Those who say the United States is adrift or has no coherent foreign policy are colossally wrong. Washington’s policy is the constant fomenting of war for the subjugation of the planet – or the world’s destruction, if the U.S. cannot remain Number One.
Glen Ford, Obama’s Hot War
› A Future in Hell: The Bitter Fruits of Bellicose Policy
… When the Soviet Union fell, there was an opening — a genuine opening — to make a better world. But America’s bipartisan elites refused to take that path. Instead they chose a threatening military expansion, after promising not to do it. They chose the “Shock Doctrine” tactics of hyper-capitalism, driving millions of people into desperate ruin and early deaths, while empowering gangsters and crooks whose predatory instincts fit well with the new system. At every turn, they chose policies and supported corrupt leaders and a corrupt system that led people to see “democracy” as a dirty word, a hypocritical mask for robbery and repression. They chose to keep Russia down, keep it cowed and contained; they chose … to re-divide the world, seeing the Soviet collapse not as an opportunity to make a safer, more secure and prosperous future for their own people — but as a chance to push their sick agenda of domination, greed and elite rule.
And now these same fools, and their equally foolish successors, are astonished that Russia has not become a safe and peaceful liberal democracy but has instead turned to authoritarianism — as happens to many societies in chaos, grasping at any straw that seems to promise (however falsely) some way out of the abyss. They are astonished that the Russian regime mirrors the meddling, arms peddling and power-gaming that they have practiced ruthlessly for generations – just as they express astonishment and outrage that a people who have been violently repressed and confined for decades would dare to strike back at a regime that has killed multitudes of their children and literally sealed them up behind a concrete wall, as in Gaza.
So with the horrors raging in Ukraine and Gaza (and Iraq and Syria), we have now arrived at another turning point – yet another further turning away from sanity and humanity, toward more war, more hatred, more enmity, more grasping, more greed, and more – many, many more – needless deaths.
› Guidelines for the formation of a leftist stance on Syria | As'ad AbuKhalil
It has become trendy among the Western left to meet with the right over Syria. There is actually no debate on Syria in Western countries. In fact, debate is highly discouraged. Debate is seen as a political sin. Only one point of view is permitted on Syria; you may search American newspapers over a three-year period to find no trace whatsoever of any critique of the Syrian “revolution”.
Not only are those who support the Syrian regime forbidden from speaking (and supporters of the Syrian regime do exist despite the protests of Western correspondents in Beirut who rely on Free Syrian Army media—and Saudi and Qatari media—for their clues and information on the Syrian conflict), but those who are critical of both sides of the conflict are not allowed to speak either. Haytham Al-Manna` for example was not allowed to speak on Syria in Western media and his participation in Geneva was not permitted by Saudi Arabia and the US governments.
How do Western leftists justify their support for the Syrian rebels? By simple tricks:
1) To invoke anecdotes: “I met a Syrian leftist woman who so impressed me and she is really famous in the revolution” 2) By calling the armed groups “revolutionaries” and by conflating their action with the civil movement that started back in 2011 and largely died down from a combination of repression and Saudi/Qatari/Turkish/Syrian rebel hijacking 3) By citing the authority of the US government and Western governments to legitimize the stance of the left 4) By invoking the authority of Western human rights organizations who rarely deviate from the policies and wars of the US empire 5) By reminding the audience that Iran and Russia are not leftist (and the US is?)
