Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘War on Terror

Endless War is Official U.S. Doctrine: And for creating jobs in military industrial complexes

The US administration is boasting that unemployment is at its lowest level since 2010 and the economy is improving drastically.

What the US is not divulging is that whatever is improving is its manufacture and export of weapons to this miserable world where almost every State is witnessing a civil war or expecting one anytime soon.

Long before Americans were introduced to the new 9/11 era super-villains called ISIS and Khorasan Islamic faction, senior Obama officials were openly and explicitly stating that America’s “war on terror,” already 12 years old, would last at least another decade.

At first, they injected these decrees only anonymously.

In late 2012, The Washington Post – disclosing the administration’s secret creation of a “disposition matrix” to decide who should be killed, imprisoned without charges, or otherwise “disposed” of – reported these remarkable facts:

Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaida continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight. . . . That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism.

In May, 2013, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on whether it should revise the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF).

A committee member asked a senior Pentagon official, Assistant Secretary Michael Sheehan, how long the war on terror would last.

His reply: “At least 10 to 20 years.” At least. 

A Pentagon spokesperson confirmed afterward “that Sheehan meant the conflict is likely to last 10 to 20 more years from today — atop the 12 years that the conflict has already lasted.”

As Spencer Ackerman put it: “Welcome to America’s Thirty Years War,” (Referring to the long war in 18th century Europe among its nations)

A war which – by the Obama administration’s own reasoning – has “no geographic limit.”

Listening to all this, Maine’s independent Sen. Angus King said:

“This is the most astounding and most astoundingly disturbing hearing that I’ve been to since I’ve been here. You guys have essentially rewritten the Constitution today.”

Former Bush DOJ lawyer Jack Goldsmith – himself an ardent advocate of broad presidential powers – was at the hearing and noted that nobody even knows against whom this endless war is being waged:

Amazingly, there is a very large question even in the Armed Services Committee about who the United States is at war against and where, and how those determinations are made.”

All of that received remarkably little attention given its obvious significance. But any doubts about whether Endless Warliterally – is official American doctrine should be permanently erased by this week’s comments from two leading Democrats, both former top national security officials in the Obama administration, one of whom is likely to be the next American president.

Leon Panetta, the long-time Democratic Party operative who served as Obama’s Defense Secretary and CIA Director, said this week of Obama’s new bombing campaign:

“I think we’re looking at kind of a 30-year war.” Only in America are new 30-year wars spoken of so casually, the way other countries speak of weather changes.

He added that the war “will have to extend beyond Islamic State to include emerging threats in Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and elsewhere.”

And elsewhere: not just a new decades-long war with no temporal limits, but no geographic ones either.

He criticized Obama – who has bombed 7 predominantly Muslim countries plus the Muslim minority in the Phillipines (almost double the number of countries Bush bombed) – for being insufficiently militaristic, despite the fact that Obama officials themselves have already instructed the public to think of The New War “in terms of years.”

Then we have Hillary Clinton (whom Panetta gushed would make a “great” president).

At an event in Ottawa yesterday, Hillary proclaimed that the fight against these “militants” will “be a long-term struggle” that should entail an “information war” as “well as an air war.”

The new war, she said, is “essential” and the U.S. shies away from fighting it “at our peril.”

Like Panetta (and most establishment Republicans), Clinton made clear in her book that virtually all of her disagreements with Obama’s foreign policy were the by-product of her view of Obama as insufficiently hawkish, militaristic and confrontational.

At this point, it is literally inconceivable to imagine the U.S. not at war.

It would be shocking if that happened in our lifetime. U.S. officials are now all but openly saying this. “Endless War” is not dramatic rhetorical license but a precise description of America’s foreign policy.

It’s not hard to see why.

A state of endless war justifies ever-increasing state power and secrecy and a further erosion of rights.

It also entails a massive transfer of public wealth to the “homeland security” and weapons industry (which the US media deceptively calls the “defense sector”).

Just yesterday, Bloomberg reported:

Led by Lockheed Martin Group (LTM), the biggest U.S. defense companies are trading at record prices as shareholders reap rewards from escalating military conflicts around the world.”

Particularly exciting is that “investors see rising sales for makers of missiles, drones and other weapons as the U.S. hits Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq”; moreover, “the U.S. also is the biggest foreign military supplier to Israel, which waged a 50-day offensive against the Hamas Islamic movement in the Gaza Strip.”

ISIS is using U.S.-made ammunition and weapons, which means U.S. weapons companies get to supply all sides of The New Endless War; can you blame investors for being so giddy?

I vividly recall how, in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s killing, Obama partisans triumphantly declared that this would finally usher in the winding down of the War on Terror.

On one superficial level, that view was understandable: it made sense if one assumes that the U.S. has been waging this war for its stated reasons and that it hopes to vanquish The Enemy and end the war.

But that is not, and never was, the purpose of the War on Terror.

It was designed from the start to be endless.

Both Bush and Obama officials have explicitly said that the war will last at least a generation. The nature of the “war,” and the theories that have accompanied it, is that it has no discernible enemy and no identifiable limits.

More significantly, this “war” fuels itself, provides its own inexhaustible purpose, as it is precisely the policies justified in the name of Stopping Terrorism that actually ensure its spread (note how Panetta said the new U.S. war would have to include Libya, presumably to fight against those empowered by the last U.S. war there just 3 years ago).

This war – in all its ever-changing permutations – thus enables an endless supply of power and profit to flow to those political and economic factions that control the government regardless of election outcomes.

And that’s all independent of the vicarious sense of joy, purpose and fulfillment which the sociopathic Washington class derives from waging risk-free wars, as Adam Smith so perfectly described in Wealth of Nations 235 years ago:

In great empires the people who live in the capital, and in the provinces remote from the scene of action, feel, many of them, scarce any inconveniency from the war; but enjoy, at their ease, the amusement of reading in the newspapers the exploits of their own fleets and armies.

