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Unreality Is Becoming the New Reality

By: Isaiah 88 Friday December 19, 2014 10:57 am

Edward R. Murrow . . .

The obscure we see eventually. The completely obvious, it seems, takes longer.

Americans have never been very good at seeing the completely obvious. It’s a nationwide affliction and it’s getting worse. Untold millions do not realize that democracy is being eliminated, that human rights are being eradicated, that reality itself is being discarded. The Powers-That-Be have concluded that reality is not conducive to corporate profits, it is interfering with Wall Street agendas, it is undermining the ability of corrupt politicians to get reelected, so reality is being downsized, it is being phased out, it is being taken off the table.

Unreality is becoming the new reality.

John Pilger, “The Triumph of Propaganda” . . .

The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government.” It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction, and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.

Was Is Peace / Freedom Is Slavery / Ignorance Is Strength

The propaganda has never been so pervasive, so relentless, so effective. It has always been a weapon of the privileged and the powerful, but media consolidation has been a force multiplier, it has made the propaganda orders of magnitude greater in terms of volume and impact. The desecration of journalism is accelerating, network news has become a degrading spectacle, the deceit broadcast every day on Fox News has never been more blatant.

I can no more describe the blinding hypocrisy of these “journalists” than I can the surface of the sun. Even when I shield my eyes from the glare, a few seconds of it is all I can stand.

Glenn Greenwald . . .

Ever since the torture report was released last week, U.S. television outlets have endlessly featured American torturers and torture proponents. But there was one group that was almost never heard from: the victims of their torture. Whenever America is forced to confront its heinous acts, the central strategy is to disappear the victims, render them invisible. That’s what robs them of their humanity: it’s the process of dehumanization. That, in turns, is what enables American elites first to support atrocities, and then, when forced to reckon with them, tell themselves that – despite some isolated and well-intentioned bad acts – they are still really good, elevated, noble, admirable people.

The authors of the torture report reported the facts, they voiced their concerns, but their voices were small cries against a very large darkness. That darkness is spreading, concealing the horror of all that was done at Abu Ghraib, at Guantanamo, in the secret prisons of the national security underworld. The truth has been perverted by the media to such an obscene extent that torture has become patriotic. Instead of facing condemnation, the torturers are being honored for their resolve, for their determination to protect the homeland. The desired propaganda effect has been achieved–a significant majority of Americans now support the torture of human beings.

Termination. With extreme prejudice. That is how the Powers-That-Be are treating reality, that is how the police are treating reality, that is how America’s “journalists” are treating reality, that is how they will always treat reality from now on, until the sun goes out.

The High and Mighty among us have noted that the shelf life of their War on Terror is expiring, they’ve noted that the ragtag idiots of ISIS have somehow failed to conquer the entire Middle East, so the strategists of the national security state are busy orchestrating an even bigger and better war than the one that got away, the profiteers are eagerly awaiting it, the media is performing its assigned role as it always does.

Pilger . . .

The suppression of the truth about Ukraine is one of the most complete news blackouts I can remember. The biggest Western military build-up in the Caucasus and eastern Europe since World War II is blacked out. Washington’s secret aid to Kiev and its neo-Nazi brigades, responsible for war crimes against the population of eastern Ukraine, is blacked out. Evidence that contradicts propaganda that Russia was responsible for the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner is blacked out.

You don’t need to be a far left extremist or a nihilist or an anarchist or a member of a subversive labor union or even a dangerously unarmed African-American to suspect that the Powers-That-Be seem bound and determined to provoke a major conflict with America’s newly designated existential enemy–Putin’s Russia.

Not when so much critical information is being blacked out, not when reality itself is being blacked out, not when it’s being redacted and revised and rewritten beyond all recognition. At this rate, it won’t be long until there’s nothing left of reality but fading memories of it, covertly shared in the comment thread of a diary on some low-traffic website somewhere.

Unreality is becoming the new reality.

It’s long past time for Americans to finally see the obvious.

If you aren’t ready to fight back yet, if you aren’t ready to speak truth to power in the streets, I suggest you get ready. Because darkness is heading our way and it’s bringing global conflict with it, it’s bringing economic collapse with it, it’s bringing mass arrests with it, it’s bringing hell on earth with it.

(Image by Joel Franusic, Flickr Creative Commons)


Day #9 of 11: #ThisStopsToday and Oakland #UmbrellaMarch

By: wendydavis Thursday December 18, 2014 5:39 pm

And also…the soundtrack of the expanding revolution built around #Ferguson and #BlackLivesMatter.

Relentless pressure, again in NYC and enirons; a movement led by youth, millennials, black women, and aided by allies of all skin hues.  It’s growing and broadening; where it will go no one knows.

Not Just Public Lands: Defense Bill Also Incentivizes Fracked Gas Vehicles

By: Steve Horn Thursday December 18, 2014 5:13 pm

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog   

DeSmogBlog recently revealed how Big Oil’s lobbyists snuck expedited permitting for hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) on public lands into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) of 2015, which passed in the U.S.House and Senate and now awaits President Barack Obama’s signature.

A follow-up probe reveals that the public lands giveaway was not the only sweetheart deal the industry got out of the pork barrel bill. The NDAA also included a provision that opened the floodgates for natural gas vehicles (NGVs) in the U.S.—cars that would largely be fueled by gas obtained via fracking.

The section of the bill is titled, “Alternative Fuel Automobiles.” The “fuel described in subparagraph (E)” refers to natural gas, found within Title 49 of the United States Code‘s section 32901.

It means, as with electric vehicles, natural gas automobile manufacturers will now also receive financial credits under the new Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards introduced by President Obama in May 2009.

