You Wanted Change With That?

The Anti-Empire Report

Vote First, Ask Questions Later

Okay, let’s get the obvious out of the way. It was historic. I choked up a number of times, tears came to my eyes, even though I didn’t vote for him. I voted for Ralph Nader for the fourth time in a row.

During the past eight years when I’ve listened to news programs on the radio each day I’ve made sure to be within a few feet of the radio so I could quickly change the station when that preposterous man or one of his disciples came on; I’m not a masochist, I suffer fools very poorly, and I get bored easily. Sad to say, I’m already turning the radio off sometimes when Obama comes on. He doesn’t say anything, or not enough, or not often enough. Platitudes, clichés, promises without substance, “hope and change,” almost everything without sufficient substance, “change and hope,” without specifics, designed not to offend. What exactly are the man’s principles? He never questions the premises of the empire. Never questions the premises of the “War on Terror.” I’m glad he won for two reasons only: John McCain and Sarah Palin, and I deeply resent the fact that the American system forces me to squeeze out a drop of pleasure from something so far removed from my ideals. Obama’s votes came at least as much from people desperate for relief from neo-conservative suffocation as from people who genuinely believed in him. It’s a form of extortion — Vote for Obama or you get more of the same. Those are your only choices.

Is there reason to be happy that the insufferably religious George W. is soon to be history? “I believe that Christ died for my sins and I am redeemed through him. That is a source of strength and sustenance on a daily basis.” That was said by someone named Barack Obama.1 The United States turns out religious fanatics like the Japanese turn out cars. Let’s pray for an end to this.

As I’ve mentioned before, if you’re one of those who would like to believe that Obama has to present center-right foreign policy views to be elected, but once he’s in the White House we can forget that he misled us repeatedly and the true, progressive man of peace and international law and human rights will emerge . . . keep in mind that as a US Senate candidate in 2004 he threatened missile strikes against Iran2, and winning that election apparently did not put him in touch with his inner peacenik. He’s been threatening Iran ever since.

The world is in terrible shape. I don’t think I have to elucidate on that remark. How nice, how marvelously nice it would be to have an American president who was infused with progressive values and political courage. Just imagine what could be done. Like a quick and complete exit from Iraq. You can paint the picture as well as I can. With his popularity Obama could get away with almost anything, but he’ll probably continue to play it safe. Or what may be more precise, he’ll continue to be himself; which, apparently, is a committed centrist. He’s not really against the war. Not like you and I are. During Obama’s first four years in the White House, the United States will not leave Iraq. I doubt that he’d allow a complete withdrawal even in a second term. Has he ever unequivocally called the war illegal and immoral? A crime against humanity? Why is he so close to Colin Powell? Does he not know of Powell’s despicable role in the war? And retaining George W. Bush’s Defense Secretary, Robert Gates, a man against whom it would not be difficult to draw up charges of war crimes? Will he also find a place for Rumsfeld? And Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, a supporter of the war, to run the Homeland Security department? And General James Jones, a former NATO commander (sic), who wants to “win” in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who backed John McCain, as his National Security Adviser? Jones is on the Board of Directors of the Boeing Corporation and Chevron Oil. Out of what dark corner of Obama’s soul does all this come?

As Noam Chomsky recently pointed out, the election of an indigenous person (Evo Morales) in Bolivia and a progressive person (Jean-Bertrand Aristide) in Haiti were more historic than the election of Barack Obama.

He’s not really against torture either. Not like you and I are. No one will be punished for using or ordering torture. No one will be impeached because of torture. Michael Ratner, president of the Center for Constitutional Rights, says that prosecuting Bush officials is necessary to set future anti-torture policy. “The only way to prevent this from happening again is to make sure that those who were responsible for the torture program pay the price for it. I don’t see how we regain our moral stature by allowing those who were intimately involved in the torture programs to simply walk off the stage and lead lives where they are not held accountable.”3

As president, Obama cannot remain silent and do nothing; otherwise he will inherit the war crimes of Bush and Cheney and become a war criminal himself. Closing the Guantanamo hellhole means nothing at all if the prisoners are simply moved to other torture dungeons. If Obama is truly against torture, why does he not declare that after closing Guantanamo the inmates will be tried in civilian courts in the US or resettled in countries where they clearly face no risk of torture? And simply affirm that his administration will faithfully abide by the 1984 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment, of which the United States is a signatory, and which states: “The term ‘torture’ means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining information or a confession . . . inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or any other person acting in an official capacity.”

