Saturday, April 27, 2013

Assad Calls Obama's Bluff

Looks like Bashar al-Assad, the hereditary dictator of Syria, has taken the measure of U.S. President Barack Obama, and isn't impressed.

A while ago in the two-year-old Syrian uprising, Obama announced a “red line.” The “line” was the use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime. Obama in effect was saying, you better not cross this line. You can bomb your own people, you can shell your own towns, you can slaughter civilians indiscriminately, you can institutionalize rape as a weapon of repression, you can torture and execute people, and all I'll do is “demand” that you “step down.” (And prohibit you from having a bank account in an American bank. And we won't sell you arms, which we don't do anyway.) But you better not use chemical weapons! Because then you'll have to deal with the righteous wrath of the mighty U.S.A!

Well, Israel, and Britain, and France, now all say Assad has crossed the line. At first the Obama regime, including in the person of War Secretary Chuck “Wagon” Hagel, said there was no proof. Now, however, they've reluctantly conceded it seems to be so. (A British lab had samples of something to test, blood or soil.) But doubt has been cast on the claims of sarin use. [1] No surprise that Israel might try to instigate U.S. involvement, just as its American agents helped instigate the Iraq invasion and wants the U.S. to bomb Iran.

Assuming sarin use is confirmed, the question is: So now what happens? Nothing much, probably. Some verbal backing and filling and “clarifying” and more hollow warnings, most likely. A slight increase,maybe, in the dribble of “non-lethal” and “humanitarian” aid to the rebels (equipment and food and medicine, no guns or bullets or other stuff that shoots or explodes).

The U.S. “security” establishment now says sarin was probably used. So Obama is stalling. This is reflected in New York Times headlines, on the “World” page of its website, “Obama Not Rushing To Act on Signs Syria Used Chemical Weapons” (no, he sure isn't “rushing,” in fact he's dragging his feet) and a similar headline in the 4/27 print edition. ("Obama Avoids Swift Response to Report on Syria Arms." Love that mealy-mouthed Timesese, "Avoids Swift Response." Sounds so much better than "ducks" or "dithers" or "stalls" or "is indecisive.") 

The website version thumbnail of the story says:

         The president said he would respond “prudently” and “deliberately” to evidence
         that Syria has used chemical weapons, tamping down any expectations that he would
         take swift action.

In other words, don't rush me,I'm thinking, I'm thinking.

The first paragraph spells things out even more clearly, that Obama, by his words, was:

        tamping down any expectations that he would take swift action after an 
        American intelligence assessment that the Syrian government had used 
        the chemical agent sarin on a small scale in the nation’s civil war.

The NYT says that Obama's “remarks”

        laid bare the quandary he now faces. The day after the White House, in a letter to 
        Congressional leaders, said that the nation’s intelligence agencies had assessed “with
        varying degrees of confidence” that the Syrian government had used sarin, the president
        said he was seeking further proof of culpability for chemical weapons attacks. It is a
        laborious process that analysts say may never produce a definitive judgment. But Mr.
       Obama is also trying to preserve his credibility after warning in the past  that the use of
       chemical weapons would be a “game changer” and prompt a forceful American response.

      “Knowing that potentially chemical weapons have been used inside of Syria doesn’t tell

       us when they were used, how they were used,” Mr. Obama told reporters in the Oval Office. 
      “We have to act prudently. We have to make these assessments deliberately.”
      “But I meant what I’d said,” the president added. “To use potential weapons of mass
       destruction on civilian populations crosses another line with respect to international norms
       and international law. And that is going to be a game changer.” [Obama's use of the future   
       tense emphasized by me.]

What a bunch of doubletalk. He's stalling as hard as he can, then he repeats his empty threat, as if nothing has happened. And what the NYT means by Obama's “quandary” is that he painted himself into a corner with his bluffing. But they're too genteel and “respectful” to U.S. “authority” to ever be so blunt.

The UK Independent reports thusly:

         Obama, in his first comments about the new intelligence disclosure, said yesterday
         [April 26] : "For the Syrian government to utilize chemical weapons on its people
         crosses a line that will change my calculus and how the United States approaches
         these issues." "I've meant what I said."

        Some lawmakers voiced concern that if Obama doesn't make good on his promise
        to respond aggressively if it's shown that Assad used chemical weapons, his inaction
       could send a damaging message to the world. [2]

Namely the “message” that the U.S. is a paper tiger, whose bluff can be called. But I think the U.S. has a long enough record of savagery that it would be foolhardy for other nations to test it. and the U.S. has a history of sneaky attacks using cyberwarfare, SEALs, financial sabotage, and so on. For example, a number of Syrian undercover officers were bumped off in retaliation for the Marine barracks bombing in Lebanon during the Reign of Reagan.

At the same time, UK Prime Minister David Cameron says a “very clear warning” should be sent. He forgot to say the word, “again.” Well, he's just fulfilling the now-traditional role of a UK Prime Minister as a parrot sitting on the shoulder of the U.S. Emperor. (A recent exception to that role was Margaret Thatcher. Reagan, under the influence of the loathsome Jeane Kirkpatrick and Al Haig, tried to talk Thatcher out of a military response to the Argentine junta's invasion and conquest of the Falkland Islands, which were and are inhabited by British people. Thatcher was having none of it.)

Obama's minions are also using the lies about WMD that the Bush regime used to gin up war fever to invade Iraq as an excuse to inaction. Which of course continues to promote the lie that what happened prior to that invasion was a case of “faulty intelligence,” not BALD FACED LYING by the U.S. Government and the entirety of the corporate media. The- the establishment- have since constructed this myth that the CIA “got it wrong” somehow, that they made mistakes. In fact, they were fabricating “intelligence,” as has been extensively documented. All the history is being systematically ignored by the U.S. establishment in foisting this lie on the public, that the lies weren't lies, but were honest mistakes.

Let's briefly review a few salient points on that score. There was the man the Egyptians tortured into saying what the CIA said they wanted to hear, that there were Al-Qaeda links to Saddam Hussein. This “confession” was used by Bush and Powell as part of their “proof.” (Later the victim was handed over to Qaddafi for disposal. Jane Mayer of The New Yorker has described the details of this case.)

