The Algerian Warning

Ignored by the West at its peril, dismissed as a unique case of both Islamist and regime viciousness, Algeria can also be viewed as a warning to the comfortable West of things to come: Algeria the neo-liberal showcase. Continue reading


Venezuela: Victim or Target?

Washington, Bogota, and Caracas agree that the cocaine that used to be exported from Colombia to the U.S. is now being exported from Venezuela to the U.S. A decade of U.S. arms and money has apparently just moved the drug gangs’ headquarters to a neighboring piece of jungle. MSM rhetoric has a profound anti-Venezuelan bias. As Washington appears to be shifting its focus from the Mideast to Latin America, will Venezuela be treated as victim or target?

From the Wall St. Journal, the classic mouthpiece of the U.S. corporate elite, we are informed that Hugo Chavez is funding social programs to provide free housing and food to the poor. The Wall St. Journal does not see fit to point out that things are much better in the U.S., where some ten million of those citizens made newly poor by banker mortgage fraud and Wall St. financial “irresponsibility” (the most delicate and polite word I can think of) have effectively been defined as “superfluous” in a country swept up in the passion of electoral rhetoric about maintaining the position of the nation’s treasured super-rich capitalist class (considered to be 0.1% of the population, perhaps similar in size to the real ruling class of Venezuela in pre-Chavez days). Since the Wall St. Journal of course cannot imagine a leader actually wanting to help the poor escape from a life of poverty to which they have been condemned by virtue of an economic system run by the rich and for the rich, it concludes that the only reason Chavez is helping them is “to shore up support” for his own upcoming election.
No criticism of the Wall St. Journal is intended here. After all, that newspaper is naturally accustomed to operating in the U.S., where politicians shore up support for re-election not by handing out money to the poor but by declaring themselves “pro-business.” For an example of being “pro-business,” one need only think of the new pro-Monsanto president of Paraguay, just installed by a smooth little afternoon impeachment.
The Wall St. Journal soundly rebukes the hapless populist president of Venezuela by quoting a Venezuelan broker…kind of like asking Jamie Dimon for an assessment of the 2010 financial reform legislation. I guess that settles that.
The Wall St. Journal overlooked one point – the growing Latin trade bloc Mercosur just announced that Venezuela has been invited to join. Perhaps there is hope for Venezuela’s economy, burdened by the legacy of impoverishment resulting from the long tradition of rule by the rich and, for whatever complex set of reasons, the failure of Chavez’ economic policy completely to overcome that legacy despite the enormous progress he has made (according to the UN):

from 2002 to 2010, poverty was reduced by 20.8 percent, descending from 48.6 percent to 27.8 percent, while extreme poverty went from 22.2 percent to 10.7 percent, which translates to a reduction of 11.5 percent.

The Wall St. Journal also failed to note the impact on Venezuela’s government budget of defending itself against the Colombian cocaine gangs that have flourished during the U.S.-supported civil war against the FARC. Venezuela just arrested a Colombian drug dealer living in Venezuela in a joint U.S.-Colombian-Venezuelan effort. Will Washington now provide Venezuela with economic aid in gratitude? The arrested drug dealer had formerly been a member of the “paramilitaries,” according to Fox News—that is, the AUC, the paramilitary organization supporting Bogota in the civil war while Bogota was the recipient of massive amounts of U.S. aid. He was, according to Fox News:

the leader of the “Rastrojos,” or Leftovers, a violent offshoot of the Norte del Valle cartel that engages in drug trafficking, extortion and murder as it competes with other criminal bands that grew out of the far-right militias known as paramilitaries.

Fox News did not describe the past relationship between the paramilitaries and the government of Colombia (though it did briefly review that history in a previous article), nor did any of the articles referenced here dwell on the history of U.S. treatment of Chavez.

Washington’s response, instead, may be signaled by a scary piece in the New York Times on July 27 that portrays Venezuela as the source of a (bright red, in the enclosed graphic) flood of cocaine headed for the U.S. So it may be; all sides appear in complete agreement that Colombian drug gangs are solidly entrenched in Venezuela after a decade of U.S. support for Bogota in its civil war against the poor and a decade of U.S. hostility toward the populist regime in Venezuela. The question is:

How is it that all the flood of U.S. money and arms to Bogota in recent years served not to end the flow of cocaine north but simply to divert it from the Colombian jungle next door to the Venezuelan jungle?

