Category: US / Them
Inspired in part by popular uprisings in North Africa, the Middle East and Europe, the “Occupy Wall St.” has managed to maintain a presence in NY’s financial district for 10 days. Meanwhile, corporatist/nationalist “mainstream” media ignores the movement as the police brutally crack down on the non-violent mostly young protesters.
Anthropologist and Activist David Graeber (whose books I highly recommend) has an essay in the Guardian suggesting that what we are watching are “the beginnings of the defiant self-assertion of a new generation of Americans” who are demanding “a conversation we were all supposed to have back in 2008″:
There was a moment, after the near-collapse of the world’s financial architecture, when anything seemed possible…
It seemed the time had come to rethink everything: the very nature of markets, money, debt; to ask what an “economy” is actually for. This lasted perhaps two weeks. Then, in one of the most colossal failures of nerve in history, we all collectively clapped our hands over our ears and tried to put things back as close as possible to the way they’d been before.
Meanwhile, members of the emerging defiant generation who take action against Wall St. crime are met, predictably, with the heavy cloven hoof of the pigs — witness this video of these peaceful young women getting corralled and pepper-spayed for daring to express their 1st Amendment Rights:
NYPD spokesliar Paul Browne asserted that this use of pepper spray was “appropriate“.
Various other coverage on the Web:
- Buzzfeed has posted 32 Pictures from the protests, highlighting NYPD brutality against the protesters.
- DemocracyNow ran a segment this morning which including interviews of women battered, pepper-sprayed and encaged by the police.
- Current TV’s K. Olberman has a segment about the “mainstream media” blackout and on why Tea Party protests of similar size get headlines.
- BaNewsNotes has some interesting discussion about some of the images coming out of the conflict.
A solidarity movement is starting to manifest in Los Angeles (#OccupyLA), with a demonstration planned today (Monday) at 2Pm at Santa Monica and Crescent Heights to coincide with Obama’s fundraising visit.
Local Activists are also planning an occupation of Downtown beginning October 1.
The Decennial of 9-11 has come and gone, and the nationalist narrative of victimhood continues to be cynically employed by political elites to justify the incoherent and expanding Global War On Terror, originally a radical neocon enterprise that has been continued and defended and rendered into bipartisan consensus by a thoroughly corrupt Imperial Figurehead, who absurdly but dutifully declares that the past decade of war and war crimes and surveillance and detentions and economic crises have “made America stronger.”
Another way to describe this state of strength is as a state of exception of political leaders from established domestic and international law in pursuit of domestic and international wars of aggression — wars that have already spilled more innocent blood than could ever have been hoped for by the most misanthropic nihilist among the leadership of al-Qaeda.
Still, establishment liberals are given room in the New York Times to lament how “memory of 9/11 has been irrevocably poisoned” because of how it was used by “fake heroes” like George Bush et. al. “to cash in on the horror” and “justify an unrelated war the neocons wanted to fight, for all the wrong reasons.”
Such sentiments are nonetheless attacked even by mouthpieces of the left for politicizing such a somber occasion, as if “9-11 Day” wasn’t thoroughly politicized already.
The current administration defends the prior administration’s torture regime from legal accountability, according to its Orwellian “look forward, not backward” position — a position that only applies to political and economic elites, it should go without saying.
Mike Davis, author of the indispensable L.A. history City of Quartz, asks a question that answers itself:
Indeed, from the perspective of the future, which will be deemed the greater crime: to have created the Guantanamo nightmare in the first place, or to have preserved it in contempt of global popular opinion and one’s own campaign promises?
And not only is the torture regime of the prior administration defended, but torture itself, despite the Nobel Peace Laureate’s prohibition, continues to be outsourced to Afghan militias or Somali Black Sites, etc.
With the recent capitulation in the face of small government, “free-market” ideologues, Obama continues in the grand tradition of corporate spokesliars like Ronald Reagan, who use popularly endearing personalities as cover for regressive transferals of wealth.
Nothing encapsulates the subservience of these U.S. Presidents to their corporate financiers like the moment, captured in a brilliant segment of M. Moore’s Capitalism, in which then-chairman of Merrill Lynch literally whispers directives into Reagan’s ear.
Reagan went on to preside over the “wholesale dismantling of our industrial infrastructure” for the “sake of short term profits.”
Reagan began with the evisceration of the labor unions, infamously firing every member of the air traffic controllers union after they had been on strike for two days. Moore identifies this moment as “The Day the Middle Class Died“.
