faltering economy over the past forty years and it has not been pretty. Dr. Paul’s book cites his support of free trade and free movement of labor as part of his liberty agenda. He also indicates his belief that self-correcting market forces and the “marketplace” should often be the ultimate determinant in how we judge whether something is working properly or not.

 

Two historical summits are taking place this week: the crisis talk in France and Germany about the Greek crisis and the simultaneous meeting of the BRICS and Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) countries in Ufa, Russia. These two meetings could hardly be more different.

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The Eurobureaucrats are scrambling to prevent a domino effect in which Greece would leave the Eurozone and set a precedent for other Mediterranean countries such as Italy, Spain or even France. But there is really much more at stake here than the comparatively small Greek debts, the solvency of European banks or even the future of the Euro. What is really at stake is the credibility and future of the entire “Euro project” and thus the future of the oligarchy which created it.

The EU elites have put an immense amount of political and personal capital into the creation of what one could call a “Bilderberger Europe”, one run by the elites and on behalf of the USA promoted New World Order. Just like the US elites have put their full credibility behind the official 911 narrative against all empirical evidence, so the European have put their full credibility behind a “grand EU” project even though it was obvious that this project was not viable. And now reality is coming back with a vengeance: simply put, the EU is way too big. Not only was the expansion of the EU to the East a huge mistake, but even the western EU is really the artificial assembly of a Mediterranean Europe and a Northern Europe as Nigel Farange so aptly put it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=94UcyJnRcGU. Finally, it is pretty obvious that the current EU was built against the will of many, if not most, of the people of Europe. As a result, the Eurobureaucrats are now fighting to keep their dying project alive as long as possible.

What we are witnessing these days in Ufa, Russia, could not be any more different. The simultaneous meeting of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) and the SCO countries ( China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) marks the gathering of a future world order, not one directed at the USA or the West, but one simply built without them, which is even more humiliating. In fact, the BRICS/SCO ‘combo’ is a real nightmare for the AngloZionist Empire (for the precise reasons for the use of this term, please see here: http://thesaker.is/terminology/).

It has already been announced the India and Pakistan will become full members of the SCO. So the full list of BRICS/SCO members will now look like this: Brazil, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The BRICS/SCO will thus include 2 Permanent UN Security Council, 4 countries with nuclear weapons (only 3 NATO countries have nukes!), it’s members account for a full third of the world’s land area, they produce 16 trillion dollars in GDP and have a population of 3 billion people or half of the global world population. The SCO population stands at 1.6 billion people, or one fourth of the Earth population which produces $11.6 trillion in GDP. Furthermore, the BRICS/SCO countries are already working on a new development bank whose aim is to create an alternative to the IMF and World Bank. But most importantly, the SCO is growing even further and might soon welcome Belarus and Iran as full members. And the door is wide open for more members, possibly even Greece if the Grexit happens).

The core of this alternative New World Order are, of course, Russia and China. Without them, neither the BRICS nor the SCO would make any sense. The most amazing feature of this Russian-Chinese ‘core’ is the way it was formed. Rather than creating a formal alliance, Putin and Xi did something which, as far as I know, has never been done in the past: they have turned their two super-countries (or ex-empires, pick your term) into symbionts, two separate organisms which fully depend on each other. China has agreed to become fully dependent on Russia for energy and high technology (especially defense and space) while Russia has agreed to become fully dependent on China economically. It is precisely because China and Russia are so different from each other that they form the perfect match, like two puzzle figures, who perfectly fit each other.

For centuries the Anglo-Saxons have feared the unification of the European landmass as a result of a Russian-German alliance, and they have been very successful at preventing it. For centuries the major sea powers have ruled the world. But what no western geostrategist had ever envisioned is the possibility that Russia would simple turn East and agree to a symbiotic relationship with China. The sheer size of what I call the Russian-Chinese Strategic Partnership (RCSP) makes not only Germany, but even all of Europe basically irrelevant. In fact, the AngloZionist Empire simply does not have the means to influence this dynamic in any significant way. Had Russia and China signed some kind of formal alliance, there would always have been the possibility for either country to change course, but once a symbiosis is created, the two symbionts become inseparable, joined not only at the hip, but also at the heart and lungs (even if they each keep their own separate “brains”, i.e. governments).

What is so attractive to the rest of the world in this BRICS/SCO alternative is that neither Russia nor China have any imperial ambitions. Both of these countries have been empires in the past, and both have paid a huge price for that imperial status. Furthermore, they both have carefully observed how the USA has arrogantly overstretched itself over the entire planet resulting in a dialectical anti-American reaction worldwide. While the White House and the corporate media keep scaring those still willing to listen to them with tales about the “resurgent Russia” and the “assertive China”, the reality is that neither of these two countries has any desire at all to replace the USA as the world hegemon. You will never see China or Russia covering the globe with 700+ military bases, or fighting elective wars on a yearly basis or spend more on “defense” (i.e. aggression) than the rest of the planet combined. They will not build a 600 ship navy or even a fleet of 12 aircraft carriers to “project power” worldwide. And they will most definitely not point a “space gun” at the entire planet with megalomaniacal projects such a Prompt Global Strike.

What Russia, China and the BRICS/SCO countries want is an international order in which security is truly collective, according to the principle that “if you feel threatened then I am not safe”. They want a cooperative order in which countries are allowed (and even encouraged) to follow their own societal development model. Iran, for example, will not have to cease being an Islamic Republic after joining the SCO. They want to get rid of the comprador elites whose loyalty lies with foreign interests and encourage the “sovereignization “of each country. Finally, they want an international order ruled by the rule of law and not by the “might makes right” principle which has been the hallmark of the European civilization since the Crusades. And the key thing to understand is this: they don’t want that because they are so kind and noble, but because they sincerely perceive this to be in their pragmatic self-interest.

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, BookReview, BRICs, China, Russia 
Have US tactics played into Islamist hands?

The “Islamic State” is stronger than it was when it was first proclaimed on 29 June last year, shortly after Isis fighters captured much of northern and western Iraq. Its ability to go on winning victories was confirmed on 17 May this year in Iraq, when it seized Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, and again four days later in Syria, when it took Palmyra, one of the most famous cities of antiquity and at the centre of modern transport routes.

The twin victories show how Isis has grown in strength: it can now simultaneously attack on multiple fronts, hundreds of miles apart, a capacity it did not have a year ago. In swift succession, its forces defeated the Iraqi and Syrian armies and, equally telling, neither army was able to respond with an effective counter-attack.

Supposedly these successes, achieved by Isis during its summer offensive in 2014, should no longer be feasible in the face of air strikes by the US-led coalition. These began last August in Iraq and were extended to Syria in October, with US officials recently claiming that 4,000 air strikes had killed 10,000 Isis fighters. Certainly, the air campaign has inflicted heavy losses on Isis, but it has made up for these casualties by conscripting recruits within the self-declared caliphate, an area the size of Great Britain with a population of five or six million.

What makes the loss of Ramadi and Palmyra so significant is that they did not fall to surprise attacks, the means by which a few thousand Isis fighters unexpectedly captured Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, in 2014.

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That city had a garrison estimated to number about 20,000 men, though nobody knows the exact figure because the Iraqi armed forces were full of “virtual” soldiers, who did not physically exist but whose pay was pocketed by officers and government officials. Baghdad later admitted to 50,000 of these. There were, in addition, many soldiers who did exist, but kicked back at least half their salary to officers on the condition that they perform no military duties.

Yet the outcome of the fighting at Ramadi, a Sunni Arab city which once had a population of 600,000, should have been different than at Mosul. The Isis assault in mid-May was the wholly predictable culmination of attacks that had been continuous in the eight months since October 2014. What was unexpected was a retreat that was close to flight by government forces and, in the longer term, the same old fatal disparity between the nominal size of the Iraqi armed forces and their real combat strength.

