Category Archives: Reblogged Article

We the Sheeple: the Blind Reading the Blind

I came across the following article on a blog I follow – Tales from the Conspiratum.  I thought of simply re-blogging, but I don’t like the “Tales” background which makes it difficult to read articles, so I went to the source blog, “Counter punch” and simply copied the entire article and pasted it here with all relevant links.

It’s a bit long but it makes points that some of us have known since we went to grade school about the power that is imperialism.  How do we know whether we are living in a “free” world, or enmeshed in an imperial, world-dominating military dictatorship?  To decide, we need access to certain facts, not myths, legends, hearsay or the hum-drum BS of bought-and-paid-for commercial mainstream media.  We need to read what thinkers have to say.  Here is one such article.  May you find the time to ponder.  _________________________________________________________________________________________

We the Sheeple: the Blind Reading the Blind

Shortly after the fall of Communism in the Soviet Union, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Colin Powell, made a candid confession to the Army Times, “I’m running out of demons, I’m running out of villains. I’m down to Castro and Kim Il Sung.” Amid the general bonhomie of the military interview, Powell nicely encapsulated a central truth of empire: it doesn’t want peace. Never did. Imperialism, the monopoly stage of capitalism, is based on conquest. Peace is little more than an aftermath in the imperialist vision. It is the dusty rubble-strewn silence that descends on Aleppo when the jihadists have been bussed out. It is the silent pollution of the Danube when the NATO jets have flown. It is the quiet that settles on the Libyan square once the slave auction has concluded. Peace is an interlude between the birth of avarice and the advent of aggression. Little else.

If Powell confessed empire’s disinterest in peace, he also expressed the need of the imperials state for a steady supply of new enemies. Conflict is the lifeblood of imperial capitalism. It is how the ruling class further enriches itself. It is how the global elite expand their dominion over the planet. Those who will not pay tribute under threat of menace, must ultimately face the menace. But this truth, that the imperial state is the carmine tip of elite expropriation, must not be aired among the hoi polloi. It is the unseemly underbelly of power and if it were widely understood it would hack away the legitimacy of the state, which is only justified by its nominal commitment to the welfare of the nation. That claim only appears legitimate in the face of some grim and ghastly threat. Powell understood that with the nasty specter of the evil empire crumbling to ash on an Asian plain, a spine-chilling new antagonist would have to be invented to replace it.

Enter the specter of Islamic terror. Islamic terrorism is largely the product of American terror. It is wittingly conjured into being through our wanton destruction of Muslim societies. We did not attack Muslim nations in order to produce a new enemy. We attacked them to extend our control of natural resources, shape the trade routes of the future, and expand the reach of global capital. But the epiphenomenon of terrorism was both predictable and embraced as a casus belli. It is the hobgoblin used by ruling class media to frighten western populations into acquiescence with the west’s warlike vision for global hegemony.

But western populations have of late grown weary of the terrorist scourge and the endless storylines of restive migrants doing the dirty work of mysterious jihadists on the Disneyfied streets of western capitals. Jets into skyscrapers. Cars into crowds. Backpacks in corners of concert halls. High-rise shotgunners spraying bullets into public squares. Terror fatigue is spreading across a western world that could only sustain permanent stress levels for so long. Thankfully, for the managers of empire and its media flacks, a reborn Russian state, rising from the ashes of a capitalist looting spree, has provided a second narrative front in the war for the mind of the west. A different visage emerges. Not the bearded votary narrating a death wish to a shaky cam. But a Muscovite in a bespoke suit with a supercilious grin on his sly poker face. The optics are different, but in a media environment of constant overexposure, that is a good thing.

Both terrorism and a revanchist Russia represent figments of horror in the minds of western citizens. They are the bête noire with which we can shape our worldview and pepper our cocktail conversations. We do not realize that Islamic terror is largely a product of American terror. We do not see that American aggression provokes Russian self-defense. As such, these orientalist caricatures represent the hypocrisy of imperial neoliberalism, which is forever flying the false flag of economic justice and democratic freedom over its just-conquered capitals. Inhabitants of those broken cities know better, as their standard of living plummets and their dictators are replaced by juntas. They know the west is like Joseph Conrad’s sepulchral city, where an alabaster exterior hides a crypt of rotting flesh. That is the real vision that western media works so feverishly to disguise, one no sane person could stomach. That’s why the media must craft fresh Frankensteins at such a feverish pace. Fairy tales of secular missionaries bringing the gift of free-market democracy to the benighted tribes of the east.

Globalization and Its Discontents

The terminology of that fairy tale is telling. The term ‘globalization’ has been used as a portmanteau containing all of the sly nuance of neoliberalism. Globalization is the rush of capital into every conceivable crevice of the planet in search of profitable new ventures. Unfortunately, markets must be pried open with war when rhetorical picklocks don’t suffice. The term ‘humanitarian’ is the masque we now affix to the gruesome face of war whenever we must attack some recalcitrant socialist backwater. What we used to call a ‘civilising mission’ in Africa, we now call a ‘humanitarian intervention’ in the Middle East. Historians call that ‘progress.’

The effect of this noble-minded fustian is to pacify a population and to marginalize anyone who attempts to reveal the true character of imperial action. Who would oppose a globalizing force of open markets that promise to bring ‘developing’ and ‘emerging’ nations online and on par with our post-industrial west? Those who do can hardly explain the extractive nature of neoliberal globalization or its deindustrializing effect on developing economies before they are skewered by the flagbearers of humanitarianism. Who would deny the righteous cause of intervening to halt imminent genocide? One has barely called into question whether genocide is actually imminent before being fleeced by the rhetorical guardians of the west’s civilizing mission. The righteous R2P. One has hardly breathed a word of how the ‘war on terror’ is largely generated by the state terror we inflict on other nations before being rubber-stamped a traitor and told to leave the country (if you don’t like it).

The fable must be accepted. We are spreading freedom and equality. Simple as that. End of story. Say that the United States is the greatest counter-revolutionary force in the world, and be branded a traitor–by the counter-revolutionaries. Wherever democratic freedom rears its ugly head, you can be sure that U.S. media flacks, as well as special forces, drones, proxy terrorists, and battalions are on hand to crush what they claim to defend.

Softening the Blow

The fairy tales are told by the mainstream media, shamelessly so. The Wolf Blitzers of the world devote themselves to the slavish production of fresh threats. The liberal MSM is represented today by outlets such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, CNN, MSNBC, and NPR. These ciphers take the crude evasions of the White House, State Department, Pentagon, and intelligence agencies, and camouflage them. They dress them in muted tones that dampen the drama of blast craters. They massage the story to elide the facts that might produce introspection or taint the purity of our self-image. Self-criticism is inappropriate, but the righteous condemnation of other nations is a moral mandate. Print everything in classic fonts, with well-designed column widths, and add in world-class photography that turns ruination into artistic representation. This is the manna consumed by the acolytes of exceptionalism.

Nothing better embodies the empty ruse of liberalism than the bulky deadwood of the Times. There is of course the elitist coverage of mini-breaks in distant villas, where war-torn peasant societies repair their communities round a communal table. There are the heady profiles of the latest restaurant trends, where the bearded Brooklyn chef with neck tats touts his vegan currywurst to the gentrified hood. There is the fastidious theater review and the effusive real estate forecast. Filler aside, readers will be reminded that war is necessary when America wages it; globalization is inevitable when it means free markets, and free markets mean individual freedom; multiculturalism and mass immigration are desirable to all, irreversible, and a moral imperative; and inscrutable new alien threats are profiled with an Orientalist’s hopeful but ultimately worrisome and mystified gaze. Little mention is made of the fact that our conflicts are provably imperial resource wars; that in nearly every port of call our country wages counter-revolutionary battles that stifle liberation and independence; that globalization has wrecked the American standard of living through labor arbitrage and offshoring; that immigration ought not to be coupled with austerity unless the objective is race wars; that the lives of women, LGBTQ, and people of color are collateral damage in the crosshairs of empire; or that American capitalism has no interest in delivering jobs, living wages, or upward mobility to its extant population, let alone its newest members.

When these mostly taboo subjects are noted, they are presented as a perplexing side effects of a noble project of laissez faire globalization. They are unfortunate but must not be rashly addressed. Better to endlessly maintain the status quo as one wrestles with the philosophic implications of global capitalism. This was Obama’s favorite tactic. Open a dialogue, but don’t change anything important. This dissembling attitude was beautifully expressed in a recent Twitter thread which detailed seventy years of Times articles proclaiming a dizzying succession of reform-minded princes in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, where the patriarchy’s misogynist grip on power is as firm as ever, as is Washington’s backing. The last post in that thread noted Thomas Friedman’s sycophantic paean to the new idol of Saudi imperialism, Mohammed Bin Salman, or ‘MBS’ to his fawning admirers. Friedman’s article was printed last week.