But he lays ultimate responsibility for the calamity not on Reagan or his puppet-masters — they were just looking after their own interests after all — but on the lack of solidarity among the other labor unions who refused to fight:
The biggest organization of unions in America told its members to cross the picket lines of the air traffic controllers and go to work. And that’s just what these union members did. Union pilots, flight attendants, delivery truck drivers, baggage handlers — they all crossed the line and helped to break the strike. And union members of all stripes crossed the picket lines and continued to fly.
Reagan and Wall Street could not believe their eyes! Hundreds of thousands of working people and union members endorsing the firing of fellow union members. It was Christmas in August for Corporate America.
And that was the beginning of the end. Reagan and the Republicans knew they could get away with anything — and they did.
(At MotherJones, btw, Kevin Drum looks at the numbers over the past decades to show why unions matter, not only for unionized employees but for non-unionized workers as well. The punchline: Sociological studies show that in the absence of strong labor unions, income inequality grows and the political clout of the middle class shrinks.)
Popular capitulation in the face of this rightward shift took a brief respite as a result of the outrageous excesses of the most recent Bush presidency — millions took to the streets in the run up to the invasion of Iraq, for example. And while Democratic Party leaders, fearful of not “supporting the troops”, colluded with the Bush regime at every dark step, there was at least the pretense that they stood in opposition to aggressive war, secret prisons, government surveillance and the like. And when Bush tried to gut new deal social programs by privatizing them, the Unions, as weak as they had become relative to the decades preceding Reagan, blocked his plans.
“But since 2008 a Democratic president has neutralized all these constituencies,” laments A. Cockburn at Counterpunch.
Indeed, those to the left of pro-war free-market ideologues who run this country have no appetite for taking the current imperial spokesmodel to task. Why? Because he is “the first black president”, or because “he is doing the best he can”, or because they fear who might succeed him if he is defeated in the next election.
This reflexive support for Obama leads Cockburn to the ironic conclusion that “the best outcome for the left in 2008 would have been a victory for McCain, Obama’s Republican opponent”:
McCain! But, you wail, he would have plunged America into new wars, kept Guantanamo open, launched an onslaught on entitlements, surrendered to Wall Street and the banks…
McCain would have tried all these things, but maybe he would have quailed amid a storm of public protest.
The lesson, I think, is that what is essential is a principled, rather than partisan, opposition to Imperial theft and violence. And this means an opposition that remains alive even when the office of the President is filled by a person whose surface qualities — their party affiliation, their skin tone, their oratory skill — one finds appealing.
Ultimately it is this popular capitulation of principle that allows officeholders to betray their constituencies. If they can take your vote for granted, there is no need to be concerned about your interests.
As the the U.S. Congress and President negotiate about whether to pay its bills and which social programs to cut, funding for secret prisons and killer robots continue unabated.
Jeremy Scahill recently broke a story about a CIA secret prison in Mogadishu, where “terror suspects” are rendered for extra-legal storage and interrogation.
As usual following such stories exposing imperial wrongdoing, “news” media sycophants are then deployed to spin the facts by uncritically quoting anonymous government officials.
This Mogadishu CIA black site prison is just part of the larger story of the “Global War On Terror”, began by Bush 43 and continued by Obama, albeit without reference to Bush’s absurd title.
Sauron’s gaze now turns to the not-so-green pastures of Yemen and Somalia, sending forth riderless fell-beasts to spy on and kill those within proximity of those suspected of standing against the Imperial Will:
The Obama administration has escalated the existing drone program and begun a new CIA drone campaign in Yemen (one that just killed numerous people over the weekend); it also, contrary to public denials, provided the arms to Saudi Arabia to attack a rebel group in Northern Yemen. Yemen is also the justification for Obama’s attempt to institutionalize a due-process-free assassination program aimed at U.S. citizens. The administration just commenced a separate drone campaign in Somalia.
Presumably, these not-so-new targets of U.S. beneficence will suffer the same drone inflicted civilian slaughterings that regularly transpire (despite denials by government spokesliars) in the other terror war fronts.
Over the weekend, the Frontline Club hosted a discusssion moderated by Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow! between Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and the Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek.
The discussion ranged over wide territory, but in this post I want to focus on one particular theme that emerged, namely the relativity and ideological function of the term “terrorism”.