Globalizing Paraguay

After decades of oppression, a reformist president was finally elected in Paraguay, only to be suddenly impeached last month. In the ensuing five weeks, Paraguay has rushed to open the country to the U.S. military and controversial U.S. corporations.

In what had all the appearance of a blatant kangaroo court, the elite-controlled parliament of Paraguay voted on June 22, 2012to impeach the reformist president, giving the president’s lawyers two hours to present their defense. [Telegraph, 6/23/12.] Ousted President Lugo championed land reform, albeit without major success. Surprisingly, Vice President Franco, who automatically replaced him, is already claiming successes on land reform, though with a statistically insignificant number of farmers so far. 

Vastly more important to Paraguayan society and democracy, however, are the contradictory signs of Franco cosying up to international corporations. He has already met with U.S. oil and Canadian mining companies and spoken out against “las invasions de tierras,” presumably code words for signaling that when poor farmers protest former theft of their lands by the rich, Franco will support the rich. Coincidentally, U.S. oil interests center on Chaco, according to a company spokesperson, the Paraguayan region that the U.S. military currently has an interest in (see below). And suddenly the new, temporary president is “accelerating” the decision-making process on the admission of foreign companies, a move that former President Lugo had been examining for its potential environmental and social threats. The proposed deal with a Canadian mining company alone would use an amount of electricity equal to that of 9.6 million people and be subsidized by Paraguayan taxpayers, according to a Paraguayan social research institute. Simultaneously, Franco has suddenly opened Paraguay to Monsanto’s infamous seeds that “require an expensive regimen of pesticides, and must be fertilized and watered according to precise timetables.”  With elections scheduled for April, private interests are evidently desperate to push through these deal.
Opponents of Lugo in Congress accused Venezuela’s ambassador of interfering in the impeachment process by inciting the Paraguayan military to revolt.
The questions at this point include at least the following:
  1. Was Lugo fired for trying to redress historical elite theft of land from farmers?
  2. Do Franco’s tiny initial land reform achievements forecast a real land reform policy?
  3. Why is the elite in such a rush to give foreign companies access to Paraguayan resources and put farmers under Monsanto’s control?
  4. Is Washington playing the Honduras game  {updated text: old game} of sabotaging democracy, and, if so, why?

[Update: According to evidence provided by Wikileaks (!), as quoted in The Nation, evidently there was no “Honduras game,” at least in the sense that Washington did not provoke the coup, whatever its post-coup tolerance or support may have been. The reference to Honduras in Ques. 4 is thus my error and hence deleted.–WM]

Washington’s Role
Paraguay’s elimination of traditional dictatorship in favor of a supporter of land reform made the country a natural target for U.S. imperialists, and U.S. officials have reportedly been concerned about Lugo’s independent attitude toward U.S. military involvement in his country. [Nikolas Kozloff in Al-Jazeera 07/08/12.] Kozloff describes the Bush Administration’s attitude toward Paraguay in clearly imperialist terms:

the Bush White House was careful to employ the stick, bluntly informing Asunción that if the authorities failed to host US troops then Washington would cut off millions in aid. 

In the event, such threats were probably unnecessary: a right wing Colorado government proved all too willing to comply, and, in May 2005, the Paraguayan Senate dutifully approved entry of US troops, granting the forces total immunity from local jurisdiction.

After Lugo was elected, he publicly rejected a new US proposal to send troops to Paraguay. The U.S. ambassador responded that the military deployment would have been for “humanitarian reasons,” without explaining why armed troops were the appropriate method of providing “medical” aid. Whatever the reasons, the fact is that Obama, not just Bush, has been pushing hard to expand the U.S. military presence in southern South America.
Argentina. In the spring of 2012, the U.S. inaugurated a military facility in Argentina, according to a Southern Command spokesperson (as quoted in Argenine media). As protests occurred in an Argentina that still remembers with horror the vicious U.S.-supported fascist dictatorship, the U.S. Embassy denied it was in fact a military base. According to Argentine writer Walter Goobar:

the province of El Chaco is of great importance for several reasons. “In this specific case, (a base) gives the Southern Command control over a strategic area where the borders of Argentina, Braziland Paraguayconverge and where the famous Guarani Aquifer flows.” As it loses political leadership in South America, the United Statesneeds a territorial kind of control ; Goobar adds that “the installation of bases in El Chaco and in Chilewill also allow for the recruitment of local forces in order to have them under its command and on its payroll.”

