The American Bear


In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population or rectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements.

George Orwell

What Would Orwell Make of Obama’s Targeted Killing Policy?

American Political Language Dictionary

strength·en /ˈstreNG(k)THən/

to cut something.

Usage: “We have an opportunity in the upcoming budget talks to strengthen Social Security for the long haul.”

There is an exception for any military or defense-related items, where strengthen instead means “to spend more on something.”

Thanks for nothing, Timmy | Lambert Strether

That Geithner is Obama’s point man on the “austerity gulch” negotiations really does tell you all you need to know. Here’s Timmy on ABC’s This Week:

STEPHANOPOULOS: I think one of the things that Republicans want to know if the president is still behind ideas that he has seemed to back in the past, for example gradually raising the eligibility age for Medicare, this adjustment in Social Security payments and so-called chained CPI, which would adjust the cost of living adjustments over time for people on Social Security. Is the president still behind those ideas?

GEITHNER: There is [sic] a lot of ideas out there, George, from Democrats and Republicans about things we can do to help strengthen [cut] Medicare and strengthen [cut] Social Security. And what I can do is to tell you the merits of the specific things we proposed, which, again, are very substantial savings [cuts] over ten years, $600 billion, billions of dollars. And when Republicans come to us and say, we would like to do something different or beyond that, we’ll take a look at how to do that. If it meets our basic values [oh ha ha ha] and our test, then we’ll give it serious consideration.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you’re even willing to consider new restrictions on Social Security, because people like —

GEITHNER: No. I didn’t say that. Let me clarify that. Thank you for asking me that.

What the president is willing to do is work with Democrats and Republicans to strengthen [cut] Social Security for future generations. So Americans can approach retirement with dignity and with the confidence they can retire with a modest [Oh, I like “modest.”* Just because I didn’t mastermind a controlled flight into terrain for the entire economy, I don’t get a huge bonus and a golden parachute? WTF?] guaranteed benefit. But we think you have to do that in a separate process, so that our seniors aren’t — don’t face the concern that we’re somehow going to find savings in Social Security benefits to help reduce the other deficits.

Heh. Timmy’s been reading Corrente; this is my argument that money is fungible.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So to be clear, that is one thing that is clearly off the table. Social Security is off the table in these negotiations.

GEITHNER: We are prepared to, in a separate process, look at how to strengthen [cut] Social Security, but not as part of a process to reduce the other [other?!] deficits the country faces.

STEPHANOPOULOS: OK, so that sounds like a yes to that, that question.

No, it doesn’t. Stupid people.

*NOTE: And is the “modest” guarantee so modest because it’s going to be “supplemented” with a private system?

The prominent figures in our contemporary Washington press corps regard themselves as government functionaries, enabling and codependent. Their point of view is that of the country’s landlords, their practice equivalent to what is known among Wall Street stock market touts as ‘securitizing the junk.’ The time allowed on Face the Nation or Meet the Press facilitates the transmission of sound-bite spin and the swallowing of welcome lies. Explain to us, my general, why the United States must continue the war in Afghanistan, and we will relay the message to the American people in words of two syllables. Instruct us, Mr. Chairman, in the reasons why the oil companies and the banks produce the paper that Congress doesn’t read but passes into law, and we will show the reasons to be sound. Do not be frightened by our pretending to be scornful or suspicious. Give us this day our daily bread, and we will hide your stupidity and greed in plain sight, in the rose bushes of inside-the-beltway gossip. Lewis Lapham

The Subjugated Knowledge of Terrorism | Richard Jackson

… I was trying to explain why Terrorism Studies and Peace Studies have remained largely divorced, despite the fact that they both study the same thing? That is, they both study violent political conflict, but most of the research and scholars who focus on understanding and resolving violent political conflict within Peace Studies remain largely unacknowledged within the Terrorism Studies field. What might explain this state of affairs?

