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How the Last Superpower Was Unchained


American Wars and Self-Decline

by Tom Engelhardt

TomDispatch (June 14 2018)

Think of it as the all-American version of the human comedy: a great power that eternally knows what the world needs and offers copious advice with a tone deafness that would be humorous, if it weren’t so grim. If you look, you can find examples of this just about anywhere. Here, for instance, is a passage in The New York Times from a piece on the topsy-turvy Trumpian negotiations that preceded the Singapore summit.

“The Americans and South Koreans”, wrote reporter Motoko Rich, “want to persuade the North that continuing to funnel most of the country’s resources into its military and nuclear programs shortchanges its citizens’ economic well-being. But the North does not see the two as mutually exclusive”.

Think about that for a moment. The US has, of course, embarked on a trillion-dollar-plus upgrade of its already massive nuclear arsenal (and that’s before the cost overruns even begin). Its Congress and president have for years proven eager to sink at least a trillion dollars annually into the budget of the national security state (a figure that’s still rising and outpaces by far that of any other power on the planet), while its own infrastructure sags and crumbles. And yet it finds the impoverished North Koreans puzzling when they, too, follow such an extreme path.

Clueless is not a word Americans ordinarily apply to themselves as a country, a people, or a government. Yet how applicable it is.

And when it comes to cluelessness, there’s another, far stranger path the United States has been following since at least the George W Bush moment that couldn’t be more consequential and yet somehow remains the least noticed of all. On this subject, Americans don’t have a clue. In fact, if you could put the United States on a psychiatrist’s couch, this might be the place to start.

America Contained

In a way, it’s the oldest story on Earth: the rise and fall of empires. And note the plural there. It was never – not until recently at least – empire, always empires. Since the fifteenth century, when the fleets of the first European imperial powers broke into the larger world with subjugation in mind, it was invariably a contest of many. There were at least three or sometimes significantly more imperial powers rising and contesting for dominance or slowly falling from it. This was, by definition, the history of great powers on this planet: the challenging rise, the challenged decline. Think of it for so many centuries as the essential narrative of history, the story of how it all happened until at least 1945, when just two “superpowers”, the United States and the Soviet Union, found themselves facing off on a global scale.

Of the two, the US was always stronger, more powerful, and far wealthier. It theoretically feared the Russian Bear, the Evil Empire, which it worked assiduously to “contain” behind that famed Iron Curtain and whose adherents in this country, always modest in number, were subjected to a mania of fear and suppression. However, the truth – at least in retrospect – was that, in the Cold War years, the Soviets were actually doing Washington a strange, if unnoted, favor. Across much of the Eurasian continent, and other places from Cuba to the Middle East, Soviet power and the never-ending contest for influence and dominance that went with it always reminded American leaders that their own power had its limits. This, as the twenty-first century, should have (but hasn’t) made clear, was no small thing. It still seemed obvious then that American power could not be total. There were things it could not do, places it could not control, dreams its leaders simply couldn’t have. Though no one ever thought of it that way, from 1945 to 1991, the United States, like the Soviet Union, was, after a fashion, “contained”.

In those years, the Russians were, in essence, saving Washington from itself. Soviet power was a tangible reminder to American political and military leaders that certain areas of the planet remained no-go zones (except in what, in those years, were called “the shadows”). The Soviet Union, in short, rescued Washington from both the fantasy and the hell of going it alone, even if Americans only grasped that reality at the most subliminal of levels.

That was the situation until December 1991 when, at the end of a centuries-long imperial race for power (and the never-ending arms race that went with it), there was just one gigantic power left standing on Planet Earth. It told you something about the thinking then that, when the Soviet Union imploded, the initial reaction in Washington wasn’t triumphalism (though that came soon enough) but utter shock, a disbelieving sense that something no one had expected, predicted, or even imagined had nonetheless happened. To that very moment, Washington had continued to plan for a two-superpower world until the end of time.

America Uncontained

Soon enough, though, the Washington elite came to see what happened as, in the phrase of the moment, “the end of history”. Given the wreckage of the Soviet Union, it seemed that an ultimate victory had been won by the very country its politicians would soon come to call “the last superpower”, the “indispensable” nation, the “exceptional” state, a land great beyond imagining (until, at least, Donald Trump hit the campaign trail with a slogan that implied greatness wasn’t all-American anymore).

In reality, there were a variety of paths open to the “last superpower” at that moment. There was even, however briefly, talk of a “peace dividend” – of the possibility that, in a world without contesting superpowers, taxpayer dollars might once again be invested not in the sinews of war-making but of peace-making (particularly in infrastructure and the well-being of the country’s citizens).

Such talk, however, lasted only a year or two and always in a minor key before being relegated to Washington’s attic. Instead, with only a few rickety “rogue” states left to deal with – like … gulp … North Korea, Iraq, and Iran – that money never actually headed home and neither did the thinking that went with it.

Consider it the good fortune of the geopolitical dreamers soon to take the reins in Washington that the first Gulf War of 1990~1991, which ended less than a year before the Soviet Union collapsed, prepared the way for quite a different style of thinking. That instant victory led to a new kind of militarized dreaming in which a highly tech-savvy military, like the one that had driven Iraqi autocrat Saddam Hussein’s forces out of Kuwait in such short order, would be capable of doing anything on a planet without serious opposition.

And yet, from the beginning, there were signs suggesting a far grimmer future. To take but one infamous example, Americans still remember the Black Hawk Down moment of 1993 when the world’s greatest military fell victim to a Somali warlord and local militias and found itself incapable of imposing its will on one of the least impressive not-quite-states on the planet (a place still frustrating that military a quarter-century later).

In that post-1991 world, however, few in Washington even considered that the twentieth century had loosed another phenomenon on the world, that of insurgent national liberation movements, generally leftist rebellions, across what had been the colonial world – the very world of competing empires now being tucked into the history books – and it hadn’t gone away. In the twenty-first century, such insurgent movements, now largely religious, or terror-based, or both, would turn out to offer a grim new version of containment to the last superpower.

Unchaining the Indispensable Nation

On September 11 2001, a canny global jihadist by the name of Osama bin Laden sent his air force (four hijacked US passenger jets) and his precision weaponry (nineteen suicidal, mainly Saudi followers) against three iconic targets in the American pantheon: the Pentagon, the World Trade Center, and undoubtedly the Capitol or the White House (neither of which was hit because one of those jets crashed in a field in Pennsylvania). In doing so, in a sense bin Laden not only loosed a literal hell on Earth but unchained the last superpower.

Shakespeare would have had a word for what followed: hubris. But give the top officials of the Bush administration (and the neocons who supported them) a break. There had never been a moment like it: a moment of one. A single great power left alone, triumphant, on planet Earth. Just one superpower – wealthy beyond compare, its increasingly high-tech military unmatched, its only true rival in a state of collapse – had now been challenged by a small jihadist group.

To President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and the rest of their crew, it seemed like nothing short of a heaven-sent opportunity. As they came out of the shock of 9/11, of that “Pearl Harbor of the twenty-first century”, it was as if they had found a magic formula in the ruins of those iconic buildings for the ultimate control of the planet. As Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld would instruct an aide at the Pentagon that day, “Go massive. Sweep it up. Things related and not.”

Within days, things related and not were indeed being swept up. The country was almost instantly said to be “at war” and soon that conflict even had a name, the Global War on Terror. Nor was that war to be against just al-Qaeda, or even one country, an Afghanistan largely ruled by the Taliban. More than sixty countries said to have “terror networks” of various sorts found themselves almost instantly in the administration’s potential gun sights. And that was just to be the beginning of it all.

In October 2001, the invasion of Afghanistan was launched. In the spring of 2003, the invasion of Iraq followed, and those were only the initial steps in what was increasingly envisioned as the imposition of a Pax Americana on the Greater Middle East. There could be no doubt, for instance, that Iran and Syria, too, would soon go the way of Iraq and Afghanistan. Bush’s top officials had been nursing just such dreams since, in 1997, many of them formed a think tank (the first ever to enter the White House) called the Project for the New American Century and began to write out what were then the fantasies of figures nowhere near power. By 2003, they were power itself and their dreams, if anything, had grown even more grandiose.

