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Monday, June 20, 2011

Turkey: The Mideast's Real Revolution

by Eric Margolis
Smirking Chimp
June 19, 2011

The revolutions and uprising that have been sweeping across the Mideast are widely believed to have begun in Tunisia. In fact, the first seeds of revolution were planted in 2002 in Turkey, as its Justice and Development Party began the long, arduous battle against disguised military dictatorship.

To understand how important last week's Turkish elections were, step back for a moment to 1960 when I was in high school in Switzerland.

A Turkish classmate named Turgut told me, tears in his eyes, "The generals hanged my daddy!" His father had been a cabinet minister.

The 510,000-man Turkish armed forces, NATO's second biggest after the US, have mounted four military coups since 1950. Turkey's current constitution was written by the military after its 1980 coup.

Ever since the era of national hero turned strongman, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, Turkey has been run by its powerful military behind a thin facade of squabbling politicians. In the process, it suffered widescale political violence, Kurdish secessionism, rigged elections, and endless financial crises.

Americans always liked to point to pre-2002 as the ideal Muslim state. "Why can't those Arabs be more like the sensible Turks?" was a refrain often heard in Washington. Its proponents chose to ignore, or simply failed to see, that Turkey was an iron-fisted military dictatorship.

Turkey began to change in 2002 when the new Justice and Development Party (AKP) won an electoral victory. The shift from the traditional left and rightist Kemalist parties was due to a major demographic shift. Rural and middle class Turks began moving into the cities, diluting the political and economic power of the minority secular elite: the military, big business, media, academia, and judiciary.

Turkey's tame Muslim religious establishment was kept under tight security control. Under Ataturk and his successors, Islam, the bedrock of Turkish culture and ethos, was savagely attacked, nearly destroyed and brought under state control - just as the Russian Orthodox Church was during Stalin's era.

What Turks called "the deep government" - hard rightists, security organizations, gangsters, the rich elite, and rabid nationalists -wielded power and crushed dissenters.

AK called for Islamic political principles: welfare for the poor and old, fighting corruption, responsive, ethical political leaders, good relations with neighbors. Turkey's right and its military allies screamed that their nation was about to fall to Iranian-style Islamists, or torn apart by Kurdish rebels.

In fact, AK's decade of rule has given Turkey its longest period of human rights, stunning economic growth, financial stability, and democratic government.

Under AK, Turkey has moved closer to the European Union's legal norms than, for example, new members Bulgaria and Rumania. But France and Germany's conservatives insist Turkey will never be accepted in the EU. Europe - particularly its farmers - don't want 75 million mostly Muslim Turks.

Largely unseen by outsiders, AK has relentlessly pushed Turkey's reactionary military back to its barracks. This long struggle culminated in attempts by the military, known as the Ergenekon affaire, to again overthrow the civilian government.

The plot was broken: numbers of high-raking officers were arrested and put on trial. So were journalists and media figures involved in the plot - probably too many. Investigators are examining questionable arms deals between Turkey's military and Israel.

Ergenekon broke the power of Turkey's generals, who were closely allied to the US military establishment and Israel's Likud party. In fact, the Pentagon often had more influence over Turkey than its civilian leaders. Until AK, the US nurtured bitter Turkish hostility to Iran, Syria, Hezbullah, Hamas, and, at times, Iraq, and an artificial friendship with Israel.

Today, all has changed. Turkey's popular prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, backed by a majority of voters, has turned Turkey into the Mideast's role model for successful democracy, and unleashed the latent economic power of this nation of 75 million.

Turkey's capable foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, engineered a "zero problems" policy that vastly improved Turkey's relations with all its formerly hostile neighbors, excepting Armenia and Greek-Cyprus. Turkey's foreign policy now reflects Turkish rather than US and Israeli interests.

"Zero problems" opened the Mideast's doors to Turkish business, restoring Turkey to the former dominant regional leadership it held before World War I.

Turkey's popular support for the Palestinians led to a bitter clash with Israel. As a result, Turkey has become the target of fierce attacks by the US Congress and media for no longer favoring Israeli interests. The Wall Street Journal, the North American mouthpiece of Israel's hard right, has led the attacks against Turkey.

