The American Bear

Sunshine/Lollipops

[One] might also find the time to criticize a State, which is to say the government of the goddamned United States of America, which claims the ‘right’ to murder anyone, anywhere, anytime — and which has already actualized that claim on a terrifying number of occasions. To say the government of the United States is one of the greatest sources of violence and of violent death in the world today is not to exaggerate in even the slightest degree: it is the unvarnished, goldplated, fucking, goddamned truth. Once Upon a Time… | Some Decidedly Unfriendly, Even Rude Observations

An All-American Nightmare | Peter Van Buren

If you look backward you see a nightmare. If you look forward you become the nightmare.

There’s one particular nightmare that Americans need to face: in the first decade of the twenty-first century we tortured people as national policy. One day, we’re going to have to confront the reality of what that meant, of what effect it had on its victims and on us, too, we who condoned, supported, or at least allowed it to happen, either passively or with guilty (or guiltless) gusto. If not, torture won’t go away. It can’t be disappeared like the body of a political prisoner, or conveniently deep-sixed simply by wishing it elsewhere or pretending it never happened or closing our bureaucratic eyes. After the fact, torture can only be dealt with by staring directly into the nightmare that changed us — that, like it or not, helped make us who we now are.

The president, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has made it clear that no further investigations or inquiries will be made into America’s decade of torture. His Justice Department failed to prosecute a single torturer or any of those who helped cover up evidence of the torture practices. But it did deliver a jail sentence to one ex-CIA officer who refused to be trained to torture and was among the first at the CIA to publicly admit that the torture program was real.

At what passes for trials at our prison camp in Guantanamo, Cuba, disclosure of the details of torture is forbidden, effectively preventing anyone from learning anything about what the CIA did with its victims. We are encouraged to do what’s best for America and, as Barack Obama put it, “look forward, not backward,” with the same zeal as, after 9/11, we were encouraged to save America by going shopping. [continue]

Another Year, and Another Detainee Killed, But Obama’s Intent Is Still Found in Bagram | Marcy Wheeler

… The only thing that was and is problematic about Gitmo that is not also problematic about Bagram is the publicity surrounding it (presumably, though, just here and in Europe–I imagine Afghans, Pakistanis, and al Qaeda members know as much about Bagram as they do about Gitmo). That is, by treating–and allowing the Administration to treat–Gitmo as the problem, rather than due process-free and possibly abusive indefinite detention generally, we’re all acting as if the problem is that people know we’re conducting due process-free indefinite detention, not that we’re doing it at all. We’re letting the Administration off easy with its claims that mean old Congress has prevented it from closing Gitmo, when Bagram offers proof that it wants to do so not for the right reasons–because it is wrong, because it damages our ability to claim to offer something better than corrupt regimes–but because what America has become and intends to stay is embarrassing, politically inconvenient.

I understand that this anniversary will attract general attention to Gitmo. I’m thrilled that, for once, people are listening to the reporters and activists and lawyers and guards and especially the detainees who have fought to close it. But by allowing the myth that Gitmo is the problem to go unchallenged, and not our due process-free indefinite detention generally, we’re simply pretending that unjust and stupid actions that occur outside of the glare of the press don’t matter as much as those that make the news. [++]

It can be argued that the execution of [14 year old George Stinney in 1944] was a social aberration from a bygone era. A simple anomaly. An isolated case that ‘fell through the cracks.’ A repulsive event from a period when America was still suffering from racial and social ignorance. Surely, as a society, the United States has progressed far beyond the days of when it tolerated the State sanctioned execution of children, has it not?

“Did We Just Kill a Kid?”

… Lt. Col. Marion “Ced” Carrington, Commander of 1st Battalion, 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, states, “It kind of opens our aperture. In addition to looking for military-age males, it’s looking for children with potential hostile intent” as well. While the Lt. Col would not elaborate on what exactly are the rules of engagement when encountering potential child combatants, reassuringly he tells us that he advises the soldiers serving under him to use “courageous restraint.”

Apparently this “courageous restraint” was lacking on October 14, 2012, when US Marines operating in Helmand province requested, and got clearance for, an airstrike on “shadowy figures” thought to be in the process of setting up an improvised explosive device (IED). The assailants killed in the strike turned out to be three children who were 12, 10 and 8 years old.

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), a part of NATO and the organization that is nominally in command of the war (the reality being, of course, that it is a US led affair), said that it may have “accidentally killed three innocent Afghan civilians.” Family members of the victims reported that the children were sent to gather dung, which is used for fuel.

