How Bizarre: America’s Empire Declining, But Nothing Is Replacing It

For America’s national security state, this is the age of impunity. Nothing it does — torture, kidnapping, assassination, illegal surveillance, you name it — will ever be brought to court.  For none of its beyond-the-boundaries acts will anyone beheld accountable.  The only crimes that can now be committed in official Washington are by those foolish enough to believe that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from this earth.  I’m speaking of the various whistleblowers and leakers who have had an urge to let Americans know what deeds and misdeeds their government is committing in their name but without their knowledge.  They continue to pay a price in accountability for their acts that should, by comparison, stun us all.

As June ended, the New York Times front-paged an account of an act of corporate impunity that may, however, be unique in the post-9/11 era (though potentially a harbinger of things to come).  In 2007, as journalist James Risen tells it, Daniel Carroll, the top manager in Iraq for the rent-a-gun company Blackwater, one of the warrior corporations that accompanied the U.S. military to war in the twenty-first century, threatened Jean Richter, a government investigator sent to Baghdad to look into accounts of corporate wrongdoing.

Here, according to Risen, is Richter’s version of what happened when he, another government investigator, and Carroll met to discuss Blackwater’s potential misdeeds in that war zone:

“Mr. Carroll said ‘that he could kill me at that very moment and no one could or would do anything about it as we were in Iraq,’ Mr. Richter wrote in a memo to senior State Department officials in Washington. He noted that Mr. Carroll had formerly served with Navy SEAL Team 6, an elite unit. ‘Mr. Carroll’s statement was made in a low, even tone of voice, his head was slightly lowered; his eyes were fixed on mine,’ Mr. Richter stated in his memo. ‘I took Mr. Carroll’s threat seriously. We were in a combat zone where things can happen quite unexpectedly, especially when issues involve potentially negative impacts on a lucrative security contract.’”

When officials at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, the largest in the world, heard what had happened, they acted promptly.  They sided with the Blackwater manager, ordering Richter and the investigator who witnessed the scene out of the country (with their inquiry incomplete).  And though a death threat against an American official might, under other circumstances, have led a CIA team or a set of special ops guys to snatch the culprit off the streets of Baghdad, deposit him on a Navy ship for interrogation, and then leave him idling in Guantanamo or in jail in the United States awaiting trial, in this case no further action was taken.

Power Centers But No Power to Act

Think of the response of those embassy officials as a get-out-of-jail-free pass in honor of a new age.  For the various rent-a-gun companies, construction and supply outfits, and weapons makers that have been the beneficiaries of the wholesale privatization of American war since 9/11, impunity has become the new reality.  Pull back the lens further and the same might be said more generally about America’s corporate sector and its financial outfits.  There was, after all, no accountability for the economic meltdown of 2007-2008.  Not a single significant figure went to jailfor bringing the American economy to its knees. (And many such figures made out like proverbial bandits in the government bailout and revival of their businesses that followed.)

Meanwhile, in these years, the corporation itself was let loose to run riot.  Long a “person” in the legal world, it became ever more person-like, benefitting from a series of Supreme Court decisions that hobbled unions and ordinary Americans even as it gave the corporation ever more of the rights and attributes of a citizen on the loose.  Post-9/11, the corporate world gainedfreedom of expression, the freedom of the purse, as well as the various freedoms that staggering inequality and hoards of money offer.  Corporate entities gained, among other things, the right to flood the political system with money, and most recently, at least in a modest way, freedom of religion.

In other words, two great power centers have been engorging themselves in twenty-first-century America: there was an ever-expanding national security state, ever less accountable to anyone, ever less overseen by anyone, ever more deeply enveloped in secrecy, ever more able to see others and less transparent itself, ever more empowered by a secret court system and a body of secret law whosejudgments no one else could be privy to; and there was an increasingly militarized corporate state, ever less accountable to anyone, ever less overseen by outside forces, ever more sure that the law was its possession.  These two power centers are now triumphant in our world.  They command the landscape against what may be less effective opposition than at any moment in our history.

In both cases, no matter how you tote it up, it’s been an era of triumphalism.  Measure it any way you want: by the rising Dow Jones Industrial Average or the expanding low-wage economy, by the power of “dark money” to determine American politics in 1% elections or the rising wages of CEOs and the stagnating wages of their workers, by the power of billionaires and the growth ofpoverty, by the penumbra of secrecy and classification spreading across government operations and the lessening ability of the citizen to know what’s going on, or by the growing power of both the national security state and the corporation to turn your life into an open book.  Look anywhere and some version of the same story presents itself — of ascendant power in the boardrooms and the backrooms, and of a sense of impunity that accompanies it.

Whether you’re considering the power of the national security state or the corporate sector, their moment is now.  And what a moment it is — for them.  Their success seems almost complete.  And yet that only begins to tell the strange tale of our American times, because if that power is ascendant, it seems incapable of being translated into classic American power.  The more successful those two sectors become, the less the U.S. seems capable of wielding its power effectively in any traditional sense, domestically or abroad.

Anyone can feel it, hence the recent Pew Research Center poll indicating a striking diminution in recent years of Americans who think the U.S. is exceptional, the greatest of all nations.  By 2011, only 38% of Americans thought that; today, the figure has dropped to 28%, and — a harbinger of future American attitudes — just 15% among 18-to-29-year-olds.  And no wonder.  By many measures the U.S. may remain the wealthiest, most powerful nation on the planet, but in recent years its ability to accomplish anything, no less achieve national or imperial success, has shrunk drastically.

The power centers remain, but in some still-hard-to-grasp way, the power to accomplish anything seems to be draining from a country that was once the great can-do nation on the planet.  On this, the record is both dismal and clear.  To say that the American political system is in a kind of gridlock or paralysis from which — given electoral prospects in 2014 and 2016 — there can be no escape is to say the obvious.  It’s a commonplace of news reports to suggest, for example, that in this midterm election year Congress and the president will be capable of accomplishing nothing together (except perhaps avoiding another actual government shutdown).  Nada, zip, zero.

