Subject: ON MURDER, TORTURE, PLUNDER, AND OTHER DISTRACTIONS : FROM
THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCED STUDY OF AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS AND
SOCIALMOVEMENTS, GRENOBLE, FRANCE.
15 May 2004
Dear Colleagues and Friends,
For the next several months we can anticipate watching the carnival sideshows which typically precede national elections in the United States. This year it promises to be particularly graphic since the American ruling class is divided over visions of the future of investment opportunities worldwide.
Fundamental issues, like the rapidly deteriorating environment, third-world starvation, malnutrition, and AIDS, unemployment and poverty, will be momentarily eclipsed by dramatic representations of individual abuse and misery inflicted on a few victims who invite immediate personal identification. An entire industry of psychological productions for the consumers of fantasy and escape will be set up on these fairgrounds this summer.
Meanwhile the massive experimentation to save the capitalist system of human exploitation and wage slavery, in the name of private profit, continues like an earthquake beneath the carnival grounds, far from the flashing lights and honking horns and barkers.
The Grenoble Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements has received mail attesting to this double vision. In item A., below, William Blum, author of Killing Hope, recommends to readers a short essay by Per Fagereng on insights taken from animal psychology.
In item B. Michael Albert has forwarded to us an essay written by Stan Goff, a former Special Forces officer in the U.S military, who shares his insights into the American military mentality.
In item C. Richard Du Boff offers readers new and important information on the recently released documents which offer irrefutable evidence of the close working relationship between former Nazi War Criminals and the FBI/CIA during the Cold War Era in the United States and abroad.
Finally, we want to remind readers that Jim Hightower's latest book,
Thieves in High Places, has been translated by students at the Grenoble
Research Center (CEIMSA) under the title of Ces truands qui nous gouvernent
(Editions du Croquant, 2004) and can be found in local book stores in France,
Canada, and Belgium.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
University of Grenoble 3
from William Blum :
Please visit this new sourse of critical information on American political
culture, recommended by William Blum :
DANCING ON THE ELECTRIC GRID
by Per Fagereng
Picture this standard experiment in psychology: A group of rats is placed on an electric grid and the voltage is slowly increased. After a while the rats feel a burning tingle in their feet. The experimenters up the voltage some more, and watch the rats dance and bite each other.
The experimenters are seeking knowledge, and the rats’ pain is presumably worth it. The experimenters don’t blame the rats for fighting each other, or punish the more aggressive ones. They know that individuals react to pain in different ways.
Now picture the economic terrain as a different kind of pain grid. Instead of electric shocks, the inhabitants experience job loss, higher prices, less pay, overwork, polluted neighborhoods and so on. Controlling the grid are not psychologists, but CEOs and bankers. Instead of knowledge, they are seeking profit. And so they up the pain, but not because they want to hurt people. They are really trying to up their profits, and the pain is a side effect.
After a while people on the grid do nasty things to each other, everything from domestic violence to immigrant-bashing to crime. Unlike the rats, the people get blamed for their misbehavior. We are told to point our fingers at the victims on the grid, instead of at the economic rulers who keep increasing the pain.
You’d think that the CEOs and bankers would ease up on the pain, but think again. They continue to demand more sacrifice from the poor, knowing full well how they’ll react.
Would you call this a big conspiracy? Or the sum of many small conspiracies?
Maybe it doesn’t matter that much. I’m not a mind reader. The point is,
the economic rulers pursue their profits and they know the consequences.
So to that extent, they are choosing to inflict pain.
from Michael Albert :
Open Letter to Our Troops
by Stan Goff
In 1994, I was running an A-Detachment in 3rd Special Forces, ODA-354 to
be precise, a team that specialized in free-fall parachute infiltration
and special (strategic) reconnaissance. 3rd Special Forces Group's area
of operation encompassed sub-Saharan Africa and the Caribbean, and our
team was specifically designated for the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
So we had two language requirements on the team, Spanish and French
(even though most Haitians actually speak Haitian Kreyol).
I had a communications sergeant on my team named Ali Tehrani. His father
was an expatriate Iranian who'd married a German, and Ali had been
raised in extremely comfortable circumstances in Europe, where his
father and the society around him pushed him to fluency in English,
German, Spanish, and French. Ali also spoke decent Italian. He was the
most fluent French-speaker on the battalion, and a year before we were
sent to Haiti with the 1994 invasion, Ali had been sent to the camps
constructed by the United States military in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for
the purpose of detaining tens of thousands of Haitians who were trying
to escape the brutal repression and grinding poverty of Haiti in
ramshackle boats. Ali was needed there because of his language fluency.
