Subject: ON THE END OF THE CAPITALIST UNIVERSE WITH A "BIG BANG," OR WITH THE "CREEPY-CRAWLIES?"
22 September 2009
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
It was Williams Burroughs (1914-1997) I believe who first wrote: "The bourgeoisie are known by what they don't talk about, and not by what they say." Spanish film maker Luis Buñuel (1900-1983) made the same point in his 1972 film, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie. Today, this seems like a truism, a fact of life that every schoolchild knows.
Meanwhile, Palestinians in Gaza are running out of potable ground water (less than 5% of which, it was reported this week, is now drinkable). Above the surface are Israeli hilltop swimming pools in southern-california-style colonial housing developments from which open sewage is running, contaminating the groundwater in the rest of Gaza for the indigenous population of one-and-a-half million Palestinian men, women and children.
While between 1991 and 1998, more than a half-million babies perished in Iraq because of the U.S. imposed embargo, today over 120 U.S. citizens die every 24 hours because they cannot afford to buy health insurance.
No serious thinker can fail to see the pattern. The end of the so-called "free-market system" is coming, and it will perhaps occur within the lifetime of most of us. It is costly, but despite the "heroic battles" to save capitalism from extinction, the end is approaching. It may continue for several more years, or there might be an opportunistic surrender --an abrupt stop, with all sorts of compromises. But the global Frankenstein is dying --of that we can be certain-- and with him goes the metaphysics of mechanical hierarchies used to maintain a semblance of social order, or at least discipline. What will follow depends largely on what social formations are presently occurring.
In the 6 items below, CEIMSA readers will find discussions of possible futures for our society, all bearing the birthmarks of a very violent past. In a country whose government and political culture has devalued life to such a degree --both abroad (see Item A. below) and at home (see Chomsky and the Woolhandler reports below)-- it seems obvious that the paradigm of U.S. foreign policy and U.S. domestic policy is one-and-the-same, and that the same economic interests govern both. Still, the obvious is not always apprehended by the linear logic of the power elite, who today are still allowed to control the levers of political and economic power. The essays below offer insights into how so many Americans have been blinded by ignorance and indifference as they stumble into the future only half conscious, suffering more and more from feelings of malaise and uncertainty.
Item A. is a 2004 article from ZMag archives by John Pilger on earlier mass murders by U.S. political forces in Iraq: Stage One of the effects of the U.N. embargo.
Item B. is an audio podcast from George Kenney's interview with Paul Street, former Vice President of the Chicago Urban League and author of Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics.
Item C., from Information Clearing House, is a report on "the American revolution/counter-revolution" now underway, according to Gerald Celente, founder of The Trends Research Institute in New York, active business consultant, and popular author and publisher of Trends Journal, a publication that makes predictions about the global financial markets and other events of historical importance.
Item D. is a recent article by John Pilger on the death of democracy in Great Britain.
Item E. is a 10-minute video interview with economic historian Immanuel Wallerstein, discussing "the major crises still ahead," framed within the sum-zero theory of competition and the macro politics of national "self interest."
Item F. is a 7-minute video podcast of Noam Chomsky discussing earlier this month in Madison, Wisconsin : the so-called "health care system" as it appears in the United States of America.
And finally, we conclude this CEIMSA Bulletin with the Democracy Now! report by Dr. Steffie Woolhandler, professor of medicine at Harvard University and co-founder of Physicians for a National Health Program, discussing the life-and-death struggle for universal health care in the United States of America today :
In October 1999, I stood in a ward of dying children in Baghdad with Denis Halliday, who the previous year had resigned as assistant secretary general of the United Nations. He said: "We are waging a war through the United Nations on the people of Iraq. We're targeting civilians. Worse, we're targeting children. . . . What is this all about?"
Halliday had been 34 years with the UN. As an international civil servant much respected in the field of "helping people, not harming them," as he put it, he had been sent to Iraq to implement the oil-for-food program, which he subsequently denounced as a sham. "I am resigning," he wrote, "because the policy of economic sanctions is . . . destroying an entire society. Five thousand children are dying every month. I don't want to administer a program that satisfies the definition of genocide."
Halliday's successor, Hans von Sponeck, another assistant secretary general with more than 30 years' service, also resigned in protest. Jutta Burghardt, the head of the World Food Program in Iraq, followed them, saying she could no longer tolerate what was being done to the Iraqi people. Their collective action was unprecedented; yet it received only passing media attention. There was no serious inquiry by journalists into their grave charges against the British and American governments, which in effect ran the embargo.
Von Sponeck's disclosure that the sanctions restricted Iraqis to living on little more than $100 a year was not reported. "Deliberate strangulation," he called it. Neither was the fact that, up to July 2002, more than $5 billion worth of humanitarian supplies, which had been approved by the UN sanctions committee and paid for by Iraq, were blocked by George W. Bush, with Tony Blair's backing. They included food products, medicines and medical equipment, as well as items vital for water and sanitation, agriculture and education.
The cost in lives was staggering. Between 1991 and 1998, reported UNICEF, 500,000 Iraqi children under the age of five died. "If you include adults," said Halliday, "the figure is now almost certainly well over a million."