The president acts in relatively minimalist ways by executive order, Congress threatens to sueover his use of those orders, and (as novelist Kurt Vonnegut would once have said) so it goes.  In the meantime, Congress has proven itself unable to act even when it comes to what once would have been the no-brainers of American life.  It has, for instance, been struggling simply to fund a highway bill that would allow for ordinary repair work on the nation’s system of roads, even though the fund for such work is running dry and jobs will be lost.

This sort of thing is but a symptom in a country of immense wealth whose infrastructure iscrumbling and which lacks a single mile of high-speed rail.  In all of this, in the rise of poverty and a minimum-wage economy, in a loss — particularly for minorities — of the wealth that went with home ownership, what can be seen is the untracked rise of a Third World country inside a First World one, a powerless America inside the putative global superpower.

An Exceptional Kind of Decline

And speaking of the “sole superpower,” it remains true that no combination of other militaries can compare with the U.S. military or the moneys the country continues to put into it and into the research and development of weaponry of the most futuristic sort.  The U.S. national security budget remains a Ripley’s-Believe-It-Or-Not-style infusion of tax dollars into the national security state, something no other combination of major countries comes close to matching.

In addition, the U.S. still maintains hundreds of military bases and outposts across the planet (including, in recent years, ever more bases for our latest techno-wonder weapon, the drone).  In 2014, it still garrisons the planet in a way that no other imperial power has ever done.  In fact, it continues to sport all the trappings of a great empire, with an army impressive enough that our last two presidents have regularly resorted to one unembarrassed image to describe it: “the finest fighting force that the world has ever known.”

And yet, recent history is clear: that military has proven incapable of winning its wars against minor (and minority) insurgencies globally, just as Washington, for all its firepower, military and economic, has had a remarkably difficult time imposing its desires just about anywhere on the planet.  Though it may still look like a superpower and though the power of its national security state may still be growing, Washington seems to have lost the ability to translate that power into anything resembling success.

Today, the U.S. looks less like a functioning and effective empire than an imperial basket case, unable to bring its massive power to bear effectively from Germany to Syria, Iraq to Afghanistan, Libya to the South China Sea, the Crimea to Africa.  And stranger yet, this remains true even though it has no imperial competitors to challenge it.  Russia is a rickety energy state, capable of achieving its version of imperial success only along its own borders, and China, clearly the rising economic power on the planet, though flexing its military muscles locally in disputed oil-rich waters, visibly has no wish to challenge the U.S. military anywhere far from home.

All in all, the situation is puzzling indeed.  Despite much talk about the rise of a multi-polar world, this still remains in many ways a unipolar one, which perhaps means that the wounds Washington has suffered on numerous fronts in these last years are self-inflicted.

Just what kind of decline this represents remains to be seen.  What does seem clearer today is that the rise of the national security state and the triumphalism of the corporate sector (along with the much publicized growth of great wealth and striking inequality in the country) has been accompanied by a decided diminution in the power of the government to function domestically and of the imperial state to impose its will anywhere on Earth.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, The United States of Fear (Haymarket Books), has just been published in November.

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Israel Is Captive to Its ‘Destructive Process’ .. Chris Hedges

By Chris Hedges

Palestinians try to salvage what they can of their belongings from the rubble of a house destroyed by an overnight Israeli airstrike in Gaza City. AP Photo/Khalil Hamra

Raul Hilberg in his monumental work “The Destruction of the European Jews” chronicled a process of repression that at first was “relatively mild” but led, step by step, to the Holocaust. It started with legal discrimination and ended with mass murder. “The destructive process was a development that was begun with caution and ended without restraint,” Hilberg wrote.

The Palestinians over the past few decades have endured a similar “destructive process.” They have gradually been stripped of basic civil liberties, robbed of assets including much of their land and often their homes, have suffered from mounting restrictions on their physical movements, been blocked from trading and business, especially the selling of produce, and found themselves increasingly impoverished and finally trapped behind walls and security fences erected around Gaza and the West Bank.

“The process of destruction [of the European Jews] unfolded in a definite pattern,” Hilberg wrote. “It did not, however, proceed from a basic plan. No bureaucrat in 1933 could have predicted what kind of measures would be taken in 1938, nor was it possible in 1938 to foretell the configuration of the undertaking in 1942. The destructive process was a step-by-step operation, and the administrator could seldom see more than one step ahead.”

There will never be transports or extermination camps for the Palestinians, but amid increasing violence against Palestinians larger and larger numbers of them will die, in airstrikes, targeted assassinations and other armed attacks. Hunger and misery will expand. Israeli demands for “transfer”—the forced expulsion of Palestinians from occupied territory to neighboring countries—will grow.

The Palestinians in Gaza live in conditions that now replicate those first imposed on Jews by the Nazis in the ghettos set up throughout Eastern Europe. Palestinians cannot enter or leave Gaza. They are chronically short of food—the World Health Organization estimates that more than 50 percent of children in Gaza and the West Bank under 2 years old have iron deficiency anemia and reports that malnutrition and stunting in children under 5 are “not improving” and could actually be worsening. Palestinians often lack clean water. They are crammed into unsanitary hovels. They do not have access to basic medical care. They are stateless and lack passports or travel documents. There is massive unemployment. They are daily dehumanized in racist diatribes by their occupiers as criminals, terrorists and mortal enemies of the Jewish people.

“A deep and wide moral abyss separates us from our enemies,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said recently of the Palestinians. “They sanctify death while we sanctify life. They sanctify cruelty while we sanctify compassion.”

Ayelet Shaked, a member of the right-wing Jewish Home Party, on her Facebook page June 30 posted an article written 12 years ago by the late Uri Elitzur, a leader in the settler movement and a onetime adviser to Netanyahu, saying the essay is as “relevant today as it was then.” The article said in part: “They [the Palestinians] are all enemy combatants, and their blood shall be on all their heads. Now this also includes the mothers of the martyrs, who send them to hell with flowers and kisses. They should follow their sons, nothing would be more just. They should go, as should the physical homes in which they raised the snakes. Otherwise, more little snakes will be raised there.”