Chile. Meanwhile, Southern Command has admitted that it has opened a new base in Chile. With an unbelievable display of crassness, the base will be used to train the Chilean Army in urban warfare, which can hardly help but be seen in Chile as a direct threat of a return to the Pinochet days of fascist violence.  
Paraguay. Precisely as Lugo was being impeached, a group of U.S. generals was reportedly in Paraguay negotiating the establishment of a new base there, with local conservatives proclaiming the “threat” to Paraguay posed by Bolivia’s new “military arms race.” The speaker, Paraguayan Congress head of the Commission on Defense Jose Lopez Chavez helped organize the impeachment of Lugo, has ties to “former coup leader and retired general Lino Oviedo,” and reportedly met with the U.S. delegation of generals. Coincidence is of course possible. Chavez was Oviedo’s lawyer representing him concerning charges that he masterminded the murder of an ex-vice president of Paraguay in 1999 and member of Oviedo’s party Unace.
A month after leading the successful campaign to impeach Lugo, on July 29, Chavez introduced a motion that carried in the Congress’s lower house to impeach the defense minister on debatable charges, only three months after he had first been threatened with impeachment charges for criticizing the U.S. ambassador by letter for “interfering in” the internal affairs of Paraguay.
Paraguay already hosts what is widely reported in the media to be a U.S. air force base, at Mariscal Estigarribia, featuring an impressive air base (photo) and bizarrely located in the same region as an enormous, 98,000-acre ranch reportedly purchased by George W. Bush. If Washington is indeed as fearful of Hezbollah and Iranian activities in the region as some militaristic conservatives claim, one can only wonder why the Bush family would wish to live there. Stridently pro-Netanyahu Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, for example, has ominously referred to “nefarious activities” by Iran in the region including (how dare they?) a Spanish-language TV network.
Meanwhile, Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay have banned Paraguay from participating in their joint trade group until it holds elections to legalize the post-impeachment regime, and have admitted Venezuela, thus seeming to respond to Washington’s military initiative with an economic countermove to bolster Latin independence.
In sum, while the U.S. superpower is clearly working hard to expand military involvement in southern South America, as far as Paraguay is concerned, two hypotheses have supportive evidence:
  1. In an attempt to get U.S. soldiers on the ground in Paraguay to minimize Iranian or Hezbollah influence, Washington is coordinating with factions in the Paraguayan military and elitist political supporters of the military to return Paraguay to pro-U.S. dictatorship.
  1. While more than willing to use its excess soldiers to provide humanitarian assistance, the U.S. is being drawn into domestic Paraguanan politics by sly Paraguayan military officers and elitist politicians who, eager to simultaneously prevent social reform and give tiny Paraguay a larger regional military role, are playing up the ever-present fear in Washington of independence-minded Latin populism.
The U.S. Military in South America:

Latin America, it seems, will participate fully in U.S. global military plans. Even according to DoD, which no doubt omits many off-budget items, U.S. military spending has been explodingrising exponentially both since the end of the Cold War and despite the U.S. retreat from Iraq.
Figures out through 2013 show a slight drop that still leave the budget more than $100 M above its level in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
That budget evidently remains sufficient for a wave of expansion into one of the most peaceful regions on earth, despite the raging conflicts throughout the Muslim world, the rising power of China, and continuing recession back in the U.S.

Further Reading:

Paraguayan Landowners’ War on Farmers


The famous letter sent by Cheney and others to the White House late in Clinton’s presidency advocating a global “take charge” foreign policy made quite clear the kind of America the neo-cons wanted and for a decade they got it: violence amazingly profitable for a handful of CEOs, vast losses of U.S. blood and treasure, and a string of Muslim societies trashed and radicalized. What kind of Americaequivocating Obama wants still remains a mystery, and his Iranpolicy does little to solve that mystery.