The con man code named “Curveball” by his German secret police handlers was a known liar, and the Germans told the CIA this, but his bullshit about “mobile chemical weapons vans” was a key part of Colin Powell's lies to the UN.

The Niger yellowcake hoax was exposed as false BEFORE the war by the man tasked with investigating it, Joseph Wilson. You might remember what the Bush regime did in retaliation- they publicly blew the cover of his CIA officer wife, Valerie Plame.

The NYT was part of the mendacious propaganda campaign designed to lead to war. It assigned the egregious reactoinary Judith Miller (who already had a long history of dubious propaganda disguised as “news” for that paper) to act as a conveyor belt for the disinformation of the con man and embezzler Ahmed Chalabi.

The corporate media was so solidly behind the Bush regime's aggression that MSNBC canceled its top-rated show, Phil Donahue, because he refused to drink the Kool-Aid and presented dissenting views from the rush to war propaganda.
I could go on, but it would fill (another) book.

The point is, it is particularly disingenuous for the establishment media (and no doubt much of academe will follow along) to pretend that the U.S. made an honest error about Iraqi WMD, that the phone “intelligence” was honest but “flawed,” “mistaken,” not deliberately fabricated on orders of Cheney and Rumsfeld. This is reminiscent of how they rewrote the history of the Vietnam War, to present it as well-meaning, even noble, but impractical (because the U.S. couldn't “win,”), a “mistake,” not criminal and vicious. (A “mistake” that killed several million Vietnamese, devastated their country, left a land poisoned by dioxin which produces birth defects and disease to this day, killed another million in Laos and Cambodia and led to the rise of the Khmer Rouge, who killed another million plus Cambodian, and oh yes, killed a bunch of foolish Americans who consented to being used as instruments of crime. That's quite a “mistake.” A real whopper, you could say. And part of what so upsets the establishment about it is that it caused powerful resistance movements inside the U.S. But they managed to cool that all out. Now they're busily going back in time to the 1950s, at least- the 1920s if the GOP and their rich scum backers get their way.)

Anyway, now Obama the Ditherer is once again on display. Oh well. He can always kill some more poor Yemeni villagers as compensation, to feel powerful. And now there's a 19 year old prisoner to execute, the surviving Boston Marathon bomber. (Well, why not? If you can kill innocent children, and even target a 16 year old American because you'd just killed his dad two weeks ago and are afraid the son might try to not let it be forgotten- the al-Awlakis, of course- why not a guilty 19 year old bomber, an impressionable young fool under the malign influence of a zealous older brother?)

But Obama is slippery. Like Bill Clinton, a very similar Democratic Party political con man and dangerously intelligent operator, Obama is careful to plant weasel words and trapdoors and outs in his various speeches. So for example when he first laid down the “no chemical weapons, OK Assad?” marker back in August, he qualified it with a lot. Just don't use a lot of chemical weapons. I'm not sure that will get Obama off the political hook now. Senator John McCain has started beating his intervention drum again.


                                         Obama explaining complex matters to the less intelligent- us. April 26.

I think the U.S. should help the Syrian people with small arms, and maybe a no-fly zone, or at least taking out some Syrian aircraft. A brief reminder: 70,000 people are dead, hundreds of thousands are refugees, and thousands have experienced traumatic loss of loved ones, homes, livelihood.  Many are maimed, others have survived torture and rape. Cities and towns are being systematically reduced to rubble.

 I realize morality is irrelevant to our rulers, so I won't bother going over at length my moral reasons for why the U.S. should intervene. I believe that might should be used to defend right, instead of the operative principle of might makes right, that says power is its own justification, which is completely amoral. But here's an argument U.S. rulers might understand: politically it makes sense for the U.S. to try and head off jihadi influence in Syria by helping the bulk of the rebels succeed or at least strengthen their position. Instead, fear of jihadis seems to be a key reason the U.S. refuses to do this. Also, if the U.S. really cares about winning support from the Syrian people and Arabs and Muslims generally, supporting the uprisings of oppressed Arabs and Muslims is the best way to do this. Instead the U.S. is stubbornly sticking to its policy- a global policy- of wanting people to be controlled by dictatorships, and dealing with dictators, who are their kind of people. That is, people who are into power and rule. The U.S. figures it can just keep conning people with its cynical blather about how much they love freedom and democracy and human rights, and the ludicrous claim that these are “our values” and “principles,” that this is what the U.S. “stands for.” An empire founded on genocide and slavery, with a long record of conquest, aggression, subversion, destruction of democracies, and support for death squad dictatorships, saying this with a straight face. Wow, that is discipline, to be able to say that without cracking a smile. I guess repetition makes it easier.

There are two habitual U.S. practices that are principles- namely basic principles of propaganda: The Big Lie, and Repetition. Just keep repeating the lie, in this case, a Big Lie. These are well-established principles of modern propaganda practice, consciously understood by their practitioners.

1) Some of these doubts are summarized in the British Independent, excerpted below:

The picture which is emerging from accounts given by Western and Middle Eastern officials and members of the Syrian opposition is this:  the test so far have not yielded conclusive results; they have been based on blood, hair and soil samples as well as photographs and video footage; the samples have not been collected independently by Western investigators inside Syria but handed over by the rebels or, at least on one occasion, by Turkish intelligence; some of the footage may have been faked; the tests had been carried out at the UK's Defence Science and Technology Laboratories ( DSTL) and multiple locations in America: conclusions on them vary within US intelligence agencies and the experience of 'Iraq and WMD' is a very present source of caution among officials in Washington and London.

Dr Sally Leivesley, a chemical and biological analyst, a former scientific advisor to the Home Office who has worked for a number of western governments, said "There are things here which do not add up. A chemical attack using Sarin as a battlefield weapons would leave mass fatalities and very few people alive. From what one hears about the symptoms it's possible that a harassing agent rather than a nerve agent was used".

See article and video of hospital patients allegedly exposed to sarin at “HasAssad crossed ‘red line’? Graphic video footage emerges claimingto show victims of nerve gas attack in Syria, but doubts cast onevidence of use of chemical weapons”-, 27 April 2013.

