Volatility

May 9, 2018

Their City Wants War

Filed under: Dance of Death, Disaster Capitalism, Globalization, Mainstream Media — Tags: , , , — Russell Bangs @ 1:35 pm

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7 And when you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars, don’t be troubled: for such things must needs be; but the end shall not be yet.
 
8 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be earthquakes in many places, and there shall be famines and troubles: these are the beginnings of sorrows.
 
— Mark 13.7-8
 
 
So it goes in the Middle East as the US once again abrogates its bond for the sake of war. The US government, the entire US political class (Dembots and Repbots alike, and the entire corporate media and academia) and the Zionists must have total war, and so total war they shall have.
 
We must endure and look to the hastening end. Every aggravation only grips them more fastly in the mire, further constrains their sword arm (physical and economic) and brings their downfall closer.
 
 
 
 

February 26, 2016

GMO News Summary February 26th, 2016

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*As they try again to pass a version of the DARK Act (Plan A version), let’s look ahead to a possible world where it’s been passed.
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I recommend, and will always myself use, a form of ju jitsu. If the DARK Act passes, let’s try to turn the tables on them by telling everyone far and wide that this proves all industrial food is GMO unless otherwise labeled, but that the alleged need for such a law proves that the manufacturers are desperate to hide this fact. After all, Pompeo’s own flunkeys said so: “Consumers can choose to presume that all foods have GMO contents unless they are labeled or otherwise presented as non-GMO. Meaning that it is knowable and it is known by the public which products have GMO and which don’t.” Exactly right. Monsanto forecast that putting a label on things would be like a skull and crossbones? Let’s turn this into a reverse skull and crossbones. Let’s loudly catcall every manufacturer, in every forum where consumers who might care will see it: Campbell’s is willing to label and confirms that it won’t cost anything extra. WHAT ARE YOU HIDING? Let’s stick that DARK version of the skull and crossbones on everything.
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According to the draft this version of the DARK Act will give the agriculture secretary a formal pro-GMO propaganda mandate. Of course this would just formalize the status quo, and highlights how purely political the government’s version of “science” is. Anyone who knows the slightest bit about science knows it’s a contradiction in terms to order that someone simultaneously be “science-based” and be automatically “for” anything. You can have one or the other, not both. Just as you can have secrecy or science, never both. There we have just two examples of how radically anti-science the pro-GMO activists are. Of course by now the very term “science-based”, in the mouth of anyone from the establishment, is an Orwellism just like the Big Tobacco lobbying term “sound science”. Wherever you see either term you can be assured it means the exact opposite of what it’s supposed to sound like. Wherever anyone from government, corporations, or their media says “science”, it automatically means corporate “science”.
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Ah well, the ag secretary already has the power to shill and does so. To my way of thinking, a law giving him a formal mandate to do so ought to further discredit the government in the eyes of anyone who’s still in any doubt about how committed the government is to corporate imperatives.
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With the endless iterations of the DARK Act we have a war of attrition which, in the end, the corporations are bound to win, if anti-poison types keep fighting primarily on these grounds. Which brings up another point, which is that this mode keeps the anti-GMO movement firmly on the defensive, really just fighting the DARK Act over and over. As for Non-GMO labels or any other kind of labeling, let’s always keep in mind that the corporate plan, no matter what kind of labeling were ever to exist, is that the allowed level of “adventitious presence” below which something could still be called “non-GM” (or not have to be labeled as GM) will keep mechanically being raised as GM contamination proceeds. The corporations expect this to happen in the exact same way regulators mechanically keep raising the allowed pesticide “tolerances”. There’s no doubt about it, any kind of labeling strategy is doomed to fail completely in the end, because co-existence is impossible, physically and politically.
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*For example, transgenic contamination has been afflicting maize in its Mexican center of origin and biodiversity ever since NAFTA was instituted in the 1990s. This is in spite of the fact that GM maize has never legally been cultivated in Mexico. Transgenic pollen also contaminates the wild progenitor of maize, teosinte. Thus this contamination compromises not only the existing genetic diversity of maize, narrow as that has become under corporate monoculture farming; it’s also compromising the genetic wellspring necessary for the future of the crop.
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Today the public is learning something the Spanish government and Monsanto have known at least since 2009, that teosinte has established itself as an “invasive” in Spain. (For some reason they don’t call maize itself an invasive, though; but both reached Spain in much the same deliberate way.) This brings the danger that MON810, the only GM crop grown legally in Europe and widely grown only in Spain, may contaminate this teosinte stock in the same way the contamination has spread to teosinte in Mexico.
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By law GM crops can be authorized for cultivation in Europe only if they pose no cross-contamination threat. Governments and corporations, in this case Monsanto, have an obligation to monitor this potentiality. In practice this kind of requirement is invariably flouted, and there’s never any penalty for flouting it. In fact, this systematic condoning of systematic flouting proves that the law itself is really a propaganda sham which was never intended to be enforced, much like Bt refuges. In this case both Monsanto and the Spanish government have failed for many years to report the presence of teosinte to the EU government, and in 2014 Spanish officials lied about it in response to questions from the European Parliament. See below for more on the EU’s own refusal to meet its legally mandated reporting standards.
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*Among the basic scams of regulators is to pretend there’s no such thing as synergy effects when multiple poisons afflict an organism, or indeed that there’s more than one poison at all. Instead they pretend that whichever chemical is the topic of the moment is the one and only chemical in existence, and they undertake their bogus “assessment” and set the “tolerance” based on this lie. Thus there’s no such thing as a maximum cumulative tolerance, e.g. for all pesticides combined, nor is there any assessment of the combined effect of multiple pesticides even though there’s conclusive evidence that this combined effect is often severe. Indeed, the EPA’s recent temporary revocation of the registration for Dow’s Enlist herbicide was triggered by EPA’s embarrassment during a lawsuit. In the course of telling EPA there was no synergy effect while telling the patent office there is one (this self-contradiction in itself is standard procedure and is no problem for the EPA or for the FDA’s “substantial equivalence” lie), Dow was so assertive in its synergy rhetoric that in the context of the public interest lawsuit this embarrassed the regulator. So there’s Dow itself claiming glyphosate and 2,4-D together have a greatly more severe effect than just adding together the effects of each by itself. (And to repeat, the EPA never even does this basic adding, let alone takes synergy into account.)
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There’s now a new report assembling the evidence for combined effects, as well as the cumulative effects of exposure over time, which is another thing regulators never test. According to their junk science paradigm, the one and only thing to test is short-term acute exposure, and even this is done in bogus ways. Regulators will continue to do all they can to stall, obfuscate and deny, throwing up a fog of obscurantism and lies to go along with the literal poison fogs they help inflict upon us all.
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*”The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship (IDALS) and Iowa Agribusiness Association opposed the liability bills (House Bill 289 and Senate Bill 1190), testifying that commercial applicators wouldn’t be able to qualify for or afford these levels of insurance.” That’s as clear as testimony gets that an industrial activity is unviable according to the mythology of capitalism, which claims that a worthwhile good or service can always pay its own way. But here’s the state of Iowa and its poison-marketing trade group openly admitting it’s not possible for those who profit from the action to pay for its costs, and that those costs have to be borne by others. Of course the damage to other crops caused by pesticide drift is just one part of the destruction wrought by poison manufacturers and users. As we see in this case, if we intend to do anything about this we’re going to need to be rather more severe in return than just advocating laws about regulating and monitoring pesticide drift. For starters, we can resolve to abolish 2,4-D and dicamba completely and focus completely on this and only this goal. As we see in Iowa, the enemy is so totalitarian that it will not tolerate even the most modest restraints, and is willing openly to say that third parties should have to pay for poison harms, not the sellers or users. Is it possible to be more clear about what a zero-sum game this is?
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*CAFOs are among the most hideously filthy places on Earth. The animals are permanently sick and require massive doses of antibiotics, not just to put on weight but to remain alive at all. They are veritable bioweapons labs, incubators of every kind of pathogen, the most perfectly crafted habitat for bacteria-borne disease. Dust from these CAFOs and their manure lagoons then spreads the potential for infection as far as the wind carries the infected particles. According to a new study CAFO drift has greater potential than previously documented to contaminate produce with potentially pathogenic bacteria. This joins with pesticide drift and transgenic contamination via pollen drift to prove that coexistence is impossible. This puts in reality-based perspective the lies about how “precise” and “controlled” industrial agriculture is, and how much of a lie the ideology of scientific control is in the first place. It also demonstrates how all the pretensions of control so pompously touted by engineers, corporate bureaucrats, and their political and media flunkeys are really lies, and how they premeditate the systematic spread of disease and poisoning. They know all this and they persist.

