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Who’s A Bigger Threat To Your Freedom, ISIS Or The Federal Government?

By: Lloyd Chapman Tuesday March 3, 2015 10:18 am

I don’t know about most Americans, but I’m much more concerned about the NSA than I am ISIS.

You hear lot of talk about “freedom not being free” and young soldiers dying for freedom. I’m genuinely confused about what people are talking about. I’m not aware of any of my freedoms that are being threatened by ISIS or any other terrorist group.

You’re a thousand times more likely to be killed by a bee sting or a shark attack than you are to be killed in a terrorist attack.

The only freedoms I have lost during my lifetime were taken away by the federal government.

My freedom to carry a gun in my car when I go on a long trip has been taken away even though the second amendment gives me the right to bear arms. My ability to privately send an email, make a phone call or send a friend a text message has been taken away. The NSA has taken that freedom away from me and all my communications are tracked, recorded and permanently stored.  

I saw a story the other day where the Justice Department is now tracking our license plate numbers by using the network of traffic cameras around the country. Now your freedom to travel around without the federal government monitoring you has been taken away.

The revelations of Eric Snowden exposed the fact the federal government is tracking everything we say and do and everywhere we go. If I uncover federal employees committing fraud, violating federal law or violating the constitution, I don’t have the freedom to report that to the media without the fear of retaliation from the Justice Department or the IRS. The Obama Administration’s War on Whistleblowers has been well documented.

Government employees and private citizens that have exposed blatant violations to the constitution have faced harsh retribution by the federal government. If you uncover fraud or corruption by any branch of government you might find yourself the target of a predawn FBI raid on your home or a retaliatory IRS audit.

We have lost our freedom to see how our government operates. It has been widely reported the Obama Administration is the least transparent administration in history. I found that out first hand. Using the Freedom of Information Act I requested some seemingly benign government data on small business subcontracting. I have been in federal court for months because I simply asked for the government documents that would indicate what Pentagon prime contractor Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation’s small business subcontracting goal is. When a Federal District Court judge ruled in my favor the Office of Solicitor General intervened and now I’m on m way to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals just to obtain small business subcontracting data. Federal Judge William even accused the Pentagon of trying to “cover up” the data I was seeking. He also accused them of trying to “suppress the evidence”.

My freedom to search the Internet without the federal government knowing every website I view has been taken away.

I’m sure there are a number of other examples of freedoms we all used to enjoy that have now been taken away by the federal government.

What’s next? America is starting to resemble science fictions movies about the future where an oppressive and corrupt government rules the land.

I may be in the minority here but I would rather worry about terrorist attacks than to have the federal government monitoring my phone calls, emails, text messages and tracking my every move.

Benjamin Franklin said, ‘Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety”.

I think he was right.

 

Subhankar Banerjee: Arctic Nightmares

By: Tom Engelhardt Tuesday March 3, 2015 10:11 am

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

If Sarah Palin were president, we’d know just what it was: a drill-baby-drill administration.  Of course, there’s no mama grizzly in the White House, yet these last years have been a grizzly tale of the expansion of American oil and natural gas exploration and drilling from the fracking fields of Texas and North Dakota to the energy-rich Gulf of Mexico.  Most recently, the southern Atlantic seaboard, where there are an estimated untapped four billion barrels of oil and 37 trillion cubic feet of gas, was provisionally opened for future exploration and drilling.  So keep in mind that it wasn’t under Palin’s tutelage but Barack Obama’s that the United States experienced its staggering resurgence in the oil and gas sweepstakes, turning itself into “Saudi America.”

The math, which this president undoubtedly knows well, isn’t that complicated.  According to climate change scientists, of all the fossil fuel reserves believed to be left on the planet — and the ability of oil companies to successfully tap ever more extreme deposits has been a regular surprise in these years — scientists estimate that 80% must remain underground to prevent a planetary disaster.  And yet, it seems that ever fewer waters off ever fewer American coasts are now sacrosanct.  Back in the presidential campaign of 2008, Obama criticized his opponent, John McCain, for pushing the expansion of offshore drilling.  “It would have long-term consequences for our coastlines… When I’m president, I intend to keep in place the moratorium.”  And he was right that to expand significantly into coastal waters is indeed dangerous.  Sooner or later, it ensures more BP-style Gulf of Mexico environmental catastrophes, as well as the everyday cumulative disasters that, as marine biologist Carl Safina has written, simply come with oil company exploration and extraction efforts.

It’s true that a 2011 moratorium on new drilling and lease sales off the West Coast remains in place until 2018, but in addition to the Gulf of Mexico and the southern Atlantic, the most forbidding and dangerous waters off any American coast — those in the Arctic — are again in play.  You would think that this would be an open-and-shut no-go case for reasons that Subhankar Banerjee, leading Arctic photographer, environmentalist, and author of Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point, lays out vividly today. (Back in 2003, a show of his photos on Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History was scandalously all but cancelled at a moment when the Bush administration was eager to open that pristine wilderness area to exploitation.)

If you’re talking about extracting extreme fossil fuels from an incredibly rich environment that is utterly treacherous and would be the single most obvious reserve on the planet to simply keep in the ground, this has to be the place.  And yet the president has long shown a special interest in those Arctic waters and Royal Dutch Shell’s urge to drill in them.  Now, at a time that would seem inauspicious as well as unappealing, given the glut of new American oil on the market (and falling oil prices), the Obama administration, despite a recent bow to Arctic preservation, stands at the edge of once again green-lighting a Shell foray into Arctic waters. You explain it. Tom

To Drill or Not to Drill, That Is the Question
The Obama Administration, Shell, and the Fate of the Arctic Ocean
by Subhankar Banerjee

Here’s a Jeopardy!-style question for you: “Eight different species of whales can be seen in these two American seas.” Unless you’re an Iñupiaq, a marine biologist, or an Arctic enthusiast like me, it’s a pretty good guess that you can’t tell me what those seas are or what those whales are either. The answer: the Chukchi Sea and the adjacent Beaufort Sea, off Arctic Alaska, and you can commonly spot bowhead, beluga, and grey whales there, while fin whales, minkes, humpbacks, killer whales, and narwhals are all venturing into these seas ever more often as the Arctic and its waters continue to warm rapidly.

The problem, however, is that the major oil company Royal Dutch Shell wants to drill in the Chukchi Sea this summer and that could, in the long term, spell doom for one of the last great, relatively untouched oceanic environments on the planet. Let me explain why Shell’s drilling ambitions are so dangerous. Just think of the way the blowout of one drilling platform, BP’s Deepwater Horizon, devastated the Gulf of Mexico.  Now, imagine the same thing happening without any clean-up help in sight.

You might have heard aboutthe sixth extinction,” the way at this moment species are blinking off at a historically unprecedented rate. The Arctic seas of Alaska, however, still are sanctuaries not only for tens of thousands of whales, but also hundreds of thousands of walruses and seals, millions of birds, thousands of polar bears, and innumerable fish from more than one hundred species, not to mention all the uncharismatic sub-sea life that eludes our eyes but makes up the food web — phytoplankton, sea urchins, sand dollars, and sea cucumbers, to name only a few. Think of the Arctic Ocean as among the last remaining marine ecological paradises on the planet.

Now for that oil. Looking for it in Arctic waters happens to be the most dangerous form of drilling imaginable, because no proven technology exists that could clean up a major oil spill in distant ice-choked seas in the cold and dark, under one of the harshest environments on Earth. Even during the brief “summer” open-water season, ice floes remain a constant threat as Shell found out in 2012 when one of its drill ships encountered a floe the size of Manhattan and was forced to disconnect from its seafloor anchor and temporarily halt its operations. Deep fog severely restricts visibility. Storms are not exceptions but the norm, and are becoming more frequent and violent in a rapidly warming region.

I’ve spent much time in the Arctic and, believe me, it’s a forbidding environment for outsiders.  In late September, as summer gives way to autumn, ice begins to form in the seas and darkness descends. Any spill that occurs late in the brief potential drilling season would remain untouched and unattended to until the ice melted the following summer. But even if such a blowout occurred in summer, there is no infrastructure in place to respond to a disaster. The nearest Coast Guard station is more than 1,000 miles away.  And keep in mind that a disaster of this sort would not remain conveniently contained in the Arctic. As a recent U.S. National Research Council study on responding to an Arctic offshore oil spill puts it, “The risk of an oil spill in the Arctic presents hazards for the Arctic nations and their neighbors.”

Add to this potential nightmare scenario another little fact: Shell has garnered a well-deserved reputation as “the company with the spottiest Arctic record.” In September 2012, it initiated exploration drilling in U.S. Arctic waters with a conditional permit from the Obama administration, only to end a disastrous year in which one of its two drill rigs, the Kulluk, was grounded in the Gulf of Alaska on New Year’s Eve. The other ship, Noble Discoverer, suffered damage after catching fire, while both were fined by the Environmental Protection Agency for violating the Clean Air Act, and the contractor Noble Drilling pleaded guilty in 2014 to all eight felony charges leveled against it for environmental violations and agreed to ante up $12.2 million in fines and community service payments. Because of the damage to its rigs, Shell was forced to give up its 2013 drilling plans. A court ruling in January 2014 in favor of local Iñupiat tribes and environmentalists forced the company not to drill that summer either.

Since then, the price of oil has plunged, sending a shock wave across the oil industry and deep-sixing all sorts of prospective plans planet-wide to drill in Arctic waters: Norway’s Statoil shelved its 2015 drilling plan in the Barents Sea off that country’s northern coast and handed back the three leases it had purchased in the Baffin Bay off the west coast of Greenland. Chevron put its plan to drill in Canada’s Beaufort Sea on indefinite hold. Following the Ukraine crisis and American sanctions on Russia, ExxonMobil was prohibited from working with the oil company Rosneft on a joint plan to drill in the Kara Sea in the Russian Arctic. Even had those sanctions not been in place, the low price of oil would have made such exploration a far less appetizing prospect for the moment.

“It is up to Shell then to keep the oil industry’s Arctic dreams alive,” one journalist suggested and indeed, on January 29th, that company announced that, after a two-year hiatus, it would drill this summer in the Chukchi Sea. Two weeks later, the Obama administration issued its final supplemental environmental impact statement on the site where the drilling would take place, the controversial Chukchi Lease Sale 193, bringing Shell’s plan one step closer to reality.

But before considering the politics of oil drilling there, let’s take a little dive into the Arctic Ocean and the history of its exploitation.

Who Owns the Arctic Ocean?

For more than four centuries, western nations have regarded the Arctic Ocean as an economic treasure chest. The oil harvested from Arctic whales helped fuel the economies of countries in Europe and North America and drove the magnificent bowhead whale to near extinction.