As a contribution to the debate on this subject, I wish to offer a few guidelines on the subject, taking into consideration that in reality there are no leftists who support Bashar Al-Assad, unless you count individual leftists in Lebanon as evidence:
1) There is not a single leftist Syrian rebel group. Not one. 2) There is not a single leftist demand or request or slogan by either the Syrian armed groups or by the Syrian exile opposition. 3) There are no Syrian leftist intellectuals in the “revolution”: those who are identified as “leftists” in the Syrian “revolution” are in fact former leftists. And remember that some of the most vocal right-wingers in the Lebanese March 14 movement are themselves former leftists-turned sectarian right-wingers. 4) The sponsors of the Syrian rebels and of the Syrian exile opposition are Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, and the US. Those can’t count as leftist regimes. 5) The Syrian regime is not a leftist regime; Hafidh Al-Assad coup in 1970 was launched against the leftist leadership of Salah Jadid. 6) Bashar Al-Assad did not lead Syria in a leftist direction: in fact, he took the country further to the right, especially in economic policy. 7) Ahmad Al-Jarba was selected by Saudi regime and the US to lead the Syrian National Coalition for his tribal and polygamous credentials and not for any leftist credentials. 8) There is no Syrian “revolution”: there is no serious academic or other justification for the invocation of the word “revolution”. The word is bandied about very much in the Ba`thist tradition as a mere word used to rationalize and legitimize political activities that don’t belong to revolutionary activity. 9) Having the support of Western leftists does not make an event or a movement in a developing country leftist. 10) There isn’t a single leftist current in Islamist and Jihadi groups and movements. 11) Neither the Russian camp nor the American camp is leftist, but you can always bet that the US leads a more rightist and reactionary camp than any other country in the world. 12) March 14 is a reactionary movement in Lebanon and its rhetoric and sponsors are the same as those of the March 14 of Syria (i.e. Syrian rebels and the Syrian exile opposition). 13) Arab leftists (throughout the Arab world) are far more opposed to the Syrian rebels than to the other side (with the exception of Trotskyists). 14) Hizbullah is not a leftist political party. It never was a leftist political party and never will be given its ideology and rhetoric, although it sometimes borrows from the political rhetoric of Third World leftism. 15) The support that Bashar Al-Assad receives from some leftist regimes (like in Venezuela) does not make him a leftist.
Lastly, one last question: is Prince Bandar considered a leftist? Or is he a neo-leftist?
Human beings don’t have the appropriate engineering for the society they developed. Over a million years of evolution, the instinct of getting together in small communities, belligerent and compact, turned out to be correct. But then, in the 20th century, Man ceased to adapt. Technology overtook evolution. The brain of an ancestral creature, like a rat, which sees provocation in the face of every stranger, is the brain that now controls the earth’s destiny.
Back to the Future With the NSA
Let me say this: Martin Luther King Junior, today, could be taken to jail without due process or judicial process under the National Defense Authorization Act. Because he had a connection with a freedom fighter who was called a terrorist named Nelson Mandela. He just got off the Terrorist List — in 2008 — of America, let’s be honest about that. Because he had a relation to a “Terrorist.” And under the present administration you can assassinate Americans, you can take them to jail without due process. That’s a repressive side of the government that the Black Freedom Movement has always been suspicious of. We got black political prisoners right now in America. And they’re in there precisely because the repression came down so hard and their love was such that they were willing to tell the truth. That was a threat to the status quo. And we don’t even talk about them. … That’s why the Culture of Fear is not just silence, I don’t think, my dear brothers and sisters. People are afraid. They’re afraid to lose their jobs, they’re afraid to lose their status, they’re afraid of not going to the nice tea parties, they’re afraid of not going to the White House. You can’t have a Culture of Fear and generate a movement. That’s why it’s not just about justice. … We gotta talk about love. Martin was a tiding of love. If you’re not talking about love and willingness to sacrifice, all this is just sounding brass and tinkling cymbal. We’re not going nowhere. We’re not going nowhere. You’ve got to hit the streets, you got to go to jail and be willing to die. That’s what the movement’s about. If you’re not willing to do that, then keep your job and drink your tea. That’s what we’re talking about.