The convention affirms that: “No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”

Instead, Obama has appointed former CIA official John O. Brennan as an adviser on intelligence matters and co-leader of his intelligence transition team. Brennan has called “rendition” — the kidnap-and-torture program carried out under the Clinton and Bush administrations — a “vital tool”, and praised the CIA’s interrogation techniques for providing “lifesaving” intelligence.4

Obama may prove to be as big a disappointment as Nelson Mandela, who did painfully little to improve the lot of the masses of South Africa while turning the country over to the international forces of globalization. I make this comparison not because both men are black, but because both produced such great expectations in their home country and throughout the world. Mandela was freed from prison on the assumption of the Apartheid leaders that he would become president and pacify the restless black population while ruling as a non-radical, free-market centrist without undue threat to white privilege. It’s perhaps significant that in his autobiography he declines to blame the CIA for his capture in 1962 even though the evidence to support this is compelling.5 It appears that Barack Obama made a similar impression upon the American power elite who vetted him in many fundraising and other meetings and smoothed the way for his highly unlikely ascendancy from obscure state senator to the presidency in four years. The financial support from the corporate world to sell “Brand Obama” was extraordinary.

Another comparison might be with Tony Blair. The Tories could never have brought in university fees or endless brutal wars, but New Labour did. The Republicans would have had a very difficult time bringing back the draft, but I can see Obama reinstating it, accompanied by a suitable slogan, some variation of “Yes, we can!”.

I do hope I’m wrong, about his past and about how he’ll rule as president. I hope I’m very wrong.

Many people are calling for progressives to intensely lobby the Obama administration, to exert pressure to bring out the “good Obama,” force him to commit himself, hold him accountable. The bold reforms of Roosevelt’s New Deal were spurred by widespread labor strikes and other militant actions soon after the honeymoon period was over. At the moment I have nothing better to offer than that. God help us.

The Future as We Used to Know it has Ceased to Exist, and Other Happy Thoughts

Reading the accounts of the terrorist horror in Mumbai has left me as pessimistic as a dinosaur contemplating the future of his grandchildren. How could they do that? . . . destroying all those lives, people they didn’t even know, people enjoying themselves on vacation . . . whatever could be their motivation? Well, they did sort of know some of their victims; they knew they were Indians, or Americans, or British, or Zionists, or some other kind of infidel; so it wasn’t completely mindless, not totally random. Does that help to understand? Can it ease the weltschmerz? You can even make use of it. The next time you encounter a defender of American foreign policy, someone insisting that something like Mumbai justifies Washington’s rhetorical and military attacks against Islam, you might want to point out that the United States does the same on a regular basis. For seven years in Afghanistan, almost six in Iraq, to give only the two most obvious examples … breaking down doors and machine-gunning strangers, infidels, traumatizing children for life, firing missiles into occupied houses, exploding bombs all over the place, pausing to torture . . . every few days dropping bombs on Pakistan or Afghanistan, and still Iraq, claiming they’ve killed members of al-Qaeda, just as bad as Zionists, bombing wedding parties, one after another, 20 or 30 or 70 killed, all terrorists of course, often including top al-Qaeda leaders, the number one or number two man, so we’re told; so not completely mindless, not totally random; the survivors say it was a wedding party, their brother or their nephew or their friend, mostly women and children dead; the US military pays people to tell them where so-and-so number-one bad guy is going to be; and the US military believes what they’re told, so Bombs Away! … Does any of that depress you like Mumbai? Sometimes they bomb Syria instead, or kill people in Iran or Somalia, all bad guys . . . “US helicopter-borne troops have carried out a raid inside Syria along the Iraqi border, killing eight people including a woman, Syrian authorities say” reports the BBC.6 . . . “The United States military since 2004 has used broad, secret authority to carry out nearly a dozen previously undisclosed attacks against Al Qaeda and other militants in Syria, Pakistan and elsewhere, according to senior American officials. . . . The secret order gave the military new authority to attack the Qaeda terrorist network anywhere in the world, and a more sweeping mandate to conduct operations in countries not at war with the United States,” the New York Times informs us.7 So it’s all nice and legal, not an attack upon civilization by a bunch of escaped mental patients. Maybe the Mumbai terrorists also have a piece of paper, from some authority, saying that it’s okay what they did. . . . I’m feeling better already.