In February 1880, the future creator of Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, then a 20-year-old medical student, interrupted his studies for a six-month voyage on the Arctic whaler, Hope, as the ship’s surgeon. From his diary we learn that the drive to profit trumped any concern about the possible extinction of the bowhead, or Greenland, whale.  “Price tends to rise steadily for the number of the creatures is diminishing,” he wrote, “probably not more than 300 of them left alive in the whole expanse of the Greenland seas.” On another day, he added that, “[T]he creatures…own those unsailed seas.” Of course, those seas were anything but “unsailed” as commercial ships were plying them to harvest whales, so consider that instead Doyle’s euphoric expression of how it felt to him to see the life in that ocean.

Today, to the extent that seas can be “owned,” governments own them and are selling pieces off to the highest bidders — oil companies. Ownership or territorial control for commercial exploitation is, however, only one side of the story of the Arctic Ocean. The magnificent and complex ecology of the northern seas is now being altered by three human-caused phenomena: climate change, ocean acidification, and pollution.

Arctic sea ice is vanishing at an astonishing rate thanks to climate change, which is having devastating impacts on the region’s polar bears and walruses. In the southern Beaufort Sea of Alaska and Arctic Canada, the polar bear population declined by 40% between 2001 and 2010. Meanwhile, in six of the last eight years, tens of thousands of Pacific walruses have hauled themselves out onto barrier islands and tundra along the Chukchi Sea because there was no sea ice left for them to rest on. Onshore, walruses are far from their food sources and young walruses are particularly susceptible to being trampled to death by the adults in the colony.

Commercial whaling in the region, which started in 1848, ended by about 1921, when petroleum supplanted whale oil as the fuel of choice. With no industrial activity in those waters for more than half a century, the bowhead population slowly began to recover. Whales don’t depend on sea ice the way polar bears and walruses do, so in 2011 the bowhead population in the U.S. Arctic was estimated at almost 17,000 and is increasing by 3.7% per year.

The half-century of commercial calm in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas ended, however, in the late 1970s, when oil exploration began. By the early 1990s, the expensive hunt for oil in Arctic seas had largely failed and almost all leases were relinquished. The second wave of U.S. Arctic offshore oil and gas exploration only started when George W. Bush took office. Between 2003 and 2008 leases were sold on more than three million acres in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, while generating substantial controversy and court challenges from the tribal Iñupiat peoples and environmental groups. The persistence of this resistance to drilling, along with the recent price collapse, has marked the second boom-and-bust cycle in Arctic exploration.  The French company Total, for instance, simply walked away from the U.S. Arctic in 2012 pointing out that offshore drilling there could lead to a “disaster,” and other companies have put exploration on indefinite hold — but not Shell.

Inevitability and Rush

Historically, government-sponsored research on the U.S. Arctic has been driven not by that hallmark of science, curiosity, but by the desire to drill for oil and gas — by, that is, two impulses that are quite unscientific in nature. The first is an oil-company-inculcated urge to transform the decision to drill into a sense of inevitability and the second is an oil-company-sponsored urge to rush the process.

In fact, according to the National Research Council oil spill response study, systematic data collection in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas only began in the late 1970s — in other words, just as the first wave of Arctic offshore oil exploration was revving up. Onshore, the situation was the same: the initial comprehensive study of the flora and fauna of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge only took place in the mid-1980s, after the Reagan administration made a push to open it up to development — and (irony of ironies) the disastrous 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill was what saved the refuge from industrial exploitation.

While there have only been sporadic studies of the marine environments in question since then, no comprehensive benchmark study for the Beaufort and Chukchi seas has ever been done; nor is there any thorough understanding of how the marine food web works in those seas, or of the population sizes and distribution of any but the sentinel species (whales, polar bears, walruses, and seals). Even the data on them is considered “not reliable or precise enough to examine trends, evaluate influences from climate change, or estimate population-level damage in the event of an oil spill,” according to the National Research Council study.

The first benchmark study of the Hanna Shoal, one of the most biologically productive spots in the Chukchi Sea, only began in early August 2012. At the end of that month, the Obama administration gave Shell a conditional permit to begin drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. In other words, Arctic science hasn’t been guiding public policy, but rushing to catch up with the extractivist agenda of Big Oil.

Under the circumstances and given the perils of such extreme drilling in such an environment, what’s curious is the rush to inevitability exhibited by two successive administrations. And despite the recent collapse of oil prices, which makes such Arctic drilling prohibitively expensive and unprofitable, it hasn’t ended yet.  On January 27th, the White House noted a conservation decision it had made with this reassuring headline at its website: “President Obama Protects Untouched Marine Wilderness in Alaska.” The president had indeed withdrawn 9.8 million acres of U.S. Arctic waters, including Hanna Shoal, from future oil and gas lease sales.  Just over two weeks later, however, the administration also issued the final supplemental environmental impact statement for Chukchi Lease Sale 193, which includes blocks of Arctic waters adjacent to and upstream from Hanna Shoal. In such waters generally, “protection” is an exaggeration in any case because, as one senior scientist from the Hanna Shoal study team put it in 2012, “anything that goes in the water at the drill sites may end up in this very productive region.”

Keeping Arctic Resources Underground

The leases the Bush administration sold in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas, Lease Sale 193 among them, generated substantial controversy and met with legal challenges.  A coalition of native Alaskan and environmental organizations filed a lawsuit challenging the leases, the government’s inadequate gathering of baseline scientific data, and its unwillingness to appropriately assess what a potential blowout would mean to the ecology of the regions and the life of indigenous cultures there.

As it turned out, the plaintiffs won twice, first in the U.S. District Court for the District of Alaska in 2010, and then in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in January 2014. Following that ruling, the Department of Interior finally went back to the drawing board and, on October 31, 2014, released a new draft supplemental environmental impact statement that acknowledged some of the ecological realities of drilling in Arctic seas.  It suggested that there would be a 75% chance of one or more large oil spills (more than 1,000 barrels) if serious drilling began there and that any such spill could have catastrophic ecological consequences. The public comment period on the draft ended on December 22nd.

Nonetheless, this February, the Obama administration issued the final impact statement for Lease Sale 193 and sent the process forward. The Interior Department had by then taken less than two months, including the Christmas holiday season, to consider the more than 400,000 public comments it had received. “The analysis was rushed to cater to Shell’s desire to drill this summer,” Leah Donahey, Arctic Ocean senior campaign director with the Alaska Wilderness League, told me over the phone. Iñupiaq elder and conservationist Rosemary Ahtuangaruak emailed me this: “We are faced with a plan to drill in the Arctic Ocean — Our Ocean, Our Garden, Our Future. With a clean ocean we have our traditions and culture, and our life, health, and safety. We risk all of it with this decision.”

The question, of course, should be: in a country that has, in recent years, opened so many new drilling vistas from the Bakken Oil Fields of North Dakota to the Gulf of Mexico, creating what energy experts now call “Saudi America,” why is there still such a rush to industrialize the Arctic Ocean? Shell has a long history of trying to establish itself as a leader in Arctic exploration and drilling, and despite the inauspicious global situation for expensive forms of drilling, continues to push the process as fast as it can.

This, too, has long been the case.  In the fall of 2010, for instance, the company launched a “We have the technology, let’s go” multi-million-dollar ad campaign to pressure the Obama administration to green-light the necessary permits for exploratory drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.  In 2012, having gotten the necessary permits, it had a thoroughly disastrous drilling season, proving beyond a doubt that it did not “have the technology” to deal with the far North. Knowing that, and knowing as well that there is no proven technology for cleaning up a major oil spill in the ice-choked, forbidding, mostly dark environment of the Arctic seas, Shell is nonetheless back again.

As part of an ongoing competition among the major oil companies, Shell is clearly trying to establish itself as quickly as possible as the dominant player in Arctic offshore drilling, just as BP did in the Gulf of Mexico — with results that we remember well from the Deepwater Horizon blowout of 2010. Nonetheless, the Gulf looks like Club Med compared to the Arctic.  To let Shell drill in the Chukchi Sea when the price of oil is low and its profits slumping would be a rash act indeed, given that a company under pressure elsewhere has a tendency to cut costs and compromise safety. Shell has already set a precedent. In 2012, the company’s decision to avoid Alaskan taxes resulted in moving its drill ship Kulluk from Alaska to Washington, only to see it grounded along the way.

Some things can be counted on like the sun setting in the West.  In the extreme environment of the Arctic seas, a devastating oil spill is one of them if exploration is allowed to continue.  The Obama administration, having just opened the southeastern Atlantic Coast to large-scale future oil exploration and drilling, is now poised to let Shell turn America’s Arctic waters into a disaster area.  That it will happen sooner or later is a given should the company proceed.  That Washington is still considering letting Shell do it anyway should amaze us all.

The final decision about whether to “end or affirm” the Chukchi Sea oil leases will be made on March 20th. Shell still needs approval on several permits before it can head north. The Obama administration cannot approve these permits until Lease Sale 193 is finalized. This may have contributed to the administration’s rushed analysis of that impact statement.

In January, the prestigious science journal Nature published a study adding one more obvious factor to an already grim equation.  The development of oil and gas resources in the Arctic would, it wrote, be “incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming to 2 degrees centigrade.” In other words, at a moment when the planet is experiencing an oil glut, it’s possible that the Obama administration will add yet another potential source of extreme oil to the list of future sources of the greenhouse warming of this planet.

Think of drilling in the Arctic as a future catastrophe in a single enticing package.  In April, the United States takes over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council.  If it decides to let Shell proceed, how will it present itself to the rest of the Arctic nation states, the indigenous Arctic nations and organizations, and the rest of us?  Will it be as the Arctic driller-in-chief, the planet’s warmer-in-chief, or a country committed to climate change mitigation and the conservation of biotic life and indigenous cultures in the midst of the sixth great extinction event in the Earth’s history?

Subhankar Banerjee’s most recent book is Arctic Voices: Resistance at the Tipping Point. His Arctic photographs are currently on display in two exhibitions at the Nottingham Contemporary in the United Kingdom and at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Ontario, Canada. He has been deeply involved with the native tribes of the Arctic in trying to prevent the destruction of Arctic lands and seas.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2015 Subhankar Banerjee

Washington Redskins, Charlie Hebdo and the free speech right to be racist

By: Nat Parry Tuesday March 3, 2015 7:56 am

In a desperate attempt to hold on to its multi-million-dollar trademark, the Washington Redskins franchise submitted legal arguments last week seeking to overturn a 2014 decision by the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to cancel the team’s trademark because it is offensive to Native Americans. The team’s attorneys argued that denying the use of disparaging trademarks is unconstitutional under the First Amendment – in other words, there is an implied First Amendment right to not only be racist but to profit off of that racism.

