Bulletin N 351



20 May 2008
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
My ten-year-old daughter told me the other night at the dinner table, "I want to be an instrumentalist."  She had overheard me speaking on the telephone to a friend that evening.

"Why?" I asked her.

"Because instrumentalists know how to get what they want," she replied.

"No they don't," I warned her. "Instrumentalists know how to want what they get. They are tacticians, not strategists --they want only what other people want them to want. Like foot soldiers in a battle, who are trying to stay alive, they didn't really want to do what they are doing, someone else wanted them to do it, but they try to do it well, anyway.

"Obviously," she remarked, "they would die if they didn't."

"Yes, so they become good tacticians, expert instrumentalists, useful to the people who know what they want."

"These people are called strategists," she added proudly.

"Yes," I smiled. "Now, will you please pass me the salad?"

"No," she answered, and I reached for it myself.

The Red Army, observed Winston Churchill, "cut the guts out of the Nazi Wehrmacht." In his book, Russia at War, the historian Alexander Werth noted that at the second German offensive against Moscow, between November 16 and December 5, Soviet sources claimed that German losses included 55,000 dead and over 100,000 wounded or frostbitten, plus the loss of 777 tanks, 297 guns and mortars, 244  machine-guns and over 500 tommy-guns. (This estimate was later corroborated by non-Soviet sources.) For the first five months after the invasion, total German losses were estimated at around 750,000. (The German sources claimed only 156,000 German casualties in this period, of which only 30,000 were killed in battle .) By December 10, 1941, most reliable sources place the number of German casualties at 775,078, which was about 24.22% of the German troops on the eastern front, in more than 300 divisions numbering a total of some 3.2 million men. Of these casualties nearly 200,000 were killed in battle, and 8,000 of these dead were from the Nazi officer corps. (p.245-255) There was virtually no collaboration in Russia with the arrogant, racist invading Nazi forces after June 1941; an anti-fascist anger swept the cities and villages of Poland, Belorussia and Ukraine, where untold numbers of non-combatants --both Jews and Slaves-- had been killed and starved to death by Waffen-SS policies.

The 10 items below were received by CEIMSA recently and offer our readers material from the anatomy of contemporary United States policies. Just as we would not expect to learn the physiology of a rodent by watching Mickey Mouse cartoons, we rely on factual accounts of contemporary events to understand the system and the structure of today's world and the global impact that U.S. institutions and social movements are having on all of us.

Item A. is an article (in French) from author Diana Johnstone on the incomplete revelations of Mikhaïl Gorbatchev, who now believes "c'est impossible de faire confiance aux Américains", but who is yet unable to free himself from nationalist charactures and make finer differentiations within the system he claims to be analyzing.
Item B. by Professor Noam Chomsky, is an article on the closing of minds in America: the effects of middle-class dogma and war propaganda.
Item C. by Gordon Poole is a reflection on Boot-Camp esthetics in the United States today.
Item D. is an article by Glenn Greenwald on the New York Times' in-house jingoist, "Tommy-Gun" Friedman and his latest declaration of war: "The New Cold War".
Item E. by The University of Massachusetts Professor Richard Wolff on the political system of "consumerism" within the economic structures of late capitalism.
Item F. is an article from the New York Times on the new and burgeoning business opportunities in the state of Florida, i.e. the privatization of police state functions and expansion of the surveillance and security industries.
Item G. is an article by Ramzy Baroud, editor of PalestineChronicle .com, on Al Nakba, 60 YEARS OF DENIAL and its catastrophic effects on the Palestinian people.
Item H. is Alexander Cockburn's Lesson #1 from "U.S. War Casualties, past, present and future."
Item I. is a short assessment by Cockburn of the "Sleeze Factor in the Clinton campaign."
And Item J. is an article sent to us by Professor Jean Mister dissecting the Bush family's financial links to the Nazi political economy.

And finally, we recommend to CEIMSA readers the exceptional Democracy Now! broadcast of 16 May, covering Israel's 60th anniversary, and which features a debate between Israeli and American scholars on the policy of Israeli ethnic cleansing in Palestine:


Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Université de Grenoble-3
Grenoble, France

from Diana Johnstone :
Date: 19 May 2008
Subject: The simple truth.

Gorbatchev: impossible de faire confiance aux Américains

MOSCOU, 7 mai, 2008 - RIA Novosti. Il est impossible d'accorder du crédit aux promesses des dirigeants américains, a confié le dernier président de l'URSS Mikhaïl Gorbatchev dans une interview publiée mercredi par le journal britannique Daily Telegraph.

"Les Américains avaient promis que l'OTAN ne s'étendrait pas au-delà des frontières de l'Allemagne après la Guerre froide. Résultat, la moitié des Etats d'Europe centrale et orientale sont désormais membres de l'Alliance, et l'on se demande bien ce que sont devenues ces promesses. Cela prouve qu'on ne peut pas leur faire confiance", a déclaré M. Gorbatchev au cours d'un séjour à Paris.

"Les Etats-Unis ne supportent aucun Etat agissant de manière indépendante. Chaque président américain souhaite la guerre", estime le père de la Perestroïka, qui a adopté à la fin des années 1980 différentes mesures destinées à améliorer les relations russo-américaines.
"Nous disposions de dix ans, après la fin de la Guerre froide, afin d'édifier un nouvel ordre mondial, et nous les avons gaspillés, sans aucun résultat", a-t-il fait remarquer.

M. Gorbatchev a dénoncé le caractère "infondé" des déclarations de dirigeants américains qui accusent Moscou d'entretenir une rhétorique agressive entraînant dernièrement une dégradation des relations avec l'Occident, Washington étant responsable de l'augmentation de la tension dans le monde.
"Le problème, ce n'est pas la Russie. La Russie n'a pas d'ennemis, et n'a pas l'intention d'entrer en guerre contre les Etats-Unis ou contre qui que ce soit. On a parfois l'impression que Washington souhaite guerroyer avec la Terre entière", a déclaré l'ancien président de l'URSS, en référence aux déclarations du chef du Pentagone Robert Gates, qui a mentionné la menace présentée "par le cheminement incertain de la Chine et de la Russie".

M. Gorbatchev a qualifié l'éventuel déploiement en Europe orientale d'éléments du bouclier antimissile (ABM) américain de "démarche dangereuse", qui "relance à un niveau inédit la course aux armements". http://fr.rian.ru/russia/20080507/106775339.html

from Noam Chomsky :
Chomsky's ZSpace page

We Own The World
by Noam Chomsky

(excerpt from a talk given at the Z Media Institute: Boston, June 2007)


You all know, of course, there was an election -what is called "an election" in the United States- last November. There was really one issue in the election, what to do about U.S. forces in Iraq and there was, by U.S. standards, an overwhelming vote calling for a withdrawal of U.S. forces on a firm timetable.

As few people know, a couple of months earlier there were extensive polls in Iraq, U.S.-run polls, with interesting results. They were not secret here. If you really looked you could find references to them, so it's not that they were concealed. This poll found that two-thirds of the people in Baghdad wanted the U.S. troops out immediately; the rest of the country -a large majority- wanted a firm timetable for withdrawal, most of them within a year or less.

The figures are higher for Arab Iraq in the areas where troops were actually deployed. A very large majority felt that the presence of U.S. forces increased the level of violence and a remarkable 60 percent for all of Iraq, meaning higher in the areas where the troops are deployed, felt that U.S. forces were legitimate targets of attack. So there was a considerable consensus between Iraqis and Americans on what should be done in Iraq, namely troops should be withdrawn either immediately or with a firm timetable.

Well, the reaction in the post-election U.S. government to that consensus was to violate public opinion and increase the troop presence by maybe 30,000 to 50,000. Predictably, there was a pretext announced. It was pretty obvious what it was going to be. "There is outside interference in Iraq, which we have to defend the Iraqis against. The Iranians are interfering in Iraq." Then came the alleged evidence about finding IEDs, roadside bombs with Iranian markings, as well as Iranian forces in Iraq. "What can we do? We have to escalate to defend Iraq from the outside intervention."


Then came the "debate." We are a free and open society, after all, so we have "lively" debates. On the one side were the hawks who said, "The Iranians are interfering, we have to bomb them." On the other side were the doves who said, "We cannot be sure the evidence is correct, maybe you misread the serial numbers or maybe it is just the revolutionary guards and not the government."

So we had the usual kind of debate going on, which illustrates a very important and pervasive distinction between several types of propaganda systems. To take the ideal types, exaggerating a little: totalitarian states' propaganda is that you better accept it, or else. And "or else" can be of various consequences, depending on the nature of the state. People can actually believe whatever they want as long as they obey. Democratic societies use a different method: they don't articulate the party line. That's a mistake. What they do is presuppose it, then encourage vigorous debate within the framework of the party line. This serves two purposes. For one thing it gives the impression of a free and open society because, after all, we have lively debate. It also instills a propaganda line that becomes something you presuppose, like the air you breathe.

That was the case here. This is a classic illustration. The whole debate about the Iranian "interference" in Iraq makes sense only on one assumption, namely, that "we own the world." If we own the world, then the only question that can arise is that someone else is interfering in a country we have invaded and occupied.

So if you look over the debate that took place and is still taking place about Iranian interference, no one points out this is insane. How can Iran be interfering in a country that we invaded and occupied? It's only appropriate on the presupposition that we own the world. Once you have that established in your head, the discussion is perfectly sensible.