The belief that a race or class of people is contaminated is used by ruling elites to justify quarantining the people of that group. But quarantine is only the first step. The despised group can never be redeemed or cured—Hannah Arendt noted that all racists see such contamination as something that can never be eradicated. The fear of the other is stoked by racist leaders such as Netanyahu to create a permanent instability. This instability is exploited by a corrupt power elite that is also seeking the destruction of democratic civil society for all citizens—the goal of the Israeli government (as well as the goal of a U.S. government intent on stripping its own citizens of rights). Max Blumenthal in his book “Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel” does a masterful job of capturing and dissecting this frightening devolution within Israel.

The last time Israel mounted a Gaza military assault as severe as the current series of attacks was in 2008, with Operation Cast Lead, which lasted from Dec. 27 of that year to Jan. 18, 2009. That attack saw 1,455 Palestinians killed, including 333 children. Roughly 5,000 more Palestinians were injured. A new major ground incursion, which would be designed to punish the Palestinians with even greater ferocity, would cause a far bigger death toll than Operation Cast Lead did. The cycle of escalating violence, this “destructive process,” as the history of the conflict has illustrated, would continue at an accelerating rate.

The late Yeshayahu Leibowitz, one of Israel’s most brilliant scholars, warned that, followed to its logical conclusion, the occupation of the Palestinians would mean “concentration camps would be erected by the Israeli rulers” and “Israel would not deserve to exist, and it will not be worthwhile to preserve it.” He feared the ascendancy of right-wing, religious Jewish nationalists and warned that “religious nationalism is to religion what National Socialism was to socialism.” Leibowitz laid out what occupation would finally bring for Israel:

The Arabs would be the working people and the Jews the administrators, inspectors, officials, and police—mainly secret police. A state ruling a hostile population of 1.5 to 2 million foreigners would necessarily become a secret-police state, with all that this implies for education, free speech and democratic institutions. The corruption characteristic of every colonial regime would also prevail in the State of Israel. The administration would suppress Arab insurgency on the one hand and acquire Arab Quislings on the other. There is also good reason to fear that the Israel Defense Force, which has been until now a people’s army, would, as a result of being transformed into an army of occupation, degenerate, and its commanders, who will have become military governors, resemble their colleagues in other nations.

Israel is currently attacking a population of 1.8 million that has no army, no navy, no air force, no mechanized military units, no command and control and no heavy artillery. Israel pretends that this indiscriminate slaughter is a war. But only the most self-deluded supporter of Israel is fooled. The rockets fired at Israel by Hamas—which is committing a war crime by launching those missiles against the Israeli population—are not remotely comparable to the 1,000-pound iron fragmentation bombs that have been dropped in large numbers on crowded Palestinian neighborhoods; the forced removal of some 300,000 Palestinians from their homes; the more than 160 reported dead—the U.N. estimates that 77 percent of those killed in Gaza have been civilians; the destruction of the basic infrastructure; the growing food and water shortages; and the massing of military forces for a possible major ground assault.

When all this does not work, when it becomes clear that the Palestinians once again have not become dormant and passive, Israel will take another step, more radical than the last. The “process of destruction” will be stopped only from outside Israel. Israel, captive to the process, is incapable of imposing self-restraint.

A mass movement demanding boycotts, divestment and sanctions is the only hope now for the Palestinian people. Such a movement must work for imposition of an arms embargo on Israel; this is especially important for Americans because weapons systems and attack aircraft provided by the U.S. are being used to carry out the assault. It must press within the United States for cutoff of the $3.1 billion in military aid that the U.S. gives to Israel each year. It must organize to demand suspension of all free trade and other agreements between the U.S. and Israel. Only when these props are knocked out from under Israel will the Israeli leadership be forced, as was the apartheid regime in South Africa, to halt its “destructive process.” As long as these props remain, the Palestinians are doomed. If we fail to act we are complicit in the slaughter.

Lets give peace a chance

” Declare it. Just the same way we declare war. That is how we will have peace… we just need to declare it.” John Lennon

More than two generations have passed by since the murder of John Lennon on December 8th 1980. It may be that, born 74 years ago on October 9, 1940, he was the last great iconic anti-war activist of our age. Thrust into the spotlight as a member of the Beatles, with the world at their feet in a way no other band has ever emulated–it didn’t take long for Lennon to recognize that he could use his celebrity status to not only communicate his own ideas about the world but change the way people thought about issues of the day. As Time magazine’s Martin Lewis noted in his remembrance on the 20 th  anniversary of his death: ” John Lennon was not God. But he earned the love and admiration of his generation by creating a huge body of work that inspired and led. The appreciation for him deepened because he then instinctively decided to use his celebrity as a bully pulpit for causes greater than his own enrichment or self-aggrandizement.”

You don’t hear much talk of peace from presidential candidates, both of whom are indebted to the $600 billion military industrial complex. It’s the same military industrial complex that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against in his 1961 farewell address to the nation, the one that has as Eisenhower predicted ensured Obama recently celebrated 30 million US war-kills since WW2; past Hitler to #3 on all-time list…

You don’t hear much, or anything, of peace from the various chattering media heads whose mindless banter keeps us distracted from the ongoing wars by profit incentivised paranoia that’s bleeding the people dry both in money and the lives of their sons (the Afghanistan war marked its 12th anniversary on Oct. 7, 2013, making it the longest war in U.S. History).

And you certainly don’t hear much about peace from the current crop of musical and cultural icons making headlines today–whether it be teen heart throbs or screen icons whose activities seem more geared at cultivating their celebrity status and advancing party politics than promoting peace. War still has a big impact on popular culture, often due to prime pumping finance by the CIA or military related corporations into every aspect of pop culture such as music, television, film, and even video games for 4 year olds.

So those of us around at an age when humanitarianism could be an important segment of politics and culture must both consider ourselves fortunate, and take it upon ourselves to share it’s potential benefits with our children, and even their children as death on a massive scale becomes normalised.

