by Chris Floyd
How did Tony Blair react to his American partner's humiliation at the polls last week? By racheting up the "War on Terror" to new heights of fear and division, with panic-mongering speeches, more draconian security measures â€“ and a shocking "blood libel" against British Muslims. (This is my latest piece for Truthout.org.)
I. The Waters Ran Red
They say the fountain in London's Trafalgar Square turned the color of blood on Armistice Day last weekend, as Britons in their hundreds of thousands trudged out in the November gloom to comm emorate the end of the First World War, and lament the dead in all the wars thereafter.
But the turning of the water was no miracle, no divine judgment on the leader whose fateful partnership with George W. Bush is producing â€“ week after week, month after month, year after year â€“ fresh cause for future mourning. The color came from the thousands of fake poppies tossed into the fountain in what The Observer called "a spontaneous act of remembrance": an offering of the ubiquitous charity emblems worn by most of the population in the week leading up to the memorials.
In any case, Tony Blair never saw the vision of blood in the Square; he was in Hyde Park, with the Queen and other worthies, conducting formal ceremonies where no free action or unscripted word from the public was allowed to intrude. These offices of the dead were a fitting end to a week which saw Blair and his ministers launch a massive new fearmongering campaign, promising a "generation" of terror, war and tyrannical security measures in a "long and deep struggle" against his own nation's Muslim minority.
The American media establishment has launched a major offensive against the option of withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq.
In the latest media assault, right-wing outfits like Fox News and the Wall Street Journal editorial page are secondary. The heaviest firepower is now coming from the most valuable square inches of media real estate in the USA -- the front page of the New York Times.
The present situation is grimly instructive for anyone who might wonder how the Vietnam War could continue for years while opinion polls showed that most Americans were against it. Now, in the wake of midterm elections widely seen as a rebuke to the Iraq war, powerful media institutions are feverishly spinning against a pullout of U.S. troops.
Under the headline â€œGet Out of Iraq Now? Not So Fast, Experts Say,â€ the Nov. 15 front page of the New York Times prominently featured a â€œMilitary Analysisâ€ by Michael Gordon. The piece reported that -- while some congressional Democrats are saying withdrawal of U.S. troops â€œshould begin within four to six monthsâ€ -- â€œthis argument is being challenged by a number of military officers, experts and former generals, including some who have been among the most vehement critics of the Bush administrationâ€™s Iraq policies.â€
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Until the notorious federal penitentiary was closed in 1963, Alcatraz Island was a place most folks tried to leave.On November 20, 1969, the island's image underwent a rather drastic makeover. That was the day thousands of American Indians refused to leave thus beginning an occupation that would last until June 11, 1971.
The 1973 armed occupation of Wounded Knee along with the siege at the Pine Ridge Reservation one year later (which led directly to the incarceration of the still imprisoned Leonard Peltier) are etched deeper in the public consciousness in terms of recent Indian history, but is was the Alcatraz Island occupation that ushered in a brave new era of Native American activism.
"The occupiers," writes Ben Winton in the Fall 1999 issue of Native Peoples magazine, "were an unlikely mix of Indian college activists, families with children fresh off reservations and urban dwellers disenchanted with what they called the U.S. government's economic, social and political neglect."
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It looked unstoppable. In 2004, the draft EU Constitution contained a little noticed provision for a citizen's petition where a million signatures would force the EU commission to take action.
My colleague Gisela Stuart, MP for Edgbaston, and I were excited by the potential for the first such petition to have great symbolic importance and generate significant political momentum.
We couldn't think of a better target for Europe's first citizen's petition than to tackle the devastation caused by HIV/ AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa which has created over ten million orphans already. Tackling this terrible pandemic is one of the most urgent moral imperatives facing the world. Five billion euros a year would fund generic anti-retroviral drugs and support for the millions of people in Africa living with AIDS. The funding would help end a human catastrophe -- what the World Bank has called a development crisis.
We thought that this money could be found most easily and fairly by reforming one of the key reasons for public scepticism about the EU. Of all the idiocies I came across as a government minister, the most glaringly unforgivable was the Common Agricultural Policy. This European boondoggle puts Â£8 a week on the food bill of the average family of four in Britain, but because poorer families spend a higher proportion of their budgets on food, it costs them proportionately more. And the World Bank estimates such agricultural protection costs poor countries around Â£40 billion a year by shutting them out of rich country markets, when food is often the only thing they can produce competitively to sell! And it doesn't even help the European farmers most in need of help. Although it gobbles up nearly half of the EU budget, around a quarter of it goes to the 2% richest farmers.