A crucial feature of the political and military landscape in Iraq is that the Iraqi army never recovered from its defeats of 2014. To meet Isis attacks on many fronts it had fewer than five brigades, or between 10,000 and 12,000 soldiers, capable of fighting while “the rest of the army are only good for manning checkpoints” – in the words of a senior Iraqi security official. Even so, many of these elite units, including the so-called Golden Division, were in Ramadi, though their men complained of exhaustion and of suffering serious casualties without receiving replacements.

In the event, even the presence of experienced troops was not enough. Just why the government forces were defeated is partly explained in an interview with The Independent by Colonel Hamid Shandoukh, who was the police commander in the southern sector of Ramadi during the final battle. Speaking of what happened to his detachment, the colonel says: “In three days of fighting, 76 of our men were killed and 180 wounded.” Isis commanders used a lethal cocktail of well-tried tactics, sending fanatical foreign volunteers driving vehicles packed with explosives to blow themselves up and demolish government fortifications. Suicide bombing on a mass scale, with explosions capable of destroying a city block, was followed by assaults by well-trained infantry, including snipers and mortar teams.

Col Shandoukh, himself a Sunni Arab, says the root of the problem is simply that neither the Iraqi security forces nor pro-government tribal forces received reinforcements or adequate equipment. He says that the central failure is sectarian and happened “because of [government] fear that, as the people of Anbar are Sunni, mobilising them will threaten the government later”.

He complains that sophisticated weapons are reserved for Shia militias and specialised counter-terrorism units, while the predominantly Sunni Arab police in Anbar received only seven Humvees, far fewer than the number captured by Isis in Mosul.

I am a little wary of Colonel Shandoukh’s explanation that Isis’s victory was thanks to superior weapons denied to his own troops by the Shia-dominated Baghdad government. Lack of heavy arms is an excuse invariably used by Iraqi and Kurdish leaders to explain reverses inflicted on them by inferior forces. But this claim is frequently contradicted by pictures and videos shot by Isis after it has captured positions, showing heaps of abandoned weaponry.

At Mosul last year and again at Ramadi almost a year later, there was the same breakdown in morale among government commanders leading to a panicky and unnecessary withdrawal. In the sour words of General Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff “the Iraqi security forces weren’t “driven from” Ramadi, they “drove out of Ramadi”.

Colonel Shandoukh regards distrust between Sunni and Shia as the main cause of the rout. He argues that the people of Anbar, a vast province that makes up at a quarter of Iraq, are “looked at as terrorists by the government; even the Sunni military staff and their detachments are not given full support”. Others blame the corruption and overall dysfunctional nature of the Iraqi state in a country in which people’s primary loyalty is to their sectarian or ethnic community. Iraqi nationalism is at a discount.

A more precise reason for the military disintegration may be that Iraqi army, and this also applies to the Kurdish Peshmerga, have become over-dependent on US air strikes. In Iraqi Kurdistan, Peshmerga respond to Isis attacks by giving their exact location to the US-Kurdish Joint Operations headquarters in Erbil which calls in air strikes. Significantly, it was an impending sandstorm that would blind US aircraft and drones and prevent their use that was apparently the reason why the order was given for Iraqi forces to abandon Ramadi. Colonel Shandoukh says that “without US-led airstrikes, Ramadi will not be recaptured”.

General Dempsey’s ill-concealed anger at the debacle at Ramadi may stem from his understanding that the disaster involves more than just the loss of a single city, but discredits the whole American strategy towards Islamic State. The aim was to use US air power in combination with local ground forces to weaken and ultimately eliminate Isis. It was a policy that Washington had persuaded itself was working effectively right up to the moment it fell apart on 17 May.

Proof of this is a spectacularly ill-timed and over-optimistic briefing given on 15 May by Brigadier General Thomas D Weidley, the chief of staff for Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve, as the US-led air campaign to defeat Islamic State is known. “We firmly believe [Isis] is on the defensive throughout Iraq and Syria, attempting to hold previous gains, while conducting small-scale, localised harassing attacks [and] occasionally complex or high-profile attacks to feed their information and propaganda apparatus,” he said.

Gen Weidley revealed that the coalition had launched 165 air strikes in Ramadi over the previous month and 420 in the Fallujah-Ramadi area since the air campaign started, and sounded fully confident that these had stopped Isis’s run of victories.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: BookReview, Iraq, ISIS, Syria 
Down the Iraqi Rabbit Hole (Again)

There is a peculiar form of insanity in which a veneer of rationality distracts attention from the madness lurking just beneath the surface. When Alice dove down her rabbit hole to enter a place where smirking cats offered directions, ill-mannered caterpillars dispensed advice, and Mock Turtles constituted the principal ingredient in Mock Turtle soup, she experienced something of the sort.

Yet, as the old adage goes, truth can be even stranger than fiction. For a real-life illustration of this phenomenon, one need look no further than Washington and its approach to national security policy. Viewed up close, it all seems to hang together. Peer out of the rabbit hole and the sheer lunacy quickly becomes apparent.

Consider this recent headline: “U.S. to Ship 2,000 Anti-Tank Missiles To Iraq To Help Fight ISIS.” The accompanying article describes a Pentagon initiative to reinforce Iraq’s battered army with a rush order of AT-4s. A souped-up version of the old bazooka, the AT-4 is designed to punch holes through armored vehicles.

Taken on its own terms, the decision makes considerable sense. Iraqi forces need something to counter a fearsome new tactic of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS): suicide bombers mounted in heavily armored wheeled vehicles. Improved antitank capabilities certainly could help Iraqi troops take out such bombers before they reach their intended targets. The logic is airtight. The sooner these weapons get into the hands of Iraqi personnel, the better for them — and so the better for us.

As it turns out, however, the vehicle of choice for ISIS suicide bombers these days is the up-armored Humvee. In June 2014, when the Iraqi Army abandoned the country’s second largest city, Mosul, ISIS acquired 2,300 made-in-the-U.S.A. Humvees. Since then, it’s captured even more of them.

As U.S. forces were themselves withdrawing from Iraq in 2011, they bequeathed a huge fleet of Humvees to the “new” Iraqi army it had built to the tune of $25 billion. Again, the logic of doing so was impeccable: Iraqi troops needed equipment; shipping used Humvees back to the U.S. was going to cost more than they were worth. Better to give them to those who could put them to good use. Who could quarrel with that?

Before they handed over the used equipment, U.S. troops had spent years trying to pacify Iraq, where order had pretty much collapsed after the invasion of 2003. American troops in Iraq had plenty of tanks and other heavy equipment, but once the country fell into insurgency and civil war, patrolling Iraqi cities required something akin to a hopped-up cop car. The readily available Humvee filled the bill. When it turned out that troops driving around in what was essentially an oversized jeep were vulnerable to sniper fire and roadside bombs, “hardening” those vehicles to protect the occupants became a no-brainer — as even Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld eventually recognized.

At each step along the way, the decisions made possessed a certain obvious logic. It’s only when you get to the end — giving Iraqis American-made weapons to destroy specially hardened American-made military vehicles previously provided to those same Iraqis — that the strangely circular and seriously cuckoo Alice-in-Wonderland nature of the entire enterprise becomes apparent.

AT-4s blowing up those Humvees — with fingers crossed that the anti-tank weapons don’t also fall into the hands of ISIS militants — illustrates in microcosm the larger madness of Washington’s policies concealed by the superficial logic of each immediate situation.