When not absorbing the high culture of the Times literary supplement, one finds the corporate liberal Democrat happily digesting bite-sized reports from the National Public Radio (NPR). Here the adherence to the state view is no less vigilant than in print. Thus when NPR interviews a CIA psychologist who tells us that whistleblowers are either psychopaths, narcissists, or lingering in some irresponsible adolescence, the “national security correspondent” fails to challenge these claims. And when Australian broadcasting interviews Hillary Clinton, it allows the venal egotist to smear WikiLeaks as a Kremlin tool and call Julian Assange a narcissistic opportunist without the slightest resistance. Questions about the shady dealings of the Clinton Foundation are feebly set aside at the merest sign of discomfort by Madame Secretary. And Times op-ed writers like Friedman can happily call for support of al Qaeda, destroying target societies, and cheerlead more global wage leveling by chastising workers for not falling in lockstep with the elitist program.

These are the signs of a dead discipline. The mainstream media is no longer adversarial. It takes the official story at face value. It has abdicated its proper role in a democratic society, which is partly why we are no longer a democratic society. As Princeton University has explained, we are effectively a plutocracy. Thanks to the MSM, though, most of us continue to believe the rhetorical platitudes of our corrupt leaders. Media is one of our numberless emasculated institutions, which are now authoritarian and warlike. (See liberal faith in the Mueller investigation, led by a neoliberal imperialist who fought to crush Vietnamese socialism and led the FBI, one of the most regressive and criminal organizations in the world.) Like readers who still place a naive faith in the government, MSM writers continue to believe they are doing independent journalism in the service of truth (“Democracy dies in darkness,” the Post implores us). But real journalism accepts nothing at face value. It is the Socratic voice that unsettles the consensus.

Bot Bylines

Instead of incisive journalism that digs, defies, and holds power to account, we get self-censoring media automatons pampering oligarchs and pretending that all good-thinking people care deeply about the state of the state. Listen to the soothing language of the New York Times on the supposedly earth-shaking Russian influence campaign on social media. It hits all the right notes without seriously challenging the narrative. Note how it bleeds concern. This kind of journalism is a palliative for the conscience of a liberal. Ah, the “thorny debates” inside Facebook, no doubt had “in good faith,” and subject to “fateful misunderstandings,” if Ken Burns were documenting it. “Executives worry” and there is considerable “hand-wringing” afoot in good faith efforts to wipe out “fake news.”

Even the protagonists of the story are usefully quoted. Facebook lawyers, commenting on the miniscule purchase of ads over a two-year period from accounts with even the most tenuous Russian connection, much of it after the election, much of it not even mentioning presidential candidates, and the creation of bots to grow click farms, recoiled in horror and called the knowledge “deeply disturbing” and “an insidious attempt to drive people apart.” This is theater for the masses. Cue the organ grinder.

The goal of this domestic conditioning is to remove the democracy from democracy. The objective is to create a hollow shell of a democratic society, representative on the outside, plutocratic on the inside. The marble tomb inhabited by necrosis. This is deliberate. Read Alex Carey’s Taking the Risk Out of Democracy for a nice overview of how America’s collective conscience has been shaped by corporate forces. Why? Because we are the enemy. The enemy is our freedom of thought and speech, because that is what inevitably leads to democratic, socialist, or communist change that benefit the people as a whole, not just the vanishingly small margin of corporate elites who promote and profit from war, conquest, and rule. The problem with democracy is that it isn’t very profitable for capital. Socialist countries tend to emphasize social services. It is extremely hard to make money delivering quality social services to the poor. Really, the only way to make money off of social services is to deliver inadequate social services to the middle class for extravagant fees. See Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act for a master class in this technique. Monopoly capitalism is incompatible with actual democracy. To the degree that a truly democratic society can have free markets, they must be strictly regulated, prevented from reaching monopoly status, and completely walled off from public institutions. Otherwise, they will cannibalize those institutions, reshaping them as rubberstamp organs of elite profit.

As it is, democracy is merely the mask that disguises the engines of imperialism. It is useful in this regard because, unlike socialism, democracy makes no serious claims on the means of production. It depoliticizes the most political issue of all: economics. Thus the manufacture of enemies, job one for the ruling class media, always targets socialist-leaning nations that sense the need for economic justice alongside social justice. Even if they are mixed economies that provide space for open markets, like Venezuela. It makes no difference. We mustn’t tolerate the slightest majoritarian impulse in the economic arena. All such beliefs must be terminated. We must be refashioned as foot soldiers of exploitation. To this end, western propaganda outlets have made psychologist Erich Fromm’s warning sound less like prophecy than predestination, “The danger of the past was that men became slaves. The danger of the future is that men may become robots.”

More articles by:

Jason Hirthler is a veteran of the communications industry and author of The Sins of Empire: Unmasking American Imperialism. He lives in New York City and can be reached at jasonhirthler@gmail.com.

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Things many never think about

I received this from a friend and after reading it, thought it would be a good gesture to pass that information around.  You’ll see why.

NOT ALL THIEVES ARE STUPID 

  1. LONG-TERM PARKING: Some people left their car in the long-term parking while away, and someone broke into the car. Using the information on the car’s registration in the glove compartment, they drove the car to the people’s home in Pebble Beach and robbed it. So I guess if we are going to leave the car in long-term parking, we should NOT leave the registration/insurance cards in it, nor your remote garage door opener. This gives us something to think about with all our new electronic technology.
  2. GPS: Someone had their car broken into while they were at a football game. Their car was parked on the green which was adjacent to the football stadium and specially allotted to football fans. Things stolen from the car included a garage door remote control, some money and a GPS which had been prominently mounted on the dashboard. When the victims got home, they found that their house had been ransacked and just about everything worth anything had been stolen. The thieves had used the GPS to guide them to the house. They then used the garage remote control to open the garage door and gain entry to the house.. The thieves knew the owners were at the football game, they knew what time the game was scheduled to finish and so they knew how much time they had to clean out the house. It would appear that they had brought a truck to empty the house of its contents. Something to consider if you have a GPS – don’t put your home address in it… Put a nearby address (like a store or gas station) so you can still find your way home if you need to, but no one else would know where you live if your GPS were stolen ..
  3. CELL PHONES: I never thought of this…… This lady has now changed her habit of how she lists her names on her cell phone after her handbag was stolen. Her handbag, which contained her cell phone, credit card, wallet, etc.., was stolen. Twenty minutes later when she called her hubby, from a pay phone telling him what had happened, hubby says, “I received your text asking about our Pin number and I’ve replied a little while ago.” When they rushed down to the bank, the bank staff told them all the money was already withdrawn. The thief had actually used the stolen cell phone to text “hubby” in the contact list and got hold of the pin number. Within 20 minutes he had withdrawn all the money from their bank account Moral of the lesson: a. Do not disclose the relationship between you and the people in your contact list. Avoid using names like Home, Honey, Hubby, Sweetheart, Dad, Mom, etc…. b. And very importantly, when sensitive info is being asked through texts, CONFIRM by calling back. c. Also, when you’re being texted by friends or family to meet them somewhere, be sure to call back to confirm that the message came from them If you don’t reach them, be very careful about going places to meet “family and friends” who text you.
  4. PURSE IN THE GROCERY CART SCAM: A lady went grocery-shopping at a local mall and left her purse sitting in the children’s seat of the cart while she reached something off a shelf… wait till you read the WHOLE story! Her wallet was stolen, and she reported it to the store personnel. After returning home, she received a phone call from the Mall Security to say that they had her wallet and that although there was no money in it, it did still hold her personal papers. She immediately went to pick up her wallet, only to be told by Mall Security that they had not called her. By the time she returned home again, her house had been broken into and burglarized. The thieves knew that by calling and saying they were Mall Security, they could lure her out of her house long enough for them to burglarize it.

Eduardo Galeano, Monster Wanted (a Tomgram article)

The following is a copied article from Tomgram (see links), there being no “reblog” button on that site.  It is an introduction to a book that sounds very intriguing.  ~Sha’Tara~

Tomgram: Eduardo Galeano, Monster Wanted
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch.

[Note for TomDispatch Readers: If you’ve never read a book by Eduardo Galeano, believe me, your life has been lacking. Read his first book, read his last book, read something he wrote anyway. I offer you the Engelhardt guarantee: you won’t regret it. Start, if you wish, with his final volume, Hunter of Stories, featured in today’s post and then work your way back through a writer to remember.  Tom]

I’m 73, which means that saying goodbye for the last time is increasingly a part of my life.  Today, with the deepest regret, I’m bidding a final farewell at TomDispatch to one of the more remarkable writers I’ve known, Eduardo Galeano. I initially got involved with him in the early 1980s. I was a young editor at Pantheon Books and, on some strange impulse, decided to publish Genesis, the first volume of his Memory of Fire trilogy, based on no more than a few sample passages translated by the remarkable Cedric Belfrage. Call it intuition when it came to a book that had already been rejected by a number of U.S. publishers. (Admittedly, at the time I proudly thought of myself as the “editor of last resort” in New York publishing.) That modest decision launched me on the print journey of a lifetime.