In addition to imagining a political Pax Republicana in the United States, they truly dreamed of a future planetary Pax Americana in which, for the first time in history, a single power would, in some fashion, control the whole works, the Earth itself. And this wasn’t to be a passing matter either. The Bush administration’s “unilateralism” rested on a conviction that it could actually create a future in which no country or even bloc of countries would ever come close to matching or challenging US military power. The administration’s National Security Strategy of 2002 put the matter bluntly: the US was to “build and maintain” a military, in the phrase of the moment, “beyond challenge”.

They had little doubt that, in the face of the most technologically advanced, bulked-up, destructive force on Earth, hostile states would be “shocked and awed” by a simple demonstration of its power, while friendly ones would have little choice but to come to heel as well. After all, as President Bush said at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in 2007, the US military was “the greatest force for human liberation the world has ever known”.

Though there was much talk at the time about the “liberation” of Afghanistan and then Iraq, at least in their imaginations the true country being liberated was the planet’s lone superpower. Although the Bush administration was officially considered a “conservative” one, its key officials were geopolitical dreamers of the first order and their vision of the world was the very opposite of conservative. It harkened back to nothing and looked forward to everything. It was radical in ways that should have, but didn’t, take the American public’s breath away; radical in ways that had never been seen before.

Shock and Awe for the Last Superpower

Think of what those officials did in the post-9/11 moment as the ultimate act of greed. They tried to swallow a whole planet. They were determined to make it a planet of one in a way that had never before been seriously imagined.

It was, to say the least, a vision of madness. Even in a moment when it truly did seem – to them at least – that all constraints had been taken off, an administration of genuine conservatives might have hesitated. Its top officials might, at least, have approached the post-Soviet situation with a modicum of caution and modesty. But not George W Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and pals. In the face of what seemed like the ultimate in possibilities, they proved clueless when it came to the possibility that anything on Earth might have a shot at containing them.

Even among their critics, who could have imagined then that, more than sixteen years later, having faced only lightly armed enemies of various sorts, still wealthy beyond compare, still with a military funded in a way the next seven countries couldn’t cumulatively match, the United States would have won literally nothing? Who could have imagined that, unlike so many preceding imperial powers (including the US of the earlier Cold War era), it would have been able to establish control over nothing at all; that, instead, from Afghanistan to Syria, Iraq deep into Africa, it would find itself in a state of “infinite war” and utter frustration on a planet filled with ever more failed states, destroyed cities, displaced people, and right-wing “populist” governments, including the one in Washington? Who could have imagined that, with a peace dividend no longer faintly conceivable, this country would have found itself not just in decline, but – a new term is needed to catch the essence of this curious moment – in what might be called self-decline?

Yes, a new power, China, is finally rising – and doing so on a planet that seems itself to be going down. Here, then, is a conclusion that might be drawn from the quarter-century-plus in which America was both unchained and largely alone. The Earth is admittedly a small orb in a vast universe, but the history of this century so far suggests one reality about which America’s rulers proved utterly clueless: after so many hundreds of years of imperial struggle, this planet still remains too big, too disparate, too ornery to be controlled by a single power. What the Bush administration did was simply take one gulp too many and the result has been a kind of national (and planetary) indigestion.

Despite what it looked like in Washington once upon a time, the disappearance of the Soviet Union proved to be no gift at all, but a disaster of the first order. It removed all sense of limits from America’s political class and led to a tale of greed on a planetary scale. In the process, it also set the US on a path to self-decline.

The history of greed in our time has yet to be written, but what a story it will someday make. In it, the greed of those geopolitical dreamers will intersect with the greed of an ever wealthier, ever more gilded one percent, of the billionaires who were preparing to swallow whole the political system of that last superpower and grab so much of the wealth of the planet, leaving so little for others.

Whether you’re talking about the urge to control the planet militarily or financially, what took place in these years could, in the end, result in ruin of a historic kind. To use a favored phrase from the Bush years, one of these days we may be facing little short of “regime change” on a planetary scale. And what a piece of shock and awe that’s likely to prove to be.

All of us, of course, now live on the planet Bush’s boys tried to swallow whole. They left us in a world of infinite war, infinite harm, and in Donald Trump’s America where cluelessness has been raised to a new power.

_____

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture (2007). He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His sixth and latest book, just published, is A Nation Unmade by War (2018).

Note: Two deep bows of thanks are in order – to Jim Peck and Nick Turse – for helping me think this piece out.

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 Tom Engelhardt

(c) 2018 TomDispatch. All rights reserved.

http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/176436/

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Categories: Uncategorized

Shanghai Spirit …

… Gets Indian Flavor at Qingdao Summit

by Melkulangara Bhadrakumar

Strategic Culture Foundation (June 06 2018)

After boarding Air Force One heading for Singapore, US President Donald Trump launched a Twitter broadside to rudely reject the text of the G7 communique, which he just attended, and pile insults on his Canadian host, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. The G7 is unraveling.

Comparisons are being drawn with the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (“SCO“), which took place simultaneously in Qingdao, China. The SCO summit has emphasized the gap in global leadership today.

The Financial Times, which is not exactly a friend of the SCO noted,

 

 

Russia and China form the backbone of the SCO … and despite historical animosity between Moscow and Beijing, they now appear to want to jointly resolve security issues in Eurasia without the US.

 

India has some major differences in its relations with China and Pakistan and yet, the summit took place in a harmonious atmosphere. The pressure was such that even a handshake between Indian Prime Minister and the Pakistani President Mamnoon Hussain at Qingdao, which ought to be an act of civility, made headlines.

It is no secret that India has differences with China regarding the Belt & Road Initiative (“BRI“) and there was no way India could identify with a formulation in the Qingdao Declaration affirming the SCO’s continuing support for the BRI. But India didn’t raise dust. It knew beforehand the SCO’s stance on BRI, and where there is will, there is always a way. Modi signed the Qingdao Declaration and the Chinese hosts graciously kept the formulation as a matter concerning those SCO members who affirm support for the BRI (which is everyone else but India.) Thus, no one “lost”.

Clearly, Delhi is no longer strident about its opposition to the BRI. Nor is China insistent that without India getting on board the BRI bandwagon, economic cooperation between the two countries is impossible. The two countries are actually sidestepping the BRI and moving on with concrete projects to boost trade and investment.

Again, the doomsday predictions that the SCO will inevitably get bogged down in India-Pakistan disputes and discords have proved completely wrong. The two countries have shown maturity to move into the SCO tent for co-habitation without stepping on each other’s toes. It is tempting to think of a “new normal”.

The SCO gatherings are becoming an occasion for India and Pakistan to greet each other. The two foreign and defence ministers, national security advisors, and even military officials came across each other in the run-up to the Qingdao summit, and sparks didn’t fly. Now comes a strange occasion when the army contingents of the two countries will become for the first time in their seven-decades old history participants in a joint SCO military exercise.

The forthcoming anti-terror drill in Chelyabinsk in the Urals in August becomes a poignant moment. Customarily, the top brass of the participating SCO member countries gather to witness the bi-annual military drill. Will General Valery Gerasimov, head of the Russian general staff, preside over a select gathering that includes his Indian and Pakistani counterparts?

Over time, such occasions may no longer arouse excitement and may become “routine”. When that happens, and when the Indian and Pakistani counterparts begin to enter into meaningful conversations, the SCO will have touched a high water mark as a regional security organization. The Chinese President Xi Jinping who hosted the summit at Qingdao seemed to herald such a moment when he stressed the need for all SCO member countries to “bolster strength, unity, and mutual trust” and respect each other’s independent path of development and key interests.

These are early days and Indian diplomacy is getting accustomed to the SCO’s work culture. Arguably, India finds itself roughly at a point similar to China’s two decades ago when it began using the SCO forum to create synergy to steadily expand and deepen its bilateral relations with the newly independent countries of Central Asia, overcoming the backlog of Soviet-era antipathy. To be sure, from the Indian perspective, the focal point of the weekend’s event in Qingdao was the bilateral meeting between Modi and Xi Jinping. It was a distinctly forward-looking meeting, which displayed a growing desire to deepen strategic communication and expand the bilateral economic cooperation.

In the final analysis, what stands out is that all of the above is unfolding against the backdrop of a discernible shift in the Indian foreign policies. If a finger is to be put on the defining moment, it has to be on the Informal Meeting between Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi on May 21. The Sochi meeting appears to have significantly influenced and clarified Modi’s own thinking on the emergent Asian order. In fact, exactly ten days later, Modi unveiled a refreshingly new foreign policy narrative in his keynote address at the Shangri Dialogue in Singapore on June 1, which signaled a marked aversion towards the US’ containment strategies in the Indo-Pacific region. The new narrative placed accent on India’s strategic autonomy, multilateralism, and regionalism. Succinctly put, it brings India on the same side of history as Russia.