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Persistence Proves Intent.
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.*The EU’s ombudsman finds that the EU systematically abuses its institution of “confirmatory data procedure” for special regulation of poisons where the original submissions are proven to be so fraudulent that even the regulator can’t just cover up. Just like with the EPA’s “conditional registration”, when there’s incontrovertible evidence of a severe problem the EU allows poison sellers to say “the data’s in the mail” while they keep selling. In her ruling on a suit filed by the Pesticide Action Network of Europe the ombudsman also criticized EU regulators for lack of environmental protection assessments, lack of required follow-up monitoring (as I described above in the case of Spain’s teosinte, this scofflawing is so standard that we can call it a systematic lie among all regulators), and the health agency’s blithe approval of poisons which even the EFSA says give “critical areas of concern”. The ruling has no enforcement power and hands down no penalty, it merely demands that the EU submit a report within the next two years. In this report the liars are supposed to tell how the lies they used to tell are no longer being told. Because we know how credible such a report will be.
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Therefore it’s no surprise that the European Commission is responding to the WHO’s finding that glyphosate causes cancer by proposing to extend glyphosate’s official endorsement for the next 15 years and expand the allowed range of uses. The “European Council” of various national ministers is slated to meet in March to vote on the proposal.
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The WHO has summed up the decades of evidence, and the EU responds that it wants to give all Europeans cancer. It would be difficult for a government to more openly, starkly express its conscious, willful, homicidal intent. Certainly no ombudsman’s ruling, however harsh, will ever be sufficient for meeting this crisis.
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*Here’s the FDA temporarily backing down on its planned assault on raw milk cheesemakers. By its own testimony it’s backing off, for the moment, because of strong opposition from the Community Food sector, the producers and customers. But as the communication says, the agency still plans to use the power it was given by the “Food Safety Modernization Act” to carry out the intention of that act: To attack small farms, the cottage food industry, and any other rising rival to the poison-based Big Ag and Big Food system.
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Like the USDA and EPA, the FDA is dedicated to maximizing corporate control of agriculture and food, in particular maximizing the production and use of poison and the presence of this poison in our food. The FDA is also the lead federal organization seeking to strangle the rising Community Food sector which is working to restore rational and healthful agricultural and food economies based naturally on foodsheds and watersheds. This is a civil war, so far being waged mostly through chemical warfare which seeks to destroy our ecosystems, soils, and bodies. The FDA’s assault on community food continues, on behalf of the poison-based agriculture and food sectors. They plan to greatly escalate the assault under the “Food Safety Modernization Act”, a name Orwell would’ve had trouble bettering.
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*Among the lesser known of Israel’s crimes against humanity is its systematic chemical warfare against Palestinian agriculture, conducted under the rubric of a nebulous, ever-changing “security” policy. This is really a typical control measure, arbitrarily deployed and expanded at the will of the military. With only minor modification we can describe poison-based agriculture in general, including its increasing poison drift, in the same terms. Pesticide technology and the poisoner mindset historically have migrated to civilian use from prior military use, and there’s never been any clear dividing line between civilian agricultural use of these poisons, their military and police use vs. crops in Vietnam, Colombia, Palestine, and elsewhere, and their fully weaponized use against human beings in combat and the Nazi death camps. Most formally, the exact same scientific researchers, engineers, and government personnel, and the exact same corporations selling the exact same chemicals, span this entire spectrum.

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June 2, 2010

Beyond the Freedom Flotilla: Neoliberal Assault (2 of 2)

 

Outside the US tabloid media zone the world remains transfixed by the horror of the Israeli government’s murderous act of piracy and its ongoing holding of the boats it hijacked and hundreds of hostages kidnapped on the high seas.
 
As I said in my previous two posts on this, I think this act had a dual purpose. Israel’s specific, proximate goal was of course to enforce its illegal blockade. But the lengths of aggression and piracy (even technically to acts of war) to which it was willing to go, and the nature of the blockade itself, which the Israelis have openly admitted is intended not to achieve practical security goals but to punish the people of Gaza, demonstrate that this government’s mindset goes beyond any reality-based goal, and is really trying to enforce total domination for its own sake wherever these criminals believe their power prerogative extends.
 
In the end, as always with totalitarians, the true crime isn’t the proximate allegation, which in this case the Israelis can’t even get straight. (That the humanitarianism of the mission was bogus? But they have all the cargo now; they’ve had it for two days. The fact that they can’t even plausibly try to plant contraband proves the complete innocence of the cargo.)
 
No, as always with such thugs, the true crime is defiance itself. Sure enough, the Israelis sound the most outraged when they simply sputter that the Flotilla was a “provocation”. Yes, indeed it was, and was meant to be. It was meant to challenge Israel’s illegal and illegitimate blockade as such. It was meant to challenge this tyrannical arrogation of power, an arrogation based not on authority or law, both of which on the contrary it flouts, but on brute force. The mission was the same as the eternal mission of all decent people who challenge tyranny. And just as they challenge tyranny on principle, so tyranny seeks to prop itself up on its own anti-principle, which is simply the lust for power and greed for phony wealth itself.
 
Which brings us to the larger significance of this act. On a global scale a great crime is progressing. The criminals seek to condemn ever more people to permanent impoverishment and servitude. The goal of the global finance elite and its flunkey governments is the restoration of feudalism itself, not only across the Global South but throughout the West itself.
 
I’ll give a quick recap.
 
1. As capitalism matured it should, according to reality and to its own textbooks, have seen profits fall to marginal levels. There should be very little profit left in the economy by now. Instead, the entire economy should have long since been functioning smoothly and efficiently, with sufficient goods and services in every sector, while government largely shrunk as it would have little role to play as economic arbiter. There would be rough equality of wealth and power distribution, little wealth and power concentration. Democracy would become steadily more healthy and strong.
 
This is how capitalism was supposed to function. This is what its promoters always promised. This is what would have happened, if every word hadn’t always been a lie.
 
2. In the reality of greed fundamentalism, elites were never textbook capitalists but always gangsters. No one ever wanted to be a capitalist. No one ever wanted to compete and innovate. They wanted to concentrate wealth and power, period.
 
As capitalism reached its terminal profit crisis in the latter 20th century, the power elites resolved to deploy an ever more aggressive command economy. They’d use the power of government to substitute extorted and stolen rents for their diminishing “capitalist” profits.
 
Globalization and financialization comprised the campaign of oligopoly capitalism to prop itself up while stringing along the Western middle classes. They substituted debt for production while obscuring the assault on all public amenities and power. Real wages have steadily eroded since the 70s while wealth concentration has exponentially risen. (That juxtaposition right there is a basic metric of robbery.) The system attacked unions on every political and “legal” level. Social Security has been steadily undermined via ploys like the rigging of inflation metrics (to fraudulently depress COLA increases). Other entitlements have been similarly eroded. Globalization’s open border for unskilled labor provides the basic force of gravitation for all wages, while outsourcing and offshoring destroyed many mid-level jobs completely, forcing and ever greater number  of workers into the undifferentiated unskilled mass. (The system did somewhat protect most kinds of professionals for a long time, but now that’s been eroding for many as well.) Walmartization provides a kind of linchpin, the direct conduit for addicting ex-citizens to cheap consumerism while directly destroying self-proprietors and middle class jobs in general, along with the communities anchored by the people who held such jobs.
 
In this way the temporary “middle class”, fueled by debt and cheap oil, had the carpet slowly pulled out from under it. Meanwhile the basic unproductivity of the Western system was covered up by bubbles, culminating in the housing bubble (itself fueled propagandistically by the Big Lie that you should rely on your house to provide for your retirement, not any other pension; this nicely provided cover while public entitlements and private pensions were gradually being subverted).
 
3. The crash of 2007-8 was the beginning of the collapse of this final bubble. No bubble could any longer be sustained on just propaganda. Now the command economy had to take a direct, very heavy hand. Thus we’ve had the advent of the Bailout and a new level of the disaster capitalist rampage, since the global economy is now nothing but an ongoing disaster, and the criminals have no outlets left but to drive disaster ever harder in order to extract profits from it.
 
In the new regimes, Bailout America and the Bailout Eurozone, all government policy (not just monetary, not just fiscal, but all policy) is now predicated on massive redistribution of public wealth to the banksters. The mechanisms have been too many and varied for me to recapitulate them here, but I and many others have written about them many times.
 
But this Bailout can’t be propped up forever. How long will anyone keep buying dollars? The bonds of indebted countries? Everyone knows these are all ponzi schemes. So in the end the Bailout itself must succumb to the same diminishing returns on “confidence” which did in the “regular” debt economy. Again the bubble must collapse. Reality wants to deflate.
 
4. So the next step is liquidation. It’s the good old “structural adjustment”. The old odious debt which the criminal West used to inflict such suffering on non-industrialized economies is now being brought home to the Western middle classes themselves. Today the term of art is “austerity”.
 
The fact that the “conventional wisdom” (to paraphrase Voltaire, it’s neither “conventional” nor “wise”, but manufactured propaganda intended to whitewash crime) is now that of the deficit terrorists, that the message is “the markets don’t really fear inflation now but might fear it in the future, so governments should act in obedience to this hypothetical future fear”, means the finance vanguard thinks the end is in sight for what free money can do for them, and that in order to continue their extractions they’ll have to move into more direct class warfare. It’ll no longer be sufficient to simply gut the interest returns for savers on pensions; now the pensions themselves must be directly stolen.
 