This was back in the days many of you won’t remember when a book was translated and edited, often over long distances, without benefit of the Internet or email.  Belfrage had been exiled to Mexico during the McCarthy years, so he and I worked together in the old-fashioned way: by mail. (I wouldn’t meet him until years later: a little grey-haired gent with a cane who — I was still young enough to be staggered by the thought — had covered Hollywood for the British press in the silent film era.) It took forever to produce Genesis, though the process had a certain beauty to it. That first volume came out to modest attention and reviews, but its life and influence and that of the whole Memory of Fire trilogy would continue to grow in a way that only books could in those years and perhaps even in these. Eduardo was the most dramatic and beautiful of writers and he caught history — the history of these continents and of so many of the half-forgotten figures who struggled for what truly mattered — in a unique fashion, often in little passages of hardly a page or more. (I can still remember reading some of the more wonderful of them to my children as they were growing up.) I once wrote of him, “You somehow take our embattled world and tell its many stories in ways no one else can.” How true.

It took me years to meet Eduardo, since I travel nowhere, though he voyaged endlessly. (A friend of his once told him, “If it’s true what they say about the road being made by walking, you must be the commissioner of public works.”) Never have I met a man of more charisma who seemed less aware of it. Being with him was an experience because people regularly approached him to tell stories about their lives that were… well, there’s only one word for it: Galeano-esque. I saw it happen.

I’ve featured his work many times at this site, always with the deepest pleasure. This, I suspect, is the last time for both of us. The passages below are from his final, touching volume published by Nation Books, Hunter of Stories. And so, let me take this opportunity, one last time, to say goodbye, Eduardo, and thank you for everything, especially for the worlds you captured forever in words. Tom

A Visit to Heaven and Hell
Mapping Planet Earth
By Eduardo Galeano

[The following passages are excerpted from Hunter of Stories, the last book by Eduardo Galeano, who died in 2015.  Thanks for its use go to his literary agent, Susan Bergholz, and Nation Books, which is publishing it next week.]

Free

By day, the sun guides them. By night, the stars.

Paying no fare, they travel without passports and without forms for customs or immigration.

Birds are the only free beings in this world inhabited by prisoners. They fly from pole to pole, powered by food alone, on the route they choose and at the hour they wish, without ever asking permission of officials who believe they own the heavens.

Shipwrecked

The world is on the move.

On board are more shipwrecked souls than successful seafarers.

Thousands of desperate people die en route, before they can complete the crossing to the promised land, where even the poor are rich and everyone lives in Hollywood.

The illusions of any who manage to arrive do not last long.

Monster Wanted

Saint Columba was rowing across Loch Ness when an immense serpent with a gaping mouth attacked his boat. Saint Columba, who had no desire to be eaten, chased it off by making the sign of the cross.

Fourteen centuries later, the monster was seen again by someone living nearby, who happened to have a camera around his neck, and pictures of it and of curious footprints came out in the Glasgow and London papers.

The creature turned out to be a toy, the footprints made by baby hippopotamus feet, which are sold as ashtrays.

The revelation did nothing to discourage the tourists.

The market for fear feeds on the steady demand for monsters.

Foreigner

In a community newspaper in Barcelona’s Raval neighborhood, an anonymous hand wrote:

Your god is Jewish, your music is African, your car is Japanese, your pizza is Italian, your gas is Algerian, your coffee is Brazilian, your democracy is Greek, your numbers are Arabic, your letters are Latin.

I am your neighbor. And you call me a foreigner?

The Terrorizer

Back in the years 1975 and 1976, before and after the coup d’état that imposed the most savage of Argentina’s many military dictatorships, death threats flew fast and furious and anyone suspected of the crime of thinking simply disappeared.

Orlando Rojas, a Paraguayan exile, answered his telephone in Buenos Aires. Every day a voice repeated the same thing: “I’m calling to tell you you’re going to die.”

So you aren’t?” Orlando asked.

The terrorizer would hang up.

A Visit to Hell

Some years ago, during one of my deaths, I paid a visit to hell.

I had heard that in the underworld you can get your favorite wine and any delicacy you want, lovers for all tastes, dancing music, endless pleasure…

Once again, I was able to corroborate the fact that advertising lies. Hell promises a great life, but all I found were people waiting in line.

In that endless queue, snaking out of sight along narrow smoky passages, were women and men of all epochs, from cavemen to astronauts.

All were condemned to wait. To wait for eternity.

That’s what I discovered: hell is waiting.

Prophecies

Who was it that a century ago best described today’s global power structure?

Not a philosopher, not a sociologist, not a political scientist either.

It was a child named Little Nemo, whose adventures were published in the New York Herald way back in 1905, as drawn by Winsor McCay.

Little Nemo dreamed about the future.

In one of his most unerring dreams, he traveled to Mars.

That unfortunate planet was in the hands of a businessman who had crushed his competitors and exercised an absolute monopoly.

The Martians seemed stupid, because they said little and breathed little.

Little Nemo knew why: the boss of Mars had seized ownership of words and the air.

They were the keys to life, the sources of power.

Very Brief Synthesis of Contemporary History

For several centuries subjects have donned the garb of citizens, and monarchies have preferred to call themselves republics.

Local dictatorships, claiming to be democracies, open their doors to the steamroller of the global market. In this kingdom of the free, we are all united as one. But are we one, or are we no one? Buyers or bought? Sellers or sold? Spies or spied upon?

We live imprisoned behind invisible bars, betrayed by machines that feign obedience but spread lies with cybernetic impunity.

Machines rule in homes, factories, offices, farms, and mines, and also on city streets, where we pedestrians are but a nuisance. Machines also rule in wars, where they do as much of the killing as warriors in uniform, or more.

The Right to Plunder

In the year 2003, a veteran Iraqi journalist named Samir visited several museums in Europe.

He found marvelous texts in Babylonian, heroes and gods sculpted in the hills of Nineveh, winged lions that had flown in Assyria…

Someone approached him, offered to help: “Shall I call a doctor?”

Squatting, Samir buried his face in his hands and swallowed his tears.

He mumbled, “No, please. I’m all right.”

Later on, he explained: “It hurts to see how much they have stolen and to know how much they will steal.”

Two months later, U.S. troops launched their invasion. The National Museum in Baghdad was sacked. One hundred seventy thousand works were reported lost.

Stories Tell the Tale

I wrote Soccer in Sun and Shadow to convert the pagans. I wanted to help fans of reading lose their fear of soccer, and fans of soccer lose their fear of books. I never imagined anything else.

But according to Víctor Quintana, a congressman in Mexico, the book saved his life. In the middle of 1997, he was kidnapped by professional assassins, hired to punish him for exposing dirty deals.

They had him tied up, face down on the ground, and were kicking him to death, when there was a pause before the final bullet. The murderers got caught up in an argument about soccer. That was when Víctor, more dead than alive, put in his two cents. He began telling stories from my book, trading minutes of life for every story from those pages, the way Scheherazade traded a story for every one of her thousand-and-one nights.

Hours and stories slowly unfolded.

At last the murderers left him, tied up and trampled, but alive.

They said, “You’re a good guy,” and they took their bullets elsewhere.

***

Quite a few years ago now, during my time in exile on the coast of Catalonia, I got an encouraging nudge from a girl eight or nine years old, who, unless I’m remembering wrong, was named Soledad.

I was having a few drinks with her parents, also exiles, when she called me over and asked,

So, what do you do?”

Me? I write books.”

You write books?”

Well… yes.”

I don’t like books,” she declared.

And since she had me against the ropes, she hit me again: “Books sit still. I like songs because songs fly.”

Ever since my encounter with that angel sent by God, I have attempted to sing. It’s never worked, not even in the shower. Every time, the neighbors scream, “Get that dog to stop barking!”

***

My granddaughter Catalina was ten.

We were walking along a street in Buenos Aires when someone came up and asked me to sign a book. I can’t remember which one.

We continued on, the two of us, quietly arm in arm, until Catalina shook her head and offered this encouraging remark: “I don’t know why they make such a fuss. Not even I read you.”