Given the massive shift in the distribution of power taking place today in the direction of a multipolar world order, India can be expected to take a renewed interest in the BRICS and RIC (BRI?) forums as well. However, it is the SCO, which provides a unique platform for India to restructure its problematic relations with both China and Pakistan.

The power dynamic in South Asia is poised to change significantly in the downstream of the SCO membership of India and Pakistan. Given China’s close relations with Pakistan, and taking into consideration the nascent forward-looking trends in the Sino-Indian relations lately, as well as Russia’s benign presence and leadership, SCO holds the potential to become the vanishing point where the parallel perspective projections of Indian diplomacy may converge in a three-dimensional space.

https://www.strategic-culture.org/news/2018/06/12/shanghai-spirit-gets-indian-flavor-at-qingdao-summit.html

Categories: Uncategorized

The American Exceptionalism Myth …

… and the Selling of US Domination

by Geoffrey O’Neil

CounterPunch (June 11 2018)

 

I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.

– Barack Obama, 2015

 

From birth, Americans are expected to believe in the notion of US superiority over other peoples in other nations.

The daily school ritual of pledging allegiance to the flag and playing the national anthem at sporting events – whether the Super Bowl or a neighborhood swim meet – is a given. Americans are taught that they are intellectually, socially, economically, and morally superior to any other people on earth. We believe that we place a higher value on life than others do.

Most Americans are unaware of the amount of human suffering the US government has inflicted on others throughout the world, especially post 9/11. We are incessantly told it is our duty to support the troops and our leaders who invade, bomb or otherwise intervene in other nations. The motives offered might be to stop genocide, to take down a maniacal despot, or to spread democracy and American values. Our government purportedly acts with reluctance as well as with compassion, respect for others, and good intent. We are told that the troops keep us safe and help spread the American way of life to a needy world. Why? It is because we are “exceptional”.

September 11 2001

We are told the United States was brutally attacked by Al-Qaeda on 9/11. That it happened in real time, on our soil, live in our living rooms, made it seem even worse. But the real horror lay in the loss of the 2,977 victims.

Our response to this abhorrent crime should have been that of a just, democratic society, acting on the rule of law. Instead, it was completely out of proportion, becoming barbaric and grotesque. Yet our response was justified by those who believe that an American life is more valuable than the lives of all others.

The Response

Afghanistan

As noted, 9/11 was a criminal act, not a state-sponsored act of war. The United States, however, responded as though it had been an act of war. On October 7 2001, the United States invaded Afghanistan, violating the UN Charter’s principle of sovereign equality. The justification provided to the world was that Osama bin Laden, a Saudi national and not an Afghan, masterminded 9/11 and was living there in the mountains. The ruling Taliban government offered to extradite bin Laden but needed proof of his guilt, as is customary in extradition cases. George Bush ignored the Taliban’s request and instead invaded one of the poorest countries in the world.

From October 2001 to the present, an estimated 31,000 civilians have been killed, and approximately 29,900 have suffered war-related injuries. To this day, Americans occupy the country and continue to kill and wound Afghan civilians, with no end in sight. It is now the longest war in US history. Bin Laden, whose alleged involvement in the crime was used as justification for the invasion, has been dead for years. I would challenge any American to explain why our troops are still there.

Finally, I would ask whether the 69,000-and-counting Afghan casualties of war, along with a near eighteen-year occupation of a sovereign country, were just and appropriate responses to 9/11. Or might this response instead be grossly disproportionate, planned and executed by an aggressive cabal of American leaders exceptional only in the way they inflict violence on others?

Iraq

In September 2002, the White House Iraq Group (“WHIG“), consisting of twelve members selected by the Bush administration, was formed to meet in the White House on a regular basis. The group was described by SourceWatch (a website published by the Center for Media and Democracy), as “the marketing arm of the White House whose purpose was to sell the 2003 invasion of Iraq to the public”. Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11, yet this group was assembled to create a justification that did not exist for a war they wanted to start. They decided on Weapons of Mass Destruction (“WMDs”). There weren’t any. And mushroom clouds. There weren’t any.

According to French academic Dominique ReyniƩ, between January 3 and April 12 2003, about 36 million people across the world took part in nearly 3,000 anti-war protests. On February 15 alone, in more than 800 cities, millions filled the streets to protest the invasion of Iraq before it happened. The Guinness Book of World Records estimated that between twelve and fourteen million people from major cities and small towns on every continent came out to voice their dissent. An event like this was unprecedented in world history. Protests within the United States took place in more than 225 communities but received little media attention.

They ignored the United Nations as well, and by doing so violated international law. All members of the Security Council but the United States and Great Britain rejected the call for war with Iraq. The UN Charter requires a unanimous vote of the Security Council for any war to be sanctioned. On September 16 2004, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan declared that the Iraq invasion “was not in conformity with the UN charter. From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal.”

A lone voice for sanity in the media in the run-up to the Iraq war was Phil Donahue. On his final show, weeks before the invasion, his guest was retired Marine General, Anthony Zinni, a former commandant of the Marine Corps and leader of the Central Command, preceding the better-known Tommy Franks. Zinni was in charge of the no-fly zone in Iraq for a time and spoke Farsi. His familiarity with, experience in, and knowledge of the Middle East, particularly Iraq, was extensive. He stated unequivocally that Saddam Hussein was contained and no threat to his neighbors, much less to the United States. Donahue’s show, though the most popular on the network at the time, was canceled by MSNBC, which deemed the show and Zinni’s remarks unpatriotic. As it turns out, Zinni was correct, though it mattered little to the “exceptional” leaders who ordered the invasion.

On March 20 2003, the United States invaded Iraq. A study done by researchers in Canada, the United States, and Baghdad, with the cooperation of the Iraqi Ministry of Health, found that as of December 2017, nearly 500,000 civilians had died from war-related causes. Thousands upon thousands of homes were bombed into rubble, killing members of families and leaving the survivors homeless. The UN reported in 2014 that more than 4.4 million Iraqis were internally displaced, forced to live in refugee camps or neighboring countries.

Let us not forget that this war was created out of thin air by WHIG, marketed and sold to the American public and the world. It was a fraud from the very beginning and never could have been sold to anyone had the 9/11 event not occurred. All the credit for this merciless barbarity needs to be bestowed on our exceptional leaders, George W Bush and Richard Cheney.

Syria

The Syrian “civil war” began in March 2011 in conjunction with the Arab Spring. The protest started out peacefully but then became violent. It was alleged that Bashar al-Assad used brutal methods to put down the uprising. That being said, the uninvited intervention by the United States violated Syria’s sovereign equality in violation of Article 2 of the UN Charter.

In 2012, former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan convened a group in Geneva to bring a ceasefire to the hostilities in Syria. The talks ended abruptly when the Obama administration demanded that Assad and his elected staff step down before any ceasefire agreement could be reached. What right did the United States have to make such a demand? The violence continued. Then in late 2012, the CIA launched an operation code-named Timber Sycamore, with the goal of toppling Assad’s regime through the continuous military training and financial support of all types of radical militants.

The estimated civilian death toll in the war in Syria through March 2018 varies from 353,593 to 498,593. Out of a population of approximately 26 million, an estimated six million have been internally displaced and thirteen million are in need of humanitarian assistance.

It can be argued that the majority of these casualties of war can be directly attributed to a combination of Obama’s intransigence in 2011 and the CIA’s cooperation with Saudi Arabia in arming, funding, and training the radical militant groups in Syria. Their interference has led to one of the most serious humanitarian crises of this century. It was also another savage, disproportionate act of violence that had nothing to do with 9/11.

Libya

In March 2011, US-led Nato forces began bombing Libya and continued bombing for seven months. The country, once one of the richest in Africa was, for all intents and purposes, destroyed. At present Libya is lawless, run by radical militants. Hillary Clinton is largely responsible, her role outlined in the “Libya Tick Tock” e-mail, made public by Julian Assange. In this e-mail, “A step-by-step guide to destroy Libya”, the Clinton team listed in chronological order all of the steps she took in order to prove that she was the architect of the US bombing in Libya. It was to be a “brag sheet” to strengthen her foreign policy credentials in the upcoming election debates in 2016.

