Letters to the editor, comments, etc (3)

A sort of blog, but without any claims to regularity - and all back-to-front

(Continued fromLetters to the editor, comments, etc (2))

 

6 October 2006.

  • Today, the valuable Power and Interest News Report, familiarly known as PINR, has published an article by Dario Christiani on Sino-Iranian relations entitled China and Iran strengthen their bilateral relationship on its website. The general thrust of the article, which to my mind well repays reading, is made clear by its leading paragraph :
    China's decision to send 1,000 soldiers to south Lebanon with the U.N.I.F.I.L. mission is the latest example of Beijing's increased involvement in the Middle East. The overall importance of the broader Middle East for China's geostrategy is growing. China is searching for new regional allies because it wants to pursue strategic aims such as gaining privileged access to crude oil reserves, finding new markets for its products and technology, and competing with the United States for supremacy in an area that is a fundamental part of the international system. Iran seems to be the best ally for such an approach, thus the strategic relationship between the two countries has increased strongly during the past few years.
    All the points raised by Mr Christiani in his article invite further and more extensive analysis, but given the spatial limitations of the form in which it is presented, I found it an excellent synopsis of the motives which impel both parties to the increasingly close relations, examples of which we see almost daily in the quality media (see, e g, the article recently published in the Asia Times on China's involvement in the development of Iran's gas and oil fields and pipeline projects). Below, in any event, the response to Mr Christiani's article I posted to StumbleUpon :

Pointing to the recent and and with regard to scale unprecedented decision on the part of the Chinese leadership to send a contingent as large as 1000 soldiers to participate in the UNIFIL mission in South Lebanon as further evidence of China's increasing involvement in Southwest and Central Asia, Dario Christiani here provides us with an, as far as I can judge, reasoned and accurate analysis of the relations now developing between Beijing and Tehran. A further plus is the dispassionate and unbiased nature of his analysis, which distinctly distinguishes it from the counterparts sometimes to be seen in the pages of journals like the New York times and the Washington Post, which, even at their best, are vitiated by direct allusions to the alleged «moral superiority» of the foreign policy manoeuvres of US administrations (given events these last few years in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is difficult to believe that journalists and/or editors really believe in these protestations of US innocence and good will, but they do seem to be necessary to establish credibility in the mainstream media, and besides, the human capacity for self-delusion when the latter ensures both prestige and income is not to be underestimated)....

8 October 2006.

  • A modified version of what seems originally to have been an interview with Professor Tanya Reinhart on the occasion of the publication of her new book The Road Map to Nowhere – Israel/Palestine since 2003[1] has been published on ZNet under the same title. What is the book about ? Professor Reinhart explains* :
    This book covers the history of the Israeli occupation of Palestine since 2003; it is framed against my previous book Israel/Palestine,[2] which covers the period between 1999 and 2002. At the opening of Israel/Palestine I wrote:

      The state of Israel was founded in 1948 following a war which the Israelis call the War of Independence, and the Palestinians call the nakba - the catastrophe. A haunted, persecuted people sought to find a shelter and a state for itself, and did so at a horrible price to another people. During the war of 1948, more than half of the Palestinian population at the time - 1,380,000 people - were driven off their homeland [78 % of Mandate PalestineMHD] by the Israeli army. Though Israel officially claimed that a majority of the refugees fled and were not expelled, it still refused to allow them to return, as a UN resolution demanded shortly after the 1948 war. Thus, the Israeli land was obtained through ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian inhabitants.

      This is not a process unfamiliar in history. Israel’s actions remain incomparable to the massive ethnic cleansing of Native Americans by the settlers and government of the United States. Had Israel stopped there, in 1948, I could probably live with it. As an Israeli, I grew up believing that this primal sin our state was founded on might be forgiven one day, because the founders’ generation was driven by the faith that this was the only way to save the Jewish people from the danger of another holocaust. But it didn’t stop there.[3]
    She goes on to examine the occupation of the remaining 22 % of Mandate Palestine (in addition to Syria's Golan Heights) subsequent to the 1967 war and the consequences this occupation has had for the now over three and one half million Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip (those who respond that the Gaza Strip is no longer occupied by the Israeli state and its military had better do their homework - these entities still hold the power of life and death over the inhabitants of this 360 km2 plot of land with more than one million inhabitants/prisoners, and this second power, at least, they do not hesitate to exercise, as the events of the last several months have clearly demonstrated). The picture Professor Reinhart paints is dark (again, remember that the book went to press before the latest Israeli atrocities) :
    In Israel/Palestine, I described the period between 2000 and 2002 as the darkest period in the history of the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories. But in the period since, under the leadership of Ariel Sharon, it became even worse. Sharon started a massive project of ethnic cleansing in the areas of the West Bank bordering Israel. His wall project robs the land from the Palestinian villages in these areas, imprisons whole towns, and leaves their residents with no means of sustenance. If the project continues, many of the 400,000 Palestinians affected by it will have to leave and seek their livelihood in the outskirts of cities in the center of the West Bank, as has already happened in the northern West Bank town of Qalqilya. The Israeli settlements were evacuated from the Gaza Strip, yet the Strip remains a big prison, completely sealed off from the outside world, nearing starvation and terrorized from land, see and air by the Israeli army.
    Despite these facts, the received wisdom in polite circles, not only in the United States but here in Europe as well, is that it is the colonised, rather than the colonisers who are the aggressors, and that while Israel wants peace, that state has no partner with whom to talk. How could this particular sleight of hand be successfully pulled off ? Professor Reinhart addresses the issue :
    How did it happen that Sharon, the most brutal, cynical, racist and manipulative leader Israel has ever had, end[ed] his political career as a legendary peace hero? The answer in this book is that Sharon has never changed. Rather, the birth of the Sharon myth reflects the present omnipotence of the propaganda system, which, to paraphrase a notion of Chomsky, has reached perfection in manufacturing consciousness.