Ali was typical of many of the "non-white" members of Special Forces
two respects. He was demonstrably patriotic -- compelled, it seemed, to
prove his devotion to the American security state -- and he adopted the
prevailing attitude within much of Special Operations of Negrophobia --
a kind of institutional disdain for Black troops that served to bloc
other "non-whites" with whites in SF. It's a peculiar mechanism of white
supremacy where there is not a master-race mentality so much as a
deficient-race ideology from which all others could self-exclude. This
-- along with an anabolic version of masculinity -- served as one form
of social glue in SF culture, though there were a few exceptions.
Ali's Negrophobia wasn't virulent like that I had witnessed in other
troops. In fact, he was willing to grant exceptions among individual
Black soldiers fairly easily. It was more part of his obsessive desire
to fit in.
Ali had spent six months "working the camps" at Guantanamo in 1993.
When we received word of our mission to invade Haiti in 1994, he reacted
violently. His revulsion toward Haitians was visceral and white-hot.
Given that my own team's mission might depend on both Ali's language
capabilities ("my" language was Spanish) and on our ability to establish
rapport with local Haitians, Ali's outburst sent up a warning flare in
front of me, and I made time to sit down with him for a long talk.
Ali was, aside from his passive racism and the simmering rage that one
could always sense just below his surface, a very intelligent and
sensitive man. I always suspected that he may have suffered either
physical or psychological abuse as a child.
When we talked, we fairly quickly concluded together that his aversion
to Haitians had something to do with the role he had been thrown into
against the Haitians at the camps, the role of jail-boss, and he agreed
to keep that in mind and to subordinate his conditioned reflexes on the
matter to mental time-outs in order to assure that he would behave
appropriately while we were on the mission in Haiti, which he did...
most of the time.
But the point I'm getting to is this. The antagonism that Ali
experienced as an individual toward Haitians was structured by the
institutional antagonism built into the jailer-and-jailed relationship.
Ali had internalized the external reality that he was a prison guard and
they were the prisoners. His job was to dominate, to bend Haitians to
his will, and every exercise of human agency by the Haitians threatened
that. Their very humanity -- that combination of independent
consciousness and will -- was structured by the prison-camp phenomenon
to be an enemy force in relation to Ali and the other prison-keepers.
In 1971, Stanford University Professor of Psychology Phillip Zimbardo
designed an experiment that would come to be known as the Stanford
Prison Experiment. Subjects were recruited and paid a modest stipend,
whereupon they were separated into "prisoners" and "guards," and placed
in a mock prison built in a Stanford basement. The prisoners were
stripped, deloused, shackled, and placed in prison clothes, while the
guards were given authoritative uniforms, sunglasses, and batons. Long
story short -- within two days there was a near prison riot,
psychosomatic illness began to break out, white middle-class kids in the
role of guards became rapidly and progressively more sadistic and
arbitrary, and the two-week experiment had to be abandoned after only
six days... before someone was badly hurt or killed.
The experiment seemed to support the truism that "absolute power
corrupts absolutely." But that conclusion serves as a description, not
an explanation. It describes what happens to the individual, but it
fails to account for the role of rationalization that legitimates the
domination, and it completely fails to account for institutional support
of that domination.
When one uses the term "systemic," she is saying that the source of
abuse is not individual moral failure, but a predictable expression of
the system and its structures.
The abuses of detainees, by US troops, by CACI International and Titan
Corporation mercenaries, and by the CIA in Iraq, is "systemic."
But in the same way that the system found an expression in the thoughts
and emotions of Ali Tehrani, in the same way that the structure of
domination and subjection pushed him to rationalize away his shared
humanity with his Haitian captives, we can now see in the leering grins
of the Abu Ghraib prison guards, who are regular people -- like the
experimental subjects in the Stanford Prison Experiment -- who quickly
learned to behave as sadistic torturers. The military has admitted that
60% of these detainees are neither combatants nor threats.
As this is written, the US military is about to release hundreds of
detainees who fall in that category, and there will be more horror
stories coming, because it was systemic.
People were not only humiliated and forced to pose in degrading
positions with each other naked. They were forced to masturbate in front
of taunting guards. Some were sodomized with foreign objects. It appears
that some were also beaten to death during interrogation -- one whose
body was put on ice for a day then carted away the next on a litter with
a faked intravenous infusion in the arm.
Now the cover stories are being spun out like webs.
We are being asked to believe that:
(1) The only abuse that occurred against anyone detained by American
forces in Iraq was photographed and reported.
(2) No abuses occurred anywhere that were not photographed or reported.