The Mythology of the War on Terrorism

On November 8, three men were executed by the government of Indonesia for terrorist attacks on two night clubs in Bali in 2002 that took the lives of 202 people, more than half of whom were Australians, Britons and Americans. The Associated Press8 reported that, “the three men never expressed remorse, saying the suicide bombings were meant to punish the United States and its Western allies for alleged atrocities in Afghanistan and elsewhere.”

During the recent US election campaign, John McCain and his followers repeated a sentiment that has become a commonplace — that the War on Terrorism has been a success because there hasn’t been a terrorist attack against the United States since September 11, 2001; as if terrorists killing Americans is acceptable if it’s done abroad. Since the first American strike on Afghanistan in October 2001 there have been literally scores of terrorist attacks against American institutions in the Middle East, South Asia and the Pacific, more than a dozen in Pakistan alone: military, civilian, Christian, and other targets associated with the United States. The year following the Bali bombings saw the heavy bombing of the US-managed Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Indonesia, the site of diplomatic receptions and 4th of July celebrations held by the American Embassy. The Marriott Hotel in Pakistan was the scene of a major terrorist bombing just two months ago. All of these attacks have been in addition to the thousands in Iraq and Afghanistan against US occupation, which Washington officially labels an integral part of the War on Terrorism. Yet American lovers of military force insist that the War on Terrorism has kept the United States safe.

Even the claim that the War on Terrorism has kept Americans safe at home is questionable. There was no terrorist attack in the United States during the 6-1/2 years prior to the one in September 2001; not since the April 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. It would thus appear that the absence of terrorist attacks in the United States is the norm.

An even more insidious myth of the War on Terrorism has been the notion that terrorist acts against the United States can be explained, largely, if not entirely, by irrational hatred or envy of American social, economic, or religious values, and not by what the United States does to the world; i.e., US foreign policy. Many Americans are mightily reluctant to abandon this idea. Without it the whole paradigm — that we are the innocent good guys and they are the crazy, fanatic, bloodthirsty bastards who cannot be talked to but only bombed, tortured and killed – falls apart. Statements like the one above from the Bali bombers blaming American policies for their actions are numerous, coming routinely from Osama bin Laden and those under him.9

Terrorism is an act of political propaganda, a bloody form of making the world hear one’s outrage against a perceived oppressor, graffiti written on the wall in some grim, desolate alley. It follows that if the perpetrators of a terrorist act declare what their motivation was, their statement should carry credibility, no matter what one thinks of their cause or the method used to achieve it.

Just Put Down That Stereotype and No One Gets Hurt

Sarah Palin and her American supporters resent what they see as the East Coast elite, the intellectuals, the cultural snobs, the politically correct, the pacifists and peaceniks, the agnostics and atheists, the environmentalists, the fanatic animal protectors, the food police, the health gestapo, the socialists, and other such leftist and liberal types who think of themselves as morally superior to Joe Sixpack, Joe the Plumber, National Rifle Association devotées, rednecks, and all the Bush supporters who have relished the idea of having a president no smarter than themselves. It’s stereotyping gone wild. So in the interest of bringing some balance and historical perspective to the issue, allow me to remind you of some forgotten, or never known, factoids which confound the stereotypes.

* Josef Stalin studied for the priesthood.

* Adolf Hitler once hoped to become a Catholic priest or monk; he was a vegetarian and was anti-smoking.

* Hermann Goering, while his Luftwaffe rained death upon Europe, kept a sign in his office that read: “He who tortures animals wounds the feelings of the German people.”