In the Baltics, in Eastern Europe, now intended for Greece,  now intended for Iceland, and next up Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, and soon after the UK, and soon after that the US itself, the non-rich will have their wages, salaries, and pensions liquidated (i.e. stolen) while all public property is privatized (i.e. stolen).
 
Even as you take home ever less in pay and see all prospects for paying for any kind of emergency, illness, or retirement become hopeless, at the same moment you’ll find yourself having to pay ever more extortionate tolls for anything and everything which used to be provided by the fabric of society itself. Driving on any road, receiving any government service, police, fire, calling 911 itself, are just examples of everyday critical extortions we’ll face.
 
Even basic health care will become completely unaffordable (and this at the same time that the system intends to collect Obama’s fascist insurance mandate for a worthless piece of paper), all public parks will be fee-generating private parks, libraries will cease to exist altogether, all environmental, health, consumer, and safety regulations will be removed. Access to the courts themselves will be restricted to the rich. Even the poll tax may be reinstated (although by now at least at the federal level the vote is so meaningless they might not bother with that one).
 
Anyone who doubts the malevolent intentions of Obama and the US kleptocracy on this score needs to learn about Obama’s “deficit commission”. This Star Chamber is dedicated to achieving what Bush failed to do, privatize Social Security. (Thus Obama hopes to outdo his predecessor in consummating the heritage of their shared hero, Reagan.) Pete Peterson and the Washington Post have led the call to bring the full force of “austerity” to America. Obama is simpatico with this goal. With his extralegal and anti-democratic commission he hopes to achieve this and far more. The ultimate goal is to strip all government spending except on corporate welfare, war, and the police state. (Although both war and the police state are being privatized as well.)
 
5. So that sums it up, where we are today. The gangster elite intends to reinstate feudalism, with all of us reduced to the literal serfdom of debt. As our debts become utterly impossible to ever pay, we’ll be indentured in various ways, become sharecroppers at every kind of job, and debt prison under hideous chain gang conditions will be applied as a constant threat to anyone who doesn’t meekly comply with his servitude, since we’ll all be convicts anyway in one big country-wide debtor prison.
 
But there’s an obvious alternative to all this. We debtors and cash cows can simply overthrow the debt at will. We can impose the debt jubilee from the bottom up. (That’s the same debt liquidation “our” governments would have allowed to naturally transpire in 2008 the way the real market wanted it to, if these really were our governments and not irrevocably rogue kleptocracies.)
 
The kleptocracy must expect real resistance at some point. This isn’t like the 60s, which was basically political protest against political crime on the part of the system. It was epiphenomenal. Today the struggle is far more elemental. It’s a zero sum fight to the death at the socioeconomic core. This is end game for neoliberalism and corporatism – totalitarianism of total collapse of their wealth and power. Liquidation of the people, or liquidation of their own power.      
 
So however repulsively meek the American people have been so far and perhaps will be in the future, the elites don’t expect things to be so easy everywhere else. In Iceland and Greece especially we’re seeing some will to resist the gangsters. We can expect protest and resistance of many sorts to become stronger and to see people fight back with ever greater resolve, if the people can ever develop a real consciousness of the crimes which afflict them, and the morale of the struggle which feeds on struggle itself.
 
Conversely, the criminals must want to strangle the very thought of resistance in its cradle. A few well-placed blows could sufficiently demoralize people that they’d more pliantly submit to their fate. This is part of the classical shock doctrine. It’s worked before in specific countries like Chile. Today it has to work on a global scale.
 
If we put the murderous assault on the Flotilla in that context, it looks like a rather clumsy attempt to provide such an object lesson. It’s clumsy because Israel’s so hated that outrage over its crimes seems to be one of the few things that can reconcile many peoples and governments. Indeed it’s consistently been used as a divide-and-conquer astroturfing tactic by every Arab government. It’s also clumsy because much like the Wall Street banks, Israel itself can exist in this form only through welfare handed out by the US government. Israel’s gratuitous crimes, which the despicable Obama must now stand isolated to defend, add yet another burden to the already absurdly overextended US government commitment. Once again we see how the best thing we have going for us is the tactical incompetence of the system thugs.
 
So we’ll have to expect the gangsters to become ever more violent and tyrannical as they try to tighten their feudal grip. Throughout history it’s always been this way, and the end of the oil age, the end of the exponential debt age, portend the most vicious reaction yet. The restoration of feudal organization in the form of debt slavery can only be accomplished through a combination of extreme violence and extreme slavishness on the part of the victims. Shock treatment means, among other things, applying the former to enforce the latter.
 
So the Israeli pirates weren’t just firing literal shots into the boats, but a far more profound metaphorical shot across the bow of the much larger Freedom Flotilla in prospect, all over the world. The killers hope that if they demoralize us pre-emptively, they won’t have to board us on the high seas of history at all. They’ll board us in our docile ports, at our jobs, in our unemployment, in our homes, in our thoughts.
 
So that’s the way we need to see this, and this is the propaganda and action of terrorism we must never allow to defeat us. Another flotilla has already embarked for Gaza. Everywhere, let’s put our own ships to sea.

June 1, 2010

The Freedom Flotilla and the Neoliberal Assault (1 of 2)

 

Israeli pirates physically stopped the Freedom Flotilla, but the spirit and idea of the Flotilla continue on their voyage to Gaza and to everyone besieged by the neoliberal/corporate onslaught.
 
As more information comes out, the Israeli “side” sure doesn’t look any better. The IDF’s own media presentation can’t obscure the fact that they launched an attack on the high seas. They’re reduced to whining that their commandos were resisted with improvised implements. The pirates’ own video seems to show the overmatched activists heroically resisting a professional assault any way they could.
 
Nothing Israel or their US lapdogs say can elide the basic, dispositive fact: The Israelis attacked civilian ships in international waters. All else is peripheral to this. (Although as I just described, their own video shows they’re lying when they claim they were “ambushed” by the activists.)
 
So the pro-Israel flunkey position boils down to:
 
1. The High Seas belong to Israel.
 
2. Therefore they have the right to commit piracy. (Technically, it may in fact be an act of war rather than piracy. But it has to be one or the other. Morally, and from the point of view of man’s law, it’s a crime. It’s first degree murder. War, piracy, do the legalities matter anymore? All law has been hijacked by the power elites and will be infinitely twisted to their ends. So human beings are left with only moral and political categories.)
 
Meanwhile, as the world comes together to condemn this crime, Bailout America stands alone in its lame attempts to exonerate Israel. As predicted, Obama’s response is to oppose placing blame on the killers, but instead wanting a bland, impersonal statement against abstract “violence”.
 

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel canceled plans to come to Washington on Tuesday to meet with Mr. Obama. The two men spoke by phone within hours of the raid, and the White House later released an account of the conversation, saying Mr. Obama had expressed “deep regret” at the loss of life and recognized “the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances” as soon as possible.

 
Yes, we need the pertinent facts. In this case, we already have the overwhelmingly pertinent fact: Aggression on the high seas. International waters. Piracy. That renders all else insignificant.
 
(It’s no surprise that Obama agrees with the Israelis’ claim to “sovereignty” over the high seas. Obama has already tacitly surrendered US sovereignty in its own waters. He has alienated sovereignty in the Gulf of Mexico to the stateless non-legitimate entity BP. When a government does that, it abdicates any legitimacy it had in itself. Clearly Obama believes in no principle of sovereignty or law whatsoever. Clearly he believes in nothing but corporate prerogatives and might-makes-right.) 
 
Decent people of course recognize this, thus the unanimous condemnation among all who aren’t part of the Western globalization power structure.
 
As for the video showing the victims fighting back, good for them! Although this was no “ambush” the way the Israelis’ lie would have it, even if it had been that would make no difference. Whether you look at it  morally or in the most legalistic terms, either way on the high seas they have every right to resist pirates attacking the ship. It’s exactly as if a robber were breaking into your home. (It’s funny the way the IDF calls the activists “rioters” on their own ship. That’s like the burglar calling the homeowner who pounces on him a rioter in his own home.)
 
This is really naked state terrorism. The proximate motivation here is Israel’s will to enforce its regional totalitarian dominance. From that point of view, for nonviolent activists to challenge the blockade, that is to challenge Israeli “authority”, is an offense punishable by death. That was the proximate occasion for the dispatch of this death squad, to carry out a mass execution.
 
At the next level, we see how as always the Global War on Terror is a pretext for the aggressive deployment of power. Hamas has of course been a threat to Israelis, although not to Israel itself. But just as with “terrorism” worldwide, which poses no existential threat to any western entity but is everywhere used as the pretext to justify police states and imperialism, so here Hamas is really the pretext for Israeli neoliberalism to aggressively extend its power and robbery and tyranny.
 
What is Israel? As I wrote in February, it’s not just any country, but serves as the spiritual and organizational core for the totalitarian security-industrial and disaster-capitalist complex. The global aspects of these have radiated out from that core, for example through China to the West.
 