    As has become commonplace in the recent history of the occupation, the period covered here opened with a new peace initiative – the road map. The Palestinians accepted the plan and declared a cease fire, but as we will see, while the Western world was celebrating the new era of peace, the Israeli army under Sharon intensified its policy of assassinations, maintained the daily harassment of the occupied Palestinians, and eventually declared all-out war on Hamas, killing all its first-rank military and political leaders. Later, as the Western world was once again holding its breath in an eighteen-month wait for the planned Gaza pullout, Sharon did everything possible to fail the newly elected Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, and turned down his offers of renewed negotiations.

    ...

    At the same time, what Sharon has brought to perfection was the manufacturing of consciousness, showing that war can be always marketed as the tireless pursuit of peace. He proved that Israel can imprison the Palestinians, bombard them from the air, steal their land in the West Bank, stall any chance for peace - and yet still be hailed by the Western world as the peaceful side in the Israel-Palestine conflict.
    (While not mentioned in the interview, it should here be noted that Europe's massive strategic dependence on the United States in the political, military, and economic fields readily disposes us to accept and reinforce the myths that the corporate leadership on the other side of the Pond feed to their own people. And there is always the matter of the complicity of many European peoples - not only the Germans ! - in the slaughter of European Jewry during WW II, a complicity which can be conveniently expiated at the cost of yet another people - the Palestinians - for whose fate Europe is unwilling to accept any responsibility.)

    Recommending a book which one has not read oneself is always a foolhardy leap into the unknown, but having read the interview, I should be very surprised if Professor Reinhart's tome (260 pp) will not abundantly repay the time and effort it takes to read it. This, in any event, is the brief response I posted to StumbleUpon :

In reading this interview with Professor Reinhart, it is important to remember that her book was written before the latest Israeli excursion into Lebanon, which was called a war. The present war on Palestine, part and parcel of that which has been going on since 1947, is not, however, given the title of war - at least not here in Europe, where our leaders are much too concerned to avoid embarrassing their Israeli counterparts (in the US, of course, it is the Palestinians who are waging aggressive war against the innocent Israelis, who are merely defending themselves - it would seem that in the United States geography is no longer taught in the schools, and no one is able any longer to read a map and determine who is aggressing against whom)....

*Footnotes from the original article :

    [1] An earlier version of this book appeared in French in April 2006 as L’Héritage de Sharon: Détruire la Palestine, Suite, La Fabrique, Paris.

    [2] Tanya Reinhart, Israel/Palestine –How to end the war of 1948, Seven Stories Press, New York, 2002. Expanded second edition, 2005.

    [3] Israel/Palestine, Introduction, pp.7-8.

19 October 2006.

  • Beware empires in decline, Professor Michael T Klare warns us, in a thought-provoking article published in today's Asia Times. Using the example of the egregious - and egregiously stupid - reaction of Britain and France to Egypt's decision to nationalise the Suez Canal (which he contrasts to US president Jimmy Carter's decision in 1977 to negotiate a turn over of the Panama Canal - it doesn't require much imagination to realise what Bush/Cheney would have done in this situation), Professor Klare points out the hubris which almost inevitably (with Mr Carter as an honourable exception, at least on this occasion) afflicts the decision makers of an empire on the decline :
    The decline of an empire can be a hard and painful thing for the affected imperial elites. Those who are used to commanding subservience and respect from their subjects and from lesser powers are often ill-prepared to deal with their indifference and contempt. Even harder is overcoming the long-inbred assumption that one's vassals are inferior - mentally, morally and otherwise.

    The first malady makes the declining elites extraordinarily sensitive to perceived slights or insults from their former subjects; the second often leads elites to overestimate their own capabilities and to underestimate those of their former subjects - an often fatal error. The two misjudgments often combine to produce an extreme readiness to strike back when a perceived insult coincides with a (possibly deceptive) military superiority.
    King George and his courtiers, enamoured as they are of «faith-based» reality, are not slow to perceive slights and to react to them with military action, even if or perhaps more correctly (that pesky cognitive dissonance again !), especially if they result from their own provocations (the present situation on the Korean peninsula being an excellent case in point). And, as I maintain in my posting to StumbleUpon, infra, there are other factors in addition to perceived lèse-majesté that act to impel the King George and his court in the direction of military adventure against Iran - and just possibly North Korea - in the coming two weeks. I wonder what Euripedes would have made of this drama ?...

*Ever the gentleman, Professor Klare politely refrains from pointing out another obvious factor which would tend to lead the present US administration - like its imperial predecessors but even more so - toward such desperate acts of insanity as nuclear attacks on Iran and/or North Korea : the desire to use a new and better war to force US voters to rally round the flag, thus making the manipulations that are scheduled for the upcoming Congressional elections less immediately obvious. But his main point is well taken :
So I believe that the common wisdom in Washington regarding military action against Iran is wrong. Just because American forces are bogged down in Iraq, and Rice appears to enjoy a bit more authority these days, does not mean that "realism" will prevail at the White House. I suspect that the response of declining British and French imperial elites when faced with provocative acts by a former subject power in 1956 is a far more accurate gauge of what to expect from the Bush administration today.

The impulse to strike back must be formidable. Soon, I fear, it will prove irresistible.
We are cursed with living in interesting times....

*Note that this article was first published six days ago in Foreign Policy in Focus....