You read a lot of comparisons now about Vietnam and Iraq. For the most part they are totally incomparable; the nature and purpose of the war, almost everything is totally different except in one respect: how they are perceived in the United States. In both cases there is what is now sometimes called the "Q" word, quagmire. Is it a quagmire? In Vietnam it is now recognized that it was a quagmire. There is a debate of whether Iraq, too, is a quagmire. In other words, is it costing us too much? That is the question you can debate.

So in the case of Vietnam, there was a debate. Not at the beginning­in fact, there was so little discussion in the beginning that nobody even remembers when the war began­1962, if you're interested. That's when the U.S. attacked Vietnam. But there was no discussion, no debate, nothing.

By the mid-1960s, mainstream debate began. And it was the usual range of opinions between the hawks and the doves. The hawks said if we send more troops, we can win. The doves, well, Arthur Schlesinger, famous historian, Kennedy's advisor, in his book in 1966 said that we all pray that the hawks will be right and that the current escalation of troops, which by then was approaching half a million, will work and bring us victory. If it does, we will all be praising the wisdom and statesmanship of the American government for winning victory­in a land that we're reducing to ruin and wreck.

You can translate that word by word to the doves today. We all pray that the surge will work. If it does, contrary to our expectations, we will be praising the wisdom and statesmanship of the Bush administration in a country, which, if we're honest, is a total ruin, one of the worst disasters in military history for the population.

If you get way to the left end of mainstream discussion, you get somebody like Anthony Lewis who, at the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, wrote in retrospect that the war began with benign intensions to do good; that is true by definition, because it's us, after all. So it began with benign intentions, but by 1969, he said, it was clear that the war was a mistake. For us to win a victory would be too costly­for us­so it was a mistake and we should withdraw. That was the most extreme criticism.

Very much like today. We could withdraw from Vietnam because the U.S. had already essentially obtained its objective by then. Iraq we can't because we haven't obtained our objectives.

And for those of you who are old enough to remember­or have read about it­you will note that the peace movement pretty much bought that line. Just like the mainstream discussion, the opposition of the war, including the peace movement, was mostly focused on the bombing of the North. When the U.S. started bombing the North regularly in February 1965, it also escalated the bombing of the South to triple the scale­and the South had already been attacked for three years by then. A couple of hundred thousand South Vietnamese were killed and thousands, if not tens of the thousands, had been driven into concentration camps. The U.S. had been carrying out chemical warfare to destroy food crops and ground cover. By 1965 South Vietnam was already a total wreck.

Bombing the South was costless for the United States because the South had no defense. Bombing the North was costly­you bomb the North, you bomb the harbor, you might hit Russian ships, which begins to become dangerous. You're bombing an internal Chinese railroad­the Chinese railroads from southeast to southwest China happen to go through North Vietnam­who knows what they might do.

In fact, the Chinese were accused, correctly, of sending Chinese forces into Vietnam, namely to rebuild the railroad that we were bombing. So that was "interference" with our divine right to bomb North Vietnam. So most of the focus was on the bombing of the North. The peace movement slogan, "Stop the bombing" meant the bombing of the North.

In 1967 the leading specialist on Vietnam, Bernard Fall, a military historian and the only specialist on Vietnam respected by the U.S. government­who was a hawk, incidentally, but who cared about the Vietnamese­wrote that it's a question of whether Vietnam will survive as a cultural and historical entity under the most severe bombing that has ever been applied to a country this size. He was talking about the South. He kept emphasizing it was the South that was being attacked. But that didn't matter because it was costless, therefore it's fine to continue. That is the range of debate, which only makes sense on the assumption that we own the world.

If you read, say, the Pentagon Papers, it turns out there was extensive planning about the bombing of the North­very detailed, meticulous planning on just how far it can go, what happens if we go a little too far, and so on. There is no discussion at all about the bombing of the South, virtually none. Just an occasional announcement, okay, we will triple the bombing, or something like that.

If you read Robert McNamara's memoirs of the war­by that time he was considered a leading dove­he reviews the meticulous planning about the bombing of the North, but does not even mention his decision to sharply escalate the bombing of the South at the same time that the bombing of the North was begun.

I should say, incidentally, that with regard to Vietnam what I have been discussing is articulate opinion, including the leading part of the peace movement. There is also public opinion, which it turns out is radically different, and that is of some significance. By 1969 around 70 percent of the public felt that the war was not a mistake, but that it was fundamentally wrong and immoral. That was the wording of the polls and that figure remains fairly constant up until the most recent polls just a few years ago. The figures are pretty remarkable because people who say that in a poll almost certainly think, I must be the only person in the world that thinks this. They certainly did not read it anywhere, they did not hear it anywhere. But that was popular opinion.

The same is true with regard to many other issues. But for articulate opinion it's pretty much the way I've described­largely vigorous debate between the hawks and the doves, all on the unexpressed assumption that we own the world. So the only thing that matters is how much is it costing us, or maybe for some more humane types, are we harming too many of them?


Getting back to the election, there was a lot of disappointment among anti-war people­the majority of the population­that Congress did not pass any withdrawal legislation. There was a Democratic resolution that was vetoed, but if you look at the resolution closely it was not a withdrawal resolution. There was a good analysis of it by General Kevin Ryan, who was a fellow at the Kennedy School at Harvard. He went through it and he said it really should be called a re-missioning proposal. It leaves about the same number of American troops, but they have a slightly different mission.

He said, first of all it allows for a national security exception. If the president says there is a national security issue, he can do whatever he wants -end of resolution. The second gap is it allows for anti-terrorist activities. Okay, that is whatever you like. Third, it allows for training Iraqi forces. Again, anything you like.

Next it says troops have to remain for protection of U.S. forces and facilities. What are U.S. forces? Well, U.S. forces are those embedded in Iraqi armed units where 60 percent of their fellow soldiers think that they-U.S. troops, that is­are legitimate targets of attack. Incidentally, those figures keep going up, so they are probably higher by now. Well, okay, that is plenty of force protection. What facilities need protection was not explained in the Democratic resolution, but facilities include what is called "the embassy." The U.S. embassy in Iraq is nothing like any embassy that has ever existed in history. It's a city inside the green zone, the protected region of Iraq, that the U.S. runs. It's got everything from missiles to McDonalds, anything you want. They didn't build that huge facility because they intend to leave.

That is one facility, but there are others. There are "semi-permanent military bases," which are being built around the country. "Semi-permanent" means permanent, as long as we want.

General Ryan omitted a lot of things. He omitted the fact that the U.S. is maintaining control of logistics and logistics is the core of a modern Army. Right now about 80 percent of the supply is coming in though the south, from Kuwait, and it's going through guerilla territory, easily subject to attack, which means you have to have plenty of troops to maintain that supply line. Plus, of course, it keeps control over the Iraqi Army.

The Democratic resolution excludes the Air Force. The Air Force does whatever it wants. It is bombing pretty regularly and it can bomb more intensively. The resolution also excludes mercenaries, which is no small number­sources such as the Wall Street Journal estimate the number of mercenaries at about 130,000, approximately the same as the number of troops, which makes some sense. The traditional way to fight a colonial war is with mercenaries, not with your own soldiers­that is the French Foreign Legion, the British Ghurkas, or the Hessians in the Revolutionary War. That is part of the main reason the draft was dropped­so you get professional soldiers, not people you pick off the streets.

So, yes, it is re-missioning, but the resolution was vetoed because it was too strong, so we don't even have that. And, yes, that did disappoint a lot of people. However, it would be too strong to say that no high official in Washington called for immediate withdrawal. There were some. The strongest one I know of­when asked what is the solution to the problem in Iraq­said it's quite obvious, "Withdraw all foreign forces and withdraw all foreign arms." That official was Condoleeza Rice and she was not referring to U.S. forces, she was referring to Iranian forces and Iranian arms. And that makes sense, too, on the assumption that we own the world because, since we own the world U.S. forces cannot be foreign forces anywhere. So if we invade Iraq or Canada, say, we are the indigenous forces. It's the Iranians that are foreign forces.


I waited for a while to see if anyone, at least in the press or journals, would point out that there was something funny about this. I could not find a word. I think everyone regarded that as a perfectly sensible comment. But I could not see a word from anyone who said, wait a second, there are foreign forces there, 150,000 American troops, plenty of American arms.

So it is reasonable that when British sailors were captured in the Gulf by Iranian forces, there was debate, "Were they in Iranian borders or in Iraqi borders? Actually there is no answer to this because there is no territorial boundary, and that was pointed out. It was taken for granted that if the British sailors were in Iraqi waters, then Iran was guilty of a crime by intervening in foreign territory. But Britain is not guilty of a crime by being in Iraqi territory, because Britain is a U.S. client state, and we own the world, so they are there by right.

W hat about the possible next war, Iran? There have been very credible threats by the U.S. and Israel­essentially a U.S. client­to attack Iran. There happens to be something called the UN Charter which says that -in Article 2- the threat or use of force in international affairs is a crime. "Threat or use of force."

Does anybody care? No, because we're an outlaw state by definition, or to be more precise, our threats and use of force are not foreign, they're indigenous because we own the world. Therefore, it's fine. So there are threats to bomb Iran­maybe we will and maybe we won't. That is the debate that goes on. Is it legitimate if we decide to do it? People might argue it's a mistake. But does anyone say it would be illegitimate? For example, the Democrats in Congress refuse to put in an amendment that would require the Executive to inform Congress if it intends to bomb Iran­to consult, inform. Even that was not accepted.