(That's right. You read that correctly. 2% OF EUROPE'S RICHEST FARMERS GET OVER 10 BILLION EUROS A YEAR IN HAND-OUTS FROM TAXPAYERS.)Add a comment
by Chris Floyd
As Washington waits with bated bipartisan breath to unwrap the shiny Christmas present known as "the recommendations of the Iraq Study Group," it becomes more and more obvious that the newly empowered Democrats are walking into a trap.
But it's not an artful contrivance prepared for their demise by the infinitely devious Karl Rove -- the "political genius" who, since his appearance on the national stage, has managed to lose two elections (2000 and 2004) and eke out very narrow, dubious victories in two others. (And it wasn't Rove who cheated Bush into office in 2000, so that doesn't count even as a technical KO for him. The post-election coup d'etat was directed by Bush family fixer James Baker -- now chairman of the, er, Iraq Study Group.)
No, the trap awaiting the Democrats has been laid by reality itself. As so often noted here before, there is no good solution to the blood-puking hell that George W. Bush has wrought in Iraq. There is no path out of this killing field that won't involve more slaughter, more suffering, more hate, more grief. No "bipartisan panel" â€“ certainly not one led by the lifelong peddler of Bush Family snake oil, Jim Baker, and the Democratic whitewasher for all seasons, Lee Hamilton â€“ is going to find some new, unlooked-for way to untangle this knotted gut. They can only sift through the same reality that we all can see. The options are extremely limited, and all of them have ugly consequences.
Writer and documentary-maker Edward Cox gives a mostly excellent analysis of the situation in a recent Guardian article, Same as it Ever Was. (He is, I think, off base in a brief look at the 2008 presidential election, but this is a minor point in a penetrating takedown of the wildly unrealistic expectations rising around the "Baker Commission.") Very briefly, the main choices break down this way:
"During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act".
"I don't want to be part of your revolution if I can't dance."
Rumsfeld is gone. Mehlman is gone. Delay is gone. Yet -- let's not have our progressives' version of a strutting on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier moment. Because mission has not been accomplished.
For those who haven't noticed: While we were busy with other concerns, many of our rights and liberties went missing. Moreover, along with them, have went or are going fast: our planet's polar ice caps; accountability of the corporate sector (our nation's true power brokers); as well as, a sense of place, history, and even a cursory understanding, among a large percent of the populace of the US, of the precepts of civilization and of democratic discourse.
These circumstances, like the melting of the polar ice caps, have transpired, incrementally, and have been going on for longer than that Reign of Terror in Tiny Town known as the Bush presidency. For example, regarding the increasingly authoritarian terrain we negotiate our way through daily: In American work places, bosses routinely snoop into underlings' personal e-mails and monitor our web-surfing practices. How did it come about that so many Americans have grown to accept such demeaning intrusions into our privacy? Add a comment
Of Incorrigible Transgressors, Tacit Complicity, and Lady Justiceâ€™s Conspicuous Absence
â€œThe illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.â€
---Henry Kissinger, New York Times, October 28, 1973
Baghdadâ€™s kangaroo court has issued a verdict that virtually guarantees that Saddam Hussein will launch his journey into the hereafter from the platform of a gallows. Convicted of â€œrevenge killings of 148 people, deportation of 400, and razing of orchards,â€ (1), and still facing a charge of genocide that resulted in the deaths of 180,000 Kurds, Hussein is undoubtedly a malevolent individual.
by Dave Lindorff
Forget all the talk about civility and compromise.
It's clear that President Bush and his aiders and abettors in the Congress are going to do their damndest to cover their tracks over the next few weeks, using their "lame duck" majorities in House and Senate to pass legislation, while they still can, protecting them as much as possible from future investigation and retaliation.
Bush clearly wants a bill granting him retroactive immunity for his crime of violating the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act--probably the surest path to his impeachment in a growing list of some dozen crimes against law and Constitution. He may push other actions insulating himself and his cohorts from future prosecution too, as he already did just before the election in ramming through a bill immunizing him against prosecution for authorizing torture.
While the Democrats won't have a majority in either branch of Congress until early January, when newly elected Democrats are sworn in and replace some 30 Republican members of the House and six members of the Senate, they have plenty of members already in place to perform a blocking action--particularly in the Senate, where the Democrats can fillibuster to death any bill they want by just keeping 40 of their 45 caucus members together.
There was no shortage of opportunists present as they broke ground the other day for the $100 million Martin Luther King memorial in Washington, DC. Charlatans from Oprah to Hilfiger lined up in the hope a little of Dr. King's integrity might rub off on them. But the most out of place speaker was, of course, President George W. Bush, who told the crowd, "our journey to justice is not complete. There are still people in our society who hurt, neighborhoods that are too poor ... there's still prejudice that holds citizens back." That whirring noise heard in the background...well, you know the rest.