Sadly there isn’t much that isn’t corrupted by money or power today, including aspects of our society that don’t spring to mind so readily. University life for example is to a great extent funded, directly or indirectly, by the Pentagon, history is revised accordingly by the academics.

Scientists are paid by pharmaceutical companies, by energy corporations or by huge agribusiness, often without scientists declaring any conflict in their finished intellectual product. Natural health supplements as a consequence are often banned, alternatives to plastics not researched, climate change denied and peace remains a non-issue.

The media is so centralised that the same rubbish is broadcast by all 6 channels…now to new generations of zombies (zombies are OK now too), that prefer brand names to truth….even the truth that their favourite brands are supplied as a consequence of slave and child labour in countries their school never taught them about.

They see it as a sign of status to be willing to pay $80 for a pair of trainers that cost less than $2 to produce in a sweatshop, and appear to have no shame whatsoever when the majority of the world is treated in a way that they wouldn’t tolerate for their own children. Shallow thinkers, they fail to realise that they are of course not only tolerating but teaching… everytime they sit their kids in front of a TV set, or pass them the video consul.

In 1980 when John Lennon was assassinated there were over 50 media corporations that offered a variety of news and entertainment… lucky us!….they even competed with each other for quality and did real investigative reporting. 1980 also happened to be the year that the industry was deregulated, ensuring that today these companies are owned by their advertisers and do not have the public interest in mind. Fox news is the prime example hiring opinionated neo-cons as ‘newscasters’ who rarely show original unbiased footage, lie openly playing fast and loose with the facts while lining up advertising pundits to support them.

Music wasn’t always banal

The Beatles, the most phenomenal musical group in the history of music had by June 1967 released their landmark album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Ironically while many considered it their seminal work, and most devotees could only look forward to many more decades of evolving magic, it was also the beginning of the end for the Beatles. John Lennon was one of those rare people who was more influenced by peace and harmony than living an affluent life so the magic that evolved for him was life itself and he already had more to say.

John’s band had struggled hard to reach international fame; progressing from a simple skiffle group (when John’s mom being a banjo player had taught him to play a guitar with only 4 strings) to serving their apprenticeship as rock’n’ rollers in Hamburg. There they were picked up by Brian Epstein upon their return to Liverpool and from there their legend was managed and grew quickly as their talent shone through to an increasingly entranced public.

Despite the nearly 50 years since their last public performance RevolverRubber Soul and The White Album , as well as Sgt. Peppers itself are regularly seen in the top 10 albums of all time.

What’s the point here? Think of music today, it’s more commercial and slickly managed perhaps, but the principle of competing for number 1, hoping for personal fame and money are still the same, and yet the cultural narratives produced by the musicians in John’s day was to a large extent inspiring, rather than pulp celebrity gossip designed to fill out a hollow mainstream devoid of any real news today.

” The thing the sixties did was to show us the possibilities and the responsibility that we all had. It wasn’t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse of the possibility.” John Lennon

Of course bands always had different priorities. The Rolling Stones for example, despite having produced some of the best rock and roll songs ever… Sympathy For The Devil comes to mind, have all the fame they could ever want but still continue on tour for the sheer joy of the live performance, and arguably remain the biggest band in the world.

By contrast both John and George saw the musical experience as a part of their personal journey in life, realising at around the same time that The Beatles were not as important to them as their own spiritual pilgrimages, perhaps especially so after the death of their friend and fellow Beatle Stuart Sutcliffe still in his 20’s. . This divergence, even an apparent disinterest was painful for their fans of course, but due to their premature deaths as well who can say they were wrong? George pursued his spiritual path without deviation; and John, never forgetting his working class roots used his music… at least initially, as a form of psychotherapy. After leaving the Beatles he wrote perhaps some of the most honest songs ever penned by a musician no doubt as a result of this experience.

” My defences were so great. The cocky rock and roll hero who knows all the answers was actually a terrified guy who didn’t know how to cry. Simple.” John Lennon

Take the time to imagine what emotional clarity and realism it took for him to write these songs at the height of his fame, when he was seen as The Beatle’s social conscience, and always their slyest verbal wit :

Working Class Hero

Mother

GOD

Being able to share the anguish in his soul appeared to help him not only put his tumultuous emotional past in some meaningful perspective, but as reflected in Starting Over and Mind Games also emerge eventually to see light at the end of his personal challenges. He understood for the first time in his life that unlike what he had been told since childhood maybe it wasn’t he, the rebellious John, that was mad…. but the world around him. His increasing mindfulness and new depth of insight now took him far from the grimy streets of Liverpool into the worlds of art, activism and politics.

Developing Soul

A world that seemed designed to oppress the poor and disempower them through imposed ignorance in order to let the rich thrive, usually through the wanton and discriminate death of others in wars for profit. He understood that war had no purpose other than to dehumanise and enrich. Being fortunate to have met both John and Timothy Leary even though I was the youngest street kid around at the time, I was obviously more of a listener than a talker. John had been planning to buy an island where there would be no need for money …nothing came of it but the idea, but resource rather than capital based economies have appealed to me ever since.

I recall worrying about both of them as many of our great hero’s of the day were being murdered by the establishment at the time. Martin Luther King, Che Guevara, the Kennedy’s, Birmingham Sunday victims 4 young black girls in church James E. Chaney, Andrew Goodman; and Michael Schwerner Malcolm X ,Jim Crow and/or Klu Klux Klan murder victims, including many civil rights activists 61 AIM Casualtiesand over 100 others too numerous to name here although Fred Hampton shouldn’t be forgotten .

We knew that the CIA had nothing to do with defending the American people. As they were later to find out, the citizen was being manipulated by the drug trade, and the drug trade was controlled by the CIA. Most activists knew that this had been going on as an adjunct to conflict since the Korean war when the CIA was still being run directly by escaped Nazi’s. It continued into Laos and by the time the Vietnam war ended there were as many addicts in the army as there were in the whole of America. This was also dangerous knowledge as the list of the slain testifies.

