How the Corporate Media Enslave Us to a World of Illusions

by Jonathan Cook

https://www.counterpunch.org (June 15 2018)


Photo by Mohamed Nanabhay | CC BY 2.0

Nazareth.

For several years now, I have been writing regular posts on my blog with one end in mind: to help open a door for readers and encourage them to step through. I select issues, usually those that dominate western media coverage and represent a consensus that we might term the Great Western Narrative, and try to show how this narrative has been constructed not to inform and enlighten but to conceal and deceive.

It is not that I and the many other bloggers doing this are cleverer than everyone else. We have simply had a chance – an earlier one – to step through that door ourselves, because of a jarring life experience that the Great Western Narrative could not explain, or because someone held the door open for us, or more usually because of a combination of the two.

My Personal Awakening

It is easy for me to identify my own process of awakening. It began with the dislocation of moving to Nazareth and being immersed in someone else’s narrative – that of the Palestinians. Then, I faced for the first time in my career as a journalist an impenetrable wall of opposition, even from my own former newspaper, The Guardian, as I tried to explain that counter-narrative. In fact, I found that the Palestinian narrative was invariably misrepresented as anti-semitism. These were dark years of disillusionment and the loss of a professional and ideological compass.

It is in such a moment of bereavement – deprived of the consolation of the Great Western Narrative – that one searches for a door to enlightenment. It can be a long journey to find it. My door appeared while reading about the Propaganda Model of Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky in their book Manufacturing Consent (1992), as well as stumbling across a website called Media Lens. They helped me understand that the narrative problem was not restricted to Israel-Palestine, but was a much more general one.

In fact, the Great Western Narrative has been developed and refined over centuries to preserve a tiny elite’s privileges and expand its power. The role of journalists like me was to keep feeding these illusions to readers so they would remain fearful, passive, and deferential to this elite. It is not that journalists lie – or at least, not most of them – it is that they are as deeply wedded to the Great Western Narrative as everyone else.

Once one is prepared to step through the door, to discard the old script, the new narrative takes its hold because it is so helpful. It actually explains the world, and human behaviour, as it is experienced everywhere. It has genuine predictive power. And most importantly, it reveals a truth understood by all figures of spiritual and intellectual enlightenment throughout human history: that human beings are equally human, whether they are Americans, Europeans, Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians, Russians, Venezuelans, or Iranians, whether they are North or South Koreans.

The term “human” is not meant simply as a description of us as a species or a biological entity. It also describes who we are, what drives us, what makes us cry, what makes us laugh, what makes us angry, what elicits compassion. And the truth is that we are all essentially the same. The same things upset us, the same things amuse us. The same things inspire us, the same things outrage us. We want dignity, freedom, safety for us and our loved ones, and appreciate beauty and truth. We fear oppression, injustice, insecurity.

Hierarchies of Virtue

The Great Western Narrative tells us something entirely different. It divides the world into a hierarchy of “peoples”, with different, even conflicting, virtues and vices. Some humans – westerners – are more rational, more caring, more sensitive, more fully human. And other humans – the rest – are more primitive, more emotional, more violent. In this system of classification, we are the Good Guys and they are the Bad Guys; we are Order, they are Chaos. They need a firm hand from us to control them and stop them from doing too much damage to themselves and to our civilised part of the world.

The Great Western Narrative isn’t really new. It is simply a reformulation for a different era of the “white man’s burden”.

The reason the Great Western Narrative persists is because it is useful – to those in power. Humans may be essentially the same in our natures and in our drives, but we are very definitely divided by power and its modern corollary, wealth. A tiny number have it, and the vast majority do not. The Great Western Narrative is there to perpetuate power by legitimising it, by making its unbalanced and unjust distribution seem natural and immutable.

Once kings told us they had blue blood and a divine right. Today, we need a different kind of narrative, but one designed to achieve the same end. Just as kings and barons once owned everything, now a tiny corporate elite rule the world. They have to justify that to themselves and to us.

The king and the barons had their courtiers, the clergy, and a wider circle of hangers-on who most of the time benefited enough from the system not to disrupt it. The role of the clergy, in particular, was to sanction the gross imbalance of power, to argue that it was God’s will. Today, the media function like the clergy of old. God may be dead, as Nietzsche observed, but the corporate media has taken his place. In the unquestioned premises of every article, we are told who should rule and who should be ruled, who are the Good Guys and who the Bad.

To make this system more palatable, more democratic, to make us believe that there is equality of opportunity and that wealth trickles down, the western elite has had to allow a large domestic middle class to emerge, like the courtiers of old. The spoils from the rape and pillage of distant societies are shared sparingly with this class. Their consciences are rarely pricked because the corporate media’s function is to ensure they know little about the rest of the world and care even less, believing those foreigners to be less deserving, less human.

Nothing More than Statistics

If western readers, for example, understood that a Palestinian is no different from an Israeli – apart from in opportunities and income – then they might feel sympathy for a grieving Palestinian family just as they do for an Israeli one. But the Great Western Narrative is there precisely to ensure readers won’t feel the same about the two cases. That is why Palestinian deaths are invariably reported as nothing more than statistics – because Palestinians die in large numbers, like cattle in an abattoir. Israelis, by contrast, die much more rarely and their deaths are recorded individually. They are dignified with names, life stories, and pictures.

Even when a moment arrives to single out a Palestinian from the mass of death, western corporate media show great reluctance to do so. Just take the case of Razan al-Najjar, the 21-year-old Palestinian medic executed by a sniper’s bullet as she tended to the unarmed demonstrators regularly being killed and wounded at the perimeter fence encaging them in the prison of Gaza.

Gaza is slowly sinking into the sea, but who cares? Those primitive Palestinians live like cavemen amid the rubble of homes Israel has repeatedly destroyed. Their women are hijabbed and they have too many children. They don’t look like us, they don’t speak like us. Doubtless, they don’t think like us. They cannot be us.

Even those young Palestinian demonstrators, with their faces covered with strange scarves, launching flaming kites and throwing the odd stone, look different. Can we imagine ourselves standing in front of a sniper to protest like that? Of course not. We cannot imagine what it is like to live in one of the most densely populated areas on the planet, in an open-air prison over which another nation serves as jailers, in which the water is becoming as saline as seawater and there is no electricity. So how can we put ourselves in the demonstrators’ shoes, how can we empathise? It is so much easier to imagine being the powerful sniper protecting the “border” and his home.

But al-Najjar undermined all that. A young, pretty woman with a beautiful smile – she could be our daughter. Selflessly tending to the wounded, thinking not of herself but of the welfare of others, we would be proud to have her as our daughter. We can identify with her much better than the sniper. She is a door beckoning us to step through and see the world from a different location, from a different perspective.

Which is why the corporate media has not invested al-Najjar’s death with the emotional, empathetic coverage it would if a pretty young Israeli female medic had been gunned down by a Palestinian. It was that double standard in his own newspaper, The Guardian, that outraged cartoonist Steve Bell last week. As he noted in correspondence with the editor, the paper had barely covered the story of al-Najjar. When he tried to redress the imbalance, his own cartoon highlighting her death – and its oversight – was censored.

The Guardian‘s editors argued that his cartoon was anti-semitic. But the truth is that al-Najjar is dangerous. Because once you step through that door, you are unlikely to come back, you are unlikely ever again to believe the Great Western Narrative.

The True Message of Israel

Israel-Palestine offered me that door, just as it has so many others. It is not, as Israel’s apologists – and the upholders of the Great Western Narrative – will tell you because so many westerners are anti-semitic. It is because Israel lies in a grey zone of experience, one that is readily available to western tourists but at the same time gives them a chance to glimpse the dark underbelly of western privilege.

Israel is enthusiastically embraced by the Great Western Narrative: it is supposedly a liberal democracy, many of its inhabitants dress and sound like us, its cities look rather like our cities, its TV shows are given a makeover and become hits on our TV screens. If you don’t stand too close, Israel could be Britain or the US.

But there are clues galore, for those who bother to look a little beyond superficialities, that there is something profoundly amiss about Israel. A few miles from their homes, the sons of those western-looking families regularly train their gun sights on unarmed demonstrators, on children, on women, on journalists, on medics, and pull the trigger with barely any compunction.

They do so not because they are monsters, but because they are exactly like us, exactly like our sons. That is the true horror of Israel. We have a chance to see ourselves in Israel – because it is not exactly us, because most of us have some physical and emotional distance from it, because it still looks a little strange despite the best efforts of the western media, and because its own local narrative – justifying its actions – is even more extreme, even more entitled, even more racist towards the Other than the Great Western Narrative.

It is that shocking realisation – that we could be Israelis, that we could be those snipers – that both opens the door and prevents many from stepping through to see what is on the other side. Or, more troubling still, halting at the threshold of the doorway, glimpsing a partial truth without understanding its full ramifications.

Equally Human

To explain what I mean, let us digress for a moment and consider the allegorical film The Matrix.

Neo, the hero played by Keanu Reeves, starts to realise that the reality around him is not as solid as it once seemed. Things have become peculiar, inconsistent, inexplicable. He is shown the door to an entirely different reality with the help of a mentor, Morpheus. Neo discovers that in truth he exists in a dark world taken over by computer-generated life forms that feed off the consciousnesses of him and the rest of mankind. Until that point, he had been living in a dream world created to pacify him and other humans as they are exploited for their energy.

Neo and a small band of others who have liberated themselves from this false consciousness cannot hope to defeat their opponents directly. They must wage war through the Matrix, a digital world in which the computer life-forms always triumph. It is only when Neo finally grasps that the Matrix is an illusion too – that these life forms he is battling are simply binary code – that he becomes strong enough to triumph.

Back to us. On the other side of the door lies a truth that humans are all equally human. From this vantage point, it is possible to understand that a privileged westerner or Israeli would react exactly like a Palestinian if he had to endure the experiences of living in Gaza. From this location, it is possible to understand that my son might pull the trigger, just like most Israeli teenagers do, if he had been bombarded, like them, with brainwashing all his life from his media, school, and politicians depicting Palestinians as primitive and violent.

