Revolution is in the Air: 5/10/13: Noam Chomsky: “The U.S. and Its Allies Will Do Anything to Prevent Democracy in the Arab World”

INDEX (stories follow)

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Friday, Day 167

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell

EVENTS
IMPERIALISM IN WORD & DEED
HISTORY & ANALYSIS

Headlines for May 13, 2011

The WikiLeaks News & Views Blog for Friday, Day 167

from The Nation Blogs: Media Fix by Greg Mitchell
EVENTS

Deaths in the Arab uprisings

“2000 Deaths in Libya/Population 6.4 mil 1: 3,200
36 Deaths in Bahrain/Population 791,473 1: 21,972
812 Deaths in Syria/Population 21 mil 1: 25,862
223 Deaths in Tunisia/Population 10.4 mil 1: 46,636
846 Deaths in Egypt/Population 83 mil 1: 98,108
140 Deaths in Yeman/Population 23.8 mil 1: 170,000” (thanks Nicholas)

Report: Gaddafi wounded in NATO air strike

Capture him, send him to The Hague and try him for crimes against humanity, but this is ridiculous. He may be a revolting human being who ordered the killing of innocent civilians, but we need to return to the old days when we tried criminals in court rather than the battlefield. Why do some hate our system so much?

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has likely been wounded in western airstrikes and has probably left Tripoli, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said Friday.

A Libyan government spokesman immediately denied that Gaddafi had been harmed.

Frattini told reporters that he believed what he had been told by Giovanni Innocenzo Martinelli, the Catholic bishop in Tripoli, that Gaddafi had probably left Tripoli and had probably even been wounded by NATO airstrikes.

Al Jazeera Journalist Dorothy Parvaz Remains Missing After Being Detained in Syria, Then Deported to Iran

Al Jazeera English reporter Dorothy Parvaz, an American-Canadian-Iranian citizen, was detained in Syria on April 29 when she arrived to cover the ongoing unrest. She has not been seen since. On Wednesday, Al Jazeera reported she had been deported to Iran, although there has been no direct contact with her. The Committee to Protect Journalists is calling for her immediate release from Iranian authorities. We are joined by Kim Barker, the sister of Parvaz’s fiancé, Todd Barker, who introduced the couple. She has known Parvaz for 12 years, having met as colleagues at the Seattle Times. Kim Barker is now a ProPublica reporter who has reported from Pakistan and Afghanistan. “Dorothy is an amazing journalist. She is an amazing human being,” Kim Barker says. [includes rush transcript]

“Friday of Decisiveness in Yemen”: Tens of Thousands Protest as President Saleh Defiantly Rejects Demands to Resign

Tens of thousands of Yemenis have taken to the streets today for what organizers have called the “Friday of Decisiveness,” days after Yemeni forces opened fire on demonstrators. The death toll from weeks of protests has surpassed 160. The violence comes as Qatar has pulled out of international talks on a deal that would see Saleh voluntarily resign. We are joined on the phone by Iona Craig, a Times of Londoncorrespondent based in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a. [includes rush transcript]

Women Protest, Mourn in Liberated Misrata as UK Pledges Aid

from Informed Comment by Juan
Chairman of the Transitional National Council based in Benghazi, Mustafa Abdel Jalil, met Thursday in London with British Prime Minister David Cameron. Abdel Jalil said that the recent defense of the port of Misrata from deadly attacks by Qaddafi brigades was made possible by the arrival of light arms at the port, with which the Free Libya forces equipped themselves. Britain is reluctant to arm the rebels with heavier weaponry (perhaps remembering that this step was taken in Afghanistan and that it did not end well). Cameron did pledge more civilian aid, however, and reaffirmed that the Transitional National Council is the legitimate government of Libya:

Popout

In Misrata itself, Canadian and other NATO patrol ships chased away pro-Qaddafi launches that were trying to shell the harbor area. Free Libya forces fought on two fronts on Thursday, pushing west toward the capital of Tripoli from Misrata, and pushing northwest from the western oil town of Ajdabiya toward Brega (al-Burayqa).

Women in Misrata staged rallies celebrating the liberation of their city from Qaddafi and commemorating the over 1000 dead from indiscriminate shelling and sniping carried out by Qaddafi’s forces, according the Voice of Free Libya in Misrata (transcript for May 12, 2011 translated by the USG Open Source Center from VFL).

‘ At 0900 GMT, the Al-Murabitun (“Fighters”) program included coverage of a march by Misratah’s women in solidarity with mothers and families of “martyrs.” The radio interviewed mothers who had lost sons. It also interviewed several women who said “this tyrant has killed women and children, and men” and that Misratah would maintain its resistance and would fight “to the last drop of blood.”

A woman called Fatma urged the world’s people to “stand with Libyans and urge them not to listen to the lying state media.” She added that “this is a revolution for freedom.” One girl, speaking English, said: “To the world I say, we are not Al-Qa’ida or Muslim Brotherhood, we are just Libyan people and we want freedom, we want Al-Qadhafi to get out now and forever.”