* Adolf Eichmann was cultured, read deeply, played the violin.

* Benito Mussolini also played the violin.

* Some Nazi concentration camp commanders listened to Mozart to drown out the cries of the inmates.

* Charles Manson was a staunch anti-vivisectionist.

* Radovan Karadzic, the Bosnian Serb leader, charged with war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, had been a psychiatrist specializing in depression; the author of a published book of poetry as well as children’s books, often with themes of nature; and a practitioner of alternative medicine.

I’m not really certain to what use you might put this information to advance toward our cherished national goal of becoming a civilized society, but I feel a need to disseminate it. If you know of any other examples of the same type, I’d appreciate your sending them to me.

The examples above are all of “bad guys” doing “good” things. There are of course many more instances of “good guys” doing “bad” things.

  1. Washington Post, August 17, 2008. []
  2. Chicago Tribune, September 25, 2004. []
  3. Associated Press, November 17, 2008. []
  4. New York Times, October 3, 2008. []

  5. Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (1994) p.278; William Blum, Rogue State, chapter 23, “How the CIA sent Nelson Mandela to prison for 28 years.” []
  6. BBC, October 26, 2008. []
  7. New York Times, November 9, 2008. []
  8. Associated Press, November 9, 2008. []
  9. See my article. []
William Blum is the author of: Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War 2, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, West-Bloc Dissident: A Cold War Memoir, Freeing the World to Death: Essays on the American Empire. He can be reached at: bblum6@aol.com. Read other articles by William, or visit William's website.

36 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. bozh said on December 2nd, 2008 at 10:26am #

    i am surprised that blum does no see that obama is a mere manager; thus managing affairs of a gang w.o pang.
    he’s not capo. but even capos wind up dead. in add’n, personalization of events does not elucidate as its millennial use proves.
    what radovan (which means happy), benito, joseph, adolf, et al did or said has little or no relevance to warfare, greed, lust for power, etc.
    but what a state does and says, is of paramount significance.
    and we know what US has done, said, and says now. thnx

  2. Gary Corseri said on December 2nd, 2008 at 12:02pm #

    I agree with Bozh’s comment that Obama is a mere manager, so we need not be surprised by his lack of consistency of ardor in bringing about “change we can believe in.” Mr. Blum is right that Obama was well-vetted by the System. Therefore, we can expect that he will play his role as front-man and pitch-man for the System. I believe it was Coleridge who cited a “willing suspension of disbelief” as a prerequisite for appreciating theater. Progressives who voted for Obama willingly suspended their disbelief and voted for political theater over real policies and honed judgment.

    Mr. Blum’s points about Hitler’s, Stalin’s etc. softer sides are meant to illuminate the contradictions in our human characters. His thesis is that Palin, McCain, Bush, et. al. like to use stereotypes to broad-brush their opponents. (Of course, that’s true of “progressives,” etc., as well.) Politics, alas, has more to do with the division of spoils than with seeking common ground. Spoils for our side are more easily claimed when we can cast our enemies as the spawn of Satan! Blum is asking us to get hold of ourselves, to grow up, refine our language, check our exuberances for our causes at the door, and–yes–search for the elusive common ground on which we will have to build the foundations of a new millennium.

  3. Max Shields said on December 2nd, 2008 at 12:15pm #

    bozh,

    I agree that Obama, like those before him, are carrying out the doctrine of a plutocratically run empire. However, I think Blum understands that.

    Running and taking the reins of power is not simply the act of a puppet. Obama is not a simpleton puppet. Blum recognizes the vetting that the plutocracy put Obama through. The modern day Manchurian candidate is not without volition. They are self-selected, willing to pay any price, carry any burden to further the empire (and their own sense of ambition), which is the role of American exceptionalism. Obama learned his lessons.

    He is an actor and as such could stand trial if he continues with the ways of George W. Bush. The law is a messy and tricky thing. One can be “above it” until faced with it; trial/time. As long as Bush and his accomplices are allowed to hang around outside the penal system, than they have escaped the law. But that does not mean they are free from it. Obama could find himself in the same situation. The system, our plutocracy, does not afford impunity. It’s a dicey game and one that can find you without the chair in a musical-chair-game.