While it may be true that racist slurs are protected speech under the First Amendment, the issue here of course is whether the United States Patent and Trademark Office, an agency of the federal Department of Commerce, should be in the business of handing out trademarks to private entities so that they may enjoy legal protection over those offensive brand rights. In the case of the Washington Redskins, this is not just an academic question, but one with significant financial implications. Forbes Magazine estimates the value of the Redskins brand at $214 million.

Few would argue that the government should criminalize the uttering of the “redskins” racial slur, but when it comes to granting trademarks, this is a different story. Trademark law says that the government has the right to deny a registered trademark on “matter which may disparage or falsely suggest a connection with persons, living or dead, institutions, beliefs, or national symbols, or bring them into contempt, or disrepute.” It was on these grounds that the government cancelled the Redskins trademark last June.

Now, Redskins lawyers claim that the trademark board’s decision unfairly singles out the Redskins “for disfavored treatment based solely on the content of its protected speech, interfering with the ongoing public discourse over the Redskins’ name by choosing sides and cutting off the debate. This the U.S. Constitution does not tolerate.” In other words, “Waaaaaaaaa!!!!!”

In some ways, it’s interesting that this issue is being discussed now, just weeks after a similar debate over free speech had dominated media coverage. The parallels between the Redskins name debate and the discussions over freedom of expression following the massacre at the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo in Paris are striking.

Just as the Redskins franchise is currently demanding rights to free speech in utilizing a patently offensive racial slur, so too did the Western world generally argue that the January 7 jihadist attack the anti-Muslim Charlie Hebdo cartoons was a brazen assault on sacred principles of free expression. Under the slogan “Je suis Charlie” (I am Charlie), Western leaders and members of the intelligentsia claimed to be taking the moral high ground in defending the rights of cartoonists, writers and satirists to offend people through their work. And much like the Redskins name debate, those who might have argued for restraint against racist and offensive speech found themselves in the uncomfortable role as free speech detractors.

But calling for respect and racial tolerance should not be considered an assault on free speech, and indeed the very fact that free speech in the year 2015 has come to be defined as the right to be racist and offensive should be a cause for concern. Freedom of speech is indeed a sacred right and a vital tool, but not necessarily for the reasons that Redskins fans and Charlie Hebdo readers may assume.

The most cursory examination of American history would make clear that it is only through the free expression of unpopular views that we ever move forward as a nation. For example, the abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, Social Security and the minimum wage were all considered radical ideas until they were forced into the mainstream by determined dissident voices. Without the full right to exercise freedom of speech, there is no telling how long those issues would have stayed on the side lines or how long the nation would have taken to address them in a meaningful way.

Free speech in this sense is not a utopian ideal, but an essential instrument for promoting peaceful change, securing liberty for the oppressed and advancing the cause of justice for all. When it is curtailed, therefore, it is not just a betrayal of democratic principles, but a roadblock to democratic progress. The Founders understood this dynamic when they enshrined the fundamental freedoms of religion, press, assembly and speech in the First Amendment to the Constitution. They recognized these as the unalienable rights of human beings as well as essential tools of an empowered citizenry. When the right to free speech is violated, then, it is a human rights violation as well as a betrayal of the Constitution and the democracy it promises.

But when the concept of free speech is perverted and twisted into meaning some supposed right to profit off of racial slurs by compelling the government to pass out trademarks in violation of its own rules or the right to be willfully offensive towards the world’s 1.6 billion Muslims, inevitably provoking some of them into violent reactions, the free speech debate has lost its way.

This article is cross-posted at Essential Opinion.

The Elephant in Congress: Netanyahu’s Own Nukes

By: Barry Lando Tuesday March 3, 2015 6:16 am

It’s astonishing that in the breathless run-up to Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu’s appearance before a joint session of the U.S. Congress to warn of a nuclear-armed Iran, no one—politicians, editorial writers, media pundits—point out that there already is a nuclear power in the Middle East—Netanyahu’s Israel.

Estimates are that Israel has about 80 nukes, roughly the same number as Pakistan and India.

Although it has possessed nuclear weapons for more than half a century, Israel still refuses to own up to that fact, and the United States blandly continues to go along with that fiction. When asked in 2009 if he knew of any country in the Middle East with nuclear weapons, Barack Obama avoided the trap by saying only that he did not wish to “speculate”.

The question is, whether you support Netanyahu’s policies or not, how can the U.S. and Israel and their allies block attempt to block Iran from acquiring the bomb, while pretending that Israel doesn’t already have one? How do you justify such a flagrant double standard?

How do you have a realistic assessment of a possible Iranian threat to Israel, without recognizing that any Iranian leader crazy enough to attack Israel, would have to act with the knowledge that Israel would retaliate with a nuclear arsenal that would obliterate not just Iran’s nuclear facilities, but all of Iran?

But, if they were to recognize the truth about Israel’s arsenal, American leaders would have to do something about it.

Which is the reason they’ve dodged the issue ever since the CIA first came to President Eisenhower in 1958-59 with news that Israel was developing a nuclear facility at Dimona with French covert assistance. As Seymour Hersh detailed in “The Samson Option,” Eisenhower’s White House made it clear they didn’t want to know.

One major reason was that by admitting that Israel was a nuclear power, the U.S.  would undermine its campaign to get the countries of the region to sign on to the new Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

(Ironically, beginning in 1974 under the Shah, and continuing under Khomeini, Iran would consistently call for a non-proliferation zone in the Middle East. To protect Israel, the U.S. would constantly dodge the issue.)

“Don’t be so naive,” Israel’s supporters will argue. “Sure, Israel has nukes, but its people live in a very dangerous neighborhood. And they’re our only real allies in that region. Our relationship is one of trust and respect.

“The Iranians, on the other hand, are a deceitful lot who have lied through their teeth about their nuclear goals since the beginning.”

The fact is, however, that from the start, the Israelis also lied about their nuclear ambitions.

In December 1960, for instance, the Eisenhower administration finally leaked word about Dimona and France’s involvement with the Israeli reactor to the New York Times. The administration hoped that, without having to make any official accusations itself, it could oblige the Israeli government to sign the NPT.

But Israel’s David Ben Gurion flatly denied the Times report.

 

He assured American officials –as well as his own Israeli Knesset–that the Dimona reactor was completely benign.

 

For their part, French officials guaranteed that any plutonium produced at Dimona would be returned to France for safekeeping (another lie).

 

The deceit and denials have continued ever since.

 

“O.K.” Netanyahu’s backers will argue. “So, Israel was not exactly forthcoming about its nuclear arsenal. They had no choice. But their nukes are in safe, responsible custody.

“On the other hand, there’s no way we can let those crazed mullahs in Iran get anywhere near a nuclear weapon. No telling whom they might give them to.”

There are a couple of problems with that argument. First, over the past fear years Israel’s own set of crazies –those calling for the expulsion of all Arabs from Israel and the West Bank, for instance, or demanding preemptive strikes against Iran, have gained increased influence in Israel. Once considered kooks beyond the pale, they no longer are.

Secondly, even when supposedly wise, sober men were running Israel, some of their most respected leaders were willing to help the apartheid regime of South Africa develop nuclear weapons.

Sasha Polakow-Suransky researching a book on Israel’s relations with apartheid South Africa, uncovered a set of “top secret” documents including the minutes of meetings between senior officials from South Africa and Israel on March 31, 1975. The minutes related how South Africa’s defense minister, PW Botha, requested nuclear warheads and Shimon Peres, then Israel’s defense minister, responded by offering them in “three sizes.”

The two men also signed an agreement for military ties between the two countries that included a clause declaring that “the very existence of this agreement” was to remain secret.

According to the Guardian, a spokeswoman for Peres said the report was baseless and there were “never any negotiations between the two countries.” She didn’t comment on the authenticity of the documents.

 

In any case, partially because of cost, South Africa ultimately did not purchase those warheads. Nor was it sure that Israel’s prime minister would have approved the deal.

 

But South Africa did go ahead, with continued clandestine assistance from Israel, to develop its own nuclear weapons—missiles and warheads.

 

For its part, South Africa also provided much of the yellowcake uranium that Israel required to develop its nuclear arsenal.

 

Ironically, apartheid South Africa wasn’t the only country attempting to get nuclear assistance from Israel. So was Iran—under the Shah.

 

Documents seized by Iranian students from the US embassy in Tehran after the 1979 revolution, revealed the Shah expressed an interest to Israel in developing nuclear arms.

 

Indeed, in the 1970’s Israel and Iran launched a secret joint project to develop a nuclear capable ground-to-ground missile. This according to Gary Sick, an Iranian expert who served on the staff of the National Security Council under several U.S. presidents.

The two countries undertook the project after the U.S. turned down each of their requests to buy the missile from America. They kept the program secret from the U.S. It was still in the works when the Shah was overthrown.

After the revolution, the new Islamic government of the Ayatollah Khomeini renounced the Shah’s nuclear policies. It looked like the entire program would be scrapped.

According to Sick, the Iranians stuck to that position even after Saddam Hussein attacked Iran’s cities with long-range missiles equipped with chemical warheads. The Ayatollah Khomeini was adamant that nuclear weapons violated Islamic principles.

After Khomeini’s death, the views of Iran’s nee leadership changed.

They were shocked by the extent to which Saddam had developed his own nuclear arsenal, and unnerved by the prospect that they would have been the first victims of the Iraqi dictator’s new weapons. Who knew what a future Iraqi leader might do?

They were also concerned by the ease with which the U.S.-led forces overthrow Saddam, and worried that they might also become a target of American attacks—a threat that U.S. (and Israel) officials have continued to brandish. Having their own nuclear weapons was a sure defense.

According to Sick, “Iran may also want to have a counterweight to Israel’s extensive nuclear arsenal, and it may believe that a nuclear program would bolster Iran’s position as a regional power.”

Good luck in trying to find such a sober and thoughtful analysis in the current firestorm that passes for a debate over Iran’s nukes.

 

 

Highlighting Failed Policy in Syria, US-Armed Militia Falls to Al-Qaeda Affiliate

By: CTuttle Monday March 2, 2015 3:30 pm

Harakat al-Hazm, armed with American anti-tank missiles, announces dissolution

by Sarah Lazare

A U.S.-backed militia in Syria, touted by the Obama administration as a trusted “moderate” group and armed with American anti-tank missiles, is reportedly dissolving following a series of defeats by al-Qaeda aligned Jabhat al-Nusra—leaving the U.S.-led war on ISIS in further disarray.

The combatant group, Harakat al-Hazm, had been engaged in fierce clashes with Jabhat al-Nusra for months. The U.S.-allied militia was initially pushed from its northern Syrian headquarters in Idlib and suffered another defeat on Sunday at its new center of operations in Aleppo.

“Given what is happening on the Syrian front, offenses by the criminal regime with its cronies against Syria as a whole, and Aleppo specifically, and in an effort to stem the bloodshed of the fighters, the Hazm movement announces its dissolution,” declared a statement from the group, cited by Daily Beast writer Jamie Dettmer.