(3) The one percent of US troops who are the "bad apples" all happen
serve together in the same unit... the unit that is the only one guilty,
and that happened to get caught because of the photographs.
(4) The aggressive investigation now being proclaimed by everyone from
George W. Bush to CENTCOM, about abuses that were already on record in
the military (an internal investigation had already been launched in
February by Major General Antonio M. Taguba, but was kept from the
public), would have happened had the photographs and story not been
aired on national television.
(5) The military was not attempting to cover up their own investigation,
and that they would have informed the public of these abuses even had
Seymour Hersh not put the whole miserable episode into print.
(6) The military did not cover anything up in the two weeks between
time CBS warned them that they were going to air an expose and when they
actually did air it.
(7) No one in the chain of command above Brigadier General Janis
Karpinski is responsible for the failure to halt these abuses, even
though Lieutenant General Ricardo S. Sanchez was informed of the
investigation of these abuses, complete with sworn statements and
photographs, by General Taguba last February.
Other abuses and violations of the Geneva Conventions and Laws of
Warfare are already on record, some with videos available on the web,
(1) Shooting people who are clearly not armed and who are engaged in
(2) Shooting into ambulances.
(3) Shooting wounded people who are not armed.
(4) Shooting wounded people who are obviously no longer capable of
(5) Shooting into crowds.
There has never been a Stanford Military Occupation Experiment to
complement the Stanford Prison Experiment, unless we just count the
military occupations themselves. There is a structured, systemic
antagonism between an occupying military and the people whose land they
occupy. And there will be no investigations of any of it, because there
never are, unless and until the American public is confronted with them.
The National Command Authority and its cheerleaders cannot say out
loud... this is what we are doing, and it can't get done unless we
dehumanize the occupied. This reality, this system, will express itself
in the thoughts and emotions of you, the troops who carry it out,
because this military occupation is in a sense making a prison of Iraq
and making you, the troops, its turnkeys.
It will only be those exceptional individuals among you in the military
who refuse to surrender their humanity -- no matter how little you may
understand the big picture -- and who will witness. You who do break
with the system and witness are very important people, important to
history, because your refusal to surrender your own moral integrity to
the system may lead to our collective salvation by ending this felonious
occupation. The troops who filed reports about the abuses at the Abu
Ghraib prison were such exceptions.
So were Tom Glen and Ron Ridenhour.
In The Culture of Narcissism, Christopher Lasch wrote in 1979 about
leadership during the occupation of Vietnam:
Success in our society has to be ratified by publicity... all politics
becomes a form of spectacle. It is well known that Madison Avenue
packages politicians and markets them as if they were cereals or
deodorants; but the art of public relations penetrates more deeply into
political life... The modern prince [an apt turn of phrase for the
current member of the Bush political dynasty] ... confuses successful
completion of the task at hand with the impression he makes or hopes to
make on others. Thus American officials blundered into the war in
Vietnam... More concerned with the trappings than with the reality of
power, they convinced themselves that failure to intervene would damage
American 'credibility...' [They] fret about their ability to rise to
crisis, to project an image of decisiveness, to give a convincing
performance of executive power... Public relations and propaganda have
exalted the image and the pseudo-event.
What these images of the Abu Ghraib humiliation and torture have done
the United States is collide with the "exalted image and the
pseudo-event" of the Bush propaganda apparatus, just as the images of
the My Lai massacre did in 1969. That collision between the reality and
the real image of war startles civilians here in the La-La Land of wide
screen TV and suburban SUV's, and it shakes them out of their opiated
My Lai is what General Colin Powell was remembering when he implemented
"the Powell Doctrine" for the military, which includes a co-opted press
and a vigorous attempt to keep things like flag-draped coffins off of
those wide screen TVs.
Most of you don't remember My Lai.
On March 16, 1968, units of the Americal Division, to which Powell was
assigned as a staff officer in Chu Lai, entered a Vietnamese village
called My Lai and spent four hours raping women, burning houses, then
finally massacring men, women, and children -- including infants who
dying women tried to shield with their own bullet-riddled bodies. The
massacre was stopped by a Georgia-born helicopter pilot named Hugh
Clowers Thompson who landed his chopper between the few surviving
Vietnamese and the blood-intoxicated soldiers, and ordered his door
gunners to open fire on the Americans if they failed to stand down.