In 1996, in an interview on the American current affairs program 60 Minutes, Madeleine Albright, then U.S. ambassador to the UN, was asked: "We have heard that half a million children have died . . . is the price worth it?" Albright replied, "We think the price is worth it." The television network CBS has since refused to allow the videotape of that interview to be shown again, and the reporter will not discuss it.
Halliday and von Sponeck have long been personae non gratae in most of the U.S. and British media. What these whistleblowers have revealed is far too unpalatable: not only was the embargo a great crime against humanity, it actually reinforced Saddam Hussein's control. The reason why so many Iraqis feel bitter about the invasion and occupation is that they remember the Anglo-American embargo as a crippling, medieval siege that prevented them from overthrowing their dictatorship. This is almost never reported in Britain.
Halliday appeared on BBC2's Newsnight soon after he resigned. I watched the presenter Jeremy Paxman allow Peter Hain, then a Foreign Office minister, to abuse him as an "apologist for Saddam." Hain's shameful performance was not surprising. On the eve of this year's Labor Party conference, he dismissed Iraq as a "fringe issue."
Alan Rusbridger, the Guardian editor, wrote in the New Statesman recently that some journalists "consider it bad form to engage in public debate about anything to do with ethics or standards, never mind the fundamental purpose of journalism." It was a welcome departure from the usual clubbable stuff that passes for media comment but which rarely addresses "the fundamental purpose of journalism" ? and especially not its collusive, lethal silences."When truth is replaced by silence," the Soviet dissident Yevgeny Yevtushenko said, "the silence is a lie."
He might have been referring to the silence over the devastating effects of the embargo. It is a silence that casts journalists as accessories, just as their silence contributed to an illegal and unprovoked invasion of a defenseless country. Yes, there was plenty of media noise prior to the invasion, but Blair's spun version dominated, and truth-tellers were sidelined.
Scott Ritter was the UN's senior weapons inspector in Iraq. Ritter began his whistle-blowing more than five years ago when he said: "By 1998, [Iraq's] chemical weapons infrastructure had been completely dismantled or destroyed by UNSCOM. . . . The biological weapons program was gone, the major facilities eliminated. . . . The long-range ballistic missile program was completely eliminated. If I had to quantify Iraq's threat, I would say [it is] zero."
Ritter's truth was barely acknowledged. Like Halliday and von Sponeck, he was almost never mentioned on the television news, the principal source of most people's information. The studied obfuscation of Hans Blix was far more acceptable as the "balancing voice." That Blix, like Kofi Annan, was playing his own political games with Washington was never questioned.
Up to the fall of Baghdad, the misinformation and lies of Bush and Blair were channeled, amplified and legitimized by journalists, notably by the BBC, which defines its political coverage by the pronouncements, events and personalities of the "village" of Whitehall and Westminster. Andrew Gilligan broke this rule in his outstanding reporting from Baghdad and later his disclosure of Blair's most important deception. It is instructive that the most sustained attacks on him came from his fellow journalists.
In the crucial 18 months before Iraq was attacked, when Bush and Blair were secretly planning the invasion, famous, well-paid journalists became little more than channels, debriefers of the debriefers ? what the French call fonctionnaires. The paramount role of real journalists is not to channel, but to challenge, not to fall silent, but to expose. There were honorable exceptions, notably Richard Norton-Taylor in the Guardian and the irrepressible Robert Fisk in the Independent.
Two newspapers, the Mirror and the Independent, broke ranks. Apart from Gilligan and one or two others, broadcasters failed to reflect the public's own rising awareness of the truth. In commercial radio, a leading journalist who raised too many questions was instructed to "tone down the antiwar stuff because the advertisers won't like it."
In the United States, in the so-called mainstream of what is constitutionally the freest press in the world, the line held, with the result that Bush's lies were believed by the majority of the population. American journalists are now apologizing, but it is too late. The U.S. military is out of control in Iraq, bombarding densely populated areas with impunity. How many Iraqi families like Kenneth Bigley's are grieving? We do not experience their anguish, or hear their appeals for mercy. According to a recent estimate, roughly 37,000 Iraqis have died in this grotesque folly.
Charles Lewis, the former star CBS reporter who now runs the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C., told me he was in no doubt that, had his colleagues done their job rather than acted as ciphers, the invasion would not have taken place. Such is the power of the modern media; it is a power we should reclaim from those subverting it.
from George Kenney :
Date: 18 September 2009
Subject: Podcast interview re President Obama w/ Paul Street.
Although everybody's holding their breath over health care, such that wholesale condemnation of Mr. Obama may be premature, it's quite clear that many of his supporters have become disillusioned. So I thought it would be interesting to talk with one of Mr. Obama's earliest critics, Paul Street, author of Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics. Paul was a Vice President of the Chicago Urban League during the time that Mr. Obama got his start in Illinois state politics, and Paul has a pretty accurate idea of who this guy really is. Plus which, Paul brings a sensible far-left tradition to bear on the larger political questions.
As always, if you think the podcast is worthwhile please feel free to forward the link.
from Information Clearing House :
Date: 19 September 2009
Subject: The Future of the USA.
Gerald Celente - "the most trusted name in trends" - sits down for an exclusive interview with researcher Anastasia Churkina to talk about what the future holds for America during and after the Great Recession, gives advice to Obama, and forecasts the unexpected.
from ZMagazine :
Date: 14 September 2009
Subject: Health Care.
A talk early this month in Madison, Wisconsin by Noam Chomsky.