Claims by the right that Erdogn is turning Turkey into an Islamic dictatorship are false. The stable, democratic, productive Turkey he is building is a boon for all concerned. Istanbul used to be the Paris of the Muslim world. It's returning to that role again.

Erdogan's third electoral victory fell short of allowing him to rewrite the obsolete constitution without consensus from other parties, but it means years more democratic and economic progress for this vitally important nation that will play a key role in stabilizing and building a new, modern Mideast.

copyright Eric S. Margolis 2011

Author Eric Margolis is a columnist for the Toronto Sun. His web site is


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Endgame Strategy
Why the revolution must start in America

by Chris Hedges
Adbusters Culturejammer
June 16, 2011

Audio version read by George Atherton – Right-click to download

The unrest in the Middle East, the convulsions in Ivory Coast, the hunger sweeping across failed states such as Somalia, the freak weather patterns and the systematic unraveling of the American empire do not signal a lurch toward freedom and democracy but the catastrophic breakdown of globalization. The world as we know it is coming to an end. And what will follow will not be pleasant or easy.

The bankrupt corporate power elite, who continue to serve the dead ideas of unfettered corporate capitalism, globalization, profligate consumption and an economy dependent on fossil fuels, as well as endless war, have proven incapable of radically shifting course or responding to our altered reality. They react to the great unraveling by pretending it is not happening. They are desperately trying to maintain a doomed system of corporate capitalism. And the worse it gets the more they embrace, and seek to make us embrace, magical thinking.

Dozens of members of Congress in the United States have announced that climate change does not exist and evolution is a hoax. They chant the mantra that the marketplace should determine human behavior, even as the unfettered and unregulated marketplace threw the global economy into a seizure and evaporated some $40 trillion in worldwide wealth. The corporate media retreats as swiftly from reality into endless mini-dramas revolving around celebrities or long discussions about the inane comments of a Donald Trump or a Sarah Palin. The real world – the one imploding in our faces – is ignored.

The deadly convergence of environmental and economic catastrophe is not coincidental. Corporations turn everything, from human beings to the natural world, into commodities they ruthlessly exploit until exhaustion or death. The race of doom is now between environmental collapse and global economic collapse. Which will get us first? Or will they get us at the same time?

Carbon emissions continue to soar upward, polar ice sheets continue to melt at an alarming rate, hundreds of species are vanishing, fish stocks are being dramatically depleted, droughts and floods are destroying cropland and human habitat across the globe, water sources are being poisoned, and the great human migration from coastlines and deserts has begun. As temperatures continue to rise huge parts of the globe will become uninhabitable.

The continued release of large quantities of methane, some scientists have warned, could actually asphyxiate the human species. And accompanying the assault on the ecosystem that sustains human life is the cruelty and stupidity of unchecked corporate capitalism that is creating a global economy of masters and serfs and a world where millions will be unable to survive.

We continue to talk about personalities – Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama or Stephen Harper – although the heads of state and elected officials have become largely irrelevant. Corporate lobbyists write the bills. Lobbyists get them passed. Lobbyists make sure you get the money to be elected. And lobbyists employ you when you get out of office.

Those who hold actual power are the tiny elite who manage the corporations. The share of national income of the top 0.1 percent of Americans since 1974 has grown from 2.7 to 12.3 percent. One in six American workers may be without a job. Some 40 million Americans may live in poverty, with tens of millions more living in a category called “near poverty.” Six million people may be forced from their homes in the United States because of foreclosures and bank repossessions.

But while the masses suffer, Goldman Sachs, one of the financial firms most responsible for the evaporation of $17 trillion in wages, savings and wealth of small investors and shareholders in the United States, is giddily handing out $17.5 billion in compensation to its managers, including $12.6 million to its CEO, Lloyd Blankfein.

The massive redistribution of wealth happened because lawmakers and public officials were, in essence, hired to permit it to happen.