Eduardo Galeano (1940-2015) was one of Latin America’s most distinguished writers.  He was the author of many books, including the three-volume Memory of Fire, Open Veins of Latin America, Soccer in Sun and Shadow, and The Book of Embraces.  Born in Montevideo in 1940, he lived in exile in Argentina and Spain for 12 years before returning to Uruguay in 1985, where he spent the rest of his life.  The passages in this post are excerpted from his final book, Hunter of Stories, translated by Mark Fried and about to be published by Nation Books.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, as well as John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Excerpted from Hunter of Stories. Copyright © 2017 by Eduardo Galeano. English translation copyright © 2017 by Mark Fried. Available from Nation Books, an imprint of Perseus Books, LLC, a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc. By permission of Susan Bergholz Literary Services, Lamy, N.M., and New York City. All rights reserved.

Political Correctness in Sports

One cannot always be “serious” – there has to be room for humour, even in the volunteer trenches, and here’s a good example of such humour.  Just got this in an email from a friend who spends time in the same trenches.

I think all sports fans will get a kick out of this letter written to the Chicago Tribune…. 

if it really was. ….

Here is an e-mail sent to Clarence Page of the Chicago Tribune after an article he published concerning a name change for the Washington Redskins.

Dear Mr. Page: I agree with our Native American population. I am highly insulted by the racially charged name of the Washington Redskins. One might
argue that to name a professional football team after Native Americans would exalt them as fine warriors, but nay, nay. We must be careful not to offend, and in the spirit of political correctness and courtesy, we must move forward

Let’s ditch the Kansas City Chiefs, the Atlanta Braves and the Cleveland Indians. If your shorts are in a wad because of the reference the name Redskins makes to skin color, then we need to get rid of the Cleveland Browns.

The Carolina Panthers obviously were named to keep the memory of militant Blacks from the 60s alive. Gone. It’s offensive to us white folk.

The New York Yankees offend the Southern population. Do you see a team named for the Confederacy? No! There is no room for any reference to that tragic war that cost this country so many young men’s lives.

I am also offended by the blatant references to the Catholic religion among our sports team names. Totally inappropriate to have the New Orleans Saints, the Los Angeles Angels or the San Diego Padres.

Then there are the team names that glorify criminals who raped and pillaged. We are talking about the horrible Oakland Raiders, the Minnesota Vikings, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Pittsburgh Pirates!

Now, let us address those teams that clearly send the wrong message to our children. The San Diego Chargers promote irresponsible fighting or even spending habits. Wrong message to our children.

The New York Giants and the San Francisco Giants promote obesity, a growing childhood epidemic. Wrong message to our children.

The Cincinnati Reds promote downers/barbiturates. Wrong message to our  children.

The Milwaukee Brewers. Well, that goes without saying. Wrong message to our children.

So, there you go. We need to support any legislation that comes out to rectify this travesty, because the government will likely become involved with this issue, as they should. Just the kind of thing the do-nothing Congress loves.

As a diehard Oregon State fan, my wife and I, with all of this in mind, suggest it might also make some sense to change the name of the Oregon State women’s athletic teams to something other than “the Beavers.” (especially when they play Southern California.
Do we really want the Trojans sticking it to the Beavers???)

I always love your articles and I generally agree with them. As for the Redskins name, I would suggest they change the name to the “Foreskins” to better represent their community, paying tribute to the dickheads in Congress.

Tomgram: Alfred McCoy, Trumping the Empire

NOTE:  I’m posting this copy of a “Tomgram” article for 2 reasons.  

One, this particular article (I’ve read many others with a similar theme but none as clearly stated) “validates” what I said about Donald Trump as a potential POTUS when he first entered the race for president of the US of A.  What I said then, and have repeated so many times since that it feels this has been going on for years, is this:  Were I an American citizen entitled to vote I’d vote for Donald Trump.  For one reason only.  I see Trump as the perfect architect of the irrecoverable downfall of the American military-industrial corporate empire and attendant hegemonic powers.  I would vote for Trump as the instrument millions of America’s victims of US-based corporate exploitation and USA military oppression have been waiting and praying for since that empire’s military defeat in Vietnam.  My thoughts were never meant as any kind of anti-American people statement but as an anti-hegemon dream fulfillment. 

Two, for the “2020” scenario of US military debacle in the Middle East at the end of this article.  Not only is it quite entertaining, to some of us who “live” our current history in mind and heart, it is a prophecy.   (Sha’Tara) 
____________________________________________________________________________

Posted by Alfred McCoy at 4:23pm, July 16, 2017.
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[Note for TomDispatch Readers: In September, Dispatch Books will publish the next in our line-up of explorations of imperial America: Alfred McCoy’s remarkable In the Shadows of the American CenturyKirkus Reviews has praised it as “sobering reading for geopolitics mavens and Risk aficionados alike, offering no likely path beyond decline and fall.” Among the impressive range of comments we’ve gotten on it come two from Pulitzer Prize winners. Novelist Viet Thanh Nguyen, author of The Sympathizer, writes that McCoy “persuasively argues for the inevitable decline of the American empire and the rise of China… Let’s hope that Americans will listen to his powerful arguments.” And historian John Dower states that the book “joins the essential short list of scrupulous historical and comparative studies of the United States as an awesome, conflicted, technologically innovative, routinely atrocious, and ultimately hubristic imperial power.” As with all his work since the CIA tried to stifle his classic first book, The Politics of Heroin, back in the early 1970s, McCoy’s is leading-edge stuff and a must-read, so reserve your copy early by clicking here. Tom]

I was 12. It was 1956. I lived in New York City and was a youthful history buff. (I should have kept my collection of American Heritage magazines!) Undoubtedly, I was also some kind of classic nerd. In any case, at some point during the Suez crisis of that year, I can remember going to the U.N. by myself and sitting in the gallery of the General Assembly, where I undoubtedly heard imperial Britain denounced for its attempt to retake the Suez Canal (in league with the French and Israelis). I must admit that it was a moment in my life I had totally forgotten about until historian Alfred McCoy, whose new Dispatch Book, In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of U.S. Global Power, is due out in September, brought it to mind again. And I certainly hadn’t imagined that Suez might have any applicability to this moment. But almost 16 years after this country’s disastrous “war on terror” was launched and with yet another major Middle Eastern city in rubble, we are undoubtedly witnessing a change in the balance (or imbalance) of power on this unruly planet of ours — and who better to make sense of it than historian McCoy?

Think of him as a modern Edward Gibbon, writing in the twenty-first century on the decline and fall of a great empire. However, unlike Gibbon, who wrote his classic book on Rome centuries after its empire had disappeared from the face of the earth, McCoy has no choice but to deal with American decline contemporaneously — in, that is, the very act of its happening.

I had a canny friend who assured me a couple of decades ago that when European countries finally started saying no to Washington, I’d have a signal that I was on another planet. So we must now be on Mars. I was struck, for instance, by a recent piece in the Guardian describing the G20 summit as “the ‘G1’ versus the ‘G19.’” In other words, it’s increasingly Donald Trump’s Washington against the world, which is the definition of how not to make an empire work. Since imperial decline may, in fact, have been a significant factor in bringing Donald Trump to power, think of him as both its harbinger and — as McCoy so vividly describes today — its architect. Tom

The Demolition of U.S. Global Power 
Donald Trump’s Road to Debacle in the Greater Middle East 
By Alfred W. McCoy

The superhighway to disaster is already being paved.

From Donald Trump’s first days in office, news of the damage to America’s international stature has come hard and fast. As if guided by some malign design, the new president seemed to identify the key pillars that have supported U.S. global power for the past 70 years and set out to topple each of them in turn. By degrading NATO, alienating Asian allies, canceling trade treaties, and slashing critical scientific research, the Trump White House is already in the process of demolishing the delicately balanced architecture that has sustained Washington’s world leadership since the end of World War II.  However unwittingly, Trump is ensuring the accelerated collapse of American global hegemony.

Stunned by his succession of foreign policy blunders, commentators — left and right, domestic and foreign — have raised their voices in a veritable chorus of criticism. A Los Angeles Times editorial typically called him “so unpredictable, so reckless, so petulant, so full of blind self-regard, so untethered to reality” that he threatened to “weaken this country’s moral standing in the world” and “imperil the planet” through his “appalling” policy choices. “He’s a sucker who’s shrinking U.S. influence in [Asia] and helping make China great again,” wrote New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman after surveying the damage to the country’s Asian alliances from the president’s “decision to tear up the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade deal in his first week in office.”

The international press has been no less harsh. Reeling from Trump’s denunciation of South Korea’s free-trade agreement as “horrible” and his bizarre claim that the country had once been “a part of China,” Seoul’s leading newspaper, Chosun Ilboexpressed the “shock, betrayal, and anger many South Koreans have felt.” Assessing his first 100 days in office, Britain’s venerable Observer commented: “Trump’s crudely intimidatory, violent, know-nothing approach to sensitive international issues has encircled the globe from Moscow to the Middle East to Beijing, plunging foes and allies alike into a dark vortex of expanding strategic instability.”