To them this amusement compensates the small difference between the taxes which they pay on account of the war, and those which they had been accustomed to pay in time of peace.

They are commonly dissatisfied with the return of peace, which puts an end to their amusement, and to a thousand visionary hopes of conquest and national glory from a longer continuance of the war. 

The last thing the Washington political class and the economic elites who control it want is for this war to end.

Anyone who doubts that should just look at the express statements from these leading Democrats, who wasted no time at all seizing on the latest Bad Guys to justify literally decades more of this profiteering and war-making.

Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Indignation. Of the Righteous Kinds: militarism, liberal capitalism, institutionalized Terror…

What is the Radical Tradition of Martin Luther King Jr?

How many of your parents support the war?”

The USA is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world”.

“And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in the rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.

So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.”

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

Michael Caster posted this January 20, 2014

Revisiting Righteous Indignation

There’s a scene in Lee Daniel’s The Butler when the son of Forest Whitaker’s character is sitting in the Lorraine Motel with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., shortly before his assassination.

Dr. King asks those assembled, “How many of your parents support the war?”

All the young men gathered in the room raise their hands, and in one sentence King summarizes that his opposition to the war is because the Vietnamese do not prejudice blacks.

There is something insidious in this scene, unintentional by the director, no doubt. It is the reproduction of the simplification myth of Dr. King, the crusader of a narrowly conceptualized struggle, rather than the fiery radical that he was.

His opposition to the Vietnam War was far more complex than the one liner afforded his character in the film, but the portrayal is sadly in line with the hijacking of his comprehensive philosophy.

For King’s was a radicalist of total justice, for black, white, rich, poor, gay, lesbian, Christian, Jew, or Muslim, that bears remembering as we honor him with a federal holiday this week.

One year to the day before his assassination, on April 4th, 1967, Dr. King delivered his most critical and divisive speechBeyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.

It was an impassioned excoriation of imperialism and militarism, against the American government that King referred to as the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”

There was no ambivalence in his conviction. He had refused a first draft prepared by his close friend and legal counsel, Clarence Jones, who attempted to present multiple sides. King favored the total condemnation of war provided in Vincent Harding’s first version.

The two men agreed; their conscience left them no other choice but to speak out. King says:

It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor — both black and white — through the poverty program. There were experiments, hopes, new beginnings. Then came the buildup in Vietnam and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war.

And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in the rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube.

So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such.

Four years earlier, in a Letter from a Birmingham Jail Dr. King acknowledged that, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

He was certainly focused on combating the institutionalized terror of segregation and racism, which was the target of the direct action that found him in that Birmingham Jail on April 16th, 1963.

King concerns for justice everywhere extended beyond contemporary popular depictions that his campaigning was confined to concerns of race alone. King makes it very clear,

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we, as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.

We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society.

When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.

That same purveyor of violence abroad targeted in Beyond Vietnam, the United States, perpetrated and sponsored a great deal of violence against its own people.  And the struggle for human rights in the United States is a savage one still raging 28 years after the first Martin Luther King Jr. Day, as myriad incidents such as the killing and trial surrounding Trayvon Martin or Jena 6 illustrate.

It is not my intention to downplay the brutality of racial injustice targeted by King and others. My intention is to point out that King acknowledged that the causes of these and other injustices were inherently linked to a certain structure of oppression.

King and others targeted the totality of this violent power structure through sustained nonviolent action. It is that narrative of comprehensive resistance that has been sterilized.

In sickening episodes of appropriation, King has become a plaything in the hands of those who seek to justify their profiting from that same structure of abuse that he fought against with the bastardization of his legacy.

King’s most famous oration is his I Have a Dream speech and rightly should it be hailed for its outstanding rhetoric and the power of change it inspired. But so is “not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character” far less threatening to the established structure of power than denouncing it as the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.

The famous speech was uttered to an assembled crowd of more than 250,000 people in front of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963. With reason it is remembered as a decisive moment in the American Civil Rights Movement.

Latching onto King as the desegregator and not King the fiery radical is more comfortable for the creation of King the symbol.

Vincent Harding explained in a 2013 interview that conservatives love to take hold of the I have a Dream speech when King talks about not being judged by the color of ones skin as a way to avoid discussing race at all.

In the same interview, Harding challenges us to find ways to discover the content of one’s character. It is through critical dialogue, through nonviolent engagement, he says.

Meanwhile, as evidence of Harding’s concern, former Republican Florida representative, Allen West, wrote in an article for USA News on the 50th anniversary of that speech, that King’s dream had been derailed by liberal politics.

While Dr. King advocated evaluation on the content of one’s character, he opined, Americans had instead voted for Obama strictly based upon the color of his skin.

What is often altered through the lens of history, however, is the action at which the speech was delivered. The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom was as much about race as it was about economic inequality. (The main theme in Davos this year is social inequalities)

Its chief architects remind us of the diversity of participation and the complexity of grievances within the Civil Rights Movement.

The 1963 campaign drew its inspiration from the 1940’s desegregationist and labor rights March on Washington Movement organized by Philip Randolph, who began as a labor organizer and activist in New York in 1917, and Bayard Rustin, an openly gay former Quaker conscientious objector during World War II.

It is this confluence of interests that better encapsulates the character of King’s resistance, so callously warped by Allen West 50 years later.

There is no greater bastardization of King’s legacy than Glenn Beck’s 2010 so-called ‘Restoring Honor Rally.’ In his characteristic histrionics Beck credited divine inspiration in the timing of his political theatre set to coincide with the 47th anniversary of King’s I have a Dream speech.

Beck claimed to be picking up Martin Luther King’s dream in order to restore and finish it. But Beck’s narrative is one of resounding contradiction to everything epitomized by Martin Luther King.

A month preceding the farce, Glenn Beck spoke with King’s niece, Dr. Alveda King, who later also participated in his rally, alongside Sarah Palin and others.