22 October 2006.

  • Lifting it straight from her posting to her blog, the day before yesterday Global Review published an article by Rowena Thursby under the title The David Kelly "Dead in the Woods" PSYOP, which details the events leading up to and following Dr David Kelly's apparent «suicide» in the woods not far from his own home in July 2003. «Dr David Who ?», you ask, and try to pluck the name over the event threshold in your own personal memory hole. Well, dearly beloved, Dr Kelly was the former UNMOVIC arms inspector who had served in Iraq and later moved to the British Ministry of Defence (the Brits have not yet begun to spell the last word with an «s» instead of a «c» as in the United States, an act of disloyalty which may in the end cost them dear) and was thought perhaps to have played a role in then-BBC journalist Andrew Gilligan's debunking of Mr Blair's egregious claim of Iraqi readiness to rain weapons of mass destruction down on the head of innocent Brits on 45 minutes notice. Strike a chord ? «Aha», you say, «wasn't he he over-worked, exhausted, and suicide-prone ?» How very convenient those suicidal tendencies turned out to be for those who had a trail leading up to the US-British attack on Iraq which would not bear scrutiny ! Ms Thursby obviously believes that there is more here than has been allowed to meet the eye - below my response in a posting to StumbleUpon :

Tempus fugit, and who now remembers Dr David Kelly and his «suicide» in July 2003, which forensically seemed a bit dodgy - loss of blood through slashing of the left wrist inadequate to explain death, movement of the body after death, etc - and the commission of inquiry headed by Brian Hutton with more than a mild taint of whitewash about it ? It seems, however, that Rowena Thursby of the Kelly Investigation Group has not forgotten, and, interested in the «Reality behind appearances» as she is, she has obviously devoted considerable resources to an investigation of the matter, the results of which she has been publishing since this August on her dedicated blog. This cautionary tale, of the type that dead men like Dr Kelly are not prone to tell, has now found its way to Global Research. Draw your own conclusions as to the validity of the official version of how Dr Kelly met his end - for my part, I contend that Denmark is hardly the only state in which rotten things are to be found at the highest level....

30 October 2006.

  • *Gregory Elich's analysis of the present US administration's policy toward North Korea was published yesterday on Global Research's website. To my mind, the title of the Global Research article, Why Bush is seeking confrontation with North Korea is somewhat misleading ; rather than analysing the motives behind this policy - something I attempt to deal with in my own review of the article in my posting to StumbleUpon, infra, wherein, however, I do not touch upon the little-remarked but not unimportant fact that the US administration is here trying to effect regime change not only in North Korea, but in South Korea as well, by ensuring the failure of the Roh government's «Sunshine Policy» towards the North - Mr Elich analyses in great detail the steps by which this disastrous policy is in the process of being implemented). He details how, after a statement of principles on nuclear disarmament was signed between the US and North Korea at the six-party talks on 19 September 2005, the U.S. immediately violated one of the agreement's main points :
    Although the U.S. was required under the agreement to begin normalizing relations with North Korea, on literally the very next day it announced the imposition of sanctions on North Korean accounts held in the Macao-based Banco Delta Asia, allegedly because they were being used to circulate counterfeit currency. The Bush Administration, however, viewed its signature on the agreement as only a tactical delay. During negotiations it had firmly rejected the statement, and was brought around only when the Chinese delegation warned that it would announce that the U.S. was to blame were the six-party talks to collapse.
    Moreover, which may well come as a surprise to readers who rely mainly upon mainstream media for their information on the crisis, Mr Elich shows that no evidence for this accusation has been presented, while much evidence indicates that this may be a psyop run by US agencies themselves :
    German counterfeit expert Klaus Bender believes that since U.S. currency is printed on specially made paper in Massachusetts, using ink based on a secret chemical formula, “it is unimaginable” that anyone other than Americans “could come by these materials.” The printing machines that North Korea obtained three decades ago, Bender says, are “outdated and not able to produce the USD supernote, a high tech product.” He strongly implied that the CIA could be the source of the counterfeit currency as it “runs a secret printing facility equipped with the sophisticated technology which is required for the production of the notes.” That the CIA has the capacity to print money does not prove that it has done so. It would, however, have a motive, and the source has not been traced. Wherever the counterfeit supernotes came from, the Bush Administration was ardently using the issue as a pretext to take action against North Korea. Despite that, Bender reports, “the opinion of experts” is that the U.S. allegation against North Korea “is not tenable.” (1)
    The consequences for North Korea's foreign trade were drastic and immediate :
    >The measures taken against Banco Delta Asia deprived North Korea of a major access point to foreign exchange, and served also as a mechanism for magnifying the effect of sanctions. By blacklisting Banco Delta Asia, the U.S. caused other financial institutions to curtail dealings with the bank, until it was forced to sever relations with North Korea. The campaign soon took on global significance. The U.S. Treasury Department sent warning letters to banks around the world, resulting in a worldwide wave of banks shutting down North Korean accounts. Fearing U.S. retaliation, banks felt it prudent to close North Korean accounts rather than risk being blacklisted and driven out of business. U.S. Treasury Under Secretary Stuart Levey observed that sanctions and U.S. threats had put “huge pressure” on the DPRK, leading to a “snowballing…avalanche effect.” U.S. actions were meant to undermine any prospect of a peaceful settlement. From now on, a senior Bush Administration official revealed, the strategy would be: “Squeeze them, but keep the negotiations going.” But talks, the official continued, would serve as nothing more than a means for accepting North Korea’s capitulation. A second U.S. official described the goal of talks as a “surrender mechanism.” Indeed, even before the signing of the September 19 agreement, the U.S. had already decided “to move toward more confrontational measures,” claims a former Bush Administration official. (4)

    As general manager of Daedong Credit Bank, a majority foreign-owned joint venture bank operating in Pyongyang and primarily serving importers, Nigel Cowie was in a position to witness the effect of the Treasury Department’s letters. “We have heard from foreign customers conducting legitimate business here, who have been told by their bankers overseas to stop receiving remittances from the DPRK, otherwise their accounts will be closed.” To illustrate the lengths to which U.S. officials were prepared to go, Cowie described an operation that involved his own firm, from which, he said, “you can draw your own conclusions.” An account was opened with a Mongolian bank. Arrangements were made for legal cash transactions. But when the Daedong Credit Bank’s couriers arrived in Mongolia, they were detained by Mongolian intelligence officials, and their money confiscated. Accusations were made that the couriers were transporting counterfeit currency from North Korea. A leak to the news media from an unidentified source led to reports charging that “North Korean diplomats” had been arrested for smuggling counterfeit currency. After two weeks, the Mongolian “intelligence officials in a meeting with us finally conceded that all the notes were genuine; the cash was released.” In the final meeting, Mongolian intelligence officials “appeared rather embarrassed that they had been given incorrect information.” It requires little imagination to guess the source of that incorrect information. (5)

    ...