Estimates of the death toll in Libya range from 10,000 to 50,000. The National Transitional Council puts the dead at 30,000 and the wounded at 50,000. In addition, Libya’s Great Man-Made River, an underground pipeline that supplied water to Libya and other countries in Africa were destroyed by Nato planes, a violation of the UN Charter.

It shouldn’t be a surprise that the intervention in Libya was another fraud. On September 14 2016, the British Parliament issued a scathing report. Assessing the evidence, they wrote that the “UK strategy was founded on erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the evidence”. In less polite rhetoric, the bombing of Libya was based on deception and lies.

Once again, our exceptional leaders destroyed a sovereign country and the hopes of its citizens. It was another barbaric, out-of-proportion overkill that never would have happened without 9/11, yet Libya had nothing to do with 9/11.

Could the arrogance of Hillary Clinton and her willingness to destroy Libya just to impress voters be the reason the exceptional Donald Trump is now America’s president? Who knows?

As for Barack Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize recipient dramatically expanded both the air wars via drones and the special operations forces around the globe. In 2016 US forces could be found in seventy percent of the countries in the world – 138 nations – a staggering 130 percent increase in special-ops incursions since the days of the Bush administration. In his last year as president, according to Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations, the United States dropped 26,171 bombs on seven different countries.

The Biggest Threat

In polls conducted by Gallup worldwide that began in 2013 and have continued every year since the United States came in first hands down when participants were asked: “Which country is the greatest threat to world peace?”

If an outsider asked me what my country stands for, it would be hard to come up with an answer. I might start with how we break our word, threaten other countries, force regime change, impose sanctions, arm the world, launch drone strikes, bomb countries, invade countries, destroy homes and families, and go from there.

Is America “exceptional” in how it inflicts violence and death upon countless innocent people around the world? And is it fair to call American leaders “exceptional” bullies?

Is there any doubt?

_____

Geoffrey O’Neill is a former Marine officer, Vietnam veteran, former business owner, and unexceptional American citizen who believes in the right of all people to live in peace and with dignity.

A longer version of this article can be read at https://truthandshadows.wordpress.com/2018/05/27/american-exceptionalism-myth/.

https://www.counterpunch.org/2018/06/11/the-american-exceptionalism-myth-and-the-selling-of-u-s-domination/

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The Israeli Attack on the USS Liberty

by Paul Craig Roberts

https://www.paulcraigroberts.org (June 08 2018)

This is your website. Support it or it will cease to exist.

Fifty-one years ago today Israeli fighter aircraft and torpedo boats tried to sink the USS Liberty, a surveillance ship stationed off the coast of Egypt during Israel’s attack on Egypt and Syria. Israel was unable to sink the USS Liberty, but did manage to kill or wound almost the entire crew. Thirty-four Americans were killed and 174 were wounded.

There are two explanations for the attack. As Washington has blocked every attempt at an investigation, we do not know which one is correct. Perhaps both are the reasons for the attack.

One is that Israel, which was committing a war crime by mass execution of Egyptian prisoners of war, was fearful that the USS Liberty‘s surveillance had discovered the crime. The other is that Israel fearing an unfavorable outcome of the war that Israel had initiated intended to blame the attack on the USS Liberty on Egypt, thus bringing the US into the war on Israel’s side.

I have written about this attack a number of times, having interviewed sailors and officers on board during the attack, an officer, Captain Ward Boston, who was ordered to produce a cover-up, and Admiral Tom Moorer, former Chief of Naval Operations and Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff. Frustrated at Washington’s coverup, indeed, Washington’s complicity in the crime, upon retirement Admiral Moorer convened the Moorer Commission to set the record straight.

The Moorer Commission concluded:

 

That there is compelling evidence that Israel’s attack was a deliberate attempt to destroy an American ship and kill her entire crew.

That fearing conflict with Israel, the White House deliberately prevented the US Navy from coming to the defense of USS Liberty by recalling Sixth Fleet military rescue support while the ship was under attack.

That surviving crew members were threatened with ‘court-martial, imprisonment, or worse’ if they exposed the truth; and [the survivors] were abandoned by their own government.

That there has been an official cover-up without precedent in American naval history.

That a danger to our national security exists whenever our elected officials are willing to subordinate American interests to those of any foreign nation.

 

You can find my articles on my website or online as well as the proceedings of the Moorer Commission.

The most disturbing thing about the Israeli attack is that when the Liberty‘s distress signal reached the fleet commander and US Navy fighters were launched to drive off the Israeli attackers, the White House ordered the fleet commander to recall the American jets. Frustrated by his inability to defend the US Navy from murderous assault, the fleet commander used open radio to scare off the Israelis by announcing that US fighters were on their way to the Liberty‘s rescue. This caused the Israelis to immediately call off the attack and to issue an apology that it had mistaken the USS Liberty, which was flying a massive American flag and had USS Liberty in tall letters, as an Egyptian ship.

On orders from the White House, Admiral McCain, Senator McCain’s father, ordered a cover-up. The Liberty’s crew were ordered not to mention the event. It was two decades before one of the Liberty‘s officers, then retired, wrote the story. American taxpayers, who were shelling out billions of dollars from their desperate needs every year to enable Israel to purchase the US government with the billions of dollars hapless Americans are forced to hand over to Israel, knew nothing about the attack for twenty years.

If 51 years ago Israel had such power over the US government that the White House itself refused to protect an American ship from Israeli attack and then covered up the attack in order to give Israel a free pass, just imagine how much more control Israel has achieved over the US government in the past half-century. If you have any doubt that Israel rules America, just look at Nikki Haley’s subservience to Israel in the UN as US ambassador, or at President Trump himself defying the entire world and moving the US embassy to Jerusalem. Just look at Trump, on Israel’s orders, unilaterally disregarding the Iranian nuclear agreement signed by President Obama and upheld by all other signatories, in the hopes of creating a pretext for an American attack on Iran that serves only Israel’s interest. Just look at the extraordinary groveling at Israel’s feet of the entire US Senate and House of Representatives who unanimously pass Israel Lobby sponsored laws and resolutions. Just look at The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, National Public Radio, MSNBC, and so on who serve as megaphones for the voice of Israel.

Every American, especially those superpatriots who wrap themselves in the flag, should be totally ashamed that their government is nothing but an adjunct of Israel.

Copyright (c) 2016 PaulCraigRoberts.org. All rights reserved.

https://www.paulcraigroberts.org/2018/06/08/israeli-attack-uss-liberty-paul-craig-roberts/

Categories: Uncategorized

No, Israel is Not a Democracy

Israel is not the only democracy in the Middle East. In fact, it’s not a democracy at all.

From Ten Myths About Israel (Verso Books, 2017).

by lan Pappe

Information Clearing House (June 12 2018)

In the eyes of many Israelis and their supporters worldwide – even those who might criticize some of its policies – Israel is, at the end of the day, a benign democratic state, seeking peace with its neighbors, and guaranteeing equality to all its citizens.

Those who do criticize Israel assume that if anything went wrong in this democracy then it was due to the 1967 war. In this view, the war corrupted an honest and hardworking society by offering easy money in the occupied territories, allowing messianic groups to enter Israeli politics, and above all else turning Israel into an occupying and oppressive entity in the new territories.

The myth that a democratic Israel ran into trouble in 1967 but still remained a democracy is propagated even by some notable Palestinian and pro-Palestinian scholars – but it has no historical foundation.

Israel Before 1967 Was Not a Democracy

Before 1967, Israel definitely could not have been depicted as a democracy. As we have seen in previous chapters, the state subjected one-fifth of its citizenship to military rule based on draconian British Mandatory emergency regulations that denied the Palestinians any basic human or civil rights.

Local military governors were the absolute rulers of the lives of these citizens: they could devise special laws for them, destroy their houses and livelihoods, and send them to jail whenever they felt like it. Only in the late 1950s did a strong Jewish opposition to these abuses emerge, which eventually eased the pressure on the Palestinian citizens.

For the Palestinians who lived in prewar Israel and those who lived in the post-1967 West Bank and the Gaza Strip, this regime allowed even the lowest-ranking soldier in the IDF to rule, and ruin, their lives. They were helpless if such a soldier, or his unit or commander, decided to demolish their homes, or hold them for hours at a checkpoint, or incarcerate them without trial. There was nothing they could do.