Later, the radio carried an “appeal to members of security brigades” which included the following: “You are youths who definitely have families and tribes that care for you, so why are you committing these crimes on the orders of this oppressive tyrant? Why are you insisting on following orders and committing massacres? We don’t want to kill you. We are calling on you to reject the orders of your leaders. Do the right thing before it is too late. There is no war between you and us. Our war is against the crazy tyrant who does not know what to do anymore. Think again and stop killing innocent people. If you stop following their orders, we give you full guarantees of security and safety.”

A presenter called on Libyans in all liberated cities to continue protesting to call for their rights and to show gratitude to the countries that had shown solidarity with the Libyan people, and to condemn those countries that were just standing by and watching. ‘

TNC member Mahmoud Jibril is interviewed by CNN’s Wolf Blitzer about his mission to Washington DC:

Bahrain

““One person who claimed to have seen him said he was at that point unrecognizable as a result of apparent beatings in detention,” the statement said.  Two other detainees entered court limping on Sunday, the rights group said.  “When the defendants asked to speak about the abuse they allegedly experienced in detention, security forces forcibly removed them from court,” the statement said.  Bahrain is a party to the United Nations’ International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which prohibits torture, and its leaders have ratified the U.N. Convention Against Torture.”
As’ad Abukhalil

Wholly false?

“”Doctors are disappearing as part of a systematic attack on medical staff,” according to a report released last week by U.S.-based Physicians for Human Rights. The organization said the “excessive force” against healthcare workers and patients, including some who it says were tortured, was “extremely troubling and is cause for an immediate investigation.”  The government denied the accusations, calling them “wholly false…”We can’t modernize unless the Saudis let us. But the big guy [Saudi Arabia] is too conservative,” she said. “The U.S. doesn’t want to get involved. It doesn’t want to make Saudi Arabia angry. The cash, the oil — the U.S. needs itall.”“”
As’ad Abukhalil

FYI: Every Thirty Minutes – Farmer Suicides in India

from Raj Patel by Raj

1 person liked this
A new report, showcasing P. Sainath’s excellent work on India’s rural holocaust, published by the New York University Law School, is available here.

“Every 30 Minutes”: Crushed by Debt and Neoliberal Reforms, Indian Farmers Commit Suicide at Staggering Rate

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)
4 people liked this
A quarter of a million Indian farmers have committed suicide in the last 16 years—an average of one suicide every 30 minutes. The crisis has ballooned with economic liberalization that has removed agricultural subsidies and opened Indian agriculture to the global market. Small farmers are often trapped in a cycle of insurmountable debt, leading many to take their lives out of sheer desperation. We speak with Smita Narula of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at New York University Law School, co-author of a new report on farmer suicides in India. [includes rush transcript]

IMPERIALISM IN WORD & DEED

Noam Chomsky: My Reaction to Osama bin Laden’s Death

May 6, 2011We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.

By Noam Chomsky

It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them. In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.” In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it “believed” that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany. What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn’t know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence—which, as we soon learned, Washington didn’t have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.”

Nothing serious has been provided since. There is much talk of bin Laden’s “confession,” but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.

There is also much media discussion of Washington’s anger that Pakistan didn’t turn over bin Laden, though surely elements of the military and security forces were aware of his presence in Abbottabad. Less is said about Pakistani anger that the U.S. invaded their territory to carry out a political assassination. Anti-American fervor is already very high in Pakistan, and these events are likely to exacerbate it. The decision to dump the body at sea is already, predictably, provoking both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.

It’s like naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk… It’s as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy.”

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.

There’s more to say about [Cuban airline bomber Orlando] Bosch, who just died peacefully in Florida, including reference to the “Bush doctrine” that societies that harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves and should be treated accordingly. No one seemed to notice that Bush was calling for invasion and destruction of the U.S. and murder of its criminal president.

Same with the name, Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so profound, throughout western society, that no one can perceive that they are glorifying bin Laden by identifying him with courageous resistance against genocidal invaders. It’s like naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk… It’s as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy.”There is much more to say, but even the most obvious and elementary facts should provide us with a good deal to think about.

Copyright 2011 Noam Chomsky
________________________________________________________________________

Noam Chomsky is Institute Professor emeritus in the MIT Department of Linguistics and Philosophy. He is the author of numerous best-selling political works. His latest books are a new edition of Power and TerrorThe Essential Chomsky (edited by Anthony Arnove), a collection of his writings on politics and on language from the 1950s to the present, Gaza in Crisis, with Ilan Pappé, and Hopes and Prospects, also available as an audiobook.

You might also like:

Chomsky Half Full: Chomsky on hopes for democracy despite “U.S. terrorism,” & friendship—er, acquaintance—with Hugo Chavez & other “pink tide” presidents. More
The Un-Victim: In the wake of government sedition threats, Arundhati Roy describes her first cuss-word & the limits of preaching nonviolence. More
Did Osama bin Laden win the war on terror?: Perhaps we should stop cheering for our “success.” More
Full Metal Racket: Rolling Stone’s Michael Hastings on his blockbuster articles, how the generals pushed Obama into a war he didn’t want, & the Pentagon’s effort to conflate PR & psy-ops. More

Lest peace break out …

from War Times blogs by janinsanfran

On the one hand: U.S. foreign policy elites know that the national swoon over the killing of Osama bin Laden makes for a great chance to cut our losses in wars across the globe. So we get people like Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, declaiming in the Wall Street Journal:

Afghanistan is no longer a war about vital American security interests. It is about the failure of America’s political elites to face two plain facts: The al Qaeda terrorist threat is no longer centered in that ancient battleground, and the battle against the Taliban is mainly for Afghans themselves.