The Promotion of Policies That Have Manifestly Failed

Let me provide a firsthand illustration. A week ago, I appeared on a network television news program to discuss American policy in Iraq and in particular the challenges posed by ISIS. The other guests were former Secretary of Defense and CIA Director Leon Panetta, former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy and current CEO of a Washington think tank Michelle Flournoy, and retired four-star general Anthony Zinni who had once headed up United States Central Command.

Washington is a city in which whatever happens within the current news cycle trumps all other considerations, whether in the immediate or distant past. So the moderator launched the discussion by asking the panelists to comment on President Obama’s decision, announced earlier that very day, to plus-up the 3,000-strong train-and-equip mission to Iraq with an additional 450 American soldiers, the latest ratcheting up of ongoing U.S. efforts to deal with ISIS.

Panetta spoke first and professed wholehearted approval of the initiative. “Well, there’s no question that I think the president’s taken the right step in adding these trainers and advisers.” More such steps — funneling arms to Iraqi Kurds and Sunnis and deploying U.S. Special Operations Forces to hunt down terrorists — were “going to be necessary in order to be able to achieve the mission that we have embarked on.” That mission was of critical importance. Unless defeated, ISIS would convert Iraq into “a base [for] attacking our country and attacking our homeland.”

Flournoy expressed a similar opinion. She called the decision to send additional trainers “a good move and a smart move,” although she, too, hoped that it was only the “first step in a broader series” of escalatory actions. If anything, her view of ISIS was more dire than that of her former Pentagon boss. She called it “the new jihad — violent jihadist vanguard in the Middle East and globally.” Unless stopped, ISIS was likely to become “a global network” with “transnational objectives,” while its “thousands of foreign fighters” from the West and Gulf states were eventually going to “return and be looking to carry out jihad in their home countries.”

General Zinni begged to differ — not on the nature of the danger confronting Washington, but on what to do about it. He described the present policy as “almost déjà vu,” a throwback “to Vietnam before we committed the ground forces. We dribble in more and more advisers and support.”

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 

51qciM4cBhL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_*The past after the word*

If science is hard, history is harder. Harder in that the goal is to understand what happened in ages which are fading away like evanescent ghosts of our imagination. But we must be cautious. We are a great storytelling species, seduced by narrative. The sort of empirically informed and rigorous analysis which is the hallmark of modern scholarship is a special and distinctive thing, even if it is usually packaged in turgid and impenetrable prose. It is too pat to state that history was born fully formed with the work of Thucydides (or Sima Qian). In fact Thucydides’ pretensions at historical objectivity despite obvious perspective and bias lend credence to the assertions of those who make the case that the past is fiction (in this way Herodotus may actually have been more honest). The temptation is always great to paint an edifying myth which gives succor to national pride or flatters our contemporary self-image. The fact that modern nation-states in the technological age have vigorous debates about details as to the nature of periods of history in the recent past, when the people who lived during those times are still here to bear witness, is telling in terms of the magnitude of the task before us. Fraught questions must be answered with far fewer resources.

Much of history we see only vaguely through chance and contingency, known through happenstance and the whims of our ancestors. In the West the documents which shed light upon antiquity come to us through tunnels of finite transmissions, a furious period of textual transcription in the last few centuries before 1000 A.D. The Carolingians, the Byzantines, and the Abbasids all engaged in sponsoring the capital intensive project of taking ancient texts and making copies for posterity. The vast majority of the works of antiquity we have today can be traced back to this period[1]. Biases and concerns of the elites who sponsored these projects were critical in determining the nature of the source material which serves as the foundation for our understanding of the deeper past which we take for granted today. We know how little was copied because the extant material make copious reference to a vast body of work which was circulating in the ancient world on assorted topics (and even many of the works we do have are only portions of multi-volume endeavours, such as that of Livy).

brotherhoodBut what about pushing beyond what the text can tell us, and transitioning from history to prehistory? Here is where matters become opaque and conditional upon the nature of the texts (or lack thereof). This is clear when you observe that there are very early periods of human history when our knowledge of individual actors and daily life is actually greater than later epochs due to regress of civilization, or, changes in technology which mitigated against preservation of texts[2]. The “Dark Ages” of Greece between the Mycenaeans and the Classical Greeks are the purview purely of archaeology (and even during the Mycenaean period most Linear B were of a bureaucratic nature; I do not know of narrative literature such as we have for Egypt or Babylon). For the Classical Greeks the rupture was traumatic enough that their Mycenaean past became the subject of legends. The citadels of the Bronze Age warlords were viewed as “cyclopean” works, as if only giants could have created them. Similarly, the period in Britain between the end of central Roman rule and the Christianization of the Anglo-Saxons, about two centuries, is perceived only faintly because of the paucity of written records (this also explains why this period is often utilized as the setting for historical fantasy).

 

Every society has people of limited ability who need employment and historically many of these folk worked the land. It was a simple and effective solution: you don’t have to be especially smart, even industrious, to herd cows, pick fruit or otherwise help put food on somebody’s table. Nor did society have to spend millions to train farm workers and provide them with modern-day benefits. Alas, thanks to the mechanization of agriculture and the growth of a world-wide economy, this handy employment option is dwindling. In 1840 the US population was about 17 million and approximately 9 million worked in agriculture (69%). By 1900 population rose to 76 million but the percent in agriculture fell to 58%, still lots and lots of jobs. By 1930, the proportion in agriculture had declined to 21% and by 1990, it was 2.6%. There are now 3 million employed in farming, one-third the figure of 1840.

So, where can we find gainful employment for those who once milked cows? The glib answer is “send them to college” where, supposedly, they will be trained to enter today’s high-tech economy. Pure fantasy—to be blunt, the millions with IQ’s below 90 are not going to be computer programmers or IT consultants no matter how hard they are pushed. Yet, they need some field where they can earn decent livelihoods.

K-12 education is today’s alternative and no matter how measured, the US spends generously and the upward trend seems unstoppable. In fact, unlike what occurs in the private sector, the worse the results the greater the spending.

Less obvious than just raw spending data is how this money is spent—the old vision of a school with some teachers, a few administrators and a custodian is now obsolete. Schools are now the place for those who once milked cows. A recent publication of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, The Hidden Half: School Employees who Don’t Teach by Matthew Richmond provides the details. Since 1970 the number of non-teaching staff (particularly teacher aides, a job category that did not exist in 1950) has increased by 130%, far out-pacing the hiring of teachers. In fact, these so-called para-professionals now comprise half of the public school’s workforce, and consume one-quarter of the budget. Between 1950 and 2012, non-teaching positions expanded by some 702% while the student population grew only by 96%, all the while educational outcomes remained flat.

These figures only begin to tell the story since many school workers are not counted as “educators.” For example, in 2008/09 (the latest figures available) New York City employ 5,055 “school safety agents,” the fifth largest policy force in the country, larger than the police force of Washington DC. Further add others servicing surveillance equipment, the thousands of street crossing guards and workers who those drive and maintain school buses run by private contractors. Chicago recently hired 100 “Safe Passage” workers who escort students to school in crime-ridden neighborhoods. The governor has also pledged to hire 600 more such guardians once funds become available.

And let’s not forget how schools must now pay closer attention to disabled students, an exceedingly labor intensive task. Schools are also now responsible for services such as serving meals and psychological counseling that previously scarcely existed. It is also arguable that the weakening of teacher power over classroom discipline has reduced class size and further added positions to handle disruptive students and these helpers often only need the most minimal qualifications.

More is involved here that just generic bureaucratic bloat. Most clearly, this expansion is a god-send to various public sector unions, everything from the big teachers’ unions to those who organize food service workers, security guards, even the street crossing monitors. This is not an issue of unionization per se. This growth brings power to public sector unions that, unlike their private sector brethren, have a clear stake in expanding government.