Shockingly the niece embraced Beck’s subterfuge on his television program. The two, joined by then Republican congressional hopeful Stephen Broden, went so far as to cite the Biblical idea of an individual relationship with God as the justification for neo-liberal individualism, and the implicit demonization of social welfare.

The outrage is not in their personal interpretation of Biblical text but the way their discussion forced that argument into their constructed narrative of Martin Luther King. The obscenity continued when Alveda King claimed that her uncle would have approved of Beck’s message.

Not only did Beck use the platform of his rally to further his rhetoric of violence against the poor but the event was also billed to celebrate and promote the American military.

Glenn Beck is a wild supporter of American militarism and most recently attacked a LA Weekly film critic because she gave a recent war movie a bad review.

Glenn Beck is as good an antithesis to Martin Luther King as is available and because of the pomposity of his pulpit he represents an ideal lens through which to appreciate the various trends of abandoning King’s message and profaning his name to justify the very things he so fervently fought against.

And yet, popular outrage at Beck’s appropriation of King’s legacy was equally culpable in neglecting King’s fervent posture against materialism and militarism, or so the majority of mainstream criticism seemed to be.

In response to this kind of theft of the King narrative, Union Theological Seminary philosopher and preacher, Dr. Cornel West explains,

The absence of a King-worthy narrative to reinvigorate poor and working people has enabled right-wing populists to seize the moment with credible claims about government corruption and ridiculous claims about tax cuts’ stimulating growth. This right-wing threat is a catastrophic response to King’s 4 catastrophes; its agenda would lead to hellish conditions for most Americans.

Despite the issues addressed by Dr. West, it is far from merely conservatives and right-wing populists who have distorted King’s inherent radical commitment, and subdued the awesome force of his righteous indignation.

History has been contorted to shape a more consumer friendly image of Martin Luther King Jr. He is not hailed by popular commentary or honored by Obama on the federal holiday as the radical who would today be decrying the prison and military industrial complex, demanding the trial and incarceration of Wall Street executives, and sternly speaking against Obama’s continuation of Bush era disregard for human rights in the ‘war on terror’ and the ‘war on drugs,’ or the appallingly disproportionate numbers of convictions for people of color in the latter.

Where would King stand on the Tea Party’s fetishism of state’s rights?

One might recall the number of incidents necessitating federal troop intervention in Alabama, Arkansas, and elsewhere or the same rhetoric now employed by Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, or Rand Paul that echoes similar positions by “Bull” Connor or George Wallace.

How might King relate to Karl Rove, the Koch Brothers, or, as public intellectual Tavis Smiley has posed, comment on the more than a billion dollars raised between Mitt Romney and Barack Obama in the 2012 election versus the money spent on poverty reduction?

Martin Luther King gave his final speech on April 3rd, 1968 at the Mason Temple in Memphis Tennessee. What is often remembered of that last prophetic I’ve Been to the Mountaintop speech is King’s, “And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land!”

The speech is haunting in retrospect because it almost seemed as if King were prophesizing, much like Christ at the last supper, his impending assassination. But what drew King to Memphis that day is less repeated in popular retelling.

Dr. James Lawson, who like King had been baptized in the late 1950s by the nonviolent tradition of Gandhi and was a powerful figure in the movement, had encouraged Dr. King to join him in Memphis to show support at the Memphis sanitation worker strike that had begun two months earlier.

The catalyzing incident for the strike was the gruesome death of two black sanitation workers, Echol Cole and Robert Walker, crushed to death because of city rules that stated black sanitation workers were only allowed to shelter from the elements in the back of their garbage trucks.

The incident served to highlight years of gross labor violations and sparked the strike, along with boycotts, sit-ins and other acts of civil disobedience in support of the workers attempt to engage in collective bargaining for better working conditions.

This episode in Memphis was about racial discrimination but it was also about abhorrent labor rights and the exploitation of the poor.

King often reiterated the call to struggle against all forms of atrocity, violence against people of color and violence against the poor, as they are inextricably linked, and so too is war, the enemy of the poor, as Cornel West and Tavis Smiley are wont to repeat.

Or in his own words from the August 16th, 1967 Where do We go From Here, “when I say questioning the whole society, it means ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation, and the problem of war are all tied together. These are the triple evils that are interrelated.”

The day after standing in solidarity with the Memphis strikers, King was gunned down by James Earl Ray, an outspoken racist and active campaign volunteer for George Wallace’s pro-segregationist presidential campaign.

Despite the prima facie connection between Ray’s racism and the assassination, Vincent Harding is convinced that the most contributing factor to King’s murder was his vociferous condemnation of the war in Vietnam and his outspoken denouncement of American imperialism and militarism.

We do at least know that the last poll taken on King’s popularity revealed that indeed 55% of black community and 72% of Americans at large had turned against King because of his opposition to the war.

By the late 1960s, the US government, under the Johnson administration, had slowly become prepared to tolerate some of the notions of increasing racial equality and access to public space but the apex of intellectual and symbolic power, the capitalist war machine, was aghast that King would enter their world.

The structure of power was warming to the idea of tolerating King the civil rights leader and desegregationist but it was unwilling to desegregate the symbolic power to be analyzed and critiqued.

It is a segregation of thought and a demonization of those who would criticize America that still haunts whistleblowers and activists in Obama’s America today.

It was King’s sophisticated and emboldening challenge to capitalist morality and militaristic or imperialistic motives that needed to be sterilized before he could become a politically viable symbol.

In a recent piece for Salon, historian David L. Chappell outlines the history of congressional objections to the creation of an MLK federal holiday. His article serves to refute the odd conservative claims to the legacy of civil rights going back to Lincoln, because of textual similarity in the name of their party.

A few days after the assassination, Michigan Democratic congressman, John Conyers, first proposed honoring Martin Luther King Jr. with a federal holiday.