With Osama bin Laden now swimming with the fishes, the U.S. has but one sensible path: to draw down U.S. forces to 15,000-25,000 by the end of 2013, try cutting a deal with the Taliban, and refocus American power in the region on containment, deterrence and diplomacy.

That’s not exactly what I (or probably the Afghans) would call peace, but it’s moving in the right direction. In the National Journal, Tim Fernholz and Jim Tankersley have spelled out in detail what the ill-conceived “war on terror” has cost, in money, deaths, and other paths not taken.

As we mark Osama bin Laden’s death, what’s striking is how much he cost our nation—and how little we’ve gained from our fight against him. By conservative estimates, bin Laden cost the United States at least $3 trillion over the past 15 years, counting the disruptions he wrought on the domestic economy, the wars and heightened security triggered by the terrorist attacks he engineered, and the direct efforts to hunt him down.

What do we have to show for that tab? Two wars that continue to occupy 150,000 troops and tie up a quarter of our defense budget; a bloated homeland-security apparatus that has at times pushed the bounds of civil liberty; soaring oil prices partially attributable to the global war on bin Laden’s terrorist network; and a chunk of our mounting national debt, which threatens to hobble the economy unless lawmakers compromise on an unprecedented deficit-reduction deal.

Read it all; it’s worth taking in. The smarter defenders of American exceptionalism — of empire — are ready for a changed strategy.

On the other hand: the dumber defenders of empire in the Republican House of Representatives are making an effort to ensure the “war on terror” is permanent. They are afraid that the historical specificity of language in the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, adopted in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, might suggest a limit on Presidential authority to send troops chasing around the world. So, according to a summary in Politico,

The new language drops any reference to 9/11 and “affirms” a state of “armed conflict with al-Qaeda, the Taliban and associated forces.” The measure also explicitly gives the president the right to take prisoners “until the termination of hostilities” – something the courts have found to be implicit in the current version of the AUMF, though the new proposal could be seen to extend that power. …

But critics say the Republican-sponsored measure amounts to the first full-scale declaration of war by the U.S. since World War II – at a moment when counter-terrorism efforts are succeeding, the U.S. is withdrawing from Iraq, and about to begin a withdrawal from Afghanistan. And, they say, it gives Obama and any successor carte blanche to attack any individual or any nation without further approval from Congress.

“The U.S. is trying to finish up and pull out of two wars right now [but] Congress is involved in declaring, for the first time in 70 years, worldwide war,” said Chris Anders, a legislative liaison for the American Civil Liberties Union. In addition, Anders said, the legislation would result in “a huge transfer of authority from the Congressional Branch to the Executive Branch” that would give “ authority to this president and all future presidents to use military power, war power wherever a terrorism suspect resides.”

The article indicates the Obama administration has not taken a position on this legislation. We probably can’t count on Democrats to reject this endless extension of an ill-defined “war” unless the administration uses its influence against it. War and a society endlessly anxious about threats, real and imagined, remains popular among our rulers; among most of us, instinctively, not so much so.

Photo via US Army Flickr feed.

Cross posted at Can It Happen Here?

Look how the New York Times refer to repression in Bahrain

“while countries like Bahrain are convulsed by sectarian rivalries“. As if the Bahraini government does not repress ALL critics of the regime, regardless of sect.
As’ad Abukhalil

The lies of the New York Times (and of the Obama administration)

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by noreply@blogger.com (As’ad Abukhalil)

“In Egypt, for example, Mr. Obama’s advisers say he decided to push for President Hosni Mubarak’s exit early on, against the advice of aides, after watching Mr. Mubarak’s defiant televised address on a screen in the White House Situation Room.”  Who do you think you are fooling with this? Early on? Early f.. on???  That speech in question came much much later in the game and Obama never called on Mubarak to step down until he was forced to step down by the Military Council in response to massive protests.  Stop re-writing history before our very eyes.
As’ad Abukhalil

Who does Obama listen to on the Middle East?

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by noreply@blogger.com (As’ad Abukhalil)
“He has sounded out prominent journalists like Fareed Zakaria of Time magazine and CNN and Thomas L. Friedman, a columnist at The New York Times, regarding their visits to theregion.”
As’ad Abukhalil

Congress to vote on aid to Libyan rebels

from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report

The US took a step closer to providing financial assistance to the Libyan rebels May 11, as Sen. John Kerry announced he is drafting legislation to free up some of the $34 billion in the Tripoli regime’s assets frozen by the White House. Rebel leaders arrived in Washington to press the Obama administration on the plan, saying they are down to less than two weeks of cash reserves and are hard-pressed to pay for food, fuel, and medicine. “I needed something yesterday,” Ali Tarhouni, finance minister for Libya’s Transitional National Council, said in an interview. “The issue for me is running a war economy with no resources.”