For an American president to virtually walk out of his grand inaugural celebrations into such a hailstorm of criticism is beyond extraordinary. Having more or less exhausted their lexicon of condemnatory rhetoric, the usual crew of commentators is now struggling to understand how an American president could be quite so willfully self-destructive.

Britain’s Suez Crisis

Blitzed by an incessant stream of bizarre tweets and White House conspiracy theories, observers worldwide seem to have concluded that Donald Trump is a president like no other, that the situation he’s creating is without parallel, and that his foreign policy is already a disaster without precedent. After rummaging around in history’s capacious closet for some old suit that might fit him, analysts have failed to find any antecedent or analogue to adequately explain him.

Yet just 60 years ago, a crisis in the ever-volatile Middle East overseen by a bumbling, mistake-prone British leader helped create a great power debacle that offers insight into the Trumpian moment, a glimpse into possible futures, and a sense of the kind of decline that could lie in the imperial future of the United States.

In the early 1950s, Britain’s international position had many parallels with America’s today. After a difficult postwar recovery from the devastation of World War II, that country was enjoying robust employment, lucrative international investments, and the prestige of the pound sterling’s stature as the world’s reserve currency. Thanks to a careful withdrawal from its far-flung, global empire and its close alliance with Washington, London still enjoyed a sense of international influence exceptional for a small island nation of just 50 million people. On balance, Britain seemed poised for many more years of world leadership with all the accompanying economic rewards and perks.

Then came the Suez crisis. After a decade of giving up one colony after another, the accumulated stress of imperial retreat pushed British conservatives into a disastrous military intervention to reclaim Egypt’s Suez Canal.  This, in turn, caused a “deep moral crisis in London” and what one British diplomat would term the “dying convulsion of British imperialism.” In a clear instance of what historians call “micro-militarism” — that is, a bold military strike designed to recover fading imperial influence — Britain joined France and Israel in a misbegotten military invasion of Egypt that transformed slow imperial retreat into a precipitous collapse.

Just as the Panama Canal had once been a shining example for Americans of their nation’s global prowess, so British conservatives treasured the Suez Canal as a vital lifeline that tied their small island to its sprawling empire in Asia and Africa. A few years after the canal’s grand opening in 1869, London did the deal of the century, scooping up Egypt’s shares in it for a bargain basement price of £4 million.  Then, in 1882, Britain consolidated its control over the canal through a military occupation of Egypt, reducing that ancient land to little more than an informal colony.

As late as 1950, in fact, Britain still maintained 80,000 soldiers and a string of military bases astride the canal. The bulk of its oil and gasoline, produced at the enormous Abadan refinery in the Persian Gulf, transited through Suez, fueling its navy, its domestic transportation system, and much of its industry.

After British troops completed a negotiated withdrawal from Suez in 1955, the charismatic nationalist leader Gamal Abdel Nasser asserted Egypt’s neutrality in the Cold War by purchasing Soviet bloc arms, raising eyebrows in Washington. In July 1956, after the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower had in response reneged on its promise to finance construction of the Aswan High Dam on the Upper Nile, Nasser sought alternative financing for this critical infrastructure by nationalizing the Suez Canal.  In doing so, he electrified the Arab world and elevated himself to the top rank of world leaders.

Although British ships still passed freely through the canal and Washington insisted on a diplomatic resolution of the conflict, Britain’s conservative leadership reacted with irrational outrage. Behind a smokescreen of sham diplomacy designed to deceive Washington, their closest ally, the British foreign secretary met secretly with the prime ministers of France and Israel near Paris to work out an elaborately deceptive two-stage invasion of Egypt by 250,000 allied troops, backed by 500 aircraft and 130 warships.  Its aim, of course, was to secure the canal.

On October 29, 1956, the Israeli army led by the dashing General Moshe Dayan swept across the Sinai Peninsula, destroying Egyptian tanks and bringing his troops to within 10 miles of the canal. Using this fighting as a pretext for an intervention to restore peace, Anglo-French amphibious and airborne forces quickly joined the attack, backed by a devastating bombardment from six aircraft carriers that destroyed the Egyptian air forceincluding over a hundred of its new MiG jet fighters. As Egypt’s military collapsed with some 3,000 of its troops killed and 30,000 captured, Nasser deployed a defense brilliant in its simplicity by scuttling dozens of rusting cargo ships filled with rocks and concrete at the entrance to the Suez Canal.  In this way, he closed Europe’s oil lifeline to the Persian Gulf.

Simultaneously, U.N. Secretary General Dag Hammarskjöld, backed by Washington, imposed a cease-fire after just nine days of war, stopping the Anglo-French attack far short of capturing the entire canal. President Eisenhower’s blunt refusal to back his allies with either oil or money and the threat of condemnation before the U.N. soon forced Britain into a humiliating withdrawal. With its finances collapsing from the invasion’s soaring costs, the British government could not maintain the pound’s official exchange rate, degrading its stature as a global reserve currency.

The author of this extraordinary debacle was Sir Anthony Eden, a problematic prime minister whose career offers some striking parallels with Donald Trump’s. Born into privilege as the son of a landholder, Eden enjoyed a good education at a private school and an elite university. After inheriting a substantial fortune from his father, he entered politics as a conservative, using his political connections to dabble in finance. Chafing under Winston Churchill’s postwar leadership of the Conservative Party, Eden, who styled himself a rebel against hidebound institutions, used incessant infighting and his handsome head of hair to push the great man aside and become prime minister in 1955.

When Nasser nationalized the canal, Eden erupted with egotism, bluster, and outrage. “What’s all this nonsense about isolating Nasser,” Eden berated his foreign affairs minister. “I want him destroyed, can’t you understand? I want him murdered, and if you and the Foreign Office don’t agree, then you’d better come to the cabinet and explain why.” Convinced that Britain was still the globe’s great power, Eden rejected sound advice that he consult fully with Washington, the country’s closest ally. As his bold intervention plunged toward diplomatic disaster, the prime minister became focused on manipulating the British media, in the process confusing favorable domestic coverage with international support.

When Washington demanded a ceasefire as the price of a billion-dollar bailout for a British economy unable to sustain such a costly war, Eden’s bluster quickly crumbled and he denied his troops a certain victory, arousing a storm of protest in Parliament. Humiliated by the forced withdrawal, Eden compensated psychologically by ordering MI-6, Britain’s equivalent of the CIA, to launch its second ill-fated assassination attempt on Nasser. Since its chief local agent was actually a double-agent loyal to Nasser, Egyptian security had, however, already rounded up the British operatives and the weapons delivered for the contract killers proved duds.

Confronted with a barrage of angry questions in Parliament about his collusion with the Israelis, Eden lied repeatedly, swearing that there was no “foreknowledge that Israel would attack Egypt.” Protesters denounced him as “too stupid to be a prime minister,” opposition members of parliament laughed openly when he appeared before Parliament, and his own foreign affairs minister damned him as “an enraged elephant charging senselessly at… imaginary enemies.”

Just weeks after the last British soldier left Egypt, Eden, discredited and disgraced, was forced to resign after only 21 months in office. Led into this unimaginably misbegotten operation by his delusions of omnipotence, he left the once-mighty British lion a toothless circus animal that would henceforth roll over whenever Washington cracked the whip.

Trump’s Demolition Job

Despite the obvious differences in their economic circumstances, there remain some telling resonances between Britain’s postwar politics and America’s troubles today. Both of these fading global hegemons suffered a slow erosion of economic power in a fast-changing world, producing severe social tensions and stunted political leaders. Britain’s Conservative Party leadership had declined from the skilled diplomacy of Disraeli, Salisbury, and Churchill to Eden’s bluster and blunder.  Similarly, the Republican Party has descended from the likes of Teddy Roosevelt, Eisenhower, and George H.W. Bush to a field of 17 primary candidates in 2016 who promised to resolve an infinitely complex crisis in the Middle East through a set of incendiary policies that included making desert sands glow from carpet-bombing and forcing terrorists to capitulate through torture. Confronted with daunting international challenges, the voters of both countries supported appealing but unstable leaders whose delusions of omnipotence inclined them to military misadventures.

Like British citizens of the 1950s, most Americans today do not fully grasp the fragility of their status as “the leader of the free world.” Indeed, Washington has been standing astride the globe as a superpower for so long that most of its leaders have almost no understanding of the delicate design of their country’s global power built so carefully by two post-World War II presidents.