President insists chemical attacks are still a 'red line'” -Independent, 27 April, 2013.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

How Harry Reid Killed The Gun Control Bill

The corporate media reports that a law with new gun purchase regulations “failed to achieve the necessary 60 votes” in the U.S. Senate. It got “only” 54 votes, “six shy of the 60-vote threshold.”

What the media didn't mention is that the U.S. Senate is a body with 100 members. To most people, “winning” a vote means getting a majority. A majority is more than half of something. More than half of 100 is 51.

So why is 60 votes needed to pass anything in the U.S. Senate? Is it a law? Is it required by the U.S. Constitution?

No, it's just a Senate “rule,” the so-called filibuster rule- although actual filibustering, that is, talking and talking on the floor of the Senate, is virtually never involved. A rule the Senate made up itself. [1]

A rule the Senate could change.

But won't.

More precisely, a rule the Democratic Party hack and Senate “leader” (or “fuhrer” in the German)
Harry Reid, a reactionary from Nevada, refuses to change.

Why is it up to Harry Reid to change it?

Because he controls the power to change the rule. You see, the “democratic” U.S. Senate is quite authoritarian like that.

Every new Senate term, a handful of Democratic Senators entreat Reid to allow “reform” of the filibuster “rule,” begging for it to be watered down a bit. So this year, Reid did. Now a single bill can no longer be “filibustered” five separate times in the “legislative process.” (Why more than one vote is needed to pass a law anyway would no doubt be a mystery to most people, if they were even aware of the fact.)

If Reid had ever, in all his years as Senate boss, allowed the filibuster rule to be abolished, or at least require actual filibustering (speechifying on the Senate floor by Senators), then a majority of Senators could pass laws, as every normal legislative body does. Therefore the failure to pass a modest tightening of gun laws is squarely the fault of Harry Reid, and of his party. [2]

So why does Reid- in fact why do the Democrats- keep handing the GOP veto power over legislation?
Well, there are various excuses. Some fall into the category of Fear. They're afraid of Republicans.

Another excuse is the sly hint that if (when) they're in the minority, they'll want to filibuster.

Which is bullshit. The Democrats never filibuster GOP outrages. In fact, the Democrats have helped pack the Supreme Court with reactionaries. (Which exposes as particularly cynical the Democrats scare/political extortion tactic of telling voters “If the GOP wins, they'll appoint anti-choice Justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade!”) To give just two examples: the slippery Joe Biden, as then-chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, helped install Clarence Thomas, a dumb ideological operative with no judicial experience, on the country's top court, telling Democratic Senators privately that Anita Hill was a liar. And Antonin Scalia, an utterly fanatical reactionary, was confirmed as a Justice by 98-0 in the Senate. Those weren't 98 all-Republican votes either.

No, the real reason is that the Democratic Party is pro-Imperialist and pro-corporate oligarchy. In order to dupe people who are loosely called “liberal” into voting for them and giving them money, they need an alibi and a scapegoat for the political crimes of the two-party dictatorship. Giving the GOP veto power, giving Republicans the power to decide the laws of the land even when they're a minority, suits their slimy political purposes perfectly. Can't ever do anything decent for the people? It's the GOP's fault! The Democrats tried! They just couldn't get enough Republican votes. The GOP gives the Democratic Party cover for the reactionary policies it secretly supports. [3] 
Well, the Republicans are supposed to be your opposition, assholes!

I mention in passing that the U.S. Congress has always in fact been reactionary, except for brief periods during and after the Civil War, and when it was forced by the economic crisis of the Great Depression to pass New Deal legislation to salvage capitalism. Before Southern White racists migrated en masse from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party, the Democratic majority in Congress included a huge chunk of reactionary, virulently racist Southerners. Together with Republicans, these Southern Democrats in fact constituted a reactionary majority.

Aside from the filibuster absurdity, the U.S. Senate may be the most undemocratic elected “ democratic representative body” on the face of the earth.

Here's what I mean. Each state gets two U.S. Senators, regardless of population. As of July 2012, the population of California was 38 million. The population of the least populous state, Wyoming, Land of Cheney, most powerful VP in U.S. history, was 576,000. That means each resident of Wyoming has the same weight in the U.S. Senate as 66 Californians. A Californian is only worth 1/66th as much as a Wyoman. [4]

Even slaves counted as 3/5ths of a person.

Or look at it this way: the 22 least populous states have a population of about 38,970,000- less than a million more than California. They have 44 Senators- almost half the total, to California's two, or 22 times California's representation. Keep in mind the total U.S. population is about 313,282,000. So states with about 12.4% of the total U.S. population have 44% of the representation in the U.S. Senate.

Of course, the 632,000 residents of the District of Columbia, capital city of the self-proclaimed World's Greatest Democracy, Ever, have no U.S. Senators- and no voting members of the House of Representatives either..

This is the most grossly undemocratic legislature in any nation claiming to be a “democracy,” by far.

Therefore be it resolved: The U.S. Senate must be abolished forthwith.

I know, that was a joke. I was being droll.

The Constitution is written in such a way as to make it impossible to change the fundamental political structure of the nation. The states with unfair power will never vote to give up that power, which would be necessary to change the structure.

Of course, parts of the Constitution are routinely ignored. The first ten amendments, the “Bill of Rights,” for example.

But not this part.

1) The filibuster rule is also called the “cloture” rule, “cloture” being a pretentious term for closing debate. As if they actually debate things, a la that hoary Frank Capra propaganda movie Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. If you watch C-Span, you can see what the self-proclaimed "world's greatest debating body" considers "debate;" sole Senators reading prepared speeches in an empty chamber.

2) Posturing by Party Boss Obama notwithstanding. Recall that Obama was virtually silent on gun control for over four years, until a political breeze was kicked up by the massacre of young children in Newtown, CT. Not the Aurora, Colorado, movie theater massacre, not the maiming of U.S. Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and killing of several others in Arizona, not for that matter the tens of thousands of guns deaths during his time in office- or during his two years as a Senator either- bestirred him to make any effort for regulatory reform on this issue. He can pose all he likes, using the parents of slain children as stage props, but the evidence that this is an issue important to him is quite exiguous. (This isn't just my opinion. Glenn Thrush, Politico's White House correspondent, says Obama has avoided gun control “assiduously throughout his career.” [Thrush on Brian Lehrer radio show, WNYC, 4/18/13.] He also points out that Obama launched no “arm-twisting effort” that other Presidents have done to get legislation they cared about passed.) Even after Newtown, Obama dithered for a month, assigning Joe Biden to study the issue to come up with legislative proposals. Why didn't the Democrats already have a legislative agenda for gun control?