    Concerned over the direction events were heading, Selig Harrison, director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Policy, visited the DPRK and reported on what he saw. “I found instances in North Korea authenticated by foreign businessmen and foreign embassies in which legitimate imports of industrial equipment for light industries making consumer goods have been blocked. The North Koreans understandably see this as a regime change policy designed to bring about the collapse of their regime through economic pressure.” Harrison said the message he heard from North Korean officials was essentially, “We want the U.S. to show us it is ready to move toward normal relations in accordance with the September 19 agreement. If the U.S. won’t lift all of the financial sanctions, all at once, then it should show us in other ways that it has got its act together and is giving up the regime change policy.” (8)
    The consequences this policy had upon the talks, which ostensibly deal with the denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula, are not hard to guess :
    North Korean officials were understandably miffed at the Bush Administration’s immediate violation of the September 19 agreement on principles. As the U.S. continued to tighten the screws, North Korea announced that it would not return to the six-party talks until the U.S. honored the agreement it had signed. Sanctions would have to be lifted. At a minimum, dialogue should take place on resolving any questions surrounding the accusation of counterfeiting. U.S. officials said the sanctions were not up for discussion, and demanded North Korea’s return to the six-party talks. The image presented to the American public was of North Korean obdurate behavior and refusal to negotiate. Unmentioned was how the Bush Administration had deliberately torpedoed the talks.

    South Korean President Roh Moo-Hyun visited Washington in September 2006, asking for the U.S. investigation into Banco Delta Asia to be brought to a speedy conclusion. Roh said it was also important that the U.S. refrain from imposing further sanctions since such actions made the resumption of six-party talks impossible. (9) Predictably, his requests were rebuffed. Instead, the U.S. State Department allocated $1 million to three radio stations to broadcast hostile programs into the DPRK. (10) “I think our sanctions have had real impact,” Stuart Levey claimed in a speech before the American Enterprise Institute just one month before the DPRK’s nuclear test, “but the real goal, I think, is to see a real change in North Korea. So we are not satisfied with what has happened so far.” (11)

    Any hope for a resumption of the six-party talks had vanished. The Bush Administration wanted regime change in North Korea and could be expected to increase tensions. The North Koreans had earned a reputation for their proclivity for responding in kind: by negotiating when approached diplomatically, and with toughness when threatened. North Korea decided to proceed with a nuclear test so as to discourage any thoughts in Washington of military action. A statement was issued by the DPRK Foreign Ministry, in which it was said that the U.S. was trying to “internationalize the sanctions and blockade against the DPRK.” A nuclear test would be a countermeasure “to defend the sovereignty of the country” against the Bush Administration’s “hostile actions.” (12)
    As a brief analysis of how one particular thread in the tangled web of US foreign policy has been woven, Mr Elich's article must be one of the very best I have seen. Global Research is to be thanked for its publication. One can only wish - in vain, of course - that all those who can overcome the difficulties placed in their way and who succeed in voting in the up-coming US Congressional elections could read it. Below, in any event, my response in a posting to StumbleUpon :

Since WW II - and during the last six years in particular - US foreign policy has been, at least in its more public manifestations, predicated upon demonisation, i e, the denomination of an object which is claimed to embody all the world's Evil, against which the Forces of Light - led, of course, by the United States, with rear support from God - are engaged in an eschatological struggle, which, it is said, should mainly be carried out by military means. The appeal of this strategy to certain elements in the United States who view the world in Manichaean terms is obvious, but the government of that country, despite a subservient media, has not always been able to implement it in the real world. After its experience in Indochina, the US government found it necessary to introduce certain real-world constraints on its policies ; military adventures were limited to opponents whose prospects of defending themselves were minimal - remember how Ronald Reagan defended «freedom» by attacking Grenada and Panama ? At the same time the US began a rearmament programme which has led to a military budget which exceeds that of the rest of the world combined. Thus encouraged, the United States was able to attack Iraq, weakened by eight years of internecine war with Iran (in which the US helped both sides), then that major Balkan power, Jugoslavia, then that Central Asian hegemone, Afghanistan, and finally (?) Iraq, now further weakened by 12 years of sanctions under the aegis of the UNO, again. Now, as if to celebrate its success in bringing «democracy» to Afghanistan and Iraq, the court of King George has turned its eye toward North Korea, that constant thorn in the side of US policy makers (who have never allowed the 1953 armistice to be replaced by a peace treaty). No adventures here either : as the North Korean state has shown itself both willing and able to defend itself, an immediate military attack does not seem to be in the cards ; rather sanctions, designed on the Iraqi model to weaken the country by strangling its trade to the point where its ability to resist a military invasion - with or without the participation of Korea's former colonial master, Japan - no longer constitutes a problem, are to be applied first, and only thereafter will that appeal to arms for which the chicken hawks have so great a predilection be made. Gregory Elich here provides us with a detailed and well-documented account of this latest episode of Imperial smoke and mirrors....

*Here the notes accompanying the those portions of Mr Elich's article reproduced in my review :
1. “Sharply Increased US Sanctions are Based on the USD Supernote Accusation against North Korea. But Counterfeit Experts Say the Accusation is Baseless,” European Business Association (European Chamber of Commerce in Pyongyang), April 2006. “An der ‘Supernote’ Stimmt Fast Alles,” Associated Press, April 19, 2006.

4. Christian Caryl, “Pocketbook Policing,” Newsweek, April 10-17, 2006. Joel Brinkley, “U.S. Squeezes North Korea’s Money Flow,” New York Times, March 10, 2006.