› Shooting and Crying: The Unlearned Lessons of American Atrocity
… I have no doubt that the overwhelming majority of the soldiers who fought in Fallujah or took part elsewhere in this gigantic war crime thought of themselves as good people trying to do a good thing in difficult circumstances. That’s what they were told they were doing; and, poisoned from birth, like all of us, by that all-pervasive myth of exceptionalism, of special privilege for anything and everything done by the United States, most of them lacked the will — or even the conceptual tools — to question this belief. (Brave souls like Chelsea Manning and the Iraq Vets Against the War are among the exceptions.) I am sorry if some of them — and the survivors of the thousands of Americans killed in the process of unleashing this mass murder — now feel that the war was fought in vain, and that the American dead “were sacrificed for nothing,” as one “angry” ex-Marine told the Times after hearing that Fallujah was temporarily in the hands of the extremist militias engendered by the American invasion of Iraq.
This is unfortunate for them — but let us be absolutely clear on this point. To any American soldier who thought he or she was fighting in Iraq for anything other than the aggrandizement of a bloodthirsty elite, then yes, yes, a thousand times yes: you fought in vain. You fought under false premises, you were ordered to carry out a great crime — and you carried it out. And yes, yes, a thousand times yes: every American soldier who was killed in Iraq was “sacrificed for nothing.” This was true from the very first moment of the war, from the moment you set foot in Iraq. [As Arthur Silber notes here.] It did not suddenly become the truth 11 years later, when Fallujah became embroiled in the sectarian strife the war set loose.
So remember again the reality. Remember again what actually happened. The United States military, at the behest of its political leaders, carried out an abominable war crime in Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Think of those innocent people who were murdered — and those who go on being murdered in the hellhole America made of Iraq — and then consider where the real tragedy lies, whom the real victims are. Some might think it was people like Artica Salim, whose young body was blown apart by an American bomb during weeks of bombardment to “soften up” the city before the Marlboro Men moved in. But the New York Times — which “stovepiped” so many helpful lies from government warmongers to help make the entirely specious case for aggression, and speaks today, as it spoke then, as the voice of the American establishment — thinks the real victims were the Marines who attacked Fallujah. [read]
› Is the End of Marijuana Prohibition the End of the War On Drugs? Probably Not. | Bruce Dixon
The forty years of so-called “war on drugs” has been the rhetorical excuse for a nationwide policy of punitive overpolicing in black and brown communities. Although black and white rates of drug use have been virtually identical, law enforcement strategies focused police resources almost exclusively upon communities of color. Prosecutors and judges did their bit as well, charging and convicting whites significantly less often, and to less severe sentences than blacks.
The forty years war on drugs has been the front door of what can only be described as the prison state, in which African Americans are 13% of the population but more than 40% of the prisoners, and the chief interactions of government with young black males is policing, the courts and imprisonment. Given all that, the beginning of the end of marijuana prohibition, first in Colorado and soon to be followed by other states ought to be great good news. But not necessarily.
Ask yourself, what would it look like if policymakers wanted to end the prohibition of marijuana, but not necessarily the the war on drugs. What if they desired to lock down the potential economic opportunities opened up by legalizing weed to themselves and their class, to a handful of their wealthy and well-connected friends and campaign contributors? What if they wanted to make the legal marijuana market safe for predatory agribusiness, which would like to claim lucrative patents on all the genetic varieties of marijuana which can be legally grown, as they already try to do with other crops?
If they wanted to do those things, the system in place in Colorado today would be a good start. In Denver today, low income property owners can’t just plant pot in the back yard or on the roof in hopes of making one mortgage payment a year out of twelve, it doesn’t work that way. Ordinary households are limited to 3 plants per adult, and for reference only the female plants are good for smoking, and prohibited from selling the weed or the seed. To participate in the marijuana economy as anything but a consumer requires background checks, hefty license fees, a minimum of hundreds of thousands to invest, and the right connections. All this currently drives the price of legal weed in Colorado to over $600 per ounce, including a 25% state tax, roughly double the reported street price of illegal weed.