Poring over assassination lists every week is obviously a higher priority for Obama, for one thing. Perhaps he finds it a more satisfying exercise of power to kill, rather than to prevent killing. And I think better gun regulations, if they could potentially save thousands of lives, would save more lives than he imagines he's saved by bumping off the 16 year old son of Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, for example, or poor Yemeni villager, or rescue workers in Pakistan's tribal regions with drone “double-tap” attacks. Those latter attacks in fact have nothing to do with “protecting Americans,” as the rote propaganda catechism has it, but with trying to win a hopeless war in Afghanistan.

3) Actually the Democratic Party's real politics aren't really a secret. Just look at the records of Clinton and Obama. Or Carter. Or LBJ, who brought us the Vietnam War, the invasion of the Dominican Republic to reverse an election result, the Brazilian military dictatorship, and other crimes against humanity. Or Harry Truman. Or Woodrow Wilson, who laid the foundations for the modern U.S. police state with the “Espionage” Act and the Palmer Raids. By the way, he was so racist that his first act as President was to purge the Federal Government of all its black employees.

It's only not well known and understood what the Democratic Party is really about because of the assiduous efforts of the Party and the U.$ media to deceive the public.

4) All figures as estimated by the U.S. Census Bureau as of July, 2012. See “List of U.S. states and territories by population” at Wikipedia, or go directly to the U.S. Census Burea.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Is Islam “A Religion of Peace”?

Funny there could even be a debate about that. It's pretty obvious, if one looks at actual facts, that Islam is far more belligerent and violent than peaceful. It certainly is highly intolerant, even of variations of itself. (1) In other words, if one employs the method of science and reason, and looks at the data, the evidence clearly shows at a minimum the “religion of peace” claim to be not well supported, to put it mildly. I'd go further and call that an absurd and mendacious propaganda slogan of Islamists themselves who wish at the very least to divert people's attention from what other Islamists are doing all over the world, or worse to sinisterly dupe the rest of us and lull us into complacency.

In numerous countries, Islamists impose an intolerant and repressive ideology by force and violence. Islamic regimes rule by force (Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iran, etc.). As Islam got its start by the sword, and spread through conquest, so now Islamists seek to conquer new territories by violence (Mali, Nigeria) and impose more extreme versions of Islam in countries that are already dominated by that religion. It is significant that the flag of Saudi Arabia includes a sword. What is that supposed to symbolize? Peace? Name me a Muslim nation with a dove in its flag, or two hands shaking. There are none. Saudi Arabia is the site of the “two Holiest sites in Islam,” Mecca and Medina. Every Muslim is commanded to visit Mecca at least once (if they can)- this is called the Hajj. S.A. is the “guardian” of the symbolic fonts and touchstones of Islam.

Yes yes, the friendly-face propagandists insist “jihad means struggle.” I'm sure it does. It also means religious war- or nowadays, religious terrorism. Maybe someone should tell the people setting off bombs in public places every few days in Pakistan, Iraq, Nigeria, and now Syria too (sometimes so enthralled by death that they willingly blow themselves up along with their victims- maybe instead of calling their god “Allah” they should call it by its right name, Thanatos) that jihad actually is a benign method of self-improvement via inner struggle, not a call to murder and mayhem. Clearly, words can mean different things to different people.

But that doesn't represent Islam, or not all Muslims. Ok, where are the Muslim denunciations of Islamic terrorism? What we get are fatwas (“Holy” commands) calling for the murder of cartoonists and novelists from top Islamic religious bosses. (Salman Rushdie's Japanese translator was murdered, Dutch filmmaker Theodoor "Theo" van Gogh was butchered by knife in the street for the “crime” of making a movie about the horrid abuse of women by Muslims, and you can add your own countless examples here.)

We do hear how Muslims are “intimidated” by “hate speech.” Really? So where are the Christian terrorists murdering Muslims for saying something the Christians don't like? Where are the mobs attacking embassies over cartoons? How many public orders to murder authors has the Pope, say, issued?  It sounds a tad hypocritical. [But oh, their delicate sensibilities need protecting. A guy who threw a Koran in a toilet at a college in New York City was charged with “disorderly conduct as a hate crime,” a felony. Felony thought crime, that is. To express contempt or hatred for a religion that has political clout by throwing a book in a toilet is apparently banned, at least in NYC. We can't allow such “intimidation.” All I can say is, if someone is terrified by seeing a book in a toilet, they better dig themselves a big hole to hide in the rest of their lives. People say mean things sometimes. You wouldn't want your feelings hurt. (2)]

The late Christopher Hitchens was the most eloquent public figure who tried to arouse defenders of what are called liberal values- free speech, tolerance, human rights including equality of women to men, pluralism, free thought, and freedom to live one's life without interference from totalitarian oppressors (remember, these guys ban even music and art, force women to cover their faces, who they also ban from going outside their homes unless accompanied by a male relative, and much else that is intolerable to any normal human being)- against what he saw as a menace to “civilization.” I suppose those of a certain ideological bent would attack his argument as rank Western chauvinism. But is not the cutting off of hands, beheading reporters and hostages, and reducing women to the level of chattel beasts not barbarism? (And that's an extremely partial list of the barbaric crimes committed by these fanatics. Committed proudly- they like to boast about the horrors they inflict, even videoing themselves doing them and posting the evidence online.) (3)

Or if you insist on cultural relativism and say “it's just different types of civilization,” very well, the Wahhabi one is waging war on the “western” one. It is seeking to impose its anti-human values by not just force, but by terrorism. Right now, Islamic terrorists calling themselves “Boko Haram” are trying to impose by terrorism their demands on all Nigerians. Boko Haram means “Western education (or ideas) is forbidden.” Forbidden by who? By this band of terrorists. Forbidden to whom? To everyone else in Nigeria (and once they take over Nigeria, there will be more countries on their list). Forbidden how? By vicious violence, meted out without warning to whomever they choose to inflict it on.