At every moment from 1948 until today, there had been some group of Palestinians undergoing such an experience.

The first group to suffer under such a yoke was the Palestinian minority inside Israel. It began in the first two years of statehood when they were pushed into ghettos, such as the Haifa Palestinian community living on the Carmel mountain, or expelled from the towns they had inhabited for decades, such as Safad. In the case of Isdud, the whole population was expelled to the Gaza Strip.

In the countryside, the situation was even worse. The various Kibbutz movements coveted Palestinian villages on fertile land. This included the socialist Kibbutzim, Hashomer Ha-Zair, which was allegedly committed to binational solidarity.

Long after the fighting of 1948 had subsided, villagers in Ghabsiyyeh, Iqrit, Birim, Qaidta, Zaytun, and many others, were tricked into leaving their homes for a period of two weeks, the army claiming it needed their lands for training, only to find out on their return that their villages had been wiped out or handed to someone else.

This state of military terror is exemplified by the Kafr Qasim massacre of October 1956, when, on the eve of the Sinai operation, forty-nine Palestinian citizens were killed by the Israeli army. The authorities alleged that they were late returning home from work in the fields when a curfew had been imposed on the village. This was not the real reason, however.

Later proofs show that Israel had seriously considered the expulsion of Palestinians from the whole area called the Wadi Ara and the Triangle in which the village sat. These two areas – the first a valley connecting Afula in the east and Hadera on the Mediterranean coast; the second expanding the eastern hinterland of Jerusalem – were annexed to Israel under the terms of the 1949 armistice agreement with Jordan.

As we have seen, additional territory was always welcomed by Israel, but an increase in the Palestinian population was not. Thus, at every juncture, when the state of Israel expanded, it looked for ways to restrict the Palestinian population in the recently annexed areas.

Operation “Hafarfert” (“mole”) was the code name of a set of proposals for the expulsion of Palestinians when a new war broke out with the Arab world. Many scholars today now think that the 1956 massacre was a practice run to see if the people in the area could be intimidated to leave.

The perpetrators of the massacre were brought to trial thanks to the diligence and tenacity of two members of the Knesset: Tawaq Tubi from the Communist Party and Latif Dori of the Left Zionist party Mapam. However, the commanders responsible for the area, and the unit itself that committed the crime, were let off very lightly, receiving merely small fines. This was further proof that the army was allowed to get away with murder in the occupied territories.

Systematic cruelty does not only show its face in a major event like a massacre. The worst atrocities can also be found in the regime’s daily, mundane presence.

Palestinians in Israel still do not talk much about that pre-1967 period, and the documents of that time do not reveal the full picture. Surprisingly, it is in poetry that we find an indication of what it was like to live under military rule.

Natan Alterman was one of the most famous and important poets of his generation. He had a weekly column, called “The Seventh Column”, in which he commented on events he had read or heard about. Sometimes he would omit details about the date or even the location of the event, but would give the reader just enough information to understand what he was referring to. He often expressed his attacks in poetic form:

 

 

The news appeared briefly for two days, and disappeared. And no one seems to care, and no one seems to know. In the far away village of Um al-Fahem,

Children – should I say citizens of the state – played in the mud And one of them seemed suspicious to one of our brave soldiers who shouted at him: Stop!

An order is an order

An order is an order, but the foolish boy did not stand, He ran away

So our brave soldier shot, no wonder And hit and killed the boy.
And no one talked about it.

 

On one occasion he wrote a poem about two Palestinian citizens who were shot in Wadi Ara. In another instance, he told the story of a very ill Palestinian woman who was expelled with her two children, aged three and six, with no explanation, and sent across the River Jordan. When she tried to return, she and her children were arrested and put into a Nazareth jail.

Alterman hoped that his poem about the mother would move hearts and minds, or at least elicit some official response. However, he wrote a week later:

 

 

And this writer assumed wrongly
That either the story would be denied or explained But nothing, not a word.

 

There is further evidence that Israel was not a democracy prior to 1967. The state pursued a shoot-to-kill policy towards refugees trying to retrieve their land, crops, and husbandry, and staged a colonial war to topple Nasser’s regime in Egypt. Its security forces were also trigger happy, killing more than fifty Palestinian citizens during the period from 1948 to1967.

Subjugation of Minorities in Israel is Not Democratic

The litmus test of any democracy is the level of tolerance it is willing to extend towards the minorities living in it. In this respect, Israel falls far short of being a true democracy.

For example, after the new territorial gains, several laws were passed ensuring a superior position for the majority: the laws governing citizenship, the laws concerning land ownership, and most important of all, the law of return.

The latter grants automatic citizenship to every Jew in the world, wherever he or she was born. This law, in particular, is a flagrantly undemocratic one, for it was accompanied by a total rejection of the Palestinian right of return – recognized internationally by the UN General Assembly Resolution 194 of 1948. This rejection refuses to allow the Palestinian citizens of Israel to unite with their immediate families or with those who were expelled in 1948.

Denying people the right of return to their homeland, and at the same time offering this right to others who have no connection to the land, is a model of undemocratic practice.

Added to this was a further layering of denial of the rights of the Palestinian people. Almost every discrimination against the Palestinian citizens of Israel is justified by the fact that they do not serve in the army. The association between democratic rights and military duties is better understood if we revisit the formative years in which Israeli policymakers were trying to make up their minds about how to treat one-fifth of the population.

Their assumption was that Palestinian citizens did not want to join the army anyway, and that assumed refusal, in turn, justified the discriminatory policy against them. This was put to the test in 1954 when the Israeli ministry of defense decided to call up those Palestinian citizens eligible for conscription to serve in the army. The secret service assured the government that there would be a widespread rejection of the call-up.

To their great surprise, all those summoned went to the recruiting office, with the blessing of the Communist Party, the biggest and most important political force in the community at the time. The secret service later explained that the main reason was the teenagers’ boredom with life in the countryside and their desire for some action and adventure.

Notwithstanding this episode, the ministry of defense continued to peddle a narrative that depicted the Palestinian community as unwilling to serve in the military.

Inevitably, in time, the Palestinians did indeed turn against the Israeli army, who had become their perpetual oppressors, but the government’s exploitation of this as a pretext for discrimination casts huge doubt on the state’s pretense to being a democracy.

If you are a Palestinian citizen and you did not serve in the army, your rights to government assistance as a worker, student, parent, or as part of a couple, are severely restricted. This affects housing in particular, as well as employment – where seventy percent of all Israeli industry is considered to be security-sensitive and therefore closed to these citizens as a place to find work.

The underlying assumption of the ministry of defense was not only that Palestinians do not wish to serve but that they are potentially an enemy within who cannot be trusted. The problem with this argument is that in all the major wars between Israel and the Arab world the Palestinian minority did not behave as expected. They did not form a fifth column or rise up against the regime.

This, however, did not help them: to this day they are seen as a “demographic” problem that has to be solved. The only consolation is that still today most Israeli politicians do not believe that the way to solve “the problem” is by the transfer or expulsion of the Palestinians (at least not in peacetime).

Israeli Land Policy is Not Democratic

The claim to being a democracy is also questionable when one examines the budgetary policy surrounding the land question. Since 1948, Palestinian local councils and municipalities have received far less funding than their Jewish counterparts. The shortage of land, coupled with the scarcity of employment opportunities, creates an abnormal socioeconomic reality.

For example, the most affluent Palestinian community, the village of Me’ilya in the upper Galilee, is still worse off than the poorest Jewish development town in the Negev. In 2011, the Jerusalem Post reported that “average Jewish income was forty percent to sixty percent higher than average Arab income between the years 1997 and 2009”.

Today more than ninety percent of the land is owned by the Jewish National Fund (“JNF“). Landowners are not allowed to engage in transactions with non-Jewish citizens, and public land is prioritized for the use of national projects, which means that new Jewish settlements are being built while there are hardly any new Palestinian settlements. Thus, the biggest Palestinian city, Nazareth, despite the tripling of its population since 1948, has not expanded one square kilometer, whereas the development town built above it, Upper Nazareth, has tripled in size, on land expropriated from Palestinian landowners.

Further examples of this policy can be found in Palestinian villages throughout Galilee, revealing the same story: how they have been downsized by forty percent, sometimes even sixty percent, since 1948, and how new Jewish settlements have been built on expropriated land.