5. Nigel Cowie, “US Financial Allegations – What They Mean,” Nautilus Institute, May 4, 2006.

8. Selig S. Harrison, “N.K. Nuclear Test Depends on U.S.,” Hankyoreh (Seoul), October 2, 2006.

11. “U.S. Not Yet Satisfied with Impact of N.K. Sanctions: Levey,” Yonhap (Seoul), September 9, 2006.

12. “DPRK Foreign Ministry Clarifies Stand on New Measure to Bolster War Deterrent,” KCNA (Pyongyang), October 3, 2006.

31 October 2006.

  • In a recent commentary on ZNet entitled The Liberals Answer Tony Judt’s “Useful Idiots” Charge, Professor Edward S Herman performs an incisive analysis on the Weltanschauung of the so-called «liberals», two of whom, Bruce Ackerman and Todd Gitlin, in an article article in the journal American Prospect (which, with the modesty typical of this breed of «liberals» refers to itself as an «authoritative magazine of liberal ideas, committed to a just society, an enriched democracy, and effective liberal politics» - the watchword here is, of course, the adjective «effective») attempt to parry Tony Judt's recent criticism of their ignoble roles in promoting the current crusades to which King George have given the name (among many others in the search to find one that goes home) «the War on Terrorism». Professor Herman, of course, takes his criticism of these «liberals» further then Mr Judt was able or willing to do, and backs it up, as usual, with telling documentation. His article is brief and as an innoculation against the establishment platitudes to be found on the OpEd pages of, say, the New York Times, a must read ; here I confine myself to citing the last paragraph :
    In short, an imperial and militarized state will use its military power relentlessly, and the feedback effects of this chronic warfare are inevitably going to entail encroachments on domestic freedom. But A-G [i e, Ackerman and GitlinMHD] can’t confront this deeper relationship and challenge militarism and the imperial state. They adapt to it, and in the process “liberal principles” are compromised and thrust aside, and the liberals do in fact serve as the imperial state’s “useful idiots.”
    Here below is the response I posted to StumbleUpon :

There are, of course, «liberals» and «liberals» ; the former group reasonably loyal to a set of universal principles which, while tending to neglect the (to my mind) obvious base of certain political, economic, and social problems in capitalistic forms of alienation and exploitation, do attempt to ameliorate these problems, uphold human rights (not merely abroad as a fig leaf for imperialist aggression, but even in their own countries), and combat militarism. The latter, whom we might call «establishment liberals», however, are not universalists but particularists in the service of (their) Empire ; they tend to criticise their mirror twins, the neo-conservatives, not from the point of view of principle but rather that of efficiency and competence ; their objection to, e g, the US/UK war on Iraq and Afghanistan is not that it was and is illegal and unprincipled, but that it has been poorly run. These people have been immensely successful as apologists for the US empire, which they have managed to portray as a giant who, bumbling at times and rather unsophisticated (how pleasing to the self-esteem of members of this group to feel themselves more «sophisticated» than those responsible for US policy !) and who by virtue of his size sometimes demolishes a few vases in the porcelain shop that is the world (for some reason, these metaphors never quite recreate the horror of being blown apart by a bomb dropped from an F-16, or being tortured by CIA operatives or their foreign clients), always means well and is deeply dedicated to «human rights» and «democracy», unlike his «Axis of Evil» foes....

Professor Herman's reply to the reply of certain «liberals» of this latter persuasion to an article by Tony Judt in a recent issue of the London Review of Books, dissects the fallacious and self-interested reasoning which these last-named bring to market (where, of course, it fetches a good price, as such apologetics tend to do). A must read !...

4 November 2006.

  • Yesterday, the Asian Times took the unusual step for this journal of publishing a leader (editorial) entitled Iraq: Bush has a plan, and it's working, the object of which seems to be to counter that self-serving commonplace of mass media spin (not merely in the US, but here in Europe as well), which maintains that the motives of US foreign policy are basically benevolent, but that implementation, as in all human endeavours, can sometimes leave something to be desired - the «bumbling benevolent giant» view of US foreign policy. To the editors of the A-Times, the wellsprings of US policy in Iraq have little to do with the pure water of democracy, but with another and more viscous liquid :
    A strategy of fomenting chaos makes perfect sense in a twisted sort of way: a stable, autonomous Iraq means oil will be pumped, bringing down international crude prices, and that's the last thing the Bush administration's backers want. Who are the administration's backers, and who has a hotline to the presidency, via Vice President Dick Cheney? Big Oil.
    «Consider», the paper asks its readers, «these well-known facts»:
  • Cheney was formerly chief executive officer of oil-services company Halliburton, which, incidentally, was found by a 2003 Pentagon audit to have overcharged the US government by US$61 million for delivering gasoline to Iraq.

  • Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sat on Chevron's board of directors from 1991 to 2001, and Chevron named an oil tanker after her.

  • James A Baker III, secretary of state for Bush's father and now "fixer" for the Bush family, has been appointed co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, charged with advising Bush Jr on future Iraq policy. His law firm, Baker Botts, was ranked by Who's Who Legal last year as "Global Oil and Gas Law Firm of the Year". His clients include the royal family of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries kingpin Saudi Arabia.