And just what are “Western ideas”? The aforementioned basic human rights and freedoms I already enumerated, among others. Oh, I left out the right of women to learn how to read and write. That too is “forbidden.”

But I recognize that a billion people cannot all be branded terrorists, nor do I wish to. The truth is, the majority of the victims of Islamic terrorism are Muslims. And it is Muslims who are most oppressed by Islam, especially females. I guess being able to oppress women is the compensation the men have for being repressed themselves by their religion.

Islam is a perfect example of how religion is an infectious mind disease. What is the purpose of demanding prayer five times a day? Mind control. Forcing boys to memorize the Koran? Indoctrination and brainwashing. [I don't speak as a partisan of any religion as I am an atheist.]

The U.S.' Saudi “allies” have chosen to bankroll the spreading of the most virulent form of this disease, Wahhabi Islam. This led directly to the 9/11 attacks and many others preceding and following it. The Pakistani military sees Islamic terrorists as useful cat's paws and cutouts for terrorist attacks on India.

There has to be an appropriate response to this serious situation. On one extreme are leftists and the most naïve pacifists whose ideology acts as a blindfold, preventing them from seeing what's in front of us all. On the other pole are people enraged by 9/11. They had a very strong reaction to the huge media propaganda campaign following that attack. [Too bad there has never been an honest accounting of the complicity of the CIA and FBI in those attacks. And remember how Bush had to be forced to even create an investigative committee? And how he and Cheney refused to testify under oath to it? Amazingly, that's all down the memory hole!] They paint with too broad a brush and see all Muslims as enemies. If civilization (there I go again, being chauvinistic) indeed has a billion enemies, we're in huge trouble.

A crusade a la the Roman Catholic invasions of the “Holy Lands” is not the answer. But naivete isn't either. You can't negotiate with unreasonable fanatics. And some force is unavoidable in dealing with them. But at the same time the main battle is ideological and psychological. Unfortunately “winning hearts and minds” is just a cynical euphemism for lame propaganda campaigns, cheap political tricks, and mendacious speeches by political con men. (Why does the name Barack Obama come to mind?)

A long ideological battle looms, and the U.S. and its allies don't seem to have a clue what to do about it.

I could give advice, but that will have to await another essay. (Besides, those in power don't take advice from me anyway, so what's the rush?)

A good start would be to stop supporting dictators and start promoting democracy. But “the West” has painted itself into a corner here. Since they supported for so long dictators who have successfully prevented the development of civic organizations and democratic consciousness in the countries they rule, the best-organized opposition (and thus most likely to win elections, as happened in Egypt with Mubarak's overthrow) are Islamists. Which of course the U.S. and its bloc do not want. But continuing to support dictatorships in the hope of suppressing a virulent and violent totalitarianism is proving risky- especially when one of those dictatorships (Saudi Arabia) is a source of the problem!

1) I refer of course to the mutual bombings and murders by Sunnis and Shiites of one another in several countries. And the two branches of Islam are fighting a proxy war in Syria. That civil war is not just a proxy war, but it is that as well as being a rebellion against the tyrant Assad. Iran and the Arab monarchies of the Arabian peninsula also compete for influence in Iraq, site of constant terrorism motivated in large part by this religious factionalism. The Saudis and their satellite oil sheikdoms are apparently pressing the U.S. in secret to take out Iran's nuclear program by any means necessary. Sure, Christianity in the past launched wars of conquest, fought sectarian wars between branches of itself (political conflicts masked as religious, which gave them extra fervor, as today between the Iran-Syria axis vs. the Arabian Peninsula one) and was violent and repressive. But that was centuries ago. All they do now is kill miscarrying pregnant women by denying them abortions, as just happened in Ireland. And support the occasional fascist death squad regime. But that's mainly Catholicism- and evangelical Protestantism, big backers of the former Guatemalan butcher Jose Efrain Rios Montt. [Actually that might make an interesting defense for Islam. Look at all the massive state terrorism, that killed millions over the past century, that the Roman Catholic Church aided and abetted.? That would be the "but they did it too" defense. But hey, I say mean things about the RCC too. I'm fair. And the Pope doesn't issue public calls for the murder of writers he doesn't like. So there is a difference. Hypocrisy is the tribute that vice pays to virtue. It is better for tribute to be paid than not. And the RCC's preachings these days do not call for or promote violence. That obviously is a huge distinction from much of Islam.]

If Muslims hate each other to such a murderous degree, how are the rest of us supposed to see them? They are obviously a menace. You could ask the relatives of 200 dead Australian tourists murdered in the Bali resort bombing shortly after 9/11/01 about that, among other people.

By the way, quite a few Muslims hate Jews too. And that isn't because they care so much about Palestinian Arabs either. They would hate Jews anyway. [Which unfortunately is used as an excuse by Israel and its U.S. backers to continue to remorselessly, relentlessly dispossess the Palestinians of their homes and land and makes their lives miserable, with an eye to goading them to leave.]

2) This censorship of free speech and free expression is justified with the seemingly liberal demand that “people should respect other people's religion.” That is an example of rhetorical jui-jitsu, calling suppression of criticism or negative remarks “tolerance.” It is intolerance in the name of tolerance. But you have no right to demand that I genuflect before your religion. Personally I think that all religion is SHIT. Ignorant, superstitious, primitive idiocy. I reject the demand that I “respect” moronic, imbecilic “beliefs.” If someone “believes” in unicorns, or flying elephants, or “believes” that the moon is made out of green cheese, I would refuse to submit to a demand that I “respect” those beliefs, nor would anyone attempt to impose such a demand- or at least they'd lack the power to enforce it. The content of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic religions (each a successive knock-off of the preceding one) is as least as ludicrous. Forcing people to smile and nod respectfully at religious zealots in the name of “tolerance” is suppression of freedom of thought and expression. It is a hijacking of liberal values to enforce its opposite. If someone's “beliefs” are so obviously absurd that they can't withstand dissent from them or criticism or even mockery, maybe they need a more reality-based set of beliefs!