If Obama wants to shine an American beacon of hope to all aspiring to peace and democracy, his careful avoidance of a positive-sum outcome in relations with Iranis likely to be the death knell of such aspirations. Whether Iran is even half as significant as Washington lackeys of the Israeli right wing make it out to be, the wild-eyed rhetoric of this faction and its hypnotic hold over Washington have made (relatively) little Iran the symbol of defiance to the American superpower. Bloodying Iran’s nose has become the measure of manhood on the Potomac. These are not the men who defeated Japanand met the victorious Soviets in Berlinor remotely the men who succeeded in sailing between the Scylla of Soviet expansion and the Charybdis of World War III. Men on the Potomac stand short in the 21stcentury.
Nevertheless, the fact is that Tel Aviv and Washington have handed Tehran an image it did not have the remotest chance of obtaining by itself: any country capable of inspiring such fear on the part of the world’s only superpower and the Mideast region’s nuclear monopolist must be a giant! If little (by all standard measures of state power) Irancan defy the U.S., then who will ever again be impressed by its image?
By essentially doing nothing, just following a classic “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of nuclear ambiguity, little Iranhas tied the world’s last superpower in knots. If, in the end, the humiliated superpower destroys Iran, it will prove exactly nothing…except that the superpower cannot even control itself, much less its pushy allies or little, irritating regimes that demand recognition. Giants gain no credit for smashing mosquitoes.
Conversely, if Obama wants to turn the neo-con aberration into America’s course for the future, creating a permanent violence-addicted Imperial America, his Iranpolicy seems likely to puncture that balloon as well. If it was the “greatest generation” that won WWII and laid the foundation via self-restraint for a half century of peace, historians will see those who ran the U.S. during the first 15 years of the 21st century as the “dwarf generation:” a pathetic, unimaginative bunch of toadies for out-of-control capitalist greed destroying everything Americans have labored for two centuries to construct. If this generation manages to turn Iran into a large Iraq or Somaliaor Palestine or Yemenor Afghanistan, exactly who will sigh with admiration? Will Turks and Indians and Brazilians strive to emulate America? Will the politicians of Moscow and Beijingtremble with fear at a global superpower that finally, after 30 years, succeeds in punishing Iranand once again forcing it into submission? On the other hand, if Washingtonfails to curb Tehran’s penchant for independence even after all this sturm und drang, then what? The whole world will be laughing.
To be fair, Washingtonpolicymakers may well be putting great effort into seeking a solution that avoids both Iranian militarization of its nuclear technology and open war. Maybe. But even if so, effort by itself does not suffice at their pay grade. Policymakers, to deserve the power they wield, must also have vision, and none is detectable on the Potomac today.
Precisely, policymakers need a vision of the kind of world they hope to create. Iranis not Hitler or the USSRor Genghis Khan or the 7th century Arab expansion or any of the greats of yore (Alexander, Cyrus). Iranis a political mirage, a puffed up image in the eye of the beholder of a much smaller and more distant reality. Irandoes pose a small potential military challenge, but a host of options are available to Washington were Washingtonto decide that persuading Iranto forego nukes was really the objective. More important, Iranposes a political challenge, but so do Russia, China, Pakistan, Israel, and many others. Yet Washington has chosen to replace the “10-foot-tall” Soviets with Ahmadinejad as the “main enemy.” Like a man crawling across the desert desperate for water, Washington politicians are desperate for a “mission,” which they sadly interpret to mean an “enemy” and absurdly identify as the Islamic Republic. A far better mission for a superpower would be the positive articulation of the kind of world one wants to create. Were that done, it would immediately be apparent that the road to glory does not go through Tehran.
If Ahmadinejad really wants to tie Washingtonin knots, he should snap his fingers and move Iranto a different dimension. Without poor Iranto hate, what would all the little men on the Potomacdo? Not one of them would have a clue what the goal should be, and no two of them would agree on anything whatsoever, not even on what to argue about first. The last figment of unity gone, they would be running in circles, tripping all over each other, until each and every one of them was stuck in the mud that lines the Potomac’s banks. Then everyone on earth would see that there really was no superpower at all, and Ahmadinejad could safely come back to our dimension again. 


Washington has deployed even more military forces against Iranand intensified its economic war against Iran, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard generals have launched a rhetorical broadside against Washington, and Israel has again threatened to commit aggression against Iran.