The whole world is aghast at this possibility. It would be monstrous. A leading British military historian, Correlli Barnett, wrote recently that if the U.S. does attack, or Israel does attack, it would be World War III. The attack on Iraq has been horrendous enough. Apart from devastating Iraq, the UN High Commission on Refugees reviewed the number of displaced people­they estimate 4.2 million, over 2 million fled the country, another 2 million fleeing within the country. That is in addition to the numbers killed, which if you extrapolate from the last studies, are probably approaching a million.

It was anticipated by U.S. intelligence and other intelligence agencies and independent experts that an attack on Iraq would probably increase the threat of terror and nuclear proliferation. But that went way beyond what anyone expected. Well known terrorism specialists Peter Bergen and Paul Cruickshank estimated­using mostly government statistics­that what they call "the Iraq effect" increased terror by a factor of seven, and that is pretty serious. And that gives you an indication of the ranking of protection of the population in the priority list of leaders. It's very low.

So what would the Iran effect be? Well, that is incalculable. It could be World War III. Very likely a massive increase in terror, who knows what else. Even in the states right around Iraq, which don't like Iran­Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey -even there the large majority would prefer to see a nuclear armed Iran to any U.S. military action, and they are right, military action could be devastating. It doesn't mean we won't do it. There is very little discussion here of the illegitimacy of doing it, again on the assumption that anything we do is legitimate, it just might cost too much.

Is there a possible solution to the U.S./Iran crisis? Well, there are some plausible solutions. One possibility would be an agreement that allows Iran to have nuclear energy, like every signer of the non-proliferation treaty, but not to have nuclear weapons. In addition, it would call for a nuclear weapons free zone in the Middle East. That would include Iran, Israel, which has hundreds of nuclear weapons, and any U.S. or British forces deployed in the region. A third element of a solution would be for the United States and other nuclear states to obey their legal obligation, by unanimous agreement of the World Court, to make good-faith moves to eliminate nuclear weapons entirely.

Is this feasible? Well, it's feasible on one assumption, that the United States and Iran become functioning democratic societies, because what I have just quoted happens to be the opinion of the overwhelming majority of the populations in Iran and the United States. On everything that I mentioned there is an overwhelming majority. So, yes, there would be a very feasible solution if these two countries were functioning democratic societies, meaning societies in which public opinion has some kind of effect on policy. The problem in the United States is the inability of organizers to do something in a population that overwhelmingly agrees with them and to make that current policy. Of course, it can be done. Peasants in Bolivia can do it, we can obviously do it here.

Can we do anything to make Iran a more democratic society? Not directly, but indirectly we can. We can pay attention to the dissidents and the reformists in Iran who are struggling courageously to turn Iran into a more democratic society. And we know exactly what they are saying, they are very outspoken about it. They are pleading with the United States to withdraw the threats against Iran. The more we threaten Iran, the more we give a gift to the reactionary, religious fanatics in the government. You make threats, you strengthen them. That is exactly what is happening. The threats have lead to repression, predictably.


Now the Americans claim they are outraged by the repression, which we should protest, but we should recognize that the repression is the direct and predictable consequence of the actions that the U.S. government is taking. So if you take actions, and then they have predictable consequences, condemning the consequences is total hypocrisy.

Incidentally, in the case of Cuba about two-thirds of Americans think we ought to end the embargo and all threats and enter into diplomatic relations. And that has been true ever since polls have been taken­for about 30 years. The figure varies, but it's roughly there. Zero effect on policy, in Iran, Cuba, and elsewhere.

So there is a problem and that problem is that the United States is just not a functioning democracy. Public opinion does not matter and among articulate and elite opinion that is a principle­it shouldn't matter. The only principle that matters is we own the world and the rest of you shut up, you know, whether you're abroad or at home.

So, yes, there is a potential solution to the very dangerous problem, it's essentially the same solution: do something to turn our own country into a functioning democracy. But that is in radical opposition to the fundamental presupposition of all elite discussions, mainly that we own the world and that these questions don't arise and the public should have no opinion on foreign policy, or any policy.

Once, when I was driving to work, I was listening to NPR. NPR is supposed to be the kind of extreme radical end of the spectrum. I read a statement somewhere, I don't know if it's true, but it was a quote from Obama, who is the hope of the liberal doves, in which he allegedly said that the spectrum of discussion in the United States extends between two crazy extremes, Rush Limbaugh and NPR. The truth, he said, is in the middle and that is where he is going to be, in the middle, between the crazies.

NPR then had a discussion­it was like being at the Harvard faculty club­serious people, educated, no grammatical errors, who know what they're talking about, usually polite. The discussion was about the so-called missile defense system that the U.S. is trying to place in Czechoslovakia and Poland­and the Russian reaction. The main issue was, "What is going on with the Russians? Why are they acting so hostile and irrational? Are they trying to start a new Cold War? There is something wrong with those guys. Can we calm them down and make them less paranoid?"

The main specialist they called in, I think from the Pentagon or somewhere, pointed out, accurately, that a missile defense system is essentially a first-strike weapon. That is well known by strategic analysts on all sides. If you think about it for a minute, it's obvious why. A missile defense system is never going to stop a first strike, but it could, in principle, if it ever worked, stop a retaliatory strike. If you attack some country with a first strike, and practically wipe it out, if you have a missile defense system, and prevent them from retaliating, then you would be protected, or partially protected. If a country has a functioning missile defense system it will have more options for carrying out a first strike. Okay, obvious, and not a secret. It's known to every strategic analyst. I can explain it to my grandchildren in two minutes and they understand it.

So on NPR it is agreed that a missile defense system is a first-strike weapon. But then comes the second part of the discussion. Well, say the pundits, the Russians should not be worried about this. For one thing because it's not enough of a system to stop their retaliation, so therefore it's not yet a first-strike weapon against them. Then they said it is kind of irrelevant anyway because it is directed against Iran, not against Russia.

Okay, that was the end of the discussion. So, point one, missile defense is a first-strike weapon; second, it's directed against Iran. Now, you can carry out a small exercise in logic. Does anything follow from those two assumptions? Yes, what follows is it's a first-strike weapon against Iran. Since the U.S. owns the world what could be wrong with having a first-strike weapon against Iran. So the conclusion is not mentioned. It is not necessary. It follows from the fact that we own the world.

Maybe a year ago or so, Germany sold advanced submarines to Israel, which were equipped to carry missiles with nuclear weapons. Why does Israel need submarines with nuclear armed missiles? Well, there is only one imaginable reason and everyone in Germany with a brain must have understood that­certainly their military system does­it's a first-strike weapon against Iran. Israel can use German subs to illustrate to Iranians that if they respond to an Israeli attack they will be vaporized.

The fundamental premises of Western imperialism are extremely deep. The West owns the world and now the U.S. runs the West, so, of course, they go along. The fact that they are providing a first-strike weapon for attacking Iran probably, I'm guessing now, raised no comment because why should it?

You can forget about history, it does not matter, it's kind of "old fashioned," boring stuff we don't need to know about. But most countries pay attention to history. So, for example, for the United States there is no discussion of the history of U.S./Iranian relations. Well, for the U.S. there is only one event in Iranian history­in 1979 Iranians overthrew the tyrant that the U.S. was backing and took some hostages for over a year. That happened and they had to be punished for that.

But for Iranians their history is that for over 50 years, literally without a break, the U.S. has been torturing Iranians. In 1953 the U.S. overthrew the parliamentary government and installed a brutal tyrant, the Shah, and kept supporting him while he compiled one of the worst human rights records in the world­torture, assassination, anything you like. In fact, President Carter, when he visited Iran in December 1978, praised the Shah because of the love shown to him by his people, and so on and so forth, which probably accelerated the overthrow. Of course, Iranians have this odd way of remembering what happened to them and who was behind it. When the Shah was overthrown, the Carter administration immediately tried to instigate a military coup by sending arms to Iran through Israel to try to support military force to overthrow the government. We immediately turned to supporting Iraq, that is Saddam Hussein, and his invasion of Iran.

Saddam was executed for crimes he committed in 1982, by his standards not very serious crimes­complicity in killing 150 people. Well, there was something missing in that account­1982 is a very important year in U.S./Iraqi relations. That is the year in which Ronald Reagan removed Iraq from the list of states supporting terrorism so that the U.S. could start supplying Iraq with weapons for its invasion of Iran, including the means to develop weapons of mass destruction, chemical and nuclear weapons. That is 1982. A year later Donald Rumsfeld was sent to firm up the deal. Well, Iranians may very well remember that this led to a war in which hundreds of thousands of them were slaughtered with U.S. aid going to Iraq. They may well remember that the year after the war was over, in 1989, the U.S. government invited Iraqi nuclear engineers to come to the United States for advanced training in developing nuclear weapons.

What about the Russians? They have a history too. One part of the history is that in the last century Russia was invaded and practically destroyed three times through Eastern Europe. You can look back and ask, when was the last time that the U.S. was invaded and practically destroyed through Canada or Mexico? That doesn't happen. We crush others and we are always safe. But the Russians don't have that luxury. Now, in 1990 a remarkable event took place. I was kind of shocked, frankly. Gorbachev agreed to let Germany be unified, meaning join the West and be militarized within a hostile military alliance. This is Germany, which twice in that century practically destroyed Russia. That's a pretty remarkable agreement.