Elsewhere this has initiated full-blown attempts at “Judaization”. After 1967, the Israeli government became concerned about the lack of Jews living in the north and south of the state and so planned to increase the population in those areas. Such a demographic change necessitated the confiscation of Palestinian land for the building of Jewish settlements.

Worse was the exclusion of Palestinian citizens from these settlements. This blunt violation of a citizen’s right to live wherever he or she wishes continues today, and all efforts by human rights NGOs in Israel to challenge this apartheid have so far ended in total failure.

The Supreme Court in Israel has only been able to question the legality of this policy in a few individual cases, but not in principle. Imagine if in the United Kingdom or the United States, Jewish citizens, or Catholics for that matter, were barred by law from living in certain villages, neighborhoods, or maybe whole towns? How can such a situation be reconciled with the notion of democracy?

The Occupation is Not Democratic

Thus, given its attitude towards two Palestinian groups – the refugees and the community in Israel – the Jewish state cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be assumed to be a democracy.

But the most obvious challenge to that assumption is the ruthless Israeli attitude towards a third Palestinian group: those who have lived under its direct and indirect rule since 1967, in East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. From the legal infrastructure put in place at the outset of the war, through the unquestioned absolute power of the military inside the West Bank and outside the Gaza Strip, to the humiliation of millions of Palestinians as a daily routine, the “only democracy” in the Middle East behaves as a dictatorship of the worst kind.

The main Israeli response, diplomatic and academic, to the latter accusation is that all these measures are temporary – they will change if the Palestinians, wherever they are, behave “better”. But if one researches, not to mention lives in, the occupied territories, one will understand how ridiculous these arguments are.

Israeli policymakers, as we have seen, are determined to keep the occupation alive for as long as the Jewish state remains intact. It is part of what the Israeli political system regards as the status quo, which is always better than any change. Israel will control most of Palestine and, since it will always include a substantial Palestinian population, this can only be done by nondemocratic means.

In addition, despite all the evidence to the contrary, the Israeli state claims that the occupation is an enlightened one. The myth here is that Israel came with good intentions to conduct a benevolent occupation but was forced to take a tougher attitude because of the Palestinian violence.

In 1967, the government treated the West Bank and the Gaza Strip as a natural part of “Eretz Israel”, the land of Israel, and this attitude has continued ever since. When you look at the debate between the right- and left-wing parties in Israel on this issue, their disagreements have been about how to achieve this goal, not about its validity.

Among the wider public, however, there was a genuine debate between what one might call the “redeemers” and the “custodians”. The “redeemers” believed Israel had recovered the ancient heart of its homeland and could not survive in the future without it. In contrast, the “custodians” argued that the territories should be exchanged for peace with Jordan, in the case of the West Bank, and Egypt in the case of the Gaza Strip. However, this public debate had little impact on the way the principal policymakers were figuring out how to rule the occupied territories.

The worst part of this supposed “enlightened occupation” has been the government’s methods for managing the territories. At first, the area was divided into “Arab” and potential “Jewish” spaces. Those areas densely populated with Palestinians became autonomous, run by local collaborators under a military rule. This regime was only replaced with a civil administration in 1981.

The other areas, the “Jewish” spaces, were colonized with Jewish settlements and military bases. This policy was intended to leave the population both in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in disconnected enclaves with neither green spaces nor any possibility for urban expansion.

Things only got worse when, very soon after the occupation, Gush Emunim started settling in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, claiming to be following a biblical map of colonization rather than the governmental one. As they penetrated the densely populated Palestinian areas, the space left for the locals was shrunk even further.

What every colonization project primarily needs is land – in the occupied territories this was achieved only through the massive expropriation of land, deporting people from where they had lived for generations, and confining them in enclaves with difficult habitats.

When you fly over the West Bank, you can see clearly the cartographic results of this policy: belts of settlements that divide the land and carve the Palestinian communities into small, isolated, and disconnected communities. The Judaization belts separate villages from villages, villages from towns, and sometimes bisect a single village.

This is what scholars call a geography of disaster, not least since these policies turned out to be an ecological disaster as well: drying up water sources and ruining some of the most beautiful parts of the Palestinian landscape.

Moreover, the settlements became hotbeds in which Jewish extremism grew uncontrollably – the principal victims of which were the Palestinians. Thus, the settlement at Efrat has ruined the world heritage site of the Wallajah Valley near Bethlehem, and the village of Jafneh near Ramallah, which was famous for its freshwater canals, lost its identity as a tourist attraction. These are just two small examples out of hundreds of similar cases.

Destroying Palestinians’ Houses Is Not Democratic

House demolition is not a new phenomenon in Palestine. As with many of the more barbaric methods of collective punishment used by Israel since 1948, it was first conceived and exercised by the British Mandatory government during the Great Arab Revolt of 1936~1939.

This was the first Palestinian uprising against the pro-Zionist policy of the British Mandate, and it took the British army three years to quell it. In the process, they demolished around two thousand houses during the various collective punishments meted out to the local population.

Israel demolished houses from almost the first day of its military occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The army blew up hundreds of homes every year in response to various acts undertaken by individual family members.

From minor violations of military rule to participation in violent acts against the occupation, the Israelis were quick to send in their bulldozers to wipe out not only a physical building but also a focus of life and existence. In the greater Jerusalem area (as inside Israel) demolition was also a punishment for the unlicensed extension of an existing house or the failure to pay bills.

Another form of collective punishment that has recently returned to the Israeli repertoire is that of blocking up houses. Imagine that all the doors and windows in your house are blocked by cement, mortar, and stones, so you can’t get back in or retrieve anything you failed to take out in time. I have looked hard in my history books to find another example but found no evidence of such a callous measure being practiced elsewhere.

Crushing Palestinian Resistance Is Not Democratic

Finally, under the “enlightened occupation”, settlers have been allowed to form vigilante gangs to harass people and destroy their property. These gangs have changed their approach over the years.

During the 1980s, they used actual terror – from wounding Palestinian leaders (one of them lost his legs in such an attack), to contemplating blowing up the mosques on Haram al-Sharif in Jerusalem.

In this century, they have engaged in the daily harassment of Palestinians: uprooting their trees, destroying their yields, and shooting randomly at their homes and vehicles. Since 2000, there have been at least one hundred such attacks reported per month in some areas such as Hebron, where the five hundred settlers, with the silent collaboration of the Israeli army, harassed the locals living nearby in an even more brutal way.

From the very beginning of the occupation then, the Palestinians were given two options: accept the reality of permanent incarceration in a mega-prison for a very long time, or risk the might of the strongest army in the Middle East. When the Palestinians did resist – as they did in 1987, 2000, 2006, 2012, 2014, and 2016 – they were targeted as soldiers and units of a conventional army. Thus, villages and towns were bombed as if they were military bases and the unarmed civilian population was shot at as if it was an army on the battlefield.

Today we know too much about life under occupation, before and after Oslo, to take seriously the claim that nonresistance will ensure less oppression. The arrests without trial, as experienced by so many over the years; the demolition of thousands of houses; the killing and wounding of the innocent; the drainage of water wells – these are all testimony to one of the harshest contemporary regimes of our times.

Amnesty International annually documents in a very comprehensive way the nature of the occupation. The following is from their 2015 report:

 

 

In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, Israeli forces committed unlawful killings of Palestinian civilians, including children, and detained thousands of Palestinians who protested against or otherwise opposed Israel’s continuing military occupation, holding hundreds in administrative detention. Torture and other ill-treatment remained rife and were committed with impunity.

The authorities continued to promote illegal settlements in the West Bank, and severely restricted Palestinians’ freedom of movement, further tightening restrictions amid an escalation of violence from October, which included attacks on Israeli civilians by Palestinians and apparent extrajudicial executions by Israeli forces. Israeli settlers in the West Bank attacked Palestinians and their property with virtual impunity. The Gaza Strip remained under an Israeli military blockade that imposed collective punishment on its inhabitants. The authorities continued to demolish Palestinian homes in the West Bank and inside Israel, particularly in Bedouin villages in the Negev/Naqab region, forcibly evicting their residents.

 

Let’s take this in stages. Firstly, assassinations – what Amnesty’s report calls “unlawful killings”: about fifteen thousand Palestinians have been killed “unlawfully” by Israel since 1967. Among them were two thousand children.

Imprisoning Palestinians Without Trial Is Not Democratic

Another feature of the “enlightened occupation” is imprisonment without trial. Every fifth Palestinian in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip has undergone such an experience.