Introduced by Climate Denier Inhofe

The provision was initially introduced in February by U.S. Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), a climate science denier, as the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Development Act.

Inhofe called it a “bill that would incentivize the production and purchase of…natural gas vehicles (NGVs)” in a press release announcing its introduction.

“The booming natural gas industry in America is delivering a cheap, domestic energy source for our homes and businesses, but this fuel source is being underutilized in our vehicles,” said Inhofe. “I have introduced the Alternative Fuel Vehicle Development Act to help the rest of the nation tap into the benefits of using natural gas in vehicles.”

Though introduced at the beginning of the year, the bill did not advance and had only one co-sponsor: U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), the soon-to-be-retired co-sponsor of the NDAA of 2015. Levin cited President Obama’s support of natural gas as a “bridge fuel” in introducing the bill on the Senate floor.

“The President outlined in his State of the Union his goal to achieve energy independence through the use of alternative fuels,” said Levin in his floor statement. “He specifically mentioned natural gas as the bridge fuel that can grow our economy, create jobs for the middle class, and reduce carbon pollution. I am pleased to introduce legislation today that takes a step toward meeting that goal.”

On the day of the NDAA’s passage, Inhofe and Levin issued a follow-up press release on Section 318.

“Enactment of this bipartisan provision moves natural gas one step closer towards becoming a mainstream fuel for our everyday cars,” Inhofe declared. “Natural gas is an underutilized clean and abundant domestic energy resource for U.S. transportation in part due to outdated regulations. I am proud to have worked with Sen. Carl Levin to cut the red tape and help present Americans with another alternative to affordable, clean energy for their vehicles.”

Industry Lobbies, Then Cheerleads

Following the tried and true pattern, Big Oil — alongside the auto industry — first lobbied for the bill it likely wrote. Then once it passed, it praised it.

“Sen. Inhofe continues to be a champion for the NGV industry by introducing legislation that will encourage both automakers and vehicle purchasers to put more NGVs on American roads,” Richard Kolodziej, president of NGVAmerica said in a March press release after the initial introduction of the stand-alone bill.

Alongside the auto industry and other companies, America’s Natural Gas Alliance (ANGA) lobbied in quarter onetwo and three for the bill’s passage, according to lobbying disclosure forms reviewed by DeSmogBlog.

ANGA’s lobbying team for the NGVs issue embodies the government-industry revolving door.

It included Amy Farrell, former deputy assistant administrator for the George W. Bush Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the associate director for environment & regulations for the Bush White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ)Frank Macchiarola, former Republican minority staff director for the US Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, also lobbied for the cause.

On the Democratic side, ANGA was flanked by its CEO Marty Durbin, nephew of U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) and a former lobbyist for the American Petroleum Institute. Prior to becoming a lobbyist, Durbin worked as a congressional staffer.

Upon the NDAA of 2015′s passage, ANGA praised both fracking-related provisions, expedited permitting for fracking on U.S. public lands and natural gas vehicles, in a press release. Inhofe included ANGA’s natural gas vehicles provision statement in his press release, as well.

“This bill also promotes the tangible benefits that natural gas vehicles offer in increasing the use of an abundant and affordable American resource,” declared Macchiarola in ANGA’s release. “This provision helps pave the way for the deployment of cleaner, more efficient vehicles on our highways and allows our nation to enjoy the environmental and economic advantages natural gas offers.”

President Obama has declared strong support for NGVs in the past.

Locking in Fracking

The two provisions buried within the 1,600-plus page NDAA of 2015 serve as the last laugh for Big Oil in the U.S. as 2014 winds down.

With three liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminals approved this year —fueled by the same revolving door exemplified by the NGVs provision — and the floodgates now opened for expedited fracking permitting on public lands, Big Oil has locked in U.S. fracking infrastructure for years to come.

Or at least until the shale runs dry, with public lands now offering a new major lifeline.

As it stands, California and New York are the last major obstacles resisting the U.S. fracking rush. But there exists no state in the union — with the combination of pipelines, petrochemical plants, manufacturing facilities and now more NGV infrastructure — that remains untouched by the fracking revolution.

A Quick Whirl Around the Fracking World: 18 Dec 2014

By: KateCA Thursday December 18, 2014 2:31 pm

Nordheim, TX—a small town that now finds itself home to an open-pit fracking waste facility.

*Worldwide.  As the climate conference closed in Lima, one single paragraph emerged, but two days later, an entire document was released.  Environmentalists are particularly critical of the final product, here and here.  Next year’s meeting in Paris is predicted to be rocky unless the countries most responsible for global warming are held to account—including the US.

*Worldwide.  Jean Ross, President of the National Nurses United Council of Presidents, explains that the climate crisis is a health crisis, “It’s become an emergency.”  And what will turn that around?  “true energy democracy with public ownership.”  She specifically addresses fracking, too, and the Keystone XL pipeline.

*Worldwide.  8 Dec, Brent crude was $67.30 while US crude was $64.40. 12 Dec, Brent was $62.94with US prices falling to $57.8115 Dec, Brent at $60.62, US at $55.38—and the Canadian dollar “is now below 86 cents US.”

*Worldwide.  Pretty spectacular prediction:  The fall in oil prices “may blow a $1.6 trillion hole in the global oil sector, annually.”  (Subtitle:  “Santa got run over by an oil tanker.”)

*USA.  Sen Mitch McConnell (R-KY) says “the first action taken on his watch will be passing a bill to build the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.”