From the other side of the door, Russia’s Vladimir Putin or Bashar al-Assad look as rational, or irrational, and as criminal as George W Bush, Tony Blair, Barack Obama, or Donald Trump. In fact, they look less criminal – not because they are better humans than their western counterparts, but simply because they enjoy less power and face more constraints in trying to impose their will. The issue is not about who is better. They are the same humans. It is about who has more force at their disposal – and more will to use it – to perpetuate their power.

Enslaved to Power

The conclusion from this is that the way to change our societies fundamentally for the better depends on a change in our consciousness, on liberating ourselves from false perspective, on stepping through the door.

If we remain in a world of illusions, of false hierarchies of virtue, oblivious to the role of power, we will continue to be Neo living in his dream world.

And if we step only to the threshold, glimpsing the shadows on the other side, we will be equally in thrall to illusions, just as Neo took his battle back into the Matrix, fighting ghosts in the machine as though they were flesh-and-blood enemies.

This danger can be seen in the case of Israel-Palestine too, where the horrors that Israel inflicts on Palestinians justifiably radicalise many observers. But not all step fully through the door. They linger at the threshold, angry with Israel and Israelis, and beatifying Palestinians as nothing more than victims. Some manage to find false consolation again, this time accepting readymade conspiracies that “the Jews” are pulling the levers that make such outrages – and western inaction – possible.

To stand in the doorway is as bad as refusing to step through. The illusions are as dangerous, the false consciousness as profound.

Our planet and our children’s futures depend on us liberating ourselves, seeing the ghosts in the machine for what they truly are. We have to begin rebuilding our societies on the basis that we share a common humanity. That other humans are not our enemies, only those who wish to enslave us to their power.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/06/15/how-the-corporate-media-enslave-us-to-a-world-of-illusions/

The Day the US Became an Empire

by Charles Pierson

https://www.counterpunch.org (June 15 2018)

Photo by Jason Eppink | CC BY 2.0

For half a century, the United Kingdom celebrated May 24, the birthday of the late Queen Victoria, as “Empire Day”. The US ought to have its own Empire Day and it should be on June 15. It was on June 15 1898 that the US became an empire. On that day, the US House of Representatives voted 209 to 91 to annex Hawaii. (The US Senate followed on July 6, voting 42 to 21 in favor of annexation.)

One could argue that the US has always been an empire. Thomas Jefferson called the US an empire, but an “empire of liberty” dedicated to spreading freedom around the globe. Tell that to the Native Americans killed and dispossessed by White Settlers. Tell that to the Mexicans. The US seized a third of their country through war. Still, it wasn’t until 1898 that the US acquired its first overseas colony.

Hawaii had been an independent nation. In 1887, American planters in the islands had forced a change to the Hawaiian constitution which largely disenfranchised ethnic Hawaiians to the benefit of wealthy Whites. By 1893, with US support, American and European businessmen on the islands had staged a coup d’etat, overthrowing the monarchy {1}, and establishing the Republic of Hawaii; from there, they maneuvered for Hawaii’s annexation in 1898. That same year, Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam would be gathered into the fledgling American Empire, fruits of the US victory in the Spanish-American War.

Why Imperialism?

During the 1896 presidential campaign, Republican William McKinley, who went on to win in November, was asked how the US could avoid a replay of the catastrophic 1893 depression {2}. McKinley answered that “We want a foreign market for our surplus products”.

McKinley could have said “abundance” rather than “surplus”. Abundance aptly describes the wealth pouring from America’s fields and factories. Abundance ought to be welcome in any society. But not capitalist society. It is a mark of the perversity of capitalism that it makes abundance a problem. The home market, Lenin observed, cannot absorb the “superabundance of capital” and goods {3}. Hence,

 

 

As long as capitalism remains what it is, surplus capital will be utilized not for the purpose of raising the standard of living of the masses in a given country, for this would mean a decline in profits for the capitalists, but for the purpose of increasing profits by exporting capital abroad to the backward [sic] countries. {4}

 

Lenin’s theory of imperialism explained the war which had begun two years earlier, in 1914. Lenin showed that the war was imperial in origin. In order to survive, capitalism is forced to look beyond the nation-state to the world market. Inevitably, this brings nations into conflict with each other. Lenin demonstrated that imperialism was not separable from capitalism, but was capitalism’s “highest stage”. Lenin thought that Revolution would inevitably follow. Lenin did not foresee that once capitalism had reached its “highest stage” it would remain there in an indefinite holding pattern {5}.

“Little Brown Brothers”

Belief in White racial superiority acted as a spur as well as a brake on America’s imperial expansion. Some members of Congress opposed imperialism because it was contrary to the ideal of self-government set out in the Declaration of Independence. But there was also strong opposition to bringing the non-Whites of Hawaii and Cuba and the Philippines into what was seen as a White Man’s republic. On the other hand, imperialists argued that it was the White man’s duty (or “burden”) to provide leadership to our “little brown brothers”, as William Howard Taft, US Governor-General of the Philippines and a future president, would call them, inasmuch as they were incapable of governing themselves.

One incident, in particular, illustrates this attitude vividly. The Filipinos fighting against Spanish rule believed that the US had promised to liberate the islands. Instead, the US took Spain’s place as the Filipinos’ colonial overlords.

Why this turnaround? As he told a group of clergy visiting the White House, McKinley had asked God what to do about the Philippines {6}. God responded in a series of bullet points. America had four options. Three of these – Filipino independence, returning the islands to Spain, or turning them over to “our commercial rivals” France or Germany – McKinley rejected. McKinley concluded, “That there was nothing left for us to do but to take them all and to educate the Filipinos, and uplift and civilize and Christianize them …”

The US also provided lofty motives for imposing its hegemony over Cuba. The US justified the 1898 war with Spain, at least in part, as a humanitarian intervention avant la lettre. The US would bring freedom to the Cubans and end Spanish atrocities. Never mind that the Spanish atrocities were largely fabricated by the jingoist newspaper publisher, William Randolph Heart, the Roger Ailes of his day. When the USS Maine sank in Havana Harbor on February 15, 1898, Hearst and the rest of the yellow press blamed Spain, adding to the inducements to war.

In the end, the US double-crossed Cuba. Now nominally independent following Spain’s defeat, Cuba became a de facto colony of the US. The US did not annex Cuba, but forced the drafters of the Cuban Constitution to adopt a provision (the Platt Amendment) which gave the US carte blanche to intervene in Cuba in the future. {7}

The Neoliberal Rape of Puerto Rico

The Filipinos would not finally be rid of the Americans until 1946. American hegemony over Cuba only ended with the victory of the Cuban Revolution in 1959. Puerto Rico remains a US possession to this day, subject to Uncle Sam’s loving care. Puerto Ricans have been US citizens since 1917, yet are not treated like Americans. Puerto Ricans have no vote for president or representation in Congress, nor do they receive the full protection of the US Constitution.

Last October, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. Researchers at Harvard have estimated the death toll at 4,645 – seventy times higher than the official count. The hurricane crippled electrical service and access to clean water for months, the catastrophe made worse by incompetent disaster relief efforts by the US Government. (Justine Calma, “The US Could Have Avoided Puerto Rico’s Water Crisis”, GRIST, October 20 2017.)

Would Puerto Ricans have been left to twist slowly in the wind if they had been White? The disaster has highlighted Puerto Rico’s colonial domination by the US. Award-winning Puerto Rican filmmaker Frances Negrón-Muntaner writes:

 

 

Although it has become liberal sport to insist on how different Trump is from everything and everyone that preceded him, the president’s response to the hurricane is consistent with American colonial history. This is manifested in both the slowness and limited scale of assistance during Hurricane Maria, and by the fact that when local leaders criticized him for it, Trump defended himself by invoking century-old stereotypes of Puerto Ricans as lazy and ingrates who “wanted everything to be done for them”. {8}

 

Racism pays cash dividends. Even before the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico staggered under the weight of a $123 billion government-debt crisis {9}. Since Maria, Puerto Rican suffering has grown. What Naomi Klein calls “disaster capitalists” have redoubled their efforts to privatize Puerto Rico’s electrical grid, privatize schools, foreclose on homes, impose deregulation, and ramp up economic inequality, all while cutting billions from the public sector. Look me in the eye and tell me that colonialism is a thing of the past.

Happy Empire Day, Everyone.

Notes:

{1} STEPHEN KINZER, THE TRUE FLAG; THEODORE ROOSEVELT, MARK TWAIN, AND THE BIRTH OF AMERICAN EMPIRE (2017), page 45.

{2} Idem at 25.

{3} V I LENIN, IMPERIALISM, THE HIGHEST STAGE OF CAPITALISM (1916), chapter IV.

{4} Ibid.

{5} This is why I wince every time I hear that we are living in the era of “late capitalism”. Capitalism has endured longer than anyone on the left expected. What if capitalism lasts another 500 years? For all we know, we may still be living in the era of “early capitalism”.

{6} HOWARD ZINN, A PEOPLE’S HISTORY OF THE UNITED STATES (1980), pages 312-13.

{7} Idem at 311.

{8} Frances Negrón-Muntaner, “The Crisis in Puerto Rico Is a Racial Issue. Here’s Why”, THE ROOT, October 12 2017.

{9} To his credit, on October 03 2017, President Trump suggested that Puerto Rico’s government debt should be canceled. However, to quote the old Mary Tyler Moore Show, “When a donkey flies you don’t expect him to stay up long”. Trump soon retracted the suggestion.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/06/15/the-day-the-us-became-an-empire/

The Beginning of the End of the Bilderberg Era

by Alastair Crooke

Strategic Culture Foundation (June 26 2018)

The beginning of the end of the Bilderberg/Soros vision is in sight. The Old Order will cling on, even to the last of its fingernails. The Bilderberg vision is the notion of multi-cultural, international cosmopolitanism that surpasses old-time nationalism; heralding the end of frontiers; and leading toward a US-led, “technocratic”, global economic and political governance. Its roots lie with figures such as James Burnham, an anti-Stalin, former Trotskyite, who, writing as early as 1941, advocated for the levers of financial and economic power being placed in the hands of a management class: an elite – which alone would be capable of running the contemporary state – thanks to this elite’s market and financial technical nous. It was, bluntly, a call for an expert, technocratic oligarchy.