And why it is that most terrorism scholars, politicians and the media don’t seem to ‘know’ that terrorism is most often caused by military intervention overseas, and not religion, radicalization, insanity, ideology, poverty or such like? And how do they not know it when even the Pentagon has known it for years? For example, the Pentagon’s Defense Science Board stated in the late 1990s that there is “a historical correlation between U.S. involvement in international situations and an increase in terrorist attacks against the United States”. Following this, an article entitled “DOES U.S. INTERVENTION OVERSEAS BREED TERRORISM?“ by Ivan Eland set out to examine the historical record. After extensive research, Eland concluded: “The large number of terrorist attacks that occurred in retaliation for an interventionist American foreign policy implicitly demonstrates that terrorism against U.S. targets could be significantly reduced if the United States adopted a policy of military restraint overseas.” This finding supports a veritable mountain of other research, including a recent ESRC-funded project on the motivations of jihadists. The question is: why isn’t this knowledge more widely known, especially among Terrorism Studies scholars?

In my talk, I discuss many more examples of such ‘unknown’ knowledge in Terrorism Studies, before going on to explore the specific mechanisms and processes by which certain forms of knowledge are sometimes suppressed, hidden or ‘subjugated’ within the field. Next, I explore some of the consequences of such suppressions and exclusions. Apart from maintaining a kind of dominant commonsense about terrorism, I argue that the presence of subjugated knowledge means that the Terrorism Studies field exists in a highly unstable condition where certain forms of knowledge are simultaneously ‘known’ and ‘unknown’. In this unstable state, eruptions of subjugated knowledge sometimes emerge to destabilize the dominant terrorism discourse. I conclude by suggesting that Critical Terrorism Studies has a real opportunity to de-subjugate knowledge through various forms of discursive struggle.


Top Ten differences between White Terrorists and Others

Posted on 08/08/2012 by Juan

1. White terrorists are called “gunmen”. What does that even mean? A person with a gun? Wouldn’t that be, like, everyone in the US? Other terrorists are called, like, “terrorists.”

2. White terrorists are “troubled loners”. Other terrorists are always suspected of being part of a global plot, even when they are obviously troubled loners.

3. Doing a study on the danger of white terrorists at the Department of Homeland Security will get you sidelined by angry white Congressmen. Doing studies on other kinds of terrorists is a guaranteed promotion.

4. The family of a white terrorist is interviewed, weeping as they wonder where he went wrong. The families of other terrorists are almost never interviewed.

5. White terrorists are part of a “fringe”. Other terrorists are apparently mainstream.

6. White terrorists are random events, like tornadoes. Other terrorists are long-running conspiracies.

7. White terrorists are never called “white”. But other terrorists are given ethnic affiliations.

8. Nobody thinks white terrorists are typical of white people. But other terrorists are considered paragons of their societies.

9. White terrorists are alcoholics, addicts or mentally ill. Other terrorists are apparently clean-living and perfectly sane.

10. There is nothing you can do about white terrorists. Gun control won’t stop them. No policy you could make, no government program, could possibly have an impact on them. But hundreds of billions of dollars must be spent on police and on the Department of Defense, and on TSA, which must virtually strip search 60 million people a year, to deal with other terrorists.


Generally, I avoid posting other people’s work in its entirety, but this is short and it’s hard to know where to cut.

Juan Cole is, as always, very astute!

(Source: wateringgoodseeds)

Don't try this at home, kids | Charles Davis

Barack Obama speaking on the act of terrorism in Wisconsin:

At this difficult time, the people of Oak Creek must know that the American people have them in our thoughts and prayers, and our hearts go out to the families and friends of those who were killed and wounded. My Administration will provide whatever support is necessary to the officials who are responding to this tragic shooting and moving forward with an investigation. As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family.

Barack Obama, three months earlier, committing an act of state terrorism:

A U.S. drone strike hit a village mosque in northwest Pakistan Thursday morning, killing at least 10 people, a Pakistani official and witnesses told NBC News.

Local tribesmen said ten bodies were pulled from the debris and that efforts were underway to retrieve others, NBC News reported.ldquo;The drone fired two missiles and hit the village mosque where a number of people were offering Fajr (morning) prayer,” local tribal elder Roashan Din told NBC News.