3) Hitchens was getting increasingly dogmatic in some ways in the last few years of his life. I fear he was going to end up sounding indistinguishable from the neocon bedfellows he was lying with in his later years. (He became a regular on panels and TV shows put on by such nests of reactionaries as the Heritage Foundation, Hoover Institution, the Hudson Institute and the Claremont Institute. You can see videos of these sessions on youtube.) Lately he had taken to calling for war on Iran. So maybe it was a bittersweet blessing in disguise that he died before degenerating further. I prefer to remember him as intellectually sharp, morally acute, and witty. He was in danger of becoming a hectoring warmonger. We do need to resist the encroachment of barbarism, but starting major conventional wars is more likely to backfire, and drive even more Muslims into hateful fanaticism. There are better levers to use against Iran, and for that matter Pakistan and Saudi Arabia should be dealt with more toughly, instead of being coddled. The West has the means to do so. The Saudis are just as much a hostage to the Western banking and investment system as Iran, in fact much more so. And they need to sell their oil at least as much as others need to buy it. As for Pakistan, it largely exists on U.S. largesse, especially since its corrupt ruling elite refuses to tax itself, engorging itself like leeches with undeserved wealth while their country falls apart. Yes, their nuclear weapons falling into the hands of the fanatics is a problem. If U.S. regimes, especially starting with Reagan, hadn't allied the U.S. with military Islamists starting with Zia ul-Haq, we'd be in a very different place now, probably. Once again the chronic refusal to actually ally with democrats is proving to be the opposite of “realism.” It is in fact stupidity. So we see that morality isn't just nice window-dressing. Morality is a fundamental part of our existence. It is part of the fabric of being. One ignores it at one's peril. This goes for nations too.

BONUS VIDEO: Yusef Islam (nee Cat Stevens) calls for the public immolation of Salman Rushdie.
(“Peace Train” indeed!)

Monday, April 08, 2013

U.S. Government-Obama Regime Murdering Lynne Stewart in Slow Motion

Lynne Stewart is dying of terminal cancer, locked in a cell with seven other prisoners in a Federal dungeon in Texas. Deprived of proper medical care, the Obama regime's plan is to watch her die.

Lynne Stewart is the disbarred lawyer who is imprisoned for “conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism” and lesser charges. (Originally the charge was actually “providing material support to” etc. “Conspiracy” is a lot easier to prove. It basically means “planned to do” something.

Terrorism, huh? Ooh, sounds bad! She must have done something awful!

Indeed she did. She handed a press release on behalf of her client to Reuters. Her client was the “blind Egyptian sheik,” Omar Abdel-Rahman, an established “bad guy” in U.S. political culture, who is serving life in a U.S. prison- but not just life, life being held incommunicado. The Bureau of Prisons imposed a set of special rules for this special prisoner on his lawyer, requiring her to help them block all contact between him and the outside world. [Because he's a “terrorist,” any messages from him are ipso facto “terrorist messages.” Just as if he said something to you, that would be a “terrorist statement.” Or if he smiled, that's a “terrorist smile.” And Lynne Stewart is a “terrorist (ex-) lawyer.” See how that works? It's like something radioactive- touch it, and you become radioactive. In this case, politically radioactive. You can be sure that anyone who protests Stewart's treatment is similarly radioactive, their names added to various secret “terrorist” databases in the bowels of the secret police state bureaucracy.]

But let's be fair and balanced here. Look at it from the other side. In the eyes of the U.S. power structure, Lynne Stewart is a traitor who endangered America. Well, American “interests.” That is, Abdel-Rahman's missive was aimed at stirring up (so it is alleged) his followers in Egypt, which was ruled at the time by U.S. client-dictator and helpful torturer Hosni Mubarak. (Decades of support for Egyptian military dictators, first Sadat and then Mubarak, being an example of how the U.S. “promotes freedom and democracy and human rights around the world,” but that's another story. Or rather, the Big Story that this story is a small part of, but one I've discussed extensively in other essays.) Abdel-Rahman was calling on his followers to resist Mubarak, not attack the U.S. So why should the U.S. consider what Stewart did such a grave crime? The U.S. is an empire. So trying to make trouble for its client is the same as attacking it. Which is “terrorism,” of course. (Disagree? You're “supporting terrorism.” Better watch that! You're either on “our” side or “the terrorists' side.” “Our” being guess who? The people in power, especially the permanent, gigantic police state bureaucracy.) So if you help the “terrorist” try to make trouble for the dictator, you “provided material support for terrorism.” (1)

So when she broke the rule created by the prison, the Bush II regime brought the “terrorism” charges against her. Duly convicted in “liberal” New York City in Federal District Court, she was originally sentenced to about two years (28 months) in Federal prison. (One of her two co-defendants, a postal clerk accused of being a “leader” of Abdel-Rahman's “terrorist group” in Egypt, got 28 years. Maybe the judge thinks 28 is his lucky number?)

This “light” sentence outraged the prosecutors. Amazingly, a Federal Appeals Court, similarly outraged, in its decision on Stewart's appeal excoriated the trial court judge for the sentence, considering the gravity of the offense, and provided tutoring on the proper duties of a Federal judge in a political case (couching it in suitable euphemisms of course) and in no uncertain terms ordered that a harsher sentence be applied.

The trial judge, John G. Koeltl, duly chastened, got the message and, cravenly eager to get back in the good graces of his superiors, multiplied the sentence by five, making it an even ten years. (To prove he learned his lesson, I suppose. Hey, you want to get promoted to the Appeals Court someday, you better learn what's expected without having to be told!) Stewart, under treatment for breast cancer, was also clapped in jail immediately on orders of the Appeals Court, using as an excuse the fact they they deemed her to have committed “perjury” during the trial. (Defendants who testify in their own trials often lie, and the usual practice by the courts is to overlook this. Also, FBI agents, police, and government officials routinely lie at trial, and this is virtually never sanctioned at all, much less prosecuted.) The Appeals Court also cited statements she made out of court that expressed opinions they found offensive as grounds for increasing her prison sentence. (When this was appealed, the same Court exonerated itself of violating Stewart's free speech “rights,” as they are facetiously called.) The Appeals Court judges apparently felt that Stewart hadn't "learned her lesson," as they say, with the 28 month sentence, despite a contrite letter she had sent to the trial judge before her original sentencing. [See Wikipedia entry under Lynne Stewart, which cites the NY Times on the letter.]