Burnham renounced his allegiance to Trotsky and Marxism, in all its forms in 1940, but he would take the tactics and strategies for infiltration and subversion, (learned as a member of Leon Trotsky’s inner circle) with him, and would elevate the Trotskyist management of “identity politics” to become the fragmentation “device” primed to explode national culture onto a new stage, in the Western sphere. His 1941 book, The Managerial Revolution, caught the attention of Frank Wisner, subsequently, a legendary CIA figure, who saw in the works of Burnham and his colleague a fellow Trotskyite, Sidney Hook, the prospect of mounting an effective alliance of former Trotskyites against Stalinism.

But, additionally, Wisner perceived its merits as the blueprint for a CIA-led, pseudo-liberal, US-led global order. (“Pseudo”, because, as Burnham articulated clearly, in The Machiavellians, Defenders of Freedom (1987), his version of freedom meant anything but intellectual freedom or those freedoms defined by America’s Constitution. “What it really meant was conformity and submission”).

In short, as Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould have noted, “by 1947, James Burnham’s transformation from Communist radical, to New World Order American conservative was complete. His Struggle for the World (1947) [converted into a memo for the US Office of Strategic Services (“OSS“, the forerunner of CIA] had done a “French Turn” on Trotsky’s permanent Communist revolution, and turned it into a permanent battle plan for a global American empire. All that was needed to complete Burnham’s dialectic was a permanent enemy, and that would require a sophisticated psychological campaign to keep the hatred of Russia alive, “for generations”.

What has this to do with us today? A “Burnham Landscape” of apparently, “centrist” European political parties, apparently independent think-tanks, institutions, and Nato structures, was seeded by CIA – in the post-war era of anti-Sovietism – across Europe, and the Middle East – as part of Burnham’s “battle plan” for a US-led, global “order”. It is precisely this elite (that is, Burnham’s oligarchic technocracy) that is facing political push-back today to the point at which the Liberal Order feels that it is struggling for its very survival against “the enemy in the White House”, as the editor of Spiegel Online has termed President Trump.

What has caused this? Well, like him or hate him, President Trump has played a major part, if only by saying the unsayable. The rationality or not inherent in these Eckhart-style “unsayings”, or apophasis, is beside the point: Trump’s intuitive “discourse of saying the unsayable” has taken most of the bolts out of the former Burnham-type, ideological structure.

But in Europe, two main flaws to the Burnham blueprint have contributed, possibly fatally, to the blueprint crisis: Firstly, the policy of populating Europe with immigrants, as a remedy for Europe’s adverse demographics (and to dilute to the point of erasure, its national cultures): “Far from leading to fusion”, writes British historian, Niall Ferguson,

 

 

Europe’s migration crisis is leading to fission. The play might be called The Meltdown Pot … Increasingly … the issue of migration will be seen by future historians as the fatal solvent of the EU. In their accounts Brexit will appear as merely an early symptom of the crisis.

 

And secondly, the bifurcation of the economy into two unrelated, and dis-equal economies, as a result of the elite’s mismanagement of the global economy (that is, the obvious the absence of “prosperity for all”).

Trump evidently has heard the two key messages from his constituency: that they neither accept to have (white) American culture, and its way-of-life, diluted through immigration; and, neither do they wish – stoically – to accommodate to America’s eclipse by China.

The issue of how to arrest China’s rise is primordial (for Team Trump), and in a certain sense, has led to an American “retrospective”: America now may only account for fourteen percent of global output (“PPP” or Purchasing Power Parity basis), or 22%, on a nominal basis (as opposed to near half of global output, for which the US was responsible, at the close of World War Two), but American corporations, thanks to the dollar global hegemony, enjoy a type of monopoly status (Microsoft, Google, and Facebook, amongst others), either through regulatory privilege, or by marketplace dominance. Trump wants to halt this asset from decaying further and to leverage it again as a potent bargaining chip in the present tariff wars. This is clearly a political “winner” in terms of US domestic grass-roots politics and the upcoming November mid-term elections.

The second strand seems to be something of a Middle East “retrospective”: to restore the Middle East to the era of The Shah, when “Persia” policed the Middle East; when Israel was a regional “power” implementing the American interest; and when the major sources of energy were under US control. And, further, when Russian influence was being attenuated, by leveraging radical Sunni Islam against Arab socialism and nationalism.

Of course, Trump is savvy enough to know that it is not possible to revert wholly to that Kissinger-esque world. The region has changed too much for that. But Kissinger remains an influential adviser to the President (together with Prime Minister Netanyahu). And it is easy to forget that US dominance of the Middle East brought America not just control of energy, but the recycling of petrodollars into Wall Street, and the necklace of US military bases in the Gulf that both surround Iran, and give to the US its military muscle, reaching into Asia.

We have therefore Trump’s hugging of Mohammad bin Salman (“MbS“), Mohammed bin Zayed (“MbZ“), and Netanyahu, and a supporting narrative of Iran as a “malign actor” in the region, and a facilitator of terrorism.

But, it is just a “narrative”, and it is nonsense when put into a broader understanding of the regional context. The history of Islam has never been free from violent conflict (going back to earliest days, that is, the Wars of the Ridda or Wars of Apostasy, 632-633 et cetera). But – lest we forget – this present era of Sunni radicalization (such as has given birth to ISIS) reaches back, at least, to the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, with the Ottoman disaster at the Gates of Vienna (1683); the consequent onset of the Caliphate dissolution; growing Ottoman permissiveness and sensuality, provoking Abd-el Wahhab’s radical zealotism (on which basis Saudi Arabia was founded); and finally the aggressive westernizing secularism in Turkey and Persia, which triggered what is called “political Islam” (both Sunni and Shi’a that initially, were united, in a single movement).

The MbS narrative that Saudi Arabia’s “fundamentalism” was a reaction to the Iranian Revolution is yet another “meme” that may serve Trump and Netanyahu’s interests but is just as false. The reality is that the modern Arab (Sunni) system, a holdover from the Ottoman era, has been in a long-term channel of decline since World WarOne – whereas Shi’i Islam is enjoying a strong revival across the northern tier of the Middle East, and beyond. Put rather bluntly: the Iranians are on the upside of history – it’s as simple as that.

And what Trump is trying to do is Iranian capitulation, in the face of the American-Israeli-Saudi siege, the key to undoing Obama (again), by trying to reassert US Middle East dominance, energy dominance, and an Israeli resurgence of regional power. Subjugating Iran thus has emerged as the supreme litmus for re-establishing the unipolar global order.

It is so iconic precisely because, just as much as Trump would like to see Iran, Iraq, and Iranian allies everywhere fall to the unipolar hegemony, Iran is as central to the multipolar vision of Xi and Putin as it is iconic to Trump’s putative Middle East “makeover”. And it is not just symbolic: Iran is as pivotal to both Russian and Chinese geopolitical strategies. In a word, Iran has more leverage to ensure survival than Trump may have anticipated.

America will leverage its dominance of the financial system to the limit to strangle Iran, and China and Russia will do what is necessary financially, and in terms of trade, to see that Iran does not implode economically – and remains a pillar of the multipolar alternative world order.

And it is here that the paradigm shifts in Europe come into play. It is not, I repeat not because Europe can be expected to show leadership or to “do” much, but rather because the apophatic discourse of “saying the unsayable” is spreading to Europe. It has not, so far, changed the paradigm of power, but may soon (that is, with Merkel’s possible political demise). Germany may be more staid in its politics than Italy, but the voice of Italy’s new Interior Minister, Matteo Salvini, saying “no” to the “Burnham” proxies in Berlin is echoing across Europe, and beyond. It acts like a slap in the face.

Let us be absolutely clear: We are not suggesting that Europe will expend political capital in defending The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA“). That is not likely. We are saying that America’s dollar hegemony has proved toxic to the rest of the world in very many ways, and Trump – in leveraging that hegemony so gangsterishly: “We’re America, Bitch”, as one official described America’s approach – is fueling antagonism towards dollar hegemony (if not yet towards America per se). It is pushing all of non-America into a common stance of rebellion against America’s unipolar financial dominance.

This “revolt” is already giving leverage to Kim Jong Un, as The Washington Post reports:

“With US-China trade ties on the rocks, Kim is well-positioned to play both powers, talking sweet to Trump while pursuing a closer relationship with Xi … Kim understands the hierarchy. He knows that Xi is the Asian Godfather”, said Yanmei Xie, a China policy analyst at Gavekal Dragonomics, an economic research firm in Beijing. “He is making a pragmatic calculation that China can provide economic assistance to integrate North Korea diplomatically and economically into Northeast Asia …

“There is a regional effort, a sort of Northeast Asia coalition of make-believe, to maintain the fiction that North Korea will de-nuke as long as Americans keep talking to it”, Xie said.

China is less focused on getting Kim to give away his weapons than on getting him to fall into line. It may eventually use trade and investment to keep him onside, experts said.

With North Korea still struggling under UN sanctions, “China’s political and economic support is still highly important”, said Zhao Tong, a North Korea expert at the Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy in Beijing. Zhao said the question now is: “How can China help North Korea develop its economy?”

China can also help Kim normalize North Korea’s diplomatic status. That starts with treating him less like a rogue dictator and more like a visiting statesman.

The same goes for Iran – in spades. China and Russia know how to play this game of “chicken”.

_____

Republishing is welcomed with reference to Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal http://www.strategic-culture.org.

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2018/06/25/beginning-end-bilderberg-era.html

“The Israeli Dream”

The Criminal Roadmap Towards “Greater Israel”?

by Felicity Arbuthnot

Ethnic Cleansing Planned in the Middle East? History, Legality Ignored

Global Research (July 18 2014, June 24 2018)

The concept of a “Greater Israel” according to the founding father of Zionism Theodore Herzl, is a Jewish State stretching “From the Brook of Egypt to the Euphrates”.

Rabbi Fischmann, of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, stated to the UN Special Committee on 9th July 1947 that:

 

 

The Promised Land extends from the River of Egypt up to the Euphrates, it includes parts of Syria and Lebanon. {1}

Thus “from the Nile to the Euphrates”. Herzl’s detailed thesis was written in 1904.

 

Quoted in the same article is Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya on The Yinon Plan (1982) “… a continuation of Britain’s colonial design in the Middle East”:

 

 

(The Yinon plan) is an Israeli strategic plan to ensure Israeli regional superiority. It insists and stipulates that Israel must reconfigure its geo-political environment through the balkanization of the surrounding Arab states into smaller and weaker states.