*USA.  Taxpayer funds for oil trains!  There reportedly are “10 federal and state grants” totaling about $84.2 million for oil trains.  Thanks to fracking, “oil-train traffic has surged at least 42-fold since 2009, and 415,000 railcar loads of oil” were on the tracks last year.  Wait’ll you read about Philadelphia’s  Energy Solution refinery complex—“controlled by hedge fund Carlyle Group”.  Or the $8.6 million in federal funds for “privately-held FarmRail System” in OK,  or the $8.9 million in state and county funds for Global Partners in Oregon.

*AK.  Seems North Slope crude is being affected by the rapid descent in oil prices, too, leading to the possibility of “multibillion-dollar deficits . . . where 88 cents of every dollar spent by state government comes from oil production.”  Could lead to a $3.5 billion shortfall.  If this continues, ya think the knee-jerk response will be to cut programs for the poor and less-well-off?

*CA.  The Yurok tribe “has sold millions of dollars’ worth of carbon credits . . . to some of the state’s biggest polluters”, including oil companies.

*CA.  The US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals “threw out a human rights lawsuit brought against Occidental Petroleum Corp over allegations that it played a role in killings carried out by the Colombian military in 2004.”  Three murdered labor union workers’ families had filed the suit.  At the time, Occidental and subsidiary Ecopetrol contributed $6.3 million of “assistance” to Colombian security.

*FL.  Such a bright idea:  Duke Energy and Florida Power & Light want “to shift the high cost of [oil fracking] exploration from their stockholders to their customers.”  And don’t forget Tampa where Duke Energy billed customers for nuclear-power plants that have never been built—but Duke still has the money.  Update:  Florida Power & Light got the green light from state regulators; Duke’s “reviewing”.

*LA. St. Tammany Parish is trying to halt oil drilling and/or fracking near Mandeville.  Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany want to join in the Parish’s lawsuit against LA’s Dept of Natural Resources and Commissioner of Conservation.

*MA.  In January, “the U.S. Department of Interior will auction off more than 742,000 acres in the waters off Massachusetts for the development of commercial wind energy.”  12 companies qualified to participate.  Maybe the Whirl will morph into “around the Green Energy World”.

*NC.  Those proposed fracking rules “sailed through a rules review . . . despite a staff attorney’s warning that several rules failed to meet state standards and should be put out for public hearing.”

*NESeems TransCanada wants a decision and it wants it now.  They’ve sent final offers to 100+ Nebraskans on the Keystone XL pipeline route offering them right-of-way payments, else they’ll face eminent domain.  Those 100+ have so far not signed easement contracts.

*NM.   Gov Martinez (R) is reportedly “supporting polluting industries, going against EPA guidelines and passing [legislation] which allows mining, oil, gas and dairy industries to continue to pollute groundwater . . . as long as it doesn’t leave their property.”  Groan.  Currently, citizens are fighting to protect the Gila River, keep out fracking and imports of nuclear waste.

*NY.  At last, Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D)’s administration has made public its fracking report.  NY’s Dept of Health Commissioner noted “The evidence . . . raised public health concerns”, and many questions, since there have been no “longitudinal studies” of the impact of fracking on public health.  The Dept of Environmental Conservation Commissioner said fracking’s “prospects . . . in New York State are uncertain at best.”  Science and concern for the public’s health won the day.

*OK.  Pedestal Co is proposing leasing land to the south of Lake Hefner.  A public hearing has been scheduled “with only 1 week notice, a week before Christmas and with only representatives of Pedestal Oil company”.

*PA.  Whoa!  “In a change from two months ago, Penn Township officials now are moving to ban fracking ponds” from all five zoning districts.  Seems public comments saved the day.  Meanwhile, Gov-elect Tom Wolf (D) has reiterated he’s a big fracker-fan, though of course his administration will make it all safe.

*TX. Republicans like to rag on big government, but when it comes to fracking in TX, big government is in charge.  Denton, TX voted to ban fracking.  They’ve been told only the state can decide where fracking will occur, however.

*TX.  Watch out “brown pelicans, ocelots, sea turtles, dolphins and a host of other endangered and protected wildlife” on and near South Padre Island, ’cause liquid natural gas conglomerates are looking to build export terminals in the area, resulting in “million of gallons of heated effluent” sumped daily into shallow bays.

*TX.  “Islands of the Oil Kings”: 3-part Dallas News series on the early oil barons, their San Jose and Matagorda Islands from whence came some mighty big deals and politicians.

*TX.  Halliburton (can you say Dick “Dick”?) will be laying off around 1,000 employees in “the Eastern hemisphere, effective immediately”.  They’re also buying Baker Hughes, oil field services company, for $35 billion but that’s “unrelated”, of course, of course.

*Canada.  Everyone’s fave, BP, has joined with Husky Energy to begin “operations at their Sunrise oil sands in Alberta, Canada, a project expected to have a lifespan of 50 years.  Initial capacity of 60,000 barrels per day”, eventually to be 200,000 barrels/day.  The two also own the BP-Husky Refinery  at Toledo, OH.

*Canada.  Canadian grain-trains are increasingly hauling oil, too—which the “farmers say is pushing their crops to lower-priced overseas markets.”  This could help out US growers and consumers, except US farmers experience the same problem.

*Canada.  The Fraser Institute maintains there’s “no evidence of unmanageable risk associated” with fracking.  And even if there is, it can be handled simply by having companies’ have adequate insurance.  What’s the Fraser Institute, you might ask (and you should)?  “It has been described as politically conservative and libertarian.”  Its funding? 31% directly from corps and 57% from “‘business-oriented charitable foundations’”, such as the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation and the Koch-controlled Claude R. Lambe Foundation.