The message here: Whether or not massacring people in a house of worship as part of a self-styled “war on terror” is morally right or wrong depends on geography.

Update: And, of course, Romney:

“Ann and I extend our thoughts and prayers to the victims of today’s shooting in Wisconsin. This was a senseless act of violence and a tragedy that should never befall any house of worship.”

Bipartisanship and Food for the Imperial Mind

"Obama has shown a good ability to combine a realist, power-politics mind-set with a warm appreciation of democracy and human rights. Early in his term, he responded poorly to the street marches in Tehran. But his administration has embraced a freedom agenda more aggressively since then, responding fairly well to the Arab Spring, rejecting those who wanted to stand by the collapsing dictatorships and using American power in a mostly successful humanitarian intervention in Libya. … Over all, though, the record is impressive. Obama has moved more aggressively both to defeat enemies and to champion democracy. He has demonstrated that talk of American decline is hooey. The U.S. is still responsible for maintaining global order, for keeping people, goods and ideas moving freely.” — excerpt from Where Obama Shines by Neoconservative Imperial Apologist ”Centrist” David Brooks New York Times

So much Newspeak. So much Jingo. Brooks truly is the master of bullshit density*.

Notice also how positively giddy Mr. Brooks is that our wars of choice are no longer a presidential policy issue (we don’t even talk about it anymore! we love it! empire!):

… partly as a result of his efforts, the world of foreign affairs is relatively uncontentious right now. Foreign policy is not a hot campaign issue. Mitt Romney is having a great deal of trouble identifying profound disagreements. If that’s not a sign of success, I don’t know what is.

Glenn Greenwald adds:

Again we see a prime legacy of the Obama presidency: the transformation of what had been contentious disputes into harmonious bipartisan consensus. And we also see again that one of the biggest myths of American political discourse is that bipartisanship is so terribly and tragically rare.

One other note - Brooks is by no means alone in his thinking. He is merely the messenger for the national myth that sustains (and makes us feel good about) our imperial policy:

Our chosen method of enlightenment [or “embracing a freedom agenda” and “maintaining global order”, as Brooks would have it] is brute military force, to be deployed even against countries that did not threaten us. The lack of a genuine threat is no argument against spreading our version of “civilization,” for our mission is grounded not only in self-defense: it is also a moral mission. Our success and our “peace” directly correlates to our virtue. Those countries and those civilizations that do not enjoy the same success and peace are without virtue. In the most extreme (and, one could argue, most consistent) version of this tale, non-Western parts of the world are less than human — and they are subhuman by choice. They are immoral, and sometimes even evil. Since we represent the good and they represent the evil, we are surely entitled to improve them, by invasion and bombing if necessary. If they do not threaten us today, they might at some indeterminate time in the future. And while we might kill many innocent civilians in our campaign of civilization, those who survive will be infinitely better off than they would have been otherwise. Besides, how “innocent” can any of them be — since they are members of inferior, less than fully human civilizations, and since they are so by choice?

This is the mindset of Brooks. This is the mindset he appeals to. Sustaining this myth is his raison d’être. His identity (and that of a majority of Americans) depends upon this worldview. Remember, “talk of American decline is hooey”. The myth above is “America” and Brooks is right - there has been no decline in the aggressive imperial policy built upon that myth.

*bullshit density = (newspeak + outright falsehoods + jingo)/(number of words).

Russia, U.S. fail to agree on plan to end Assad's reign in Syria


The United States and Russia failed on Friday to bridge differences over a plan to ease Syrian President Bashar Assad out of power, end violence and create a new government, setting the stage for the potential collapse of a key multinational conference that was to have endorsed the proposal.

On the eve of Saturday’s conference, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov met one-on-one for about an hour in St.-Petersburg, Russia, but could not reach agreement on key elements of U.N. envoy Kofi Annan’s proposed plan for a Syrian political transition, officials said.

They also discussed the “serious risk” of destabilizing Jordan and the potential impact on Israel.