America’s first war in Iraq and its associated sanctions are believed to have resulted in the deaths of over half a million children. America’s second war in Iraq is believed to have resulted in the deaths of over 600,000 Iraqis (most of them between the ages of 15 and 44). America’s targeted drone attacks in the Tribal Regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan have reportedly killed between 474 and 881 civilians, including 176 children

If these were the actions of China, Russia, Iran, or any other country on Earth, we would be able to see them clearly for what they are. War crimes and crimes against humanity of the highest order. We would also realize that they are the actions of a society that is in moral decline.

Why it is impossible for the vast majority of Americans to see this is incomprehensible.

The FISA bill is just one example … We’re entering into a brave new world, which involves not only the government apparatus being able to look in massive databases and extract information to try to profile people who might be considered threats to the prevailing status quo. But we also are looking at drones, which are increasingly miniaturized, that will give the governments, at every level, more of an ability to look into people’s private conduct. This is a nightmare. Dennis Kucinich

The Ultimate Logic of a Society Built on Mass Murder | Glen Ford

Mass murder is at the core of the American national religion, which is a celebration of a genocidal march across a continent filled with other, doomed human beings. America’s contribution to European culture was to invite “all the nations of Europe” to come to these shores and become fellow “white” citizens, whose status was defined by the enforced inferiority of Blacks and the remnants of the Indians. Ritual burnings of Blacks were organized as great public festivals, attended by thousands, staged in order to affirm whites’ collective right to commit murder. This monopoly on violence was what made them whiteAmericans.

U.S. foreign policy reflects the nation’s origins and ghastly evolution into a globe-strutting mob, that empowers itself to kill at will. A million dead Filipinos at the turn of the 20th century; aerial bombing of Haitian villages less than a generation later; the totally unwarranted nuclear annihilation of two cities at the very end of World War Two; two million dead Koreans shortly thereafter; three million dead Vietnamese in the next decade,; and, since 1996, six million Congolese – all, and many, many more, slaughtered in the name of U.S. civilizational superiority – the ghastly opiate of the white American masses.

What kind of human beings does such a culture produce? To paraphrase the Bible, “By their massacres, ye shall know them.” The modern mass American murder is overwhelmingly a white phenomenon. Yet few whites ask the question, “What’s wrong with white America?” It is seems that white America lacks the capacity for self-examination. It cannot grasp the simple truth, that a culture that celebrates the annihilation of whole peoples, casually and without guilt or introspection, is devoid of human values at its very core. In the end, it turns against itself. That is the simple lesson of Newtown, and Columbine, and Aurora. [++]

Just act normal

The following is a post I found in the bottom of my “drafts”. I started writing it, but didn’t finish it, before the anniversary of Occupy - just notes and links.

A tiny slice of the United States’ trek towards precogs and precrime units:

Occupy Austin and other Occupy related groups have fallen victim to infiltration and entrapment including through the use of a system called “Fusion”. Investigating “Fusion”, Greg Gladden of the Texas ACLU found, “their goal, their purpose, through federal grants, is to monitor potential domestic terrorism.” He continues, “I guess it’s a lot easier to solve crimes you create yourself than to actually ferret out actual crimes and actual criminals.”

That should sound similar to the systematic entrapment of Muslims in the United States by the FBI and the NYPD.

The NYPD recently partnered up with Microsoft to add the Domain Awareness System to their already formidable surveillance arsenal. And they’re adding checkpoints, apparently, to check id’s on the anniversary of Occupy.

Orlando has added iris scanners to their surveillance net.

Something called TrapWire is being used to identify “suspicious behavior” - defined however it needs to be - and is thought to have been used to track the Occupy movement.

Rahm Emanuel put the city of Chicago on lockdown for the NATO Summit.

And of course we now know that the corporate-state collusion to repress OWS was as bad or worse than many thought.

Appropriate | A Tiny Revolution

This seems appropriate right about now. It’s from the book Who Will Tell the People: The Betrayal of American Democracy by William Greider, which came out in 1992 and has been prescient in just about every way possible:

The usual story of great powers is that sooner or later, when the glory faded, they sank into social decay and bitterness. That is the usual ending for a political system that persistently ignores reality, and for a people who became alienated from their own values…

The present generation and the next, in other words, must find tangible ways to reinvigorate the social faith in the promise of democracy. The nation’s sense of its own continuing search for something better is endangered and, without that civic faith, this nation is in deep trouble. If democratic character is lost, America has the potential to deteriorate into a rather brutish place, ruled by naked power and random social aggression.