*Nigeria.  Two oil workers’ unions in Nigeria have gone on strike, “demanding the reinstatement of representatives who had been dismissed by oil companies”, initially, but now expanded to protesting the state of disrepair of refineries and roads used to transport oil, the price of oil and the continuing theft of it.

*Bangladesh.  Villagers “using spoons, sponges and shovels” are trying to mop up 77,000 gallons of oil unleashed in an area that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  A Padma Oil Co. tanker collided with a cargo ship.  Oil has spread “across 50 miles of rivers and canals.”  Padma is paying the locals for whatever oil they can collect.  Vegetation and animals are reportedly dying.  And the impact on the human spirit?

No More Khirbet Khizehs

By: David Swanson Thursday December 18, 2014 12:23 pm


“Fields that would never be harvested, plantations that would never be irrigated, paths that would become desolate. A sense of destruction and worthlessness. An image of thistles and brambles everywhere, a desolate tawniness, a braying wilderness. And already from those fields accusing eyes peered out at you, that silent accusatory look as of a reproachful animal, staring and following you so there was no refuge.” — Yizhar Smilansky, Khirbet Khizeh

On the day in 2014 that I read the new English translation of Khirbet Khizeh, Tom Engelhardt published a blog post rewriting recent news articles on the U.S. Senate’s torture report as a 2019 Senate report on drone murders. The 2019 “news” media in Tom’s believable account is shocked — shocked, I tell you — by the rampant murder discovered to have been committed using missiles from drones of all things.

The point is that most of what’s been discussed as news from the recent torture report, and certainly all of the fundamental moral points — has been known — or, more accurately, knowable for years. For the past several years, the U.S. establishment has been repeatedly “banning” torture. It has also been repeatedly discovering the same evidence of torture, over and over again. Leading torturers have gone on television to swear they’d do it all again, while radical activist groups have demanded “investigations.”

The point is that at some point “truth and reconciliation” is lies and reconciliation — the lies of pretending that the truth needed to be unearthed, that it was hidden for a time, that the crimes weren’t committed in the broad daylight of television spotlights on a sweaty old man assuring us he was about to start working on the dark side.

Illustrated at right, from the iNakba app, are villages that were destroyed in 1948 to create Israel. Generations of Israelis have grown up not knowing, not wanting to know, pretending not to know, and knowing without confronting the Catastrophe. Israelis are discovering what happened, unburying the hidden truth, filming aging participants’ distorted confessions, and hunting out the outlines of disappeared villages on GoogleEarth.

But what if the truth was always marching naked down the street with trumpets sounding?

In May 1949, Yizhar Smilansky published Khirbet Khizeh, a fictional account of the destruction of a fictional village much like many real ones. Smilansky knew or hoped that he was ahead of his time, so much so that he began the tale by framing it as a recollection from the distant future. The narrator, like the reader, was known by the author to be unable to see for years to come.

What would keep the book alive until that distant day?


It’s not a Senate report. Khirbet Khizeh is a work of masterful insight and storytelling that grips you and compels you to enter the experience of its narrator and his companions, as they do what the author had done, as they imitate Nazis before all the ashes had fallen from the skies above the ovens in Europe.

This book was planted and grew. It’s been taught in Israeli schools. It was a movie on Israeli television in 1978. And now, with a sense that perhaps sleepy eyes are stretching open at long last, the book has had itself translated into the language of the imperial homeland, English.

But how could poetry keep heresy alive?

Several ways, I think. Absolute failure to pay attention, for one. Think about how literature is taught in many U.S. schools, for example. The ability of people to hear the poetry without the meaning, for another. Think about people singing John Lennon’s Imagine without having the slightest idea they’ve just proposed to abolish religions, nations, and private property, or how people throw around the phrase “peace on earth” in December. Perverse but predictable and perhaps predicted misinterpretation, for another. Think about how viewers of the propaganda film Zero Dark Thirty read accounts of torture, for example — as a dirty job that needed doing for a greater cause.

It’s a strain, to me at least, to read Khirbet Khizeh as a celebration of genocide or mass-eviction. And the book not only suffered but also benefitted from being ahead of its time. It pre-existed the mythologies and rhetorical defenses that grew up around the Catastrophe in the decades that followed. When the narrator makes a slight resistance to what he is engaged in, no reader can find anything but humanitarian motivation in his resistance. The idea that this soldier, questioning his fellow soldiers, is engaged in anti-Semitism would literally make no sense. He’s revolted by the cruelty, no more no less — cruelty that every adult and child has to have always known was part of any mass settlement of ancient lands in 1948.

When I was a child, in elementary school, I wrote a story about an eviction of a family from its house, complete with plenty of tear-jerking details. As a good American I wrote about British redcoats evicting patriotic U.S. revolutionaries. My teacher suggested to me that I had a talent for writing. But that wasn’t writing. Had I written of the Native Americans, the Hawaiians, the Filipinos, the Vietnamese, of Diego Garcia or Vieques or the Marshall Islands or Thule or Okinawa or any of the many places about which silence was expected, that might have been writing.

Let us wish no more Khirbet Khizehs on the people of Palestine and many more Khirbet Khizehs on the world.

Cuba: Conservative v. Neo-liberal v. Progressive

By: jaango Thursday December 18, 2014 10:17 am

Cuba:  Conservative v. Neo-liberal v. Progressive

Yesterday and after President Obama proclaimed he was lessening the Cold War, I had to chuckle given that the traditional perspective relative to Cuba, harkens back to the “reality” that predominates the Progressive Movement and the “unmet need” facing my fellow Progressives.