    In other words, there is a system, but one can play within it and still get caught or not. There are choices, bozh. Obama has made his bed…

  4. Ramsefall said on December 2nd, 2008 at 1:14pm #

    Max,

    you wrote, “The system, our plutocracy, does not afford impunity.” I’m curious if in hindsight you meant to say that the system does not afford impunity for the masses, it only affords it with their controlling elite members? After all Sir, how many countless cases of corporate/government impunity has the nation witnessed just since Reagan and Olie?

    For certain though, Obama’s bed has been made, soon he’ll be lying in it.

    Best to you.

  5. DavidG. said on December 2nd, 2008 at 1:28pm #

    It still amazes me, the way humans look to a single person to save them, to lift them up! They’ve been doing it for ten thousand years with little success.

    Obama is a human just like you and me. He has all the flaws, demons, and occasional bits of nobility that we have.

    Humans can’t be anything other than what they are: in our case simple savages laughingly dressed in fine suits and dresses.

    We still can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear! That’s a fact.

    http://www.dangerouscreation.com

  6. Ramsefall said on December 2nd, 2008 at 1:32pm #

    Gary,

    I wonder if you ever grow weary from swinging that hammer, as you’ve nailed it again, “Progressives who voted for Obama willingly suspended their disbelief and voted for political theater over real policies and honed judgment.” And yes, your belief in Coleridge as the father of that mantra in poetic faith is not only correct, but its application is impeccable.

    While not excusing mindlessness, I empathize with how easy it was for so many people to get caught up in the orchestrated theatrics of this election, as theatrics through Hollywood, the media and TV are what a large portion of US society is accustom to. Comfort and complacency appear to still be the day’s special. I heard a piece on NPR the other day (via Internet of course) which claims that the average duration of programming for house wives is eight and a quarter hours per day! When do they find time to read, to creatively/critically think? They don’t, hence the automated suspension of their beliefs. With this kind of mentality, it’s challenging to fathom finding common ground together which as you indicate is essential to our survival.

    Turn off and tune in, nation!

    Best to you.

  7. Eric Patton said on December 2nd, 2008 at 1:37pm #

    “a staunch anti-vivisectionist”

    Wow, that’s pretty rare.

  8. Max Shields said on December 2nd, 2008 at 1:59pm #

    Ramsefall,

    I understand you point, what I meant was the plutocracy does not guarantee impunity. Certainly, as a whole the system keeps much of the legal system at bay, but there are moments when a sacrifice here and there occurs.

    I think Chomsky had a great metaphor in thinking of the American plutocracy, in terms of how they operate, as the mafia. It doesn’t impune all mobsters from getting entangled in either being knocked off, or ending up in prison. But again, when compared to the 2 million, mostly minority poor, it bearly touches the syndicate of American Empire Inc.

  9. Ramsefall said on December 2nd, 2008 at 2:33pm #

    Max,

    thanks, I just wanted to clarify that, for knowing how you typically post it didn’t add up.

    You’re correct, it is Chomsky who uses that effective metaphor. Sacrifices have to be made from time to time in order to appease the ignorant mob…Julius Cesar unless I’m mistaken.

    Best to you.

  10. Max Shields said on December 2nd, 2008 at 2:52pm #

    And to quote Chris Hedges: “George W. Bush has handed Barack Obama a poisoned apple. Obama has bitten it.”

  11. Ramsefall said on December 2nd, 2008 at 3:04pm #

    From the hawks now circling him, that sounds right on.

  12. Michael Hureaux said on December 2nd, 2008 at 3:36pm #

    Man, it is good to see so many people stepping forward and hitting hard, hitting hard, regardless of the hype, ready to take on this cult that’s getting ready to drape itself around us. This new overlord may get a honeymoon, but it may well be one of protracted duration.

  13. Max Shields said on December 2nd, 2008 at 4:27pm #

    bozh,
    You’ve used the word “manager”. I think the term is apt but the fact that it is provides us with the dilemma. You CANNOT manage the empire, or globalized markets (as these are now set up).