Illinois was the first state to adopt MLK Day as a state holiday in 1973. Ten years later, North Carolina senator Jesse Helms loudly objected to honoring King with a federal holiday, specifically citing King’s stance on Vietnam and his war on poverty, calling him a Marxist and Communist.

As reported at the time, Helms’ fanatical objections were crushed by a ‘scathing denunciation’ by senator Edward Kennedy and similar criticism from Republican presidential hopeful Bob Dole.

But two recent Republican presidential candidates, Ron Paul and John McCain were among those who agreed with Helms in objecting a federal holiday for MLK.

After nearly two decades of discussion and puerile character assassination, Congress eventually passed Conyers’ proposal to remember King with a federal holiday. Reagan signed the bill in 1983 and it took effect in 1986.

Shockingly not until 2000 did all 50 states recognize it as a state holiday. South Carolina was the last.

In observation of the 28th MLK day it is a moral duty to ensure that the legacy observed is honest to the content of his character. We should repeat his rhetorical question of August 16th, 1967.

In his own words, “When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalist economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society.

King broadened the target of his resistance to encapsulate the totality of an oppressive power structure, moving beyond purely race-based grievances.

The abhorrent racism prevalent in King’s America and its mutated contemporary manifestations are a byproduct of this power, but King’s speeches reveal a more diverse synthesis for resistance.

It was this unwavering challenge of the very foundations of that structure of power that needed to be sterilized, lest his posthumous words serve their intentions to mobilize. By stripping him of his radicalism, and simplifying his challenges against power to a selection of sound-bite grievances, the institutions of oppression maintained their monopoly on symbolic power and rebranded Martin Luther King into more comfortable and narrowly confined terms.

This is the alchemist disregard for truth that has attempted to warp the spirit of King’s radicalism for political expediency.

It has become a convenient platform for some to spin King’s radicalism into a de-fanged demand for racial harmony and a colorless society, where claims of reverse racism are mingled with blanket denouncements of racial violence because we live in a post-racial America.

It is a twisted appropriation of King’s words to blame the victim of abuse for continued victimization, and we see this in the surprisingly bipartisan attacks on the poor and people of color. For some, King’s Reverend status has become an argument for injecting fundamentalist evangelicalism into politics, as we noticed of Beck above.

These are the most flagrant bastardizations but what is more frustrating is the popular amnesia, the collective will to accept the sterilized form and neglect the righteous indignation that demands coordinated action in the face of all injustice.

This is not to neglect active resistance such as the Occupy movement and myriad other campaigns. However, in certain contemporary radical movements we find the negative effects of the simplification of King’s sophisticated analysis of the diversity of oppression and the need for coordinated, strategic resistance.

We can see this in the balkanization of resistance on the left, where interests vie for prominence rather than seeking consensus. A continuing frustration for those who have carried on with King, Lawson, and others’ efforts is the abandonment of strategic nonviolence, or treating King as nothing more than a symbolic tactic, for the same kind of commoditized radicalism that has made radical democratic theory or Anarchism a fashion accessory.

It is King’s righteous indignation at injustice everywhere and profound challenge to all forms of abusive power that should be reenacted in his name,  not the political pageantry of Obama’s community service.

With that radical reenactment we must respond to the question “where do we go from here?

Dr. Cornel West hazarded a response in 2011, noting that rather than a memorial King would have wanted a revolution.

Note 1: Michael Caster is a researcher and human rights advocate. He has lived and worked in five countries on four continents, focusing on nonviolent civil resistance and contentious politics. On Twitter @michaelcaster and he can be reached at mengkunc@gmail.com. Read other articles by Michael.

This article was posted on Monday, January 20th, 2014 at 5:48pm and is filed under General.

Note 2: Time for Outrage https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/time-for-outrage-indignez-vous-what-are-gene-sharp-stephane-hessel-assad-abou-khalil-adonis49/

Note 3: There is a difference between Civil Disobedience and non-violent movements https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/disobedience-is-mans-original-virtue-and-non-cooperative-movements-of-gandhi/

The US friends: the Saudis funding Mass Murder in the Middle East

Donors in Saudi Arabia have notoriously played a pivotal role in creating and maintaining Sunni jihadist groups over the past 30 years. Donors in Kuwait are as generous for these extremist factions.

But, for all the supposed determination of the United States and its allies since 9/11 to fight “the war on terror“, they have showed astonishing restraint when it comes to pressuring Saudi Arabia and the Gulf monarchies to turn off the financial tap that keeps the jihadists in business.

PATRICK COCKBURN published this Sunday 8 December 8, 2013 in The Independent:

Mass murder in the Middle East is funded by our friends the Saudis

World View: Everyone knows where al-Qa’ida gets its money, but while the violence is sectarian, the West does nothing. (In addition to Saudi Arabia donors, who else funds al Qaeda? Do governments fund al Qaeda? In which ways the CIA support al Qaeda?)

Compare two US pronouncements stressing the significance of these donations and basing their conclusions on the best intelligence available to the US government.

The first is in the 9/11 Commission Report which found that Osama bin Laden did not fund al-Qa’ida because from 1994 he had little money of his own but relied on his ties to wealthy Saudi individuals established during the Afghan war in the 1980s. Quoting, among other sources, a CIA analytic report dated 14 November 2002, the commission concluded that “al-Qa’ida appears to have relied on a core group of financial facilitators who raised money from a variety of donors and other fund-raisers primarily in the Gulf countries and particularly in Saudi Arabia”.

Seven years pass after the CIA report was written during which the US invades Iraq fighting, among others, the newly established Iraq franchise of al-Qa’ida, and becomes engaged in a bloody war in Afghanistan with the resurgent Taliban. American drones are fired at supposed al-Qa’ida-linked targets located everywhere from Waziristan in north-west Pakistan to the hill villages of Yemen.

During this time, Washington can manage no more than a few gentle reproofs to Saudi Arabia on its promotion of fanatical and sectarian Sunni militancy outside its own borders.