Now, Lynne Stewart isn't a young woman. She's 73 now and has been in prison since November 2009. She would have been freed about a year ago under the original sentence.

There are conflicting reports on how she came to be at death's door, languishing in a Federal dungeon with terminal cancer. One version is that she was prevented from having scheduled surgery by being whisked into prison while an appeal was still pending. Another version says her cancer was in remission. What's for sure is that medical care for American prisoners is generally abysmal. We can assume that subsequent surgery was subpar, at best. Obviously since she's denied access to good cancer treatment, her cancer was allowed to spread. She has not been given needed medications. Her cancer has metastasized to her bones and other organs and is now incurable.

Apparently dissatisfied with the degree of her suffering, the U.S. is is adding to it by keeping her in Texas, thousands of miles away from family and friends in New York and from supporters in California- i.e. as far away as possible from support unless they'd shipped her to Alaska. Apparently she doesn't “deserve” to have visits from people while she's dying.

It's hard to sate the sadism of political persecutors. Cf. the Inquisition, part of “our Western Heritage,” or Bashar Assad's regime, for more gruesome examples.

By the way, another political prisoner being even more slowly murdered, is Leonard Peltier, who they've already partially blinded by medical neglect.

In sum: apparently feeling that Stewart's sentence was still too light, the Obama regime has in effect sneakily resentenced her yet again, this time to death. Their chosen method of execution is untreated cancer. This time no judge issued any public verdict. The re-resentencing is de facto, not de jure. It's an off-the-books execution.

So the sinister people in power have decided to execute Stewart, without officially sentencing her to death and without having to lash her down to a gurney and sticking a needle in her vein and injecting her with poison, or strapping her to a chair and shooting electricity through her body, or tying a noose around her neck and dropping her body through a trapdoor in a gallows. And they will smarmily pretend not to be responsible for murdering her.

As is traditional in U.S. assassinations of dissidents, there is no official acknowledgment or public record of the killing. This allows the U.S. Government and political system to keep up the ruse of running a “free” country where people have “rights.” (No one has rights in America, only privileges, revocable at any time if one crosses certain invisible lines and enters a political taboo zone.) The murders are hidden from public view, while a terroristic message is transmitted to dissidents. So the U.S. establishment gets to have its cake and eat it too. It commits a no-cost murder, it applies the old Chinese ruling dictum “kill one, frighten a thousand,” yet gets to pose as defenders of freedom and democracy. (“Imprison one, intimidate a thousand” works too.) Its legitimacy in the eyes of the general populace is preserved, because they remain ignorant of the murders. (This is partly the populace's own fault for their laziness, lack of curiosity, and willingness to continue to rely on the corporate propaganda system- called “the media,” like there is no other- for information and knowledge about, and understanding of, the world they live in.)

And there won't be any “official” records or “mainstream” (aka “reputable”- a sick joke) media reporting of the effective execution. So future historians will, it is hoped, be misled about what happened.

Or if you think this is all a bit of a stretch, you can look at it this way. Lynne Stewart was actually sentenced to life imprisonment without parole for issuing a press release. Is that arguable?

I don't think that can be disputed. And call issuing a press release “material support for terrorism” if you like. Where was the terrorism? What violence occurred? None, except the violence done to Lynne Stewart.

Not only was there no violence, which is what most people are conditioned to immediately think when the word “terrorism!” is blared at them. There weren't even attempts. There were no “foiled plots.” No “attempted bombings.” But the phrase “material support for terrorism” allows the rulers to demonize their victim and trick the already-brainwashed public as to what really occurred.

And defense lawyers got the message by what happened to Lynne: don't try to hard to help people we brand “terrorists.” Or else. (The Government prosecutors, in their demand during the original sentencing procedure that Stewart be sentenced to the maximum, 30 years in prison, spelled it out: "We hope that this sentence of 30 years will not only punish Stewart for her actions, but serve as a deterrent for other lawyers who believe that they are above the rules and regulations of penal institutions or otherwise try to skirt the laws of this country.")

You see, our bourgeois masters take it very personally when someone defies them on political or ideological grounds. Witness the hysterical, enraged, public demands that Julian Assange be assassinated for revealing some of their dirty secrets. These are ruthless people, capable of merciless hatred and rage. Of course with Obama and Holder you never see hot emotions. They may not even have any, for all I know. They may be totally cold and calculating gangsters, not hot and emotional ones. That's certainly how they come across. Janet Reno, Holder's boss during his previous stint as a high “Justice” Department executive during the Clinton regime, was another emotionless, totally ruthless apparatchik, completely inhuman in her absence of affect.

Stewart's supporters are trying a last desperate throw of the dice, petitioning for “compassionate release” (the name the U.S. Bureau of Prisons cynically calls this runaround procedure) to at least let her die with friends and family in New York, thousands of miles from the Texas dungeon. Such release is virtually never granted to any prisoners, much less political prisoners. Theoretically, it is for prisoners with a short time to live due to terminal illnesses. In practice, it's for almost no one. (Another condition is that the prisoner must present “no danger to the public.” But anyone branded with the “terrorist” label is by definition dangerous until they are dead. Witness the hysterical dread that nixed “terrorism” trials in NYC, or transferring prisoners from Guantanamo Bay to Federal supermax prisons in the U.S., as if they have comic book supervillain powers of escape and destructiveness. In Stewart's case, the danger is ideological, the spread of her defiant words. And what if she doesn't die fast enough? They want to make sure she's good and dead first.)

The flaw in the plan to petition for compassionate release is that the people being petitioned don't have any compassion. Barack Obama, Eric Holder, and the various myrmidons who run the U.S. Department of “Justice” and its subdivision, the Bureau of Prisons, are hard-hearted, ruthless people. (No doubt they regard such a statement as a grave insult. Thus I write it with trepidation, as angering such powerful people is indeed dangerous, just as angering Vladimir Putin in Russia would be.) The Obama regime has shown itself to be even more merciless than his predecessor when it comes to granting pardons, for example. (He grants virtually none, in fact the fewest of any U.S. President, ever. With the U.S. prison population around record levels, I guess it's just hard to find any who deserve a break.)