Now, thanks to this expansion of dues-paying members, Progressive candidates will be able to raise even more funds and count on armies of Election Day “volunteers.” (A similar pattern is occurring in the public healthcare sector where unions can deliver lots of cash and huge blocks of docile voters.). Of the utmost importance, this political clout will be most evident in low-turnout primaries—no small matter since most big cities are one-party—given that that those whose livelihood depends on government largess are the most motivated voters here. This electoral cloud will be even greater if cities require teachers, administrators and other “educators” to live within city boundaries. New York City’s current Mayor, the Progressive Bill DeBlasio may well be the harbinger of office holders to come as “educators” come to dominate urban electorates.

Less obvious than electoral consequences will be the promotion of policies necessary to keep schools filled with students independent of actual learning, a formidable problem as residents (including under-class blacks) move to the suburbs. Think Detroit, St. Louis, Baltimore, Camden, NJ, Newark, NJ, Philadelphia, and Rochester, NY among several others.

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Happily, de-population can be surmounted by filling schools with the children of immigrants, the more troubling the better and this includes illegals. Ever wonder why so many cities declare themselves to be sanctuaries for illegals or refuse to cooperate with Washington in enforcing immigration laws?

Not only does this newly found warm body automatically generate revenue, even if the body seldom shows up, but these new arrivals quickly generate a support staff to address student shortcomings. School superintendents will rightly claim that their schools now need bi-lingual aides, no small expenditure in many urban areas where schools often have students speaking a dozen or more languages. Further add the need for multi-lingual staff to reach out to the parents of these new-comers. Outsiders seldom grasp the financial enormity of educating an immigrant population. Consider the mission statement from the Big Apple’s Department of Education’s Translation and Interpretation (T &I) unit:

Chancellor’s Regulation A-663 establishes procedures for ensuring that LEP parents are provided with a meaningful opportunity to participate in and have access to programs and services critical to their child’s education. Chancellor’s Regulation A-663 requires language services in the nine most common languages other than English spoken by parents of New York City school children. Based on the DOE’s Home Language Identification Survey these languages are Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, French, Haitian Creole, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Urdu (hereinafter referred to as the “covered languages”). These languages, including English, account for over 95% of student households. Support in additional languages is available through contracted vendors.

 

In practice, this means translation assistance with junior’s disciplinary problems, his health and safety, access to special programs, and so on. The T & I unit is even given legal responsibility to monitor the Multicultural Welcoming Posters in over 1700 schools, among multiple other duties.

 
• Category: Economics • Tags: BookReview, Public Schools 
Life in the New American Minimum-Wage Economy

There are many sides to whistleblowing. The one that most people don’t know about is the very personal cost, prison aside, including the high cost of lawyers and the strain on family relations, that follows the decision to risk it all in an act of conscience. Here’s a part of my own story I’ve not talked about much before.

At age 53, everything changed. Following my whistleblowing first book, We Meant Well: How I Helped Lose the Battle for the Hearts and Minds of the Iraqi People, I was run out of the good job I had held for more than 20 years with the U.S. Department of State. As one of its threats, State also took aim at the pension and benefits I’d earned, even as it forced me into retirement. Would my family and I lose everything I’d worked for as part of the retaliation campaign State was waging? I was worried. That pension was the thing I’d counted on to provide for us and it remained in jeopardy for many months. I was scared.

My skill set was pretty specific to my old job. The market was tough in the Washington, D.C. area for someone with a suspended security clearance. Nobody with a salaried job to offer seemed interested in an old guy, and I needed some money. All the signs pointed one way — toward the retail economy and a minimum-wage job.

And soon enough, I did indeed find myself working in exactly that economy and, worse yet, trying to live on the money I made. But it wasn’t just the money. There’s this American thing in which jobs define us, and those definitions tell us what our individual futures and the future of our society is likely to be. And believe me, rock bottom is a miserable base for any future.

Old World/New World

The last time I worked for minimum wage was in a small store in my hometown in northern Ohio. It was almost a rite of passage during high school, when I pulled in about four bucks an hour stocking shelves alongside my friends. Our girlfriends ran the cash registers and our moms and dads shopped in the store. A good story about a possible date could get you a night off from the sympathetic manager, who was probably the only adult in those days we called by his first name. When you graduated from high school, he would hire one of your friends and the cycle would continue.

At age 53, I expected to be quizzed about why I was looking for minimum-wage work in a big box retail store we’ll call “Bullseye.” I had prepared a story about wanting some fun part-time work and a new experience, but no one asked or cared. It felt like joining the French Foreign Legion, where you leave your past behind, assume a new name, and disappear anonymously into the organization in some distant land. The manager who hired me seemed focused only on whether I’d show up on time and not steal. My biggest marketable skill seemed to be speaking English better than some of his Hispanic employees. I was, that is, “well qualified.”

Before I could start, however, I had to pass a background and credit check, along with a drug test. Any of the anonymous agencies processing the checks could have vetoed my employment and I would never have known why. You don’t have any idea what might be in the reports the store receives, or what to feel about the fact that some stranger at a local store now knows your financial and criminal history, all for the chance to earn seven bucks an hour.

You also don’t know whether the drug tests were conducted properly or, as an older guy, if your high blood pressure medicine could trigger a positive response. As I learned from my co-workers later, everybody always worries about “pissing hot.” Most places that don’t pay much seem especially concerned that their workers are drug-free. I’m not sure why this is, since you can trade bonds and get through the day higher than a bird on a cloud. Nonetheless, I did what I had to in front of another person, handing him the cup. He gave me one of those universal signs of the underemployed I now recognize, a we’re-all-in-it, what’re-ya-gonna-do look, just a little upward flick of his eyes.

Now a valued member of the Bullseye team, I was told to follow another employee who had been on the job for a few weeks, do what he did, and then start doing it by myself by the end of my first shift. The work was dull but not pointless: put stuff on shelves; tell customers where stuff was; sweep up spilled stuff; repeat.

Basic Training

It turned out that doing the work was easy compared to dealing with the job. I still had to be trained for that.

You had to pay attention, but not too much. Believe it or not, that turns out to be an acquired skill, even for a former pasty government bureaucrat like me. Spend enough time in the retail minimum-wage economy and it’ll be trained into you for life, but for a newcomer, it proved a remarkably slow process. Take the initiative, get slapped down. Break a rule, be told you’re paid to follow the rules. Don’t forget who’s the boss. (It’s never you.) It all becomes who you are.

Diving straight from a salaried career back into the kiddie pool was tough. I still wanted to do a good job today, and maybe be a little better tomorrow. At first, I tried to think about how to do the simple tasks more efficiently, maybe just in a different order to save some walking back and forth. I knew I wasn’t going to be paid more, but that work ethic was still inside of me. The problem was that none of us were supposed to be trying to be good, just good enough. If you didn’t know that, you learned it fast. In the process, you felt yourself getting more and more tired each day.

Patient Zero in the New Economy

One co-worker got fired for stealing employee lunches out of the break room fridge. He apologized to us as security marched him out, saying he was just hungry and couldn’t always afford three meals. I heard that when he missed his rent payments he’d been sleeping in his car in the store parking lot. He didn’t shower much and now I knew why. Another guy, whose only task was to rodeo up stray carts in the parking lot, would entertain us after work by putting his cigarette out on his naked heel. The guys who came in to clean up the toilets got up each morning knowing that was what they would do with another of the days in their lives.

Other workers were amazingly educated. One painted in oils. One was a recent college grad who couldn’t find work and liked to argue with me about the deeper meanings in the modern fiction we’d both read.