Two excerpts from Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine describe it well:
 

What makes Israel interesting as a guns-and-caviar model is not only that its economy is resilient in the face of major political shocks such as the 2006 war with Lebanon or Hamas’s 2007 takeover of Gaza, but also that Israel has crafted an economy that expands markedly in direct response to escalating violence. The reasons for Israeli industry’s comfort level with disaster are not mysterious. Years before US and European companies grasped the potential of the global security boom, Israeli technology firms were busily pioneering the homeland security industry, and they continue to dominate the sector today…From a corporate perspective, this development has made Israel a model to be emulated in the post-9/11 market. From a social and political perspective, however, Israel should serve as something else – a stark warning. The fact that Israel continues to enjoy booming prosperity, even as it wages war against its neighbors and escalates its brutality in the conquered territories, demonstrates just how perilous it is to build an economy based on the premise of continual war and deepening disasters.

 
Israel serves as the frontier outpost and proving ground for all imperial assaults:
 

Israel’s case is extreme, but the kind of society it is creating may not be unique. The disaster capitalism complex thrives in conditions of low-intensity grinding conflict. That seems to be the end point in all the disaster zones, from New Orleans to Iraq. In April 2007, US soldiers began implementing a plan to turn several volatile Baghdad neighborhoods into “gated communities”, surrounded by checkpoints and concrete walls, where residents would be tracked using biometric technology. “We’ll be like the Palestinians”, predicted one resident, watching his neighborhood being sealed in by the barrier. After it becomes clear that Baghdad is never going to be Dubai, and New Orleans won’t be Disneyland, Plan B is to settle into another Colombia or Nigeria – never-ending war, fought in large measure by private soldiers and paramilitaries, damped down just enough to get the natural resources out of the ground, helped along by mercenaries guarding the pipelines, platforms, and water reserves.

 
Claude Salhani referred to the “spill over of trouble” from the Middle East. Nowhere is this more true than with the toxic mindset and practices of Israeli crypto-totalitarianism. That’s what corporate imperialism wants, to bring all its trouble home. Disaster is its business, as we’ve seen over and over in recent decades. Since 2008 disaster has been enshrined as the official basis of the US economy and polity themselves. Between the institution of the permanent Bailout, already in place under Bush but with full cooperation from candidate Obama, and then Obama’s enshrinement of Bush’s permanent war and war crimes regimes as official US policy (as opposed to a Bush/Cheney aberration), we now have the enshrinement of a new, toxic regime, Bailout America.
 
This brings us back to the Flotilla atrocity and its broader implications. Just as Israel’s version of the “war on terror” is one iteration of the Global War on Terror, so Israel’s will to enforce regional domination is a regional iteration of the neoliberal global will to total domination. The real terrorists, in deed and propaganda, are the neoliberal thugs themselves.
 
As the banksters and globalization elites contemplate the next stage of their economic assault, in particular as they attempt to fit the peoples of the countries onto the various torture devices of “austerity”, they face increasing protest. Possibly resistance. That’s why the Freedom Flotilla, which seeks to be exemplary in the eyes of freedom activists the world over, was the target of this brutal assault. The robbers want the example to be a demoralizing and terrorizing one. The real target audience for this exercise in terrorist propaganda is activists and anybody contemplating protest and resistance, all over the West. The real targets are Greek protestors and anybody else who might get uppity about being crucified on “austerity”.
 
What does US “diplomacy” say?
 

The United States, which habitually defends Israel in the council, said that the attempt to run the blockade by sea was ill advised. “Direct delivery by sea is neither appropriate nor responsible, and certainly not effective, under the circumstances,” said Alejandro Wolff, the deputy permanent representative of the United States.

 
Yes, when pirates attack the ship and slaughter the passengers and crew, delivery tends to be “not effective.” The veiled threat is clear: “To all you activists, do you think [whatever resistance you contemplate] will be effective? Not if we kill you instead.”
 
So now we’ve seen overt fascist terrorism before the eyes of the world.
 
The crime is the same as where Obama claims the right to put out a hit on anybody he chooses, anywhere, without trial, on his “authority”. The crime is to challenge corporate domination. To engage in assertive nonviolent activism against the global kleptocracy is a capital crime. This was a mass execution.
 
So as I said yesterday, this is a war of example against example, lesson against lesson, idea against idea. The killers want to efface the exemplary courage of the Flotilla crewmen by drowning our courage in the blood we’ve seen flow. As always with the tactic of terrorism, they want to use terrorism to force fear and resignation to overwhelm courage and exuberance and resolve in the minds of the people.
 
So far it doesn’t seem to be working, as the world has spoken with one voice its revulsion and rage. But the real test is the long grind. I hope Hamas learns a lesson from this and takes up the tactic of assertive nonviolence rather than playing into the hands of the killers by reciprocating with further violence against civilians. That’s just what the Israelis and the neoliberals at large want – the dialectical burning of the world in a gyre of terrorism and state terrorism. Their world is the burning world. They expect to lauch their arsonist sorties from secure fortresses while the rest of the world alternately slaves and tears itself to shreds.
 
But if instead we the people unite for the Ghandiesque counteroffensive on a global scale; if we can keep dictating the battlefield and the pace through assertive nonviolence; and if we don’t let the thugs quash our intelligence and resolve with the fog of fear and hate; if we do all this, we’d turn the flames around. The nightmare they’ve prepared for us would become their nightmare, while we’d emerge from the smoke into a new sunlight.
 
The Freedom Flotilla is holding that course and will do so for as long as we hold the course with them.

May 31, 2010

Terrorism vs. Humanity (the Freedom Flotilla is butchered)

Filed under: Civil Disobedience, Neo-feudalism — Tags: , — Russell Bangs @ 6:25 am

 

The Israeli military has responded to nonviolent activists challenging its illegal blockade and more importantly its “authority” with a murderous assault. Al-Jazeera reports at least 15 were killed when the Israeli commandos stormed the ship, while even the NYT says at least 10 were slaughtered.
 
The reaction of the world has been shock and condemnation. After all the innocent talk in the weeks leading up to this, all the Israeli protestations of good faith, and how their response would vindicate their claims of moderation, all the alleged conversations about how to turn this into a show of Israeli reason and restraint, we see how they actually planned to turn this into a test case of the most brutal fascist state violence.
 
According to the Flotilla passengers the death squad stormed aboard without warning and opened fire. This was premeditated murder.
 
Of course the Israelis are claiming that they were fired upon first, which is absurd on its face. Evidently their story is breaking down faster than they can spin it, however, since even the NYT, which was passively hostile toward the Flotilla and previously imposed a news blackout upon it, reports how lame and obviously phony the Israeli story is.
 

A military statement said two activists were later found with pistols they had taken from Israeli commandos. The activists, the military said, had apparently opened fire “as evident by the empty pistol magazines.”

 
So the Israelis themselves are admitting the activists had no weapons, and claim that they took some pistols from the commandos themselves. So according to the story of the killers themselves, the activists acted in self defense  and only by being able to capitalize on death squad incompetence (even for a hillbilly sheriff the worst sin is to let your weapon be taken from you).
 
We can expect this lie to quickly be exposed. (How lame and clumsy – they couldn’t even come up with a more plausible way to plant weapons on the victims?)
 
This is textbook fascist murder, exactly the symptom we who’ve been following the course of corporatism would expect at some point. I’m somewhat surprised they chose such a high-profile moment and such brazen action, but I guess the logic is that since governments everywhere expect to have to use this level of force against their own recalcitrant people, and especially against non-violent activists, they think if they engage in a high-profile act of state terrorism this might cow many of the putative activists who were looking to the Freedom Flotilla as an exemplary deed.
 
So it’s a war of example against example. We must not let ourselves be cowed. We mustn’t cave in to terrorism. Instead, the example of the courage and martyrdom of these peaceful, humane souls must shine brightly before us as we continue the fight against those who reveal themselves to be among the most vile, despicable killers who ever disgraced the species.
 
We look to two examples, one professing and living all the highest ideals of the human faith, the other capable of nothing but lies and murder. This must confirm our resolve to be worthy of the legacy of the Flotilla freedom fighters, who take their place in the freedom pantheon which illuminates history.
 
The terrorists want to crush us with violence and even more the terror of violence. But we will not let them win.

May 27, 2010

The Freedom Flotilla

Filed under: Civil Disobedience — Tags: , — Russell Bangs @ 7:31 am
As I write the Freedom Flotilla, a vanguard of conscience, has embarked from multiple ports in Turkey and Greece, with one ship coming from as far away as Ireland. Its destination – the besieged and throttled Gaza Strip. They expect to arrive sometime this weekend.
 
 
Click here for a map.
 
The eight vessels – four cargo boats and four passenger craft, the largest a Turkish ferry carrying 600 human rights activists  – carry humanitarian cargo. They also carry witnesses to the action, and the conscience of the world’s people. The passion is so oversubscribed that even Noam Chomsky, recently refused entry to the West Bank to deliver a lecture at a Palestinian university, may be unable to find a berth.
 

In the port of Agios Nikolaos, here on the Greek island of Crete, one of the lead organisers of the flotilla is the Free Gaza Movement’s Renee Jaouadi – a 34-year-old schoolteacher, formerly from Newcastle, NSW. Under the banner of the Freedom Flotilla, the protest is a $US3 million-plus ($3.6 million) operation. Apart from 10,000 tonnes of building, medical, educational and other supplies, on board are dozens of parliamentarians from around the world and professionals planning to offer their services in Gaza.