It was not a conspiracy. The process was transparent. It did not require the formation of a new political party or movement. It was the result of inertia by our political and intellectual class, which in the face of expanding corporate power found it personally profitable to facilitate it or look the other way. The armies of lobbyists, who write the legislation, bankroll political campaigns and disseminate propaganda, have been able to short-circuit the electorate.

Our political vocabulary continues to sustain the illusion of participatory democracy. The Democrats and the Liberal Party in Canada offer minor palliatives and a feel-your-pain language to mask the cruelty and goals of the corporate state. Neofeudalism will be cemented into place whether it is delivered by Democrats and the Liberals, who are pushing us there at 60 miles an hour, or by Republicans and the Conservatives, who are barreling toward it at 100 miles an hour.

“By fostering an illusion among the powerless classes that it can make their interests a priority,” Sheldon Wolin writes, “the Democratic Party pacifies and thereby defines the style of an opposition party in an inverted totalitarian system.” The Democrats and the Liberals are always able to offer up a least-worst alternative while, in fact, doing little or nothing to thwart the march toward corporate collectivism.

It is not that the public in the United States does not want a good healthcare system, programs that provide employment, quality public education or an end to Wall Street’s looting of the U.S. Treasury. Most polls suggest Americans do. But it has become impossible for most citizens in these corporate states to find out what is happening in the centers of power. Television news celebrities dutifully present two opposing sides to every issue, although each side is usually lying. The viewer can believe whatever he or she wants to believe.

Nothing is actually elucidated or explained. The sound bites by Republicans or Democrats, the Liberals or the Conservatives, are accepted at face value. And once the television lights are turned off, the politicians go back to the business of serving business.

Human history, rather than being a chronicle of freedom and democracy, is characterized by ruthless domination. Our elites have done what all elites do. They have found sophisticated mechanisms to thwart popular aspirations, disenfranchise the working and increasingly the middle class, keep us passive and make us serve their interests. The brief democratic opening in our society in the early 20th century, made possible by radical movements, unions and a vigorous press, has again been shut tight. We were mesmerized by political charades, cheap consumerism, spectacle and magical thinking as we were ruthlessly stripped of power.

Adequate food, clean water and basic security are now beyond the reach of half the world’s population. Food prices have risen 61 percent globally since December 2008, according to the International Monetary Fund. The price of wheat has exploded, more than doubling in the last eight months to $8.56 a bushel.

When half of your income is spent on food, as it is in countries such as Yemen, Egypt, Tunisia, Somalia and Ivory Coast, price increases of this magnitude bring with them widespread malnutrition and starvation. Food prices in the United States have risen over the past three months at an annualized rate of five percent. There are some 40 million poor in the United States who devote 35 percent of their after-tax incomes to pay for food.

As the cost of fossil fuel climbs, as climate change continues to disrupt agricultural production and as populations and unemployment swell, we will find ourselves convulsed in more global and domestic unrest.

Food riots and political protests will be frequent, as will malnutrition and starvation. Desperate people employ desperate measures to survive. And the elites will use the surveillance and security state to attempt to crush all forms of popular dissent.

The last people who should be in charge of our food supply or our social and political life, not to mention the welfare of sick children, are corporate capitalists and Wall Street speculators. But none of this is going to change until we turn our backs on the wider society, denounce the orthodoxies peddled in our universities and in the press by corporate apologists and construct our opposition to the corporate state from the ground up. It will not be easy. It will take time. And it will require us to accept the status of social and political pariahs, especially as the lunatic fringe of our political establishment steadily gains power as the crisis mounts.

The corporate state has nothing to offer the left or the right but fear. It uses fear to turn the population into passive accomplices. And as long as we remain afraid, or believe that the formal mechanisms of power can actually bring us real reform, nothing will change.

It does not matter, as writers such as John Ralston Saul have pointed out, that every one of globalism’s promises has turned out to be a lie.

It does not matter that economic inequality has gotten worse and that most of the world’s wealth has become concentrated in a few hands.

It does not matter that the middle class – the beating heart of any democracy – is disappearing and that the rights and wages of the working class have fallen into precipitous decline as labor regulations, protection of our manufacturing base and labor unions have been demolished.