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Economics • Tags: BookReview, Minimum Wage, TomDispatch Archives 
America's Role in the Creation of the State of Israel

The immediate precursor to today’s pro-Israel lobby began in 1939[1] under the leadership of Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, originally from Lithuania. He created the American Zionist Emergency Council (AZEC), which by 1943 had acquired a budget of half a million dollars at a time when a nickel bought a loaf of bread.[2]

In addition to this money, Zionists [adherents of “political Zionism,” a movement to create a Jewish state in Palestine] had become influential in creating a fundraising umbrella organization, the United Jewish Appeal, in 1939[3], giving them access to the organization’s gargantuan financial resources: $14 million in 1941, $150 million by 1948. This was four times more than Americans contributed to the Red Cross and was the equivalent of approximately $1.5 billion today.[4]

With its extraordinary funding, AZEC embarked on a campaign to target every sector of American society, ordering that local committees be set up in every Jewish community in the nation [for decades the larger majority of Jewish Americans had been either non-Zionits or actively anti-Zionist]. In the words of AZEC organizer Sy Kenen, it launched “a political and public relations offensive to capture the support of Congressmen, clergy, editors, professors, business and labor.”[5]

AZEC instructed activists to “make direct contact with your local Congressman or Senator“ and to go after union members, wives and parents of servicemen, and Jewish war veterans. AZEC provided activists with form letters to use and schedules of anti-Zionist lecture tours to oppose and disrupt.

A measure of its power came in 1945 when Silver disliked a British move that would be harmful to Zionists. AZEC booked Madison Square Garden, ordered advertisements, and mailed 250,000 announcements – the first day. By the second day they had organized demonstrations in 30 cities, a letter-writing campaign, and convinced 27 U.S. Senators to give speeches.[6]

Grassroots Zionist action groups were organized with more than 400 local committees under 76 state and regional branches. AZEC funded books, articles and academic studies; millions of pamphlets were distributed. There were massive petition and letter writing campaigns. AZEC targeted college presidents and deans, managing to get more than 150 to sign one petition.[7]

Rabbi Elmer Berger, executive director of the American Council for Judaism, which opposed Zionism in the 1940s and ‘50s, writes in his memoirs that there was a “ubiquitous propaganda campaign reaching just about every point of political leverage in the country.”[8]

The Zionist Organization of America bragged of the “immensity of our operations and their diversity” in its 48th Annual Report, stating, “We reach into every department of American life…”[9]

Berger and other anti-Zionist Jewish Americans tried to organize against “the deception and cynicism with which the Zionist machine operated,” but failed to obtain anywhere near their level of funding. Among other things, would-be dissenters were afraid of “the savagery of personal attacks” anti-Zionists endured.[10]

Berger writes that when he and a colleague opposed a Zionist resolution in Congress, Emanuel Celler, a New York Democrat who was to serve in Congress for almost 50 years, told them: “They ought to take you b…s out and shoot you.”[11]

When it was unclear that President Harry Truman would support Zionism, Cellar and a committee of Zionists told him that they had persuaded Dewey to support the Zionist policy and demanded that Truman also take this stand. Cellar reportedly pounded on Truman‘s table and said that if Truman did not do so, “We’ll run you out of town.[12]

Jacob Javits, another well-known senator, this time Republican, told a Zionist women’s group: “We’ll fight to death and make a Jewish State in Palestine if it’s the last thing that we do.”[13]

Richard Stevens, author of American Zionism and U.S. Foreign Policy, 1942-1947, reports that Zionists infiltrated the boards of several Jewish schools that they felt didn’t sufficiently promote the Zionist cause. When this didn’t work, Stevens writes, they would start their own pro-Zionist schools.[14]

Stevens writes that in 1943-44 the ZOA distributed over a million leaflets and pamphlets to public libraries, chaplains, community centers, educators, ministers, writers and “others who might further the Zionist cause.”[15]

Alfred Lilienthal, who had worked in the State Department, served in the U.S. Army in the Middle East from 1943-45, and became a member of the anti-Zionist American Council for Judaism, reports that Zionist monthly sales of books totaled between 3,000 and 4,000 throughout 1944-45.

Richard Stevens reports that Zionists subsidized books by non-Jewish authors that supported the Zionist agenda. They would then promote these books jointly with commercial publishers. Several of them became best sellers.[16]

Zionists manufacture Christian support

AZEC founder Silver and other Zionists played a significant role in creating Christian support for Zionism.

Secret Zionist funds, eventually reaching $150,000 in 1946, were used to revive an elitist Protestant group, the American Palestine Committee. This group had originally been founded in 1932 by Emanuel Neumann, a member of the Executive of the Zionist Organization. The objective was to organize a group of prominent (mainly non-Jewish) Americans in moral and political support of Zionism. Frankfurter was one of the main speakers at its launch.[17]

Silver‘s headquarters issued a directive saying, “In every community an American Christian Palestine Committee must be immediately organized.”[18]

Author Peter Grose reports that the Christian committee’s operations “were hardly autonomous. Zionist headquarters thought nothing of placing newspaper advertisements on the clergymen’s behalf without bothering to consult them in advance, until one of the committee’s leaders meekly asked at least for prior notice before public statements were made in their name.”[19]

AZEC formed another group among clergymen, the Christian Council on Palestine. An internal AZEC memo stated that the aim of both groups was to “crystallize the sympathy of Christian America for our cause.”[20]

By the end of World War II the Christian Council on Palestine had grown to 3,000 members and the American Palestine Committee boasted a membership of 6,500 public figures, including senators, congressmen, cabinet members, governors, state officers, mayors, jurists, clergymen, educators, writers, publishers, and civic and industrial leaders.

Historian Richard Stevens explains that Christian support was largely gained by exploiting their wish to help people in need. Steven writes that Zionists would proclaim “the tragic plight of refugees fleeing from persecution and finding no home,” thus linking the refugee problem with Palestine as allegedly the only solution.[21]

Stevens writes that the reason for this strategy was clear: “…while many Americans might not support the creation of a Jewish state, traditional American humanitarianism could be exploited in favor of the Zionist cause through the refugee problems.”[22]

Few if any of these Christian supporters had any idea that the creation of the Jewish state would entail a massive expulsion of hundreds of thousands of non-Jews, who made up the large majority of Palestine‘s population, creating a new and much longer lasting refugee problem.

(Republished from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

Why would a consummate narcissist snap a “selfie” of himself at the funeral of Nelson Mandela?

How was it that a random gesticulator—and a very cool, creative guy, if you ask me—officiated as a sign-language interpreter at the Mandela memorial?

What could possibly have driven the handshake between dictator numero uno (the uncrowned king of the killer drones) and dictator No. 2 (Raul Castro)?

These are some of the weighty—evidently inexplicable—questions with which mainstream media are currently preoccupied in their ongoing Mandela monomania.

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My homeland South-Africa is a dominant-party state where might makes right. However, due to the same malfunctioning media’s remedial revisionism, a “Rambo Nation” has been marketed to the world as the mythical “Rainbow Nation.”

To the American media, mining Mandela’s legacy has meant repeating the man’s fortune-cookie profundities and warmed-over wisdom.

RT TV, however—“Cross Talk,” in particular—has endeavored to dig deeper into the deceased leader’s legacy. The price I paid this week for smashing RT’s “Cross-Talk” set, so to speak, was this:

Despite twice providing producers with the necessary biographical details, my authorship of “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa,” chronicling “The Heart of Darkness” that is Mandela’s South Africa, was kept under-wraps. Concealed as well was my WND affiliation. (Having no make-up is plenty punishment to any woman, however, the duty to bear Christian witness trumped vanity.) The other panelists you are about to watch—Mandela hagiographers both—had their credentials, affiliations, and yet-to-be-published books advertised.

When truth is smuggled onto television, it is rationed.

Since WND has never rationed the truth, what follows is an excerpt from the book that dare not speak its name on Russia Today, much less on American Big Media.