Demonizing a victim is a way of hiding state crimes. The American print and TV media is useless as a check on state crimes. The only crimes reported by the media are assigned to ‘terrorists,’ that is, those who resist US hegemony, and to Americans, such as Bradley Manning and Sibel Edmonds, who liberate truth from official secrecy. Julian Assange of WikiLeaks remains in danger despite the asylum granted to him by the President of Ecuador, as Washington has little regard for international law. In the US the exercise of the First Amendment is coming to be regarded as a crime against the state. The purpose of the media is no longer to find the truth, but to protect official lies. Speaking the truth has essentially disappeared as it is too costly to journalists who dare to do so. To keep one’s job, one serves Washington and the private interest groups that Washington serves. Paul Craig Roberts

Once Again—Death of the Liberal Class | Chris Hedges

The presidential election exposed the liberal class as a corpse. It fights for nothing. It stands for nothing. It is a useless appendage to the corporate state. It exists not to make possible incremental or piecemeal reform, as it originally did in a functional capitalist democracy; instead it has devolved into an instrument of personal vanity, burnishing the hollow morality of its adherents. Liberals, by voting for Barack Obama, betrayed the core values they use to define themselves—the rule of law, the safeguarding of civil liberties, the protection of unions, the preservation of social welfare programs, environmental accords, financial regulation, a defiance of unjust war and torture, and the abolition of drone wars. The liberal class clung desperately during the long nightmare of this political campaign to one or two issues, such as protecting a woman’s right to choose and gender equality, to justify its complicity in a monstrous evil. This moral fragmentation—using an isolated act of justice to define one’s self while ignoring the vast corporate assault on the nation and the ecosystem along with the pre-emptive violence of the imperial state—is moral and political capitulation. It fails to confront the evil we have become.

“The American Dream has run out of gas,” wrote the novelist J.G. Ballard. “The car has stopped. It no longer supplies the world with its images, its dreams, its fantasies. No more. It’s over. It supplies the world with its nightmares now. …”

Liberals have assured us that after the election they will build a movement to hold the president accountable—although how or when or what this movement will look like they cannot say. They didn’t hold him accountable during his first term. They won’t during his second. They have played their appointed roles in the bankrupt political theater that passes for electoral politics. They have wrung their hands, sung like a Greek chorus about the evils of the perfidious opponent, assured us that there is no other viable option, and now they will exit the stage. They will carp and whine in the wings until they are trotted out again to assume their role in the next political propaganda campaign of disempowerment and fear. They will, in the meantime, become the butt of ridicule and derision by the very politicians they supported.

The ineffectiveness of the liberal class, as I saw in the former Yugoslavia and as was true in Weimar Germany, perpetuates a dangerous political paralysis. The longer the paralysis continues, the longer systems of power are unable to address the suffering and grievances of the masses, the more the formal mechanisms of power are reviled. The liberal establishment’s inability to defy corporate power, to stand up for its supposed liberal beliefs, means its inevitable disappearance, along with the disappearance of traditional liberal values. This, as history has amply pointed out, is the road to despotism. And we are further down that road than many care to admit. [continue]

Inhale Reality, Exhale the Truth | Vijay Prashad (2)

Belligerent talk backed up by the menace of aerial bombardment threatens a planet that does not seem to have the appetite for another superpower. The Chinese are content with multi-polarity, since their entire foreign policy seems driven by the Treaty of Westphalia – you do your thing, we’ll do ours. This is a historical opening for the planet, with regionalism allowing for the emergence of new kinds of solution, whether in Latin America (with their own trading agreements and political platforms) or in South-West Asia (with India-Iran-Afghanistan-Pakistan creating a new Southern Silk Road). The Southern Silk Road is an important development in the creation of regionalism, linking South Asia to Central Asia, and West Asia to China. No longer will these regions need to go through the US and European-dominated routes to conduct their trade. The hub (US-Europe) and spokes (the rest) approach to world affairs is being rendered anachronistic by these developments. As a result of the growth of regionalism, US primacy and its unipolar approach is being set aside. The deepening links with Iran are a testament to the lack of US domination in the region, and of its political failure to isolate Iran. Americanism is a false utopia; regionalism is today’s reality.

Capitalism’s general tendency is toward dehumanization: to let loose the Four Horsemen of the Modern Apocalypse – Poverty, War, Social Despair and Climate Change. It is clear that this system is not capable of a humane future. It will drift inexorably to fascism from above (to encage disposable people in prisons and highly policed ghettoes) and to fascism from below (with the increase of socially dangerous political tendencies, whose imprints will be racist, misogynist, xenophobic). The Rich, and their political minions, will fail the world. It is our task to save it.