It does not matter that corporations have used the destruction of trade barriers as a mechanism for massive tax evasion, a technique that allows conglomerates such as General Electric or Bank of America to avoid paying any taxes.

It does not matter that corporations are exploiting and killing the ecosystem for profit. The steady barrage of illusions disseminated by corporate systems of propaganda, in which words are often replaced with music and images, are impervious to truth. Faith in the marketplace replaces for many faith in an omnipresent God. And those who dissent are banished as heretics.

The aim of the corporate state is not to feed, clothe or house the masses but to shift all economic, social and political power and wealth into the hands of the tiny corporate elite. It is to create a world where the heads of corporations make $900,000 an hour and four-job families struggle to survive. The corporate elite achieves its aims of greater and greater profit by weakening and dismantling government agencies and taking over or destroying public institutions. Charter schools, mercenary armies, a for-profit health insurance industry and outsourcing every facet of government work, from clerical tasks to intelligence, feed the corporate beast at our expense. The decimation of labor unions, the twisting of education into mindless vocational training and the slashing of social services leave us ever more enslaved to the whims of corporations. The intrusion of corporations into the public sphere destroys the concept of the common good. It erases the lines between public and private interests. It creates a world that is defined exclusively by naked self-interest.

Many of us are seduced by childish happy talk. Who wants to hear that we are advancing not toward a paradise of happy consumption and personal prosperity but toward disaster? Who wants to confront a future in which the rapacious and greedy appetites of our global elite, who have failed to protect the planet, threaten to produce widespread anarchy, famine, environmental catastrophe, nuclear terrorism and wars for diminishing resources? Who wants to shatter the myth that the human race is evolving morally, that it can continue its giddy plundering of nonrenewable resources and its hedonistic levels of consumption, that capitalist expansion is eternal and will never cease?

Dying civilizations often prefer hope, even absurd hope, to truth. It makes life easier to bear. It lets them turn away from the hard choices ahead to bask in a comforting certitude that God or science or the market will be their salvation. This is why these apologists for globalism continue to find a following. And their systems of propaganda have built a vast, global Potemkin village to entertain us. The tens of millions of impoverished Americans, whose lives and struggles rarely make it onto television, are invisible. So are most of the world’s billions of poor, crowded into fetid slums. We do not see those who die from drinking contaminated water or being unable to afford medical care. We do not see those being foreclosed from their homes. We do not see the children who go to bed hungry. We busy ourselves with the absurd.

The game is over. We lost.

The corporate state will continue its inexorable advance until two-thirds of the nation and the planet is locked into a desperate, permanent underclass. Most of us will struggle to make a living while the Blankfeins and our political elites wallow in the decadence and greed of the Forbidden City and Versailles. These elites do not have a vision. They know only one word: more.

They will continue to exploit the nation, the global economy and the ecosystem. And they will use their money to hide in gated compounds when it all implodes. Do not expect them to take care of us when it starts to unravel. We will have to take care of ourselves. We will have to rapidly create small, monastic communities where we can sustain and feed ourselves.

It will be up to us to keep alive the intellectual, moral and cultural values the corporate state has attempted to snuff out. It is either that or become drones and serfs in a global corporate dystopia. It is not much of a choice. But at least we still have one.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning author and former international correspondent for the New York Times. His latest book is The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

F.B.I. Agents Get Leeway to Push Privacy Bounds

The New York Times
June 12, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is giving significant new powers to its roughly 14,000 agents, allowing them more leeway to search databases, go through household trash or use surveillance teams to scrutinize the lives of people who have attracted their attention.

The F.B.I. soon plans to issue a new edition of its manual, called the Domestic Investigations and Operations Guide, according to an official who has worked on the draft document and several others who have been briefed on its contents. The new rules add to several measures taken over the past decade to give agents more latitude as they search for signs of criminal or terrorist activity.

The F.B.I. recently briefed several privacy advocates about the coming changes. Among them, Michael German, a former F.B.I. agent who is now a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, argued that it was unwise to further ease restrictions on agents’ power to use potentially intrusive techniques, especially if they lacked a firm reason to suspect someone of wrongdoing.