Iran’s egregious insult of pointing out the obvious—that it can threaten the massive array of U.S.military bases that have come to surround it since the neo-con push for an Imperial America—is a starving fox poking around a grizzly’s catch. The ability of Iran to respond to attack by hitting the bases comes as no surprise and while its articulation of the threat may play well in Tehran, it is otherwise is likely only to empower the Israeli-American war party, the grizzly pretending that the fox is threatening its existence by trying to steal scraps.
The egregious nature of Washington’s behavior—ratcheting up both military and economic pressure against a Tehran that is doing nothing new—is of a totally different order. Imperial Americaunder Democrats is proving hard to distinguish from Imperial America under neo-cons: be sure you have a new war ready (Iranfor both Obama and Bush) before you end the old war you are currently fighting (Afghanistanfor Obama; Iraqfor Bush). Keep tensions at a fever pitch. Distract voters from the mess at home.
One can only wonder at the idea of distracting voters. Does a man whose bank has cheated him out of his home really not care as long as he can cheer U.S./Israeli aggression against yet another Muslim society? Not only does such a strategy on Obama’s part make the assumption that the American voter is extremely ignorant, it plays right into the hands of the Republicans and the even more dangerous expansionist faction in Israel – the greater the tensions, the easier it is to argue that “nothing less than the immediate destruction of XXX can save the world!”
The Washington Post betrayed the lack of sincerity in Washington’s position, advocating that  “Like any good pugilist, Washington should follow the heavy blow of oil sanctions with further unrelenting pressure.” The author insults the intelligence of his readers by his childish comparison of a boxing match to U.S.-Iranian relations. Perhaps the analogy is indeed apt in describing the bias of Washington decision-makers, however, for they do indeed appear to sum up the relationship in their minds as a battle to the death. For their own self-respect, as long as they refuse to offer Iran an honorable way out (security, participation in world affairs as an equal, and independence), they must insist that the relationship is a zero-sum battle until one side scores a knock-out. 
Iran, meanwhile, is trapped: Washingtonwill not offer a deal because, egged on by a sneering Netanyahu, Washington does not want a “deal;” Washingtonwants Iran to surrender. Perhaps the New York Times finds it appropriate to interpret rising U.S. military pressure as primarily designed to persuade Israel not to start a war, but the timing immediately following yet another round of talks in which Washington apparently chose again not to offer Iran a balanced, compromise deal suggests that the main message Iran should hear—and certainly the message it will hear—is a demand that it play by Washington rules. The talks recently concluded in Istanbulwere technical-level talks; following them with renewed military threats makes little sense if Washingtongenuinely wants a solution. The purpose of technical-level talks is to pave the way for a political solution, not achieve it; that is the job of senior policy-makers.
Washington’s behavior suggests a more ominous interpretation: Iranmust confirm without qualification that Israelis and will forever remain Master of the Mideast Universe. Recognition of Israel’s right to a regional nuclear monopoly backed up by its already overwhelming conventional military superiority resulting from the open arms pipeline from the U.S. and in the context of its blank check authorization to tell other countries what arms they are allowed to possess and to attack any who break its rules means that no country in the region but Israel shall be permitted independence.
But independence, for Iran, is the whole ball game. Iranhas been struggling mightily for a century to reemerge from its recent obscurity and define for itself in its own terms a path forward. Nukes are not Tehran’s goal; its goal is international respect as a player whose voice needs to be listened to. Tehranplays its nuclear card because that is the only way to get Washington’s attention. If Iranends up building the bomb, Tel Aviv and Washington will be to blame for teaching it the lesson that the big boys sneer at everyone who lacks the bomb. Iran’s immediate enemy, Saddam’s Iraq, has vanished only to be replaced by a new string of U.S.bases and an armada of U.S.ships that serve no purpose except to threaten it with nuclear annihilation. Meanwhile, Israelcontinues to swallow those pieces of Palestineit did not digest in 1949 and has now defined Iranas its main enemy. How can Tehranensure Iranian national security except by playing the nuclear card? Washingtonis not offering a rational deal–a trade of terminating its economic war against Iran in return for nuclear transparency—because nuclear transparency is not Washington’s goal. Washington’s goal is formal Iranian acceptance of permanent Number 2 status in the region and that indeed constitutes, for Iran, a surrender.