Evidence for this is a fascinating telegram on “terrorist finance” from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to US embassies, dated 30 December 2009 and released by WikiLeaks the following year.

Hillary Clinton says firmly that “donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide”.

Eight years after 9/11, when 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis, Mrs Clinton reiterates in the same message that “Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support for al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, LeT [Lashkar-e-Taiba in Pakistan] and other terrorist groups”.

Saudi Arabia was most important in sustaining these groups, but it was not quite alone since “al-Qa’ida and other groups continue to exploit Kuwait both as a source of funds and as a key transit point“.

Why did the US and its European allies treat Saudi Arabia with such restraint when the kingdom was so central to al-Qa’ida and other even more sectarian Sunni jihadist organisations?

An obvious explanation is that the US, Britain and others did not want to offend a close ally and that the Saudi royal family had judiciously used its money to buy its way into the international ruling class.

Unconvincing attempts were made to link Iran and Iraq to al-Qa’ida when the real culprits were in plain sight.

But there is another compelling reason why the Western powers have been so laggard in denouncing Saudi Arabia and the Sunni rulers of the Gulf for spreading bigotry and religious hate.

Al-Qa’ida members or al-Qa’ida-influenced groups have always held two very different views about who is their main opponent.

For Osama bin Laden the chief enemy was the Americans, but for the great majority of Sunni jihadists, including the al-Qa’ida franchises in Iraq and Syria, the target is the Shia.

It is the Shia who have been dying in their thousands in Iraq, Syria, Pakistan and even in countries where there are few of them to kill, such as Egypt. (Not convincing assertion: More sunnis than shia were the target of these Islamic factions, except maybe in Iraq due to car bombs)

Pakistani papers no longer pay much attention to hundreds of Shia butchered from Quetta to Lahore.

In Iraq, most of the 7,000 or more people killed this year are Shia civilians killed by the bombs of al-Qa’ida in Iraq, part of an umbrella organisation called the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil), which also encompasses Syria.

In overwhelmingly Sunni Libya, militants in the eastern town of Derna killed an Iraqi professor who admitted on video to being a Shia before being executed by his captors.

Suppose a hundredth part of this merciless onslaught had been directed against Western targets rather than against Shia Muslims, would the Americans and the British be so accommodating to the Saudis, Kuwaitis and Emiratis?

It is this that gives a sense of phoniness to boasts by the vastly expanded security bureaucracies in Washington and London about their success in combating terror justifying vast budgets for themselves and restricted civil liberties for everybody else.

All the drones in the world fired into Pashtun villages in Pakistan or their counterparts in Yemen or Somalia are not going to make much difference if the Sunni jihadists in Iraq and Syria ever decide – as Osama bin Laden did before them – that their main enemies are to be found not among the Shia but in the United States and Britain.

Instead of the fumbling amateur efforts of the shoe and underpants bombers, security services would have to face jihadist movements in Iraq, Syria and Libya fielding hundreds of bomb-makers and suicide bombers.

Only gradually this year, videos from Syria of non-Sunnis being decapitated for sectarian motives alone have begun to shake the basic indifference of the Western powers to Sunni jihadism so long as it is not directed against themselves. (The decapitated are mostly sunnis of different factions)

Saudi Arabia as a government for a long time took a back seat to Qatar in funding rebels in Syria, and it is only since this summer that they have taken over the file. They wish to marginalise the al-Qa’ida franchisees such as Isil and the al-Nusra Front while buying up and arming enough Sunni war-bands to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

The directors of Saudi policy in Syria – the Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, the head of the Saudi intelligence agency Prince Bandar bin Sultan and the Deputy Defence Minister Prince Salman bin Sultan – plan to spend billions raising a militant Sunni army some 40,000 to 50,000 strong.

Already local warlords are uniting to share in Saudi largess for which their enthusiasm is probably greater than their willingness to fight.

The Saudi initiative is partly fueled by rage in Riyadh at President Obama’s decision not to go to war with Syria after Assad used chemical weapons on 21 August.

Nothing but an all-out air attack by the US similar to that of Nato in Libya in 2011 would overthrow Assad, so the US has essentially decided he will stay for the moment.

Saudi anger has been further exacerbated by the successful US-led negotiations on an interim deal with Iran over its nuclear programme.

By stepping out of the shadows in Syria, the Saudis are probably making a mistake.

Their money will only buy them so much. The artificial unity of rebel groups with their hands out for Saudi money is not going to last. They will be discredited in the eyes of more fanatical jihadis as well as Syrians in general as pawns of Saudi and other intelligence services.

A divided opposition will be even more fragmented: Jordan may accommodate the Saudis and a multitude of foreign intelligence services, but it will not want to be the rallying point for an anti-Assad army.

The Saudi plan looks doomed from the start, though it could get a lot more Syrians killed before it fails.

Yazid Sayegh of the Carnegie Middle East Centre highlights succinctly the risks involved in the venture: “Saudi Arabia could find itself replicating its experience in Afghanistan, where it built up disparate mujahedin groups that lacked a unifying political framework. The forces were left unable to govern Kabul once they took it, paving the way for the Taliban to take over. Al-Qa’ida followed, and the blowback subsequently reached Saudi Arabia.”

Meet Joe Sacco: Comic books, journalism, and the objective ideal

Joe Sacco was best-known for his early comic, Palestine. It is an illustrated book about his experiences in the West Bank and Gaza.

Sacco’s works have also covered situations in Bosnia, Iraq, India, The Hague, the United States, Africa migrants and horrible immigration journeys….

Sacco’s pencils portray come down on the side of the oppressed and the powerless.

Ellie  Violet Bramley posted on May 11, 2013 “When NOW met Joe Sacco”

Joe Sacco
Joe Sacco
Joe Sacco
Joe Sacco
Joe Sacco
Joe Sacco

An extended piece based on NOW’s interviews with cartoonist Joe Sacco, who was in town this week as part of the Beirut chapter of the Hay Festival of Literature and the Arts.