read more

Aid groups fear NATO Afghan withdrawal

from World War 4 Report blogs by WW4 Report
Afghan police and army troops are to replace foreign forces in at least five locations in the country in July and a transition process, agreed by the Afghan government and NATO, is slated to be complete in December 2014. But aid groups fear a power vacuum that will make their work in the country untenable. “If the national security forces that are left behind in 2014 are unable to provide for the security of the population, and the indications at the moment are that this will indeed be the case, then we can expect that they’ll also be unable to provide the security conditions for the provision of humanitarian assistance,” said Rebecca Barber, a humanitarian policy and advocacy adviser with Oxfam. “This will have serious implications for the Afghan people – millions of whom are reliant upon humanitarian aid.” (IRIN, May 10)

Israeli calculations regarding Syria

from The Angry Arab News Service/وكالة أنباء العربي الغاضب by noreply@blogger.com (As’ad AbuKhalil)
““Israel is satisfied with the status quo with the Syrian regime and the United States needs Syria because it has an influence on the Sunni resistance in Iraq and because it is a key link between Washington and Tehran in issues related to Iraq.””
HISTORY & ANALYSIS

Tomgram: William Astore, A New Age of “Enlightened” War

By William Astore
Posted on May 12, 2011, Printed on May 14, 2011
http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175391/

In case you hadn’t noticed, they are — no kidding around — absolutely the niftiest non-humans on Earth.  I’m speaking about the special operations force of Navy SEALs that took out Osama bin Laden.  They and their special ops colleagues are “supermen” (ABC News), “X-men” (Jon Stewart), “America’s Jedi Knights” (the New York Times), and that’s just to pick the odd example in a sea of churning hyperbole.  For the last week, while the bin Laden operation swallowed almost 69% of all news space according to the Project for Excellence in Journalism, they have been the most reported upon Xtra Special Soldiers anywhere, possibly of all time — from the “square-jawed admiral from Texas” who commanded them right down to the dog (oops… “possible war hero”) they reportedlytook along.

In an era when U.S. troops have become little short of American idols, seldom have the media gone quite so nuts as over those SEALs and the other military and CIA “teams” that make up our counterterrorism forces.  You couldn’t pay for this sort of publicity.  It would, in fact, hardly be an exaggeration to say that all of American society has, for the last 10 days, been “embedded” with them. But here’s the strange thing (or perhaps I mean the strangest thing of all): if you read most of the over-the-top press about America’s special ops troops, you probably think that they are tiny crews of elite forces divided into even tinier teams trained to dispel global darkness and take out the bin Ladens of the world.

No such thing. Almost a year ago, the Washington Post reported that there were at least 13,000 U.S. special operations troops deployed overseas in (no, this is not a typo) 75 countries, a significant expansion of these forces in the Obama era.  Since thousands of them remain in the U.S. at any moment, Washington may now have up to 20,000 special operations troops on hand and the odds are that there will be even more after the bin Laden publicity blitz has had a chance to work its charms.  In the latest Pentagon budget, the Obama administration had already asked for $10.5 billion to pay for special forces, a tripling of their budget since 2001 — and that figure is sure to rise in the years to come, as media slavering turns into congressional slavering.

Keep in mind that this growing set of secret forces cocooned inside the U.S. military, along with the missile-armed pilotless drones fighting the CIA’s semi-secret war in Pakistan (which also got a modest publicity boost from the bin Laden operation), add up to the newly dominant form of American conflict: presidential war fought on the sly and beyond any serious kind of accountability to the American people.  In return for ponying up the necessary dough, for instance, Congress is now practically begging just to be updated on the executive’s counterterror operations four times a year.

As TomDispatch regular and retired Lieutenant Colonel William Astore makes clear, “remote war” on the imperial peripheries of the planet is a direct danger to this country, to us, and it’s growing by the day.  Tom

The Crash and Burn of Old Regimes
Washington Court Culture and Its Endless Wars
By William J. Astore

The killing of Osama bin Laden, “a testament to the greatness of our country”according to President Obama, should not be allowed to obscure a central reality of our post-9/11 world.  Our conflicts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Libya remain instances of undeclared war, a fact that contributes to their remoteness from our American world.  They are remote geographically, but also remote from our day-to-day interests and, unless you are in the military or have a loved one who serves, remote from our collective consciousness (not to speak of our consciences).

And this remoteness is no accident.  Our wars and their impact are kept inremarkable isolation from what passes for public affairs in this country, leaving most Americans with little knowledge and even less say about whether they should be, and how they are, waged.

In this sense, our wars are eerily like those pursued by European monarchs in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries: conflicts carried out by professional militaries and bands of mercenaries, largely at the whim of what we might now call a unitary executive, funded by deficit spending, for the purposes of protecting or extending the interests of a ruling elite.

Cynics might say it has always been thus in the United States.  After all, the War of 1812 was known to critics as “Mr. Madison’s War” and the Mexican-American War of the 1840s was “Mr. Polk’s War.”  The Spanish-American War of 1898 was a naked war of expansion vigorously denounced by American anti-imperialists.  Yet in those conflicts there was at least genuine national debate, as well as formal declarations of war by Congress.