After Goodman listed and quoted various North American politicos (Gingrich, Biden, etc.) who have accused Assange of “terrorism” (some even calling for his assassination), Žižek, in his characteristically provocative way, effectively suggested that Assange embrace the designation since it puts him in a category with Gandhi. Speaking to Assange, Žižek says:
Yes, you are a terrorist! In which sense? In the sense, as I like to repeat, Gandhi was a terrorist…. In what sense was Gandhi a terrorist? He effectively tried to stop — interrupt — the normal functioning of the British State in India. And of course you are trying to interrupt the normal (which is very oppressive) functioning of the information circulation and so on.
Of course, the “terrorism” of which Žižek accuses Assange can only be understood in relation to that other type of terrorism against which it is directed. Žižek makes this point by way of a paraphrase of “that wonderful line” from Bertolt Brecht’s Beggar’s Opera, “What is robbing a bank compared to founding a new bank?”. Žižek:
What is your “terrorism” compared to the terrorism which we simply accept, which has to go on day by day so that just things remain the way they are? That’s were ideology holds us. When we talk about “violence”, “terrorism” — we always think about acts which interrupt the normal run of things. But what about violence which has to be here in order for things to function the way they are? So I think if (and I am very skeptical about it) we should use (in my provocative spirit I’m tempted to) the term “terrorism”, its strictly a reaction to a much stronger terrorism which is here. So, again, instead of engaging in this moralistic game — oh no, he is a good guy (like the Stalinists said about Lenin), you like small children, you play with cats, you wouldn’t (as Norman Bates says in Psycho) wouldn’t hurt even a fly. No! You are in this formal sense a terrorist.
But if you are a terrorist — my God! — what are then they who accuse you of terrorism?
Žižek’s point can be generalized to others who have been accused of “terrorism”.
Consider, for example, environmental activism:
Consider, moreover, the various insurgencies against the U.S. military occupations of Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.
To take a specific example, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell refers to Waad Ramadan Alwan and Mohanad Shareef Hammadi as terrorists. Their crime? Working with and supporting a domestic insurgency against a foreign army that has invaded and occupied their country. Greenwald highlights the absurdity of labeling them terrorists:
One can have a range of views about the morality and justifiability of Iraqi nationals attacking U.S. troops in their country. One could say that it is the right of Iraqis to attack a foreign army brutally invading and occupying their nation, just as Americans would presumably do against a foreign army invading their country (at least those who don’t share Mitch McConnell’s paralyzing fears and cowardice). Or one could say that it is inherently wrong and evil to attack U.S. troops no matter what they’re doing or where they are in the world, even when waging war in a foreign country that is killing large numbers of innocent civilians. Or one could say that the American war in Iraq in particular was such a noble effort to spread Freedom and Democracy that only an evil person would fight against it. Or one could say that it’s always wrong for a non-state actor to engage in violence (a very convenient standard for the U.S., given that very few nations around the world could resist U.S. force without reliance on such unconventional means). And one can recognize that most nations, not only the U.S., would apprehend those engaged in attacks against their troops.
But whatever one’s views are on those moral questions, in what conceivable sense can it be called “Terrorism” for a citizen of a country to fight against foreign invading troops by attacking purely military targets?
But even if it made sense to label insurgents against an occupying army “terrorists”, to return to the Brecht/Žižek question, what is arming an insurgency to a war of aggression?
After the Gulf of Tonkin, Iraqi Aluminum Tubes, Nigerian Yellowcake, The Escape of Jessica Lynch, The Death of Pat Tillman, and many other war justifying and glorifying fictions, it is unreasonable not to look askance at U.S. Government announcements regarding Imperial Threats and Milestones — especially when elements of these announcements are demonstrated at once to be false, or at least embarrassingly incoherent.
Curiously, several false claims regarding the Assassination of bin Laden had to be publicly corrected by the Government itself, even after establishment media had dutifully parroted them: No, actually bin Laden wasn’t armed. No, he did not use his wife as a human shield. No, there was no 40 minute gun battle, only one armed man in a guest house. (But maybe not even that.) And no, this wasn’t a “capture or kill mission” but a “kill mission”.
Other claims fell to minimal scrutiny. The claim that bin Laden was buried at sea “in accordance with Islamic practice and tradition” could be easily debunked by anyone who bothered to look up what the Qu’ran actually says. And why, in any case, would the U.S. go out of its way to respect bin Laden’s religious sentiments, especially after putting two holes in his head?
Another absurdity: That the U.S. won’t release documentary photos of bin Laden’s body, so as not to incite violence – “because that’s not who we are” — as if the world (outside of the U.S.) is not regularly exposed to photographic evidence of civilians slaughtered as a result of U.S. military operations.