“Mandela, Mbeki, And Mugabe Sitting In A Baobab Tree K-I-S-S-I-N-G” is the title of Chapter 4 in “Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa.” It analyzes the significance of the unqualified support Mandela and his predecessors have lent to the Zimbabwean dictator Robert Mugabe over the decades. The chapter includes a historic corrective to the glitterati-created myth that is Mandela:

THE CHE GUEVARA OF AFRICA
To some extent, Mandela’s legend has been nourished—even created—by sentimental Westerners. The measure of the man whom Oprah Winfrey and supermodel Naomi Campbell have taken to calling “Madiba”—Mandela’s African honorific; Winfrey and Campbell’s African affectation—has been determined by the soggy sentimentality of our MTV-coated culture. “Madiba’s” TV smile has won out over his political philosophy, founded as it is on energetic income redistribution in the neo-Marxist tradition, on “land reform” in the same tradition, and on ethnic animosity toward the Afrikaner.

Guru and gadfly, sage and showman, Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela is not the focus of this monograph. Boatloads of biographical stuffing can be found in the odes penned to the man. Concentrating on Mandela, moreover, in a narrative about South Africa today would be like focusing on Jimmy Carter in an account of America of 2010. Going against the trend of hagiography as we are, it must be conceded that, notwithstanding Mandela’s agreement with the “racial socialism” currently contributing to the destruction of South Africa, his present role in his country’s Zimbabwefication is more symbolic—symbolic such as his belated, tokenistic condemnation of Mugabe to an intellectually meaty crowd of “moody models, desperate divas and priapic ex-Presidents,” who convened to celebrate Nelson’s ninetieth. The focus of our attention is, then, not the aging leader but his legacy, the ANC. Or “The Scourge of the ANC,” to quote the title of the polemical essay by Dan Roodt.

The patrician Mandela certainly deserves the sobriquets heaped on him by the distinguished liberal historian Hermann Giliomee: “He had an imposing bearing and a physical presence, together with gravitas and charisma. He also had that rare, intangible quality best described by Seamus Heaney as ‘great transmission of grace.’” Undeniably and uniquely, Mandela combined “the style of a tribal chief and that of an instinctive democratic leader, accompanied by old-world courtesy.” But there’s more to Mandela than meets the proverbial eye.

Cut to the year 1992. The occasion was immortalized on YouTube in 2006. Mandela’s fist is clenched in a black power salute. Flanking him are members of the South African Communist Party, African National Congress leaders, and the ANC’s terrorist arm, the Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), which Mandela led. The sweet sounds of the MK anthem mask the ditty’s murderous words:

Go safely mkhontoMkonto we SizweWe the members of the Umkhonto have pledged ourselves to kill them—kill the whites

The catchy chorus is repeated many times and finally sealed with the responsorial, “Amandla!” (“Power”); followed by “Awethu” (“to the People”). Mandela’s genial countenance is at odds with the blood-curdling hymn he is mouthing. The “kill the whites” rallying cry still inspires enthusiasm at funerals and at political gatherings across South Africa, and has been, in practice, a soundtrack for the epic murder campaign currently being waged—however seldom it is acknowledged—against the country’s Boers. This is a side of the revered leader the world seldom sees. Or, rather, has chosen to ignore. Indeed, it appears impossible to persuade the charmed circles of the West that their idol (Mandela) had a bloodthirsty side, that his country (South Africa) is far from a political idyll, and that these facts might conceivably be important in assessing him.

(Republished from ilanamercer.com by permission of author or representative)
 
• Tags: BookReview 
A Trip Through the Negev Desert Leads to the Heart of Israel’s National Nightmare

From the podium of the U.N. General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seamlessly blended frightening details of Iranian evildoing with images of defenseless Jews “bludgeoned” and “left for dead” by anti-Semites in nineteenth century Europe. Aimed at U.S. and Iranian moves towards diplomacy and a war-weary American public, Netanyahu’s gloomy tirade threatened to cast him as a desperate, diminished figure. Though it was poorly received in the U.S., alienating even a few of his stalwart pro-Israel allies, his jeremiad served a greater purpose, deflecting attention from his country’s policies towards the group he scarcely mentioned: the Palestinians.

Back in November 1989, while serving as a junior minister in the Likud-led governing coalition of Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, a younger Netanyahu told an audience at Bar Ilan University, “Israel should have taken advantage of the suppression of demonstrations [at China’s Tiananmen Square], when the world’s attention was focused on what was happening in that country, to carry out mass expulsions among the Arabs of the Territories. However, to my regret, they did not support that policy that I proposed, and which I still propose should be implemented.”

Now the country’s top official, Netanyahu has updated the smokescreen strategy. While the prime minister ranted against Iran in New York City and in a meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office, his government was preparing to implement the Prawer Plan, a blueprint for the expulsion of 40,000 indigenous Bedouin citizens of Israel from their ancestral Negev Desert communities that promised to “concentrate” them in state-run, reservation-style townships. Authored by Netanyahu’s planning policy chief, Ehud Prawer, and passed by a majority of the members of the mainstream Israeli political parties in the Knesset, the Prawer Plan is only one element of the government’s emerging program to dominate all space and the lives of all people between the river (the Jordan) and the sea (the Mediterranean).

Expulsions in the Desert

On September 9th, I visited Umm al-Hiran, a village that the state of Israel plans to wipe off the map. Located in the northern Negev Desert, well behind the Green Line (the 1949 armistice lines that are considered the starting point for any Israeli-Palestinian negotiations) and inside the part of Israel that will be legitimized under a U.S.-brokered two-state solution, the residents of Umm al-Hiran are mobilizing to resist their forced removal.

In the living room of a dusty but impeccably tidy cinderblock home on the outskirts of the village, Hajj al-Ahmed, an aging sheikh, described to a group of colleagues from the website Mondoweiss and me the experience of the 80,000 Bedouin living in what are classified as “unrecognized” villages. The products of continuous dispossession, many of these communities are surrounded by petrochemical waste dumps and have been transformed into cancer clusters, while state campaigns of aerial crop destruction and livestock eradication have decimated their sources of subsistence.

Although residents like al-Ahmed carry Israeli citizenship, they are unable to benefit from the public services that Jews in neighboring communities receive. The roads to unrecognized villages like Umm al-Hiran are lined with electric wires, but the Bedouins are barred from connecting to the public grid. Their homes and mosques have been designated “illegal” constructions and are routinely marked for demolition. And now, their very presence on their own land has been placed in jeopardy.

Under the Prawer Plan, the people of Umm al-Hiran will be among the 40,000 Bedouins forcibly relocated to American-Indian-reservation-style towns constructed by the Israeli government. As the fastest growing group among the Palestinian citizens of Israel, the Bedouins have been designated as an existential threat to Israel’s Jewish majority. “It is not in Israel’s interest to have more Palestinians in the Negev,” said Shai Hermesh, a former member of the Knesset and director of the government’s effort to engineer a “Zionist majority” in the southern desert.

According to the website of the Or Movement, a government-linked organization overseeing Jewish settlement in the Negev, residents of the unrecognized villages will be moved to towns constructed “to concentrate the Bedouin population.” In turn, small Jews-only communities will be constructed on the remnants of the evicted Bedouin communities. They will be guaranteed handsome benefits from the Israeli government and lavish funding from private pro-Israel donors like the billionaire cosmetics fortune heir Ron Lauder. “The United States had its Manifest Destiny in the West,” Lauder has declared. “For Israel, that land is the Negev.”

When I met al-Ahmed, he described a group of 150 strangers who had suddenly appeared at the periphery of his village the previous day. From a hilltop, he said, they had surveyed the land and debated which parcels each of them would receive after the Prawer Plan was complete. Al-Ahmed called them “the Jews in the woods.”