The militia announced that its members would join a new coalition—the Shamiah Front—which is engaged in fighting against the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and, according to Dettmer, is “distrusted by Washington.” According to the Guardian’s Middle East Editor Ian Black, the front includes “hardline Salafist factions as well as more moderate brigades like the Muslim Brotherhood-linked Mujahideen Army and another U.S.-backed outfit.”

Harakat al-Hazm is one of many Syrian militias that have received U.S. training and support, including shipments of anti-tank Tow missiles. Unverified reports are emerging on Twitter that their Tow missiles have been seized by al-Nusra fighters:

The announcement of Harakat al-Hazm’s collapse coincides with the launch of a new U.S.-led program to train and arm Syrian combatants in Turkey. U.S. support for “moderate” fighters has been a centerpiece of war on ISIS, nearing its seventh month.

However, this support dates back further than the war on ISIS. As Adam Johnson reported in FAIR last week, “That the US is arming and training Syrian rebels has been well-documented for over two years, yet Western media have historically suffered from a strange collective amnesia when reporting this fact.”

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License

Triumph of the checklist: Comparing Netanyahu, ISIS and Hitler

By: Jane Stillwater Monday March 2, 2015 1:34 pm
     Gee, I hate to keep pointing this stuff out all the time because a whole lot of people get really ticked off at me every time that I do — but the truth is the truth.  ISIS, Netanyahu and Hitler really do have a whole lot in common.  But as true as this statement may be, still almost nobody these days wants to hear that their favorite emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.  Why?  Perhaps because it makes people feel bad that they have been so completely suckered, had, duped and used.
     However, like it or not, the three emperor-wannabes listed above are still not wearing any clothes.  So to speak.
      And here’s my checklist to prove it:
     Hitler:  Check
     Netanyahu:  Check
     ISIS:  Check
2.  Founded their empires (reichs, caliphates, promised lands, whatever) on invasions, blitzkriegs, preemptive wars, guys-just-wanna-have-fun, terrorism, whatever — with the goal of eventually taking over all geopolitical territory within thousands of miles of their empire’s original borders:
     Hitler:  Check
     Netanyahu:  Check
     ISIS:  Check
3.   Committed mass genocide based solely on religion, race, land or resource ownership, language usage and/or nationality:
     Hitler:  Check
     Netanyahu:  Check
     ISIS:  Check
4.  Used illegal weapons, including chemical weapons such as napalm, white phosphorus and noxious gases, and/or landmines, cluster bombs, biological weapons, etc. on civilians:
     Hitler:  Check
     Netanyahu:  Check
     ISIS:  Not really sure.  Are broadswords considered illegal weapons if used to behead journalists?  Probably.  Okay, check.
5.  Bomb the freak out of civilian targets:
     Hitler:  Check
     Netanyahu:  Check
     ISIS:  Do RPGs and car-bombs count?  Yes?  Then “check”
6.  Routinely terrorized civilian populations to the point of said populations thinking they were living inside a horror movie, a police state or ‘Stalag 17″ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZKc2GJk2OLQ:
     Hitler:  Check
     Netanyahu:  Check
     ISIS:  Check
7.   Used lies, snappy slogans, false-flag operations http://yournewswire.com/mikhail-gorbachev-assassination-of-boris-nemstov-is-a-false-flag/#sthash.5isb7TEp.dpuf and “1984″ types of propaganda, threats and the deliberate generation of irrational fears to get their own populations to back their criminal activities:
     Hitler:  Check
     Netanyahu:  Check
     ISIS:  Check
8.  Wore snappy uniforms designed to intimidate and impress:
     Hitler:  Check
     Netanyahu:  Check
     ISIS:  Check
9.  Supported by rich industrialists, corporatists, recipients of corporate welfare and opulent dictatorships in the Middle East:
     Hitler:  Check
     Netanyahu:  Check
     ISIS:  Check

10.  Had a huge destabilizing effect on Europe, the Middle East and America that ended in tragedy, economic chaos and the further spread of war http://cityworldnews.com/native-american-amnesty/:

Hitler:  Check
Netanyahu:  Check
ISIS:  Check

11.  Pretends to be of a certain religion but never practices their religion’s goals, ideals or concepts:

Hitler:  Check
Netanyahu:  Check
ISIS:  Check

12.  Steals resources and valuables from the countries and territories that have been illegally seized:  http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_great_game_in_the_holy_land_20150227

Hitler:  Check
Netanyahu:  Check
ISIS:  Check

13.  Has absolutely no tinges of conscience whatsoever after having caused thousands of families, scores of ethnic groups, an unknown number of combat veterans and even whole countries to suffer from shell shock, battle fatigue and PTSD http://www.unrwa.org/newsroom/press-releases/serious-upsurge-post-conflict-trauma-gaza-says-un:

Hitler:  Check
Netanyahu:  Check
ISIS:  Check

14.  Is invited to speak before Congress:
     Hitler:  No way.
     ISIS:  Not a chance.
     Netanyahu:  Roll out the red carpet!

Engelhardt: The Ten Commandments for a Better American World

By: Tom Engelhardt Monday March 2, 2015 12:11 pm

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

My War on Terror
Letter to an Unknown American Patriot
By Tom Engelhardt

Dear American Patriot,

I wish I knew your name. I’ve been thinking about you, about all of us actually and our country, and meaning to write for a while to explain myself.  Let me start this way: you should feel free to call me an American nationalist.  It may sound ugly as hell, but it’s one way I do think of myself. True, we Americans usually reserve the more kindly word “patriot” for ourselves and use “nationalist” to diss other people who exhibit special feeling for their country.  In the extreme, it’s “superpatriot” for us and “ultranationalist” for them.

In any case, here’s how my particular form of nationalism manifests itself. I feel a responsibility for the acts of this country that I don’t feel for those of other states or groups.  When, for instance, a wedding party blows up thanks to a Taliban roadside bomb, or the Islamic State cuts some poor captive’s head off, or Bashar al-Assad’s air force drops barrel bombs on civilians, or the Russians jail a political activist, or some other group or state commits some similar set of crimes, I’m not surprised.  Human barbarity, as well as the arbitrary cruelty of state power, are unending facts of history. They should be opposed, but am I shocked? No.

Still — and I accept the irrationality of this — when my country wipes out wedding parties in other lands or organizes torture regimes and offshore prison systems where anything goes, or tries to jail yet another whistleblower, when it acts cruelly, arbitrarily, or barbarically, I feel shock and wonder why more Americans don’t have the same reaction.

Don’t misunderstand me.  I don’t blame myself for the commission of such acts, but as an American, I do feel a special responsibility to do something about them, or at least to speak out against them — as it should be the responsibility of others in their localities to deal with their particular sets of barbarians.

So think of my last 12 years running TomDispatch.com as my own modest war on terror — American terror.  We don’t, of course, like to think of ourselves as barbaric, and terror is, almost by definition, a set of un-American acts that others are eager to commit against us.  “They” want to take us out in our malls and backyards.  We would never commit such acts, not knowingly, not with malice aforethought.  It matters little here that, from wedding parties to funerals, women to children, we have, in fact, continued to take “them” out in their backyards quite regularly.

Most Americans would admit that this country makes mistakes. Despite our best efforts, we do sometimes produce what we like to call “collateral damage” as we go after the evildoers, but a terror regime? Not us. Never.

And this is part of the reason I’m writing you. I keep wondering how, in these years, it’s been possible to hold onto such fictions so successfully. I wonder why, at least some of the time, you aren’t jumping out of your skin over what we do, rather than what they’ve done or might prospectively do to us.

Let’s start with an uncomfortable fact of our world that few here care to mention: in one way or another, Washington has been complicit in the creation or strengthening of just about every extreme terror outfit across the Greater Middle East. If we weren’t their parents, in crucial cases we were at least their midwives or foster parents.

Start in the 1980s with the urge of President Ronald Reagan and his fundamentalist Catholic spymaster, CIA Director William Casey, to make allies of fundamentalist Islamic movements at a time when their extreme (and extremist) piety seemed attractively anticommunist.  In that decade, in Afghanistan in particular, Reagan and Casey put money, arms, and training where their hearts and mouths were and promoted the most extreme Islamists who were ready to give the Soviet Union a bloody nose, a Vietnam in reverse.

To accomplish this, Washington also allied itself with an extreme religious state, Saudi Arabia, as well as Pakistan’s less than savory intelligence service.  The result was major support for men — President Reagan hailed them as “freedom fighters” and said of a visiting group of them in 1985, “These gentlemen are the moral equivalents of America’s founding fathers” — some of whom are now fighting us in Afghanistan, and indirectly for what came to be known as al-Qaeda, an organization which emerged from the American-Saudi hothouse of the Afghan War.  The rest, as they say, is history. 

Similarly, American fingerprints are all over the new Islamic State (IS) or “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria.  Its predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, came into existence in the chaos and civil strife that followed the American invasion and occupation of that country, after Saddam Hussein’s military had been disbanded and hundreds of thousands of trained Sunni personnel tossed out onto the streets of Iraq’s cities.  Much of the leadership of the Islamic State met, grew close, and trained potential recruits at Camp Bucca, an American military prison in Iraq.  Without the acts of the Bush administration, IS would, in fact, have been inconceivable.  In the same fashion, the U.S. (and NATO) intervention in Libya in 2011, including a seven-month bombing campaign, helped create the conditions for the growth of extreme militias in parts of that country, as the U.S. drone assassination campaign in Yemen has visibly strengthened al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

In other words, each of the terror organizations we categorize as the unimaginably barbaric Other has a curiously intimate, if generally unexplored, relationship with us.  In addition, in these years, it’s been clear (at least to those living in the Greater Middle East) that such groups had no monopoly on barbarity.  Washington’s extreme acts were legion in the region, ranging from its CIA torture chambers (although we called them “black sites”) to Abu Ghraib, from global kidnappings to images of a U.S. helicopter gunning down civilians in the streets of Baghdad.  There were also a range of well-publicized vengeful acts of war, including videos of U.S. troops laughing while urinating on enemy corpses, trophy photos of body parts taken by American soldiers as souvenirs, photos of a 12-member “kill team” that hunted Afghans “for sport,” and a striking “lone wolf” nighttime terror rampage by an American staff sergeant in Afghanistan who killed 16 villagers, mainly women and children. And that’s just for starters.

Then there’s one matter that TomDispatch has been alone here in focusing on. By my count, American airpower has blown away parts or all of at least eight wedding parties in three countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen), killing at least several hundred revelers over the years, without the slightest shock or upset in the U.S.

That’s one reason I’m writing you: the lack of reaction here. Can you imagine what would happen if the planes and drones from another country had wiped out eight weddings here in perhaps a dozen years?