Israeli strategists viewed Iraq as their biggest strategic challenge from an Arab state. This is why Iraq was outlined as the centerpiece to the balkanization of the Middle East and the Arab World. In Iraq, on the basis of the concepts of the Yinon Plan, Israeli strategists have called for the division of Iraq into a Kurdish state and two Arab states, one for Shiite Muslims and the other for Sunni Muslims. The first step towards establishing this was a war between Iraq and Iran, which the Yinon Plan discusses.

 



At the time Yinon wrote, the eight-year, Western-driven Iran-Iraq war was into its second year – with another six grinding years of loss, tragedy, and heartbreak, valleys of widows, orphans, maimed on both sides of their common border. The toll on life and health was compared to World War One. Iraq, of course, in a historic error, had virtually been fighting a proxy war for an American regime, even then obsessed with Islam, which, in Iran, they had decided was the wrong sort of Islam. What the faith of a nation thousands of miles away had to do with Capitol Hill remains a mystery.

The day after that devastating war ended, the US replaced Iraq over the then USSR as the country which was the biggest threat to America. A devastated, war-torn nation of, at the time, just under seventeen million people. {2}

Then came the dispute with Kuwait over alleged oil theft and Dinar destabilizing with the then US Ambassador April Glaspie personally giving Saddam Hussein the green light to invade should he choose. The subsequent nation-paralyzing UN embargo followed, then the 2003 decimation and occupation – another orchestrated downward spiral – and tragedy and now open talk of what has been planned for decades, the break up of Iraq.


Greater Israel” requires the breaking up of the existing Arab states into small states.

“Mission accomplished” for both the US with its long-planned redrawing of the Middle East and North Africa – and Israel, through whose friendship with the Iraqi Kurdish autocracy, was set to become pretty well a partner in an autonomous, independent Iraqi Kurdistan. Dream come true, from “the Nile to the Euphrates”, the final fruition of near seventy years of manipulation and aggression for domination of the entire region.

The all is also the vision of the super hawk, dreamer of the destruction of nations, Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters since the early 1990s. Here is his 2006 version {3}. Peters is a man whose vision of eternal war is seemingly an eternal wet dream. Here, again, for anyone unaware of the Colonel, is a repeat of that dream (US Army War College Quarterly, Summer 1997):

 

 

There will be no peace. At any given moment for the rest of our lifetimes, there will be multiple conflicts … around the globe. Violent conflict will dominate the headlines, but cultural and economic struggles will be steadier and ultimately more decisive. (US armed forces will keep) the world safe for our economy and open to our cultural assault. To those ends, we will do a fair amount of killing.

We have entered an age of constant conflict.

 

Peters would make some of history’s most megalomaniacal expansionists look like gift-offering peaceniks. His cartographic monument to arrogance: “The New Map of the Middle East Project”, of geographical restructure in faraway places of which he gave less than a damn, was published in the Armed Forces Journal in June 2006.

It was surely no coincidence that on 1st May 2006 Joe Biden, longtime Member of the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations – now [2014] US Vice President of course – and Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus of the Committee, joint authored a New York Times piece {4} urging the break up of Iraq, dividing the country on ethnic lines: “… giving each ethno-religious group – Kurd, Sunni Arab, and Shiite Arab …” their own ethnic and political ghettos. Ignorance on wide inter-marriage, inter-relations, until 2003, inter-communities at every level for millennia, mixed neighbourhoods, shared celebrations, religious festivals, joys, and heartaches, boggle the imagination. The deluded article is entitled: “Unity through autonomy in Iraq”. Think non-sequitur, think mixed marriages, does the husband live in a “Sunni” ghetto and the wife a “Shia” one, for example?

“The Kurdish, Sunni, and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration, and internal security”. A “five-point plan” of ghettoisation, destruction, delusion, and wickedness, the US-Israeli game plan for Iraq, with the UK as ever, tagging along dreaming of days of empire when, with France, Iraq and the region’s borders were imperially tinkered with just short of a hundred years ago {5}.

Aside from the shaming arrogance and illegality of the plan, ignorance is total. Clearly there is no knowledge in the great annals of the US State Department, Department of Foreign Affairs, or the CIA of Iraq’s religious and ethnic minorities also co-existing for centuries: Christians, Mandaeans, Yazidis, Turkmen, Jews, Zoroastrians, Bahai, Kakai’s, Shabaks – and indeed those who regard themselves as non-religious.

By October 2007 Joe Biden had: “attempted to create a reality when an overwhelming majority of the US Senate voted for his non-binding Resolution to divide Iraq into three parts … (with) The Washington Post reporting that the 75-23 Senate vote was a ‘significant milestone’ ” in the severing of Iraq into three, wrote Tom Engelhardt {6}.

Engelhardt is seemingly the only eagle eye to have picked up that: “The (tripartite) structure is spelled out in Iraq’s Constitution, but Biden would initiate local and regional diplomatic efforts to hasten its evolution”.

The Constitution, written under US-imposed “Viceroy” Paul Bremer, is of course, entirely invalid since it is illegal to re-write a Constitution under an occupation.

“Only the Kurds, eager for an independent State, welcomed the plan”.

What, ponders Engelhardt, with forensic reality, would be the reaction if Iraq, or Iran for example: “passed a non-binding Resolution to divide the United States into semi-autonomous bio-regions?”

He concludes that: “such acts would, of course, be considered not just outrageous and insulting, but quite mad”. In Iraq however: “at best it would put an American stamp of approval on the continuing ethnic cleansing of Iraq”.

However, the US Administration’s commitment is clear, Joe Biden, a self-confessed Zionist, stated at the annual J Street Conference in September 2013: “If there were not an Israel, we would have to invent one to make sure our interests were preserved” {7}. Think oil, gas, strategic aims.

Biden assured his audience that: “America’s support for Israel is unshakable, period. Period, period.” (sic) He stressed a number of times the commitment that President Obama had to Israel. His own long and deep connections, he related, stretched back to a meeting with then Prime Minister Golda Meir when he was a freshman Senator and latterly his hours spent with Prime Minister Netanyahu. The latest meeting was in January this year when he travelled to Israel to pay his respects to the late Ariel Sharon and subsequently spent two hours alone in discussion with Netanyahu.

It is surely a coincidence that subsequently, the rhetoric for the division of Iraq accelerated. Israel has had “military, intelligence, and business ties with the Kurds since the 1960s” viewing them as “a shared buffer between Arab adversaries”.

In June Netanyahu told Tel Aviv University’s INSS think tank: “We should … support the Kurdish aspiration for independence”, after “outlining what he described as the collapse of Iraq and other Middle East regions …” {8} Iraq’s internal affairs being none of Israel’s business obviously does not occur (apart from their outrageous historic aspirations for the region in spite of being the newly arriving regional guest). The howls of Israeli fury when even basic human rights for Palestinians in their eroded and stolen lands are suggested for the last sixty-six years, however, metaphorically deafen the world.

Of course, Kurdistan has now laid claim to Kirkuk, with its vast oil deposits. The plan for the Northern Iraq-Haifa pipeline, an Israeli aspiration from the time of that country’s establishment can surely also not have been far from Netanyahu’s mind. An independent Kurdistan, which indeed it has enjoyed almost entirely within Iraq since 1992, immediately betrayed the Iraqi State by inviting in Israel and the CIA [which] would herald the planned dismemberment of Iraq.

It is darkly ironic, that whether relating to the break up of their lands or ghettoisation of those of Iraqis and Palestinians, this mirrors the plan of Adolf Eichmann, the architect of ethnic cleansing, who, after the outbreak of World War Two “arranged for Jews to be concentrated into ghettos in major cities …” he also devised plans for Jewish “reservations”.

Additionally, he was an architect of forcible expulsion, one of the charges brought against him after he was captured by Israel’s Mossad and Shin Bet in Argentina in 1960. He was tried in Israel, found guilty of war crimes and hanged in 1962. Ironically his pre-Nazi employment had been as an oil salesman {9}.

Can Israel and the “international community” really be planning to mirror Eichmann by repatriating and ethnic cleansing? Will nations never look into history’s mirror?

Notes:

{1} http://www.globalresearch.ca/greater-israel-the-zionist-plan-for-the-middle-east/5324815

{2} http://www.populstat.info/Asia/iraqc.htm

{3} http://www.globalresearch.ca/the-redrawing-of-the-map-of-the-middle-east-begins-with-destruction-of-iraq/5387928

{4} http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/01/opinion/01biden.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

{5} http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sykes–Picot_Agreement

{6} http://www.alternet.org/story/64433/congress_wants_to_split_iraq_in_three_pieces,_but_who_asked_them

{7} http://www.politico.com/story/2013/09/joe-biden-israel-97586.html

{8} http://jordantimes.com/israels-netanyahu-calls-for-supporting-kurdish-independence

{9} http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Eichmann

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are of sole responsibility of the author(s). The Centre for Research on Globalization will not be responsible for any inaccurate or incorrect statement in this article.

Copyright (c) Felicity Arbuthnot, Global Research, 2018

https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-israeli-dream-the-criminal-roadmap-towards-greater-israel/5391839

The JFK Assassination, Part One

What Happened?

by Ron Unz

The Unz Review (June 18 2018)

About a decade ago, I got a Netflix subscription and was amazed that the Internet now provided immediate access to so many thousands of movies on my own computer screen. But after a week or two of heavy use and the creation of a long watch-list of prospective films I’d always wanted to see, my workload gained the upper hand, and I mostly abandoned the system.

Back then, nearly all Netflix content was licensed from the major studios and depending upon contract negotiations might annually disappear, so when I happened to browse my account again in December, I noticed that a couple of films on my selection list included warning notices saying they would no longer be available on January 1st. One of these was Oliver Stone’s famous 1991 film JFK, which had provoked quite a stir at the time, so thinking now or never, I clicked the Play button, and spent three hours that evening watching the Oscar winner.