Several hundred meters east of Umm al-Hiran lies the Yattir Forest, a vast grove in the heart of the desert planted by the para-governmental Jewish National Fund (JNF) in 1964. The JNF’s director at the time, Yosef Weitz, had headed the governmental Transfer Committee that orchestrated the final stages of Palestinian removal in 1948. For Weitz, planting forests served a dual strategic purpose: those like Yattir near the Green Line were to provide a demographic buffer between Jews and Arabs, while those planted atop destroyed Palestinian villages like Yalu, Beit Nuba, and Imwas would prevent the expelled inhabitants from returning. As he wrote in 1949, once Israel’s Jewish majority had been established through mass expulsion, “The abandoned lands will never return to their absentee [Palestinian Arab] owners.”

As darkness came to the desert, I set out with my colleagues into the piney woods of Yattir. In a small car, we wound along its unlit roads until we reached a gate bristling with barbed wire. This was the settlement-style village of Hiran — “the Jews in the woods,” as al-Ahmed had put it. We called out into the night until the gate was opened. Then we parked in the middle of a compound of trailer homes. Like a shtetl in the Pale of Settlement, the hard-bitten Imperial Russian territory once reserved for Jewish residency, the place exuded a sense of suspicion and siege.

A bearded religious nationalist stepped out of an aluminum-sided synagogue and met us at a group of picnic benches. His name was Af-Shalom and he was in his thirties. He was not, he said, permitted to speak until a representative from the Or Movement arrived. After a few uncomfortable minutes and half a cigarette, however, he began to hold forth. He sent his children, he told us, to school over the Green Line in the settlement of Susiya, just eight minutes away on an Israelis-only access road. He then added that the Bedouins were “illegals” occupying his God-given land and would continue to take it over unless they were forcibly removed. Just as Af-Shalom was hitting his stride, Moshe, a curt Or Movement representative who refused to give his last name, arrived to escort us out without a comment.

“The World’s Biggest Detention Center”

(Republished from TomDispatch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: BookReview, Israel, TomDispatch Archives 

Much of the Western world just honored the millions of soldiers fallen in the two world wars. But we also need to look beyond postwar myths and understand the tragic political mistakes that sent these soldiers to die in wars that might have been avoided.

In his powerful new book, Hitler, Churchill and the Unnecessary War, veteran politician and author Pat Buchanan challenges many historic taboos by claiming that Winston Churchill plunged Britain and its empire, including Canada, into wars whose outcome was disastrous for all concerned.

Other writers, me included, have made the same point for decades, but Buchanan has marshaled a formidable array of facts and historians to support his case.

For me, World War I was the most tragic 20th Century conflict. It was triggered by Serbia and Austro-Hungary. After Russia and France began gearing for war, Germany was dragged into the conflict by the doomsday machine of troop mobilization schedules. Britain could have halted the war, or let the continental powers fight until they came to a truce. But Churchill and his fellow imperialists determined to destroy Germany, a new rival to Britain’s wealth and power.

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World War I should have ended in 1917 when both sides were exhausted and stalemated. America’s entry into the war resulted in Germany’s defeat and ensuing postwar suffering. The German, Habsburg, and Ottoman Empires were torn apart by the lupine victors and reduced to ruin, creating today’s unstable Balkans and Mideast.

Had Germany and its allies not been defeated, had a Carthaginian Peace not been imposed upon them at Versailles and Trianon, there might never have been a Hitler, Communist Russia or World War II. Europe’s Jews may have escaped destruction.

Churchill made the fatal error in World War II of backing Poland’s hold on Danzig even though Britain could do nothing to defend Poland, Yugoslavia, or Czechoslovakia from Hitler’s attempts to reunite million of Germans stranded in these new nations by the dreadful Versailles Treaty. Britain’s declaration of war on Germany over Poland led to a general European war. After suffering 5.6 million dead, Poland ended up occupied by the Soviet Union.

Buchanan’s heretical view, and mine, is that the Western democracies should have let Hitler expand his Reich eastward until it inevitably went to war with the even more dangerous Soviet Union. Once these despotisms had exhausted themselves, the Western democracies would have been left dominating Europe. The lives of millions of Western civilians and soldiers would have been spared.

In the end, Churchill and US President Franklin were so obsessed with crushing Germany, and so seduced by “Uncle Joe” Stalin, they handed half of Europe to the Soviet Union, a far more murderous and dangerous tyranny by an order of magnitude than Hitler’s Germany. From his Soviet gulag cell, Alexander Solzhenitsyn called Roosevelt and Churchill “stupid.”

Buchanan’s book is important because we see some Western leaders making the same grave errors as in the 20th Century and idolizing the arch imperialist, Churchill. The latest example: extension of NATO to Russia’s borders. As in the case of Poland in 1939, the West cannot defend the Baltic, Ukraine or Georgia, and has no vital interests there.

Yet NATO is giving the rulers of these nations the ability to drag them into a potential nuclear war with Russia. Georgia’s idiotic little aggression this fall offers a striking example. Ukraine’s independence must be guaranteed, but it must not be transformed into a dagger pointed at Russia’s underbelly.

Have we learned nothing from the 20th Century’s apocalyptic wars? As Buchanan says, Churchill’s giveaway of Eastern Europe at Moscow and Yalta was a far graver blunder than Chamberlain’s concessions at Munich in 1938.

Buchanan’s book strips away lingering war propaganda and shows the cynicism, lust for power, and foolishness of the “saintly” Allied war leaders and their “good” war.

As Ben Franklin said, there is no good war, nor bad peace.

Eric Margolis [send him mail], contributing foreign editor for Sun National Media Canada. He is the author of War at the Top of the World and the new book, American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World. See his website.

(Republished from LewRockwell.com by permission of author or representative)
 

Stephen J. Sniegoski’s The Transparent Cabal would be the book of the year in a less manipulated society than our own. I suggest as much in my introduction; and former Congressman Paul Findley, who wrote the foreword, lavishes equally high praise on this monument to diligence. Almost as interesting as the book’s content are certain facts about it: for example, that the only publisher the author could find was the far rightwing Catholic IHS, and that political magazines, including “conservative” ones professing to be critical of our invasion of Iraq, would not touch Steve’s work with a ten-foot pole.

The question has occurred to me why the attack on AIPAC by J. J. Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt made a prodigious media splash, while Sniegoski’s study, although it is selling well, has trouble finding reviewers. As I point out in my introductory comments, Steve’s monograph revisits some of the same themes as the earlier work, and it is also better focused. Unlike Mearsheimer-Walt, this criticism of American Zionists seems consistently packed with evidence, and, unlike the earlier study, it does not engage in vapid moralizing about how nice our foreign policy would be if AIPAC buzzed off and if all the “right-wingers” took a powder.

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It is furthermore astonishing how this book has elicited such vitriol on Amazon, causing one AIPAC defender, who also admires the “wisdom” and “patriotism” of our neoconservative ruling class, to compare Steve to the Nazis. This of course is not the only opinion thus far registered about the book. His publisher has complained that Steve is excessively moderate in his comments about the American war in Iraq.

Unlike Mearsheimer and Walt, who bestride our foreign policy establishment, holding forth from University of Chicago and Harvard, Sniegoski is not an establishment player. Now over sixty and having spent his entire career in the bowels of the federal bureaucracy, as a research assistant and librarian, his career typifies the fate of paleoconservatives who are silly enough to envisage an academic career. Such people, as Steve’s life amply demonstrates, should heed Oswald Spengler’s advice (given in the 1920s) to the rising generation of young Germans, to go into engineering and commerce rather than the arts and philosophy.