There was a quid pro quo. Then-president George Bush I agreed that NATO would not expand to the East. The Russians also demanded, but did not receive, an agreement for a nuclear-free zone from the Artic to the Baltic, which would give them a little protection from nuclear attack. That was the agreement in 1990. Then Bill Clinton came into office, the so-called liberal. One of the first things he did was to rescind the agreement, unilaterally, and expand NATO to the East.

For the Russians that's pretty serious, if you remember the history. They lost 25 million people in the last World War and over 3 million in World War I. But since the U.S. owns the world, if we want to threaten Russia, that is fine. It is all for freedom and justice, after all, and if they make unpleasant noises about it we wonder why they are so paranoid. Why is Putin screaming as if we're somehow threatening them, since we can't be threatening anyone, owning the world.

One of the other big issues on the front pages now is Chinese "aggressiveness." There is a lot of concern about the fact that the Chinese are building up their missile forces. Is China planning to conquer the world? Big debates about it. Well, what is really going on? For years China has been in the lead in trying to prevent the militarization of space. If you look at the debates and the Disarmament Commission of the UN General Assembly, the votes are 160 to 1 or 2. The U.S. insists on the militarization of space. It will not permit the outer space treaty to explicitly bar military relations in space.

Clinton's position was that the U.S. should control space for military purposes. The Bush administration is more extreme. Their position is the U.S. should own space, their words, We have to own space for military purposes. So that is the spectrum of discussion here. The Chinese have been trying to block it and that is well understood. You read the most respectable journal in the world, I suppose, the Journal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and you find leading strategic analysts, John Steinbrunner and Nancy Gallagher, a couple of years ago, warning that the Bush administration's aggressive militarization is leading to what they call "ultimate doom." Of course, there is going to be a reaction to it. You threaten people with destruction, they are going to react. These analysts call on peace-loving nations to counter Bush's aggressive militarism. They hope that China will lead peace-loving nations to counter U.S. aggressiveness. It's a pretty remarkable comment on the impossibility of achieving democracy in the United States. Again, the logic is pretty elementary. Steinbrunner and Gallagher are assuming that the United States cannot be a democratic society; it's not one of the options, so therefore we hope that maybe China will do something.

Well, China finally did something. It signaled to the United States that they noticed that we were trying to use space for military purposes, so China shot down one of their satellites. Everyone understands why­the mili- tarization and weaponization of space depends on satellites. While missiles are very difficult or maybe impossible to stop, satellites are very easy to shoot down. You know where they are. So China is saying, "Okay, we understand you are militarizing space. We're going to counter it not by militarizing space, we can't compete with you that way, but by shooting down your satellites." That is what was behind the satellite shooting. Every military analyst certainly understood it and every lay person can understand it. But take a look at the debate. The discussion was about, "Is China trying it conquer the world by shooting down one of its own satellites?"

About a year ago there was a new rash of articles and headlines on the front page about the "Chinese military build-up." The Pentagon claimed that China had increased its offensive military capacity­with 400 missiles, which could be nuclear armed. Then we had a debate about whether that proves China is trying to conquer the world or the numbers are wrong, or something.

Just a little footnote. How many offensive nuclear armed missiles does the United States have? Well, it turns out to be 10,000. China may now have maybe 400, if you believe the hawks. That proves that they are trying to conquer the world.

It turns out, if you read the international press closely, that the reason China is building up its military capacity is not only because of U.S. aggressiveness all over the place, but the fact that the United States has improved its targeting capacities so it can now destroy missile sites in a much more sophisticated fashion wherever they are, even if they are mobile. So who is trying to conquer the world? Well, obviously the Chinese because since we own it, they are trying to conquer it.

It's all too easy to continue with this indefinitely. Just pick your topic. It's a good exercise to try. This simple principle, "we own the world," is sufficient to explain a lot of the discussion about foreign affairs.

I will just finish with a word from George Orwell. In the introduction to Animal Farm he said, England is a free society, but it's not very different from the totalitarian monster I have been describing. He says in England unpopular ideas can be suppressed without the use of force. Then he goes on to give some dubious examples. At the end he turns to a very brief explanation, actually two sentences, but they are to the point. He says, one reason is the press is owned by wealthy men who have every reason not to want certain ideas to be expressed. And the second reason­and I think a more important one­is a good education. If you have gone to the best schools and graduated from Oxford and Cambridge, and so on, you have instilled in you the understanding that there are certain things it would not do to say; actually, it would not do to think. That is the primary way to prevent unpopular ideas from being expressed.

The ideas of the overwhelming majority of the population, who don't attend Harvard, Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge, enable them to react like human beings, as they often do. There is a lesson there for activists.

from Gordon Poole :
Date: 15 May 2008
Subject: Boot-Camp & the Politics of Peace.

Dear Francis Feeley:
I include a reflection on current matters. You may broadcast it if you think it might be useful.
Gordon Poole

Boot-Camp Ideology, Social Violence, and the Politics of Peace

M ilitary commanders don’t want quakers, with or without the capital Q, in their ranks. The United States has always been a warlike country and inordinately proud of it. Periods in which the country was not fighting or invading some foreign country or warring against American native populations are few. Unlike most other countries, and with the exception of the southern Confederacy during the 1861-1864 Civil War, it has never been invaded and occupied. Popular opposition to war in the United States, when it has existed, has certainly been moved by the horror of its devastations but still more by reluctance to support the profit-motivated, expansionist policies dictated by big business, especially industrial conglomerates, at a cost in American lives. US pacifism expressed itself historically throughout the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth in a robust opposition to the existence of a standing army, respect for foreign national liberation movements (like our own eighteenth-century Minute Men), and isolationism (which has undeservedly become somewhat of a four-letter word in US political language). The Anti-Imperialist League, founded in 1898, was presided over and sustained by some of the foremost intellectuals of the country, including Mark Twain, who was Vice-President from 1898 until his death in 1915.
Although quakers are not welcome on the battlefield, the attempt to weed them out has always been less than successful, especially under the draft system. Interesting statistics show that a significant minority, 15% of down-range combatants in World War II, never shot to kill: i.e., they would wittingly miss their human target (S.L.A. Marshall, Men Against Fire. Gloucester, Massachusetts: Peter Smith, 1978). When they did shoot to kill, it was generally out of personal or group necessity. Those who did kill an enemy often suffered severe psychological consequences. The heavy death toll on both sides in World-War-II fighting, especially in the Pacific theater, was due to several factors. One was bombing from the air by pilots who did not see the enemy but simply launched the “payload” over increasingly abstract, assigned coordinates. Another was the degree of dehumanization of the enemy, especially successful in the eastern theater due to racial prejudice against the Japanese.
In general, even a limited period of combat can have severe consequences for the combatant, creating long-lasting, physical, and/or psychological problems. Veterans with severe problems react in different ways: they may crack up, become violent, or turn to drink and drugs. The frequency of this is recognized by the United States military; a spot by the U.S. Sergeant General often broadcast over the Armed Services Network radio repeatedly warns soldiers returning on leave or retiring from active duty of the great difficulties of readjustment to civilian and family life. A special hotline has recently been created to help wounded personnel, who notoriously had not been getting the help they needed from the preexisting services (e.g., at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C.). Some soldiers work their way through their suffering and emerge with a reaffirmation of what might be called (to ape and at the same time redefine Marine-Corps rhetoric) “core American values”, namely, such ones as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as well as an opposition to militarism, war, and present US foreign policy. The interpretation is confirmed by the number and consistency of veterans’ and veteran support groups, organizations, and movements with a strong oppositional political commitment.
The sufferings of veterans are worsened by the fact that the governments, no less in the United States than in other member states of the “coalition of the willing,” have shown a callous tendency, determined by short-sighted political and tight-fisted economic interests, to limit recognition of the combat-related nature of veterans’ diseases. This is perhaps less a question of seeking to avoid the expense of furnishing medical aid than of downplaying the dangers and consequences of deployment, so as to avoid an unfavorable effect on recruitment efforts, which are going badly. To give one significant statistic, over thirty percent of the tens of thousands of veterans of the first Gulf War, the so-called “cakewalk” in which there were less than two hundred battlefield deaths, many by friendly fire, are full or partial invalids, and many have died as a result: http://www.grunt.com/scuttlebutt/corps-stories/bootcamp/recruit.asp. Statistics for the second Gulf War are coming in and are not encouraging: e.g., a fourth of U.S. street people are veterans, and increasingly they are veterans from the Gulf War II.
In any case, the objectives of basic training, aimed at turning not overly disciplined but generally well-intentioned and friendly young people into soldiers (“a member, always and forever, of the few and the proud,”  as a typical Marine site has it), with all that that means, has never been completely successful. The general purpose over the years, especially after World War II, has been to break the young volunteer or conscript and make him (more recently her) over, teaching him to follow orders, albeit intelligently and even creatively (see the official site http://usmilitary.about.com/od/marinejoin/a/marinebasic.htm, or to see how people can be permanently affected see the above-cited http://www.grunt.com/scuttlebutt/corps-stories/bootcamp/recruit.asp ).
Born into a culture that expounds the tenets of democracy, in which all men are created equal, etc., and a society that claims somewhat dogmatically to be classless, the young American, right or left, readily has had, and perhaps still preserves, a certain sassiness toward authority, a certain belief or illusion of being possessed of independence of mind, a conviction that he is unique. Basic training has to instill into the conscripts or volunteers a respect for such quite contrary principles as hierarchy, strict obedience to commands, uniformity of dress, behavior, and – as far as possible through rigorous grooming – appearance. The typical American heroes, like Thomas Paine (with his rebellious attitude toward monarchical authority), Henry David Thoreau (with his practice and theory of civil disobedience and his eloquently expressed distress for the U.S. Marine: “Visit the Navy Yard, and behold a marine, such a man as an American government can make, or such as it can make a man with its black arts – a mere shadow and reminiscence of humanity, a man laid out alive and standing, and already, as one may say, buried under arms with funeral accompaniment,” Civil Disobedience), Huckleberry Finn (with his ornery inability to conform to the laws of his Southern slave society, imposed by the natural rights Twain believed his innocent was born with), Tom Joad (the ex-con turned union man who goes underground in Steinbeck’s Grapes of Wrath), and many other narrative and celluloid heroes who go against illegitimate authority and act on their own – none of these would have made good soldiers, unless they were autonomously convinced of the goodness and legitimacy of the cause for which they were being asked to fight.