To protect its “assets” abroad, the CIA has ensured that the DEA’s concerns outside the country were subordinated to its own. DEA country attaches are required to employ the standard State Department cipher, and all their transmissions are made available to the CIA station chief. The CIA also has access to all DEA investigative reports, and informants’ and targets’ identities when DEA activities outside the United States were involved.

In Costa Rica, when the war against Nicaragua’s Sandinista government was at its peak and cocaine was beginning to pour into the United States, the DEA attache wanted to place cameras at clandestine airstrips from which he suspected drugs were being flown to the United States. The CIA resident gave him a list of strips into which the CIA was flying arms for the contras that couldn’t be monitored. Some were also strips from which the DEA agent suspected drugs were being flown to the United States.

The public found out about Iran/Contra but for some reason don’t seem to mind that the CIA not only recruit their children for unnecessarily risky operations but they ship enough hard drugs into the country to create tens of times as many addicts as in 1969. This of course has allowed them to reintroduce the chain gangs and provide free, largely black labour, for the privatized prison companies to rent out to US corporations for cheap labour.

Americans don’t seem to care either that they have nearly 30% unemployment from a combination of this and the out-shipping of jobs to sweatshops in 3rd world countries. While they snooze in front of their TV’s they don’t seem to notice that these same companies avoid tax like the plague, or more creatively now are in fact the biggest welfare recipients in the country.

When John’s life became unsafe

I last saw John when he flew out to Gibraltar in 1989 to marry Yoko. Immediately afterwards they held their first “Bed-in for Peace,” in the presidential suite of the Amsterdam Hilton. The peace movement was the first of several political causes they would take up over the years, but it was the one that generated the most publicity. In May the couple attempted to continue their bed-in in the United States, but when U.S. authorities forbade them to enter the country because of an October 1968 arrest on drug charges, the bed-in resumed in Montreal. In their suite at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, they recorded “Give Peace a Chance,” with background chanters including Sixties luminaries Timothy Leary and comic folksinger Tommy Smothers. Soon afterword, “The Ballad of John and Yoko” (Number Eight, 1969) came out under the Beatles’ name, though only Lennon and McCartney appear on it.

The Lennons continued their peace campaign with speeches to the press; “War Is Over! If You Want It” billboards erected on December 15 in 12 cities around the world, including Hollywood, New York, London, and Toronto. In March 1971 the non-album single “Power to the People” hit Number 11, and that September, Lennon’s solo album    Imagine came out and went to Number One a month later. By late 1971 John and Ono had resumed their political activities, drawn to leftist political figures including Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin and John became increasingly visible to J Edgar Hoover.

His energies were increasingly directed toward his legal battle with the U.S. Immigration Department, which sought his deportation on the grounds both of his previous drug arrest and involvement with the American radical left. On October 7, 1975, the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned the deportation order; and in 1976 Lennon received permanent resident status.

No one can argue that the US government feared greatly Lennon’s ability to galvanize public opinion against the status quo. Indeed, it made him a Grade ‘A’ threat, as evidenced by FBI Director J Edgar Hoover’s decision to begin deportation proceedings against him in the wake of his successful campaign to free John Sinclair.

His subsequent and highly publicized involvement in other civil and political ‘flashpoint’ issues, not least his massively effective campaign to pressure the White House into bringing the Vietnam War to a premature close, costing the US arms industry billions in lost revenue, served only to cement his status as America’s number one ‘enemy of the state’.

But it wasn’t only Lennon’s political activism that caught the eye of the CIA. They knew him from several years before, when the irreverent Beatle dared to ‘blaspheme’ in the face of God-fearing America — an incident which led to the CIA-backed Ku Klux Klan burning Beatles records en masse.

” We’re more popular than Jesus now,” the Beatle innocently remarked to British journalist, Maureen Cleave, in an interview for London’s E vening Standard .

The reply from Langley was immediate. “Oh yeah? Well you know what happened to Jesus, boy. Now pick up your cross and start walking!”

Threats on Lennon’s life were also received at this time.

Indeed, for many the question is not so much: Did the CIA Murder John Lennon? But rather: How Come It Took Them So Long?

Has there been a effective anti-war campaign since then? It doesn’t appear so to me.

Right up until his death Lennon remained true to the anti-war activism that had shaped much of his life. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for the nation he came to call home. According to the latest report by the Institute for Economics and Peace, the U.S. spends $2.16 trillion annually on violence containment. More money than the entire UK economy. One can only imagine what John Lennon would say about a world where more money is spent on feeding the war machine than on feeding the poor.

“There’s nothing new under the sun. All the roads lead to Rome. And people cannot provide it for you. I can’t wake you up. You can wake you up. I can’t cure you. You can cure you.” John Lennon

 

Database of Palestinian Children Killed in the Occupied Territory 2000-2014

gaza-children-killed

Funeral for four children of the al-Dalu family, killed when an Israeli airstrike leveled their Gaza City home on November 19, 2012.  (Electronic Intifada and Anne Paq / ActiveStills)

The tables below are updated monthly. For more detailed statistics, please contact the DCI-Palestine ‘s Documentation Unit.

Tables 1 to 4 show the number of children killed as a result of Israeli military and settler presence in the Occupied Palestinian Territory since the beginning of the second Palestinian uprising against occupation, or Intifada, according to DCI-Palestine’s documentation. These tables do not include children killed while involved in hostilities.

Table 5 shows the number of children killed while involved in hostilities since 2008, according to DCI-Palestine’s documentation.