Since having received at PhD in history at the University of Maryland in 1977, Steve has always had a thing for research. Over the years, he has accumulated piles of facts and quotations about those who have shaped and sold American foreign policy. For those who are dumping the review copies of his book because of his non-mainstream publisher or because of the author’s insufficiently liberal-neocon establishment credentials, I would urge them to take a second look. There is nothing cranky about his work, which has much to teach the reader.

Despite the mention of Israel in the subtitle, this book is not for the most part about the machinations of Israeli politicians. It focuses on a particular group of Zionist superhawks in the U.S., who sometimes try to anticipate the wishes of the Israeli government but who at least as often do what pleases them. That is because the neoconservatives, those members of the pro-Zionist liberal establishment who now dictate foreign policy to the GOP, are in a powerful position. The war of choice against Iraq, according to Sniegoski, was not something the neocons simply concocted after 9/11. Nor was W the only chief executive whom Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz, and the other neocon insiders had been willing to sell their war plan to. They had been planning their offensive war since the 1990s, when they concluded after the first Iraqi war that the failure of Bush the Elder to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein had left intact a grave threat to Israel. They then coordinated their plan periodically with sympathetic politicians in Israel as well as in the US, until it became possible to put it into operation in 2002.

Book Cover

The plan also goes back to the thinking that had motivated the Iran/Contra debacle in 1986, when Elliot Abrams and other neocon advisors to Reagan, using the perpetually warlike Ollie North as their pawn, had tried to provide the Iranian government with loads of arms. The thinking at the time, put forth by the AEI luminary Michael Ledeen, was that the U.S. should be leaning heavily toward the Iranians, against their Iraqi enemies. We would be following the Israelis, who had decided that Iraq, and not the Ayatollah’s Iran, was Israel’s primary enemy in the region. The arms plan also called for providing other supplies to the anti-Communist Contras, who were then fighting the Nicaraguan Sandinistas. This distribution of arms would give the complicated scheme a certain apparent merit within the context of prosecuting the Cold War. Within this covert operation, one could discover an idea that was then common to the Israeli government and the neocons, namely that since the Israelis had ceased to regard the Iranians as their chief enemies and had assigned this role to Iraq and its ruler Saddam Hussein, the U.S. should likewise support Iran against Iraq. At the time, I could not grasp what exactly were the “American security reasons” that required us to make this switch, so soon after the Iranian hostage incident had occurred and while there were still vicious, daily attacks on “American infidels” coming from the Iranian Mullahs. Sniegoski not only clarifies this move but explains how it was a preliminary stage to getting the American government to launch a full-scale attack on Iraq.

The Transparent Cabal showers its reader with a wealth of details, which are available in the footnotes as well as in his text. The book is not pleasant reading, although probably not more unpleasant to read than The Israeli Lobby in US Foreign Policy, and it is also a lot more informative. In his narrative, Sniegoski throws light on the intricacies of neoconservative relations, which even I, perhaps the world’s foremost authority on this world-historical misfortune, did not know until I read Steve’s galleys. For example, I discovered there the pivotal role played by the professor of nuclear war, Albert Wohlstetter, who prepared young neocon “foreign policy experts.” A City College of New York graduate and World War II bureaucrat who subsequently landed up teaching international relations at that Straussian redoubt the University of Chicago, Wohlstetter had Paul Wolfowitz as both a graduate student and dissertation charge. He also exerted influence on the young Richard Perle, when Wohlstetter was teaching at UCLA and when Perle was attending high school in nearby Hollywood. Perle dated Wohlstetter’s daughter but Sniegoski suggests that may have been a pretext designed to ingratiate him with the father, who was already a major Cold War liberal advisor to Democratic presidents. In Wohlstetter, Perle and Wolfowitz found someone who prefigured their own concerns: pushing Wilsonian ideals abroad, the construction of a welfare state at home, and the politics of the Israeli Right whenever and wherever they could.

(Republished from Takimag by permission of author or representative)
 

The Greek historian Plutarch bequeathed to later generations a comparative study of Greek and Roman heroes known as Parallel Lives. This book was a favorite of one of my subjects, the very recently departed Samuel Francis (1947-2005). He gave it as a gift to my younger son.

Plutarch’s masterpiece is intended to teach us about human defects and heroic virtues. The groupings include Caesar and Alexander,Theseus and Romulus, Demosthenes and Cicero, Lycurgus and Numa, and Solon and Publicola. All of the dyads culminate in sugkriseis, critical comparisons. The author, as he tells us, does “not shrink back [ouk apokneteon] from chastising as well as praising his subjects.

It is in the spirit of this ancient experiment that I am looking at two political journalists who have influenced my life: Francis and the still intermittently active William F. Buckley.

The source materials for the two are quantitatively different. Whereas Buckley has published a Literary Autobiography and has been the subject of numerous biographical studies since the 1970s, Francis is known, beside his political writings, through anecdotal information, a thumbnail sketch by Joseph Scotchie, and a few scattered eulogies.

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While Buckley in the 1950s almost single-handedly launched the postwar conservative movement, Francis ended his life as a socially marginal spokesman for a marginalized creed.

There is nothing even slightly commensurable about the attention that the literary establishment has paid to the two. Buckley has spent his life in the limelight, enjoying the accolades of the Left – despite his faux pas of having defended Senator McCarthy in the early fifties. By contrast, Francis, once a nationally acclaimed journalist, lost his media friends. He fell from a mediumly significant newspaper job, at the neoconservative Washington Times, in the nineties. Because of his unfashionably conservative opinions, he could not find a comparable position again. He ended his regrettably short life as an independent journalist—providentially aided by the institutions of the emerging paleoconservative movement and the advent of the internet.

On the moral level, it is impossible for me to treat these figures with equal sympathy. Buckley, unlike Francis, has spent the latter part of his life as a social butterfly. He has exchanged old friends for new and more useful ones. His fawning on the neoconservatives, begun in the seventies, has continued. (Undoubtedly these contacts have remained useful.) Buckley has moved dramatically to the left since the 1960s, when he was still defending Southern segregation. He has covered this up deftly, by cultivating leftist as well as neoconservative friends, and even handing over the journal that he founded in 1955, to “stand athwart history” to motley writers who in any previous age would have been seen as somewhere on the juvenile left.

Recently, his most recently handpicked editor-in-chief, Richard Lowry, [email him] praised Condoleezza Rice, for gearing her approach to international relations to the “American ideals” of the civil rights movement.

“Human dignity,’ Lowry explains, “can triumph over injustice as they did in her 1950s-era Birmingham, Ala.”

Such an understanding is not likely to shed light on the world’s geopolitical and cultural complexities.

But even more striking than the utter emptiness of this leftist piety is to encounter it in a fortnightly that on August 24, 1957 vehemently opposed to the enfranchisement of Southern Negroes. Buckley and his editorial colleagues were then concerned about the effect of a large, predictably leftist black vote on the American practice of limited government.

In the late nineties, Buckley decisively moved the magazine he controlled from expressing misgivings about immigration to silence, in obedience to the GOP leadership. Peter Brimelow and NR‘s immigration-critical editor–in-chief John O’Sullivan were eliminated to make way for xenophile editors and contributors, exemplified by Ramesh Ponnuru, John J. Miller, and Daniel Griswold.

I myself, formerly an NR contributor, had fallen through the cracks in an earlier purge, in which editors Chilton Williamson and Joe Sobran, were edged out because they were uncongenial to the new folks on Buckley’s block.

These purges corresponded to Buckley’s pontifical practice, which started in the fifties, of excommunicating conservatives who no longer suited his purpose. That purpose, however, had once been to fight international communism—as opposed to accommodating the peeves of his neoconservative eating companions.

(Republished from VDare.com by permission of author or representative)