Under Democratic President Harry Truman, Congress created the key instruments for Washington’s emerging national security state and its future global dominion by passing the National Security Act of 1947 that established the Air Force, the CIA, and two new executive agencies, the Defense Department and the National Security Council. To rebuild a devastated, war-torn Europe, Washington launched the Marshall Plan and then turned such thinking into a worldwide aid program through the U.S. Agency for International Development meant to embed American power globally and support pro-American elites across the planet. Under Truman as well, U.S. diplomats forged the NATO alliance (which Washington would dominate until the Trump moment), advanced European unity, and signed a parallel string of mutual-defense treaties with key Asian allies along the Pacific littoral, making Washington the first power in two millennia to controlboth “axial ends” of the strategic Eurasian continent.

During the 1950s, Republican President Dwight Eisenhower deployed this national security apparatus to secure Washington’s global dominion with a nuclear triad (bombers, ballistic missiles, and submarines), a chain of military bases that ringed Eurasia, and a staggering number of highly militarized covert operations to assure the ascent of loyal allies worldwide. Above all, he oversaw the integration of the latest in scientific and technological research into the Pentagon’s weapons procurement system through the forging of the famed “military-industrial complex” (against which he would end up warning Americans as he left office in 1961).   All this, in turn, fostered an aura of American power so formidable that Washington could re-order significant parts of the world almost at will, enforcing peace, setting the international agenda, and toppling governments on four continents.

While it’s reasonable to argue that Washington had by then become history’s greatest global power, its hegemony, like that of all the world empires that preceded it, remained surprisingly fragile. Skilled leadership was required to maintain the system’s balance of diplomacy, military power, economic strength, and technological innovation.

By the time President Trump took his oath of office, negative, long-term trends had already started to limit the influence of any American leader on the world stage.  These included a declining share of the global economy, an erosion of U.S. technological primacy, an inability to apply its overwhelming military power in a way that achieved expected policy goals on an ever more recalcitrant planet, and a generation of increasingly independent national leaders, whether in Europe, Asia, or Latin America.

Apart from such adverse trends, Washington’s global power rested on such strategic fundamentals that its leaders might still have managed carefully enough to maintain a reasonable semblance of American hegemony: notably, the NATO alliance and Asian mutual-security treaties at the strategic antipodes of Eurasia, trade treaties that reinforced such alliances, scientific research to sustain its military’s technological edge, and leadership on international issues like climate change.

In just five short months, however, the Trump White House has done a remarkable job of demolishing these very pillars of U.S. global power. During his first overseas trip in May 2017, President Trump chastised stone-faced NATO leaders for failure to pay their “fair share” into the military part of the alliance and refused to affirm its core principle of collective defense. Ignoring the pleas of these close allies, he then forfeited America’s historic diplomatic leadership by announcing Washington’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord with all the drama of a reality television show. After watching his striking repudiation of Washington’s role as world leader, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told voters in her country that “we must fight for our future on our own, for our destiny as Europeans.”

Along the strategic Pacific littoral, Trump cancelled the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact on taking office and gratuitously alienated allies by cutting short a courtesy phone call to Australia’s prime minister and insulting South Korea to the point where its new president won office, in part, on a platform of “say no” to America. When President Moon Jae-in visited Washington in June, determined to heal the breach between the two countries, he was, as the New York Times reported, blindsided by “the harshness of Mr. Trump’s critique of South Korea on trade.”

Just days after Trump dismissed Moon’s suggestion that the two countries engage in actual diplomatic negotiations with Pyongyang, North Korea successfully test-fired a ballistic missile potentially capable of reaching Alaska or possibly Hawaii with a nuclear warhead (though experts believe Pyongyang may still be years away from effectively fitting such a warhead to the missile).  It was an act that made those same negotiations Washington’s only viable option — apart from a second Korean War, which would potentially devastate both the region and the U.S. position as the preeminent international leader.

In other words, after 70 years of global dominion, America’s geopolitical command of the axial ends of Eurasia — the central pillars of its world power seems to be crumbling in a matter of months.

Instead of the diplomacy of presidents past, Trump and his advisers, especially his military men, have reacted to his first modest foreign crises as well as the everyday power questions of empire with outbursts akin to Anthony Eden’s.  Since January, the White House has erupted in sudden displays of raw military power that included a drone blitz of unprecedented intensity in Yemen to destroy what the president called a “network of lawless savages,” the bombardment of a Syrian air base with 59 Tomahawk missiles, and the detonation of the world’s largest non-nuclear bomb on a terrorist refuge in eastern Afghanistan.

While reveling in the use of such weaponry, Trump, by slashing federal funding for critical scientific research, is already demolishing the foundations for the military-industrial complex that Eisenhower’s successors, Republican and Democratic alike, so sedulously maintained for the last half-century. While China is ramping up its scientific research across the board, Trump has proposed what the American Association for Advancement of Science called “deep cuts to numerous research agencies” that will mean the eventual loss of the country’s technological edge. In the emerging field of artificial intelligence that will soon drive space warfare and cyber-warfare, the White House wants to reduce the 2018 budget for this critical research at the National Science Foundation to a paltry $175 million, even as Beijing is launching “a new multi-billion-dollar initiative” linked to building “military robots.”

A Future Debacle in the Greater Middle East

With a president who shares Sir Anthony Eden’s penchant for bravura, self-delusion, and impulsiveness, the U.S. seems primed for a twenty-first-century Suez of its own, a debacle in the Greater Middle East (or possibly elsewhere). From the disastrous expedition that ancient Athens sent to Sicily in 413 BCE to Britain’s invasion of Suez in 1956, embattled empires throughout the ages have often suffered an arrogance that drives them to plunge ever deeper into military misadventures until defeat becomes debacle, a misuse of armed force known technically among historians as micro-militarism. With the hubris that has marked empires over the millennia, the Trump administration is, for instance, now committed to extending indefinitely Washington’s failing war of pacification in Afghanistan with a new mini-surge of U.S. troops (and air power) in that classic “graveyard of empires.

So irrational, so unpredictable is such micro-militarism that even the most fanciful of scenarios can be outpaced by actual events, as was true at Suez. With the U.S. military stretched thin from North Africa to South Korea, with no lasting successes in its post-9/11 wars, and with tensions rising from the Persian Gulf and Syria to the South China Sea and the Koreas, the possibilities for a disastrous military crisis abroad seem almost unending. So let me pick just one possible scenario for a future Trumpian military misadventure in the Greater Middle East.  (I’m sure you’ll think of other candidates immediately.)

It’s the late spring of 2020, the start of the traditional Afghan fighting season, and a U.S. garrison in the city of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan is unexpectedly overrun by an ad hoc alliance of Taliban and Islamic State guerrillas. While U.S. aircraft are grounded in a blinding sand storm, the militants summarily execute their American captives, filming the gruesome event for immediate upload on the Internet. Speaking to an international television audience, President Trump thunders against “disgusting Muslim murderers” and swears he will “make the desert sands run red with their blood.” In fulfillment of that promise, an angry American theater commander sends B-1 bombers and F-35 fighters to demolish whole neighborhoods of Kandahar believed to be under Taliban control. In an aerial coup de grâce, AC-130-U “Spooky” gunships then rake the rubble with devastating cannon fire. The civilian casualties are beyond counting.

Soon, mullahs are preaching jihad from mosques across Afghanistan and far beyond. Afghan Army units, long trained by American forces to turn the tide of the war, begin to desert en masse. In isolated posts across the country, clusters of Afghan soldiers open fire on their American advisers in what are termed “insider” or “green-on-blue” attacks. Meanwhile, Taliban fighters launch a series of assaults on scattered U.S. garrisons elsewhere in the country, suddenly sending American casualties soaring. In scenes reminiscent of Saigon in 1975, U.S. helicopters rescue American soldiers and civilians from rooftops not just in Kandahar, but in several other provincial capitals and even Kabul.

Meanwhile, angry over the massive civilian casualties in Afghanistan, the anti-Muslim diatribes tweeted almost daily from the Oval Office, and years of depressed energy prices, OPEC’s leaders impose a harsh new oil embargo aimed at the United States and its allies. With refineries running dry in Europe and Asia, the world economy trembling at the brink of recession, and gas prices soaring, Washington flails about for a solution. The first call is to NATO, but the alliance is near collapse after four years of President Trump’s erratic behavior. Even the British, alienated by his inattention to their concerns, rebuff his appeals for support.

Facing an uncertain reelection in November 2020, the Trump White House makes its move, sending Marines and Special Operations forces to seize oil ports in the Persian Gulf. Flying from the Fifth Fleet’s base in Bahrain, Navy Seals and Army Rangers occupy the Ras Tanura refinery in Saudi Arabia, the ninth largest in the world; Kuwait’s main oil port at Shuaiba; and Iraq’s at Um Qasr.