So to enable the state to collect that tax money, and the bankers, growers and investors to collect their profits from marijuana taxed by the state and regulated in the corporate interest, cops and judges and jailers in near future, in Colorado and in your state as well, figure to be just as busy as they always have been the last forty years, doing pretty much what they’ve always done… conducting a war on illegal drugs, chiefly in the poorer and blacker sections of town, with predictable results.
The end of marijuana prohibition is not designed to create jobs in our communities, nor is it intended to shrink the prison state. Our ruling class simply does not allow economic growth that they can’t monopolize, and the modern prison state has never been about protecting the public from drugs or crime. Prisons and our lifelong persecution of former prisoners serve to single out, brand and stigmatize the economic losers in modern capitalist society, so that those hanging on from paycheck to paycheck can have someone to look down upon and so that they might imagine that this vast edifice of inequality is, if not just, inevitable.
This is the pattern that has been followed for decades: some social advances are accepted by the power structure — as long as the economic dominance of the ruling elite is not challenged. In Obama’s case, of course, this was a prerequisite, not a consequence, of his election. He would not have been allowed to be in the position of being elected president had he not clearly and continually signalled to the elite that he was in no way a threat to their power; in fact, as Hirthler notes, he went much further, and made it clear that he would be a more efficient and effective promoter of economic elite than cack-handed Republicans like George W. Bush, John McCain and Sarah Palin. And so it has proved. The nation’s oligarchs, corporations and financial sectors have devoured ever greater proportions of the nation’s wealth under Obama’s rule, while chronic unemployment and underemployment grinds on, the nation’s infrastructure rots, and the quality of life (and hopes for the future) of ordinary people continues to be degraded.
Chris Floyd, Bait and Switch: The Heavy Price of Social Progress
I think it very important that the mere fact of there being surveillance takes away liberty. The response of those who are worried about surveillance has so far been too much couched, it seems to me, in terms of the violation of the right to privacy. Of course it’s true that my privacy has been violated if someone is reading my emails without my knowledge. But my point is that my liberty is also being violated, and not merely by the fact that someone is reading my emails but also by the fact that someone has the power to do so should they choose. We have to insist that this in itself takes away liberty because it leaves us at the mercy of arbitrary power. It’s no use those who have possession of this power promising that they won’t necessarily use it, or will use it only for the common good. What is offensive to liberty is the very existence of such arbitrary power.
So, the whitewashing of surveillance dragnet reform is in full swing, let the giddiness of last week give way to the understanding that Barack Obama, and the Intelligence Community, have no intention whatsoever of ‘reforming’. In fact, they will use the illusion of ‘reform’ to expand their authorities and power. Jonathan Turley noted, ‘Obama stacked the task force on NSA surveillance with hawks to guarantee the preservation of the program.’ … Not just preserve, but to give the false, nee fraudulent, patina of Obama Administration concern for the privacy and civil liberties concerns of the American citizenry when, in fact, the Administration has none. It is yet another con.
The Civil Liberties Celebration Hangover Wears Off
› Detroit on the Auction Block | Glen Ford
The corporate plan to abolish the last vestiges of urban democracy in the United States is proceeding on a “hyper fast track” with this week’s court ruling that Detroit is eligible for bankruptcy “protection.” Judge Steven Rhodes quickly made clear that the only parties to be protected in his venue are the bankers that will get first crack at the Black metropolis’s remaining assets. Public workers’ pensions, he ruled, are not entitled “to any extraordinary attention” under federal bankruptcy law, despite the Michigan state constitution’s prohibitions against tampering with or diminishing pension benefits. The stage is now set for Kevyn Orr, the state-imposed Emergency Financial Manager, to put Detroit in hock to Britain’s Barclays Bank for $350 million, in order to pay off Bank of America and UBS for a 2005 derivatives deal with the city. Barclay’s would then become Detroit’s “super-priority” creditor – King Predator – with first dibs on all city incomes and assets over $10 million.