Today’s ruling class in Washington no longer bothers to make a pretense of following the letter of our Constitution — and they sidestep its spirit as well, invoking hollow claims of executive privilege or higher callings of humanitarian service (as in Libya) or of exporting democracy (as in Afghanistan).  But Libya is still torn by civil war, and Afghanistan has yet to morph into Oregon.

“Enlightened” War, Then and Now

History does not simply repeat itself, yet realities of power, privilege, and pride ensure certain continuities from the past.  Consider how today’s remote wars and the ways they reinforce existing power relations for a privileged and prideful elite echo a style of European warfare more than three centuries old.

Surveying the wreckage of the devastating Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648), fought feverishly across Germanic territories by most of Europe, monarchs like Louis XIV of France began to seek to fight “limited” wars.  These they considered more consistent with the spirit of a rational and “enlightened” age.  In their hands, such wars became the sport of kings, the real-life equivalents of elaborate chess matches in which foot soldiers drawn from the lower orders served as expendable pawns, while the second or lesser sons of the nobility, fulfilling their duty as officers, proved hardly less expendable knights, bishops, and rooks.

As much as possible, the monarch and his retinue tried to keep war-making and its disruptions at a distance from thriving economic and manufacturing concerns.  In many cases, in the centuries to follow, this would essentially mean exporting war to faraway, “barbaric” realms or colonies.  In the process, death and destruction were outsourced to places and peoples remote from European metropoles.

In fact, this was precisely what enraged our founders: that the colonies in America had become a never-ending battleground for French and British imperial ambitions from which the colonists themselves reaped the whirlwind of war while gaining few of its benefits.  A close reading of the Declaration of Independence, for instance, reveals a proto-republic’s contempt for wars fought at a king’s whim and guaranteed to reduce the colonists to so much cannon fodder.

Refusing to surrender the hard-fought right as British men to have a say in how they were taxed, how their families and lands were defended, and especially for what purposes they themselves fought and died, the founders forged a new nation.  Given this history, it’s not surprising that they granted to Congress, and not to the President, the power to declare and fund war.

In this way, a noble experiment was born, and it worked, however imperfectly, until the devastation of a new thirty years’ war in Europe (better known as World Wars I and II) propelled the United States to superpower status with all its accompanying ambitions stoked by existential fears, whether of yesterday’s godless communists or today’s god-crazed terrorists.

Inside the Washington Beltway: The New Court of Versailles

In the eighteenth century, France was the superpower of Europe with a military that dwarfed those of its neighbors.  And who dictated France’s decisions to go to war?  The answer: the king, his generals, and his courtiers at the Court of Versailles.  In the twenty-first-century, the U.S. celebrates its status as the world’s “sole superpower” with a military second to none.  And who dictates its decisions to go to war?  Considering the lessons of Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Libya, the answer is no less obvious: the president, his generals, and his courtiers within the vast edifice of Washington’s national security state.

France’s “enlightened” wars were fought by professional armies and mercenaries, directed by a unitary executive who did as he pleased, and endured by the lower orders who had no say (even though they provided the brawn and blood).  Similarly, our twenty-first century masters plunge us into their version of enlightened wars and play their version of global chess matches.

The analogy can be pushed further.  In pre-revolutionary France, the First and Second Estates (the clergy and the nobility) constituted less than 2% of the population but controlled nearly all of France’s wealth and power.  Their unholy alliance kept the Third Estate (everyone who wasn’t a churchman or a noble) under their collective thumb.

Now, consider the United States today.  Our equivalent to the First Estate would be the clergy of finance and banking (the religion of the almighty dollar).  Look for them in their houses of worship on Wall Street.  Our Second Estate equivalent would be the movers and shakers inside Washington’s Beltway.  Look for them in the White House, the Pentagon, Congress, and on K Street where the lobbyists for the First Estate tend to congregate.  The unholy alliance of these two estates leaves the American Third Estate — you and me — with the deck stacked against us.

When it comes to war, the American ruling class has relegated the members of its Third Estate alternately to the role of “foreign legionnaires” in overseas service, or silent spectators passively watching moves on the big board.  These, in turn, are continually interpreted for us by retired members of the Second Estate: generals and admirals in mufti, hired by the corporate mediato provide color commentary on Washington’s wars.

Small wonder that today’s Beltway elite is as imperious and detached as yesterday’s Court of Louis XIV.  A colleague of mine recently endured a short audience with some members of our Second Estate near Dupont Circle in Washington.  In his words: “They were at once condescending and puzzled by ‘tea party types,’ as they referred to them, which was to say that they inadvertently admitted to being out of touch and were pretty okay with that.  ‘Look,’ I finally said, ‘you cannot continue to pick someone’s pocket while hectoring him about how stupid and uninformed he is and then be surprised that he gets angry.’”

Whether it be unwashed “tea party types,” “retarded” (according to ex-courtier Rahm Emanuel) progressives, or other members of a disgruntled American Third Estate, the Washington elites who wage war in our name simply couldn’t care less what we think, just as Louis XIV and his court couldn’t have cared less about their subjects’ desires.