Simultaneously, the light carrier USS Iwo Jima steams south at the head of a task force that launches helicopters carrying 6,000 Special Operations forces tasked with seizing the al-Ruwais refinery in Abu Dhabi, the world’s fourth largest, and the megaport at Jebel Ali in Dubai, a 20-square-mile complex so massive that the Americans can only occupy its oil facilities. When Teheran vehemently protests the U.S. escalation in the Persian Gulf and hints at retaliation, Defense Secretary James Mattis, reviving a plan from his days as CENTCOM commander, orders preemptive Tomahawk missile strikes on Iran’s flagship oil refinery at Abadan.

From its first hours, the operation goes badly wrong. The troops seem lost inside the unmapped mazes of pipes that honeycomb the oil ports.  Meanwhile, refinery staff prove stubbornly uncooperative, sensing that the occupation will be short-lived and disastrous. On day three, Iranian Revolutionary Guard commandos, who have been training for this moment since the breakdown of the 2015 nuclear accord with the U.S., storm ashore at the Kuwaiti and Emirate refineries with remote-controlled charges. Unable to use their superior firepower in such a volatile environment, American troops are reduced to firing futile bursts at the departing speed boats as oil storage tanks and gas pipes explode spectacularly.

Three days later, as the USS Gerald Ford approaches an Iranian island, more than 100 speedboats suddenly appear, swarming the carrier in a practiced pattern of high-speed crisscrosses. Every time lethal bursts from the carrier’s MK-38 chain guns rip through the lead boats, others emerge from the flames coming closer and closer. Concealed by clouds of smoke, one finally reaches an undefended spot beneath the conning tower near enough for a Revolutionary guardsman to attach a magnetic charge to the hull with a fateful click. There is a deafening roar and a gaping hole erupts at the waterline of the first aircraft carrier to be crippled in battle since World War II.  As things go from bad to worse, the Pentagon is finally forced to accept that a debacle is underway and withdraws its capital ships from the Persian Gulf.

As black clouds billow skyward from the Gulf’s oil ports and diplomats rise at the U.N. to bitterly denounce American actions, commentators worldwide reach back to the 1956 debacle that marked the end of imperial Britain to brand this “America’s Suez.” The empire has been trumped.

Alfred W. McCoy, a TomDispatch regular, is the Harrington professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He is the author of the now-classic book The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, which probed the conjuncture of illicit narcotics and covert operations over 50 years, and the forthcoming In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power, out in September from Dispatch Books.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, as well as John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt’s Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Alfred W. McCoy

The Problem with Freedom, by George Monbiot

Comment to this “reblog” article:

We, as a word species, possess some great buzz-words we love to use as much as possible.  They are “feel good” words that are so deeply traditional that they require no thinking at all…none.  That they are a Pandora’s box of confused meaninglessness doesn’t enter our mind in the least.  These are feelings and conversation boosters prescribed by our Matrix to explain everything that evidence, observation and common sense would have the nerve to tell us, isn’t so.  Enter the fix-it words: love, family, nation, God, democracy, motherhood, freedom.  Claim to be in league with any of the above, or on a mission to uphold these concepts, and shut up, or crush, all opposition.  Great words, until you set them down, one at a time, and start examining them, their meaning; your relationship to any one of them.  Of course we’re not supposed to ever do that.  If we did, it would indicate that we actually doubt these great concepts, we’re not sure that they are truly absolute in value.  “Do Not Enter” says the Matrix sign.  Believe, don’t think. 

But what if you do think about them?  As George Monbiot points out here, what is the real meaning of freedom?  Well, it depends who is talking about it.

The Problem With Freedom – monbiot.com


The Problem With Freedom

Posted: 07 Apr 2017 01:05 AM PDT

Freedom is used as the excuse for ripping down public protections on behalf of the very rich.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 5th April 2017

Propaganda works by sanctifying a single value, such as faith, or patriotism. Anyone who questions it puts themselves outside the circle of respectable opinion. The sacred value is used to obscure the intentions of those who champion it. Today the value is freedom. Freedom is a word that powerful people use to shut down thought.

When thinktanks and the billionaire press call for freedom, they are careful not to specify whose freedoms they mean. Freedom for some, they suggest, means freedom for all. In certain cases, this is true. You can exercise freedom of thought and expression, for example, without harming other people. In other cases, one person’s freedom is another’s captivity.

When corporations free themselves from trade unions, they curtail the freedoms of their workers. When the very rich free themselves from tax, other people suffer through failing public services. When financiers are free to design exotic financial instruments, the rest of us pay for the crises they cause.

Above all, billionaires and the organisations they run demand freedom from something they call “red tape”. What they mean by red tape is public protection. An article in the Telegraph last week was headlined “Cut the EU red tape choking Britain after Brexit to set the country free from the shackles of Brussels”. Yes, we are choking, but not on red tape. We are choking because the government flouts European rules on air quality. The resulting air pollution frees thousands of souls from their bodies.

Ripping down such public protections means freedom for billionaires and corporations from the constraints of democracy. This is what Brexit – and Trump – are all about. The freedom we were promised is the freedom of the very rich to exploit us.

To be fair to the Telegraph, which is running a campaign to deregulate the entire economy once Britain has left the EU, it is, unusually, almost explicit about who the beneficiaries are. It explains that “the ultimate goal of this whole process should be to … to set the wealth creators free.” (Wealth creators is the code it uses for the very rich). Among the potential prizes it lists are changes to the banana grading system, allowing strongly curved bananas to be categorised as Class 1, a return to incandescent lightbulbs and the freedom to kill great crested newts.

I suspect that the Barclay brothers, the billionaires who own the Telegraph, couldn’t give a monkey’s about bananas. But as their business empire incorporates hotels, shipping, car sales, home shopping and deliveries, they might be intensely interested in the European working time directive and other aspects of employment law, tax directives, environmental impact assessments, the consumer rights directive, maritime safety laws and a host of similar public protections.

If the government agrees to the Telegraph’s proposed “bonfire of red tape”, we would win bent bananas and newt-squashing prerogatives. On the other hand, we could lose our rights to fair employment, an enduring living world, clean air, clean water, public safety, consumer protection, functioning public services and the other distinguishing features of civilisation. Tough choice, isn’t it?

As if to hammer the point home, the Sunday Telegraph interviewed Nick Varney, the chief executive of Merlin Entertainments, in an article claiming that the “red tape burden” was too heavy for listed companies. He described some of the public protections companies have to observe as “bloody baggage”. The article failed to connect these remarks to his company’s own bloody baggage, caused by its unilateral decision to cut red tape. As a result of overriding the safety mechanism on one of its rides at Alton Towers, which was operating, against the guidelines, during high winds, 16 people were injured, including two young women who had their legs amputated. That’s why we need public protections of the kind the Telegraph wants to destroy.

The same ethos, with the same justification, pervades the Trump administration. The new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, is seeking to annul the rules protecting rivers from pollution, workers from exposure to pesticides and everyone from climate breakdown. It’s not as if the agency was over-zealous before: one of the reasons for the mass poisoning in Flint, Michigan was its catastrophic failure to protect people from the contamination of drinking water by lead: a failure that now afflicts 18 million Americans.

As well as trying to dismantle the government’s climate change programme, Trump is waging war on even the most obscure forms of protection. For example, he intends to defund the tiny US Chemical Safety Board, which investigates lethal incidents at chemical plants. Discovering what happened and why would be an impediment to freedom.

On neither side of the Atlantic are these efforts unopposed. Trump’s assault on public protections has already provoked dozens of lawsuits. The European Council has told the UK government that if it wants to trade with the EU on favourable terms after Brexit, companies here cannot cut their costs by dumping them on the rest of society.

This drives the leading Brexiters berserk. As a result of the Pollution Paradox (the dirtiest corporations have to spend the most money on politics, so the political system comes to be owned by them), politicians like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have an incentive to champion the freedom of irresponsible companies. But it also puts them in a bind. Their primary argument for deregulation is that it makes businesses more competitive. If it means those businesses can’t trade with the EU, the case falls apart.

They will try to light the bonfire anyway, as this is a question of power and culture as well as money. You don’t need to listen for long to the very rich to realise that many see themselves as the “independents” Friedrich Hayek celebrated in The Constitution of Liberty, or as John Galt, who led a millionaires’ strike against the government in Ayn Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged. Like Hayek, they regard freedom from democracy as an absolute right, regardless of the costs this may inflict on others, or even on themselves.

When we confront a system of propaganda, our first task is to decode it. This begins by interrogating its sacred value. Whenever we hear the word freedom, we should ask ourselves, “freedom for whom, at whose expense?”.

http://www.monbiot.com

The Dance of Death – article by Chris Hedges – from “Truthdig”

My short intro to the article, “The Dance of Death”

Have we entered into another “millennium madness” when the powers that be have destroyed society and we are about to plunge headlong into the terror that immediately precedes and follows the inadmissible truth: that society has lost it’s raison d’être and needs to destroy itself in order to begin again with a new modus operandi?  As the article below describes vividly, have we entered into the spirit of Thanatos, the death instinct of a global civilization?