1. Distribution of Palestinian child fatalities by month:

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
2000 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3 35 45 11 94
2001 3 3 8 12 9 5 8 8 12 6 9 15 98
2002 3 9 35 36 15 10 13 10 12 19 16 14 192
2003 11 12 18 14 17 8 1 6 7 15 9 12 130
2004 6 3 15 14 36 8 13 9 25 21 6 6 162
2005 20 4 2 3 2 1 6 6 3 4 1 0 52
2006 3 3 5 6 2 9 40 14 10 5 24 3 124
2007 4 1 5 2 9 10 2 8 4 2 3 0 50
2008 6 10 22 21 4 4 2 1 2 0 0 40 112
2009 301 4 1 1 0 2 1 1 2 1 1 0 315
2010 1 0 2 0 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 8
2011 2 0 4 2 1 0 0 4 1 0 0 1 15
2012 0 0 4 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 35 1 43
2013 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 2 5
2014 1 0 1 0 2 2 1 7

Total: 1407

2. Distribution of Palestinian child fatalities by age group:

Year 0-8 9-12 13 – 15 16 – 17 Total
2000 4 9 34 47 94
2001 13 21 31 33 98
2002 50 33 62 47 192
2003 16 22 47 45 130
2004 13 29 58 62 162
2005 2 10 19 21 52
2006 26 12 40 46 124
2007 3 8 17 22 50
2008 22 13 38 39 112
2009 93 63 83 76 315
2010 0 0 3 5 8
2011 2 3 6 4 15
2012 18 8 8 9 43
2013 1 0 2 2 5
2014 0 1 2 4 7

Total: 1407

3. Distribution of Palestinian child fatalities by region:

Year

Gaza

Hebron Bethlehem Jericho Jerusalem Ramallah Salfit Nablus Tulkarm Qalqilia Jenin Inside Israel

Total

2000 43 9 4 0 3 7 3 8 6 5 5 1 94
2001 64 9 5 0 4 6 0 1 0 3 6 0 98
2002 84 13 6 0 3 11 0 33 10 1 31 0 192
2003 74 3 1 0 3 5 2 16 9 3 14 0 130
2004 130 2 0 0 1 2 0 19 3 0 5 0 162
2005 28 4 0 1 0 5 1 3 4 1 5 0 52
2006 105 0 2 1 1 1 0 9 1 0 4 0 124
2007 33 2 0 0 2 7 0 0 2 0 4 0 50
2008 101 4 2 0 0 3 0 1 0 0 1 0 112
2009 310 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 315
2010 5 0 0 0 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 8
2011 14 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 15
2012 40 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 43
2013 1 0 1 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 1 0 5
2014 2 2 0 0 1 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 7

Total: 1407

4. Distribution of Palestinian child fatalities according to circumstances of death:

Year Clashes

Air and Ground Attacks

During Assassination Attempts

Gun Fire Opened Randomly

Closures Unexploded Ordnance Other Total
2000 80 4 0 9 1 0 0 94
2001 42 17 12 17 3 7 0 98
2002 30 67 19 50 9 12 5 192
2003 36 37 14 38 3 2 0 130
2004 36 76 9 39 0 2 0 162
2005 6 10 7 23 0 6 0 52
2006 10 66 22 23 0 3 0 124
2007 6 19 4 15 1 5 0 50
2008 9 86 1 13 1 2 0 112
2009 2 270 21 15 1 5 1 315
2010 3 3 0 0 0 2 0 8
2011 0 12 0 2 0 1 0 15
2012 0 39 0 2 0 2 0 43
2013 3 1 0 1 0 0 0 5
2014 3 0 1 2 0 0 1 7

Total: 1407

5. Distribution of Palestinian Children killed while participating in hostilities:

Year Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Total
2008 4 0 7 0 3 0 0 0 1 1 0 0 16
2009 15 0 1 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 18
2010 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
2011 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1
2012 0 0 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 3
2013 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2014 0 0 0 0 0 0 0

Total: 40

War: The Racket of Big Business, Wall Street and the Bankers

From 1898 to 1931, Smedley Darlington Butler was a member of the U.S. Marine Corps. By the time he retired he had achieved what was then the corps’s highest rank, major general, and by the time he died in 1940, at 58, he had more decorations, including two medals of honor, than any other Marine. During his years in the corps he was sent to the Philippines (at the time of the uprising against the American occupation), China, France (during World War I), Mexico, Central America, and Haiti.

In light of this record Butler presumably shocked a good many people when in 1935 — as a  second world war was looming — he wrote in the magazine Common Sense:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism [corporatism]. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

That same year he published a short book with the now-famous title War Is a Racket, for which he is best known today. Butler opened the book with these words:

War is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

He followed this by noting: “For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out.”

Butler went on to describe who bears the costs of war — the men who die or return home with wrecked lives, and the taxpayers — and who profits — the companies that sell goods and services to the military. (The term military-industrial complex would not gain prominence until 1961, when Dwight Eisenhower used it in his presidential farewell address. See Nick Turse’s book The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives.)

Writing in the mid-1930s, Butler foresaw a U.S. war with Japan to protect trade with China and investments in the Philippines, and declared that it would make no sense to the average American:

We would be all stirred up to hate Japan and go to war — a war that might well cost us tens of billions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of lives of Americans, and many more hundreds of thousands of physically maimed and mentally unbalanced men.

Of course, for this loss, there would be a compensating profit — fortunes would be made.  Millions and billions of dollars would be piled up. By a few. Munitions makers. Bankers.  Ship builders. Manufacturers. Meat packers. Speculators. They would fare well.…

But what does it profit the men who are killed? What does it profit their mothers and sisters, their wives and their sweethearts? What does it profit their children?

What does it profit anyone except the very few to whom war means huge profits?

Noting that “until 1898 [and the Spanish-American War] we didn’t own a bit of territory outside the mainland of North America,” he observed that after becoming an expansionist world power, the U.S. government’s debt swelled 25 times and “we forgot George Washington’s warning about ‘entangling alliances.’ We went to war. We acquired outside territory.”

It would have been far cheaper (not to say safer) for the average American who pays the bills to stay out of foreign entanglements. For a very few this racket, like bootlegging and other underworld rackets, brings fancy profits, but the cost of operations is always transferred to the people — who do not profit.

Butler detailed the huge profits of companies that sold goods to the government during past wars and interventions and the banks that made money handling the government’s bonds.

The normal profits of a business concern in the United States are six, eight, ten, and sometimes twelve percent. But war-time profits — ah! that is another matter — twenty, sixty, one hundred, three hundred, and even eighteen hundred per cent — the sky is the limit. All that traffic will bear. Uncle Sam has the money. Let’s get it.