But perhaps the most insidious lie was uttered by the President himself, who asserted that assassinating an old man in his pajamas “is a testament to the greatness of our country” — despite the hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths and the decade of misdirected, proliferating war leading up to this glorious event.
Reuters did manage to acquire some photos of the bodies left behind by the kill team in the hours following the assassination:
Remember when Bush rejected a Taliban offer to surrender bin Laden way back at the beginning of the Terror War?
Do the Gitmo Files show that the U.S. knew where Osama was since 2005?
And, for good measure, some embarrassing morons:
The case of Bradley Manning has exposed much about the hypocrisy and incoherence of the Obama White house.
After Manning had spent the better part of a year in 23-hour-a-day solitary confinement, much of which time stripped naked and constantly surveilled — all without trail — Obama, the former Constitutional Law professor, assured the press that he had checked with the Pentagon, which assured him that everything being done to Manning was “appropriate”.
It is hard not to concur with IOZ’s assessment, who characterizes Obama’s response to Manning’s pre-trial torture as “the blithe indifference of a busy manager signing off on some subordinate’s expense report”, and as Obama himself as “an asshole of the worst order” who, though he doesn’t “delight in cruelty like his predecessor”, is nevertheless “grossly indifferent to it”.
Since then, the U.S. King Commander of Chief has publicly judged Manning to be guilty without trial, in the same breath as he maintained that the U.S. is a nation of laws. This is especially disturbing because even if Manning ever gets to have a trial, he will be judged by Obama’s subordinates. Greenwald asks: “How can Manning possibly expect to receive a fair hearing from military officers when their Commander-in-Chief has already decreed his guilt?”
Something about this situation reminds me of Prince Buster’s Judge Dread (as well as Megacity One’s Judge Dredd):
i want people to see the truth . . . regardless of who they are . . . because without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public.
This weekend, Democratic partisans have been beaming that Obama was able to best birthers in a war of wits at the White House Correspondents’ dinner. But after his war on whistle-blowers, and especially the pre-trial detention, torture and judgment of Manning, the funniest line might have been when the President praised the “daring men and women” who “risk their lives for the simple idea that no one should be silenced and everyone deserves to know the truth.”
Although Manning is now being transferred to medium security prison in Kansas, the Pentagon is planning on holding Manning in “pre-trial confinement” for the indefinite future.
The Obama White house has tried to banish reporters from official print pools for merely reporting on a protest in support of Bradley Manning.
Here is the Pentagon Papers leaker Daniel Ellsberg discussing Obama and Manning.
Although he continues to avoid referring to the killing of 1.5 million Armenians in such terms, Obama used the specter of “genocide” to justify U.S. military intervention into Libya. But historian A. Kuperman argues that this is an exaggeration that served as (another) false pretense for war. No genocide has taken place in cities that Gaddafi did recapture, he argues, and neither did Gaddafi “ever threaten civilian massacre in Benghazi, as Obama alleged”:
The “no mercy’’ warning, of March 17, targeted rebels only, as reported by The New York Times, which noted that Libya’s leader promised amnesty for those “who throw their weapons away.’’ Khadafy even offered the rebels an escape route and open border to Egypt, to avoid a fight “to the bitter end.’’
False pretenses for war are routine, sadly, but by prolonging the conflict — Admiral Mullen thinks it is “moving toward a stalemate” — the number of civilians killed will steadily rise and likely overtake what might have transpired as a result of Gaddafi’s fight against domestic insurgents.
Nothing symbolizes more acutely the dark matrix of corporate hegemony, war, lies, unaccountability, torture and secrecy than the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq 8 years ago.
This weekend, as the U.S. Executive Branch (without Congressional approval) began bombarding yet another oil rich predominantly Muslim country, Los Angeles joined other cities in protest to mark the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, a “supreme international crime” according to principles laid out by the International Tribunal at Nuremberg after World War II.
As I did last year, I documented the event in video. This year the most compelling speaker was Mike Prysner, an Iraq War Vet and co-founder of March Forward!, a anti-war veterans group. Here is a recording I made of his speech at the rally, edited with time lapse video of the protest march:
The AP reported that “hundreds” of people marched, but the time lapse sequences seem to indicate more. Looks like at least a few thousand to me.
Meanwhile, in D.C., Daniel Ellsberg and about 100 others were arrested in protests outside the White House.