And when put it proper political context, President Obama is often quoted via a sports analogy in which politics is “practiced between the forty yard lines.”  Of course, his cogent view is indeed correct.  Take, for example, 50% of the eligible adults don’t vote, and therefore and from the remaining actualized voters, Conservative Republicans represent 20%, Neo-liberal Democrats represent 10% and Progressives represent 20% of our national population, nonetheless.

As such, the Republicans are adamantly opposed to Congress removing the trade embargo in today’s public law, Neo-liberals are content for “playing around the edges” as represented by President Obama, and Progressives are staunchly in favor of removing the trade embargo from our current public law.

Consequently, should we ever get around to “requiring” the non-voters to begin voting, Conservatives, both Republican and Democratic alike, experience their political demise.  Thus,  Cuba’s national relationships with the United States, and for having isolated themselves and intentionally done, will no longer have much if any viability, and will follow the suit that was experienced in the former Soviet Union and its political implosion.

So, when I “listen” and read among the cognoscenti, this traditional cognoscenti ignores the Progressives and where this majority, comprised of “minorities” need far more capable political allies and which can only be accomplished by requiring today’s non-voters for making their Grand Bargain with today’s Progressives.

Thusly, today’s Grand Disenfranchisement by the Conservatives and which “keeps opens the door” for the political successes enjoyed by America’s conservatives and which will continue unabated until we come face-to-face with our political frustrations and expand the Progressive Movement’s for establishing a competing dogma in the form of a Progressive Nationalist subset, and as applied exclusively to foreign policy, will our large successes manage to and animate America’s Agenda for both domestic and foreign policies.  To wit, McCain, Flake, Rubio, Cruz and Menendez will no longer be found acceptable relative to their political espousals, writ large.



Engelhardt: The National Security State “Works,” Even If Nothing It Does Works

By: Tom Engelhardt Thursday December 18, 2014 9:41 am

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The Senate Drone Report of 2019
Looking Back on Washington’s War on Terror
By Tom Engelhardt

It was December 6, 2019, three years into a sagging Clinton presidency and a bitterly divided Congress. That day, the 500-page executive summary of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s long fought-over, much-delayed, heavily redacted report on the secret CIA drone wars and other American air campaigns in the 18-year-long war on terror was finally released.  That day, committee chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) took to the Senate floor, amid the warnings of his Republican colleagues that its release might “inflame” America’s enemies leading to violence across the Greater Middle East, and said:

“Over the past couple of weeks, I have gone through a great deal of introspection about whether to delay the release of this report to a later time. We are clearly in a period of turmoil and instability in many parts of the world. Unfortunately, that’s going to continue for the foreseeable future, whether this report is released or not. There may never be the ‘right’ time to release it. The instability we see today will not be resolved in months or years. But this report is too important to shelve indefinitely.  The simple fact is that the drone and air campaigns we have launched and pursued these last 18 years have proven to be a stain on our values and on our history.”

Though it was a Friday afternoon, normally a dead zone for media attention, the response was instant and stunning.  As had happened five years earlier with the committee’s similarly fought-over report on torture, it became a 24/7 media event.  The “revelations” from the report poured out to a stunned nation.  There were the CIA’s own figures on the hundreds of children in the backlands of Pakistan and Yemen killed by drone strikes against “terrorists” and “militants.”  There were the “double-tap strikes” in which drones returned after initial attacks to go after rescuers of those buried in rubble or to take out the funerals of those previously slain.  There were the CIA’s own statistics on the stunning numbers of unknown villagers killed for every significant and known figure targeted and finally taken out (1,147 dead in Pakistan for 41 men specifically targeted).  There were the unexpected internal Agency discussions of the imprecision of the robotic weapons always publicly hailed as “surgically precise” (and also of the weakness of much of the intelligence that led them to their targets).  There was the joking and commonplace use of dehumanizing language (“bug splat” for those killed) by the teams directing the drones.  There were the “signature strikes,” or the targeting of groups of young men of military age about whom nothing specifically was known, and of course there was the raging argument that ensued in the media over the “effectiveness” of it all (including various emails from CIA officials admitting that drone campaigns in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen had proven to be mechanisms not so much for destroying terrorists as for creating new ones).

There were the new tidbits of information on the workings of the president’s “kill list” and the convening of “terror Tuesday” briefings to target specific individuals around the world.  There were the insider discussions of ongoing decisions to target American citizens abroad for assassination by drone without due process of law and the revealing emails in which participants up to presidential advisers discussed how exactly to craft the exculpatory “legal” documents for those acts at the Department of Justice. 

Above all, to an unsuspecting nation, there was the shocking revelation that American air power had, in the course of those years, destroyed in whole or in part at least nine wedding parties, including brides, grooms, family members, and revelers, involving the deaths of hundreds of wedding goers in at least three countries of the Greater Middle East.  This revelation shocked the nation, resulting in headlines ranging from the Washington Post’s sober “Wedding Tally Revealed” to the New York Post’s “Bride and Boom!

But while all of that created headlines, the main debate was over the “effectiveness” of the White House’s and CIA’s drone campaigns.  As Senator Wyden insisted that day in his speech:

“If you read the many case studies in the executive summary of our report, it will be unmistakable not only how ineffective American air power has been over these years, but how, for every ‘bad guy’ taken out, the air strikes were, in the end, a mechanism for the mass creation of terrorists and a continuing, powerful recruitment tool for jihadist and al-Qaeda-linked organizations across the Greater Middle East and Africa.  If you doubt me, just count the jihadis in our world on September 10, 2001, and today in the areas of Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, and Somalia where our major drone campaigns have taken place, as well, of course, as in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Then tell me with a straight face that they ‘worked.’”