The techniques that are used to turn civilians into soldiers have varied over the years, since the “summer soldiers” of the Revolution. There is a general impression that there has been somewhat of a let-up in the hazing and humiliation of the sort described in films such as Jarhead and the first half of Full Metal Jacket. This may be, but there is a publicity spot occasionally aired on the Armed Forces Network radio which seeks to solicit enrolments in Marine special corps and explicitly promises, in the words of a graduate, that they will put you through hell but you will come out a man, a bonded member of a very special fellowship. As former Lieutenant Colonel David Grossman has written, what happens in boot camp is brutalization, otherwise known as “values inculcation”: “Your head is shaved, you are herded together naked, and dressed alike, losing all vestiges of individuality. You are trained relentlessly in a total immersion environment. In the end you embrace violence and discipline and accept it as a normal and essential survival skill in your brutal new world.”
It is clear that the return of tens of thousands of military personnel, wounded physically and psychologically, places a burden on society. The dead are buried and make no moan, unless they have a mother like Cindy Sheehan, nor is she the only stalwart. The wounded and disabled are relatively young people who have been under severe and continual stress and often have committed acts under orders, or as they were led to understand those orders, that have gone against the basic religious and ideological convictions they had been raised to abide by.

The present US foreign policy of expansion, conquest, and occupation of foreign countries has another fallout. Americans live in an increasingly militarized society, in which the might-makes-right ideology characterizing foreign policy, popularized by complicit mass media both editorially and in television films, has an inevitable, socio-psychological consequence domestically. The young, while being discouraged (one wonders to what degree) from expressing their sexuality by the just-say-no campaigns, are encouraged to believe not only that weapons solve otherwise unsolvable problems but that the combat context of their employ is the backdrop for stirring acts of virtue and derring-do by uniformed combatants with the stars and stripes stitched on their jackets or tattooed on their flesh. As former lieutenant colonel Grossman has written, the conditioning recruits and volunteers get in boot camp is replicated, on a smaller scale but over a longer period of indoctrination, through television: “Something very similar is happening to our children through violence in the media. It begins at the age of 18 months, when a child can begin to understand and mimic what is on television.”

When US teenagers take up arms against their teachers and schoolmates, the anguished question that is usually raised is Why? Of course there are personal sources of suffering, broken homes, maltreatment, peer-contempt, sexual frustration, and other local causes. However, these situations can exist in many countries, but, to my knowledge, it is only in the United States of America that one finds such dire explosions of spontaneous rage. And yes, there is too easy access to firearms in the USA, but there are other countries where it is equally easy or even easier to get guns, without this determining school massacres (in Bowling toward Columbine Michael Moore looked at Canada and was surprised at what he found: a relatively peaceful society of gun-lovers).
It would appear that US young people are in pretty bad shape: obese, medicated (legally and illegally), and psychologically weak. Unlike young folk in most other countries, lots of them fail in school, are insolent to their teachers and parents, fight with their peers, drink, do drugs, commit crimes, stay away from home for days or weeks, drive irresponsibly, own or have access to arms. Large numbers of teenagers have their parents at their wits’ ends to know how to deal with them. Considerable numbers are forcibly consigned to privately run education or reeducation centers, known significantly enough as “boot camps,” in which the ideologically determined practice of “hard love” is applied to bring them into line. The consensus is that many of these camps are run by inexperienced personnel and have little success in rehabilitating delinquent youths. The United States has 5% of the world population and 25% of the population behind bars.
So maybe Why? is the wrong question. I have a fantasy that if one of these young killers (often suicidal) or some veteran, like Timothy McVeigh, who has become violent on return to “sivilisation” (as Huck Finn called it), were asked that question, he might come back with another question: Why not? At this point the ball would be back in the establishment’s court, and the authorities would be called upon to give good reasons why such behavior, which is ok if you are serving in Somalia, Afghanistan, or some secret CIA prison, and proudly wearing the uniform of the United States of America, is wrong if you are a no less confused and misled bad kid in the United States. The establishment and its authorities and supporters would have to accept a challenge that comes from many sources – from former-president Carter (who is no angel), from people all over the world who look with interest and admiration at US culture, from ex-patriots like myself – to reformulate our ethical and political values and to do so rigorously, eschewing ignoble caveats and escape clauses. Let’s close with Carter: “Our country for the first time in my lifetime has abandoned the basic principle of human rights," he said on CNN. "We've said that the Geneva Conventions do not apply to those people in Abu Ghraib prison and Guantanamo, and we've said we can torture prisoners and deprive them of an accusation of a crime.”
But Carter goes beyond a generic invitation to his country to adhere to its best heritage in the question of torture and human rights. He boldly imagines a Democratic presidential candidate during the upcoming elections announcing a program for the United States that would also include withdrawal from Iraq (a decision he accuses leading Democratic Party candidates Clinton and Obama of not daring to make), national health care, peaceful relations with all countries, reduction of military spending, closure of military bases abroad, welfare, support for public schools, pensions, a serious ecological and environmental policy, and more besides – taken all together, a program for democracy the likes of which we have not seen for a long time. Carter says the American people would go for a program like this, and he may be right. In spite of this, as he doubtless knows, there is no chance at all that the totalitarian U.S. two-party system is going to offer the American people anything similar.

from Edward Herman
Date: 16 May 2008
Subject: Tom Friedman's latest declaration of war

Here is Greenwald on Tom Friedman, somersault artist.


Tom Friedman's latest declaration of war
by Glenn Greenwald

Today's a very exciting day in America. Our nation's most Serious foreign policy expert, the brilliant Thomas Friedman of The New York Times, has today declared our latest new war:
The next American president will inherit many foreign policy challenges, but surely one of the biggest will be the cold war.
Yes, the next president is going to be a cold-war president -- but this cold war is with Iran.
So congratulations to us. After years of desperately searching, we've finally found our New Soviet Union. Nay-saying opponents of the New War (those who Tom Friedman, in March of 2003, dismissed as "knee-jerk liberals and pacifists") may try to point out that it's a country whose defense spending is less than 1% of our own, has never invaded another country, and could not possibly threaten us, but those are just small details. Iran is our new implacable foe in Tom Friedman's glorious, transcendent struggle -- which, in 2003, on NPR, he called "the beginning of World War III . . . the third great totalitarian challenge in the last, you know, 60 years," and which he today defines this way (featuring an amazingly disingenuous use of parenthesis):

That is the real umbrella story in the Middle East today -- the struggle for influence across the region, with America and its Sunni Arab allies (and Israel) versus Iran, Syria and their non-state allies, Hamas and Hezbollah. As the May 11 editorial in the Iranian daily Kayhan put it, "In the power struggle in the Middle East, there are only two sides: Iran and the U.S."

Friedman laments that "Team America" -- that's really what he calls it -- "is losing on just about every front."

What's most striking about Friedman's formulation is that -- in the 2003 NPR interview -- this is what Friedman said about why 9/11 happened:
I did a documentary last year for the Discovery Channel on the roots of 9/11, and we went with a team all over the Arab-Muslim world for over a period of about six months and interviewed people on what 9/11 was all about. And our conclusion was 9/11 was really fed by three rivers of rage. One was about what we do -- what we, the United States, do, whether it's how we use resources, it's our support for a dictatorial Arab regime so they'll sell us cheap oil. It's our backing for Israel when it does the right thing and when it does the wrong thing. 9/11 is fed, in part, by what we do, OK. . . .

The second and hugely important river of rage feeding 9/11 was a real overpowering sense of humiliation. . . . The Arab Human Development Report told us last year that 22 Arab states, not a single one has a freely and fairly elected government. . . .

And the third river of rage is how much these people hate their own governments, governments that keep them voiceless and powerless and prevent them from achieving their full aspirations in a world where they know how everyone else is living.So 9/11 was caused by our backing of dictatorial Arab regimes, our unconditional support for Israel, our general interference in the Middle East, and the fact that Muslims aren't free. So what does Friedman want to do now? Have the U.S. wage a "cold war" (at least) for dominance in the Middle East alongside our best friends: the dictators and monarchs of Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the Gulf States (plus, incidentally, Israel). In other words, Friedman now wants to do everything that he himself said is what caused 9/11 in the first place.

There's a reason that Friedman occupies the place he does in America's foreign policy establishment. He's perfectly representative of it. It's an establishment in perpetual search of an Enemy and the next war. And finding it (or creating it) is the one thing they do well.