Cyberwar Is not a Game; It’s War

The evidently casual attitude of Washington decision-makers notwithstanding, drone attacks and cyberwar are not games, despite using joy sticks and software; they are war.

The regimes that engage in cyberwar need to think about the implications, the blowback potential of establishing this new practice. After all, cyberwar is…war. Those attacked have the right to respond. Does cyberwar justify a conventional response? Does cyberwar supported by another state justify an attack on that state? How do we rank the seriousness of cyberwar in comparison to drone attacks, terrorist attacks, conventional attacks, nuclear attacks, biological attacks? And finally, why is Washington taking actions (either directly or by backing Israel) that will only provoke its antagonists to respond with the very same cyber techniques…which greatly favor the US’s weaker and less technically developed adversaries? Given the enormous amount of infrastructure in the US linked to the Internet, is diplomacy by cyberwar a contest we can win?

After WWII, the US introduced the hydrogen bomb, gaining no advantage as the USSR quickly responded. In the 1970s, the US introduced MIRVed nuclear missiles, to which the USSR quickly responded, leaving the world less stable since MIRVs enhanced the advantage of a first strike. Over the last decade, the US has established the precedent of attack inside other countries with drones even without a declaration of war, and it is already clear that US adversaries are moving to counter this momentary US advantage. It is also likely that the blowback of increasingly cheap and plentiful drones will provide a dangerous advantage to small, weak adversaries. Bush and Obama will share responsibility with the perpetrators for the first drone terror strike on the US mainland by a non-state actor. And now Washington is laying the groundwork for further blowback by creating the new international precedent of cyberwar even though the US may be the most vulnerable country in the world to such attacks because of its combination of open society and highly developed Internet-linked infrastructure.

A further danger of cyberwar may be even more serious. The use of cyberwar to attack countries with which we are not formally at war blurs the line between war and peace. Blurring that line not only undermines democracy by undermining Congressional control over White House actions but raises the danger of provoking a full-scale war. Just because Washington sees cyberwar as a low-cost way to harm an opponent does not mean the opponent will necessarily also have the same casual attitude toward software manipulations that could provoke industrial, even nuclear, accidents with very real consequences.

Do No Harm

Iraq is the same dictatorial disaster it was under Saddam…plus endless non-government terror. Palestinian repression is a deep stain on the integrity of America. Somalia and Afghanistan are, by comparison with their circumstances two generations ago, destroyed societies. Saudi Arabia is on a domestic knife-edge. Iran, victim of an undeclared war by the U.S., is being terrorized, marginalized, and radicalized. Ironically, Israel, “victim” of a flood of thoughtless U.S. military aid and blind support for whatever ambitious politician happens to get elected, is also being terrorized, marginalized, and radicalized. The record of U.S. intervention in the Muslim world is one of incomprehension, immorality, arrogance, and self-defeating short-sightedness. But despair not! We have new opportunities in Yemen and Syria.

As for that new opportunity, Syria, it is surely clear that there are bad guys in Syria and it is obvious that those bad guys are backed by powerful organizations. It is only logical to assume that there are also many decent people being mistreated. Obama’s pathetic philosophy notwithstanding, a Muslim does not deserve to be killed just because that Muslim happens to be an adult male. What is not clear is whether or not any “good” organizations exist and merit support.

Given the record of U.S. influence over Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, etc., it is also clear that the likelihood of Washington decision-makers correctly identifying an organization in Syria that might merit diplomatic, economic, or military support is very small.

It is no doubt useful to point out the evil being done by various Syrian politicians, though one must be careful to point out such evil regardless of which side is doing it (and few reports have such balance). But at this point, would it not be more valuable to lay out any argument that may exist to justify making a commitment to support those we think might possibly deserve our help? And if no such candidate can be identified, then the proper course of action lies elsewhere.

“Do no harm” should be the default course of action, especially for elephants. The burden of proof lies on those Westerners who presume to have the wisdom to interfere in Muslim societies and make things better.

Twenty-First Century Class War

The economic ship of the West is dead in the water because the wind of social egalitarianism that has blown strong since the New Deal and victory over fascism has been replaced by a new class war by the uber-rich.