It is interesting to compare this Israeli practice with similar American policies in the past and the present, as critics of the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (“BDS“) movement claim that US practices are far worse. In fact, the worst American example was the imprisonment without trial of one hundred thousand Japanese citizens during World War Two, with thirty thousand later detained under the so-called “war on terror”.

Neither of these numbers comes even close to the number of Palestinians who have experienced such a process: including the very young, the old, as well as the long-term incarcerated.

Arrest without trial is a traumatic experience. Not knowing the charges against you, having no contact with a lawyer and hardly any contact with your family are only some of the concerns that will affect you as a prisoner. More brutally, many of these arrests are used as means to pressure people into collaboration. Spreading rumors or shaming people for their alleged or real sexual orientation are also frequently used as methods for leveraging complicity.

As for torture, the reliable website Middle East Monitor published a harrowing article describing the two hundred methods used by the Israelis to torture Palestinians. The list is based on a UN report and a report from the Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem. Among other methods it includes beatings, chaining prisoners to doors or chairs for hours, pouring cold and hot water on them, pulling fingers apart, and twisting testicles.

What we must challenge here, therefore, is not only Israel’s claim to be maintaining an enlightened occupation but also its pretense to being a democracy. Such behavior towards millions of people under its rule gives the lie to such political chicanery.

However, although large sections of civil societies throughout the world deny Israel its pretense to democracy, their political elites, for a variety of reasons, still treat it as a member of the exclusive club of democratic states. In many ways, the popularity of the BDS movement reflects the frustrations of those societies with their governments’ policies towards Israel.

For most Israelis, these counterarguments are irrelevant at best and malicious at worst. The Israeli state clings to the view that it is a benevolent occupier. The argument for “enlightened occupation” proposes that, according to the average Jewish citizen in Israel, the Palestinians are much better off under occupation and they have no reason in the world to resist it, let alone by force. If you are a noncritical supporter of Israel abroad, you accept these assumptions as well.

There are, however, sections of Israeli society that do recognize the validity of some of the claims made here. In the 1990s, with various degrees of conviction, a significant number of Jewish academics, journalists, and artists voiced their doubts about the definition of Israel as a democracy.

It takes some courage to challenge the foundational myths of one’s own society and state. This is why quite a few of them later retreated from this brave position and returned to toeing the general line.

Nevertheless, for a while during the last decade of the last century, they produced works that challenged the assumption of a democratic Israel. They portrayed Israel as belonging to a different community: that of the nondemocratic nations. One of them, the geographer Oren Yiftachel from Ben-Gurion University, depicted Israel as an ethnocracy, a regime governing a mixed ethnic state with a legal and formal preference for one ethnic group over all the others. Others went further, labeling Israel an apartheid state or a settler-colonial state.

In short, whatever description these critical scholars offered, “democracy” was not among them.

_____

Ilan Pappe is an Israeli historian and socialist activist. He is a professor with the College of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of Exeter, director of the university’s European Centre for Palestine Studies, and co-director of the Exeter Centre for Ethno-Political Studies. Most recently, he is the author of Ten Myths About Israel (2017).

This article was originally published at https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/05/israel-palestine-democracy-apartheid-discrimination-settler-colonialism.

In accordance with Title 17 USC. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Information Clearing House has no affiliation whatsoever with the originator of this article nor is Information Clearing House endorsed or sponsored by the originator.

http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/49617.htm

Categories: Uncategorized

The Liberty Cover-up

by Charley Reese

In June 1967, in international waters, an American ship, the USS Liberty, came under attack by airplanes and torpedo boats from the state of Israel.

In an attack lasting more than two hours, the intelligence gathering ship was bombed, rocketed, strafed, napalmed, and torpedoed. As valiant crewmen fought the flames and rushing sea water, their life rafts and lifeboats were deliberately destroyed by Israeli gunfire. On that day, 34 Americans were killed, and 171 were wounded.

But that’s only the opening page of a mystery that reads like a Tom Clancy novel when you follow the events.

As the men pleaded for help, American planes were launched from a carrier – and then recalled on direct order from then-Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and President Lyndon Johnson. The men were left to die and the ship to sink for all McNamara and Johnson knew at the time. Why did they do that?

Orders to move about 100 miles away from the coast were mistakenly sent to the Philippines and never reached the Liberty. Yet orders to abort the rescue reached the carrier instantly.

A Navy court of inquiry was a whitewash – so bad, in fact, that a Navy legal officer in Washington refused to endorse it. Members of the crew were ordered to remain silent and were threatened with court-martial if they talked. They were broken up and sent to scattered assignments. So were the pilots involved in the aborted rescue mission. Why?

For the first time in American history, an attack on an American ship resulting in casualties was never investigated by Congress. A unit citation, issued in 1967, was never given to the crew until years later, and then in an unpublicized ceremony. The commanding officer was also belatedly given the Congressional Medal of Honor – quietly.

When the survivors of the Liberty finished their service in the Navy and were thus free to talk, they became targets of a campaign of vilification and have been called drunks, anti-Semites, and incompetents.

When a small town in Wisconsin decided to name its library in honor of the USS Liberty crewmen, a campaign claiming it was anti-Semitic was launched. And when the town went ahead, the US government ordered no Navy personnel to attend and sent no messages. This little library was the first and at the time the only, memorial to the men who died on the Liberty.

There are a number of outrages that remain to be resolved. Why did the US government publicly accept the Israeli claim that the attack was a mistake even though evidence now exists that it knew then that the attack was not a mistake? It’s easy to understand why the Israeli government lied about the attack, but why did the US government lie about it? Why does it continue to lie about it?

Why does the US government continue to classify much of the record? Why does McNamara now profess to remember nothing of his role in the affair? Why, if the attack really was a mistake, do Israel and its supporters oppose so strenuously a congressional inquiry? Why is Congress afraid to conduct the inquiry? Why have veterans been so viciously attacked by their fellow Americans?

A new book, The USS Liberty: Dissenting History vs Official History (1995), fairly examines the coverup. John Borne, who has taught American history, did the study for his doctoral dissertation at New York University. You can order it directly from him by writing John Borne, 41 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, New York 11238. I talked to Borne, and he will send you the book postage paid for $20. You can get more information on the Internet at http://www.ussliberty.com.

These survivors deserve the support of the American people. Will you stand by them?

Charley Reese is a syndicated columnist

http://ussliberty.org/reese.htm

Categories: Uncategorized

The Fed Boosts Wall Street, Not Main Street

by Nomi Prins

Truthdig (May 01 2018)


Former Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen. (Federalreserve / Wikimedia)

When Federal Reserve (“FED”) Chair Janet Yellen left her post in 2018, she secured a spot at the Brookings Institution, a century-old research “think-tank” in the heart of Washington, DC. Naturally, she also hit the speaking circuit. Her entree into the upper echelons of revolving-door politics came with a hefty fee.

At a swanky locale in the ultra-expensive Tribeca neighborhood in New York City, Yellen soothed a bunch of A-list elites, saying that inflation wasn’t so high and that rate increases wouldn’t come too quickly. In doing so, she was simply following in the footsteps of her predecessor, Ben Bernanke. After leaving the same post, Bernanke launched his speaking career with, among others, a speech in the United Arab Emirates for which he was paid $250,000. This topped his yearly income at the Fed by 25 percent in one go.

While Bernanke scored big in the Middle East, Yellen’s talk was closer to home. Welcome to Wall Street, Janet.

There was a reason for her landing in downtown Manhattan. She assured the well-coifed pack of one-percenters that she could speak only for herself – it was important to distinguish that she would not be a brand ambassador on behalf of her successor (and once-upon-a-time number two guy) Jerome Powell. Yet, she knew that somehow her words would escape into the public ether.

They would be comforting words for the financial moguls. For the top ten percent of the country that own 84 percent of the stock market, her remarks invoked confidence that the status quo of cheap money flowing from the Fed would be preserved. The boat would not be rocked. They could continue enjoying their meteoric rise from the depths of the financial crisis and know their money would remain safe after a decade of the Fed’s “quantitative easing” (“QE“) policies.

And let’s face it, the event went largely unnoticed. For Washington, the “Trump Show” is in town now. For Wall Street, even during the recent volatility waves, times are still relatively good. That’s why, especially now, understanding what is brewing inside and outside the Fed matters.