As Dubya spoke about "the promise of America," I had to wonder what he'd think of the Dr. King who said: "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom ... Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men." Surely, today's America would have an orange jumpsuit all ready for the MLK that believed, "The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be" and "When you are right, you cannot be too radical."
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by Walter Brasch
The ressignation of Donald Rumsfeld doesn't change the problem of a President who is incompetent and malevolent, nor is it likely to bring about a significant change in the Iraq policy.
The forced resignation of Donald Rumsfeld the day after the midterm elections says as much about the Secretary of Defense as it does about the President of the United States.
Almost seven months before the elections, six retired generals, including two who commanded divisions in Iraq, called for Rumsfeldâ€™s resignation. In response, President Bush said that Rumsfeld was â€œdoing a fine job.â€
Two months before the midterm elections, Josh Bolten, the Presidentâ€™s chief of staff, told the Democratic leadership, who had demanded Rumsfeldâ€™s resignation, â€œWe strongly disagree.â€ By the Presidentâ€™s direction, he told the opposition party that Rumsfeld â€œis an honorable and able public servant [who] retains the full confidence of the President.â€
One week before the midterm elections, President Bush said that Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney â€œare doing fantastic jobs and I strongly support them.â€ Lying through his ever-present smirk, he said he planned to keep Rumsfeld until the end of his term; with Cheney, a constitutionally-elected politician, he had no choice. The only comment the President hadnâ€™t made the previous few weeks was, â€œRummy, youâ€™re doing a heckuva job.â€
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by Shepherd Bliss
The Democratic Party prevailed in the Nov. 7 midterm elections. "Weâ€™ve just moved out of a straightjacket," a friend commented. Many celebrated. But after that, lets think carefully about the larger picture of the current state of the American Empire. Signs exists that its power is declining. Little in the post-election coverage has considered this issue.
"Defeat is not an option," Bush again insisted in his press conference the day after his resounding defeat, referring to the Iraq War. Yet it is precisely defeat in Iraq that stares him in the face, as even many American generals have admitted. This defeat is not just in Iraq, not just of the Republican Party, not just of Bush, and not just on Nov. 7. It plunges deeper into the Empire itself. On Nov. 8 Bush once again attempted to mount his Victory horse, though with a changed tone of less arrogance.
Bush and company seemed amazingly conciliatory toward the Democrats in the first few days after their stunning defeat. But letâ€™s not trust them. They are surely conniving and remain poised to attack when ready. Elections can open up the space for change, but deeper changes result from not only celebrations but also from vigilance and continuing campaigns for liberty. Letâ€™s not be lulled into complacency.s." Add a comment
by Mike Whitney
Donald Rumsfeld never really understood the war he was fighting in Iraq. Thatâ€™s why the results have been so terrible. He liked to say that â€œthe war in Iraq is a test of willsâ€, but that just showsthat he had no idea what he was doing and was in way over his head.
War shouldnâ€™t be personalized; that just makes it a battle of egoswhich inevitably clouds oneâ€™s judgment. War is a means of using organized violence to achieve political objectives. Period. Rumsfeld never really grasped that point, so it was impossible for him to prevail. His statement just shows the shortsightedness of a man who is incapable of thinking politically and therefore wasn't able to appreciate the larger strategic goals.
For people like Rumsfeld, violence and deception are the natural corollaries of their distorted views; they become an end in themselves. That is not only tragic, but it also ensures failure. According to the recently released Lancet report, over 650,000 Iraqis have been killed in the conflict so far. This proves that Rumsfeld didnâ€™t know what he was doing so he simply ratcheted up the violence to conceal his ignorance. He had no plan for occupation, reconstruction, security, or victory. The whole thing was a sham predicated on his unflagging belief in over-whelming force. The outcome was not only predictable; it was predicted! Now, the country in a shambles, the society is irretrievably ripped apart, and the entire project is in ruins.
In his parting statement, Rumsfeld reiterated his belief that we are facing a â€œnew kind of enemyâ€ in a â€œnew kind of warâ€. But this is just more buck-passing from a guy who wouldnâ€™t listen to his subordinates and was thoroughly convinced of his own genius. Anyone who has seen the pictures from Abu Ghraib and Falluja are already familiar with Rumsfeldâ€™s genius and his insatiable appetite for violence. They also know that, to great extent, he is fully responsible for the unspeakable tragedy that is currently unfolding in Iraq.
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