These days, when I contemplate the spectacle of contemporary America and the horrors it visits on the peoples of the world as well as its own inhabitants, I often think that it isn’t possible that the world has ever seen such a hideously pathetic example of humanity’s worst impulses. Certainly, other societies have matched our dedication to destruction, plunder and murder. But America’s particular combination of the vicious eagerness to kill, a predilection for inflicting cruelty in an endless variety of forms, an absolute refusal to examine any and all issues with the slightest degree of honesty and self-reflection, the monumental hypocrisy, the hugely inflated, crude and bombastic self-righteousness, and a gross stupidity of awe-inspiring proportions … I think we may claim that as uniquely our own. Perhaps it is an achievement of sorts. For the Death-Worshippers

Even as military power has proven itself a bust again and again, our policymakers have come to rely ever more completely on a military-first response to global problems. In other words, we are not just a classically overextended empire, but also an overwrought one operating on some kind of militarized autopilot. Lacking is a learning curve. By all evidence, it’s not just that there isn’t one, but that there can’t be one. Washington, it seems, now has only one mode of thought and action, no matter who is at the helm or what the problem may be, and it always involves, directly or indirectly, openly or clandestinely, the application of militarized force. Nor does it matter that each further application only destabilizes some region yet more or undermines further what once were known as ‘American interests.’ Tom Engelhardt

Disaster on Autopilot | Tom Engelhardt

By all the usual measuring sticks, the U.S. should be supreme in a historically unprecedented way. And yet it couldn’t be more obvious that it’s not, that despite all the bases, elite forces, private armies, drones, aircraft carriers, wars, conflicts, strikes, interventions, and clandestine operations, despite a labyrinthine intelligence bureaucracy that never seems to stop growing and into which we pour a minimum of $80 billion a year, nothing seems to work out in an imperially satisfying way. It couldn’t be more obvious that this is not a glorious dream, but some kind of ever-expanding imperial nightmare.

This should, of course, have been self-evident since at least early 2004, less than a year after the Bush administration invaded and occupied Iraq, when the roadside bombs started to explode and the suicide bombings to mount, while the comparisons of the United States to Rome and of a prospective Pax Americana in the Greater Middle East to the Pax Romana vanished like a morning mist on a blazing day. Still, the wars against relatively small, ill-armed sets of insurgents dragged toward their dismally predictable ends. (It says the world that, after almost 11 years of war, the 2,000th U.S. military death in Afghanistan occurred at the hands of an Afghan “ally” in an “insider attack.”) In those years, Washington continued to be regularly blindsided by the unintended consequences of its military moves. Surprises — none pleasant — became the order of the day and victories proved vanishingly rare.

One thing seems obvious: a superpower military with unparalleled capabilities for one-way destruction no longer has the more basic ability to impose its will anywhere on the planet. Quite the opposite, U.S. military power has been remarkably discredited globally by the most pitiful of forces. From Pakistan to Honduras, just about anywhere it goes in the old colonial or neocolonial world, in those regions known in the contested Cold War era as the Third World, resistance of one unexpected sort or another arises and failure ensues in some often long-drawn-out and spectacular fashion.

Given the lack of enemies — a few thousand jihadis, a small set of minority insurgencies, a couple of feeble regional powers — why this is so, what exactly the force is that prevents Washington’s success, remains mysterious. Certainly, it’s in some way related to the more than half-century of decolonization movements, rebellions, and insurgencies that were a feature of the previous century.

It also has something to do with the way economic heft has spread beyond the U.S., Europe, and Japan — with the rise of the “tigers” in Asia, the explosion of the Chinese and Indian economies, the advances of Brazil and Turkey, and the movement of the planet toward some kind of genuine economic multipolarity. It may also have something to do with the end of the Cold War, which put an end as well to several centuries of imperial or great power competition and left the sole “victor,” it now seems clear, heading toward the exits wreathed in self-congratulation.

Explain it as you will, it’s as if the planet itself, or humanity, had somehow been inoculated against the imposition of imperial power, as if it now rejected it whenever and wherever applied. In the previous century, it took a half-nation, North Korea, backed by Russian supplies and Chinese troops to fight the U.S. to a draw, or a popular insurgent movement backed by a local power, North Vietnam, backed in turn by the Soviet Union and China to defeat American power. Now, small-scale minority insurgencies, largely using roadside bombs and suicide bombers, are fighting American power to a draw (or worse) with no great power behind them at all.

Think of the growing force that resists such military might as the equivalent of the “dark matter” in the universe. The evidence is in. We now know (or should know) that it’s there, even if we can’t see it. [++]