Friedman spent months before the invasion of Iraq continuously supporting and cheering it on based on righteous appeals to the transformational values of freedom and democracy. But once the invasion was complete, he unmasked himself, acknowledging in that NPR interview that the real purpose of the invasion was that the U.S. had to send a message to Muslims generally and "sometimes it takes a 2-by-4 across the side of the head to get that message."

That admission was accompanied by Friedman's 2003 "epiphany" on The Charlie Rose Show that the invasion of Iraq was "unquestionably worth doing" because "looking back, I now feel I understand more what the war was about." Only once the deed was done did he magically realize that the real purpose of his war was not, after all, that "a more accountable, progressive and democratizing regime" in Iraq would "have a positive, transforming effect on the entire Arab world" -- as he continuously claimed while convincing Americans to support it.

No, instead, it turns out that the real purpose of invading Iraq, what made it "unquestionably worth doing," was that we needed to invade some Muslim country -- Iraq was just one of many that would have sufficed -- in order, using his words, to "take out a very big stick" and say: "Suck. On. This." That comes from one of the most revealing (and most repellent) three minutes of commentary one can find, illustrating the real face of the Friedman-led American foreign policy class (h/t Atrios):

And now Friedman has shifted his phallic, warmongering eyes from Iraq to Iran. While he denies in passing that he wants to wage actual war on Iran, he says we must find incentives "that the other side finds too tempting or frightening to ignore." In November, he argued that if Barack Obama becomes President, it was urgent that Dick Cheney be his Vice President because "when negotiating with murderous regimes like Iran's or Syria's, you want Tony Soprano by your side, not Big Bird," and thus, Obama needs "a Dick Cheney standing over his right shoulder, quietly pounding a baseball bat into his palm."

That's what passes for Serious Foreign Policy commentary in America -- the Most Serious commentary, actually. World War III has started! We need to be like Tony Soprano, threatening everyone with our big baseball bats. Those Muslims -- we can just pick the targets indiscriminately -- need 2-by-4s across their heads to get the message. And the message we need to convey with our baseball bats and 2-by-4s -- still -- is "Suck. On. This."

UPDATE: In comments, Rob Mac notes a vital correction.

UPDATE II: In comments, MelancholyDane points to this passage from G.K. Chesterton's Heretics:
It may be said with rough accuracy that there are three stages in the life of a strong people. First, it is a small power, and fights small powers. Then it is a great power, and fights great powers. Then it is a great power, and fights small powers, but pretends that they are great powers, in order to rekindle the ashes of its ancient emotion and vanity. After that, the next step is to become a small power itself.

It's hard to imagine a more concise and accurate explanation for what motivates the Tom Friedmans of the world and what that mentality is doing to the United States.

from Rick Wolff :
Date: 16 May 2008
Subject: Consumerism and its effect on the US economy.

Dear Francis Feeley,
This latest from MR webzine might interest you.
Rick Wolff

Consumerism: Curses and Causes
by Rick Wolff

US consumerism -- citizens driven excessively to buy goods and services and accumulate consumable wealth -- is cursed almost everywhere.  Many environmentalists blame it for global warming.  Critics of the current economic disasters often point to home-buying gluttony as the cause.  Many see consumerism behind the borrowing that makes the US the world's greatest debtor nation today.  Moralists of otherwise diverse motivations agree on attacking consumerist materialism as against spiritual values.  Educators blame it for distracting young people's interest from learning.  Psychologists attribute mass loneliness and depression to unrealizable expectations of what commodities can deliver to consumers.  Physicians decry the diseases, stress, and exhaustion linked to excessive work driven by desire for excessive consumption.  Yet, for a long time, exhortations by all such folks have mostly failed to slow, let alone reverse, US consumerism.

The question is why?  The answer is not advertising, since that begs the question of why that industry should have been so successful in the US and grown to such influence.  Nor is it plausible to attribute some national personality flaw to our citizens.

A big part of the answer lies in the unique history of US capitalism. From 1820 to 1970, over every decade, average real wages rose enabling a rising standard of consumption.  These 150 years rooted workers' beliefs that the USA was a "chosen" place where every generation would live better than its parents.  This was "the good news" of US capitalism for the workers.  The "bad news" was that the average worker's productivity -- the amount of output each worker produced for his/her employer to sell -- rose even faster.  This was because workers were relentlessly driven by employers to work harder, faster, and with ever more (and more complicated) machinery.  Thus, alongside rising workers' wages, faster rising productivity brought even bigger gains for employers.

An unspoken, historic deal defined US capitalism for those150 years.  Capitalists paid rising wages to enable rising working class consumption; the workers had to provide rising work effort, rising profitability, and thus the even faster rise of profits.  Because the rise in workers consumption was slower than the rise of their productivity -- the output that they delivered to employers -- the gap between workers and employers widened across US history. A fundamentally unequal society emerged, one that forever mocked, challenged, and undermined the ideological claims of the US to be the land of equality and opportunity.  The working class labored ever harder, consumed more, and yet fell ever further behind the minority who lived off the growing difference between what workers produced and their wages.

This deal might have collapsed at any time if US workers rebelled against the organization of production in the US.  This could have occurred if rising wages did not suffice to make them ignore the growing inequality of US life, or if they rejected subordination to ever more automated, exhausting work disciplines, or if they refused to deliver ever more wealth to ever fewer corporate boards of directors of immense corporations ever further removed from them in power, wealth, and access to culture.  For that deal to survive -- for US capitalism to have been "successful" for so long -- something had to emerge in US society that prevented any of these deal-breakers from happening.  Enter consumerism!

The idea settled into US culture that consumption was the proper goal of work and the measure of personal worth, of one's "success" in life.  Business boosters and ideologues pushed that idea, but they were hardly alone.  Advertisers made it their constant message.  Trade unions focused also on raising wages and consumption -- just what US capitalism could and did deliver -- rather than challenging the organization of production.  So too did most left movements.  Economists did their part by building modern economics on the unquestioned axiom that labor was a burden for which consumption enabled by wages was the compensation.  This definition of economics required banishing the alternative of Marxian economics from schools.  The mass media proceeded as if it were likewise obvious common sense that all any employee really cared about was the size of his/her wage/salary.  Of course, some dissident voices -- especially on the left -- rejected these ideas and this capital/labor deal, but consumerism usually all but drowned them out.

Consumerism's deep roots in the psyche of US workers explains their reactions when real wages stopped rising in the 1970s and since.  They simply kept on buying more commodities.  To pay for them, workers took on more hours of labor and borrowed vast sums.  Worker exhaustion rose accordingly, likewise the number of family members sent out to work (straining "family values" to the breaking point).  Anxiety intensified over frightening family debt levels. In this situation, the current scandal of sub-prime mortgages was a predictable disaster waiting to happen.

The 150 year deal has been broken.  The business side no longer needs it; it hasn't since the 1970s.  That is why real wages stopped rising.  Most workers just postponed facing that reality and its implications: by having more family members do more work and by heavy borrowing.  Meanwhile, able and willing laborers abroad who accept wages far lower than in the US beckons.  US corporations are moving to produce there.  They will ship "home" the goods and services they produce abroad so long as US citizens can afford them.  When that no longer pays, they will redirect shipments to the rest of the world market.

Consumerism was a necessary component of US capitalism from the 1820s to the 1970s.  As an ideology uniquely suited to that capitalism, it was articulated, cultivated, and supported by different social groups.  Whatever fun comedians and critics poke at consumerism, it was not some lovable human foible, nor some quirk of our culture.  It was the glue holding US capitalism together for a long time.  Even more important, business dissolved that glue in the 1970s, and now US workers have exhausted ways to postpone the results of that dissolution.  Storms are rising.

from The New York Times (Sunday Edition) :
Date 18 May 2008
Subject: The Rising Price of Crime.
The New York Times

As Prices Rise, Crime Tipsters Work Overtime
by Shaila Dewan and Brenda Goodman

To gas prices, foreclosure rates and the cost of rice, add this rising economic indicator: the number of tips to the police from people hoping to collect reward money.

Calls to the Southwest Florida Crime Stoppers hot line in the first quarter of this year were up 30 percent over last year. San Antonio had a 44 percent increase. Cities and towns from Detroit to Omaha to Beaufort County, N.C., all report increases of 25 percent or more in the first quarter, with tipsters telling operators they need the money for rent, light bills or baby formula.

“For this year, everyone that’s called has pretty much been just looking for money,” said Sgt. Lawrence Beller, who answers Crime Stoppers calls at the Sussex County, N.J., sheriff’s office. “That’s as opposed to the last couple of years, where some people were just sick of the crime and wanting to do something about it.”

As a result, many programs report a substantial increase in Crime Stopper-related arrests and recovered property, as callers turn in neighbors, grandchildren or former boyfriends in exchange for a little cash.

On Friday, a woman called the Regional Crime Stoppers line in Macon, Ga., to find out when she could pick up her reward money for a recent tip. She was irritated to learn that she would have to wait until Monday.

“I’m in a bind, I’m really in a bind,” she told the hot-line operator. “There’s a lot of stuff I know, but I didn’t open my mouth. If I weren’t in a bind, I wouldn’t open my mouth.”

When she learned the money was not available, she said she would call back with the whereabouts of another suspect whom she had just seen “going down the road.”