If that is the case, what does one do, here and now? If society is going to commit suicide and nothing can stop it, is there any point in struggling against the elites’ madness which can only give them more time to enjoy their immoral pursuits purchased through every sort of illegal shenanigan and millions of deaths?

What would a truly wise person do, knowing this is indeed the case; having admitted that global society is in exponential decline and once again dancing the dance of death?

{Posting the entire article here to save you having to jump through the “link hoops” of web surfing…}

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The Dance of Death | Truthdig

“…Sigmund Freud wrote that societies, along with individuals, are driven by two primary instincts. One is the instinct for life, Eros, the quest to love, nurture, protect and preserve. The second is the death instinct. The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence. It seeks the dissolution of all living things, including our own beings. One of these two forces, Freud wrote, is always ascendant. Societies in decline enthusiastically embrace the death instinct, as Freud observed in “Civilization and Its Discontents,” written on the eve of the rise of European fascism and World War II. …”


Chris Hedges

The Dance of Death  (Chris Hedges)

Posted on Mar 12, 2017

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

The ruling corporate elites no longer seek to build. They seek to destroy. They are agents of death. They crave the unimpeded power to cannibalize the country and pollute and degrade the ecosystem to feed an insatiable lust for wealth, power and hedonism. Wars and military “virtues” are celebrated. Intelligence, empathy and the common good are banished. Culture is degraded to patriotic kitsch. Education is designed only to instill technical proficiency to serve the poisonous engine of corporate capitalism. Historical amnesia shuts us off from the past, the present and the future. Those branded as unproductive or redundant are discarded and left to struggle in poverty or locked away in cages. State repression is indiscriminate and brutal. And, presiding over the tawdry Grand Guignol is a deranged ringmaster tweeting absurdities from the White House.

The graveyard of world empires—Sumerian, Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Mayan, Khmer, Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian—followed the same trajectory of moral and physical collapse. Those who rule at the end of empire are psychopaths, imbeciles, narcissists and deviants, the equivalents of the depraved Roman emperors Caligula, Nero, Tiberius and Commodus. The ecosystem that sustains the empire is degraded and exhausted. Economic growth, concentrated in the hands of corrupt elites, is dependent on a crippling debt peonage imposed on the population. The bloated ruling class of oligarchs, priests, courtiers, mandarins, eunuchs, professional warriors, financial speculators and corporate managers sucks the marrow out of society.

The elites’ myopic response to the looming collapse of the natural world and the civilization is to make subservient populations work harder for less, squander capital in grandiose projects such as pyramids, palaces, border walls and fracking, and wage war. President Trump’s decision to increase military spending by $54 billion and take the needed funds out of the flesh of domestic programs typifies the behavior of terminally ill civilizations. When the Roman Empire fell, it was trying to sustain an army of half a million soldiers that had become a parasitic drain on state resources.

The complex bureaucratic mechanisms that are created by all civilizations ultimately doom them. The difference now, as Joseph Tainter points out in “The Collapse of Complex Societies,” is that “collapse, if and when it comes again, will this time be global. No longer can any individual nation collapse. World civilization will disintegrate as a whole.”

Civilizations in decline, despite the palpable signs of decay around them, remain fixated on restoring their “greatness.” Their illusions condemn them. They cannot see that the forces that gave rise to modern civilization, namely technology, industrial violence and fossil fuels, are the same forces that are extinguishing it. Their leaders are trained only to serve the system, slavishly worshipping the old gods long after these gods begin to demand millions of sacrificial victims.

“Hope drives us to invent new fixes for old messes, which in turn create even more dangerous messes,” Ronald Wright writes in “A Short History of Progress.” “Hope elects the politician with the biggest empty promise; and as any stockbroker or lottery seller knows, most of us will take a slim hope over prudent and predictable frugality. Hope, like greed, fuels the engine of capitalism.”

The Trump appointees—Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin, Betsy DeVos, Wilbur Ross, Rick Perry, Alex Acosta and others—do not advocate innovation or reform. They are Pavlovian dogs that salivate before piles of money. They are hard-wired to steal from the poor and loot federal budgets. Their single-minded obsession with personal enrichment drives them to dismantle any institution or abolish any law or regulation that gets in the way of their greed. Capitalism, Karl Marx wrote, is “a machine for demolishing limits.” There is no internal sense of proportion or scale. Once all external impediments are lifted, global capitalism ruthlessly commodifies human beings and the natural world to extract profit until exhaustion or collapse. And when the last moments of a civilization arrive, the degenerate edifices of power appear to crumble overnight.

Sigmund Freud wrote that societies, along with individuals, are driven by two primary instincts. One is the instinct for life, Eros, the quest to love, nurture, protect and preserve. The second is the death instinct. The death instinct, called Thanatos by post-Freudians, is driven by fear, hatred and violence. It seeks the dissolution of all living things, including our own beings. One of these two forces, Freud wrote, is always ascendant. Societies in decline enthusiastically embrace the death instinct, as Freud observed in “Civilization and Its Discontents,” written on the eve of the rise of European fascism and World War II.

“It is in sadism, where the death instinct twists the erotic aim in its own sense and yet at the same time fully satisfies the erotic urge, that we succeed in obtaining the clearest insight into its nature and its relation to Eros,” Freud wrote. “But even where it emerges without any sexual purpose, in the blindest fury of destructiveness, we cannot fail to recognize that the satisfaction of the instinct is accompanied by an extraordinary high degree of narcissistic enjoyment, owing to its presenting the ego with a fulfillment of the latter’s old wishes for omnipotence.”

The lust for death, as Freud understood, is not, at first, morbid. It is exciting and seductive. I saw this in the wars I covered. A god-like power and adrenaline-driven fury, even euphoria, sweep over armed units and ethnic or religious groups given the license to destroy anything and anyone around them. Ernst Juenger captured this “monstrous desire for annihilation” in his World War I memoir, “Storm of Steel.”

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A population alienated and beset by despair and hopelessness finds empowerment and pleasure in an orgy of annihilation that soon morphs into self-annihilation. It has no interest in nurturing a world that has betrayed it and thwarted its dreams. It seeks to eradicate this world and replace it with a mythical landscape. It turns against institutions, as well as ethnic and religious groups, that are scapegoated for its misery. It plunders diminishing natural resources with abandon. It is seduced by the fantastic promises of demagogues and the magical solutions characteristic of the Christian right or what anthropologists call “crisis cults.”

Norman Cohn, in “The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Messianism in Medieval and Reformation Europe and Its Bearing on Modern Totalitarian Movements,” draws a link between that turbulent period and our own. Millennial movements are a peculiar, collective psychological response to profound societal despair. They recur throughout human history. We are not immune.

“These movements have varied in tone from the most violent aggressiveness to the mildest pacifism and in aim from the most ethereal spirituality to the most earth-bound materialism; there is no counting the possible ways of imagining the Millennium and the route to it,” Cohen wrote. “But similarities can present themselves as well as differences; and the more carefully one compares the outbreaks of militant social chiliasm during the later Middle Ages with modern totalitarian movements the more remarkable the similarities appear. The old symbols and the old slogans have indeed disappeared, to be replaced by new ones; but the structure of the basic phantasies seems to have changed scarcely at all.”

These movements, Cohen wrote, offered “a coherent social myth which was capable of taking entire possession of those who believed in it. It explained their suffering, it promised them recompense, it held their anxieties at bay, it gave them an illusion of security—even while it drove them, held together by a common enthusiasm, on a quest which was always vain and often suicidal.

“So it came about that multitudes of people acted out with fierce energy a shared phantasy which though delusional yet brought them such intense emotional relief that they could live only through it and were perfectly willing to die for it. It is a phenomenon which was to recur many times between the eleventh century and the sixteenth century, now in one area, now in another, and which, despite the obvious differences in cultural context and in scale, is not irrelevant to the growth of totalitarian movements, with their messianic leaders, their millennial mirages and their demon-scapegoats, in the present century.”

The severance of a society from reality, as ours has been severed from collective recognition of the severity of climate change and the fatal consequences of empire and deindustrialization, leaves it without the intellectual and institutional mechanisms to confront its impending mortality. It exists in a state of self-induced hypnosis and self-delusion. It seeks momentary euphoria and meaning in tawdry entertainment and acts of violence and destruction, including against people who are demonized and blamed for society’s demise. It hastens its self-immolation while holding up the supposed inevitability of a glorious national resurgence. Idiots and charlatans, the handmaidens of death, lure us into the abyss.