  • Bush himself was a Texas oilman, though not a very successful one. Ever heard of Bush's company, Arbusto? Probably not. Arbusto was going busto before it eventually ended up in the hands of Harken Energy in 1986. Harken gave Bush a seat on the board, some stock options and a $120,000 consulting contract. The energy industry pumped $2.8 million into Bush's 2000 campaign.
  • As the A-Times points out, these facts are «well-known», and should come as a surprise to no one whose knowledge of US politics is not limited to Fox News or newspaper headlines. But aside from the obvious economic benefits to the «decider» and his courtiers of US policy in Iraq, which has been less than «benevolent» to those Iraqis who made up the over half a million «excess deaths» which more than three years of warfare have brought to their country, there are other considerations, both foreign and domestic, which, in my judgement, certainly played vital roles in the decision to pursue an illegal and unnecessary war. Below, my response to the leader, in a letter to the A-Times (which, nota bene, has a new address for such correspondence - writeto@atimes.com) - which I took the liberty of copying to StumbleUpon :

To the editor :

Whether or not the present plan, which the A-Times leader describes in some detail, is Plan A or Plan B, the fact of the matter is that those who determine US policy profit from it immensely, not only economically, as there pointed out, but also politically, as the war - and in particular the «failure» in the war - «justifies» ever more extensive limitations on the liberties of not only foreigners (who as «enemy combatants» have «no rights which the white man was bound to respect»), but also to citizens of the United States itself. The right of habeas corpus is no longer a given, and the vast domestic prison industry - a «growth industry» whose staying power makes IT development look like a bubble and which incarcerates nearly one per cent of the US population - is shadowed by a secret chain of foreign detention centres, in which, presumably (we are not allowed to know), private enterprise plays, as it does at home, an ever more important role. Admittedly, the Bush regime has not succeeded in bring democracy to Iraq, but it must be recognised that has done a brilliant job of exporting it from the United States. All this, not to mention the benefit to the Imperial power (a k a the «Unitary Executive») of a classic divide et impera strategy which, in dividing not Gallia but Mesopotamia in partes tres, removes a hinder to the rule of the chosen regional satrap, Israel, and makes possible a move against the one remaining obstacle to total dominance, Iran....

5 November 2006.

  • Under the timely title The 2006 U.S. Midterms: Another Stolen Election?, Michael Keefer, professor of English at the University of Guelph, has published on Global Research's valuable website what he himself calls «a very selective list of recent books, articles and documentary films which assess and analyze the evidence of flagrant Republican breaches of the most fundamental principles of democracy, together with the prospects for a repetition and extension of these fraudulent practices in the 2006 and subsequent elections». He divides the items into three categories : «Critical Studies», including «exemplary work by Steven Freeman (the book he co-authored with Joel Bleifuss is, in my opinion, the single most important of these studies), as well as work by other major contributors to an emerging understanding of the theft of the 2004 election», films «including one by the prize-winning director Dorothy Fadiman, which bring together documentary footage and illuminating interviews with election analysts», and, a «short list of items anticipating Republican fraud in the midterm election offers a representative cross-section of current concerns—including evidence of further massive purges of voters’ lists, and evidence from unimpeachable sources that the touch-screen machines manufactured by two of the major suppliers of voting machines, Diebold and Sequoia, have been designed to facilitate electoral fraud». I leave it to readers to judge for themselves whether they find the documentation listed by Professor Keefer (16 items in the first category, 7 in the second, and 12 in the third) convincing. For my Swedish readers, let me point out that my subjective impression is that, unlike the situation (hitherto) obtaining here, voting procedures in the United States seem designed to make voting in elections as cumbersome and difficult as possible, in particular for certain categories of voters. Thus, to take one example of many, US elections take place on a ordinary working day, with predictable effects upon voting rates in neighbourhoods with few polling places, where people can be forced to stand in line for hours to cast their ballets. That such conditions prevail in poorer districts seems more a matter of «Intelligent Design», than the result of random processes. But I have not made a scientific study of this matter, so my views, as noted above, can only be characterised as subjective. Their nature, at any rate, should be abundantly clear to any classically educated person who reads my brief response to Professor Keefer's article, as posted to StumbleUpon :

Who can predict the future ? Surprises can always occur, but our best guide to the future remains our experience of the past. In this particular case, as Quintus Horatius Flaccus put it in translating Aisopos' fable of the lion and the fox into his elegant Latin : «Vestigia terrent»....

  • Seldom do I find myself disturbed by articles I read in the press or online, but I must confess that I found Elizabeth de la Vega's article on Ricky Clousing, Move Over G.I. Joe and Han Solo : Sgt. Ricky Clousing, Peace Action Hero, published a few days ago on Tom Engelhardt's Tom Dispatch, deeply disturbing. To summarise, Mr Clousing is a 24 year-old man who, after joining the US military after the 11 September 2001 attacks and undergoing intensive language training found himself posted to Iraq as an interrogator. On patrol there he experienced an event, hardly uncommon, which seems to have marked his young life indelibly :
    Ricky was on patrol when he saw a boy, "probably 18 years old, a small maybe high-school age kid" turn down a road his unit was attempting to secure. The teenager, Ricky said, was quite visibly terrified at the sight of "a whole bunch of Americans with big weapons" staring him in the face. He started turning the car around, but didn't get very far. This is how Ricky described what happened next:

      One of the soldiers in the turret of the humvee behind me just opened up fire on the machine gun on the vehicle. As the vehicle was turning away, all I heard above my head was "pop, pop, pop, pop." This was my first deployment, my first combat experience was that moment right then, and just the sound of machine guns going off over my head. He popped about five or six rounds in the side of the vehicle. Myself and two of the other guys ran over to the vehicle, smashed the window, and pulled the guy out to provide first aid on him… I was looking down at this kid who had just been shot in the stomach for no reason really -- he was trying to leave…I was still just standing there in shock, looking down at this kid, and he looked right up at me. And his mouth was foaming. His stomach was falling out in his hands… I was looking down at this kid, this young boy who was just trying to drive around town and took a wrong turn and tried to go the other direction, was shot at and killed, and I'm looking down at him now. And we made eye contact for about five seconds, and he just looked at me with the most empty, terrified look in his face that will never leave me in my whole life I'm sure.