Claiming additional authorities to investigate people only further raises the potential for abuse,” Mr. German said, pointing to complaints about the bureau’s surveillance of domestic political advocacy groups and mosques and to an inspector general’s findings in 2007 that the F.B.I. had frequently misused “national security letters,” which allow agents to obtain information like phone records without a court order.

Valerie E. Caproni, the F.B.I. general counsel, said the bureau had fixed the problems with the national security letters and had taken steps to make sure they would not recur. She also said the bureau, which does not need permission to alter its manual so long as the rules fit within broad guidelines issued by the attorney general, had carefully weighed the risks and the benefits of each change.

Every one of these has been carefully looked at and considered against the backdrop of why do the employees need to be able to do it, what are the possible risks and what are the controls,” she said, portraying the modifications to the rules as “more like fine-tuning than major changes.”

Some of the most notable changes apply to the lowest category of investigations, called an “assessment.” The category, created in December 2008, allows agents to look into people and organizations “proactively” and without firm evidence for suspecting criminal or terrorist activity.

Under current rules, agents must open such an inquiry before they can search for information about a person in a commercial or law enforcement database. Under the new rules, agents will be allowed to search such databases without making a record about their decision.

Mr. German said the change would make it harder to detect and deter inappropriate use of databases for personal purposes. But Ms. Caproni said it was too cumbersome to require agents to open formal inquiries before running quick checks. She also said agents could not put information uncovered from such searches into F.B.I. files unless they later opened an assessment.

The new rules will also relax a restriction on administering lie-detector tests and searching people’s trash. Under current rules, agents cannot use such techniques until they open a “preliminary investigation,” which — unlike an assessment — requires a factual basis for suspecting someone of wrongdoing. But soon agents will be allowed to use those techniques for one kind of assessment, too: when they are evaluating a target as a potential informant.

Agents have asked for that power in part because they want the ability to use information found in a subject’s trash to put pressure on that person to assist the government in the investigation of others. But Ms. Caproni said information gathered that way could also be useful for other reasons, like determining whether the subject might pose a threat to agents.

The new manual will also remove a limitation on the use of surveillance squads, which are trained to surreptitiously follow targets. Under current rules, the squads can be used only once during an assessment, but the new rules will allow agents to use them repeatedly. Ms. Caproni said restrictions on the duration of physical surveillance would still apply, and argued that because of limited resources, supervisors would use the squads only rarely during such a low-level investigation.

The revisions also clarify what constitutes “undisclosed participation” in an organization by an F.B.I. agent or informant, which is subject to special rules — most of which have not been made public. The new manual says an agent or an informant may surreptitiously attend up to five meetings of a group before those rules would apply — unless the goal is to join the group, in which case the rules apply immediately.

At least one change would tighten, rather than relax, the rules. Currently, a special agent in charge of a field office can delegate the authority to approve sending an informant to a religious service. The new manual will require such officials to handle those decisions personally.

In addition, the manual clarifies a description of what qualifies as a “sensitive investigative matter” — investigations, at any level, that require greater oversight from supervisors because they involve public officials, members of the news media or academic scholars.

The new rules make clear, for example, that if the person with such a role is a victim or a witness rather than a target of an investigation, extra supervision is not necessary. Also excluded from extra supervision will be investigations of low- and midlevel officials for activities unrelated to their position — like drug cases as opposed to corruption, for example.

The manual clarifies the definition of who qualifies for extra protection as a legitimate member of the news media in the Internet era: prominent bloggers would count, but not people who have low-profile blogs. And it will limit academic protections only to scholars who work for institutions based in the United States.

Since the release of the 2008 manual, the assessment category has drawn scrutiny because it sets a low bar to examine a person or a group. The F.B.I. has opened thousands of such low-level investigations each month, and a vast majority has not generated information that justified opening more intensive investigations.

Ms. Caproni said the new manual would adjust the definition of assessments to make clear that they must be based on leads. But she rejected arguments that the F.B.I. should focus only on investigations that begin with a firm reason for suspecting wrongdoing.