Questions of the aptness of the medium of the comic book as a vehicle for stories with serious subjects and messages are not new. It’s not something Sacco himself ever mulled over in the beginning: “I only approach it theoretically cause people like you ask me the question,” he says without reproach. “The way I approached comic book was: I love comics, but I had a serious streak and I studied journalism. I was interested in what was going on in the world so putting those two things together was organic without really being thought out.”

Organically conceived, a new sub-genre was born: a kind of journalistic cartoon (one could perhaps look to things such as Punch, the satirical cartoons of Victorian England, for a predecessor of sorts) – aesthetically mesmerizing, emotionally grueling, but daubed with the brush of entertainment, making the gruel more palatable.

Sacco is comfortable with the word ‘entertainment’ for what others before have labeled ‘humor’: “if you want to be artistic you’ve got to realize that a lot of your readings aren’t approaching your subject in the same way as you see it. There’s an entertainment factor in comics that I like, and I’m okay with the word entertainment, ultimately you want people to keep turning the page, that’s part of the art. If you show things as bleakly as they are over and over again without getting into the human side of things, who wants to read that?”

As with any method of reportage or storytelling it has its definite strengths: “what they can do is right away bring a person, bring the reader into a situation. They open up the book and there are images of a refugee camp.”

Anyone who has read any of Sacco’s work will know that the lines, drawing refugees camps, drawing the weary faces of West Virginia miners, drawing the cold metal of the Israeli bulldozers in Rafah, or drawing the welts of Russian torture on the back of a Chechen man, form a mesh; a net for the attention of the reader.

This ensnaring is ideal for what Sacco wants to achieve: “what you are trying to do is get the reader to walk in the same streets as you,” and by extension walk with refugee communities in the winding alleys between tents, or with the people whose lives are so pervaded with poverty that they have given up fighting it, along the pot-holed roads of New Jersey.

Could comics perhaps be an antidote to the sadly inevitable fatigue of readers, daily confronted with foreign deaths and despair, and a way to reel readers back into the realm of empathy and shock?

Sacco doesn’t blame people for their fatigue: “cause it’s very unpleasant to think people are being killed over there and after a while you go from shock to oh well that’s just the situation, what can I do.”

Besides: “people have their own lives. Even in the best places in the West, the most wealthy places, people have their own problems. I think it’s hard for people to engage in any case and for good reason – people just want to live their lives. I’m sure people in Gaza want to live their lives and people in Damascus want to live their lives and Aleppo, they’d rather just live their lives. The best journalism can do is probably makes us feel like we’re all sort of on the same planet and things are connected, more so now it seems, and our nations are engaged in certain things, even indirectly, so we have to be aware what is going to be done in our name or what might be done in our name. So if you feel like you belong to a society you need to know that your society presses on other societies.”

Perhaps the western media’s commitment to worshiping at the altar of objectivity is partly to blame for this fatigue, and Sacco’s comics, with their visual and humanizing tendencies can remedy what could be seen as an empathy gap. “Perhaps. Perhaps.”

Objectivity is often debated in relation to his work. In the preface to Journalism for instance, Sacco questions: “how should we respond…when they [naysayers] question the notion that drawings can aspire to objective truth? Isn’t that – objective truth – what journalism is all about? Aren’t drawings by their very nature subjective?

Perhaps this is why Sacco is reluctant to call his work reporting. Indeed, he is also reluctant to buy into the dignified moniker, “graphic novel,” that many people lend to it; he himself sees himself as a cartoonist – he has no problem with the “under the blanket with a flashlight” connotations of that, but recognizes many do. B

y placing himself physically into much of his own work – at first as a bumbling presence in Palestine and later as the slightly more “seasoned” presence in Footnotes – Sacco is conceding subjectivity whilst claiming a refreshing kind of honesty (“I think the best a journalist can do is be honest. You can report things from a Palestinian perspective, but show exactly what you’re seeing, which doesn’t always reflect well on the Palestinians, for example, but you have to be honest.”).

At odds with the American “’you’re just a fly on the wall, so unobtrusive;” style, his is an admission that no journalist is unobtrusive and that by revealing the presence you can allow the reader to take the perspective and transformative presence of the journalist into account, making a more informed decision for themselves. Sacco puts it brilliantly: “drawing myself in it makes it clear this is from a reporter’s perspective, it’s not ‘I am the omniscient journalism deity that hovers and knows all and sees all and understand things.’”

Sacco is skeptical to the notion of objectivity. It was in fact the realization that the so-called objective reporting of the American media had given him a starkly skewed view of the Israeli-Palestinian situation that led him to the Middle East, and to writing Palestine.

His frankness on the subject is illuminating: “without paying any attention to what was going on in the Middle East, just what I was hearing in the newspapers and all that, I used to think of Palestinians as terrorists. Why was that? Because every ‘objective’ report that I was seeing was about a bus bombing or a hijacking and Palestinians and Palestinians.

Any time the word Palestinians ever came up in the media, it was in relation to an attack on the Israelis… objectively, those were attacks; objectively those things happened, but there was no context at all, so just getting the objective facts I had a very, very skewed idea of what was going on.” (Interestingly, it was the Sabra and Shatila massacres in 1982 that made him think there was much more to it that he wanted to unearth.)

Just as a photographer can take a subjective image – a Palestinian militant wielding a rocket launcher trained on Israel, for example – so too can a writer, even in a factual report, use rhetoric that is biased – all language is loaded, and so objectivity is an illusive master. A writer can easily depict a single incidence without contextualizing it.

An account of an incident unleashed from its historical chains, even if reported strictly factually, is not a full account. This is one of the issues Sacco takes up with the notion of objective reporting: “journalism often doesn’t allow for that [the context or the history], it’s just the facts and anything other than that doesn’t matter.

What happened 20 years ago, 30 years ago doesn’t matter; but it does matter, those absolutely matter and you can objectively report about one incident and then leave out the next ten.”