Endless “limited” wars fought for the interests of the ruling class, massive deficit spending on those wars, a refusal to recognize (or even understand) the people’s growing disgruntlement, a “let them eat cake” mentality: all of this is familiar to a historian.  And like those old French masters of limited war, our new masters of war are hemorrhaging legitimacy.

The Crash and Burn of Old Regimes

In isolating the American Third Estate from war — indeed, in disengaging it from any meaningful public debate about this nation’s perpetual war-making — our rulers have conspired to advance their own interests.  Yet in deciding everything of importance out of view, they have unwisely eliminated any check on their folly.

Consider again the example of pre-revolutionary Versailles.  A top-heavy, remarkably dissolute, and openly parasitic bureaucracy plundered the commonweal of France in its pursuit of power and privilege.  Can we not say the same of Washington today?  In its kleptocratic tendency to enrich itself and its accountability-free deployment of military power globally, the American ruling class bears a certain resemblance to French kings and their courts which, in the end, drove their country to economic ruin and violent revolution.

Fed up with its prodigal and prideful rulers, France saw the tumbrels roll and the guillotine blades drop.  How many more undeclared “enlightened” wars, how many more trillions of dollars in war-driven debt, how many more dead and wounded will it take for the American people to reclaim their power over war?  Or are we content to remain deferential to our ruling class and court — and to their less-than-liberty-loving overseas creditors — until such a time as their prideful wars and prodigal trillion-dollar-plus “defense” budgets bring our great democratic experiment crashing down?

William J. Astore is a TomDispatch regular, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), and a professor of history.  He welcomes reader comments atwjastore@gmail.com.

Copyright 2011 William J. Astore


Hamas, No Leopard, Seems to Be Changing Its Spots

The Bible asks rhetorically whether a leopard can change its spots.  Maybe not.  But people and political movements can.  Witness Hamas, which the current Israeli government views as the devil incarnate for its terror and rocket attacks against its citizens.

But the best way to characterize both what is happening within Hamas since the announcement of its unity government with Fatah, and Israel’s querulous response to it, is the old Bob Dylan lyric:

Something’s happening and you don’t know what it is
Do you, Mr. Jones?

Hamas seems to be thawing like those giant Arctic ice sheets which are heaving and dropping into the ocean with huge bursts of sound and fury.  Witness this AP story:

Hamas officials speak of reconciliation with the West and a halt in armed hostilities with Israel, and even hint at some sort of political accommodation with the Jewish state. While Israel is not convinced, there are hopes in some Palestinian circles that the Iran-backed group could become a more accepted part of the Mideast diplomatic equation.

“The world should realize that we have made many changes,” said Ghazi Hamad, the deputy foreign minister of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. “The international community should not run away from these changes.”

…Israelis…could hardly be more skeptical.  But the world community has mostly ignored Israel’s calls to isolate the new government, suggesting a willingness to let Hamas prove it has changed.

Both Hamas officials and outside analysts say the group has learned some bitter lessons during its four years in power in Gaza. The impression is that Israel’s blockade, which caused widespread hardship in the crowded territory, a blistering Israeli military offensive two years ago and the uprisings throughout the Arab world have all factored into its thinking.

Hani Masri, a Palestinian commentator who sometimes mediates between Hamas and its secular rival, Fatah, said Hamas realized that to lead the Palestinians, it needs “acceptance by the international community, particularly the West.”

Hamas has sent a series of signals recently aimed at showing that it will not be the reason for any new breakdown. While refusing to disarm or give up its “right to resist,” leaders – including Gaza Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in a speech last week – say they are committed to preserving “calm” with Israel.

The group says it will carry out attacks on Israel only as part of a Palestinian “consensus,” in effect giving President Abbas, an outspoken critic of violence, veto power over terror and rocket attacks.

And critically, its leadership, including its exiled supreme leader Khaled Mashaal, have signaled they will not stand in the way of any agreement Abbas might reach with Israel.

At a signing ceremony last week in Cairo, Mashaal referred to an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and made no references to Israel’s destruction.

…Fawaz Gerges, a Mideast analyst who has closely studied the evolution of Hamas and frequently talks to members of the group, said he is convinced it has changed.

The London School of Economics professor said support among the Palestinian public for an accommodation with Israel – and the revolution in Egypt, whose new leadership brokered the reconciliation – have deeply affected the group.

“They have come to the conclusion that settlement (with Israel) is the only way to go,” he said.

Bibi of course chooses in his florid, hyperbolic style to argue that neither leopards nor Palestinian militant groups can change their spots.  He ignores, of course, decades of pre-state and post-state political developments in which many former Jewish terrorists did precisely that, transforming themselves from militants to statesmen in a matter of years: Ben Tzvi, Begin, and Shamir are but a few examples.

So of course Hamas, like the Irgun and other Jewish militant groups can certainly change their spots.  Whether Hamas is truly in the midst of doing so or this will prove to be yet another false start for a peace initiative remains to be seen.  But Fawaz Gerges is someone I trust and when he says it’s true, I tend to believe that there is something happening here and we’d better find out what it is.