    The US, as a nation-state, has lost control of the economic machine as they’ve approached it.

    That’s why I keep coming back to local. Only a real, local economy has any meaning for anyone. The economy is unstainable and all they flows from it is far to abstract to be meaningful. The use of concrete terms to “fix” the global financial economy is totally inappropriate. It cannot be “fix” by a nation-state, or by a “manager”. You can only manage that which you can effectively control.

    This is a lesson in the emergence of our reality, which runs counter to the myths of the past that got us here. You cannot “fix” something and burn it at the same time (endless war on terrorism and interventionism while trying to get “your arms around the national debt”). The national debt is the very basis of the American economy. Debt = American economy.

  14. bozh said on December 2nd, 2008 at 4:45pm #

    max,
    yes, obama is vetted jusat like every manager is. that is my point. and i reread blum’s piece and it is verygood.
    but i’m still of the opinion that one cannot get much of an elucidation by dwelling so much on one person.
    i think it was davidG, and i paraphrase, who says that he “cannot believe that people put so much faith in one person”
    as we well know, msm deals almost exlusively on personages. there was so much ado ab the clothes bought for her and few if any words on the issues that we on DV bring on.
    it also seeems to me that even many dissidents don’t see the need for a second party in US.
    after all, US ruling class has only one party; thus, its strong grip on power.
    as long as there is only one party in US, that party will always rule and always to the degree it deems necesssary.
    it seems to me that every land/empire was ruled by a party. in olden times it was kings-patricians-clerical party or ad hoc alliance.
    in modern times, it’s clero-pluto-political ad hoc bloc. thnx

  15. Ramsefall said on December 2nd, 2008 at 5:07pm #

    Max,

    if I may annex your equation:

    War = Debt = US economy

    It’s meant for contribution, as it immediately came to mind.

    Best to you.

  16. Wallace said on December 2nd, 2008 at 5:14pm #

    Obama was sold to the American public like toothpaste, cornflakes or any other product or service which they don’t really need until being told it is good for them. We will certainly be awoken from our voluntary sleepwalking!

  17. Max Shields said on December 2nd, 2008 at 5:37pm #

    Ramsefall

    I agree that war creates the kinds of deficits we see.

    My point about the debt creation is that our monetary system is based on debt (with or without war). When a bank loans it creates debt and generates money in the process. There is nothing to back it up, EXCEPT, in the case of say, a mortgage, a loan based on “nothing” can lead to foreclosure which provides the loaner (bank) with property (a real asset); this is how the transfer of wealth begins. The history of debt is in and of itself a study in how the rich get richer and the poor poorer.

    American empire’s ability to generate money out of debt is the basis of the World Bank, WTO, and IMF. At that scale, together, they create incredible wealth for a few. Wealth flows from the worker to the wealthy. Workers create wealth fo the rich. The debtor nation is kept in check and it’s incredible to see what happens. Wealth flows out of the client state (“colony”) to the coffers of the preditory corporate entities.

    The fact that Mandela was brought into this scheme is a major disappointment. Many countries in Africa (and, really all over the world) have been driven to this debtor nation status. Today, it is a 21st Century form of colonialism. It is the basis of neoliberalism.

    A perfect study in this is when the Soviet Union collapsed. Natural assets (copper, oil, gas, etc.) were taken over (privatized) by a handful of elitists who became billionaires while Russians scrambled for crumbs. Had those assets been kept off the table (common wealth) – instead, had a rent on them (sometimes referred to as a land tax or user fee) Russia would have been debt free. Instead the wealth flowed to a small group of gangsters. Michael Hudson has written exquisitely about this phenomenon which is not unique to Russia, but happens – Naomi Klein has called it the shock doctrine, but the two proponents were M. Friedman in South America and Jeff Sachs in Soviet Union/Russia. The latter is a sly one. He hides behind his neoliberal ways by talking about “ending poverty” when his doctrinaire neoliberalism has created the most poverty.

    This is why the only real check on the empire is the energy required to keep it moving. Only net-energy whereby it becomes non-feasible to extract energy (a hard non-negotiable stop) will the empire begin to collapse. I’m more and more convinced that given the demand for endless growth (the economy of growth) and the ability to generate wealth from debt, alternative energy sources will be too little too late. These cannot feed the “beast”.