On a larger scale, Washington’s invasions, occupations, interventions, bombings, and raids since 9/11 have resulted in a rising tide of civilian deaths and exiles in a fragmenting region.  All of this, including those drone assassination campaigns in the backlands of the planet, adds up to a panorama of barbarism and terror that we seldom acknowledge as such.  Of course, the terror outfits we love to hate also love to hate us and have often leapt to embrace the extremity of our acts, including adopting both the orange jumpsuits of Guantánamo and the CIA’s waterboarding for their own symbolic purposes.

Perhaps above all, Americans don’t imagine drones, the sexiest high-tech weapons around, as purveyors of terror.  Yet our grimly named Predators and Reapers armed with “Hellfire” missiles, their pilots safe from harm thousands of miles away, buzz daily over the Pakistani tribal backlands and rural Yemen spreading terror below. That this is so should be indisputable, at least based on accounts from the ground.

In fact, Washington’s drone assassins might fit into a category we normally only apply to Them: “lone wolf” terrorists searching for targets to blow away.  In our case, it’s people who have what Washington identifies as behavioral “traits” associated with terror suspects. They are eliminated in “signature strikes.” So here’s my question to you: Why is it that Americans generally don’t grasp the impact of such a new form of warfare in the Islamic world, especially when, at the movies (as in the Terminator films), we usually root against the machines and for the humans scurrying underfoot?  The word American drone operators use to label their dead victims — “bugsplat” — reveals much.  The term goes back at least to the non-drone shock-and-awe air attacks that began the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and reflects a disturbing sense of God-like, all-seeing power over the “insects” below.

Of course, part of the reason so little of this sinks in here is that all such acts, no matter how extreme, have been folded into a single comforting framework.  You know the one I mean: the need for the national security state to keep Americans “safe” from terror. I think you’d agree that, by now, this is a sacrosanct principle of the post-9/11 era that’s helped expand the national security state to a size unimaginable even in the Cold War years when this country had another imperial enemy.

Safety and security are much abused terms in our American world.  The attacks of 9/11 created what might be thought of as a national version of PTSD from which we’ve never recovered, and yet the dangers of Islamic terrorism, while perfectly real, are relatively minor.  Leave aside the truly threatening things in American life and take instead an obscure example of what I mean.  Even the most modest research suggests that toddlers who find guns may kill or wound more Americans in a typical year than terrorists do.  And yet the media deals with death-by-toddler as an oddity story, not a national crisis, whether the result is the death of a mother in a Wal-Mart in Idaho or the wounding of a father and mother in an Albuquerque motel.  Nor does the government regularly hype the dangers of “lone wolf” toddlers.  And despite such killings, the legality of “carrying” guns (for “safety” — of course! — from unspecified non-toddler bad guys) is barely questioned in this country as the practice spreads rapidly both in numbers and in the kinds of places to which such weapons can be brought.

And don’t even waste your time thinking about the more than 30,000 deaths by vehicle each year.  Americans coexist with such spectacular levels of carnage without significant complaint so that car culture can continue in the usual fashion.  Yet let some distant terror group issue an absurd threat by video — most recently, al-Shabab in Somalia warning of an attack on the Mall of America in Minnesota — and the media alarm bells go off; the government issues warnings; the head of the Department of Homeland Security (worrying about his budget tied up in Congress) takes to TV to warn shoppers to be “particularly careful”; and pundits debate just how serious this danger may be.  Forget that the only thing al-Shabab can hope for is that a disturbed doofus living somewhere in Minnesota might pick up one of the guns floating so freely around this society and head for that mall to do his damnedest.

And in the constant panic over our safety in situations where very little danger actually exists, our own barbarity, seen as a series of defensive acts to ensure our security, disappears in a sea of alarm. 

So how to respond? I doubt you agree with me this far, so my response probably carries little weight with you. Nonetheless, let me offer it, with a caveat of sorts. Despite what you might imagine, I’m neither a pacifist, nor do I believe in a perfect world.  And no, I wouldn’t disband the U.S. military.  It’s clear enough that a strong, defensive-minded military is a necessity on this planet.

After 13 years, though, it should be obvious that this country’s military-first policies throughout the Greater Middle East and widening areas of Africa have been a disastrous bust. I have no doubt that a far less barbaric, less extreme, less militaristic foreign policy would, in purely pragmatic terms, also be a more effective one on every imaginable score — unless, of course, your value system happens to center on the continued building up of the national security state and the reinforcement of its “security” or of the military-industrial complex and its “security.” In that case, the necessity for our barbarity as well as theirs becomes clearer in a flash.

Otherwise, despite much that we’ve heard in this new century, my suspicion is that what’s right and moral is also what’s practical and realistic.  In that light, let me offer, with commentary, my version of the Ten Commandments for a better American world (and a better world generally). Admittedly, in this day and age, it could easily be the Twenty or Thirty Commandments, but being classically minded, let me just stick with 10.

1. Thou shalt not torture: Torture of every horrific sort in these years seems to have been remarkably ineffective in producing useful information for the state.  Even if it were proved effective in breaking up al-Qaeda plots, however, it would still have been both a desperately illegal (if unpunished) act and a foreign policy disaster of the first order.

2. Thou shalt not send drones to assassinate anyone, American or not: The ongoing U.S. drone assassination campaigns, while killing individual terrorists, have driven significant numbers of people in the backlands of the planet into the arms of terror outfits and so only increased their size and appeal. Without a doubt, such drone strikes represent a global war of, not on, terror. In the process, they have turned the president into our assassin-in-chief and us into an assassin nation.

3. Thou shalt not invade another country: D’oh!

4. Thou shalt not occupy another country: By the way, how did that work out the last two times the U.S. tried it?

5. Thou shalt not upgrade thy nuclear arsenal: The U.S. has now committed itself to a trillion-dollar, decades-long upgrade of its vast arsenal.  If any significant portion of it were ever used, it would end human life as we know it on this planet and so should be considered a singular prospective crime against humanity. After years in which the only American nuclear focus was on a country — Iran — with no nuclear weapons, that this has happened without serious debate or discussion is in itself criminal.

6. Thou shalt not intercept the communications of thy citizens or others all over the world or pursue the elaboration of a global surveillance state based on criminal acts: There seems to be no place the NSA has been unwilling to break into in order to surveil the planet.  For unimaginable reams of information that have seemingly been of next to no actual use, the NSA and the national security state have essentially outlawed privacy and cracked open various amendments to the Constitution.  No information is worth such a price.

7. Thou shalt not be free of punishment for crimes of state: In these years of genuine criminality, official Washington has become a crime-free zone.  No matter the seriousness of the act, none — not one committed in the name of the state in the post-9/11 era, no matter how heinous — has been brought into a courtroom.

8. Thou shalt not use a massive system of secret classification to deprive Americans of all real knowledge of acts of state: In 2011, the U.S. classified 92 million documents and the shroud of secrecy over the business of the “people’s” government has only grown worse in the years since.  Increasingly, for our own “safety” we are only supposed to know what the government prefers us to know.  This represents, of course, a crime against democracy.

9. Thou shalt not act punitively toward those who want to let Americans in on what the national security state is doing in their name: The fierce and draconian campaign the Obama administration has launched against leakers and whistleblowers is unprecedented in our history.  It is a growing challenge to freedom of the press and to the citizen’s right to know.

10. Thou shalt not infringe on the rights of the citizenry to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness: Need I even explain?

If you want to boil these commandments down to a single injunction, it might simply be: Don’t do it! Or in a moment when nothing Washington does isn’t, it seems, done again: Stop and think before acting!

Of course, there’s no way to know what a national security policy based on these 10 commandments might really be like, not when Washington is so thoroughly invested in repeating its failed acts.  It’s now deep into Iraq War 3.0, intent on further slowing the “withdrawal” from Afghanistan, and pursuing the usual drone assassination strategies, as from South Asia to Iraq, Yemen, and Libya things only worsen and jihadist organizations grow stronger.

Yet campaign 2016 is already shaping up as a contest among candidates who represent more of the same, much more of the same, and even more than that of the same. One of them has tellingly brought back as his advisers much of the cast of characters who planned the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

Even if the above commandments weren’t to add up to a more practical, safer, and more secure foreign (and domestic) policy, I would still be convinced that this was a better, saner way to go. As Americans demonstrate regularly when it comes to just about anything but terrorism, life is a danger zone and living with some level of insecurity is the human condition.  Making our safety and security ultimate values is a grotesque mistake. It essentially ensures a future state that bears no relation whatsoever to a democratic polity or to the values this country has championed.  Much that Americans once professed to cherish, from liberties to privacy, has already been lost along the way.

In your heart, you must know much of this, however you process it. I hope, under the circumstances, you’ll give some thought to what that word “patriot” should really mean in this country right now.

Yours sincerely,

Tom Engelhardt
TomDispatch.com 

P.S. In my own war on terror, I’ve recently been thinking that a few “thou shalts” are in order. To give you an example: Thou shalt honor the heroes of our American world — and no, I’m not talking about the U.S. military! I mean people like journalist James Risen, who barely avoided jail for doing his job as a reporter and has now dedicated his life to “fighting to undo damage done to press freedom in the United States by Barack Obama and Eric Holder,” or activist Kathy Kelly who is at present in a federal prison in Kentucky for having protested American drone strikes at an Air Force base in Missouri.

Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (Haymarket Books).

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Rebecca Solnit’s Men Explain Things to Me, and Tom Engelhardt’s latest book, Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2015 Tom Engelhardt

Fifty Years of Imperial Wars: Results and Perspectives

By: GREYDOG Monday March 2, 2015 10:22 am

By James Petras, 99GetSmart

Introduction

Over the past 50 years the US and European powers have engaged in countless imperial wars throughout the world. The drive for world supremacy has been clothed in the rhetoric of “world leadership”, the consequences have been devastating for the peoples targeted.  The biggest, longest and most numerous wars have been carried out by the United States.  Presidents from both parties direct and preside over this quest for world power.  The ideology which informs imperialism varies from “anti-communism”in the past to “anti-terrorism”today.

Washington’s drive for world domination has used and combined many forms of warfare, including military invasions and occupations; proxy mercenary armies and military coups; financing political parties, NGO’s and street mobs to overthrow  duly constituted governments. Thedriving forces in the imperial state , behind the  quest for world power,vary with the geographic location and social economic composition of the targeted countries.

What is clear from an analysis of US empire building over the last half century is the relative decline of economic interests, and the rise of politico-military considerations.  In part this is because of the demise of the collectivist regimes (the USSR and Eastern Europe) and the conversion of China and the leftist  Asian, African and Latin American regimes to capitalism.  The decline of economic forces as the driving force of imperialism is a result of the advent of global neoliberalism.  Most US and EU multi-nationals are not threatened by nationalizations or expropriations, which might trigger imperial state  political intervention.  In fact, MNC are invited to invest,trade and exploit natural resources even by post-neoliberal regimes .  Economic interests come into play in formulating imperial state policies, if and when nationalist regimes emerge and challenge US MNC as is the case in Venezuela under President Chavez.