Celebrity names include the Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell and Denis Halliday, a former United Nations humanitarian co-ordinator who in 1998 resigned, protesting that economic sanctions on Iraq amounted to genocide.

On Saturday evening, attempts were under way to find a berth on the over-subscribed manifest for the activist American philosopher Noam Chomsky, who Israeli authorities last week barred from entering the West Bank where he had been invited to speak at a Palestinian university.

 
The people of Gaza were already a dispossessed alien group on their own land when in late 2008 Israel launched war upon them. This war was really more a campaign of systematic economic destruction, as the Israeli military destroyed homes, factories, and crops. Since then they’ve continued the war by other means, the garotte of a blockade.
 
According to the WHO the consequences have been severe:
 

“In Gaza, Israel’s blockade is debilitating the healthcare system, limiting medical supplies and the training of medical personnel and preventing serious medical cases from travelling outside the Strip for specialized treatment.”
“Israel’s 2008-2009 military operation damaged 15 of the Strip’s 27 hospitals and damaged or destroyed 43 of its 110 primary health care facilities, none of which have been repaired or rebuilt because of the construction materials ban.”
“Some 15-20 percent of essential medicines are commonly out of stock and there are shortages of essential spare parts for many items of medical equipment . . . ”
In Late 2008, nearly 1 in 5 Palestinians lived in “extreme poverty.” Over half lived below the poverty line.
“In the second half of 2008, one third of West Bank households and 71 percent of Gaza households received food assistance, with food accounting for roughly half total household expenditures – making families highly vulnerable to food price fluctuations.”
“In May 2008, 56 percent of Gazans and 25 percent of West Bank residents were deemed food insecure by the UN.”
“Chronic malnutrition has risen in Gaza over the past few years to reach 10.2 percent.” [This is especially true among children in Gaza).
The entire fishing and agricultural sectors in the Palestinian population are very badly off.

 
This strangulation has reduced the civilian existence of Gazans to whatever can be smuggled in through tunnels. As per the Israeli intention, this has filled the Gazans’ lives with uncertainty and fear, as they tremble for the very necessities of life.
 
Such collective punishment is a crime against humanity, but by now the Israeli kleptocracy, a more perfected crystallization of the globalist kleptocracy, has moved defiantly beyond concern for the mere laws and morals of the human race.
 
Half the population of Gaza are children, and they are suffering the most. Incredibly, the Israelis won’t even allow through the building materials for the one hundred schools the Gazans need to build. It’s as if the Israelis <i>want</i> this entire generation to grow up enraged and ignorant, and therefore perfect jihad material.
 
So far Israel has responded to the Flotilla with a combination of playing innocent, disparagement, and threats. The one part of the message which has been clear is that they intend to stop the boats. They reiterated this yesterday, while claiming they’d deliver any legitimate humanitarian cargo themselves. This dovetails with their broader claim that they’re already letting sufficient civilian goods through the blockade. Bizarrely, they even cited the smugglers as alleged proof that this flotilla’s cargo isn’t necessary.
 
But all of this is a lie. The Israelis do let in just enough food and seeds and medical supplies to try to claim they’re not starving and sickening out the people of Gaza, when in fact it’s only a trickle just barely sufficient to sustain life, but completely insufficient to help the Gazans rebuild their shattered society. Meanwhile necessary rebuilding materiel like cement are forbidden completely, and will not be among whatever anodyne portion of the Freedom Flotilla’s cargo is “delivered” after the IDF has intercepted it.
 
The purpose of the blockade is to let just enough through so that the people don’t literally die, but otherwise to be sufficiently severe that they can never rebuild. The entire campaign, starting with the original blockade (since 2007), escalating into the military assault, and now terminal with this apparently permanent intensified blockade, is meant to collectively punish the Gazan people for exercising democracy by electing Hamas to run their government. Whatever we think of Hamas (which is both a violent resistance organization as well as a significant provider of civilian services), it truly represents the will of the people.
 
We should always be aware of how willing are The Powers That Be to punish democracy wherever it functions to their disapproval.
 
So the Israeli navy promises to halt the vessels, as it has in several earlier incidents (in one case violently ramming a peaceful cargo boat). Meanwhile, in shades of old times, a private Israeli “volunteer” fleet is organizing to “assist” the navy. We’re familiar with such paramilitary volunteers from the bad old days of fascism. It’s a textbook fascist organizational tactic.
 
So what will happen at the confrontation point? Presumably the IDF hopes to physically block and then board the vessels without any violence beyond that. They say they’re bringing foreign journalists along to prove their reasonable intentions. (But who are these “journalists”? If they’re from the MSM of Bailout America, nobody should trust their good intentions or professional ethics.) In that case they ought to exclude private troublemakers from anywhere near the vicinity. We can take that as one metric.
 
As for the Freedom Flotilla, it’s determined to assertively and non-violently steam through and dock and unload at Gaza ports. This is exactly the kind of non-violent assertion that has often worked. It was a favorite tactic of Gandhi. They should try to keep moving, if possible circumventing Israeli warships which try to physically interpose. It’s true that if the Israelis are determined to stop them, they will stop them.
 
But if there’s any lack of will at all among the interceptors, any ambivalence or divided resolve, this can generate enough lassitude in the counteraction to let the action slip through. That’s how active non-violence works, and how it can triumph.
 
And if they do get through, what a moral victory against the segregating walls being built to enclose, stifle, and strangle our economies and our politics! It’s the foray of conscience.
 
Now if we could only figure out ways to physically challenge Wall Street and the US government like this…
Edit Sunday 5/30 6:25 EDT:
The Flotilla has recently departed from Cyprus and is expected to reach Gaza on Monday morning.  

February 10, 2010

Imperialism vs. the Law

 

The Napoleonic failure to unite Europe under the French flag was a clear indication that conquest by a nation led either to a full awakening of the conquered people’s national consciousness and to consequent rebellion against the conqueror, or to tyranny. And though tyranny, because it needs no consent, may successfully rule over foreign peoples, it can stay in power only if it destroys first of all the national institutions of its own people.

 
So says Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism.
 
That’s our theme – how conquest which seeks nothing but economic exploitation must in the end rule tyrannically, and how this in turn must bring tyranny back to the imperial country itself. Those who have fought imperialism on behalf of the exploited and conquered have always also been fighting for their own liberty which was under implicit, and increasingly explicit, assault. Over the past decade that’s been proven true with great ferocity, as the long economic assault on America’s non-rich, and on our politics and press, has been joined by the vicious assault on civil liberties, the freedoms of speech and assembly, the rise of the imperial presidency, the militarized police, and the prison-industrial complex.
 
Today we have to look at everything in the sense of dissolving the rule of law. The law of the home country is no longer indigenous, “national” law, but the imperialist state “law” which is really nothing but process for the sake of maximized corporatist outcome (to put it in terms of jurisprudential philosophy, the corporatists are consequentialists all the way, they care about means only toward an end, while those who would ever stand fanatically on some myopic means, like the ACLU and other process fanatics where it came to the Citizens United case, are once again playing by rules the enemy will never pay by; I’ll revisit this in an upcoming post). “Law” as would be fit only for the extralegal, anti-political business competition becomes the “law” of the country. Corporatized capitalism becomes the ruling social ideology.
 
A core part of the process of imperialism coming home is the breakdown of the rule of law. In that connection I found this article by Claude Salhani interesting. He broaches the possibility of Israel joining the European Union. The implications he discusses seem so far-fetched that reading it, I thought it was tongue-in-cheek. “They’ll just get a waiver for that”, I kept saying. But I think he was serious.
 
But meanwhile maybe we should read it in reverse. In that case its a fascinating piece, almost Swiftian. For everything he says would have to change in Israel, I think we need to make the experiment of reading it as, “This is how the EU has to change to become more like Israel.” (And the US too.)
 
Salhani starts out deploring the “deadlock” in the Middle east peace talks and its ruinous effect on imperial investment in the Mideast. He goes on:
 

And whenever trouble brews in the Middle East it tends to spill over into other parts of the world. The risk that Mideast violence could spread to nearby Europe might have been one of the reasons that pushed Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to say that Israel should be admitted into the European Union earlier this week. Berlusconi made the statement during an official state visit to Israel. Berlusconi, of course, is one of Israel’s strongest supporters.

 
But what is Israel? It’s not just any country. It has a very well-defined role as ground zero for the totalitarian security-industrial complex, all of whose aspects have radiated out from that core.
 
Naomi Klein describes this in Shock Doctrine:
 

What makes Israel interesting as a guns-and-caviar model is not only that its economy is resilient in the face of major political shocks such as the 2006 war with Lebanon or Hamas’s 2007 takeover of Gaza, but also that Israel has crafted an economy that expands markedly in direct response to escalating violence. The reasons for Israeli industry’s comfort level with disaster are not mysterious. Years before US and European companies grasped the potential of the global security boom, Israeli technology firms were busily pioneering the homeland security industry, and they continue to dominate the sector today…From a corporate perspective, this development has made Israel a model to be emulated in the post-9/11 market. From a social and political perspective, however, Israel should serve as something else – a stark warning. The fact that Israel continues to enjoy booming prosperity, even as it wages war against its neighbors and escalates its brutality in the conquered territories, demonstrates just how perilous it is to build an economy based on the premise of continual war and deepening disasters.