Of course, it isn’t put that crudely in war time. It is dressed into speeches about patriotism, love of country, and ‘we must all put our shoulders to the wheel,’ but the profits jump and leap and skyrocket — and are safely pocketed.

And who provides these returns? “We all pay them — in taxation.… But the soldier pays the biggest part of the bill.”

His description of conditions at veterans’ hospitals reminded me of what we’re hearing today about the dilapidated veterans’ health care system. Butler expressed his outrage at how members of the armed forces are essentially tricked into going to war — at a pitiful wage.

Beautiful ideals were painted for our boys who were sent out to die. This was the “war to end all wars.” This was the “war to make the world safe for democracy.” No one mentioned to them, as they marched away, that their going and their dying would mean huge war profits. No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here. No one told them that the ships on which they were going to cross might be torpedoed by submarines built with United States patents. They were just told it was to be a “glorious adventure.”

Thus, having stuffed patriotism down their throats, it was decided to make them help pay for the war, too. So, we gave them the large salary of $30 a month.

Butler proposed ways to make war less likely. Unlike others, he had little faith in disarmament conferences and the like. Rather, he suggested three measures: (1) take the profit out of war by conscripting “capital and industry and labor” at $30 a month before soldiers are conscripted; (2) submit the question of entry into a proposed war to a vote only of “those who would be called upon to do the fighting and dying”; (3) “make certain that our military forces are truly forces for defense only.”

It’s unlikely that these measures would ever be adopted by Congress or signed by a president, and of course conscription is morally objectionable, even if the idea of drafting war profiteers has a certain appeal. But Butler’s heart was in the right place. He was aware that his program would not succeed: “I am not a fool as to believe that war is a thing of the past.”

Yet in 1936 he formalized his opposition to war in his proposed constitutional “Amendment for Peace.” It contained three provisions:

  • The removal of the members of the land armed forces from within the continental limits of the United States and the Panama Canal Zone for any cause whatsoever is prohibited.
  • The vessels of the United States Navy, or of the other branches of the armed service, are hereby prohibited from steaming, for any reason whatsoever except on an errand of mercy, more than five hundred miles from our coast.
  • Aircraft of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps is hereby prohibited from flying, for any reason whatsoever, more than seven hundred and fifty miles beyond the coast of the United States.

He elaborated on the amendment and his philosophy of defense in an article in Woman’s Home Companion, September 1936.

It’s a cliche of course to say, “The more things change, the more they stay the same,” but on reading Butler today, who can resist thinking it? As we watch Barack Obama unilaterally and illegally reinsert the U.S. military into the Iraqi disaster it helped cause and sink deeper into the violence in Syria, we might all join in the declaration with which Butler closes his book:

TO HELL WITH WAR!

Postscript: In 1934 Butler publicly claimed he had been approached by a group of businessmen about leading half a million war veterans in a coup against President Franklin D. Roosevelt with the aim of establishing a fascist dictatorship. This is known as the “Business Plot.” A special committee set up by the U.S. House of Representatives, which heard testimony from Butler and others, reportedly issued a document containing some confirmation. The alleged plot is the subject of at least one book, The Plot to Seize the White House, and many articles.

Edward Snowden condemns Britain’s emergency surveillance bill

NSA whistleblower says it ‘defies belief’ that bill must be rushed through after government ignored issue for a year. The NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has condemned the new surveillance bill being pushed through the UK’s parliament this week, expressing concern about the speed at which it is being done, lack of public debate, fear-mongering and what he described as increased powers of intrusion.

In an exclusive interview with the Guardian in Moscow, Snowden said it was very unusual for a public body to pass an emergency law such as this in circumstances other than a time of total war. “I mean we don’t have bombs falling. We don’t have U-boats in the harbour.”

Suddenly it is a priority, he said, after the government had ignored it for an entire year. “It defies belief.”

He found the urgency with which the British government was moving extraordinary and said it mirrored a similar move in the US in 2007 when the Bush administration was forced to introduce legislation, the Protect America Act, citing the same concerns about terrorist threats and theNSA losing cooperation from telecom and internet companies.

“I mean the NSA could have written this draft,” he said. “They passed it under the same sort of emergency justification. They said we would be at risk. They said companies will no longer cooperate with us. We’re losing valuable intelligence that puts the nation at risk.”

His comments chime with British civil liberties groups who, having had time to read the small print, are growing increasingly sceptical about government claims last week that the bill is a stop-gap that will not increase the powers of the surveillance agencies.

David Cameron, searching for cross-party support, assured the Liberal Democrats and Labour that there would be no extension of the powers.

But internal Home Office papers seen by the Guardian appear to confirm that there would be an expansion of powers. Campaigners argue that the bill contains new and unprecedented powers for the UK to require overseas companies to comply with interception warrants and communications data acquisition requests and build interception capabilities into their products and infrastructure.

The interview with Snowden, in a city centre hotel, lasted seven hours. One of only a handful of interviews since he sought asylum in Russia a year ago, it was wide-ranging, from the impact of the global debate he unleashed on surveillance and privacy to fresh insights into life inside theNSA. The full interview will be published later this week.

Edward Snowden Edward Snowden with a framed piece of a computer that was destroyed in the Guardian basement at the request of the British government. Photograph: Alan RusbridgerHis year-long asylum is due to expire on 31 July but is almost certain to be extended. Even in the unlikely event of a political decision to send him to the US, he would be entitled to a year-long appeal process.

During the interview, Snowden was taken aback on learning about the speed at which the British government is moving on new legislation and described it as “a significant change”. He questioned why it was doing so now, more than a year after his initial revelations about the scale of government surveillance in the US, the UK and elsewhere around the world, a year in which the government had been largely silent.

He also questioned why there had been a move in the aftermath of aruling by the European court of justice in April that declared some of the existing surveillance measures were invalid.

He said the government was asking for these “new authorities immediately without any debate, just taking their word for it, despite the fact that these exact same authorities were just declared unlawful by the European court of justice”.