As with the 2014 torture report, so the responses of those deeply implicated in the drone assassination campaigns and the loosing of American air power more generally in the backlands of the planet put on display the full strength of the American national security state.  It was no surprise, of course, when CIA Director David Petraeus (on his second tour of duty at the Agency) held the usual Langley, Virginia, news conference — an unknown event until then-Director John Brennan first held one in December 2014 to dispute the Senate torture report.  There, as the New York Times described it, Petraeus criticized the latest report for being “‘flawed,’ ‘partisan,’ and ‘frustrating,’ and pointed out numerous disagreements that he had with its damning conclusions about the CIA’s drone program.”

The real brunt of the attack, however, came from prominent former CIA officials, including former directors George Tenet (“You know, the image that’s been portrayed is we sat around the campfire and said, ‘Oh boy, now we go get to assassinate people.’  We don’t assassinate people.  Let me say that again to you, we don’t assassinate people. O.K.?”); Mike Hayden (“If the world had acted as American air power has done in these years, many people who shouldn’t have gotten married wouldn’t have gotten married and the world would be a saner place for marriage.”); and Brennan himself (“Whatever your views are on our drone program, our nation and in particular this agency did a lot of things right during a difficult time to keep this country strong and secure and you should be thanking them, not undermining them.”).  Hayden, Brennan, and national security, intelligence, and Pentagon officials also blanketed the news and the Sunday morning talk shows.  Former CIA Director of Public Affairs Bill Harlow, who had set up the website to defend the patriotic honor of the Agency at the time of the release of the Senate torture report, repeated the process five years later with the website

Former CIA Director Leon Panetta repeated his classic statement of 2009, insisting to a range of media interviewers that the drone campaign was not just “effective,” but still “the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al-Qaeda leadership.”  Former President Barack Obama did an interview with NBC News from his new presidential library, still under construction in Chicago, saying in part, “We assassinated some folks, but those who did so were American patriots working in a time of great stress and fear.  Assassination may have been necessary and understandable in the moment, but it is not who we are.”  And 78-year-old former Vice President Dick Cheney, who appeared on Fox News from his Wyoming ranch, insisted that the new Senate report, like the old one, was a “gob of unpatriotic hooey.”  President Hillary Clinton, interviewed by BuzzFeed, said of the report, “One of the things that sets us apart from other countries is that when we make mistakes, we admit them.”  She did not, however, go on to admit that the still ongoing drone program or even the wedding air strikes were “mistakes.”

On December 11th, as everyone knows, the mass junior high school shootings in Wisconsin occurred and media attention quite understandably shifted there, 24/7.  On December 13th, Reuters reported that a drone attack in Pakistan’s tribal borderlands, which was “suspected” of killing seven “militants,” including possibly an al-Qaeda sub-commander — local residents reported that two children and a 70-year-old elder had been among the dead — was the thousandth drone strike in the CIA’s secret wars in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.

Running a Criminal Enterprise in Washington

It’s not 2019, of course.  We don’t know whether Hillary Clinton will be elected president or Ron Wyden reelected to the Senate, no less whether he’ll become the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee in a body once again controlled by Democrats, or whether there will ever be a torture-report-style investigation of the “secret” drone assassination campaigns the White House, the CIA, and the U.S. military have been running across the backlands of the planet. 

Still, count me among the surprised if, in 2019, some part or parts of the U.S. national security state and the White House aren’t still running drone campaigns that cross national borders with impunity, kill whomever those in Washington choose in “terror Tuesday” meetings or target in “signature strikes,” take out American citizens if it pleases the White House to do so, and generally continue to run what has proven to be a global war for (not on) terror.

When it comes to all of this “secret” but remarkably well-publicized behavior, as with the CIA’s torture program, the U.S. has been making up the future rules of the road for the rest of the world.  It has created a gold standard for assassination and torture by green-lighting “rectal rehydration” (a euphemism for anal rape) and other grim acts.  In the process, it has cooked up self-serving explanations and justifications for actions that would outrage official Washington and the public generally if any other country committed them.

This piece, of course, is not really about the future, but the past and what we should already know about it.  What’s most remarkable about the Senate torture report is that — except for the odd, grim detail like “rectal rehydration” — we should never have needed it.  Black sites, torture techniques, the abusing of innocents — the essential information about the nightmarish Bermuda Triangle of injustice the Bush administration set up after 9/11 has been publicly available, in many instances for years.

Those “2019” revelations about drone assassination campaigns and other grim aspects of the loosing of American air power in the Greater Middle East have been on the public record for years, too.  In truth, we shouldn’t be in any doubt about much of what’s billed as “secret” in our American world.  And the lessons to be drawn from those secret acts should be obvious enough without spending another $40 million and studying yet more millions of classified documents for years.

Here are three conclusions that should now be obvious enough when it comes to Washington’s never-ending war on terror and the growth of the national security state.

1. Whatever grim actions are the focus of debate at the moment, take it for granted that they don’t “work” because nothing connected to the war on terror has worked: The coverage of the Senate torture report has been focused on arguments over whether those “enhanced interrogation techniques,” or EITs, “worked” in the years after 9/11 (as in 2019, the coverage would undoubtedly focus on whether drone assassination campaigns had worked).  The executive summary of the Senate report has already offered numerous cases where information gained through torture practices did not produce actionable intelligence or stop terror plots or save lives, though misinformation from them might have helped embolden the Bush administration in its invasion of Iraq.