Most of the plot seemed bizarre and outlandish to me, with the president’s killing in Dallas supposedly having been organized by a cabal of militantly anti-Communist homosexuals, somehow connected with both the CIA and the mafia, but based in New Orleans. Kevin Costner starred as a crusading District Attorney named Jim Garrison – presumably fictional – whose investigation broke the assassination conspiracy wide open before the subtle tentacles of the Deep State finally managed to squelch his prosecution; or at least that’s what I vaguely remember from my single viewing. With so many implausible elements, the film confirmed my belief in the wild imagination of Hollywood scriptwriters and also demonstrated why no one with any common sense had ever taken seriously those ridiculous “JFK conspiracy theories”.

Despite its dramatic turns, the true circumstances of President John F Kennedy’s death seemed an island of sanity by comparison. Lee Harvey Oswald, a disgruntled young marine had defected to the USSR in 1959 and finding life behind the Iron Curtain equally unsatisfactory, returned to America a couple of years later. Still having confused Marxist sympathies, he’d joined public protests supporting Fidel Castro’s Cuba, and gradually turning toward violence, purchased a mail-order rifle. During the presidential visit, he had fired three shots from the Dallas School Book Depository, killing JFK, and was quickly apprehended by the local police. Soon, he too was dead, shot by an outraged Kennedy supporter named Jack Ruby. All these sad facts were later confirmed by the Warren Commission in DC, presided over by the US Chief Justice together with some of America’s most respected public figures, and their voluminous report ran nearly 900 pages.

Yet although the film seemed to have affixed an enormous mass of incoherent fictional lunacy on top of that basic history – why would a murder plot in Dallas have been organized in New Orleans, five hundred miles distant? – one single detail troubled me. Garrison is shown denouncing the “lone gunman theory” for claiming that a single bullet was responsible for seven separate wounds in President Kennedy and Texas Governor John Connolly, seated beside him in the limousine. Now inventing gay CIA assassins seems pretty standard Hollywood fare, but I found it unlikely that anyone would ever insert a fictional detail so wildly implausible as that bullet’s trajectory. A week or so later, the memory popped into my head, and I googled around a bit, discovering to my total astonishment that the seven-wounds-from-one-bullet claim was totally factual, and indeed constituted an absolutely essential element of the orthodox “single gunman” framework given that Oswald had fired at most three shots. So that was the so-called “Magic Bullet” I’d occasionally seen conspiracy-nuts ranting and raving about. For the first time in my entire life, I started to wonder whether maybe, just maybe there actually had been some sort of conspiracy behind the most famous assassination in modern world history.

Any conspirators had surely died of old age many years or even decades earlier and I was completely preoccupied with my own work, so investigating the strange circumstances of JFK’s death was hardly a high personal priority. But the suspicions remained in the back of my mind as I diligently read my New York Times and Wall Street Journal every morning while periodically browsing less reputable websites during the afternoon and evening. And as a result, I now began noticing little items buried here and there that I would have previously ignored or immediately dismissed, and these strengthened my newly emerging curiosity.

Among other things, occasional references reminded me that I’d previously seen my newspapers discuss a couple of newly released JFK books in rather respectful terms, which had surprised me a bit at the time. One of them, still generating discussion, was JFK and the Unspeakable published in 2008 by James W Douglass, whose name meant nothing to me. And the other, which I hadn’t originally realized trafficked in any assassination conspiracies, was David Talbot’s 2007 Brothers: The Hidden History of the Kennedy Years focused on the relationship between John F Kennedy and his younger brother Robert. Talbot’s name was also somewhat familiar to me as the founder of Salon.com and a well-regarded if liberal-leaning journalist.

None of us have expertise in all areas, so sensible people must regularly delegate their judgment to credible third-parties, relying upon others to distinguish sense from nonsense. Since my knowledge of the JFK assassination was nil, I decided that two recent books attracting newspaper coverage might be a good place to start. So perhaps a couple of years after watching that Oliver Stone film, I cleared some time in my schedule, and spent a few days carefully reading the combined thousand pages of text.

I was stunned at what I immediately discovered. Not only was the evidence of a “conspiracy” absolutely overwhelming, but whereas I’d always assumed that only kooks doubted the official story, I instead discovered that a long list of the most powerful people near the top of the American government and in the best position to know had been privately convinced of such a “conspiracy”, in many cases from almost the very beginning.

The Talbot book especially impressed me, being based on over 150 personal interviews and released by The Free Press, a highly reputable publisher. Although he applied a considerable hagiographic gloss to the Kennedys, his narrative was compellingly written, with numerous gripping scenes. But while such packaging surely helped to explain some of the favorable treatment from reviewers and how he had managed to produce a national bestseller in a seemingly long-depleted field, for me the packaging was much less important than the product itself.

To the extent that notions of a JFK conspiracy had ever crossed my mind, I’d considered the argument from silence absolutely conclusive. Surely if there had been the slightest doubt of the “lone gunman” conclusion endorsed by the Warren Commission, Attorney-General Robert Kennedy would have launched a full investigation to avenge his slain brother.

But as Talbot so effectively demonstrates, the reality of the political situation was entirely different. Robert Kennedy may have begun that fatal morning widely regarded as the second most powerful man in the country, but the moment his brother was dead and his bitter personal enemy Lyndon Johnson sworn in as the new president, his governmental authority almost immediately ebbed away. Longtime FBI Director J Edgar Hoover, who had been his hostile subordinate, probably scheduled for removal in JFK’s second term, immediately became contemptuous and unresponsive to his requests. Having lost all his control over the levels of power, Robert Kennedy lacked any ability to conduct a serious investigation.

According to numerous personal interviews, he had almost immediately concluded that his brother had been struck down at the hands of an organized group, very likely including elements from within the US government itself, but he could do nothing about the situation. As he regularly confided to close associates, his hope at the age of 38 was to reach the White House himself at some future date and with his hands once again upon the levels of power then uncover his brother’s killers and bring them to justice. But until that day, he could do nothing, and any unsubstantiated accusations he made would be totally disastrous both for national unity and for his own personal credibility. So for years, he was forced to nod his head and publicly acquiesce to the official story of his brother’s inexplicable assassination at the hands of a lone nut, a fairy tale publicly endorsed by nearly the entire political establishment, and this situation deeply gnawed at him. Moreover, his own seeming acceptance of that story was often interpreted by others, not least in the media, as his wholehearted endorsement.

Although discovering Robert Kennedy’s true beliefs was a crucial revelation in the Talbot book, there were many others. At most three shots had allegedly come from Oswald’s rifle, but Roy Kellerman, the Secret Service agent in the passenger seat of JFK’s limousine, was sure there had been more than that, and to the end of his life always believed there had been additional shooters. Governor Connolly, seated next to JFK and severely wounded in the attack, had exactly the same opinion. CIA Director John McCone was equally convinced that there had been multiple shooters. Across the pages of Talbot’s book, I learned that dozens of prominent, well-connected individuals privately expressed extreme skepticism towards the official “lone gunman theory” of the Warren Commission, although such doubts were very rarely made in public or on the record.

For a variety of complex reasons, the leading national media organs – the commanding heights of “Our American Pravda” – almost immediately endorsed the “lone gunman theory” and with some exceptions generally maintained that stance throughout the next half-century. With few prominent critics willing to publicly dispute that idea and a strong media tendency to ignore or minimize those exceptions, casual observers such as myself had generally received a severely distorted view of the situation.

If the first two dozen pages of the Talbot book completely overturned my understanding of the JFK assassination, I found the closing section almost equally shocking. With the Vietnam War as a political millstone about his neck, President Johnson decided not to seek reelection in 1968, opening the door to a last minute entry into the Democratic race by Robert Kennedy, who overcame considerable odds to win some important primaries. Then on June 4 1968, he carried gigantic winner-take-all California, placing him on an easy path to the nomination and the presidency itself, at which point he would finally be in a position to fully investigate his brother’s assassination. But minutes after his victory speech, he was shot and fatally wounded, allegedly by another lone gunman, this time a disoriented Palestinian immigrant named Sirhan Sirhan, supposedly outraged over Kennedy’s pro-Israel public positions although these were no different than those expressed by most other political candidates in America.

All this was well known to me. However, I had not known that powder burns later proved that the fatal bullet had been fired directly behind Kennedy’s head from a distance of three inches or less although Sirhan was standing several feet in front of him. Furthermore, eyewitness testimony and acoustic evidence indicated that at least twelve bullets were fired although Sirhan’s revolver could hold only eight, and a combination of these factors led longtime Los Angeles Coroner Dr Thomas Noguchi, who conducted the autopsy, to claim in his 1983 memoir that there was likely a second gunman. Meanwhile, eyewitnesses also reported seeing a security guard with his gun drawn standing right behind Kennedy during the attack, and that individual happened to have a deep political hatred of the Kennedys. The police investigators seemed uninterested in these highly suspicious elements, none of which came to light during the trial. With two Kennedy brothers now dead, neither any surviving members of the family nor most of their allies and retainers had any desire to investigate the details of this latest assassination, and in a number of cases, they soon moved overseas, abandoning the country entirely. JFK’s widow Jackie confided in friends that she was terrified for the lives of her children, and quickly married Aristotle Onassis, a Greek billionaire, whom she felt would be able to protect them.

Talbot also devotes a chapter to the late 1960s prosecution efforts of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, which had been the central plot of the JFK film, and I was stunned to discover that the script was almost entirely based on real-life events rather than Hollywood fantasy. This even extended to its bizarre cast of assassination conspiracy suspects, mostly fanatically anti-Communist Kennedy-haters with CIA and organized crime ties, some of whom were indeed prominent members of the New Orleans gay demimonde. Sometimes real life is far stranger than fiction.

Taken as a whole, I found Talbot’s narrative quite convincing, at least with respect to demonstrating the existence of a substantial conspiracy behind the fatal event.

Others certainly had the same reaction, with the august pages of The New York Times Sunday Book Review carrying the strongly favorable reaction of presidential historian Alan Brinkley. As the Allan Nevins Professor of History and Provost of Columbia University, Brinkley is as mainstream and respectable an academic scholar as might be imagined and he characterized Talbot as

 

 

the latest of many intelligent critics who have set out to demolish the tottering credibility of the Warren Commission and draw attention to evidence of a broad and terrible conspiracy that lay behind the assassination of John Kennedy – and perhaps the murder of Robert Kennedy as well.