A few weeks later, General Creighton Abrams, then commanding general
Vietnam, received a letter from a young Specialist-4 in the Americal
Division named Tom Glen:
The average GI's attitude toward and treatment of the Vietnamese people
all too often is a complete denial of all our country is attempting to
accomplish in the realm of human relations... Far beyond merely
dismissing the Vietnamese as 'slopes' or 'gooks,' in both deed and
thought, too many American soldiers seem to discount their very
humanity; and with this attitude inflict upon the Vietnamese citizenry
humiliations, both psychological and physical, that can have only a
debilitating effect upon efforts to unify the people in loyalty to the
Saigon government, particularly when such acts are carried out at unit
levels and thereby acquire the aspect of sanctioned policy... [American
soldiers attack Vietnamese] for mere pleasure, fire indiscriminately
into Vietnamese homes and without provocation or justification shoot at
the people themselves... Fired with an emotionalism that belies
unconscionable hatred, and armed with a vocabulary consisting of 'You
VC,' soldiers commonly 'interrogate' by means of torture that has been
presented as the particular habit of the enemy. Severe beatings and
torture at knife point are usual means of questioning captives or of
convincing a suspect that he is, indeed, a Viet Cong... It would indeed
be terrible to find it necessary to believe that an American soldier
that harbors such racial intolerance and disregard for justice and human
feeling is a prototype of all American national character; yet the
frequency of such soldiers lends credulity to such beliefs... What has
been outlined here I have seen not only in my own unit, but also in
others we have worked with, and I fear it is universal. If this is
indeed the case, it is a problem which cannot be overlooked, but can
through a more firm implementation of the codes of MACV (Military
Assistance Command Vietnam) and the Geneva Conventions, perhaps be
Glen's letter was forwarded from Abrams' office to the Americal Division
and ended up with Major Colin Powell in Chu Lai.
Powell never followed up by questioning Glen, and instead ended his
"investigation" of Glen's allegations after accepting uncritically the
claim by Glen's commander that Glen hadn't been close enough to "the
front" (whatever that was supposed to be in Vietnam) to have any
knowledge of such alleged abuses. Powell then began his career as a
damage-control expert in the military by writing a letter, dated
December 13, 1968, in which he said, ""There may be isolated cases of
mistreatment of civilians and POWs... [but] this by no means reflects
the general attitude throughout the Division... In direct refutation of
this [Glen's] portrayal is the fact that relations between Americal
soldiers and the Vietnamese people are excellent." He went on to impugn
Glen's account for having been brought to light only reluctantly and
lacking sufficient detail.
This was, of course, horseshit. Abuses were systemic.
Glen had only heard through rumors about My Lai. It was another GI,
Ridenhour, an infantryman who was not willing to surrender his humanity
to occupier-racism, who finally pieced together, on his own initiative,
the story of the My Lai massacre, and brought it to public light. When
the photographs of the massacre were combined with Ridenhour's account,
and the American public was confronted with the reality of an entire
unit participating in a systematic massacre of civilians, it marked a
turning point in the loss of political support in the United States for
continued military occupation of Vietnam.
Powell himself admitted war crimes in his memoir, My American Journey,
where he wrote, "I recall a phrase we used in the field, MAM, for
military-age male... If a helo spotted a peasant in black pajamas who
looked remotely suspicious, a possible MAM, the pilot would circle and
fire in front of him. If he moved, his movement was judged evidence of
hostile intent, and the next burst was not in front, but at him." Powell
would also come to the defense of Brigadier General John Donaldson who
had the door gunners on his own helicopter shoot Vietnamese for sport.
Donaldson was exonerated, naturally, in a military investigation.
Powell not only developed as a skilled cover-up artist, he would
eventually incorporate this ability to manage public perception about
war as a key element in the "Powell Doctrine," which he imposed on the
military and the press. He never forgot My Lai, and he has always
believed that exposure of My Lai and other atrocities were responsible
for the US defeat in Vietnam.
Donald Rumsfeld shares these beliefs with Colin Powell. They are both
wrong. The two phenomena that collide with this Powell-Rumsfeld
orientation were and are (1) the decision of their 'enemy' never to
quit, and (2) the inevitability that someone who is part of the
occupation force will be confronted with these contradictions between
"the exalted image and the pseudo-event" and the real character of war
-- and that this someone will expose it in an attempt to rescue his or
her own humanity.
The war in Vietnam was lost by the French then the Americans because
they didn't belong there, and the resistance endeavored to do whatever
was necessary to make that point. This is also the situation in Iraq
So I'll leave to others the analysis of whether the troops facing courts
martial are scapegoats (they are, and they are also probably guilty as
hell), and whether or not the military is letting the officers off with
reprimands and walking papers to prevent the fire spreading (which it
is). I'll just emphasize that the war in Iraq cannot be won. Not because
of the inability of US troops to fight, but because we don't belong
there. And since that's the case (which I firmly believe it is) every
life -- Iraqi, American, or otherwise -- that is lost or ruined... is
All this talk of whether Military Intelligence or the mercenaries
working for CACI International or the CIA or the MP commanders were
responsible is diversionary bullshit so we won't see how Iraq itself has
become the Stanford Military Occupation Experiment.