The uber-rich of the extreme right has decided to abandon the New Deal compromise and launch a class war against the 99%. This is not ideological hot air. Protection of rich financial criminals, bailouts of fraudulent corporations, planetary environmental poisoning, the intentional promotion of bubbles, the exploitation of natural and political disasters to further enrich the rich, and direct attacks against democracy to suppress public criticism that might “embarrass” the rich constitute the 21st century weapons of choice for class warfare. Wealth should be built on a rich society, not the zero-sum game of the rich stealing from the poor. This paragraph is a huge accusation of unpatriotic behavior and deserves extremely careful analysis, which is indeed being done by numerous specialists and protest groups, but perhaps a few points are worth spelling out here:

Oil-Poisoned Turtle, Courtesy of BP, an “Innocent Corporate Person”

    Torturing the Unindicted, Courtesy of the Neo-Cons
  • when an imperial project to shore up superpower control over other societies that aspire to independence, not to mention grabbing their resources, goes to the extreme of destroying their whole society, the whole world has been impoverished;
  • when a country behaves with such viciousness, it harms itself, a conclusion all the more true when that country is a democracy that aspires to lead the world by example;
  • when government oppresses free speech to protect fraudulent corporations from being publicly criticized.

Such is class war in the 21st century.

If you still think that “fraud,” i.e., criminal behavior, is too strong a term for the broad behavior over the last decade of the financial elite of the U.S. on Wall St. and in the home mortgage industry or if you do not think Washington is complicit in this fraud, consider this:

Fraud does not even make Geithner’s list of contributing factors to financial crises.  The U.S. has experienced three recent financial crises – the S&L debacle (which is the subject of this first installment), the Enron era frauds, and the ongoing crisis.  Accounting control fraud is the leading cause of each of the crises.  “Control fraud” is the term white-collar criminologists use to refer to frauds in which the person controlling a seemingly legitimate entity uses it as a “weapon” to defraud.  Accounting is the “weapon of choice” for elite financial frauds.  Control frauds cause greater financial losses than all other forms of property crime – combined. [William Black on New Economic Perspectives.]

The latest case in point is the effort by Bank of America to resist stockholder demands that it review its own foreclosure practices! 

The New York City pension funds and 9 other institutional investors are urging Bank of America to conduct a thorough review of its foreclosure practices and report the results to shareholders. BofA has been plagued by widespread allegations of fraud in the foreclosure process, with a report from the Inspector General at the Department of Housing and Urban Development finding that the bank’s management was involved in the improper foreclosure practices. BofA management opposes the shareholder resolution that would require a review of foreclosure practices. [Huffington Post 5/9/12.]

Demanding that BOA officials be jailed might, indeed, meet with resistance on the part of those officials, but why would they resist calls for them to conduct their own internal reviews…unless they were already well aware they had plenty to hide? 

The key to solving the problem is for Americans to realize that war abroad and theft at home are two sides of the same class war coin. Socially conscious domestic policy  (policy designed to care for the 99%) does not fit well with a foreign policy based on force. Such a combination would constitute a self-contradictory combination. To put it simply, leaders of imperialist campaigns see citizens as cannon fodder, not those they serve. Moreover, force (more specifically, the American way of high-tech war) is expensive.

Were the uber-rich (e.g., Romney, the Koch brothers, Mozillo, the CEO’s of the horde of war profiteer corporations like Halliburton, and the officials of Big Oil) to pay their fair share for their privileges, enormous strides toward bringing America back could be made. There is much to be done – creating a world-class solar industry, cleaning up New Orleans…

Unfortunately, the Obama Administration remains stuck in essentially a neo-con foreign policy of playing a zero-sum game of U.S. supremacy at the expense of justice for Muslim societies and a “neo-liberal” (i.e., very conservative, exploitative) domestic policy of protecting billionaires at the expense of society.

Algeria As Prologue

In the book of America’s conflict with politically active Islam, Algeria is the prologue.

In the aftermath of an unprovoked war of aggression against Iraq whose outcome remains barely comprehended in the land of the aggressor, which is already moving toward yet another and almost certainly far more catastrophic war of aggression against Iran, paying heed to the horrifying story of the Algerian battle for independence from France, on this anniversary of that event, may be one of the wisest courses of action for Americans.

Those who speak French should listen to this video about the pain still being suffered by those left behind [France 24.].