From the left to the right of the American political spectrum, few are questioning what the connection between the Fed’s largesse and the financial markets really means. The biggest banks have been experiencing largely unregulated, unlimited, support in the form of Fed policy that has nothing to do with saving, or helping, the Main Street economy.

You can look no further than the latest trend over the last year. The sheer record number of stock buybacks since the financial crisis in the banking sector and other corporate sectors is explosive. Heady stock market levels converted an influx of cheap money into a new kind of share value, one predicated on conjured capital.

Last year, the Fed blessed record stock buybacks for its members (private banks) without a word, let alone a demand, about using that money for true Main Street pursuits. The current Fed leader, Jerome Powell, and other incoming high-level Fed appointees have taken that a step further. They have now indicated that they want to further loosen the rules over what banks can do.

This year alone, the ongoing central bank policy (even with a few rate hikes along the way) is on pace to fuel over $1 trillion worth of US S&P 500 corporate stock repurchases. This signals that if a bank – or major company – obtains minimal interest rates when borrowing money, they will borrow more.

They have and will continue to use that fresh debt to buy their own stocks, catapulting their CEOs and executives to ever higher compensation levels. Meanwhile, the taxpayers of America are left with a shrinking middle class and diminished economic upward mobility.

The Shaky Feeling of Being Left Behind

All of this central bank fabrication and market-focused abundance hasn’t reached the masses. According to a new report by Morning Consult, more than half of all Americans are still feeling a squeeze that they attribute to – as I like to call it, post-financial crisis stress syndrome (“PFCSD“). The middle-class respondents feel the impact the most.

And who did they blame for the recession and economic anxiety? It was nearly a tie – with 73 percent of respondents blaming the politicians and a smidge more than 72 percent blaming the big banks. Contrary to the cheery economist prognosis from the Trump administration and the Fed, 65 percent of those Americans surveyed were worried about another near-future downturn. As a result, they were trying to keep a lid on their own debt accumulation. But for average Americans, debt comes at a far greater cost than it does for banks and corporations.

The scary thing is that household debt is hovering near record highs. The likelihood of a negative impact to people already living on the edge has been baked into the cake of ten years of emergency cheap money policy that ignited credit card use to make up for stagnant wages and jobs with low benefits.

Central Bank Collusion

The polices that major global central banks – led by the US and embraced by Europe, Japan, and England in particular – enacted in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis represented no free lunch. Everything has a price. The issue now is: Who pays? You can rest assured it won’t be the megabanks. Wall Street banks gamed the system, received bailouts, inhaled cheap money, paid minimal fines, and carried on with business as usual.

By fabricating trillions of dollars to lavish on the banking system, the consequences (some unintended, or willfully ignored) have real-world repercussions. Central banks became the world’s largest portfolio managers. They boosted asset prices by falsifying demand as a new class of buyers for them.

The prices of those assets rose, and the amount of debt-oriented assets created to fill the demand of those that wanted to purchase them increased as well. Conjured money inflated our asset bubble world. Bubbles can do two things – grow or pop.

Central bank leaders deemed their policies positive for the broad economy. Yet, reports over the years indicated that inequality has grown since QE began. The top ten percent of income earners have become wealthier and more invested in bubble assets, while the bottom ninety percent have not.

Easy Money Makes Bankers Friends, Life Harder for Others

Since QE went global, the Bank of England, for one, has often had to defend itself from accusations that its policies have increased inequality. A recent study concluded that “nine years of asset purchases that pumped 375 billion pounds ($527 billion) into a faltering world economy didn’t widen inequality after all”.

Although the British central bank does acknowledge that some measures of inequality arose, it stressed that accommodative monetary policy had only a “marginal impact” on that rise. The analysis simply misses the point. Net wealth at the top increased as asset bubbles fueled by QE inflated further.

By sheer math, we can see that those who had access to QE rode the policy to greater gains while everyday citizens struggling to get by did not. They were not a part of the magical relationship between central banks, private banks, and markets. That’s the definition of inequality. The rich get richer and everyone else – doesn’t.

In the US, the top ten percent hold about half of their wealth in financial assets, such as stocks and bonds, whereas the bottom 25 percent of the population has more debt than assets. Even the Fed acknowledged that the distribution of wealth has “grown increasingly unequal in recent years”.

In addition, a major recent study from the Bank for International Settlements (or BIS, the central bank of central banks) only confirmed these results. The BIS found that US has become more economically divided, partly because QE has driven financial asset levels higher. That drastic rise in financial assets outpaced the values of savings or median-priced homes, which are critical to lower- and middle-income household wealth accumulation.

Central banks highlight the fact that inflation in the major developed economies hasn’t gone off the charts yet. By making such a claim, they can justify their policies of keeping rates low. But, there has been inflation – in the cost of living versus wages, the cost of healthcare, education, and rents – as well as in those asset values inflated by reams of cheap money.

Meanwhile, not only were big Wall Street banks saved in the wake of the financial crisis, but they’ve clawed back from the abyss and made a killing. Last quarter, most of them posted record profits to kick off the latest earnings season.

Not only that, their profits weren’t just attributable to all the money from the Fed. They got another gift from Washington packaged in the tax law President Trump signed in December 2017.

The new tax law collectively allowed the Big Six banks to save an estimated $3.59 billion during the first three months of 2018. Whereas the average person might have noticed a small drop, or none at all, in tax cuts, the big banks took stellar advantage of what JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon refers to as another round of QE.

A Reversal Could Be Bad, Too

The major central banks have collectively bought $21 trillion worth of assets over the past decade in their quest to keep rates low and asset prices high. The distortive effect of that injection of fabricated money has a multiplying effect. Its biggest trigger has been the borrowing wave.

The Fed’s QE defense – from Ben Bernanke to Janet Yellen to Jerome Powell (the first two from the Obama, and last from the Trump, administration) – is that their actions prevented a Great Depression. They converted a Great Recession into near “full” employment, which should be an income inequality reducer. But near full employment measures today belie the quality and stability of jobs as well as this bubble effect and grossly subsidized financial system.

Artificially stimulated markets are dangerous because they are built on flimsy foundations that rely on a constant supply of cheap money. Companies that borrowed money in order to buy stocks didn’t have to worry about demonstrating concrete signs of strength. They took on loans and borrowed cheap funds without a real, growth-oriented plan. They had no concern for building higher wages, providing better employee benefits, or focusing on business development and long-term stability.

The Fed is Wrong

The BIS has noted the link between the QE of its own central banks and inequality for some time. In March 2016, the body reported that:

 

 

Our simulation suggests that wealth inequality has risen since the Great Financial Crisis. While low-interest rates and rising bond prices have had a negligible impact on wealth inequality, rising equity prices have been a key driver of inequality. A recovery in house prices has only partly offset this effect. Abstracting from general equilibrium effects on savings, borrowing, and human wealth, this suggests that monetary policy may have added to inequality to the extent that it has boosted equity prices.

 

The Fed and other central banks remain in denial. To best understand this negligent position, we can look at the banker who was in charge during the crisis. “The degree of inequality we see today is primarily the result of deep structural changes in our economy that have taken place over many years”, said former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke at a Brookings Institute symposium in 2015.

The statement came just before the Fed began raising rates as slowly as possible – to not upset the asset bubble equilibrium. Bernanke added: “By comparison to the influence of these long-term factors, the effects of monetary policy on inequality are almost certainly modest and transient”.

It’s true that economic inequality didn’t start at the 2008 crisis, and other factors continually bear upon it. But what the central banks did exacerbated the problem over the past decade – as concluded by the Fed’s own analysis.

The Fed and central banks have colluded in the most grandiose fashion. They have set the stage for a more devastating collapse the next time around, because it will be from a higher height of fabricated money. Sadly, it will also give way to even greater inequality than before.

When these institutions reverse their policies, or the financial system implodes again under the weight of risky practices in a largely unreformed banking system, it will be those at the bottom that suffer the most. All the while, those at the top – and their supposed regulators – will again manifest a solution for conjuring money, one that secures their own future at our expense.

Today, central bank collusion is nothing more than a massive “trickle down” subsidy for the financial system and promises for the masses. Only the money doesn’t trickle down, it remains confined to the private banks, central banks, and the markets.

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Nomi Prins biography: https://www.truthdig.com/author/nomi_prins/#author-bio

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/the-fed-the-bad-and-the-inequality/

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