 

 

The other book by Douglass, released a year later, covered much the same ground and came to roughly similar conclusions, with substantial overlap but also including major additional elements drawn from the enormous volume of extremely suspicious material unearthed over the decades by diligent JFK researchers. Once again, the often bitter Cold War-era conflict between JFK and various much harder-line elements of his government over Cuba, Russia, and Vietnam is sketched out as the likely explanation for his death.

Summarizing a half-century of conspiracy research, the Talbot and Douglass books together provide a wealth of persuasive evidence that elements of organized crime, individuals with CIA connections, and anti-Castro Cubans were probably participants in the assassination plot. Oswald seems to have been working with various anti-Communist groups and also had significant connections to US intelligence, while his purported Marxism was merely a very thin disguise. With regard to the assassination itself, he was exactly the “patsy” he publicly claimed to be, and very likely never fired a single shot. Meanwhile, Jack Ruby had a long history of ties to organized crime and surely killed Oswald to shut his mouth.

Many others may have suffered a similar fate. Conspirators daring enough to strike at the president of the United States would hardly balk at using lethal means to protect themselves from the consequences of their action, and over the years a considerable number of individuals associated with the case in one way or another came to untimely ends.

Less than a year after the assassination, JFK mistress Mary Meyer, the ex-wife of high-ranking CIA official Cord Meyer, was found shot to death in a Washington DC street-killing with no indications of attempted robbery or rape, and the case was never solved. Immediately afterward, CIA counterintelligence chief James Jesus Angleton was caught breaking into her home in search of her personal diary, which he later claimed to have destroyed.

Dorothy Kilgallen was a nationally-syndicated newspaper columnist and television personality, and she managed to wrangle an exclusive interview with Jack Ruby, later boasting to her friends that she would break the JFK assassination case wide open in her new book, producing the biggest scoop of her career. Instead, she was found dead in her Upper East Side townhouse, having apparently succumbed to an overdose of alcohol and sleeping pills, with both the draft text and the notes to her Jack Ruby chapter missing.

Shortly before Jim Garrison filed his assassination charges, his top suspect David Ferrie was found dead at age 48, possibly of natural causes, though the District Attorney suspected foul play.

During the mid-1970s, the House Select Committee on Assassinations held a series of high-profile hearings to reopen and investigate the case, and two of the witnesses called were high-ranking mafia figures Sam Giancana and Johnny Rosselli, widely suspected of having been connected with the assassination. The former was shot to death in the basement of his home one week before he was scheduled to testify, and the body of the latter was found in an oil drum floating in the waters off Miami after he had been subpoenaed for an additional appearance.

These were merely a few of the highest-profile individuals with a connection to the Dallas assassination whose lives were cut short in the years that followed, and although the deaths may have been purely coincidental, the full list is rather a long one.

Having read a couple of books that completely upended my settled beliefs about a central event of twentieth-century America, I simply didn’t know what to think. Over the years, my own writings had put me on friendly terms with a well-connected individual whom I considered a member of the elite establishment, and whose intelligence and judgment had always seemed extremely solid. So I decided to very gingerly raise the subject with him, and see whether he had ever doubted the “lone gunman” orthodoxy. To my total astonishment, he explained that as far back as the early 1990s, he’d become absolutely convinced in the reality of a “JFK conspiracy” and over the years had quietly devoured a huge number of the books in that field, but had never breathed a word in public lest his credibility be ruined and his political effectiveness destroyed.

A second friend, a veteran journalist known for his remarkably courageous stands on certain controversial topics, provided almost exactly the same response to my inquiry. For decades, he’d been almost 100% sure that JFK had died in a conspiracy, but once again had never written a word on the topic for fear that his influence would immediately collapse.

If these two individuals were even remotely representative, I began to wonder whether a considerable fraction, perhaps even a majority, of the respectable establishment had long harbored private beliefs about the JFK assassination that were absolutely contrary to the seemingly uniform verdict presented in the media. But with every such respectable voice keeping so silent, I had never once suspected a thing.

Few other revelations in recent years have so totally overturned my understanding of the framework of reality. Even a year or two later, I still found it very difficult to wrap my head around the concept, as I described in another note to that well-connected friend of mine:

 

 

By the way, I hate to keep harping on it, but every time I consider the implications of the JFK matter I’m just more and more astonished.

The president of the US. The heir to one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in America. His brother the top law enforcement officer in the country. Ben Bradlee, one of his closest friends, the fearless crusading editor of one of the nation’s most influential media outlets. As America’s first Catholic president, the sacred icon of many millions of Irish, Italian, and Hispanic families. Greatly beloved by top Hollywood people and many leading intellectuals.

His assassination ranks as one of the most shocking and dramatic events of the twentieth century, inspiring hundreds of books and tens of thousands of news stories and articles, examining every conceivable detail. The argument from mainstream media silence always seemed absolutely conclusive to me.

From childhood, it’s always been obvious to me that the mainstream media is completely dishonest about certain things and over the last dozen years I’ve become extremely suspicious about a whole range of other issues. But if you’d asked me a couple of years ago whether JFK was killed by a conspiracy, I would have said “well, anything’s possible, but I’m 99% sure there’s absolutely no substantial evidence pointing in that direction since the mainstream media would surely have headlined it a million times over”.

Was there really a First World War? Well, I’ve always assumed there was, but who really knows? …

 

 

Our reality is shaped by the media, but what the media presents is often determined by complex forces rather than by the factual evidence in front of their eyes. And the lessons of the JFK assassination may provide some important insights into this situation.

A president was dead and soon afterward his supposed lone assassin suffered the same fate, producing a tidy story with a convenient endpoint. Raising doubts or focusing on contrary evidence might open doors better kept shut, perhaps endangering national unity or even risking nuclear war if the trail seemed to lead overseas. The highest law enforcement officer in the country was the slain president’s own brother, and since he seemed to fully accept that simple framework, what responsible journalist or editor would be willing to go against it? What American center of power or influence had any strong interest in opposing that official narrative?

Certainly, there was immediate and total skepticism overseas, with few foreign leaders ever believing the story, and figures such as Nikita Khrushchev, Charles DeGaulle, and Fidel Castro all immediately concluded that a political plot had been responsible for Kennedy’s elimination. Mainstream media outlets in France and the rest of Western Europe were equally skeptical of the “lone gunman theory”, and some of the most important early criticism of US government claims was produced by Thomas Burnett, an expatriate American writing for one of the largest French newsweeklies. But in pre-Internet days, only the tiniest sliver of the American public had regular access to such foreign publications, and their impact upon domestic opinion would have been nil.

Perhaps instead of asking ourselves why the “lone gunman” story was accepted, we should instead be asking why it was ever vigorously challenged, during an era when media control was extremely centralized in establishmentarian hands.

Oddly enough, the answer may lie in the determination of a single individual named Mark Lane, a left-liberal New York City attorney and Democratic Party activist. Although JFK assassination books eventually numbered in the thousands and the resulting conspiracy theories roiled American public life throughout the 1960s and 1970s, without his initial involvement matters might have followed a drastically different trajectory.

From the very first, Lane had been skeptical of the official story, and less than a month after the killing, The National Guardian, a small left-wing national newspaper, published his 10,000-word critique, highlighting major flaws in the “lone gunman theory”. Although his piece had been rejected by every other national periodical, the public interest was enormous, and once the entire edition sold out, thousands of extra copies were printed in pamphlet form. Lane even rented a theater in New York City, and for several months gave public lectures to packed audiences.

After the Warren Commission issued its completely contrary official verdict, he began working on a manuscript, and although he faced enormous obstacles in finding an American publisher, once Rush to Judgment (1966) appeared, it spent a remarkable two years on the national bestseller lists, easily reaching the #1 spot. Such tremendous economic success naturally persuaded a host of other authors to follow suit, and an entire genre was soon established. Lane later published A Citizen’s Dissent (1968) recounting his early struggles to break the total American “media blackout” against anyone contradicting the official conclusion. Against all odds, he had succeeded in sparking a massive popular uprising sharply challenging the narrative of the establishment.

According to Talbot, “By late 1966, it was becoming impossible for the establishment media to stick with the official story” and the November 25 1966 edition of Life magazine, then at the absolute height of its national influence, carried the remarkable cover story “Did Oswald Act Alone?” with the conclusion that he probably did not. The next month, The New York Times announced it was forming a special task force to investigate the assassination. These elements were to merge with the media furor soon surrounding the Garrison investigation that began the following year, an investigation that enlisted Lane as an active participant. However, behind the scenes, a powerful media counterattack was also being launched at this same time.

In 2013 Professor Lance DeHaven-Smith, past president of the Florida Political Science Association, published Conspiracy Theory in America, a fascinating exploration of the history of the concept and the likely origins of the term itself. He noted that during 1966 the CIA had become alarmed at the growing national skepticism of the Warren Commission findings, especially once the public began turning its suspicious eyes toward the intelligence agency itself. Therefore, in January 1967 top CIA officials distributed a memo to all their local stations, directing them to employ their media assets and elite contacts to refute such criticism by various arguments, notably including an emphasis on Robert Kennedy’s supposed endorsement of the “lone gunman” conclusion.

This memo, obtained by a later FOIA request, repeatedly used the term “conspiracy” in a highly negative sense, suggesting that “conspiracy theories” and “conspiracy theorists” be portrayed as irresponsible and irrational. And as I wrote in 2016,

 

 

Soon afterward, there suddenly appeared statements in the media making those exact points, with some of the wording, arguments, and patterns of usage closely matching those CIA guidelines. The result was a huge spike in the pejorative use of the phrase, which spread throughout the American media, with the residual impact continuing right down to the present day.

 

This possible cause-and-effect relationship is supported by other evidence. Shortly after leaving The Washington Post in 1977, famed Watergate journalist Carl Bernstein published a 25,000 word Rolling Stone cover story entitled “The CIA and the Media” revealing that during the previous quarter century over 400 American journalists had secretly carried out assignments for the CIA according to documents on file at the headquarters of that organization. This influence project, known as “Operation Mockingbird”, had allegedly been launched near the end of the 1940s by high-ranking CIA official Frank Wisner, and included editors and publishers situated at the very top of the mainstream media hierarchy.