He added: “Is it really going to be so costly for us to take a few days to debate where the line should be drawn about the authority and what really serves the public interest?

“If these surveillance authorities are so interested, so invasive, the courts are actually saying they violate fundamental rights, do we really want to authorise them on a new, increased and more intrusive scale without any public debate?”

He said there had been government silence for the last year since he had exposed the scale of surveillance by the NSA and its British partnerGCHQ. “And yet suddenly we’re told there’s a brand new bill that looks like it was written by the National Security Agency that has to be passed in the same manner that a surveillance bill in the United States was passed in 2007, and it has to happen now. And we don’t have time to debate it, despite the fact that this was not a priority, this was not an issue that needed to be discussed at all, for an entire year. It defies belief.”

It is questionable how much impact his comments will have on parliamentarians, even though he is an expert witness, with inside knowledge of the surveillance agencies.

Snowden has become a champion for privacy campaigners. But, though his revelations prompted inquiries by two parliamentary committees, he has won little vocal support among parliamentarians.

The Conservatives deny there is any need for a debate on surveillance versus privacy. Labour and Liberal Democrats have been hesitant too about joining the debate, fearful of a backlash in the event of a terrorist attack.

Even backbench MPs who think the intelligence agencies have a case to answer hold back from public expressions of support for a whistleblower sought by the US government.

The British government is justifying the proposed new legislation on the grounds not only of the European court ruling but of US intelligence fears of a terrorist attack, in particular concerns of an attempt to blow up a transatlantic airliner said to be emanating from an alleged al-Qaida bombmaker in Yemen linked to hardline Islamist groups in Syria and Iraq.

Snowden said the Bush administration had used the threat of another terrorist attack on America after 9/11 to push through the Protect America Act. The bill had to be brought in after the New York Times disclosed the surveillance agencies had been secretly engaged in wiretapping without a warrant.

Snowden said: “So what’s extraordinary about this law being passed in the UK is that it very closely mirrors the Protect America Act 2007 that was passed in the United States at the request of the National Security Agency, after the warrantless wire-tapping programme, which was unlawful and unconstitutional, was revealed.”

He said the bill was introduced into Congress on 1 August 2007 and signed into law on 5 August without any substantial open public debate. A year later it was renewed and the new version was even worse, he said, granting immunity to all the companies that had been breaking the law for the previous decade.

Gaza-Israel Conflict: PM Stephen Harper urges world leaders to side with Israel

Brainfeed.ca ….one confused and angry Canadian guy, Dead right though…just looking for Canadians to care about war crimes!

Israeli Interior Minister: “The Goal of the Operation Is to Send Gaza Back to the Middle Ages”, “Destroying All the Infrastructure Including Roads and Water”

Is Israel Trying to Bomb Gaza Back to the Dark Ages?

We noted Friday that Israel is bombing Gaza back to the stone age to get Hamas … But ISIS – NOT HAMAS – claims credit for attacks against Israel.

In response, several commenters accused us of exaggerating the brutality of Israel’s bombing campaign.

But as we noted in 2012, during the last major attack by Israel on Gaza:

Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai said:

We must blow Gaza back to the Middle Ages destroying all the infrastructure including roads & water.

Or as Haaretz puts it:

Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Israel’s operation in Gaza: “The goal of the operation is to send Gaza back to the Middle Ages ….”

Destroying civilian infrastructure is – of course – a war crime under the Geneva Convention.

The following are also war crimes under the Geneva Convention:

  • The indiscriminate or disproportionate use of force
  • Collective punishment for the acts of a few
  • Targeting civilians

***

Indeed, the UN has repeatedly found Israeli’s actions in Gaza to be a war crime.  See this,this and this.

The same year, Gilad Sharon – the son of former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon – wrote an Op-Ed in the Jerusalem Post  saying:

We need to flatten entire neighborhoods in Gaza. Flatten all of Gaza. The Americans didn’t stop with Hiroshima – the Japanese weren’t surrendering fast enough, so they hit Nagasaki, too.

“There should be no electricity in Gaza, no gasoline or moving vehicles, nothing.”

This time around, the New York Times reports that Israel has bombed a mosque in Gaza, a policeman’s house, and a clinic for the disabled … killing 2 residents and a caretaker.  There are numerous reports of women and children killed in bombed out apartment buildings and homes.  But Hamas rockets have not killed a single Israeli.

And a Norwegian doctor working in Gaza (Dr. Eric Fosse) says that everyone he’s treated at the hospital has been a civilian – with many children – that it appears that civilians are being intentionally targeted, and that DIME (Dense Inert Metal Explosives) are being used by Israel:

As Wikipedia notes, DIME is carcinogenic:

The carcinogenic effects of heavy metal tungsten alloys (HMTA) have been studied by the U.S. Armed Forces since at least the year 2000 (along with depleted uranium (DU)). These alloys were found to cause neoplastic transformations of human osteoblast cells.

A more recent U.S. Department of Health and Human Services study in 2005 found that HMTA shrapnel rapidly induces rhabdomyosarcoma in rats.

The tungsten alloy carcinogenicity may be most closely related to the nickel content of the alloys used in weapons to date. However, pure tungsten and tungsten trioxide are also suspected of causing cancer and other toxic properties, and have been shown to have such effects in animal studies.

In 2009, a group of Italian scientists affiliated with the watchdog group New Weapons Research Committee (NWRC) pronounced DIME wounds “untreatable” because the powdered tungsten cannot be removed surgically.

And as the Jewish Daily Forward reports:

The United Nations human rights chief on Friday voiced serious doubts that Israeli’s military operation against Gaza complied with international law banning the targeting of civilians ….

International law requires Israel to take all measures to ensure that its attacks are proportional, distinguish between military and civilian objects, and avoid civilian casualties, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said.

“We have received deeply disturbing reports that many of the civilian casualties, including of children, occurred as a result of strikes on homes. Such reports raise serious doubt about whether the Israeli strikes have been in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” Pillay said in a statement.