The trial on Detroit’s “restructuring” begins December 17 in Rhodes’ court but, based on his conduct since assuming jurisdiction, there is little doubt of the outcome. The judge is an empathetic hangman who listens patiently to the pleas of the people – and then swiftly condemns them. He agreed with the pensioners that Orr had failed to negotiate in “good faith” with the unions, but then ruled that the petition for bankruptcy had been filed in good faith – which somehow negated Orr’s bad faith negotiations.
Municipal bankruptcies are very rare, and tend to be long and tortuous legal ordeals, but Rhodes has greased the skids for the banksters to gulp down the city like fast food. He is on an accelerated Wall Street schedule, and there is no time to waste. Detroit is the golden opportunity to shape anti-democratic legal precedents that can be applied, nationwide, with the least resistance from the white American public. The city is guilty of excessive Blackness (82%) and must be punished. In a racist society, Detroit’s bankruptcy fits perfectly the legal maxim that “hard cases” or “great cases” make “bad law.” Whites can be expected to applaud a negative judgment on a Black city, with little thought to the ramifications for their own situations. Michigan voters, who rejected the idea of state emergency managers in a referendum, nevertheless favored Orr’s filing of bankruptcy for Detroit. Whites have always made exceptions to common notions of justice when it comes to African Americans, resulting in grotesquely bad laws.
Wall Street is counting on reflexive racism to smooth the path to a new legal and social order, where capital is unencumbered by democratic constraints. Having already succeeded in disenfranchising a majority of the Black population of Michigan, there are now fewer legal impediments to doing the same thing to whites. After all, thanks to the Black Freedom Movement of the Sixties, the law is race-neutral.
Kevyn Orr, Judge Rhodes and Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Snyder work for the banking cartel – as does President Obama and the leaders of the Democratic Party, who have done nothing to interfere with the urban doomsday process that is unfolding in Detroit. (Barclays Bank and UBS, the prime beneficiaries of Orr’s restructuring plan, were just this week cited for taking part in a massive conspiracy to rig global LIBOR interest rates, in what has been called the greatest financial collusion of the century.) Finance capital, which creates nothing, is confiscating the wealth of the world. In the U.S., a thin veneer of democratic structures stands in the way. Therefore, restructuring is in order. What better place to start than in Detroit, a city filled with people who can be made exceptions to democratic norms.
Soon, the exception will become the rule.
› American Anarchist
… Chomsky also addressed some of the issues confronting anarchist activism, noting that while anarchists stand against the state, they often advocate for state coercion in order to protect people from “the savage beasts” of the capitalists, as he put it. Yet he saw this as not a contradiction, but a streak of pragmatism. “People live and suffer in this world, not one we imagine,” Chomsky explained. “It’s worth remembering that anarchists condemn really existing states instead of idealistic visions of governments ‘of, by and for the people.’”
He then connected the libertarian socialist tradition to currents in American thought, quoting the philosopher John Dewey as saying that “Power today resides in control of the means of production, exchange, communication and transportation … workers should be the masters of their individual fates.” To Chomsky, “Dewey was American as apple pie.”
He contrasted Dewey’s critique of power with the ideals of the liberal/progressive tradition in the United States, noting that many of its leading lights, including Walter Lippmann, Samuel Huntington, and Woodrow Wilson, held extremely dim views of the majority of people, considering them dangerous, ignorant, and in need of control. Despite the historical tendency of elite groups of “ecclesiastical guardians,” like liberal technocrats or the Iranian Guardian Council to which he compared them, to seek control over society, he saw continued resistance. He finished his remarks on an optimistic note by pointing out that the anarchist critics of power are always recurring—during the English Civil War a “rabble” appeared that didn’t want to be ruled by either the king or Parliament—and that anarchism is like Marx’s old mole: always near the surface.