The key to US empire building over the past half-century is found in the political, military and ideological power configurations which have come to control the levers of the imperial state.  The recent history of US imperial wars has demonstrated that strategic military priorities – military bases, budgets and bureaucracy – have expanded far beyond any localized economic interests of MNC.  Moreover, the vast expendituresand long term and expensive military interventions of the US imperial state in the Middle East has been at the behest of Israel.  The take-over of strategic political positions in the Executive branch and Congress by the powerful Zionist power configuration within the US has reinforced the centrality of military over economic interests

The ‘privatization’ of imperial wars – the vast growth and use ofmercenaries contracted by the Pentagon- has led to the vast pillage of tens of billions of dollars from the US Treasury.  Large scale corporations which supply mercenary military combatants have become a very ‘influential’ force shaping the nature and consequences of US empire building.

Military strategists, defenders of Israeli colonial interests in the Middle East, mercenary military and intelligence corporations are central actors in the imperial state and it is their decision-making influence which explains why US imperial wars do not result in a politically stable, economic prosperous empire.  Instead their policies have resulted in unstable, ravaged economies, in perpetual rebellion..

We will proceed by identifying the changing areas and regions of US empire building from the mid 1970’s to the present.  We then examine the methods, driving forces and outcomes of imperial expansion.  We will then turn to describe the current ‘geo-political map of empire buildingand the varied nature of the anti-imperialist resistance.  We will conclude by examining the why and how of empire building and more particularly, the consequences, and results of a half century of US imperial expansion.

Imperialism in the post Vietnam Period:  Proxy Wars in Central America, Afghanistan and Southern Africa

The US imperialist defeat in Indo-China marks the end of one phase of empire building and the beginning of another:  a shift fromterritorial invasions to proxy wars.  Hostile domestic opinion precluded large scale ground wars.  Beginning during the presidencies of Gerald Ford and James Carter, the US imperialist state increasingly relied onproxy clients.  It recruited, financed and armed proxy military forces to destroy a variety of nationalist and social revolutionary regimes and movements in three continents.  Washington financed and armed extremist Islamic forces world-wide to invade and destroy the secular, modernizing, Soviet backed regime in Afghanistan, with logistical support from the Pakistan military and intelligence agencies, and financial backing from Saudi Arabia.

The second proxy intervention was in Southern Africa, where the US imperial state financed and armed proxy forces against anti-imperialist regimes in Angola and Mozambique, in alliance with South Africa.

The third proxy intervention took place in Central America, where the US financed, armed and trained murderous death squad regimes in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to decimate popular movements and armed insurgencies resulting in over 300,000 civilian deaths.

The US imperial state’s ‘proxy strategy’ extended to South America:  CIA and Pentagon backed military coups took place in Uruguay (General Alvarez), Chile (General Pinochet) Argentina (General Videla), Bolivia (General Banzer) and Peru (General Morales).  Empire building by proxy, was largely at the behest of US MNC which were the principal actors in setting priorities in the imperial state throughout this period.

Accompanying proxy wars, were direct military invasions:  the tiny island of Grenada (1983) and Panama (1989) under Presidents’ Reagan and Bush, Sr.  Easy targets, with few casualties and low cost military expenditures:  dress rehearsals for re-launching major military operations in the near future.

What is striking about the ‘proxy wars’ are the mixed results.The outcomes in Central America, Afghanistan and Africa did not lead to prosperous neo-colonies or prove lucrative to US multi-national corporations. In contrast the proxy coups in South America led to large scale privatization and profits for US MNC.

The Afghan proxy war led to the rise and consolidation of the Taliban “Islamic regime” which opposed both Soviet influence and US imperial expansion.  The rise and consolidation of Islamic nationalism in turn challenged US allies in South Asia and the Gulf region and subsequently led to a US military invasion in 2001 and a prolonged (15 year) war (which has yet to conclude), and most probably to a military retreat and defeat.  The main economic beneficiaries were Afghan political clients, US mercenary military “contractors”, military procurement officers and civilian colonial administrators who pillagedhundreds of billions from the US Treasury in illegal and fraudulent transactions.

Pillage of the US Treasury in no way benefited the non-military MNC’s.  In fact the war and resistance movement undermined  any large scale, long-term entry of US private capital in Afghanistan and adjoining border regions of Pakistan.

The proxy war in Southern Africa devastated the local economies, especially the domestic agricultural economy, uprooted millions of laborers and farmers and curtailed US corporate oil  penetration for over two decades.  The ‘positive’ outcome was the de-radicalization of the former revolutionary nationalist elite.  However, the political conversion of the Southern African “revolutionaries” to neo-liberalism did not benefit the US MNC as much as the rulers turned kleptocratic oligarchs who organized patrimonial regimes in association  with a diversifiedcollection of MNC, especially from Asia and Europe.

The proxy wars in Central America had mixed results.  In Nicaragua the Sandinista revolution defeated the US-Israeli backed Somoza regime but immediately confronted a US financed, armed and trained counter-revolutionary mercenary army (the “Contras”) based in Honduras.  The US war destroyed, many of the progressive economic projects,undemined the economy and eventually led to an electoral victory by the US backed political client  Violeta Chamorro. Two decades later the US proxies were defeated by a de-radicalized Sandinista led political coalition.

In El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras, the US proxy wars led to the consolidation of client regimes presiding over the destruction of the productive economy,and the flight of millions of war refugees to the United States.  US imperial dominance eroded the bases for a productive labor market which spawned the growth of murderous drug gangs.

In summary, the US proxy wars succeeded, in most, cases inpreventing the rise of nationalist-leftist regimes, but also led to thedestructive of the economic and political bases of a stable and prosperous empire of neo-colonies.

US Imperialism in Latin America:  Changing Structure, External and Internal Contingencies, Shifting Priorities and Global Constraints.

To understand the operations,  structure and performance of US imperialism in Latin America, it is necessary to recognize the specificconstellation of competing forces which shaped imperial state policies.  Unlike the Middle East where the militarist-Zionist faction has established hegemony, in Latin America the MNC have played a leading role in directing imperial state policy.  In Latin America, the militarists played a lesser role, constrained by (1)the power of the MNC, (2) the shifts in political power in Latin America from right to center-left (3) the impact of economic crises and the commodity boom.

In contrast to the Middle East, the Zionist power configuration has little influence over imperial state policy, as Israel’s interests are focused on the Middle East and, with the possible exception of Argentina, Latin America is not a priority.

For over a century and a half, the US MNC and banks dominated and dictated US imperial policy toward Latin America.  The US armed forces and CIA were instruments of economic imperialism via direct intervention (invasions), proxy ‘military coups’, or a combination of both.

US imperial economic power in Latin America ‘peaked’ between 1975-1999.  Vassal states and client rulers were imposed via proxy military coups, direct military invasions (Dominican Republic ,Panama and Grenada) and military-civilian controlled elections.

The results were the dismantling of the welfare state and the imposition of neo-liberal policies.  The MNC led imperial state and its international financial appendages (IMF, WB, IDB) privatized lucrative strategic economic sectors, dominated trade and projected a regional integration scheme which would codify US imperial dominance.

Imperial economic expansion in Latin America was not simply a result of the internal dynamics and structures of the MNC but depended on (1) the receptivity of the ‘host’ country or more precisely the internal correlation of class forces in Latin America which in turn revolvedaround (2) the performance of the economy – its growth or susceptibility to crises.

Latin America demonstrates that contingencies such as the demise of client regimes and collaborator classes can have a profound negative impact on the dynamics of imperialism, undermining the power of the imperial state and reversing the economic advance of the MNC.

The advance of US economic imperialism during the 1975-2000 period was manifest in the adoption of neo-liberal policies, the pillage of national resources, the increase of illicit debts and the overseas transfer of billions of dollars However, the concentration of wealth and property, precipitated a deep socio-economic crises throughout the region which eventually led to the overthrow or ouster of the imperial collaborators in Ecuador, Bolivia, Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, Paraguay and Nicaragua.  Powerful anti-imperialist social movements especially in the countryside emerged in Brazil and the Andean countries.  Urban unemployed workers  movements and public employees unions in Argentina and Uruguay spearheaded electoral changes, bringing to power center-left regimes which‘re-negotiaed’ relations with the US imperial state.

US  MNC influence in Latin America waned.  They could not count on the full battery of military resources of the imperial state tointervene and re-impose neo-liberal clients because of its militarypriorities elsewhere:  the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa.

Unlike the past, the US MNC in Latin America lacked two essential props of power:  the full backing of the US armed forces and powerful civilian-military clients in Latin America.

The US MNC’s plan for US centered integration was  rejected by the center-left regimes.  The imperial state turned to bilateral free trade agreements with Mexico, Chile, Colombia, Panama and Peru.  As a result of the economic crises and collapse of most Latin American economies, “neo-liberalism” ,the ideology of imperial economic penetration, was discredited. Neo-liberal  advocates marginalized.

Changes in the world economy had a profound impact on US – Latin America trade and investment relations.  The dynamic growth of China and the subsequent boom in demand and the rising prices of commodities, led to a sharp decline of US dominance of Latin American markets.

Latin American states diversified trade, sought and gained new overseas markets, especially in China.  The increase in export revenues created greater capacity for self-financing.  The IMF, WB and IDB, economic instruments for leveraging US financial impositions (“conditionality”), were sidelined

The US imperial state faced Latin American regimes who embraced diverse  economic options, markets and sources of financing.  With powerful domestic popular support and unified civilian-military command, Latin America moved tentatively out of the US sphere of imperialist domination.

The imperial state and its MNC , deeply influenced by their “success” in the 1990’s, responded to the decline of influence by proceeding by ‘trial and error’, in the face of the negative constraints of the 21st century.  The MNC backed policymakers in the imperial state continued to back the collapsing neo-liberal regimes, losing all credibility in Latin America.  The imperial-state failed to accommodate changes – deepening popular and center-left regime opposition to “free markets” and the deregulation of banks.  No large scale economic aid programs, like Presideny Kennedy’s effort to counter the revolutionary appeal of the Cuban revolution by promoting social reforms via the  ‘Alliance for Progress”, were fashioned to win over the center-left,probably because of budget constraints resulting from costly wars elsewhere.