For whatever reason, by the time I came of age and began following the national media in the late 1970s, the JFK story had become very old news, and all the newspapers and magazines I read provided the very strong impression that the “conspiracy theories” surrounding the assassination were total nonsense, long since debunked, and only of interest to kooks on the ideological fringe. I was certainly aware of the enormous profusion of popular conspiracy books, but I never had the slightest interest in looking at any of them. America’s political establishment and its close media allies had outlasted the popular rebellion, and the name “Mark Lane” meant almost nothing to me, except vaguely as some sort of fringe-nut, who very occasionally rated a mention in my mainstream newspapers, receiving the sort of treatment accorded to Scientologists or UFO activists.

Oddly enough, Talbot’s treatment of Lane was also rather dismissive, recognizing his crucial early role in preventing the official narrative from quickly hardening into concrete, but also emphasizing his abrasive personality, and almost entirely ignoring his important later work on the issue, perhaps because so much of it had been conducted on the political fringe. Robert Kennedy and his close allies had similarly boycotted Lane’s work from the very first, regarding him as a meddlesome gadfly, but perhaps also ashamed that he was asking the questions and doing the work that they themselves were so unwilling to undertake at the time. Douglass’s 500-page book scarcely even mentions Lane.

Reading a couple of Lane’s books, I was quite impressed by the enormous role he had seemingly played in the JFK assassination story, but I also wondered how much of my impression may have been due to the exaggerations of a possible self-promoter. Then, on May 13 2016 I opened my New York Times and found nearly a full page obituary devoted to Lane’s death at age 89, the sort of treatment these days reserved for only the highest-ranking US Senators or major rap stars. And the 1,500 words were absolutely glowing, portraying Lane as a solitary, heroic figure struggling for decades to reveal the truth of the JFK assassination conspiracy against an entire political and media establishment seeking to suppress it.

I read this as a deep apology by America’s national newspaper of record. President John F Kennedy was indeed killed by a conspiracy, and we are sorry we spent more than a half-century suppressing that truth and ridiculing those who uncovered it.

Related Reading:

* http://www.unz.com/runz/american-pravda-how-the-cia-invented-conspiracy-theories/

* http://www.unz.com/runz/was-general-patton-assassinated/

* http://www.unz.com/runz/our-american-pravda/

http://www.unz.com/runz/american-pravda-the-jfk-assassination-part-i-what-happened/

Girding for Confrontation

The Pentagon’s Provocative Encirclement of China

by Michael T Klare

TomDispatch (June 19 2018)

On May 30th, Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced a momentous shift in American global strategic policy. From now on, he decreed, the US Pacific Command (“PACOM“), which oversees all US military forces in Asia, will be called the Indo-Pacific Command (“INDOPACOM“). The name change, Mattis explained, reflects “the increasing connectivity between the Indian and Pacific Oceans”, as well as Washington’s determination to remain the dominant power in both.

What? You didn’t hear about this anywhere? And even now, you’re not exactly blown away, right? Well, such a name change may not sound like much, but someday you may look back and realize that it couldn’t have been more consequential or ominous. Think of it as a signal that the US military is already setting the stage for an eventual confrontation with China.

If, until now, you hadn’t read about Mattis’s decision anywhere, I’m not surprised since the media gave it virtually no attention – less certainly than would have been accorded the least significant tweet Donald Trump ever dispatched. What coverage it did receive treated the name change as no more than a passing “symbolic” gesture, a Pentagon ploy to encourage India to join Japan, Australia, and other US allies in America’s Pacific alliance system. “In Symbolic Nod to India, US Pacific Command Changes Name” was the headline of a Reuters story on the subject and, to the extent that any attention was paid, it was typical.

That the media’s military analysts failed to notice anything more than symbolism in the deep-sixing of PACOM shouldn’t be surprising, given all the attention being paid to other major international developments – the pyrotechnics of the Korean summit in Singapore, the insults traded at and after the G7 meeting in Canada, or the ominous gathering storm over Iran. Add to this the poor grasp so many journalists have of the nature of the US military’s strategic thinking. Still, Mattis himself has not been shy about the geopolitical significance of linking the Indian and Pacific Oceans in such planning. In fact, it represents a fundamental shift in US military thinking with potentially far-reaching consequences.

Consider the backdrop to the name change: in recent months, the US has stepped up its naval patrols in waters adjacent to Chinese-occupied islands in the South China Sea (as has China), raising the prospect of future clashes between the warships of the two countries. Such moves have been accompanied by ever more threatening language from the Department of Defense (“DoD“), indicating an intent to do nothing less than engage China militarily if that country’s build-up in the region continues. “When it comes down to introducing what they have done in the South China Sea, there are consequences”, Mattis declared at the Shangri La Strategic Dialogue in Singapore on June 2nd.

As a preliminary indication of what he meant by this, Mattis promptly disinvited the Chinese from the world’s largest multinational naval exercise, the Rim of the Pacific (“RIMPAC“), conducted annually under American auspices. “But that’s a relatively small consequence”, he added ominously, “and I believe there are much larger consequences in the future”. With that in mind, he soon announced that the Pentagon is planning to conduct “a steady drumbeat” of naval operations in waters abutting those Chinese-occupied islands, which should raise the heat between the two countries and could create the conditions for a miscalculation, a mistake, or even an accident at sea that might lead to far worse.

In addition to its plans to heighten naval tensions in seas adjacent to China, the Pentagon has been laboring to strengthen its military ties with US-friendly states on China’s perimeter, all clearly part of a long-term drive to – in Cold War fashion – “contain” Chinese power in Asia. On June 8th, for example, the DoD launched Malabar 2018, a joint Pacific Ocean naval exercise involving forces from India, Japan, and the United States. Incorporating once neutral India into America’s anti-Chinese “Pacific” alliance system in this and other ways has, in fact, become a major twenty-first-century goal of the Pentagon, posing a significant new threat to China.

For decades, the principal objective of US strategy in Asia had been to bolster key Pacific allies Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and the Philippines, while containing Chinese power in adjacent waters, including the East and South China Seas. However, in recent times, China has sought to spread its influence into Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean region, in part by extolling its staggeringly ambitious “One Belt, One Road” trade and infrastructure initiative for the Eurasian continent and Africa. That vast project is clearly meant both as a unique vehicle for cooperation and a way to tie much of Eurasia into a future China-centered economic and energy system. Threatened by visions of such a future, American strategists have moved ever more decisively to constrain Chinese outreach in those very areas. That, then, is the context for the sudden concerted drive by US military strategists to link the Indian and Pacific Oceans and so encircle China with pro-American, anti-Chinese alliance systems. The name change on May 30th is a formal acknowledgment of an encirclement strategy that couldn’t, in the long run, be more dangerous.

Girding for War with China

To grasp the ramifications of such moves, some background on the former PACOM might be useful. Originally known as the Far East Command, PACOM was established in 1947 and has been headquartered at US bases near Honolulu, Hawaii, ever since. As now constituted, its “area of responsibility” encompasses a mind-boggling expanse: all of East, South, and Southeast Asia, as well as Australia, New Zealand, and the waters of the Indian and Pacific Oceans – in other words, an area covering about fifty percent of the Earth’s surface and incorporating more than half of the global population. Though the Pentagon divides the whole planet like a giant pie into a set of “unified commands”, none of them is larger than the newly expansive, newly named Indo-Pacific Command, with its 375,000 military and civilian personnel.

Before the Indian Ocean was explicitly incorporated into its fold, PACOM mainly focused on maintaining control of the western Pacific, especially in waters around a number of friendly island and peninsula states like Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines. Its force structure has largely been composed of air and naval squadrons, along with a large Marine Corps presence on the Japanese island of Okinawa. Its most powerful combat unit is the US Pacific Fleet – like the area it now covers, the largest in the world. It’s made up of the Third and Seventh Fleets, which together have approximately 200 ships and submarines, nearly 1,200 aircraft, and more than 130,000 sailors, pilots, Marines, and civilians.

On a day-to-day basis, until recently, the biggest worry confronting the command was the possibility of a conflict with nuclear-armed North Korea. During the late fall of 2017 and the winter of 2018, PACOM engaged in a continuing series of exercises designed to test its forces’ ability to overcome North Korean defenses and destroy its major military assets, including nuclear and missile facilities. These were undoubtedly intended, above all, as a warning to North Korean leader Kim Jong-un about what he could expect if he continued down the path of endless provocative missile and nuclear tests. It seems that, at least for the time being, President Trump has suspended such drills as a result of his summit meeting with Kim.

North Korea aside, the principal preoccupation of PACOM commanders has long been the rising power of China and how to contain it. This was evident at the May 30th ceremony in Hawaii at which Mattis announced that expansive name change and presided over a change-of-command ceremony, in which outgoing commander, Admiral Harry Harris Jr, was replaced by Admiral Phil Davidson. (Given the naval-centric nature of its mission, the command is almost invariably headed by an admiral.)

While avoiding any direct mention of China in his opening remarks, Mattis left not a smidgeon of uncertainty that the command’s new name was a challenge and a call for the future mobilization of regional opposition across a vast stretch of the planet to China’s dreams and desires. Other nations welcome US support, he insisted, as they prefer an environment of “free, fair, and reciprocal trade not bound by any nation’s predatory economics or threat of coercion, for the Indo-Pacific has many belts and many roads”. No one could mistake the meaning of that.

Departing Admiral Harris was blunter still. Although “North Korea remains our most immediate threat”, he declared, “China remains our biggest long-term challenge”. He then offered a warning: without the stepped-up efforts of the US and its allies to constrain Beijing, “China will realize its dream of hegemony in Asia”. Yes, he admitted, it was still possible to cooperate with the Chinese on limited issues, but we should “stand ready to confront them when we must”. (On May 18th, Admiral Harris was nominated by President Trump as the future US ambassador to South Korea, which will place a former military man at the US Embassy in Seoul.)

Harris’s successor, Admiral Davidson, seems, if anything, even more determined to put confronting China atop the command’s agenda. During his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on April 17th, he repeatedly highlighted the threat posed by Chinese military activities in the South China Sea and promised to resist them vigorously. “Once [the South China Sea islands are] occupied, China will be able to extend its influence thousands of miles to the south and project power deep into Oceania”, he warned. “The PLA [People’s Liberation Army] will be able to use these bases to challenge US presence in the region, and any forces deployed to the islands would easily overwhelm the military forces of any other South China Sea claimants. In short, China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States.