Throughout his talk Chomsky described how he became involved with anarchism. His extended family was involved in left-wing movements in Philadelphia and New York before World War II, and he spent time in New York’s Union Square, where many Leftists congregated—including Catalonian anarchists fleeing reprisals from Francisco Franco. He also pointed out that many working class people of the era were involved in high culture and were familiar with sympathetic poems such as Shelley’s The Masque of Anarchy, which memorialized the Peterloo Massacre.
It was a theme he returned to with the first question, which was about contemporary engagement with the arts. He contrasted two films from 1954, On the Waterfront and Salt of the Earth. The former was about a worker standing up to a corrupt union, had a wide release, and starred Marlon Brando. The latter was about union workers on strike and was effectively banned in the United States.
“When people in power believe something firmly, that’s worth investigating,” Chomsky said.
Finally, he was asked about the growth of surveillance and the militarization of the police.
“The phenomenon itself shouldn’t be surprising—the scale was surprising—but the phenomenon itself is as American as apple pie,” Chomsky said. “You can be confident that any system of power is going to use technology against its enemy: the population. Power systems seek short-term domination and control, not security.”
The U.S. hypes the threat of hackers in order to justify the multi billion dollar cyber security industrial complex, but it is also responsible for the same conduct it aggressively prosecutes and claims to work to prevent. The hypocrisy of ‘law and order’ and the injustices caused by capitalism cannot be cured by institutional reform but through civil disobedience and direct action. Yes I broke the law, but I believe that sometimes laws must be broken in order to make room for change.
Jeremy Hammond’s Sentencing Statement
› The Ends of Capitalism | Rob Urie
… The saying is that Mr. Obama inherited difficult circumstances when he came into office. But what he inherited was a particular stage in an historical trajectory—one of what are regularly recurring crises in the ascendance of global capitalism. Within this trajectory catastrophes such as that of 2009 are as much a part of political economy as the times of ‘prosperity.’ The view from the ‘inside’—from Washington and Wall Street, averages prosperity with catastrophe to come to an ‘average’ conclusion about the political-economic viability of this capitalism. Mr. Obama, or any other successful politician within the modern understanding of success, ‘embodies’ the hopes and aspirations of ‘average’ Americans in the same way that the average of catastrophe and prosperity reach them in their lives. Mr. Bush before him embodied the hopes and dreams of ‘long suffering’ war-mongering white, Christian Pentecostals and Mr. Obama has his liberal-progressive constituency, the average of the two which form different ‘sides’ of an outside—the ‘driven by.’ This isn’t to discount the difference, but rather to ask: who exactly is making bank on it? As circumscribed by those whose fortunes have been restored since Mr. Obama took office, the difference that matters remains between the embedded and the embodied, between those whose fortunes are foregone conclusions and those who wave as the motorcade passes.
The passions that surround Western political economy are reactive for a reason. Mr. Obama was assumed to represent antithesis because history called for it. The unmitigated disaster of the (baby) Bush years was evident to even the dullest of his supporters as the incontrovertible ‘proof’ of calamity– falling stock prices, was underway. But ‘change’ holds forth no promised direction. And more fundamentally, from what possible logic would true antithesis spring? Within the static anti-historicism of capitalism antithesis always and everywhere exists in the ‘driven by,’ in the ‘failure’ needed to demonstrate the truth determining power of ‘success’ through wealth and profits. Restoration of the fortunes of the already rich was restoration of this static antithesis, the only one visible to Mr. Obama’s classmates. The problem of re-thinking capitalism, not that anyone in the recent history has tried, is that within its logic no catastrophe is effective repudiation and outside of it either the whole project goes into the garbage heap or none of it does. A real catastrophe confronted the peoples of the West as Mr. Obama entered office. But the difference between having a billion dollars in the bank or ‘only’ five hundred million dollars was the problem that confronted the people who brought Mr. Obama into office. That problem calls for a different set of solutions than being cold, hungry and unemployed. And that is the problem Mr. Obama set about fixing.
› Barack Obama, enemy of equality | by Charles Davis