    We must push away from the beast to prepare for an alternative civilization.

    That’s why Morales and Chavez are threats to the empire.

  18. Ramsefall said on December 2nd, 2008 at 7:05pm #

    Yes Max, their wealth is ironically based on creating debt, which they have done extraordinarily well around the world. I tend to focus on Latin America since that is what I have studied to the greatest extent and because it’s where I live. Trust me, you don’t have to work hard to convince me about the danger lurking amongst men like Chavez and Morales, who pose the same threat that Castro has for 46 years. Washington wants more guys like Uribe and Noriega, easy to manipulate and maintain their interests/profits/hegemony.

    I couldn’t agree with you more about preparing for an alternative civilization, the system we watch crumbling before our eyes is showing its inherent, non-regulated, free traded, privatized and deceptive nature which has financially destroyed country after country in this part of the world. This neck of the woods fell victim to Washington’s SAPs via the IMF/WB and essentially lost economic and political sovereignty out of its subservience, desperation and gullibility apropos greedy and corrupt rulers generally speaking. You know the history, I’m just detailing my concurrence.

  19. Ramsefall said on December 2nd, 2008 at 7:34pm #

    Fatter worms, Wallace, fatter worms.

  20. bozh said on December 3rd, 2008 at 9:58am #

    more on the words “to manage”, and “managers”. what do i mean when i call a prez a manager of gang’s affairs?
    i mean, a prez looks after ruling class’ (tho mob or gang wld be better names for it) business.
    the business of any gang seems to be the same: control, make money, and expand when possible.
    i’m not implying that a prez manages the planet well. a prez manages business of the overlings and these approve or disapprove of prez’ management.
    it is my opinion that johnson, nixon, and carter had to go because overlings (rightly or wrongly) thought they failed them.
    let’s face it, all gangs behave the same way.
    the US gang may number anywhere from 2-10 mn and w. their 50mns rabid supporters, WMD, euro allies, strongest army, largest spy agency, it is unstopable.
    from this analyses/facts, i espy there is no lngr nationalism, jurisprudence, or history in US.
    of course, US is not alone in having a sanitized historical record. nearly all folks write/sanitize their respective histories.
    so, even in writing history (but also enacting laws, education, etc.) one can see that US is not an excetion in this rule. thnx

  21. Don Hawkins said on December 3rd, 2008 at 10:41am #

    Ramsefall I read your comment on Obama. About going to the center. So far it’s business as usually and if that is the plan that is no plan. It must be a total focus on climate change. The darkside has been very good at making it seem like we have time and this is all under control. Far from it what needs to be done has not started yet. We are all in big trouble and the next El Nino should open a lot of eyes. We are all 6 billion plus are out of time and it looks like this next president doesn’t know the truth and if we see cap and trade no no no that is bullshit will to little much bigger than that. The economy is bad very bad so what we can still go for it with a 180 degree turn in the system think World war 1 and 2 combined. It can be done but peo-ple must stand up to the powers that be. This is the big one probably not a second chance. In one years’s time Hansen and many more will be doing there part the knowledge and truth. Somehow a movement must start here in the US. Yes I said that. It will kind of easy too see sort of as the powers that be will spin like a top let them spin there is one chart that tells the story and it is the chart out of Hawaii that shows the amount of greenhouse gas going into the atmosphere if it keeps going up at the same rate well it’s not rocket science. When El Nino comes back and that has already started watch the weather in the summer here and in South America. The time is now.

  22. Don Hawkins said on December 3rd, 2008 at 11:28am #

    Dec. 2 (Bloomberg) — Former U.S. President Bill Clinton, whose wife Hillary was named as Barack Obama’s pick for secretary of state yesterday, urged corporations and charities to join governments to tackle problems of global warming, the financial crisis and terrorism.

    “Our work is never more important because the government cannot solve all the problems alone,” Clinton said in opening remarks at his two-day Global Initiative summit in Hong Kong today. “We need partnership from the private sector and civil society.”