The demise of neo-liberal regimes, the glue that held the different factions of the imperial state together, led to competing proposals of how to regain dominance.   The ‘militarist faction’ resorted to and revived the military coup formula for restoration:  coups were organized in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Honduras and Paraguay . . .  all were defeated, except the latter two.  The defeat of US proxies led  to the consolidation of the independent, anti-imperialist center-left regimes.Even the “success”of the US coup in Honduras resulted in a major diplomatic defeat,as every Latin American government condemned it and the US role,further isolating Washington in the region.

The defeat of the militarist strategy strengthened the political-diplomatic faction of the imperial state.  With positive overtures toward ostensibly ‘center-left regimes’, this faction gained diplomatic leverage, retained military ties and deepened the expansion of MNC in Uruguay, Brazil, Chile and Peru.  With the latter two countries the economic imperialist faction of the imperial state secured bilateral free trade agreements.

A third MNC – military faction, overlapping with the previous two, combined diplomatic-political accommodations toward Cuba, with an aggressive political destabilization strategy aimed at “regime change” (coup) in Venezuela.

The heterogeneity of imperial state factions and their competing orientations, reflects the complexity of interests engaged in empire building in Latin America and results in seemingly contradictory policies, a phenomenon less evident in the Middle East where the militarist -zionist power configuration dominates imperial policymaking.

For example the promotion of military bases and counter-insurgency operations in Colombia (a priority of the militarist faction) is accompanied by bilateral free market agreements and peace negotiations between the Santos regime and the FARC armed insurgency (a priority of the MNC faction).

Regaining imperial dominance in Argentina involves, (1) promoting the electoral fortunes of the neo-liberal governor of Buenos Aires Macri, (2) backing the pro- imperial media conglomerate , Clarin, facing legislation breaking up its monopoly (3) exploiting the death of prosecutor and CIA-Mossad collaborator, Alberto Nisman to discredit the Kirchner-Fernandez regime(4)backing   NewYork speculaters’ (vulture)investment fund attempting to

extract  exorbitant interest payments and, with the aid of a dubious judicial ruling, blocking Argentina’s access to financial markets

Both the militarist and MNC factions of the imperial state converge in backing a multi-pronged electoral – and coup approach, which seeks to restore a US controlled neo-liberal regimes to power.

The contingencies which forestalled the recovery of imperial power over the past decade are now acting in reverse.  The drop in commodity prices has weakened post neo-liberal regimes in Venezuela, Argentina and Ecuador.  The ebbing of anti-imperialist movementsresulting from center-left co-optation tactics has strengthened imperial state backed right-wing movements and street demonstrators.  The decline in Chinese growth has weakened the Latin American market diversification strategies.  The internal balance of class forces has shifted to the Right, toward US backed political clients in Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Paraguay.

Theoretical Reflections on Empire Building in Latin America

US empire building in Latin America is a cyclical process, reflecting the structural shifts in political power, and the restructuring of the world economy – forces and factors which ‘override’ the  imperial state and capital’s drive to accumulate.Capital accumulation and expansion does not depend merely on the impersonal forces of “the market” – because the social relations under which the “market” functions, operate under the constraints of the class struggle.

The centerpiece of imperial state activities-namely the prolonged territorial wars in the Middle East – are absent in Latin America.  The driving force of US imperial state policy is the pursuit of resources (agro-mining), labor power ( low paid autoworkers), markets (size and purchasing power of 600 million consumers).  The economic interests of the MNC are the motives for imperial expansion.

Even as, from a geo-strategic vantage point, the Caribbean, Central America as well as South America are located most proximate to the US, economic not military objectives predominate.

However, the militarist-Zionist faction in the imperial state, ignore these traditional economic motives and deliberately choose to act on other priorities – control over oil producing regions, destruction of Islamic nations or movements or simply to destroy anti-imperialist adversaries.  The militarists-Zionist faction counted the “benefits” to Israel, its Middle East military supremacy, more important than the  US securing economic supremacy in Latin America.  This is clearly the case if we measure imperial priorities by state resources expended in pursuit of political goals.

Even if we take the goal of “national security”, interpreted in the broadest sense, of securing the safety of the territorial homeland of the empire, the US military assault of Islamic countries driven by accompanying Islamophobic ideology and the resulting mass killings and uprooting a millions of Islamic people, has led to “blowback”: reciprocal terrorism.  US “total wars” against civilians has provoked Islamic assaults against the citizens of the West.

Latin America countries targeted by economic imperialism are less belligerent than Middle Eastern countries targeted by US militarists.  A cost/benefits analysis would demonstrate the totally “irrational” nature of militarist strategy.  However,if we take account   of the specific composition and interests that motivate particularly imperial state policymakers, there is a kind of perverse “rationality”.  The militarists defend the “rationality” of costly and unending wars by citing the advantages of seizing the ‘gateways to oil’ and the Zionists cite their success in enhancing Israel’s regional power.

Whereas Latin America, for over a century was a priority region of imperial economic conquest, by the 21st century it lost  primacy  to the Middle East.

The Demise of the USSR and China’s conversion to Capitalism

The greatest impetus to successful US imperial expansion did not take place via proxy wars or military invasions.  Rather, the US empire achieved its greatest growth and conquest, with the aid of client political leaders, organizations and vassal states throughout the USSR, Eastern Europe, the Baltic States the Balkans and the Caucuses.  Long term, large scale US and EU political penetration and funding succeeded inoverthrowing the hegemonic collectivist regimes in Russia and the USSR, and installing  vassal states. They would soon serve NATO and be incorporated in the European Union.  Bonn annexed East Germany anddominated the markets of Poland,the Czech Republic and other Central European states.  US and London bankers collaborated with Russian-Israeli gangster-oligarchs in joint ventures plundering resources, industries, real estate and pension funds.  The European Union exploited tens of millions of highly trained scientists, technicians and workers – by importing them or stripping them of their welfare benefits and labor rights and exploiting them as cheap labor reserves in their own country.

“Imperialism by invitation” hosted by the  vassal Yeltsin regime, easily appropriated Russian wealth.  The ex-Warsaw Pact military forces were incorporated into a foreign legion for US imperial wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.  Their military installations were converted into military bases and missile sites encircling Russia.

US imperial conquest of the East, created a “unipolar world” in which Washington decision-makers and strategists believed that, as the world’s supreme power, they could intervene in every region withimpunity.

The scope and depth of the US world empire was enhanced by China’s embrace of capitalism and its ruler’s  invitation to US and EU MNC to enter and exploit cheap Chinese labor.  The global expansion of the US empire, led to a sense of unlimited power, encouraging its rulers’  to exercise power against any adversary or competitor.

Between 1990 and 2000,the US expanded its military bases to the borders of Russia.  US MNC expanded into China and Indo-China.  US backed client regimes throughout Latin America dismantled the nationaleconomies, privatizing and denationalizing over five thousand lucrative strategic firms.  Every sector was affected- natural resources, transport, telecommunications and finance.

The US proceeded throughout the 1990’s to expand via politicalpenetration and military force.  President George H. W. Bush launched a war against Iraq.  Clinton bombed Yugoslavia and Germany and the EU joined the US in dividing Yugoslavia into ‘mini states’

The Pivotel Year 2000:  the Pinnacle and Decline of Empire

The very rapid and extensive imperial expansion, between 1989-1999, the easy conquests and the accompanying plunder, created the conditions for the decline of the US empire.

The pillage and impoverishment of Russia led to the rise of a new leadership under President Putin intent on reconstructing the state and economy and ending vassalage.

The Chinese leadership harnessed its dependence on the West for capital investments and technology, into instruments for creating a powerful export economy and the growth of a dynamic national public-private manufacturing complex.  The imperial centers of finance which flourished under lax regulation crashed.  The domestic foundations of empire were severely strained.  The imperial war machine competed with the financial sector for federal budgetary expenditures and subsidies.

The easy growth of empire, led to its over-extension.  Multiple areas of conflict, reflected world-wide resentment and hostility at the destruction wrought by bombings and invasions.  Collaborative imperial client rulers were weakened.  The world-wide empire exceeded the capacity of the US to successfully police its new vassal states.  The colonial outposts demanded new infusions of troops, arms and funds at a time when countervailing domestic pressures were demanding retrenchment and retreat.

All the recent conquests – outside of Europe – were costly.  The sense of invincibility and impunity led imperial planners to overestimate their capacity to expand, retain, control and contain the inevitable anti-imperialist resistance.

The crises and collapse of the neo-liberal vassal states in Latin America accelerated.  Anti-imperialist uprisings spread from Venezuela (1999), to Argentina (2001), Ecuador (2000-2005) and Bolivia (2003-2005).  Center-left regimes emerged in Brazil, Uruguay and Honduras.  Mass movements, in rural regions,among Indian and mining communities gained momentum. Imperial plans formulated to secure US centered integration were rejected.  Instead multiple regional pacts excluding the US proliferated-ALBA,UNASUR,CELAC.  Latin America’s domestic rebellion coincided with the economic rise of China.  A prolonged commodity boom severely weakened US imperial supremacy.  The US had few local allies in Latin America and over ambitious commitments to control the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa.

Washington lost its automatic majority in Latin America:  its backing of coups in Honduras and Paraguay and its intervention in Venezuela (2002) and blockade of Cuba was repudiated by every regime, even by conservative allies.

Having easily established a global empire, Washington found it was not so easy to defend it.  Imperial strategists in Washington viewed the Middle East wars through the prism of the Israeli military priorities ,ignoring the global economic interests of the MNC.

Imperial military strategists overestimated the military capacity of vassals and clients, ill-prepared by Washington to rule in countries with growing armed national resistance movements.  Wars, invasions and military occupations were launched in multiple sites. Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Syria, Pakistan were added to Afghanistan and Iraq.  US imperial state expenditures far exceeded any transfer of wealth from the occupied countries.

A vast civilian – military – mercenary bureaucracy pillaged hundreds of billions of dollars from the US Treasury.

The centrality of wars of conquest, destroyed the economic foundations

and institutional infrastructure necessary for MNC entry and profit.

Once entrenched in strategic military conceptions of empire, the military-political leadership of the imperial state  fashioned a global ideology to justify and motivate a policy of permanent and multiple warfare. The doctrine of the ‘war on terror’ justified war everywhere and nowhere.  The doctrine was ‘elastic’ – adapted to every region of conflict and inviting new military engagements:  Afghanistan, Libya, Iran and Lebanon were all designated as war zones.  The ‘terror doctrine’, global in scope, provided a justification for multiple wars and the massive destruction (not exploitation) of societies and economic resources.  Above all the “war on terrorism” justified torture (Aba Gharib) and concentration camps (Guantanamo), and civilian targets (via drones)anywhere. Troops were withdrawn and returned to Afghanistan and Iraq as the nationalist resistence advanced..  Thousands of Special Forces in scores of countries were active, purveying death and mayhem.

Moreover, the violent uprooting, degradation and stigmatization of entire islamic people led to the spread of violence  in the imperial centers of Paris, New York, London, Madrid and Copenhagen. Theglobalization of imperial state terror  led to individual terror.