 
It’s the frontier outpost and proving ground for all imperial assaults:
 

Israel’s case is extreme, but the kind of society it is creating may not be unique. The disaster capitalism complex thrives in conditions of low-intensity grinding conflict. That seems to be the end point in all the disaster zones, from New Orleans to Iraq. In April 2007, US soldiers began implementing a plan to turn several volatile Baghdad neighborhoods into “gated communities”, surrounded by checkpoints and concrete walls, where residents would be tracked using biometric technology. “We’ll be like the Palestinians”, predicted one resident, watching his neighborhood being sealed in by the barrier. After it becomes clear that Baghdad is never going to be Dubai, and New Orleans won’t be Disneyland, Plan B is to settle into another Colombia or Nigeria – never-ending war, fought in large measure by private soldiers and paramilitaries, damped down just enough to get the natural resources out of the ground, helped along by mercenaries guarding the pipelines, platforms, and water reserves.

 
Salhani referred to the “spill over” of “trouble” from the Middle East. Nowhere is this more true than the toxic mindset and practices of Israeli crypto-totalitarianism. That’s what imperialism wants, to bring all its trouble home.
 
With that in mind let’s delve into the Salhani piece (he’s talking about Europe, while I’ll mostly talk about America, but I see these same processes playing out everywhere, and therefore examples specific to one place are usually generally applicable):
 

First of all, no prospective partner of the Brussels club can be allowed to join the European Union while it occupies territory that is not legally recognized as part of its own. Israel’s adhesion into the European Union would have to be preceded by a complete withdrawal of Israeli military and civilian forces from all Palestinian territory. That would mean that before such a withdrawal can happen a peace deal will have to be reached between the Palestinians and the Jewish State.

 
Or alternatively, they’d have to “legalize” this occupation, just like how the patently illegal war in Iraq was legalized. That’s the first “waiver” I thought he was hinting at.
 

Israel’s admission into the European Union would mean that the highways and security roads that Palestinians are not allowed to travel on would have to disappear. It would be inadmissible to have segregated roads in the European Union. Imagine if Italy, France or Germany, for example, banned certain ethnic groups from traveling on its national highways.

 
America already had the terrorist color code system where, under a red alert, highways and such may be arbitrarily shut down. They may have gotten rid of the colors, but the looming policy is still the same.
 
Of course, the movement to privatize American roads, to ration their use according to wealth, is already well underway.  Rendering non-luxuries artificially expensive and then rationing them by ability to pay the extortion price is just the same tyranny by another name.
 
And we don’t really have to imagine “certain ethnic groups” having a hard time on America’s highways. Racial profiling already accomplishes that.
 

The Separation Barrier (official United Nations designation) which Israel calls a “fence,” and Palestinians refer to as an “Apartheid Wall;” in reality a series of segments of a wall resembling the Berlin Wall, ditches and moats, erected between Israel proper and the West Bank to keep potential terrorists out, would have to come down. It would be unimaginable for a member of the EU to maintain such a symbol of segregation.

 
Of course our Mexico wall is well known.
 

Similarly the situation regarding Gaza would have to be resolved. Again, it is unimaginable for a European country to lay siege to a neighboring territory.

 
Lay siege to a neighborhood? LAPD, anyone? Speaking more generally, America is full of physical walls as well as less tangible boundaries aggressively patrolled by various kinds of goons. The siege itself may not yet be as coordinated as the mindset, but the mindset is every bit as aggressive as that in Israel. So it’s no wonder anyone who wants to build a physical wall looks to their example, and often to their contractors.
 

But that is not all. The whole concept of the European Union, the world’s largest economic and political zone, which saw the day shortly after the end of World War II, was to tie the economies of Europe’s countries in such a way that war would simply become unimaginable. Nations that spent centuries fighting each other – England and France, France and Germany, Germany and its neighbors to the east, and so on and so forth – began building the foundation to make those wars a thing of the past and inconceivable in the future. And it worked. Today war between once former foes in Europe is just not possible. To be sure, there may well be disagreements between members of the EU, but the disputes are settled in the European Parliament or at the International Court of Justice in The Hague. Not on the battlefield any longer. This is an example from which the Middle East could greatly benefit.

 
The rhetoric here is reminiscent of Norman Angell’s sadly misguided utopia. But more truthfully, whether Salhani intends this reading or not, the coded message is clear: totalitarian repression prevents the Palestinians from fighting back against Israel. So we Western elites can all learn the lesson in our war upon our own people.
 
Salhani wraps it up:
 

Is any of this possible? Yes, would say the optimist in me, but with a caveat. Unilateral withdrawal from Arab lands is unrealistic and dangerous for the security of Israel. And Israel’s domestic and foreign policy is driven by its security needs. So the bottom line is this: If Israel wants to become a member of the European Union, even with all the backing of the Italian prime minister, and others, it would first have to negotiate peace with its Arab neighbors. And that is a good thing.

 
The realist in me says that paragraph proves that the whole idea’s a joke. He may be an Angell-style “optimist”, but the idea can have application only through its inversion. We don’t export peace to troubled regions, but import tyrannical methods of dealing with the trouble. We bring it home as our new, alien law.
 
Nietzsche knew the true nature of this alien anti-law, in his Thus Spoke Zarathustra:
 

State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly it tells lies too, and this lie crawls out of its mouth: “I, the state, am the people.”

Where there is still a people, it does not understand the state and hates it as the evil eye and the sin against customs and rights.
Every people speaks its tongue of good and evil, which the neighbor does not understand. It has invented its own language of customs and rights. But the state tells lies in all the tongues of good and evil, and whatever it says, it lies, and whatever it has it has stolen. Everything about it is false; it bites with stolen teeth. Confusion of tongues of good and evil: this sign I give you as the sign of the state. This sign signifies the will to death.

Behold, how it lures them, and how it devours them, chews them, and ruminates!
“On earth there is nothing greater than I: the ordering finger of God am I” – thus roars the monster.

 
That’s the corporatist state. There’s nothing organic about it, nothing national, nothing rooted in history, rooted in the soil, evolved out of ancient culture, there’s nothing human about it, and since it partakes of nothing human, it is not a Law for human beings, but an anti-law to destroy humanity and freedom. It is indeed a monster.
 
This is the false bureaucratic “law” of globalization. It’s the secretive pseudo-law of the WTO, the SPP, what the FTAA would have been and still will be if the neoliberals get their way. (Just yesterday I wrote about the pending “free” trade deal Obama’s pushing.) “Law” – directly administrative, administered by a bureaucratic machine and secret tribunals.
 

Dani Rodrik has posited the existence of a policy trilemma:

I have an “impossibility theorem” for the global economy that is like that. It says that democracy, national sovereignty and global economic integration are mutually incompatible: we can combine any two of the three, but never have all three simultaneously and in full…

To see why this makes sense, note that deep economic integration requires that we eliminate all transaction costs traders and financiers face in their cross-border dealings. Nation-states are a fundamental source of such transaction costs. They generate sovereign risk, create regulatory discontinuities at the border, prevent global regulation and supervision of financial intermediaries, and render a global lender of last resort a hopeless dream. The malfunctioning of the global financial system is intimately linked with these specific transaction costs.

So what do we do?

One option is to go for global federalism, where we align the scope of (democratic) politics with the scope of global markets. Realistically, though, this is something that cannot be done at a global scale. It is pretty difficult to achieve even among a relatively like-minded and similar countries, as the experience of the EU demonstrates.

Another option is maintain the nation state, but to make it responsive only to the needs of the international economy. This would be a state that would pursue global economic integration at the expense of other domestic objectives…. The collapse of the Argentine convertibility experiment of the 1990s provides a contemporary illustration of its inherent incompatibility with democracy.

Finally, we can downgrade our ambitions with respect to how much international economic integration we can (or should) achieve. So we go for a limited version of globalization, which is what the post-war Bretton Woods regime was about (with its capital controls and limited trade liberalization). It has unfortunately become a victim of its own success. We have forgotten the compromise embedded in that system, and which was the source of its success.

So I maintain that any reform of the international economic system must face up to this trilemma. If we want more globalization, we must either give up some democracy or some national sovereignty. Pretending that we can have all three simultaneously leaves us in an unstable no-man’s land.

 
Thus Dani Rodrik, an ardent globalizer himself, laid out the “trilemma”. How you can’t have democracy, national institutions, and free trade. At least one has to go.
 
But even this is in fact a distortion of the truth. The record proves that globalization cannot coexist with either sovereignty (except perhaps for the richest countries) or democracy (at all). By definition free trade is at war with democracy, and is either the aggressive weapon of or the assault upon any particular country, depending upon how wealthy it is.
 