    That Iraqi boy died on the way to the hospital. I think the boy in Ricky Clousing died that day as well, but what an extraordinary man he has since become. Deciding he would be haunted forever if he kept silent about such an egregious violation of the rules of engagement, Sgt. Clousing notified the unit's Platoon Sergeant, who did not "take kindly" to his advice.
    Further attempts to take up the matter with his superiors led to his being variously advised to effect a discharge from the US army by saying he was gay, or claiming he was suffering from PTSD, or filing as a conscientious objector, none of which, he felt applied to him, or at least avoid another tour in Iraq by serving in the US. But neither was that an acceptable alternative :
    I felt that my involvement in the army, whether it be directly or indirectly, whether in Iraq or training guys to go to Iraq, I was still that piece of machine in the system that was still allowing this war to take place and still supporting that. My actions, whether or not they were on the front line or back safely at home, were still part of the body of the machine that's occupying [Iraq]. So I ultimately felt that the only thing I could do was to leave, so I packed my stuff last June and I went AWOLI felt that my involvement in the army, whether it be directly or indirectly, whether in Iraq or training guys to go to Iraq, I was still that piece of machine in the system that was still allowing this war to take place and still supporting that. My actions, whether or not they were on the front line or back safely at home, were still part of the body of the machine that's occupying [Iraq]. So I ultimately felt that the only thing I could do was to leave, so I packed my stuff last June and I went AWOL.
    Mr Clousing turned himself in on 11 August 2006 and is currently serving a three-month sentence in a military brig. Why I was so disturbed by this article and what this particular incident has to say about the nature of war and civil courage in our times I leave to the reader to decide, but this is the letter (with one minor modification) I sent to Tom Englehardt (and posted to StumbleUpon) after reading Ms de la Vega's article :

What the hell, Tom ! I was beginning to become, if not comfortable with, at least inured to the cynicism and misanthropy, in particular with respect to your country, which recent events have contributed so richly to calling forth and maintaining in my mental life. Now you, Ms de la Vega, and in particular, Ricky Clousing, bust it all up and show that there do exist alternatives to cynicism and misanthropy, even if they do not seem to be so popular. For some reason this just makes the whole thing worse - the fact that alternatives to «le meilleur monde possible» as defined by Bush/Cheney and their ilk do exist makes the coming catastrophe all the harder to view with equanimity....

Henri

6 November 2006.

  • Given my obvious shortcomings as a theologian (and the difficulties of adducing evidence on the matter), I am reluctant to pontificate upon the adequacy of the view attributed to the 3rd century religious reformer, known to us only by his title Mani, of the universe as the transitory result of an attack from the realm of darkness on the realm of light, created by the Living Spirit, an emanation of the light realm, out of the mixture of light and darkness. But as a guide to human affairs, views which postulate a dichotomy between an Axis of Good on the one side, and one of Evil on the other, are bound to lead us astray, no matter on which side of the divide we happen to find ourselves. As always, and not least in our times, this Manichaean view of human conflict is promoted mainly by those who have most to hide themselves ; thus a certain George W Bush has felt it incumbent upon himself to pronounce upon what he (or rather his speechwriter) has dubbed the «Axis of Evil». One of the charter members of this so-called «axis» is North Korea, a country almost totally destroyed by a US-led war from 1950 - 1953 and with which the latter power has been unwilling to conclude a treaty of peace, despite the passage of more than half a century. Recently, this country, under constant threat of military attack by a superpower whose nuclear arsenal includes tens of thousands of weapons and whose military budget is greater than that of the rest of the world combined, had the temerity to conduct a test of what it claimed was a nuclear weapon. All the Chicken Littles of the world, both the sincere who are concerned with the real threats to our existence, and the less sincere, who are very selective concerning which threats they allow to exercise them, threw their hands into the air, crying that the world had become a much more insecure place and that the United Nations Organisation(yes, indeed, I kid you not - indeed, His Excellency John Bolton, whose dislike of and contempt for the organisation were his primary qualifications for his appointment as US ambassador to it, led the choir), must do something about this disgusting breach of etiquette. I briefly addressed this anomaly on this page in a review, supra, of Gregory Elich's Global Research article last week ; the publication of Tim Beal's carefully documented North Korea's Nuclear Test—Bush's Godchild? in the latest number of Japan Focus has provided me with the occasion to return to the matter in a posting to StumbleUpon, which I take the liberty of reproducing, infra. Japan Focus is to be thanked for publishing this article detailing one particular aspect of US foreign policy under the reign of King George on the eve of the US 2006 mid-term elections; would that that portion of the US electorate which is allowed by the guardians of order to cast a ballot would read it before doing so ! But alas, I fear the Living Spirit has not yet progressed that far....

Readers who have forced their way through my review last week of Gregory Elich's Why Bush is seeking confrontation with North Korea are aware that, despite assiduous efforts towards this end, I find it difficult to share the Manichaean view of the world with USA in the role of Light and North Korea in that of Darkness that for the obvious reasons is de rigeur when discussing why the former is allowed to possess thousands of nuclear warheads and a military doctrine which insists on the «right» to first use and «pre-emptive war», while the latter is excoriated for perhaps possessing as many as five warheads and a doctrine which permits their use only if the country is under attack. Alas, Tim Beal's carefully researched Japan Focus article does nothing to reduce my skepticism in this respect - quite the contrary. As Mr Beal, Senior Lecturer at Victoria University in Wellington, points out,
... Since it is a small country targeted by the world's superpower, which, though hemorrhaging and perhaps in relative decline, still possesses such formidable political, economic and military power that no country, or international civil servant for that matter, dares openly speak up, even if they so desired. Politicians have hastened to express moral outrage even if, and perhaps especially if, they come from countries which have many nuclear weapons and have conducted tests. Journalists have been having a field day, many delighting in the opportunity to write lurid stories unencumbered by the need to check facts and qualify opinions. Under the circumstances, it is more necessary than ever before to keep a clear head and try to disentangle fact from fantasy, to unearth what has been going on, and what is likely to happen.
The only thing I should like to add to Mr Elich's and Mr Beal's analyses is that the present US policy vis-a-vis North Korea does not, it should be noted, aim at regime change only in that country, but also, and not least, in South Korea, where one of the most important US policy objectives is to discredit the Kim/Roh «Sunshine Policy» towards the North and bring the country back to the state of a loyal US vassal it found itself in before Kim Daejung's election to the presidency in December 1997. To the United States, North Korea is undoubtedly far more important as a tool for keeping South Korea under its thumb than it is in its own right....