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Noam Chomsky: “The U.S. and Its Allies Will Do Anything to Prevent Democracy in the Arab World”

from Democracy Now! | Healthcare Reform by mail@democracynow.org (Democracy Now!)

Speaking at the 25th anniversary celebration of the national media watch group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, world-renowned political dissident and linguist Noam Chomsky analyzes the U.S. response to the popular uprisings sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. “Across the [Middle East], an overwhelming majority of the population regards the United States as the main threat to their interests,” Chomsky says. “The reason is very simple… Plainly, the U.S. and its allies are not going to want governments which are responsive to the will of the people. If that happens, not only will the U.S. not control the region, but it will be thrown out.” [includes rush transcript]

Noam Chomsky, Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and author of more than a hundred books, including his latest,Hopes and Prospects. He recently spoke at FAIR’s 25th anniversary celebration in New York City.

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AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the 25th anniversary of FAIR, Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, the media watch group in New York, which just celebrated the 25 years of the reports they’ve come out, documenting media bias and censorship, and scrutinized media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.

One of those who addressed the hundreds of people who gathered to celebrate FAIR was the world-renowned political dissident and linguist Noam Chomsky. This is some of what he had to say.

NOAM CHOMSKY: The U.S. and its allies will do anything they can to prevent authentic democracy in the Arab world. The reason is very simple. Across the region, an overwhelming majority of the population regards the United States as the main threat to their interests. In fact, opposition to U.S. policy is so high that a considerable majority think the region would be more secure if Iran had nuclear weapons. In Egypt, the most important country, that’s 80 percent. Similar figures elsewhere. There are some in the region who regard Iran as a threat—about 10 percent. Well, plainly, the U.S. and its allies are not going to want governments which are responsive to the will of the people. If that happens, not only will the U.S. not control the region, but it will be thrown out. So that’s obviously an intolerable result.

In the case of WikiLeaks, there was an interesting aside on this. The revelations from WikiLeaks that got the most publicity—headlines, euphoric commentary and so on—were that the Arabs support U.S. policy on Iran. They were quoting comments of Arab dictators. Yes, they claim to support U.S. policy on Iran. There was no mention of the Arab—of the Arab population, because it doesn’t matter. If the dictators support us, and the population is under control, then what’s the problem? This is like imperialism. What’s the problem if it works? As long as they can control their populations, fine. They can have campaigns of hatred; our friendly dictators will keep them under control. That’s the reaction not just of the diplomatic service in the State Department or of the media who reported this, but also of the general intellectual community. There is no comment on this. In fact, coverage of these polls is precisely zero in the United States, literally. There’s a few comments in England, but very little. It just doesn’t matter what the population thinks, as long as they’re under control.

Well, from these observations, you can conclude pretty quickly, pretty easily, what policies are going to be. You can almost spell them out. So in the case of an oil-rich country with a reliable, obedient dictator, they’re given free rein. Saudi Arabia is the most important. There were—it’s the most repressive, extremist, strongest center of Islamic fundamentalism, missionaries who spread ultra-radical Islamism from jihadis and so on. But they’re obedient, they’re reliable, so they can do what they like. There was a planned protest in Saudi Arabia. The police presence was so overwhelming and intimidating that literally nobody even was willing to show up in the streets of Riyadh. But that was fine. The same in Kuwait. There was a small demonstration, very quickly crushed, no comment.

Actually, the most interesting case in many respects is Bahrain. Bahrain is quite important for two reasons. One reason, which has been reported, is that it’s the home port of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, major military force in the region. Another more fundamental reason is that Bahrain is about 70 percent Shiite, and it’s right across the causeway from eastern Saudi Arabia, which also is majority Shiite and happens to be where most of Saudi oil is. Saudi Arabia, of course, is the main energy resource, has been since the ’40s. By curious accident of history and geography, the world’s major energy resources are located pretty much in Shiite regions. They’re a minority in the Middle East, but they happen to be where the oil is, right around the northern part of the Gulf. That’s eastern Saudi Arabia, southern Iraq and southwestern Iran. And there’s been a concern among planners for a long time that there might be a move towards some sort of tacit alliance in these Shiite regions moving towards independence and controlling the bulk of the world’s oil. That’s obviously intolerable.

So, going back to Bahrain, there was an uprising, tent city in the central square, like Tahrir Square. The Saudi-led military forces invaded Bahrain, giving the security forces there the opportunity to crush it violently, destroyed the tent city, even destroyed the Pearl, which is the symbol of Bahrain; invaded the major hospital complex, threw out the patients and the doctors; been regularly, every day, arresting human rights activists, torturing them, occasionally a sort of a pat on the wrist, but nothing much. That’s very much the Carothers principle. If actions correspond to our strategic and economic objectives, that’s OK. We can have elegant rhetoric, but what matters is facts.