Saturday, June 11, 2011

In India and Israel, the burden of protest falls on the victims of injustice

The moment of truth is approaching for Obama and his like who preach the high morality of non-violence to the powerless.

by Pankaj Mishra
The Guardian
June 6, 2011

At a dark moment in postcolonial history, when many US-backed despots seemed indestructible, the great Urdu poet Faiz Ahmed Faiz, whose centenary falls this year, wrote: "We shall witness [the day] when the enormous mountains of tyranny blow away like cotton".

That miraculous day promised by the poet finally came in Egypt and Tunisia this spring. We have since witnessed many of the world's acknowledged legislators scrambling to get on the right side of history.

Addressing – yet again – the "Muslim world" last month, Barack Obama hailed "the moral force of non-violence", through which "the people of the region have achieved more change in six months than terrorists have accomplished in decades".

But Obama failed to acknowledge to his highly politicised audience the fact that the United States enabled, and often required, the "relentless tyranny of governments that deny their citizens dignity". And he gave no sign that he would respect the moral authority of non-violent mass movements ranged against America's closest allies, India and Israel.

Let's not forget: before the Arab spring of 2011, there was the Kashmiri summer of 2010. Provoked by the killing of a teenage boy in June last year, hundreds of thousands of Kashmiris took to the streets to protest against India's brutal military occupation of the Muslim-majority valley. Summer is the usual "season for a face-off in Kashmir", as the Indian filmmaker Sanjay Kak writes in Until My Freedom Has Come: The New Intifada in Kashmir, a lively anthology of young Kashmiri writers, activists, rappers and graphic artists. There is little doubt that Kashmiris, emboldened by the Arab spring, will again stage massive demonstrations in their towns and villages.

The chances of a third intifada in the Palestinian territories occupied by Israel are just as high, as Binyamin Netanyahu devises ever greater hurdles to self-determination for his Arab subjects. In the next few months we will see more clearly than before how India and Israel – billed respectively as the world's largest, and the Middle East's only, democracy – respond to unarmed mass movements.

Certainly, they have shown no sign of fresh thinking, even as the victims of their occupations grow more inventive. India's security establishment fell back last summer on reflexes conditioned by two decades of fighting a militant insurgency during which more than 70,000 people, mostly civilians, have died; 8,000 have "disappeared", often into mass graves; and innumerable others have been subjected to "systematic torture", according to a rare public outburst by the Red Cross.

Last summer soldiers fired at demonstrators, killing 112 civilians, mostly teenagers (Kashmir has many of its own Hamza al-Khatibs). The government imposed round-the-clock curfews (one village was locked in for six weeks) and banned text messaging on mobile phones, while police spies infiltrated Facebook groups in an attempt to hunt down demo organisers.

Faced with non-violent Palestinian protesters, who correctly deduce that their methods have a better chance of influencing world opinion than Hamas's suicide bombers, Israel hasn't varied its repertoire of repression much. For years now the West Bank village of Bil'in has campaigned against the Israeli government's appropriation of its lands. Israel responded by jailing its leader, Abdallah Abu Rahmah, often called the Palestinian Gandhi, for 15 months – "solely", according to Amnesty International "for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression and assembly".

Encouraged by Egyptians and Tunisians, masses of unarmed Palestinians marched last month to the borders of Israel to mark the dispossession of 750,000 Palestinians in Mandate Palestine. Israeli soldiers met them with live gunfire, killing more than a dozen and wounding scores of others.

Of course, occupations damage the occupier no less than the occupied. Revanchist nationalism has corroded democratic and secular institutions in both India and Israel, which, not surprisingly, have developed a strong military relationship in the recent decade. Hindu nationalists feel an elective affinity with Israel for its apparently uncompromising attitude to Muslim minorities. In 1993 the then Israeli foreign minister, Shimon Peres, reportedly advised the Hindu nationalist leader LK Advani to alter the demographic composition of the mutinous Kashmir valley by settling Hindus there. Advani, later India's deputy prime minister, fondly quoted from Netanyahu's book on terrorism, given to him by the author. Israeli counter-insurgency experts now regularly visit Kashmir.