18 November 2006.

  • This week a series of meetings have been taking place in Vietnam's capital Ha Noi under the auspices of an organisation known as APEC, an acronym for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. Reports from the meeting of the heads of state of the 21 states that are members of this forum indicate that most of the talk taking place there concerns another state, both Asian and Pacific, but whose voice is not allowed to be heard in the forum. Ironically, the recent history of that state, North Korea, resembles to a great degree that of the state, Vietnam, hosting the forum this year, in that both of these states were subjected to a colonial war on the part of a United States that intended to gather all the remnants of the Japanese empire that collapsed in 1945 in its own far-flung empire. The results of these two wars were disappointing to the leadership of the United States - the first ended in 1953 with a divided Korean peninsula, the second in 1975 with a unified Vietnam. But for reasons which would require far more space to analyse than that available here, successive US administrations have found the first defeat even more difficult to accept than the second, which has lead to the fact that even today, more than 53 years after the armistice ending major hostilities in Korea was signed in 1953, a peace treaty finally bringing the war to a formal end is yet to be concluded between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Korea. (Readers with good memories might here observe that a peace treaty between Russia and Japan formally ending the hostilities of WW II has never been signed, despite the passage of more than 60 years, but all must agree that relations between these two countries proceed on a far different basis from that which governs those obtaining between the US and the DPRK.) Given the total success in the case of North Korea that the extreme demonisation of opponents so characteristic of US psychological warfare has enjoyed, Stephen Gowans' article reviewing the history of the conflict, published first on his blog What's Left under the title Understanding North Korea, and republished by Global Research in an article with the same title, provides a necessary antidote to the «common [lack of] knowledge» concerning that state and its history. But as the Chinese saying goes, 良药苦口, and I fear that many of my readers will find it extremely difficult to swallow the bitter pill of this knowledge, no matter how salubrious its effects would be upon their view of the world. Here below, in any event, the response I posted to StumbleUpon after reading Mr Gowans' article :

What do you know about North Korea - aside from, of course, that it is the very epitome of inhumanity and repression, the linchpin that holds the «Axis of Evil» in place ? You've learned - unfortunately, somewhat post festum - to be suspicious of the US administration's picture of the situation in Iraq or Afghanistan, and you realise that the image of Vietnam propagated by another US administration as an excuse to make war on that country and that region, with approximately three million premature deaths as a result, was false. But when King George and his loyal courtiers - loyal to whom and to what, it might be asked, but alas, all too often is not - present their view of North Korea, it remains almost completely unchallenged. Who remembers that the US war in Korea was, just like the war in Vietnam which started at the same time (1945, under French auspices) but which was, unlike that in Korea which ended - at least for the time being - in 1953, to continue for another three decades), part of an attempt to pick up the pieces of the erstwhile Japanese empire that WW II had brought to an end and incorporate them in a new, larger US empire ? Stephen Gowans, a Canadian writer and activist, is to be commended for publishing this brief but well-researched review of Korean history from 1945 on his blog, and Global Research for bringing it to the attention of a wider readership....

25 November 2006.

  • Yesterday, Information Clearing House published an article entitled Syria is a convenient fallguy for Gemayel’s death in which Jonathan Cook took the liberty of calling attention to what should be the obvious fact that none of the journalists, including himself, who pontificate on the recent assassination of the Phalangist politician and Minister of Industry in the Lebanese coalition government, Pierre Gemayel, know for a fact who it was that lay behind the Mafia-style murder (unless they maintain unusually close connexions with the perpetrators). Unlike many of his colleagues, however, Mr Cook does not claim to know who performed the deed, but he does offer a «few impolite thoughts» regarding who benefits from it. He points out that neither Syria nor Hezbollah (nor the Lebanese people, of course) stand to gain from the situation resulting from the assassination, which nudges Lebanon further to the brink of civil war (here, I cannot help but reflect over the fact that the US «intervention» has resulted in something that certainly resembles a civil war. There are those, of course, who claim that this is an unforeseen and undesired consequence of the invasion ; there are also those who believe in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy). Which states then, do stand to gain from the assassination and its aftermath ? Mr Cook is not coy about indicating a possible answer :
    Conversely, civil war may pose serious threats to Syrian interests -- and offer significant benefits to Israel. If Hizbullah’s energies are seriously depleted in a civil war, Israel may be in a much better position to attack Lebanon again. Almost everyone in Israel is agreed that the Israeli army is itching to settle the score with Hizbullah in another round of fighting. This way it may get the next war it wants on much better terms; or Israel may be able to fight a proxy war against Hizbullah by aiding the Shiite group’s opponents. Certainly one of the main goals of Israel’s bombing campaign over the summer, when much of Lebanon’s infrastructure was destroyed, appeared to be to provoke such a civil war. It was widely reported at the time that Israel’s generals hoped that the devastation would provoke the Christian, Sunni and Druze communities to rise up against Hizbullah.
    The Litani River remains, no doubt, a major (if not the ultimate) strategic goal for Israeli expansionism ; a civil war in Lebanon could, perhaps be perceived by its strategists as providing yet another opportunity to attain that for which the Israeli state has been straining but never quite achieved (despite a 20-year occupation of southern Lebanon) during the whole of its 60 years of existence. In any event, Mr Cook's voice is one to which we should be wise to listen ; below the response I posted to the International Clearing House thread and to StumbleUpon, upon reading his article :

Somehow, I doubt that we shall be given the opportunity to read Jonathan Cook any time soon in the New York Times, for example, or the Washington Post, or, for that matter, in the Independent or the Guardian. But we very much need to hear more from him, and of his carefully reasoned, dispassionate analyses of the latest spin on the latest atrocity taking place in Southwest Asia. We are thus all indebted to Information Clearing House for publishing Mr Cook's work....