Imperial terror evoked domestic terror:  the former on a massive, sustained scale encompassing entire civilizations and conducted and justified by elected  political officials and military authorities.  The latter by a cross section  of ‘internationalists’ who directly identified with the victims of imperial state terror.

Contemporary Imperialism:  Present and Future Perspectives

To understand the future of US imperialism it is important to sum up and evaluate the experience and policies of the past quarter of a century.

If we compare, US empire building between 1990 and 2015, it is clearly in decline economically, politically and even militarily in most regions of the world, though the process of decline is not linear and probably not irreversible.

Despite talk in Washington of reconfiguring imperial priorities to take account of MNC economic interests, little has been accomplished… Obama’s so-called “pivot to Asia” has resulted in new military base agreements with Japan, Australia and the Philippines surrounding China and reflects an inability to fashion free trade agreements that exclude China.  Meantime, the US has militarily re-started the war and reenteredIraq and Afghanistan in addition to launching  new wars in Syria and the Ukraine.  It is clear that the primacy of the militarist faction is still the determinant factor in shaping imperial state policies.

The imperial military drive is most evident in the US intervention in support of the coup in the Ukraine and subsequent financing and arming of the Kiev junta.  The imperial takeover of the Ukraine and plans to incorporate it into the EU and NATO, represents military aggression in its most blatant form: The expansion of US military bases and installations and military maneuvers  on Russia’s borders and the US initiated economic sanctions, have severely damaged EU trade and investment with Russia.. US empire building continues to prioritize military expansion even at the cost of Western imperial economicinterests in Europe.

The US-EU bombing of Libya destroyed the burgeoning trade and investment agreements between imperial oil and gas MNC and the Gadhafi government… NATO air assaults destroyed the economy, society and political order, converting Libya into a territory overrun by warring clans, gangs, terrorists and armed thuggery.

Over the past half century, the political leadership and strategies of the imperial state have changed dramatically.  During the period between 1975 – 1990, MNC played a central role in defining the direction of imperial state policy:  leveraging markets in Asia; negotiating market openings with China; promoting and backing neo-liberal military and civilian regimes in Latin America; installing and financing pro-capitalist regimes in Russia, Eastern Europe, the Baltic and Balkan states.  Even in the cases where the imperial state resorted to military intervention, Yugoslavia and Iraq, , the bombings led to favorable economic opportunities for US MNC .The Bush Sr regime promoted US oil interests via an oil   for food agreement with Saddam Hussein Iin Iraq

Clinton promoted free market regimes in the mini-states resulting from the break-up of socialist Yugoslavia .

However, the imperial state’s leadership and policies shifted dramatically during the late 1990’s onward.  President Clinton’s imperial state was composed of  long-standing MNC represntatives , Wall Street bankers and newly ascending militarist Zionist officials.

The result was a hybrid policy in which the imperial state actively promoted MNC opportunities under neo-liberal regimes in the ex-Communist countries of Europe and Latin America,and expanded MNC ties with China and Viet Nam while launching destructive military interventions in Somalia, Yugoslavia and Iraq.

The ‘balance of forces’ within the imperialist state shifted dramatically in favor the militarist-Zionist faction with 9/11:the terrorist attack of dubious origens  and  false flag demolitions in New York and Washington served to entrench the militarists in control of a vastly expanded  imperial state apparatus.  As a consequence of 9/11 the militarist-Zionist faction of the imperial state  subordinated the interests of the MNC to its strategy of total wars.  This in turn led to the invasion, occupation and destruction of civilian infrastructure in Iraq and Afghanistan (instead of harnessing it to MNC expansion).  The US colonial regime dismantled the Iraqui state (instead of re-ordering it to serve the MNC).  The assassination and forced out -migration of millions of skilled professionals, administrators, police and military officials crippled any economic recovery (instead of their incorporation as servants of the colonial state and MNC).

The militarist-Zionist ascendancy in the imperial state introduced major changes in policy, orientation , priorities and the modus operandi of US imperialism.  The ideology of the “global war on terror” replaced the MNC doctrine of promoting “economic globalization”.

Perpetual wars (“terrorists” were not confined to place and time) replaced limited wars or interventions directed at opening markets or changing regimes which would implement neo-liberal policies benefiting US MNC.

The locus of imperial state activity shifted from exploiting economic opportunities, in Asia, Latin America and the ex-Communist countries of Eastern Europe to wars in the Middle East, South Asia and North Africa – targeting Moslem countries which opposed Israel’s colonial expansion in Palestine, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere.

The new militarist – power configuration’s conception of empire building required vast – trillion dollar – expenditures, without care or thought of returns to private capital.  In contrast, under the hegemony of the MNC, the imperial state, intervened to secure concessions of oil, gas and minerals in Latin America and the Middle East.The costs of military conquest were more than compensated by the returns to the MNC.  The militarist imperial state configuration pillaged the US Treasury to finance its occupations, financing a vast army of corrupt colonial collaborators, private mercenary ‘military contractors’and,soon to be millionaire, US military procurement (sic) officials.

Previously, MNC directed overseas exploitation led to healthy returns to the US Treasury both in terms of direct tax payments and via the revenues generated from trade and the processing of raw materials.

Over the past decade and a half, the biggest and most stable returns to the MNC take place in regions and countries where the militarized imperial state is least involved – China, Latin America and Europe.  The MNC’s have profited least and have lost most in areas ofgreatest imperial state involvement.

The ‘war zones’ that extend from Libya, Somalia, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Iran and Afghanistan and Pakistan are the regions where imperial MNC have suffered the biggest decline and exodus.

The main “beneficiaries” of the current imperial state policies are the war contractors and the security-military-industrial complex in the US.Oversees the state beneficiaries include Israel and Saudi Arabia…In addition Jordanian, Egyptian, Iraqui , Afghani and Pakistani client rulers have squirreled away tens of billions in off-shore private bank accounts.

The “non-state” beneficiaries include mercenary, proxy armies .In Syria, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and the Ukraine , tens of thousands ofcollaborators in self-styled “non-governmental” organizations  have also profited.

The Lost-Benefit Calculus or Empire-Building under the Aegeus of the Militarist-Zionist Imperial State

Sufficient time has passed over the past decade and a half of militarist-Zionist dominance of the imperial state to evaluate their performance.

The US and its Western European allies, especially Germanysuccessfully expanded their empire in Eastern Europe, the Balkans and the Baltic regions without firing a shot.  These countries were converted into EU vassal states.  Their markets dominated and industries denationalized.  Their armed forces were recruited as NATO mercenaries. West Germany annexed the East.  Cheap educated labor, as immigrants and as a labor reserve, increased profits for EU and US MNC. Russia was temporarily reduced to a vassal state between 1991 – 2001.  Living standards plunged and welfare programs were reduced.  Mortality rates increased.  Class inequalities widened.  Millionaires and billionaires seized public resources and joined with the imperial MNC in plundering the economy.  Socialist and Communist leaders and parties were repressed or co-opted.In contrast imperial military expansion of the 21stcentury, was a costly failure.  The ‘war in Afghanistan’ was costly in lives and expenditures and led to an ignominious retreat.  What remained was a fragile puppet regime and an unreliable mercenary military.  The US-Afghanistan war was the longest war in US history and one of the biggest failures.  In the end the nationalist-Islamist resistance movements – the so-called “Taliban” and allied ethno-religious and nationalist anti-imperialist resistance groups- dominate the countryside, repeatedly penetrate and attack urban centers and prepare to take power.

The Iraq war and the imperial state’s invasion and decade long occupation decimated the economy .  The occupation fomented ethno religious warfare.  The secular Ba’thist officers and military professionals joined with Islamist-nationalists and subsequently formed a powerful resistance movement (ISIS) which defeated the imperial backed Shia mercenary army  during the second decade of the war.  The imperial state was condemned to re-enter and engage directly in a prolonged war.  The cost of war spiraled to over a trillion dollars.  Oil exploitation was hampered and the US Treasury poured tens of billions to sustain a “war without end’.

The US imperial state and the EU, along with  Saudi Arabia and Turkey financed armed Islamic mercenary militias to invade Syria and overthrow the secular, nationalist, anti-Zionist Bashar Assad regime.  The imperial war opened the door for the expansion of the Islamic –Ba’thist forces—ISIS– into Syria .  The Kurds and other armed groups seized territory, fragmenting the country.  After nearly 5 years of warfare and rising military costs the US and EU MNC have been cut off from the Syrian market.

US support for Israeli aggression against Lebanon has led to the growth in power of the anti-imperialist Hezbollah armed resistance.  Lebanon, Syria and Iran now represent a serious alternative to the US,EU, Saudi Arabia, Israeli axis.

The US sanctions policy toward Iran has failed to undermine the nationalist regime and has totally undercut the economic opportunities of all the major US and EU oil and gas MNC as well as US manufacturing exporters.China has replaced them

The US-EU invasion of Libya led to the destruction of the economy and the flight of billions in MNC investments and the disruption of exports.

The US imperial states’ seizure of power via a proxy coup in Kiev, provoked a  powerful anti-imperialist rebellion led by armed militia in the East (Donetsk and Luhansk) and the decimation of the Ukraine economy.

In summary, the military-Zionist takeover of the imperial state has led to prolonged, unwinnable costly wars which have undermined markets and investment sites for US MNC.  Imperial militarism has undermined the imperial economic presence and provoked long-term, growing anti-imperialist resistance movements, as well as chaotic, unstable and unviable countries out of imperial control.

Economic imperialism has continued to profit in parts of Europe, Asia , Latin America and Africa despite the imperial wars and economic sanctions pursued by the highly militarized imperial state elsewhere.

However, the US militarists’ seizure of power in the Ukraine and the sanctions against Russia have eroded EU’S profitable trade and investments in Russia.  The Ukraine under IMF-EU-US tutelage has become a heavily indebted , broken  economy run by kleptocrats who are  totally dependent on foreign loans and military intervention.

Because the militarized imperial state prioritizes conflict and sanctions with Russia, Iran and Syria, it has failed to deepen and expand  its economic ties with Asia, Latin America and Africa.  The political and economic conquest of East Europe and parts of the USSR has lost significance.  The perpetual, lost wars in the Middle East, North Africa and the Caucuses have weakened the imperial state’s capacity for empire building in Asia and Latin America.

The outflow of wealth, the domestic cost of perpetual wars haseroded the electoral foundations of empire building.  Only a fundamental change in the composition of the imperial state and a reorientation of priorities toward centering on economic expansion can alter the current decline of empire.  The danger is that as the militarist Zionist imperialist state pursues losing wars, it may escalate and  raise the ante ,and move toward a major nuclear confrontation:  an empire amidst nuclear ashes!