India and Israel, both products of botched imperial partitions, were the Bush government's two most avid international boosters of the catastrophic "war on terror", fluently deploying the ideological templates of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq – democracy versus terrorism, liberalism versus fundamentalism – to justify their own occupations.

Aggressively jingoistic media helped hardliners in both countries to demonise their political adversaries as terrorists or terrorist sympathisers. Meanwhile, liberal opinion grew almost inaudible. Writing recently in the New York Review of Books, the Israeli scholar and activist David Shulman lamented: "Israeli academic intellectuals as a group have failed to mount a sustained and politically effective protest against the occupation." This is also true of the Indian intelligentsia.

So the burden of non-violent protest in India and Israel has fallen almost entirely on the victims of the occupation. Indeed, many liberal commentators try to condone their passivity by deploring the absence of non-violent protests in Kashmir and Palestine (never mind the fact that the first intifadas in both places in the late 1980s turned violent only after being savagely suppressed).

The moment of truth is fast approaching for those powerful men who preach the high morality of non-violence to the powerless. Only an American veto seems likely to prevent the member states of the UN from declaring a new Palestinian state in September. But Palestinians may rise up against their colonial overlords well before this expected rejection. And, as the political philosopher Michael Walzer points out, Israel would then confront "something radically new. How can it resist masses of men and women, children too, just walking across the ceasefire lines?"

The tactics of young tech-savvy Kashmiris have already confused and bewildered the Indian government, whose recent actions – censoring the Economist, forcing spying rights out of BlackBerry and Google – evoke the last-minute desperation of the Arab world's mukhabarat (secret police) states. The mass movement in Kashmir, which has emerged after two decades of a futile militant insurgency and has no compromising links to Pakistan, poses, as the Kashmiri journalist Parvaiz Bukhari writes in Until My Freedom Has Come, an unprecedented "moral challenge to New Delhi's military domination over the region".

The stage is set, then, for a summer of protests, of unarmed masses rising up to express, in Obama's words, "a longing for freedom that has built up for years". They may well meet with live bullets rather than offers of negotiation and compromise. It will be fascinating to see if Obama makes good his claim last month that the United States "opposes violence and repression" and "welcomes change that advances self-determination".

Certainly, as the corpses of the Palestinian and Kashmiri Hamza al-Khatibs pile up, there will be the usual flurry of intellectual rationalisations – the bogey of Islamic terror will again be invoked. And we will witness how the "enormous mountains of tyranny" in the world's greatest democracies do not blow away like cotton.


Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Secret Wars Of CIA Cost U.S. Taxpayers Billions Of Dollars

by Sherwood Ross
Smirking Chimp
June 6, 2011

It's been estimated the Iraq war, besides making that country pretty much unlivable, will flush $3 trillion in U.S. taxpayer dollars down the Pentagon drain. Nobel Prize economist Joseph Stiglitz, who made that cost estimate, wrote with co-author Linda Bilmes in The Washington Post March 9, 2008, "The Iraq adventure has seriously weakened the U.S. can't spend $3 trillion -- yes, $3 trillion -- on a failed war abroad and not feel the pain at home."

The Stiglitz study is well known and is a factor in making many Americans want to get out of Iraq. (A CNN poll this January found two-thirds opposed the war.) But other costly wars have been waged by the White House, Pentagon, and CIA that have been kept largely secret. Their costs ran into the billions of dollars and not only cheated uninformed taxpayers but lacerated innocent nations, turning their populations against us, and ruined for American business countries that should have been harmonious trading partners.

Take El Salvador. President John Kennedy in the early Sixties worked to help El Salvador's military set up ORDEN, a rural paramilitary network, and ANSESAL, an intelligence agency, that were the forerunners of the dreaded Death Squads. Between 1980 and 1992, the U.S. literally waged a war to help the government suppress El Salvador's poverty-struck people. The CIA created right-wing Death Squads to murder labor leaders who fought on behalf of the poor for decent wages. By the time those killer bands had finished their slaughter, 75,000 civilians lay dead and "the U.S. Treasury depleted by six billion dollars," according to journalist William Blum's "Rogue State" from Common Courage Press.