Bush administration officials, former CIA directors, and the intelligence “community” in general have vociferously insisted on the opposite.  Six former top CIA officials, including three former directors, publicly claimed that those torture techniques “saved thousands of lives.”  The truth, however, is that we shouldn’t even be having a serious discussion of this issue.  We know the answer.  We knew it long before the redacted executive summary of the Senate report was released.  Torture didn’t work, because 13 years of the war on terror has offered a simple enough lesson: nothing worked.

You name it and it failed.  It doesn’t matter whether you’re talking about invasions, occupations, interventions, small conflicts, raids, bombing runs, secret operations, offshore “black sites,” or god knows what else — none of it came close to succeeding by even the most minimal standards set in Washington.  In this period, many grim things were done and most of them blew back, creating more enemies, new Islamic extremist movements, and even a jihadist mini-state in the heart of the Middle East that, fittingly enough, was essentially founded at Camp Bucca, an American military prison in Iraq.  Let me repeat that: if Washington did it any time in the last 13 years, whatever it was, it didn’t work. Period.

2. In national security and war terms, only one thing has “worked” in these years and that’s the national security state itself: Every blunder, every disaster, every extreme act that proved a horror in the world also perversely strengthened the national security state.  In other words, the crew that couldn’t shoot straight could do no wrong when it came to their own agencies and careers.

No matter how poorly or badly or stupidly or immorally or criminally agents, operatives, war fighters, private contractors, and high officials acted or what they ordered done, each disaster in this period was like a dose of further career enhancement, like manna from heaven, for a structure that ate taxpayer dollars for lunch and grew in unprecedented ways, despite a world that lacked all significant enemies.  In these years, the national security state entrenched itself and its methods in Washington for the long run. The Department of Homeland Security expanded; the 17 interlocked intelligence agencies that made up the U.S. intelligence community exploded; the Pentagon grew endlessly; the corporate “complexes” that surrounded and meshed with an increasingly privatized national security apparatus had a field day.  And the various officials who oversaw every botched operation and sally into the world, including the torture regime the Bush administration created, were almost to a man promoted, as well as honored in various ways and, in retirement, found themselves further honored and enriched.  The single lesson from all of this for any official was: whatever you do, however rash, extreme, or dumb beyond imagining, whatever you don’t accomplish, whomever you hurt, you are enriching the national security state — and that’s a good thing.

3. Nothing Washington did could ever qualify as a “war crime” or even a straightforward crime because, in national security terms, our wartime capital has become a crime-free zoneAgain, this is an obvious fact of our era.  There can be no accountability (hence all the promotions) and especially no criminal accountability inside the national security state.  While the rest of us are still in legal America, its officials are in what I’ve long called “post-legal” America and in that state, neither torture (to the point of death), nor kidnapping and assassination, nor destroying evidence of criminal activity, perjury, or the setting up of an extralegal prison system are crimes.  The only possible crime in national security Washington is whistleblowing.  On this, too, the evidence is in and the results speak for themselves.  The post-9/11 moment has proven to be an eternal “get out of jail free card” for the officials of two administrations and the national security state. 

Unfortunately, the obvious points, the simple conclusions that might be drawn from the last 13 years go unnoticed in a Washington where nothing, it seems, can be learned.  As a result, for all the sound and fury of this torture moment, the national security state will only grow stronger, more organized, more aggressively ready to defend itself, while ridding itself of the last vestiges of democratic oversight and control.

There is only one winner in the war on terror and it’s the national security state itself.  So let’s be clear, despite its supporters who regularly hail the “patriotism” of such officials, and despite an increasingly grim world filled with bad guys, they are not the good guys and they are running what, by any normal standards, should be considered a criminal enterprise.

See you in 2019.

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 runs the Nation Institute’s His new book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (Haymarket Books).

[Note on weddings: On the issue of wedding parties obliterated by American air power, a subject TomDispatch has been covering for years, I had counted news reports on seven of them by the time an eighth, a Yemeni wedding party, was blown away in December 2013.  Since then, a correspondent has pointed out to me a report that a ninth wedding party, the second in Iraq, may have been hit by U.S. air power on October 8, 2004, in the city of Fallujah, with the groom dying and the bride wounded.]

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 2014 Tom Engelhardt

Another Black Boy Gunned Down by Police

By: Other Worlds Thursday December 18, 2014 8:00 am

By Beverly Bell

Photo Credit: Beverly Bell

We will never learn of the names, lives, and deaths of countless Black men and boys murdered by police – and slavery enforcers, hate groups, vigilantes, and a host of others – dating back to the earliest days of this country’s history. The names and stories of a slew of recent victims of extrajudicial executions, such as Eric Garner and Michael Brown, and the exoneration of their killers, have become widely known through the blowback of public fury.

This is a tale of another Black boy whose name and wrongful death were never reported in any official document or national media. The policeman responsible was not charged, indicted, or prosecuted. This child’s prematurely snuffed life was not spent in the US but in the Black nation of Haiti, though the US government subsidized his murderer.

In Port-au-Prince on a sweltering day last spring, the collective taxicab I was traveling in turned onto Bicentennaire Street, barely avoiding the prone body of a young teen. Arms thrown out like a startled baby’s, he lay in a pool of blood. I spun around in the seat to look. A Haitian passenger, more accustomed to gritty daily reality, looked at me strangely. “What’s wrong with you?” she asked.

One truck of Haitian police and two more of UN occupation troops next to the body raised my suspicion, as both parties have been responsible for incalculable harm.

I extricated myself from the crowded cab and ran to the scene. The boy had been shot in his skull and eye. The part of his T-shirt that was not yet covered with blood, which was still flowing from the holes, gleamed white. His mother or sister had surely recently hand-scrubbed that shirt with care.