Because if we conclude that the problem is systemic, then the only thing
to do to stop this is to walk away. And the Bush administration sent
troops there for the purpose not of building democracies, but of
building permanent military bases in the heart of oil country, and if
they walk away, they can't rightly build bases, can they?
So we can either blithely obey and support our new Neros, or we can
continue to cling to the absurd notion that the vandal can rebuild the
house they just ravaged, or we can do what we might to make them walk
away. Troops that come forward will play a key role in this moral
Every troop that comes forward with accounts of the inhumanity of this
war -- while jeopardizing his or her career -- is serving to hasten an
end to this criminal enterprise of the Military-Petroleum Complex. These
troop/witnesses will serve to hasten an end to the suffering of Iraqi
families and the suffering of the families of the occupying forces. They
will serve to prevent more torture, more humiliation, more suspicion and
hatred, and more lives being thrown away on this imperial folly.
Every troop who keeps his secrets, who faithfully serves the system
never bears witness, can travel for the rest of his life.
She can go to Rio de Janeiro.
He can go to Bangladesh.
She can go to Lagos, or Montreal, or Tokyo, or Moscow, or Antarctica.
But no matter where he goes, there he'll be -- alone with the growing
weight of his own silence on his head, wrapping himself in his own
rationalizations, and restlessly turning away from the faces that look
back at him in the mirrors of his memory.
from Richard Du Boff :
How about a Klaus Barbie Memorial Award given by the US government for the best annual contribution by present-day Nazis to the war on terrorism?
New York Times
May 14, 2004
Documents Show U.S. Relationship With Nazis During
by ELIZABETH OLSON
WASHINGTON, May 13. The American government worked closely with Nazi war criminals and collaborators, allowing many of them to live in the United States after World War II, and paying others who worked for West Germany's secret service, according to declassified documents from the F.B.I., C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies released Thursday.
The disclosures came as part of a project to place more than eight million government documents in the public domain, under legislation passed by Congress in 1998 to create the Nazi War Crimes and Japanese Imperial Government Records Interagency Working Group, or I.W.G.
"Although we have long known the outlines of the U.S. government's covert dealings with Nazi war criminals, the full scope of these relationships has never been fully documented or revealed," said Elizabeth Holtzman, a member of the working group and a former congresswoman from New York. "Until the work of the I.W.G., these relationships remained one of the great post-World War II secrets."
The 240,000 pages released Thursday reveal a pattern of American cooperation with questionable people who were protected on the grounds that they had valuable intelligence to offer during the cold-war period.
It was not that such collaborators fell through the bureaucratic cracks and were overlooked by the Immigration and Naturalization Service, said Norman J. W. Goda, an Ohio University history professor whose examination of the material is included in the book, "U.S. Intelligence and the Nazis," that the working group released Thursday.
"We had assumed that the I.N.S. dropped the ball, making only perfunctory background checks on these people," Mr. Goda said. "But the records show that immigration officials did investigate and tried to have these people deported."
"The problem," he said, "was that there were preferences in the C.I.A. and the F.B.I.," particularly of J. Edgar Hoover, the F.B.I. director, "to keep these people in the country so they could report on any Communist trends inside their own community."
Ultimately, Mr. Goda concluded, "such men added nothing except grist for the mill for their own propaganda."
Mr. Goda and other historians who studied the documents said that at least five associates of the Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann, each of whom had a significant role in Hitler's campaign to kill Jews, had worked for the C.I.A. The records also indicate that the C.I.A. tried to recruit another two dozen war criminals or Nazi collaborators. Some of them received employment and, in two cases, United States citizenship, according to the documents. The documents did not deal with those people who concealed their Nazi pasts in order to gain entry into the United States.
Also, several dozen people with criminal or dubious backgrounds were paid by the United States while they were employed by West Germany's secret service.
Timothy J. Naftali, an intelligence historian at the University of Virginia who examined the documents and also wrote chapters in the I.W.G. book, said: "We had no policies for helping Gestapo members, no disqualifiers unless the public knew about the crimes. It was kind of a 'don't ask, don't tell' culture."
The Interagency Working Group's mandate to examine declassified
intelligence documents has been extended by one year, and its staff members
said there would be a report in 2005 about activities in Asia and a final
report later to summarize the group's findings.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research at CEIMSA
Université de Grenoble-3