For Sacco, history is vital, and when the dominant power structures mobilize the rhetoric of moving on, it is because they have things it suits them to sweep under the rug.

He gives the example of the Obama administration constantly encouraging people to look forward as a way to avoid looking at the torture that the US has committed in recent times in the name of the War on Terror. But, “if you never look backward, forward is also going to look like backward,” says Sacco.

One of the strengths of cartoons is that histories – personal or national – can be probed as easily as a pen dips into an inkwell.

As Sacco describes it: “if you’ve done enough research about what the past looked like, what people were wearing, you can switch behind the past and the present in quite a fluid way.”

It is this re-engaging with the past that reminds readers in the west, used to feasting on the limited lines of news reports, about their own involvement in the seemingly distant suffering of people around the world – not only that their countries are pressing on others, but have pressed and that is why we are where we are. Where older Palestinians feel the UK has a lot to answer for, for instance, many Britons would look blank at the mention of the Balfour Declaration.

Comics find more strength in numbers – the repetition of certain images. Sacco met journalist Chris Hedges during his time in Bosnia, where the two struck up a friendship that led to a collaboration on the book Days of Destruction, Days of Revolt. The project chronicles life in the United States’ most desolate spots, ‘sacrifice zones’ – described by the cartoonist as just like post-war Bosnia “but without the minarets” – where human beings and natural resources have been used and then abandoned. Hedges talks with insight over a montage of Sacco’s images from the book here, discussing how a writer can only, for instance, describe the mud and rain pervading a scene once, where a cartoonist can depict it in multiple frames, allowing the damp to seep into the reader’s consciousness through a subtle process of osmosis.

For Sacco, this is invaluable for “building up an atmosphere…without hitting them over the head with it.” Turn at random to any page of Sacco’s gargantuan Footnotes in Gaza for instance – the book he is perhaps most proud of for both its sheer scale (it took him seven years all in) and originality of research – and you cannot fail to be swept into the illustrated scenes.

Until Days of Destruction, all of Sacco’s work had focused on problems outside the country he was living in. But for him, behavioral patterns are the same the world over: “dominant power and economic structures work in the Middle East, and dominant power and economic interests work in your own backyard.”

An interesting difference is that whilst the Palestinians Sacco depicts would likely identify themselves as oppressed, many of the Americans in the areas Sacco deals with, such as Camden New Jersey and West Virginia, would not identify themselves as such: “they’re probably so used to being fed this American exceptionalism that they probably think of themselves as failures in the system rather than that the system itself is doing them a great disservice.”

Perhaps a little fatigued from seeing the same structures impacting in the same subordinating ways on “those run over by history,” Sacco is turning his attention to human psychology. Having seen such hardship he now wants to try and get to the murky bottom of “why humans do what they do,” and so he is looking to first civilizations, Mesopotamia, archaeologists and anthropologists for answers.

This befits Sacco’s persistent focus on humanity, whilst forcing a break with his past style of working which relies on getting “as close to your subject as possible.”

For Sacco: “you can talk to all the politicians and all the generals” and you find yourself listening to “spin spin spin.” To produce good work, he believes that you must delve deeper than this. By looking to earlier civilizations, perhaps Sacco will be able to excavate further still.

Two buttocks in same pant: Democrat and Republican?

Do Democrat and Republican elites and mass media bosses cover one another back in times of “emergency”? Like mass upheaval and crimes against humanity…, in order to defend an immunity that they might one day need themselves?

This is an excerpt of  published on Nov. 1, under “America’s Elites Look Out for Each Other

“Given the clarity of this law [Article 2 of the Convention Against Torture] and its multiple reiterations, what can explain the resolve of the political and media class to ignore it?

Why do ostensibly adverse factions leap to one another’s defense even in cases of egregious criminality, with Democrats shielding Republicans, media figures demanding no transparency or accountability for political officials, self-proclaimed populist politicians devoting themselves to the protection of Wall Street?

One easy answer is that those factions are not really adversaries, at least not in any way that counts.

All their members belong to the same class — the powerful and the elite — and thus are motivated to defend an immunity that they might one day need themselves.

But the unanimous support for Bush-era war criminals is motivated by more than just shared self-interest: it has at least as much to do with shared guilt.

Bush officials did not commit their crimes by themselves. Virtually, the entire Washington establishment supported or at least enabled the lawbreaking.

Leading members of the Democratic Party were implicated in various ways.

In July 2008, the reporter Jane Mayer was asked in a Harper’s interview why there was so little push by Democrats — the “opposition party” — for investigations into Bush programs of torture, warrantless eavesdropping, and the like. She pointed out that one “complicating factor is that key members of Congress sanctioned [these activities], so many of those who might ordinarily be counted on to lead the charge are themselves compromised.”

Indeed, key congressional Democrats were contemporaneously briefed on what the Bush administration was doing, albeit often in vague and unspecific ways. The fact that they did nothing to stop the illegal plans, and often explicitly approved of them, obviously gives leading Democratic officials an incentive to block any investigations or judicial proceedings.

In December 2007, the Washington Post reported that, back in 2002, the CIA had briefed a bipartisan group of Congress people on its use of waterboarding and other torture tactics. That group included the ranking members of both the Senate and House intelligence committees: Jay Rockefeller and Nancy Pelosi.

Yet, reported the Post, “no objections were raised. Instead, at least two lawmakers in the room asked the CIA to push harder.”

Similarly, several leading Democrats, including Rockefeller and Representative Jane Harman, were told that the Bush administration was eavesdropping on Americans without warrants. Rockefeller did nothing to stop it, and Harman actually became the administration’s leading defender.

After the illegal program was revealed by the New York Times, Jane Harman publicly stated that the wiretapping was “both necessary and legal.”