When we look at Gitmo, at the secret CIA dungeon system; when we look at how in Iraq they established a lawless administrative zone similar to the Nazis’ General Government of Poland; when we look at the lawless “free trade zones” Klein writes about in No Logo and Shock Doctrine; when we look at the “supreme” court’s recent enemy combatant case laying the groundwork for gutting habeas corpus for all citizens, once and for all, forever (and what a contrast – within weeks of one another we have decisions declaring corporations to have total personal rights while actual flesh-and-blood people are to be legally declared unpersons; that juxtaposition proves we no longer have a legitimate judicial branch of government, but an abdicated rogue, but “still out in the field commanding troops [“Apocalypse Now”]); when we look at how vicious bankruptcy law became in 2005, how we inch ever closer to the restoration of debtors’ prisons (is that the real reason they’re so harsh with deadbeat dads? To set a precedent? Given the way the system acts in most other cases, gutting all social services, reducing contraception access etc., it’s hard to believe the sincere purpose is to be mother-friendly); when we look at these and far too many other examples, we see the net being cast around us.
 
I’ll finish with a consideration. Arendt, in discussing the British method of colonial rule, considers how oppression can either concentrate resistance or atomize it.
 

The British tried to escape the dangerous inconsistency inherent in the nation’s attempt at empire building by leaving the conquered peoples to their own devices as far as culture, religion, and law were concerned, by staying aloof and refraining from spreading British law and culture. This did not prevent the natives from developing national consciousness and from clamoring for sovereignty and independence – though it may have retarded the process somewhat. But it has strengthened tremendously the new imperialist consciousness of a fundamental, and not just a temporary, superiority of man over man, of the “higher” over the “lower” breeds….

 
They are in fact leaving to us pop culture, TV, sports, all that crap. And we still have our “religion” which clearly means nothing to anyone any longer. Indeed the churches shill for the system. For most it’s far more like Brave New World than 1984, though this will change as we sink back into serfdom.
 
In The True Believer Eric Hoffer compares resistance where there still exist social and cultural institutions, to circumstances where all such institutions have been liquidated, leaving behind only atomized individuals.
 

The capacity to resist coercion stems partly from the individual’s identification with a group. The people who stood up best in the Nazi concentration camps were those who felt themselves members of a compact party (the Communists) of a church (priests and ministers), or of a close-knit national group. The individuals, whatever their nationality, caved in. The Western European Jew proved to be the most defenseless. Without vital ties with a Jewish community, he faced his tormentors alone. One realizes now that the ghetto of the Middle Ages was for the Jews more a fortress than a prison. Without the sense of utmost unity and distinctness which the ghetto imposed upon them, they could not have endured with unbroken spirit the violence and abuse of those dark centuries. When the Middle Ages returned for a brief decade in our day, they caught the Jew without his ancient defenses and crushed him.

The conclusion seems to be that when the individual faces torture or annihilation, he cannot rely on the resources of his own individuality. His only source of strength is in not being himself but part of something mighty, glorious, and indestructible. Faith here is primarily a process of identification; the process by which the individual ceases to be himself and becomes part of something eternal. Faith in humanity, in posterity, in the destiny of one’s religion, nation, race, party, or family – what is it but the visualization of that eternal something to which we attach the self that is about to be annihilated?

 
Do we now seek new institutions? Nietzsche asks in Twilight of the Idols:
 

In order that there may be institutions, there must be a kind of will, instinct, or imperative, which is anti-liberal to the point of malice: the will to tradition, to authority, to responsibility for centuries to come, to the solidarity of chains of generations, forward and backward to the horizons….

The whole of the West no longer possesses the instincts out of which institutions grow, out of which a future grows: perhaps nothing antagonizes its “modern spirit” so much. One lives for the day, one lives very fast, one lives very irresponsibly: precisely this is called “freedom”. That which makes an institution an institution is despised, hated, repudiated: one fears the danger of a new slavery them moment the word “authority” is even spoken out loud. This is how far decadence has advanced in the value-instincts of our politicians, our political parties: instinctively they prefer what disintegrates, what hastens the end.

 
I add, today “the worst are full of passionate intensity” (Yeats) for money and corporate power, while all “politicians” and “parties” who could and should have fought for the people have become traitors. All our institutions have been corrupted.
 
Today we must choose: human community or atomization? We have the socioeconomic atomization of the corporate system, and increasingly the physical and media barriers with the individual atomized inside. We must contrast this with real communities. Where these exist, even physical barriers may not be prisons, as Hoffer wrote.
 
I look back to the opening quote about Napoleon’s conquests. It presents the same decision – community consciousness or tyranny? Now that tyranny is coming home, and America faces the need for a second national awakening in the face of this tyranny, can this be done?
 
Do we still have a civic identity to rally round as at a banner? Can we raise this banner, and raise a call to it? Or are we washed up?

January 8, 2010

The Insatiability

Filed under: Afghanistan, Global War On Terror — Tags: , , , — Russell Bangs @ 2:44 am

 

Apologists for the British Empire have often used the formula that it was acquired in “a fit of absent-mindedness”. That it just sort of happened opportunistically; power was there for the using and entered whatever vacuums it perceived, and then policy had to catch up to rationalize and sustain what impetuous aggression had wrested.
 
By now most critics of the Global War on Terror recognize the basic insanity of it, and even many of its supporters seem to shrug and justify it as a fact of life rather than anything having a rationale.
 
It’s clear that the power vacuums America perceives as being filled with terrorists are really vacuums it first imagined up for itself and then encouraged the terrorists to try to occupy. America and Israel generate terrorism through their own GWOT aggression.
 
Indeed America explicitly blasted open the Iraq vacuum in order to encourage terrorists to rush into it. The rationale was to “fight them there so we wouldn’t have to fight them here”. (Compare the German concept for the Battle of Verdun.) Obama has said the same thing for Afghanistan. Now everyone, terrorists and locals alike, expect that everyplace America goes must become a jihadist battlefield.
 
This, of course, is exactly what Osama bin Laden wanted. You’d think the US power structure would want the opposite, but in fact the corporate fascists and the jihadists have much in common seeking their nihilistic power goals. Above all both are committed to the spread of terror among all civilian populaces, domestic and foreign. What we have here is really a symbiotic terrorist superstructure, much like the so-called “two parties” in Washington.
 
Is the Permanent War in any American interest? It clearly serves no national interest and is against all interests. On the contrary, American economic, social, and political well-being all depend upon pulling back from the empire, greatly lowering our exposure and risk, getting rid of all dead weight and top-heavy elements, decentralizing, trending toward autarchy. But the insane drive of unsustainable power and consumption to keep feeding and intensifying itself will lead only to absolute destruction.
 
Look how phony and tediously repetitive are the rationales.
 
Vietnam: domino theory, commitment to the ally, “peace with honor”, most of all credibility.
 
Iraq: WMD, Saddam was behind 9/11, fighting terrorism in general, democracy, dominos, commitment to the ally, credibility.
 
Afghanistan: Get Al Qaeda, fight the Taliban, terrorism, dominos, Pakistan, Pakistan nukes, commitments (to “democracy”, to women), credibility.
 
In the end it’s clear that when all the other reasons fail or are proven bogus, the milquetoast warriors always need above all to feel credible in their own timid little minds, since they throw away all real credibility they ever had precisely on their crazed wars.
 
(Of course I don’t take seriously for a second “democracy” as ever having been a real reason for any imperial war. That was always just chucked in there to give jingoistic “liberals” an excuse to get on board.)
 
Let’s examine “terror” more closely. All the talk about how “war on terror” was the wrong term because terror is just a tactic, and you really make war on an interest or ideology, was beside the point. War on terror is exactly right, because “Global War on Terror” is simply a contentless, insatiable murder machine. It’s really just a tactic itself. It’s the Permanent War, “pursuit of power after power” (Arendt), war for its own sake, to feed a corporate maw which can never be satiated.
 
So it’s terminologically sound to call it a war on “terror”, precisely because terror is merely a tactic of the weak trying to fight back vs. America’s pointless endless bullying aggression, while the war on terror is simply this aggression seizing upon the resistance to itself to further justify itself. As we know, the main driver of terrorism is the American presence in these countries, so the self-feeding aggression creates the very rationale used to sanctify it.
 
Also, the very fact that terror can be plotted anywhere renders the rationale ideal for justifying theoretical war anywhere and everywhere, since there’s few places to attack where you can’t claim there are or can be “terrorists” there.
 
The term “terrorist” does lots of domestic propaganda work, as to this day an appalling proportion of people are slavish and stupid enough to believe in this “war on terror”, and that terrorism (as opposed to “terror” itself, which the terrorists have been completely successful in imposing; of course these are mostly domestic US government and media terrorists) is some real existential threat. (It’s sociologically and propagandistically similar to the fraudulent 80s scares over street crime, “super-predators” and such. I bet a lot of the same academics of fear are doing this same propaganda work today.)
 
Domestic fear and hate, creeping totalitarianism – with these we’re getting to some of the “real” reasons for the Permanent War.
 