Well, that’s the oil-rich obedient dictators. What about Egypt, most important country, but not a center of—major center of oil production? Well, in Egypt and Tunisia and other countries of that category, there is a game plan, which is employed routinely, so commonly it takes virtual genius not to perceive it. But when you have a favored dictator—for those of you who might think of going into the diplomatic service, you might as well learn it—when there’s a favored dictator and he’s getting into trouble, support him as long as possible, full support as long as possible. When it becomes impossible to support him—like, say, maybe the army turns against him, business class turns against him—then send him off somewhere, issue ringing declarations about your love of democracy, and then try to restore the old regime, maybe with new names. And that’s done over and over again. It doesn’t always work, but it’s always tried—Somoza, Nicaragua; Shah in Iran; Marcos in the Philippines; Duvalier in Haiti; Chun in South Korea; Mobutu in the Congo; Ceausescu is one of Western favorites in Romania; Suharto in Indonesia. It’s completely routine. And that’s exactly what’s going on in Egypt and Tunisia. OK, we support them right to the end—Mubarak in Egypt, right to the end, keep supporting him. Doesn’t work any longer, send him off to Sharm el-Sheikh, pull out the rhetoric, try to restore the old regime. That’s, in fact, what the conflict is about right now. As Amy said, we don’t know where it’s going to turn now, but that’s what’s going on.

Well, there’s another category. The other category is an oil-rich dictator who’s not reliable, who’s a loose cannon. That’s Libya. And there, there’s a different policy: try to get a more reliable dictator. And that’s exactly what’s happening. Of course, describe it as a humanitarian intervention. That’s another near historical universal. You check history, virtually every resort to force, by whoever it is, is accompanied by the most noble rhetoric. It’s all completely humanitarian. That includes Hitler taking over Czechoslovakia, the Japanese fascists rampaging in northeast China. In fact, it’s Mussolini in Ethiopia. There’s hardly any exceptions. So you produce that, and the media and commentators present—pretend they don’t notice that it has no—carries no information, because it’s reflexive.

And then—but in this case, they could also add something else, which has been repeated over and over again, namely, the U.S. and its allies were intervening in response to a request by the Arab League. And, of course, we have to recognize the importance of that. Incidentally, the response from the Arab League was tepid and was pretty soon rescinded, because they didn’t like what we were doing. But put that aside. At the very same time, the Arab League produced—issued another request. Here’s a headline from a newspaper: “Arab League Calls for Gaza No-Fly Zone.” Actually, I’m quoting from the LondonFinancial Times. That wasn’t reported in the United States. Well, to be precise, it was reported in the Washington Times, but basically blocked in the U.S., like the polls, like the polls of Arab public opinion, not the right kind of news. So, “Arab League Calls for Gaza No-Fly Zone,” that’s inconsistent with U.S. policy, so that, we don’t have to honor and observe, and that disappeared.

Now, there are some polls that are reported. So here’s one from theNew York Times a couple days ago. I’ll quote it. It said, “The poll found that a majority of Egyptians want to annul the 1979 peace treaty with Israel that has been a cornerstone of Egyptian foreign policy and the region’s stability.” Actually, that’s not quite accurate. It’s been a cornerstone of the region’s instability, and that’s exactly why the Egyptian population wants to abandon it. The agreement essentially eliminated Egypt from the Israel-Arab conflict. That means eliminated the only deterrent to Israeli military action. And it freed up Israel to expand its operations—illegal operations—in the Occupied Territories and to attack its northern neighbor, to attack Lebanon. Shortly after, Israel attacked Lebanon, killed 20,000 people, destroyed southern Lebanon, tried to impose a client regime, didn’t quite make it. And that was understood. So the immediate reaction to the peace treaty in Israel was that there are things about it we don’t like—we’re going to have to abandon our settlements in the Sinai, in the Egyptian Sinai. But it has a good side, too, because now the only deterrent is gone; we can use force and violence to achieve our other goals. And that’s exactly what happened. And that’s exactly why the Egyptian population is opposed to it. They understand that, as does everyone in the region.

On the other hand, the Times wasn’t lying when they said that it led to the region’s stability. And the reason is because of the meaning of the word “stability” as a technical meaning. Stability is—it’s kind of like democracy. Stability means conformity to our interests. So, for example, when Iran tries to expand its influence in Afghanistan and Iraq, neighboring countries, that’s called “destabilizing.” It’s part of the threat of Iran. It’s destabilizing the region. On the other hand, when the U.S. invades those countries, occupies them, half destroys them, that’s to achieve stability. And that is very common, even to the point where it’s possible to write—former editor of Foreign Affairs—that when the U.S. overthrew the democratic government in Chile and instituted a vicious dictatorship, that was because the U.S. had to destabilize Chile to achieve stability. That’s in one sentence, and nobody noticed it, because that’s correct, if you understand the meaning of the word “stability.” Yeah, you overthrow a parliamentary government, you install a dictatorship, you invade a country and kill 20,000 people, you invade Iraq and kill hundreds of thousands of people—that’s all bringing about stability. Instability is when anyone gets in the way.

AMY GOODMAN: World-renowned political dissident and linguist, Noam Chomsky, speaking at the 25th anniversary of Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting.


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This entry was posted in Afghanistan, Background & Analysis, Bahrain, Bin Laden, Chomsky, Counterinsurgency, Egypt, Events, Hamas, Imperialism, Imperialist Interference & Views, Libya, Military, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Syria, US Foreign Policy, Yemen. Bookmark the permalink.

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