In the words of the Algerian-French writer and reporter Albert Camus:

Les represailles contre les populations civiles et le pratique de torture sont des crimes dont nous sommes tous solidaires….nous devons du moins refuser toute justification, fut-ce par l’efficacite, a ces methods. Des l’instant, en effet, ou meme indirectement, on les justifie, il n’y a plus de regle ni de valeur, toutes les causes se valent et la guerre sans buts ni lois consacre le triomphe du nihilisme.  

Algeria is the prologue of the tragedy of America’s confrontation with politically active Islam.
Additional Readings:

Guy de Maupassant, Lettres d’Algerie–on the French war against Algeria in the mid-1800’s;
Albert Camus, Chroniques algeriennes 1939-1958–on the French war against Algeria in the mid-1900’s.

Connecting the Dots: War Profiteers Target Iran

The pro-war political propaganda of a defense industry booster firm reveals one way that war-profiteering corporations promote international tension and war for private gain.

The formula is pretty simple: 

Arms Factory + War-Mongering ‘Independent’ Propaganda = $$$.

Once you have a factory that makes weapons, buy yourself an “institute” that churns out “academic” analyses of world affairs designed to wave the bloody shirt. Either you win by selling Washington arms that will sit and rust somewhere or Washington will actually use those weapons, in which case you win again by expanding your market and also by opening a sub-division to rebuild the country you just helped destroy.

Forbeshas described the now scandalous process by which think tanks are degenerating into glitzy propaganda arms of the military-industrial complex: 

in Washington, think tanks are becoming so political that they are more like lobbyists than academic institutions…. 

the pressure on researchers to conform to partisan political objectives is going to become even more intense, and if they are going to be expected to function as de facto lobbyists they are going to expect to be paid like lobbyists, which will ratchet up pressure to raise money from those with a purely bottom-line perspective. I fear that honesty and truth will get more and more lost in the process.

A simple example of how this is currently pressuring the U.S. into war against Iran follows.
In a highly biased piece of war-mongering propaganda, the Lexington Institute, which was described by Harper’s as “the defense industry’s pay-to-play ad agency,” is beating the drums for a war on Iran. The Institute dismisses claims that Iran is several years away from a bomb as an “Obama Administration” claim that “may be irrelevant,” (which of course also means it may “be” relevant), carefully avoiding the fact that it is not only the Administration but numerous military/intelligence officials in both the U.S. and Israel who consider Iran years from the bomb, not to mention considering the idea of attacking Iran bad for U.S. and Israeli national security.

The Institute then tosses in the standard scare tactic that “Once Iran’s nuclear infrastructure is rendered bomb proof then the world’s only recourse will be sanctions.” God forbid that the world turned to the recourse of persuading Israel to relinquish its demands for military dominance over the Mideast (that truly irritates Iran) and the colonization of Palestine (that opens the door for Iran to interfere in Levantine affairs) or that the world turn to the recourse of actually negotiating a positive-sum solution to the broader U.S.-Iranian strategic argument. Oh, no, threats and some sort of war–be it intel, military, terrorist, or economic—will be the only solution.
After admitting that an Israeli attack would not destroy the Iranian nuclear infrastructure and would provoke terrorism, the Institute nevertheless argues that Israeli aggression would have its benefits. An Israeli non-nuclear attack, the Institute broadly implies, would warn Iran that Israel might consider a nuclear attack! Now there’s some good news for all us war profiteers! And even if Israel doesn’t attack at the moment, that’s OK too – just gives the U.S. more time to arm Israel with the long-range Arrow 3 interceptor “specifically designed to go after Iranian ballistic missiles.” The bottom line is clear: for the offense industry, the threat of war against Iran is good news however you look at it.

Must-Read War Profiteers website.

See this report for the latest on corruption of Halliburton/KBR.

For the other side of the coin, Iran’s military-industrial complex, see here. The money quote:

the IRGC is not only an army, but a monster conglomerate with myriad military-industrial, economic and financial interests. Top managers – and the array of enterprises they control – are bound to the ethos of antagonising the West, the same West from whose sanctions they handsomely profit. So, for them, the status quo is nice and dandy – even with the everyday possibility of a miscalculation, or a false-flag operation, leading to war.

2010 Congressional Report on Contracting Fraud in Afghanistan and How It Endangers U.S. Forces