The partially real reasons for the GWOT were obvious from the marketing leading up to the Iraq assault. It was a war for oil, and it was a textbook example of launching a foreign adventure to distract from domestic issues, in this case the snowballing looting of the country. It’s very true, they did want the oil and they did want to distract.
 
And, as Naomi Klein described so wrenchingly in Shock Doctrine, they also wanted to achieve the corporatist “blank slate” to facilitate the complete subjugation and looting of the country way beyond just the oil. And they’ve tried for years to replicate this operation in Afghanistan.
 
But these, while pieces of the puzzle, still don’t satisfy fully, especially since the plundering of Iraq was largely a bust, with even the American-affiliated multinationals getting aced out of most of the oil. Nor does any of this look promising in Afghanistan.
 
When I’ve tried to explain Afghanistan in peak oil terms, that they want to control the routing of natural gas pipelines and whatnot, I felt silly trying to offer that as a main explanation. In Afghanistan fossil fuels and corporatist plunder are parts of the puzzle, but just small ones. Fossil fuel, not enough to be worth the effort even under our deranged circumstances, for looting not enough there there. There’s no objective correlative.
 
(Indeed, we should look at Greenspan’s admission that Iraq was a war for oil in a new light. By now TPTB would probably rather it could be seen as even a war for oil, now that so-called “American” companies got so little a draw from the well.)  
 
No, here we have to go back to historical irrationalism. Expansion for expansion’s sake, power for power’s sake, greed for greed’s sake, “growth” for growth’s sake. The Permanent War is for its own sake, each step only intended to provide the staging point for the next step, and all of it justified by some obviously bogus rationale.
 

Degree being vizarded,
The unworthiest shows as fairly in the mask.
The heavens themselves, the planets and this centre
Observe degree, priority and place,
Insisture, course, proportion, season, form,
Office and custom, in all line of order;
And therefore is the glorious planet Sol
In noble eminence enthroned and sphered
Amidst the other; whose medicinable eye
Corrects the ill aspects of planets evil,
And posts, like the commandment of a king,
Sans cheque to good and bad: but when the planets
In evil mixture to disorder wander,
What plagues and what portents! what mutiny!
What raging of the sea! shaking of earth!
Commotion in the winds! frights, changes, horrors,
Divert and crack, rend and deracinate
The unity and married calm of states
Quite from their fixure! O, when degree is shaked,
Which is the ladder to all high designs,
Then enterprise is sick! How could communities,
Degrees in schools and brotherhoods in cities,
Peaceful commerce from dividable shores,
The primogenitive and due of birth,
Prerogative of age, crowns, sceptres, laurels,
But by degree, stand in authentic place?
Take but degree away, untune that string,
And, hark, what discord follows! each thing meets
In mere oppugnancy: the bounded waters
Should lift their bosoms higher than the shores
And make a sop of all this solid globe:
Strength should be lord of imbecility,
And the rude son should strike his father dead:
Force should be right; or rather, right and wrong,
Between whose endless jar justice resides,
Should lose their names, and so should justice too.
Then every thing includes itself in power,
Power into will, will into appetite;
And appetite, an universal wolf,
So doubly seconded with will and power,
Must make perforce an universal prey,
And last eat up himself.

 
Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida Act 1, scene 3.

September 30, 2009

The Iranian Bomb

Filed under: Global War On Terror, Globalization — Tags: , , , — Russell Bangs @ 8:59 am
Here’s a rundown on the situation with Iran.
 
1. In spite of some inflammatory rhetoric on both sides, it’s extremely unlikely that any Iranian regime would launch a bolt out of the blue strike against Israel if they had the bomb. But the neocons at least claim to believe this, which gives them their alleged rationale for beating the war drums.
 
A neocon always wants war, somewhere, everywhere. It’s the essence of the Global War on Terror. Any pretext will do, and any conceivable threat, however absurd in practice, will be represented as a plausible clear and present danger to the American homeland. Thus we have had the spectacle of the Eastern European missiles (really meant to help reestablish Cold War conditions vis Russia) represented as a critical defense against the existential threat nonexistent Iranian ICBMs pose to our cities.
 
2. Iran believes it has the right to develop a bomb; that it’s absurd on its face that America and Israel have the right to the bomb but not them.
 
Indeed, Israel is not an adherent of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and its own original grounds for refusal were precisely that the Treaty has no ethical basis for dividing the world into the pre-1967 nuclear powers (who got to keep their nukes) and everybody else, for whom they would be forbidden. This was purely an arbitrary, might-makes-right division.
 
So by Israel’s own logic, there’s no basis to forbid Iran the bomb. Iran adhered to the NPT only under duress; clearly where the weak agree under the pressure of the bullying of the strong, this agreement is not binding the way it is for what strong impose on themselves.
 
(American allies India and Pakistan are also non-adherents who have gone on to develop their own bombs.)
 
Also, one of the “three pillars” of the NPT, along with non-proliferation and “peaceful use”, is nuclear disarmament. In theory signatories are supposed to seek a weapon-free world.
 
Of course, American and Britain never intended any such thing; for them that provision was just nukewashing. And by now non-signatory Israel fully supports the arbitrary morality of the NPT division which it originally rejected, now that its own rogue nukes have been normalized within the neocon order.
 
That disposes of the moral right and wrong
 
3. Are the Iranians absolutely committed to developing a bomb, or are they trying to use it as a bargaining chip? This is unknown, but see (8) below.
 
4. To the extent they really want the bomb, they want it as a deterrent. Clearly America is an erratically aggressive, bullying power which understands only strength. You can deal with bullies like neocon America only if your position is credibly backed up by the real threat of force. That’s the lesson of Munich, which North Korea took to heart. Not long ago there was a lot of threatening bluster spewed Pyongyang’s way. Since it’s come to be believed that the North now has the bomb, we don’t hear the Korean war drums as much anymore.
 
5. What’s America’s circumstance? By any reality-based measure, it’s not prepared to start another war. The military is already overstretched (even not counting another escalation in Afghanistan), and fantasies of a few “smart” strikes are not likely to get the job done. Of course our financial and physical resources are spent. As for the politics, the American people have definitively turned against the Iraq war, the polls now run against Afghan escalations and even the war itself. Nobody except the neocons and the corporations wants to launch another war.
 
6. In the event of an attack, Iran’s most likely retaliation would be to mine the Straits of Hormuz, through which much of the world’s oil exports pass. They have said they would do this, and it’s the only effective thing they could do anyway.
 
The results of the subsequent oil shock and price shock would be devastating to the “recovery”. The green shoots would wither and die without the constant watering of relatively cheap oil. 
 
To mine the Straits they would use a vast fleet of small boats. While America’s military flyswatter can swat fly after fly, we’re talking one huge swarm of flies. If these boats could launch their coordinated sowing, as they would be able if Israel struck unilaterally, it would be excruciating to sweep out the place afterward. 
 
So attack, if it’s to make any tactical sense, has to be coordinated ahead of time between America and Israel (or just launched by America by itself). The attacks would have to try to destroy the whole minelayer fleet preemptively, even though that’s hundreds of small boats all along the Iranian coast. Israel could never do it by itself. 
 
7. So a unilateral Israeli strike is no good. But, if Obama hesitates, could Israel engage in Strangelovian extortion? Could it insist that it will attack, unilaterally if need be and to hell with the consequences, thereby presenting Obama with the equivalent of General Ripper saying “you boys better send SAC in after them or you’ll get destroyed by the commie retaliation”? Could Israel’s equivalent be “you’d better go in with us or face the straits mining without preemption”?
 
So as we can see from 5-7, the military “option” is no good. (Which doesn’t necessarily mean they’re not crazy enough to do it anyway.)
 
8. Diplomacy? What’s the carrot, what’s the stick? The stick would supposedly be sanctions (Iran is most vulnerable in its gasoline imports). But the requisite Russian and Chinese consent are not likely. Since it’s also unlikely that the Americans would really try to sanction Chinese energy companies (important Chimerica players), it seems that just like with “financial regulation” and “health care reform”, so for Obama “sanctions” looks like yet another empty word.
 
The carrot probably doesn’t exist. Peaceful nuke technological assistance? (The third pillar.) But this would come at the price of bowing to American diktat. So from the Iranians’ point of view this wouldn’t be a carrot at all, but a lesser stick. So far as I’ve read, America has nothing they want; they want America out of their face.
 
9. So it looks like they’ll continue on their current path. They’ll delay talks, go through the motions, but not let American threats, which they perceive to be impotent bluster, to deter them from their goal.
 
If that’s the case, then America must resign itself to the Iranian bomb or take the crazy route of war, which probably won’t work anyway.
 
10. As for we Americans, to us this bomb is of course not a joke. Proliferation is a bad thing, and it’s too bad the corporatist faction in America chose the globalist path which both rendered proliferation more likely and guaranteed that the proliferators would see America as the predator they were seeking to deter.
 
We should see that the real enemy is domestic, and permanent war empowers him. The best way to start waging war against the real enemy is to prevent him from using hijacked American resources to wage imperial war abroad. That means ending the GWOT: shutting down existing theaters and preventing the opening of new ones.