A senior U.S.¬ official traveling with Clinton said areas of “difference and difficulty” remain and was not optimistic that the gathering in Geneva would produce agreement. “We may get there tomorrow, we may not,” the official told reporters as Clinton left Russia for Switzerland, where she arrived early Saturday morning.

The official said Clinton and Lavrov would try to resolve differences in Geneva out of respect for Annan, the former U.N. chief whose efforts to end the Syrian crisis have thus far fallen short.

[Read More]

"end violence"

(via queerencia-deactivated20130103)

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. won’t renounce the use of force against people it classifies as terrorists, after criticism of the military’s use of drones for attacks in Pakistan and other countries. The U.S. ‘can and must do a better job of addressing the mistaken belief that we use our power casually,’ Clinton said at a conference on counter-terrorism in Istanbul today. When it does use force against enemies, ‘we will comply with all applicable law, including the laws of war, and go to extraordinary lengths to ensure precision and avoid the loss of innocent life.’

Cheney in a pantsuit. Liberal role model to women all over the world.

Clinton Says U.S. Won’t Renounce Use of Force Amid Drone Dispute | Bloomberg

As to that last sentence, I think she meant to add, “we’ll begin doing that ‘soon’”.

Media still uncritically reporting those killed in Drone Strikes as “Militants”

“Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent. …

“’It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,’ the official said. ’They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.’New York Times, 5/29/2012

That was written 5 days ago, and yet this morning, even knowing that the term ‘militant’ is being used a bit generously, in headlines on a drone strike(s) in Pakistan we see the following (all sourced to anonymous US or Pakistani “officials”):

Pakistan: US drone kills 10 suspected militants

Fox News - ‎3 hours ago‎

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – An American drone strike in the frontier tribal areas of Pakistan killed 10 suspected militants Sunday, Pakistani officials said.

Drone attack on militant compound kills five in Pakistan - ‎3 hours ago‎

Peshawar, Pakistan: US drone strikes targeting a militant compound in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal area…

U.S. drone strike kills 10 suspected militants in Pakistan

Daily Mail - ‎4 hours ago‎

By Craig Mackenzie A US drone strike today killed 10 suspected militants in Pakistan as they ‘offered condolences’ to the family of a commander who died in an attack 24 hours earlier…

Drone kills 10 suspected Pakistan militants

StandardNet - ‎37 minutes ago‎

By Rebecca Santana AP staff ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — An American drone strike in the frontier tribal areas of Pakistankilled 10 suspected militants Sunday, Pakistani officials said…

US Drone Strike Kills 10 militants in Pakistan

Voice of America (blog) - ‎6 hours ago‎

Security officials in Pakistan say a US drone strike has killed at least 10 militants in the country’s northwestern tribal district…

militants in Pakistan killed in suspected US drone strike, official says

CNN - ‎6 hours ago‎

(CNN) — A suspected US drone strike killed nine militants in Pakistan’s tribal region on Sunday, the second such attack in 24 hours in the region, a local government official said…

US drones kill 6 militants, injure 2 in South Waziristan

The Express Tribune - ‎5 hours ago‎

Sunday’s attack in South Waziristan was the second in as many days and comes amid an upsurge in drone strikes in Pakistan since a Nato conference on Afghanistan in Chicago last month…

US Drone Strike Kills 5 militants in Pakistan Voice of America (blog) - ‎10 hours ago‎

Security officials in Pakistan say a US drone strike has killed at least five militants in the country’s northwestern tribal district.

US drone strike kills three militants in Pakistan: officials

AFP - ‎Jun 1, 2012‎

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — A US drone strike targeting a vehicle in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt killed at least three militants on Saturday, security officials said…

US drone strike kills 10 suspected militants in Pakistan

The National - ‎1 hour ago‎

AP ISLAMABAD // A US drone strike in the frontier tribal areas of Pakistan killed 10 suspected militants yesterday…

militants in Pakistan killed in drone strike

CNN - ‎Jun 2, 2012‎

(CNN) — A suspected US drone strike in Pakistan killed two militants in Pakistan’s tribal region on Saturday, a local government official said. The drone fired two missiles at a motorcycle the militants were riding…

Glenn Greenwald adds this nugget in his piece, Deliberate media propaganda:

There is, as usual, no indication that these media outlets have any idea whatsoever about who was killed in these strikes. All they know is that “officials” (whether American or Pakistani) told them that they were “militants,” so they blindly repeat that as fact. They “report” this not only without having the slightest idea whether it’s true, but worse, with the full knowledge that the word “militant” is being aggressively distorted by deceitful U.S. government propaganda that defines the term to mean: any “military-age males” whom we kill (the use of the phrase “suspected militants” in the body of the article suffers the same infirmity).