Elaine Cloyd, the president of Crime Stoppers U.S.A., a national organization of local tip programs, said that not all of the 323 programs in the country had reported an increase in calls, and that some, like those in Lafayette, La., and Broward County, Fla., attributed most of their spike to increased publicity or technological improvements like accepting tips by text message. But there was no doubt, Ms. Cloyd said, that the faltering economy was a significant factor.

“When the economy gets rough, people have to be creative,” she said. “They might give a tip where they wouldn’t have in the past.”

For tips that bring results, programs in most places pay $50 to $1,000, with some jurisdictions giving bonuses for help solving the most serious crimes, or an extra “gun bounty” if a weapon is recovered. In Sussex County, the average payment for a tip that results in an arrest is $400, Sergeant Beller said.

“Usually you deliver the money in an unmarked car and meet them somewhere,” he said. “But these people come right to the office and walk right through the front door.”

Some Crime Stoppers coordinators say their program appeals to community spirit and emphasize that not everyone who calls is after money. But their advertising makes no bones about the benefits of a good tip.

“Crime doesn’t pay but we do,” say the mobile billboards cruising Jacksonville, Fla. A poster in Jackson, Tenn., draws a neat equation: “Ring Ring + Bling Bling = Cha-Ching.” The bling, in this case, is a pair of handcuffs.

Some coordinators suggest that rising crime rates might be driving up the number of tips. But in Jackson, Tenn., Sgt. Mike Johnson said his call volume had gone from two or three a day to eight or nine. He theorized that rising crime there was not a factor because the program advertises steadily regardless of trends. “People just need money,” Sergeant Johnson said.

Sergeant Johnson has been a Crime Stoppers coordinator for 15 years, watching crime rates and tips fluctuate. But, he said, “I’ve never seen an increase like it is now.”

Crime Stoppers programs strictly protect the anonymity of callers. Each tip is assigned a number, and if the tip results in an arrest, the caller can collect a cash reward, usually by going to a designated bank. Some programs pay tipsters within hours of an arrest; others have monthly meetings to approve reward amounts.

Not only have the number of tips increased, several program coordinators said, but people are also more diligent about calling back to find out if and when they can collect.

Jim Cogan, director of the Silicon Valley Crime Stoppers program in California, said most of the rewards offered by his program used to go unclaimed. But with large numbers of foreclosures and heavy job losses, Mr. Cogan said, “now we’re seeing rewards get picked up right away and our tipsters being frustrated when tips aren’t available as quickly as they need the money.”

Karen Keen, the tips coordinator for First Coast Crime Stoppers in Jacksonville, said she had, on occasion, been given approval to pay tipsters early, if they persuaded her that they needed the money to pay a light bill or some other necessity.

Some people have made a cottage industry of calling in tips. Although repeat callers do not give their names, operators recognize their voices.

“We have people out there that, realistically, this could be their job,” said Sgt. Zachary Self, who answers Crime Stoppers calls for the Macon Police Department.

“Two or three arrests per week, you could make $700, $750 per week,” Sergeant Self said. “You could make better than a minimum-wage job.”

He said that his program typically averaged 215 arrests per year, but that this year it had already hit 100, and he projected it would make more than 300, a record, by year’s end.

In some cases, the quality of the tips is lagging as people grasp for any shred of information that might result in an arrest. A woman in Macon, for example, recently called to report that a family member ­ who was wanted for burglary and whose name and address were already known to the police ­ was at home. His home.

Such a tip might seem worthless on its face, said Jean Davis, who took the call. But many police departments do not have the personnel to watch a suspect’s comings and going. In that case, the young man was arrested.

Typically, the greatest number of calls comes in response to news coverage of a specific crime or a weekly list of wanted suspects. At other times, people call to report a crime the police might not even be aware of. Or, they might just call to report the whereabouts of someone with an old warrant. Warrant tips for minor crimes generate the lowest rewards, but that has not stopped people from turning in suspects.

“We’re getting a lot more calls related to wanted persons,” said Sgt. Tommi Bridgeman, who coordinates the Beaufort County Crime Stoppers program. “People who know that these people have warrants out for their arrest are calling to turn them in.”

Sergeant Bridgeman said her calls were up 25 percent even though the program’s one advertisement, a patrol car emblazoned with the hot-line number, was out of commission.

“Folks around here need the money,” she said. “There’s not a lot of jobs here. We try to pay out every two weeks because we know they need the money.”

Places with quick payments and particularly bleak economic conditions tended to report increases in call volume. Lee County, Fla., had the highest rate for home foreclosures in the United States in February and March, and its once-plentiful construction jobs have dried up.

Last week, the Crime Stoppers coordinator there, Trish Routte, got a call from a man reporting drug activity, a tip that paid him $450. It was his second call in a week, said Ms. Routte, who recognized the caller’s voice.

“He told me he really didn’t want to call but he just had a new grandbaby and he needed the money,” Ms. Routte said.

Economic problems for families, Ms. Routte acknowledged, were good business for Crime Stoppers. “We’re kind of banking on that, really,” she said. “If it helps put dinner on the table for somebody, that’s wonderful.”

from Znet :
Date: 18 May 2008
Subject: Al Nakba
Ramzy Baroud's ZSpace Page

60 Years of Denial
by Ramzy Baroud

Don't ask for what you never had,' is the underlying message made by supporters of Israel when they claim Palestine was never a state to begin with.

The contention is, of course, easily refutable. Following the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th Century, colonial powers plotted to divide the spoils. When Britain and France signed the secretive Sykes-Picot agreement in 1916, which divided the spheres of influence in west Asia, there were hardly any 'nation-states' in the region which would fit contemporary definitions of the term.

All borders were colonial concoctions that served the interests of the powerful countries seeking strategic control, political influence and raw material. Most of Africa and much of Asia were victims of the colonial scrambles, which disfigured their geo-political and subsequently socio-economic compositions.

But Palestinians, like many other people, did see themselves as a unique group linked historically to a specific geographic entity. All That Remains by Professor Walid Khalidi is one leading volume which documents a thriving pre-Israel history of Palestine and the Palestinian people. Such history is often overlooked, if not entirely dismissed. Some choose to believe that no other civilization ever existed in Palestine, neither prior to nor between the assumed destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 CE until the founding of Israel in 1948. But what about irrefutable facts? For example, the Israeli Jerusalem Post was called the Palestine Post when it was founded in 1932. Why Palestine and not Israel? Whose existence, as a definable political entity, preceded the other? The answer is obvious.

It isn't the denial or acceptance of Israel's existence that concerns me. Israel does exist, even if it refuses to define its borders, or acknowledge the historic injustices committed against the Palestinian people. The systematic and brutal ethnic cleaning of the majority of Palestinian Christians and Muslims from 1947 to 1948 is what produced a Jewish majority in Palestine and subsequently the 'Jewish state' of Israel.

Also worth remembering are the equally systematic attempts at dehumanising Palestinians and denying them any rights. When Ehud Barak, Prime Minister of Israel at the time, compared Palestinians in a Jerusalem Post interview (August 2000) to "crocodiles, the more you give them meat, they want more," he was hardly diverting from a consistent Zionist tradition that equated Palestinians with animals and vermin. Another Prime Minister, Menahim Begin referred to Palestinians in a Knesset speech as "beasts walking on two legs." They have also been described as "grasshoppers", "cockroaches" and more by famed Israeli statesmen.

Disturbingly, such references might be seen as an improvement from former Prime Minister Golda Meir's claim that "there were no such thing as Palestinians...they did not exist." (June 15, 1969)

To justify its own existence, Israel has long subjugated its citizens to a kind of collective amnesia. Do Israelis realise they live on the rubble of hundreds of Palestinian villages and towns, each destroyed during a most tragic history of blood, pain and tears, resulting in an ethnic cleansing of nearly 800,000 Palestinians?

As Israel celebrates its 60th birthday, nothing is allowed to blemish the supposed heroism of its founding fathers or those who fought in its name. Palestine, the Palestinians, and an immeasurably long relationship between a people and their land hardly merit a pause as Israeli officials and their Western counterparts carry on with their festivities.

While some conveniently forgot many historic chapters pertinent to the suffering of Palestinians, Israeli leaders ­ especially those who took part in the colonization of Palestine ­ were fully aware of what they did. David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, warned in 1948, "We must do everything to insure they (the Palestinians) never do return." By ensuring that Palestinians were cut off from their land, Ben Gurion has hoped that time will take care of the rest. "The old will die and the young will forget," he said.

Moshe Dayan, a former Israeli Defence Minister also had no illusions regarding the real history beneath Israel's momentous achievements. His speech at the Technion in Haifa (April 4, 1969) was quoted in the Israeli daily Haaretz thus: "We came here to a country that was populated by Arabs and we are building here a Hebrew, a Jewish state; instead of the Arab villages, Jewish villages were established. You even do not know the names of those villages, and I do not blame you because these villages no longer exist. There is not a single Jewish settlement that was not established in the place of a former Arab village."

Israel has, since its foundation, laboured to undermine any sense of Palestinian identity. Without most of their historic land, the relationship between Palestinians and Palestine could only exist in memory. Eventually though, memory managed to morph into a collective identity that has proved more durable than the physical existence on the land. "It is a testimony to the tenacity of Palestinians that they have kept alive a sense of nationhood in the face of so much adversity. Yet the obstacles to sustaining their cohesiveness as a people are today greater than ever," reported the Economist (May 8, 2008).