Is that, then, what Admiral Davidson sees in our future? War with China in those waters? His testimony made it crystal clear that his primary objective as head of the Indo-Pacific Command will be nothing less than training and equipping the forces under him for just such a future war while enlisting the militaries of as many allies as possible in the Pentagon’s campaign to encircle that country. “To prevent a situation where China is more likely to win a conflict”, he affirmed in his version of Pentagonese, “we must resource high-end capabilities in a timely fashion, preserve our network of allies and partners, and continue to recruit and train the best soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, and coastguardsmen in the world.”

Davidson’s first priority is to procure advanced weaponry and integrate it into the command’s force structure, ensuring that American combatants will always enjoy a technological advantage over their Chinese counterparts in any future confrontation. Almost as important, he, like his predecessors, seeks to bolster America’s military ties with other members of the contain-China club. This is where India comes in. Like the United States, its leadership is deeply concerned with China’s expanding presence in the Indian Ocean region, including the opening of a future port/naval base in Gwadar, Pakistan, and another potential one on the island of Sri Lanka, both in the Indian Ocean. Not surprisingly, given the periodic clashes between Chinese and Indian forces along their joint Himalayan borderlands and the permanent deployment of Chinese warships in the Indian Ocean, India’s prime minister Narendra Modi has shown himself to be increasingly disposed to join Washington in military arrangements aimed at limiting China’s geopolitical reach. “An enduring strategic partnership with India comports with US goals and objectives in the Indo-Pacific”, Admiral Davidson said in his recent congressional testimony. Once installed as commander, he continued, “I will maintain the positive momentum and trajectory of our burgeoning strategic partnership”. His particular goal: to “increase maritime security cooperation”.

And so we arrive at the Indo-Pacific Command and a future shadowed by the potential for great power war.

The View from Beijing

The way the name change at PACOM was covered in the US, you would think it reflected, at most, a benign wish for greater economic connections between the Indian and Pacific Ocean regions, as well, perhaps, as a nod to America’s growing relationship with India. Nowhere was there any hint that what might lie behind it was a hostile and potentially threatening new approach to China – or that it could conceivably be perceived that way in Beijing. But there can be no doubt that the Chinese view such moves, including recent provocative naval operations in the disputed Paracel Islands of the South China Sea, as significant perils.

When, in late May, the Pentagon dispatched two warships – the USS Higgins, a destroyer, and the USS Antietam, a cruiser – into the waters near one of those newly fortified islands, the Chinese responded by sending in some of their own warships while issuing a statement condemning the provocative American naval patrols. The US action, said a Chinese military spokesperson, “seriously violated China’s sovereignty [and] undermined strategic mutual trust”. Described by the Pentagon as “freedom of navigation operations” (“FRONOP“s), such patrols are set to be increased at the behest of Mattis.

Of course, the Chinese are hardly blameless in the escalating tensions in the region. They have continued to militarize South China Sea islands whose ownership is in dispute, despite a promise that Chinese President Xi Jinping made to President Obama in 2015 not to do so. Some of those islands in the Spratly and Paracel archipelagos are also claimed by Vietnam, the Philippines, and other countries in the area and have been the subject of intensifying, often bitter disagreements among them about where rightful ownership really lies. Beijing has simply claimed sovereignty over all of them and refuses to compromise on the issue. By fortifying them – which American military commanders see as a latent military threat to US forces in the region – Beijing has provoked a particularly fierce US reaction, though these are obviously waters relatively close to China, but many thousands of miles from the continental United States.

From Beijing, the strategic outlook articulated by Secretary Mattis, as well as Admirals Harris and Davidson, is clearly viewed – and not without reason – as threatening and as evidence of Washington’s master plan to surround China, confine it, and prevent it from ever achieving the regional dominance its leaders believe is its due as the rising great power on the planet. To the Chinese leadership, changing PACOM’s name to the Indo-Pacific Command will just be another signal of Washington’s determination to extend its unprecedented military presence westward from the Pacific around Southeast Asia into the Indian Ocean and so further restrain the attainment of what it sees as China’s legitimate destiny.

However Chinese leaders end up responding to such strategic moves, one thing is certain: they will not view them with indifference. On the contrary, as challenged great powers have always done, they will undoubtedly seek ways to counter America’s containment strategy by whatever means are at hand. These may not initially be overtly military or even obvious, but in the long run they will certainly be vigorous and persistent. They will include efforts to compete with Washington in pursuit of Asian allies – as seen in Beijing’s fervent courtship of President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines – and to secure new basing arrangements abroad, possibly under the pretext, as in Pakistan and Sri Lanka, of establishing commercial shipping terminals. All of this will only add new tensions to an already anxiety-inducing relationship with the United States. As ever more warships from both countries patrol the region, the likelihood that accidents will occur, mistakes will be made, and future military clashes will result can only increase.

With the possibility of war with North Korea fading in the wake of the recent Singapore summit, one thing is guaranteed: the new US Indo-Pacific Command will only devote itself ever more fervently to what is already its one overriding priority: preparing for a conflict with China. Its commanders insist that they do not seek such a war, and believe that their preparations – by demonstrating America’s strength and resolve – will deter the Chinese from ever challenging American supremacy. That, however, is a fantasy. In reality, a strategy that calls for a “steady drumbeat” of naval operations aimed at intimidating China in waters near that country will create ever more possibilities, however unintended, of sparking the very conflagration that it is, at least theoretically, designed to prevent.

Right now, a Sino-American war sounds like the plotline of some half-baked dystopian novel. Unfortunately, given the direction in which both countries (and their militaries) are heading, it could, in the relatively near future, become a grim reality.

_____

Michael T Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author, most recently, of The Race for What’s Left (2012). A documentary movie version of his book Blood and Oil (2008) is available from the Media Education Foundation. Follow him on Twitter at @mklare1.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Tom Engelhardt’s A Nation Unmade by War (2018), as well as Alfred McCoy’s In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power (2017), John Dower’s The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War Two (2017), John Feffer’s dystopian novel Splinterlands (2016), and Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead (2016).

Copyright 2018 Michael T Klare

(c) 2018 TomDispatch. All rights reserved.

http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176438/

Kim 10 Trump 0

by Eric Margolis

https://ericmargolis.com (June 23 2018)

Last week’s Economist magazine won the day with the best-ever headline about the Trump-Kim Jong-un summit: “Kim Jong Won!”

That said it all. Just out of the hospital, I was in no shape to compete with the great Economist or its very witty headline writers. But after watching a week of the post-Singapore summit between Great White Father Trump and delinquent Kim Jong-un I must totally agree with the Economist.

What was billed as a second-coming extravaganza between the two leaders – who have been trading insults of “little rocket man” and “dotard” (someone who is senile) turned out to be a very expensive photo op for both publicity seekers that made much noise but produced very little – at least so far. It seemed as if two schoolyard bullies had been forced by the principal to shake hands.

Beyond gestures, North Korea’s leader certainly came out ahead. His objective – and those of his family predecessors for the past sixty years – was to normalize relations with the US, start trade, and end US efforts to overthrow the Marxist government in Pyongyang.

Trump’s objectives, at least initially, were to crush North Korea and the threats it could pose to the United States and its regional allies Japan and South Korea. Trump sought to set up Kim as a bogeyman, and himself as America’s savior. Trump knew perfectly well that he could not destroy all of North Korea’s deeply buried nuclear-armed missiles, and, in spite of his huffing and puffing, had no stomach for an invasion of North Korea that could cost the US an estimated 250,000 casualties.

So Trump’s solution was more show-biz. A much-ballyhooed flight to Singapore, backslapping a delighted Kim, and a love-fest between the two chunky leaders was sold to Americans as the dawn of peace. America’s media was quick to retail the story and burnish Trump’s credentials among the seriously credulous. No more hiding under your school desks or in dank basements. As Trump grandly proclaimed, Americans no longer have to fear North Korea and can sleep peacefully at night!

Why? Korea still has all of its medium and long-range missiles and an estimated forty or more nuclear warheads. The North is developing submarines that can launch nuclear-armed missiles from underwater off America’s coasts. For Kim, these weapons are purely defensive, designed to prevent a US attack on his nation. But he is now a full-fledged member of the nuclear club.

Equally important, North Korea still has an estimated 14,000 170-millimeter guns and hundreds of 300-millimeter long-ranged rocket launchers emplaced in caves just north of the Demilitarized Zone (“DMZ“) between the two Koreas. They threaten almost all of South Korea’s capital Seoul north of the Han River and some US military bases and key airfields, notably Osan.

This is a very real threat – one that is largely immune to attack from the air. I have seen these emplacements from the northern edge of the DMZ. Kim’s big guns hold Seoul’s millions of inhabitants hostage.

There is no mention of this artillery threat in the final communique issued by Trump and Kim in Singapore. But it was agreed to temporarily stop the highly provocative US/South Korean war games simulating an invasion of the North, a key demand by Kim. This column has been calling for their end for a decade. North Korea will seemingly halt its missile tests.

This is not the “denuclearization” of North Korea that has been bandied about. There may be a few gestures of disarmament but Kim must know that his nukes are his means of survival. In case Kim didn’t remember the dire fate of Iraq, Libya, and Syria, Trump’s new national security advisor John Bolton, a fanatic’s fanatic, cheerfully recalled the doom of Libya’s murdered Colonel Khadaffi.

The Singapore summit was also a huge humiliation for America’s allies Japan and South Korea. In Asia, preserving “face” is essential.

Trump completely ignored America’s two old allies after his meeting with Kim – who routinely blasts Japan and South Korea as “America’s stooges”. Instead, Trump sent his beginner Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to explain what happened in Singapore, inflicting a deep loss of face on Tokyo and Seoul. This was a terrible insult and could spark decisions by at least Japan to proceed ahead with its covert nuclear program. Japan can deploy nuclear weapons in three to six months; South Korea is not far behind.

The United States and North Korea are now on a more civilized level of behavior. But nothing basic has been resolved. Maybe Trump has some more concessions up his sleeve, like cutting the number of US troops in the South. But Korea is now on the back burner as Trump wages trade wars around the globe.

Copyright Eric S Margolis 2018

https://ericmargolis.com/2018/06/kim-10-trump-0/