How is it possible to have any informed democratic debate over a policy about which the U.S. media relentlessly propagandizes this way? If drone strikes kill nobody other than “militants,” then very few people will even think about opposing them (and that’s independent of the fact that the word “militant” is a wildly ambiguous term — militant about what? — though it is clearly designed (when combined with “Pakistan”) to evoke images of those who attacked the World Trade Center). Debate-suppression is not just the effect but the intent of this propaganda: like all propaganda, it is designed to deceive the citizenry in order to compel acquiescence to government conduct.

“Militants”: media propaganda | Glenn Greenwald

"Mr. Obama embraced a disputed method for counting civilian casualties that did little to box him in. It in effect counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, according to several administration officials, unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent. …

“’It bothers me when they say there were seven guys, so they must all be militants,’ the official said. ’They count the corpses and they’re not really sure who they are.’New York Times, 5/29/2012


For the moment, leave the ethical issues to the side that arise from viewing “all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants”; that’s nothing less than sociopathic, a term I use advisedly, but I discuss that in the separate, longer piece I’m writing to be published a bit later this morning. For now, consider what this means for American media outlets. Any of them which use the term “militants” to describe those killed by U.S. strikes are knowingly disseminating a false and misleading term of propaganda. By “militant,” the Obama administration literally means nothing more than: any military-age male whom we kill, even when we know nothing else about them. They have no idea whether the person killed is really a militant: if they’re male and of a certain age they just call them one in order to whitewash their behavior and propagandize the citizenry (unless conclusive evidence somehow later emerges proving their innocence).

What kind of self-respecting media outlet would be party to this practice? Here’s the New York Times documenting that this is what the term “militant” means when used by government officials. Any media outlet that continues using it while knowing this is explicitly choosing to be an instrument for state propaganda — not that that’s anything new, but this makes this clearer than it’s ever been.

Read more

Jeremy Scahill on Yemen and “Militants”

via Fresh Air:

I’m very skeptical of reports that say, you know, 11 suspected militants were killed, because we don’t have reporters on the ground that are going to the scene and are evaluating who was killed. The United States is relying entirely on its own imagery from its drones and satellites, as well as intelligence on the ground from Yemeni military officials and Yemeni government officials and intelligence officials who have an agenda to make sure that the United States believes that all the people that they’re killing are suspected militants rather than, say, an important tribal leader.

And I bring that case up because there was a case where it appears as though the regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president of Yemen, fed the United States bad intel, telling the U.S. that there’s an al-Qaida group meeting in a particular area, and they killed an important tribal leader who happened to be an opponent of the regime.

So that’s sort of a long-winded way, Terry, of saying that I - I’m not saying that those people were not al-Qaida operatives or that they weren’t militants, but what I’m saying is we have no way of independently verifying who these people are that were killed.

Colleagues of mine who are in the south of Yemen right now and are on really the front lines of this drone war, my friend Iona Craig, who’s a great reporter for the Times of London, was just saying to me that she met civilians who were severely burned from the drone strikes and that one civilian that she talked to said there were 26 people killed in the strike that he survived and was severely burned in.

So I think because we don’t have reporters there, the door is wide open for propaganda about who’s being killed.

The State Department has about two dozen drones in Iraq, but many are used only for spare parts, the officials said. All very comforting — but try reading that passage using our patented Newspeak Detangler Technique; i.e., at the end of every quoted assertion by a government official, in any story, on any subject, always add this little phrase: ‘but they could be lying.’ Chris Floyd