"Officially, the U.S. Military presence in El Salvador was limited to an advisory capacity. In actuality, military and CIA personnel played a more active role on a continuous basis," Blum writes. "About 20 Americans were killed or wounded in helicopter and plane crashes while flying reconnaissance or other missions over combat areas, and considerable evidence surfaced of a U.S. role in the ground fighting as well."

That the CIA was involved up to its ears in the blood-bath is more than a hollow assertion. The man known as the "father" of El Salvador's notorious Death Squads, General Jose Alberto Medrano, told The Progressive magazine at the time that his killer outfits were established with the support of the CIA. What's more, Covert Action magazine reported that in 1963 the Pentagon's Green Beret Col. Arthur Simons of Panama sent 10 Army Special Forces men to help Medrano set up the first paramilitary Death Squad. These Green Berets carried out political assassinations in coordination with Salvadoran military, that magazine said.

Besides Green Berets, The Progressive identified both the State Department and the Agency for International Development(AID) as participating in the concerted effort to suppress dissent. As far as Medrano was concerned, anyone who took the side of employees against corporate owners was a Communist. "You discover the communist by the way he talks," Gen. Medrano said. "Generally, he speaks against Yankee imperialism, he speaks against the oligarchy, he speaks against military men. We can spot them easily."

Medrano added, "In this revolutionary war, the enemy comes from our people. They don't have the rights of Geneva. They are traitors to the country. What can the troops do? When they find them, they kill them." (So much for free speech and human rights.)

One of the "enemies" was Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero who urged soldiers to stop killing on grounds they were "not obliged to obey an order contrary to the law of God" -- a comment that is as relevant today as the hour it was uttered. The very next day while saying mass in a cancer hospital chapel, Romero was shot dead. According to Craig Pyes, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner, the Salvadoran National Guard also set up safe houses "where they tortured and then murdered those they considered 'subversives.' Their idea was to cleanse the country of hundreds of thousands of people."

President Reagan not only funded the savage El Salvador government, he used that nation, as well as Guatemala and Honduras, as springboards to attack Nicaragua. James Carroll, in his award-winning "House of War"(Houghton Mifflin), said Reagan "increased what had been relatively modest support to three of the most repressive regimes in the world, just as their police-state methods reached new levels of savagery, all in the name of staving off the Marxists."

Just why the U.S. Developed Death Squads in El Salvador may have something to do with profit-hungry US corporations operating Central America. As Carroll sees it, "More than two thirds of the region's people had been made desperately poor over three generations by an American-sponsored, single-crop, agri-business economy that had made a mere 5 percent of the population fabulously wealthy."

"The Latin oligarchs were not owners, exactly," Carroll explains, "but in effect agents of such American companies as United Fruit and Domino Sugar, and multinational corporations like Gulf & Western. Dictators had been installed in these countries to protect this U.S. dominance."

The slaughter in El Salvador, in which the CIA played a primary role, expresses the duality of U.S. foreign policy -- where the White House espouses freedom and self-determination for all peoples while the reality, kept from the knowledge of the American public, is a policy of oppression to serve the interests of misguided U.S. corporate officials exploiting foreign labor. Should it be a surprise that after years of busting labor unions from El Salvador to Iraq, US politicians are attempting to do the same Stateside? Is it surprising that after denying millions of people the world over their fundamental right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, the U.S. Congress has extended the Patriot Act and President Obama has assumed kingly powers, including the right to arrest anyone and throw away the key?

In this stunning disintegration of American democracy, the CIA is regularly found siding with the worst corporate interests -- big oil companies such as BP that want government to punish those who expect them to agree to a fair profit; agricultural giants that want cheap labor to maximize short-term profits; and so forth.

Such firms are afraid of both free enterprise and fair enterprise, and have turned the face of the nation towards unbridled corporate fascism. Like the Ku Klux Klan of old, the CIA is the new illegal, "invisible empire," one that works harmoniously with its one-time employee, President Obama, to serve the needs of the Empire.

The Republic is dead.