Two years after reporter Eric Lichtblau coauthored the story revealing the Bush NSA program, he revealed that Harman had attempted to convince him not to write about the program on the ground that it was so vital. Appearing on MSNBC in June 2008, the law professor Jonathan Turley pointed out the logical result of this bipartisan support for the crimes.

There’s no question in my mind that there is an obvious level of collusion here. We now know that the Democratic leadership knew about the illegal surveillance program almost from its inception. Even when they were campaigning about fighting for civil liberties, they were aware of an unlawful surveillance program as well as a torture program. And ever since that came out, the Democrats have been silently trying to kill any effort to hold anyone accountable because that list could very well include some of their own members.

As Mayer put it, “Figures in both parties would find it very hard at this point to point the finger at the White House, without also implicating themselves.”

The opinion-making elites were similarly implicated. Very few media figures with any significant platform can point to anything they did or said to oppose the lawbreaking — and they know that.

Indeed, some of the nation’s most prominent “liberal commentators” vocally supported Bush’s policies.

It was Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter who became the first establishment media figure to openly advocate torturing prisoners.  Jonathan Alter, in his November 4, 2001, Newsweek column (headlined “Time to Think About Torture”), began by proclaiming that “in this autumn of anger, even a liberal can find his thoughts turning to … torture” and went on to suggest “transferring some suspects to our less squeamish allies.”

It was Alan Dershowitz who argued for the creation of “torture warrants,” proposing for cases such as the proverbial “ticking time bomb” that “judicially monitored physical measures designed to cause excruciating pain” should be made “part of our legal system.”

It was the writers of the Washington Post editorial page who hailed the Military Commissions Act — the single most repressive law enacted during the Bush era, crucial parts of which the Supreme Court ultimately struck down as unconstitutional — as a “remarkably good bill” that “balances profound and difficult interests thoughtfully and with considerable respect both for the uniqueness of the current conflict and for the American tradition of fair trials and due process.”

When it comes to media figures who cheered on Bush’s lawlessness and then self-serve demanded that there be no investigations, the Washington Post’s David Broder is a particularly illustrative case. In April 2009, he wrote a column dramatically denouncing the Bush presidency as “one of the darkest chapters of American history, when certain terrorist suspects were whisked off to secret prisons and subjected to waterboarding and other forms of painful coercion in hopes of extracting information about threats to the United States.”

Despite this acknowledgment, Broder in the same column opposed any criminal investigations of the Bush torture regime, proclaiming Obama “right to declare that there should be no prosecution of those who carried out what had been the policy of the United States government.”

Given Broder’s acknowledgment of how horrific Bush’s presidency had been, what explains his simultaneous opposition to investigations? Like most of his journalistic colleagues, the dean of the Washington press corps never sounded the alarm while this lawlessness was taking place, when it mattered. He did the opposite, repeatedly mocking those who warned of how radical and dangerous the Bush administration was.

As torture went on, David Broder continuously defended what Bush officials were doing as perfectly normal and well within the bounds of legitimate policy.

After the 2004 election, Broder dismissed those who were arguing that Bush and Cheney had succeeded in entrenching presidential lawlessness. “Checks and balances are still there,” he insisted. “The nation does not face ‘another dark age,’ unless you consider politics with all its tradeoffs and bargaining a black art.

In 2006, he derided those who warned that the “war on terror” had ushered in an era of extreme lawlessness by sarcastically proclaiming, “I’d like to assure you that Washington is calm and quiet this morning, and democracy still lives here,” and Broder denounced Bush critics “who get carried away by their own rhetoric.”

Broder’s 2009 recognition that the Bush presidency was “one of the darkest chapters of American history” came, of course, with no acknowledgment of his 2004 declaration that “the nation does not face ‘another dark age.’”

So when these media and political elites are defending Bush officials, minimizing their crimes, and arguing that no one should be held accountable, they’re actually defending themselves as well. Just as Jane Harman and Jay Rockefeller can’t possibly demand investigations for actions in which they were complicit, media stars can’t possibly condemn acts that they supported or toward which, at the very best, they turned a blissfully blind eye.

Bush officials must be exonerated, or at least have their crimes forgotten — look to the future and ignore the past, the journalists all chime in unison — so that their own involvement might also be overlooked.

In this world, it is perfectly fine to say that a president is inept or even somewhat corrupt. A titillating, tawdry sex scandal, such as the Bill Clinton brouhaha, can be fun, even desirable as a way of keeping entertainment levels high.

Such revelations are all just part of the political cycle. But to acknowledge that our highest political officials are felons (which is what people are, by definition, who break our laws) or war criminals (which is what people are, by definition, who violate the laws of war) is to threaten the system of power, and that is unthinkable.

Above all else, media figures are desperate to maintain the current power structure, as it is their role within it that provides them with prominence, wealth, and self-esteem. Their prime mandate then becomes protecting and defending Washington, which means attacking anyone who would dare suggest that the government has been criminal at its core.

The members of the political and media establishment do not join forces against the investigations and prosecutions because they believe that nothing bad was done. On the contrary, they resist accountability precisely because they know there was serious wrongdoing — and they know they bear part of the culpability for it.

The consensus mantra that the only thing that matters is to “make sure it never happens again” is simply the standard cry of every criminal desperate for escape: “I promise not to do it again if you don’t punish me this time“.

And the Beltway battle cry of “look to the future, not the past!” is what all political power systems tell their subjects to do when they want to flush their own crimes down the memory hole.

In the long run, immunity from legal accountability ensures that criminality and corruption will continue. Vesting the powerful with license to break the law guarantees high-level lawbreaking. Indeed, it encourages such behavior. One need only look at what’s happened in the United States over the last decade to see the proof.” End of the excerpt.

Note 1: With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful by Glenn Greenwald, published October 25th by Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Henry Holt and Company, LLC. Copyright © 2011 by Glenn Greenwald. All rights reserved.

Note 2: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2010/09/26/part-3-election-laws-regulations-and-procedurescan-capitalist-systems-be-reformed/


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