I'm certainly not saying people shouldn't ask for, indeed demand, compassionate release. The refusal of the establishment will provide an opportunity to underline the heartlessness of those in power. Of course, there are a thousand such opportunities every day, but nevertheless, one might as well avail oneself of this one. Maybe the system will be more cunning than cruel in this instance and release her on the brink of death, so they can pose as having a heart. I certainly hope so, but I wouldn't bet money on it. (Just don't expect to be allowed on an airplane again if you sign the petition.)

1) Abdel-Rahman's followers in Egypt are designated “terrorists.” And his message aimed at them asked them to reconsider a “ceasefire” with the Egyptian dictatorship. Of course, since states insist on having a monopoly on violence, the Egyptian state's violence is legitimate, but its subjects' is criminal.

And maybe the U.S. figured it owed Mubarak one. After all, his torturers extracted a fake “confession” from someone the CIA sent to him, “proving” that Saddam Hussein had “weapons of mass destruction” and “links” to Al-Qaeda, said “information” subsequently bellowed by Colin Powell in his speech to the UN demanding war on Iraq. Bush too referred to this “information” from interrogations that “we know.”

A year later, after retracting this “confession,” when the victim was asked why he'd said untrue things, he explained they were killing him and he had to make the pain stop so he told them what they wanted to hear. Of course, the CIA obviously told the Egyptians what the CIA wanted to hear from the prisoner, Ibn Shaikh al-Libi. Later, the Mubarak regime handed him over to Qaddafi in Libya for disposal, where he was duly murdered in captivity. [“Al-Libi, Torture, and the Case for the War in Iraq,” Mother Jones, May. 14, 2009.] The case of al-Libi proves it doesn't pay to cooperate with the U.S. He had been talking freely to FBI agents when Bush gave the CIA permission to get their clutches on him, and they turned him over to Mubarak's torturers, and ultimately to his doom. He left behind a family. [See Wikipedia entry. But note that much of the entry is U.S. Government disinformation and bullshit. See Jane Mayer below. Wikipedia shows its bias by calling Mubarak regime torture "harsh interrogation." And having your arm blown off in an explosion would be "an unfortunate accident," I guess, if you adopt that system of extreme euphemisms.]

Watch this video clip, an excerpt of an hour long interview of Jane Mayer, The New Yorker writer who wrote a book on the U.S. kidnapping and torture programs in the “war on terrorism,” The Dark Side.


The full hour-long interview is available on youtube
                                                 "How the War on Terror Turned into A War on American Values"

It is one of a series of interviews with various persons, ranging from Noam Chomsky, Christopher Hitchens, and Peter Dale Scott, to CIA officers (the one with Michael Scheuer has some interesting revelations) and various retired military officers, posted on The series is called "Conversations With History," and was done under the aegis of UC Berkeley.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Obama Tops Kafka

86 prisoners in the U.S. military gulag at Guantanamo Bay (an illegal U.S. Base embedded seemingly permanently on Cuban soil, a country that the U.S. has committed numerous terrorist attacks on for over 50 years) have been “cleared for release” by the U.S. Government, its military, and its various secret police agencies. (Sixteen U.S. repression organizations in total have signed off on their release, with none objecting.) But Obama apparently intends to imprison them at Guantanamo Bay for life anyway. His State Dept. has now closed the office that arranges their “transfer” to other countries.

So even after your captors say you're cleared for release, the U.S. won't free you. Not even Kafka dreamed up a scenario like that.

By the way, 86 is a majority of the remaining 166 prisoners. At the peak, there were 750 prisoners in”Gitmo,” “the worst of the worst” in the false words of the mendacious Donald Rumsfeld. We know now that the Bush regime's top members cynically, cruelly, and cold-bloodedly knowingly locked up large numbers of innocent men sold for bounty money to the U.S. in order to appear effective in response to the 9/11 attacks. (Funny how they weren't blamed for the attacks, as a Democratic regime would have been blamed.) These hapless victims, including Algerian Red Crescent worker Lakhdar Boumediene, seized in Bosnia (where he lived as a naturalized citizen), were used as human props in the Bush regime's War On Terror political theater production. (Boumediene was deported in chains to France after seven years in the U.S. gulag, following a lengthy court battle.)

The Obama regime also wins this year's George Orwell 1984 Memorial Prize For Creepy Surveillance. Currently there's a show “trial” going on within the military prison camp at Guantanamo of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the “mastermind” of the 9/11/01 kamikaze airliner crash attacks, and co-defendants. The military has a censor in the court who cuts off the audio/video feed to the reporters held in another room. (Reports from the reporters to the outside world are “monitored.”) But this week some ghost in the machine cut off the feed from outside the room. The military officer “judge” was startled by this as he had been kept in the dark about the secret spying/censorship overlord. Apparently it was the CIA, because they threw their cloak of darkness and silence over the proceedings as one of the defense lawyers was starting to describe the torture of one of the prisoners. Surveillance equipment was also discovered in the “private” rooms where “privileged” attorney-client meetings are held between the prisoners and their defense lawyers. Joe Stalin would be proud.

So we have a fake “court” holding a fake “trial” with a fake “judge” (military officer following orders with no independence whatsoever) who doesn't even control his own “courtroom.” The U.S. is trying to fool people into believing that this ridiculous, sick charade constitutes “justice.”' It would be less disingenuous to cut the bullshit and just summarily execute the “defendants.”

Obama, you get the prize.

The “judge,” later in the week, ordered whoever was doing the secret monitoring and censorship to stop. Good luck with that, you hapless puppet. And the defense lawyers started worrying about the privacy of their communications. Right. As if they have any. The FBI, for one, has bugged and tapped attorneys defending leftist defendants for decades. What chance is there of defense lawyers for “Gitmo” prisoners not being totally covered with surveillance by multiple secret police and military “intelligence” organizations? How about zero?

People need to stop upholding the establishment's propaganda illusion that the U.S. is a “free” country and not a police state. Has been, on an organized basis, since Woodrow Wilson, really. And once again, back then, war was the excuse, rationale, justification, and cover for it.