Living in so many disconnected areas, removed from their land, detached from one another, fought with at every corner, Palestinians have not just been oppressed physically by Israel, but physiologically as well. There are attempts from all angles to force them to simply concede, forget, and move on. It is the Palestinian people's rejection of such notions that makes Israel's victory and 'independence' superficial and unconvincing.

Sixty years after their Catastrophe (Nakba), Palestinians still remember their past and present injustices. Of course more than mere remembrance is necessary; Palestinians need to find a common ground for unity ­ Christians and Muslims, poor and rich, secularist and the religious ­ in order to stop Israel from eagerly exploiting their own disunity, factionalism and political tribalism.

But, despite Israel's hopes and best efforts, Palestinians have not yet forgotten who they are. And no amount of denial can change this.

Ramzy Baroud ( www.ramzybaroud.net) is an author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published in many newspapers and journals worldwide. His latest book is The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's Struggle (Pluto Press, London).

from Alexander Cockbrun :
Date: 10 May 2008
Subject: U.S. War Casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Real Clear Numbers: 101,000 U.S. Casualties a Year
by Alexander Cockburn

A friend of mine who’s a librarian was recently reviewing job applicants. Asked his qualifications in library skills, one man put “machine-gunner.” He was a vet who’d served in Falluja. The library is in a state school here in the US that, last fall, had 650 such vets enrolled. The young man got the job but soon became irked by what he saw as the trivial preoccupations of his colleagues. He applied for a job at a nearby police department. All over the country police departments are advertising for Iraq vets. Three-quarters of the way through the hiring process, the PD signaled to him that things looked good. Then, in rapid succession, three Iraq vets in the area were involved in lethal episodes: two murders and one suicide. The PD immediately called the young man in for a second psychological evaluation, then nixed him for the job. He’s 24. He can’t find anything satisfying to do and is thinking of re-enlisting. He’s against the war.

Those violent episodes are just part of bringing the war home. It’ll be active on the home front for years to come. Just under one in three­31 percent­of those who’ve been deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from a brain injury or stress disorder or a mix of both these conditions.

On April 17 the RAND Corporation released a study of service members and veterans back home from Iraq and Afghanistan. The 500-page study was titled Invisible Wounds of War: Psychological and Cognitive Injuries, Their Consequences, and Services to Assist Recovery. It was sponsored by a grant from the California Community Foundation and done by twenty-five researchers from RAND Health and the RAND National Security Research Division. From last August to January, the team conducted a phone survey with 1,965 service members, reservists and veterans in twenty-four areas across the country with high concentrations of those people. Some had done more than one tour.

The Associated Press and major newspapers outlined the RAND report’s astounding numbers and then the story slid from view, which is a very bad thing, since the report disclosed in compelling numbers that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are steadily filling every American community with psychologically and physically mutilated victims of war. Many of them will endure lives saturated with physical pain and mental turmoil or confusion. A proportion will be prone to alcoholism, drug use and violence, sometimes deadly. Their partners and their children will suffer all measure of scarring.

Pentagon data show that more than 1.6 million military personnel have deployed to the conflicts since the war in Afghanistan began in late 2001. The RAND study put the percentage of those suffering from PTSD and depression at 18.5 percent, thus calculating that approximately 300,000 current and former service members were suffering from those problems at the time of its survey.

Some 320,000 service members, about 19 percent, according to RAND, may have experienced a possible traumatic brain injury while in a war zone. These injuries have ranged from concussions to severe head wounds. Julian Barnes, in the Los Angeles Times, pointed out in his April 18 story that “a chief difference is that in Iraq and Afghanistan all service members, not just combat infantry, are exposed to roadside bombs and civilian deaths. That distinction subjects a much wider swath of military personnel to the stresses of war.”

“We call it ‘360-365’ combat,” Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense, told Barnes. “What that means is veterans are completely surrounded by combat for one year. Nearly all of our soldiers are under fire, or being subjected to mortar rounds or roadside bombs, or witnessing the deaths of civilians or fellow soldiers.”

The RAND report says that about 7 percent suffered from both a probable brain injury and current PTSD or major depression. Only 43 percent reported ever being evaluated by a physician for their head injuries. Only 53 percent of service members with PTSD or depression sought help over the past year. Various reasons were offered to RAND researchers for not getting help, including worries about the side effects of medication, reliance on family and friends to help them with the problem and fear that seeking care might damage career prospects.

The news stories tended to lay stress on the fact that almost half of those with brain injuries or suffering from depression and stress disorder were seeking help. As Terri Tanielian, the project’s co-leader and a researcher at RAND, told the Associated Press, “There is a major health crisis facing those men and women who have served our nation in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

Missing amid the brief stir aroused by this devastating report was any adequate editorial commentary, or inquiry to political candidates, about the obvious fact that every month that US troops remain deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan adds inexorably to this terrible total. But discretion is the order of the day, exemplified by Dr. Ira Katz, top mental health official at the Department of Veterans Affairs, who, as CBS News reported on February 13, e-mailed an aide, “Shh! Our suicide prevention coordinators are identifying about 1000 suicide attempts per month among veterans we see in our medical facilities.”

Here’s how the figures add up, just for Americans. The wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have thus far produced 300,000 psychological casualties, 320,000 brain injury casualties, plus 35,000 (probably understated) officially reported “normal” casualties. This adds up to 655,000 US casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan, an average of just under 101,000 Americans killed or wounded every year since the wars began. If the idea of 101,000 casualties for every extra year in Iraq and Afghanistan gets out and infects the voting public, imagine the effect on the currently torpid national debate over leaving in five years versus fifteen years!

from Alexander Cockbrun :
Date: 10 May 2008
Subject: Marc Rich and the sleeze factor in the Clinton campaign.

Bill, Hillary and the Rich Women
by Alexander Cockburn

L istening to Hillary Clinton’s top aides trying to put a good face on the results of the Indiana primary had the same surreal quality as an aide to Hitler reporting “encouraging news” from Stalingrad. Her candidacy died on May 5. She needed at least a 10 per cent win in Indiana and in the end she scraped through by not much more than 16,000 votes. Every day she stays in the race now means more zeroes on her campaign debt which probably tops $25 million, when all the IOUs are counted. Hillary might have to go back into the cattle futures business.

There’s talk of Mrs Clinton telling Obama that the price of concession is that he settle her campaign debt and take her on the ticket. He’s got the money though he should for worthier purposes. As for the number 2 spot, what does it take to keep the Clintons clear of the White House? A stake through both their hearts? An Aztec priest with a really sharp piece of obsidian?  If ever a campaign disclosed low moral and political fiber, it was this one. Bill ended up as a petulant sleazeball and Hillary as a war drum thumper, marching shoulder to shoulder with John McCain, shouting that she’s the candidate of the white people.

There’s no better paradigm of the corruption of the Clintons than the pardon handed by Bill to billionaire Marc Rich in the dying seconds of the Clinton administration. Jeffrey St Clair has excavated the whole sleazo saga in fascinating detail in our latest newsletter, available to subscribers only. “Bill and the Rich Women” is must reading, as is the view taken by Rich’s powerful lawyers that Hillary Clinton was key to the pardon.

from Jean Mister :
Date: 20 May 2008
Subject: bush's links to the nazis

FL Holocaust Museum President
Links Bush Family To Nazis

Sarasota Herald Tribune
Staff Report

The president of the Florida Holocaust Museum said Saturday that George W. Bush's grandfather derived a portion of his personal fortune through his affiliation with a Nazi-controlled bank.   John Loftus, a former prosecutor in the Justice Department's Nazi War Crimes Unit, said his research found that Bush's grandfather, Prescott Bush, was a principal in the Union Banking Corp. in Manhattan in the late 1930s and the 1940s.   Leading Nazi industrialists secretly owned the bank at that time, Loftus said, and were moving money into it through a second bank in Holland even after the United States declared war on Germany. The bank was liquidated in 1951, Loftus said, and Bush's grandfather and great-grandfather received $1.5 million from the bank as part of that dissolution.   "That's where the Bush family fortune came from: It came from the Third Reich," Loftus said. Loftus made his remarks during a speech as part of the Sarasota Reading Festival. The author of "Unholy Trinity: The Vatican, The Nazis and the Swiss Banks," Loftus documented the Swiss bank accounts that harbored funds confiscated from Holocaust victims and the participation of Italian priests in smuggling Nazi war criminals to safe haven in Canada, Central and South America and the United States after the war.   Although he said he had a file of paperwork linking the bank and Prescott Bush to Nazi money, Loftus did not provide that documentation Saturday.   Loftus pointed out that the Bush family would not be the only American political dynasty to have ties to the "wrong side of World War II." The Rockefellers had financial connections to Nazi Germany, he said.   Loftus also reminded his audience that John F. Kennedy's father, an avowed isolationist and former ambassador to Great Britain, profited during the 1930s and '40s from Nazi stocks that he owned.   "No one today blames the Democrats because Jack Kennedy's father bought Nazi stocks," Loftus said. Still, he said, it is important to understand these historical connections for what they tell us about politics today. The World War II experience points out how easy it was then -- and remains today -- to hide money in multinational funds.   That money flows into American politics today, he said, from "a series of multinational corporations behaving like pirates. They don't care about ideology; they care about money." Loftus' speech left many in tears.   "I am absolutely shocked," said Nancy Krauss of Punta Gorda. "I wish this would have come out before the election. My husband voted for Bush. I don't think he would have voted for him if he would have known."