A policeman told me he had been shot by a “bandit.” A bandit robbing and shooting this boy was implausible: emaciated children from that destitute neighborhood do not circulate with riches. That he himself might have been involved in banditry was equally incredible: plastic flip-flops do not make good getaway shoes.

I began asking onlookers and street merchants if they knew what had happened. But two policemen followed me, and so no one had observed anything. As I continued my investigation up a dirt alleyway, one of the cops asked, “Where are you going?” “Just walking,” I said. “Don’t you need company?” he replied. They laughed.

At a bend in the alley, I ducked behind a tin fence before the police caught up with me and asked a man welding what he had seen. He said the police had driven up and then the shots had rung out.

Police brutality is a time-honored tradition in Haiti. Today, under fraudulently elected President Michel Martelly, the force’s killings and abuses – especially of demonstrators, activists, and journalists – are growing. Just this past Sunday, December 14, police attacked anti-government demonstrators in the capital city, killing one.

The US has had a hand in taking down these Black lives. In the three years since Martelly was imposed, the US has underwritten his unaccountable “security” forces to the tune of $73 million, courtesy of our tax dollars. The US has also sold the Haitian government weapons that make the assaults possible. (This same support has gone to many a Haitian autocrat, notably François and Jean-Claude Duvalier.)

Likewise, UN troops – globo-cops – have assassinated, raped, arbitrarily arrested, and committed other human rights violations during their ten-year occupation of Haiti. Moreover, the force is responsible for the deaths of more than 9,000 through cholera, after troops infected with the disease dumped their raw sewage in a river. When families of the victims filed a lawsuit for compensation, the UN claimed legal immunity. (The cholera lawsuit continues nevertheless.)

Haitian and UN forces are Daniel Panteleo, the NYPD officer who strangled Eric Garner to death as he placidly vended cigarettes on a sidewalk. They are Darren Wilson, the St. Louis cop who shot the unarmed teenager Michael Brown seven or eight times. These badge-wearers, and so many more like them, stand above the law.

The continual malfeasance, and exemption from accountability and punishment, of the Haitian police and the UN occupation force would be unthinkable, unacceptable, in a high-income white nation. However, those who control power and those with white skin typically respond to state-sanctioned lawlessness in low-income Black neighborhoods and countries by choosing to remain uninformed; ignoring the matter; or rewriting the narrative as gang activity, Black-on-Black violence, or common crime.

In the global division of capital and human value, a dead Black Haitian like the one lying on Bicentennaire Street is one more worthless body in a worthless life in a worthless piece of real estate.

Both the street-beat cops and the blue helmets are themselves predominantly low-income and Black or brown. They are pawns in a globalized system of political and physical violence, underpaid proxies helping to maintain dominance of the world’s elite nations and classes. On the streets, they mirror on a micro-scale the unjust global relations, endowed as they are with personal power that allows them to be protected perpetrators of crimes on those more vulnerable than they.

Two ambulances joined the police and UN trucks. The officials sauntered between the vehicles, talking to each other. No one paid any attention to the blood-drenched body. The men wrote nothing, photographed nothing. Finally, gloved corpse-slingers approached and searched the pockets of the child’s nylon shorts; they found them entirely empty. They tossed the cadaver into a litter and into the back of the ambulance. I suspected they would dump him in a potter’s field, perhaps after a quick stop at the morgue, and that that would be the end of the story. I would have wagered a large bet that there would be no time spent preparing documentation for headquarters or for possible later identification by his desperate mother. I would have bet everything I owned that a forthcoming lunch mattered a lot more to those men than due process. Likely, this had been just another stop in a routine day. 

Still, more public resources were being spent on the boy at that moment than throughout his entire life. Now, however, they were too late to be of any use to him.

Walking back home, I got caught in a wave of little children leaving kindergarten with their parents. They were a sea of blue shorts, blue pinafores, and blue hair ribbons. Which of them would be blown away by their government?

And which would grow up to be protesters in marches, and advocates in campaigns, like those going on all over the US now? Which would commit him or herself to a country in which everyone’s husband, father, son, and brother – and wife, mother, daughter, and sister – have worth? And what country would they create?

As I penned this article under the drone of police helicopters that circulate every night from sunset until well past midnight above the interlocked towns of Oakland and Berkeley – both of them in full rebellion – an email came in from a workers’ rights group in Haiti. It read, “We are made nauseous by seeing assassination after assassination by the US police, with impunity, on any citizen – as long as they happen to be Black… and also by the complete protection of the corrupt justice system… We salute the mobilization of people in that country.”

May the resistance and protest grow in strength. May they flourish into strategic organizing and sustained movement-building for physical security, economic and social equality, democratic rights, and government accountability vis-à-vis Blacks and other people of color. May this be so in the US and Haiti and everywhere that is sickened by the poison of structural racism.

Black lives matter.


A revised version of this article appeared as “Another Poor Black Boy Dead in Haiti”, Truth Out, April 7, 2013.

Beverly Bell has worked for more than three decades as an advocate, organizer, and writer in collaboration with social movements in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and the U.S. Her focus areas are just economies, democratic participation, and gender justice. Beverly currently serves as associate fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies and coordinator of Other Worlds. She is author of Walking on Fire: Haitian Women Stories of Survival and Resistance,  Fault Lines: Views Across Haiti’s Divide, and Harvesting Justice: Transforming Food, Land, and Agricultural Systems in the Americas.

Copyleft Beverly Bell. You may reprint this article in whole or in part.  Please credit any text or original research you use to Beverly Bell, Other Worlds.