    He pointed to challenges from global warming and disease, the scarcity of food, increasing scarcity of water, terrorism as seen in India last week and global trouble in financial markets.

    The world needs to invest an extra $45 trillion by 2050 to develop clean technologies to halve the annual production of gases blamed for global warming, the International Energy Agency said in June. Richer nations want help in achieving such cuts.

    ‘All Pitch In’

    Sort of right. Must be a total focus and started yesterday would have been good. So far I keep reading 150 billion in ten years from the new people remember world war 1 and 2 combined. It will be easy too see if we try.

  23. Ramsefall said on December 3rd, 2008 at 11:55am #

    Don,

    I whole heartedly agree that environmental awareness is tragically low and that action to begin reversing our adverse effects commence yesterday. I won’t deny what science claims, nor what I witness in global weather phenomena. Ecosystems, however, and the weather they are subject to is dynamic, not static, change is always a constant factor. This present warming trend though is preventing us from sliding into the next scheduled ice age.

    Until industrialized society makes a radical change in its petro-based, contaminating policies toward eco-friendly, green technology, nothing is going to change. Only when a profitable angle is found will the changes be made across the board. When it becomes more profitable to preserve than pollute, we will experience a shift. Until then, we are unfortunately screwed and when the Earth is fed up, she’ll simply shake us off like necrotic fleas and take the next 10 million years to regain her equilibrium. She’s is a survivor, we’re the newcomers in jeopardy.

    Best to you.

  24. Deadbeat said on December 3rd, 2008 at 2:54pm #

    After reading Blum and the comments all I have to say is “Whooshe”. Because that is the sound of history passing the Left by.

    All of you guys don’t get it. That is clear from the absence of the meaning and opportunity of the Obama campaign. I find it amusing that several days ago people on this blog were complaining that their was too much focus on Obama yet the discussion is how Obama is yet another imperialist disappointment. Duh! So what else is new.

    The missing analysis is the behavior of the working class and what that means. That is totally missing from the commentary which portends only further marginalization of the Left because if you cannot see what the real issue are then the response to it will be totally incorrect.

    What is tell tale sign is that Blum takes pride for voting for Nader this year. Nader was weaker this year than in 2004. McKinney would have been a better vote.

    William Blum, quoting Chomsky who callously diminishes the Obama victory is exactly the kind of rhetoric that marginalizes the American Left.

    It just makes me laugh and shake my head.

    Good Luck.

  25. bozh said on December 3rd, 2008 at 4:48pm #

    there appears a contradiction in bill clinton’s statement that “govt cannot solve financial/warming/terrorism problems by itself alone”
    so, why weren’t then corporate chiefs also been elected so that then full contigent of problem solvers cld solve the major problems.
    is bill inadvertingly saying, US governance and its (in) famous checks and balances r now inadequate to run the empire?
    while being quite adequate or even sacrosant until just now.
    so, bill wants to privatize even more of the US governance? thnx

  26. bill rowe said on December 3rd, 2008 at 5:51pm #

    Any minority becoming US president is a miracle—even a greater one for a “black”. Already a baby step. Hopeful for more baby steps,especially in foreign policy, but already more than I expected, and more than my vote for a third party would have accomplished …

  27. Andres Kargar said on December 4th, 2008 at 12:13am #

    While fully agreeing with this “Anti-Empire Report”, I feel like I need to make an observation and stress a point: There is something seriously wrong with this mentality of liberals in America as well as some of our leftists that some good election will solve America’s problems – maybe not this one, but if Ralph Nader had won…

    I can say with total certainty that the way this power structure has evolved, a fellow like Ralph Nader would never have a chance in hell to be elected, and personally I pray like hell that Mr. Nader will not disappear for the next four years only to come back at the time of the next elections.

    Let’s face it. Going to polls in the US is not as bad as going to Las Vegas, but pretty damn close to it. Ninety-nine percent of the time, it’s the house that wins.

    Of course, I am by no means advocating a boycott of the elections. Au contraire, if the people had not participated the way they did, we would have had McCain, a much bigger criminal on our hands. I think we would have been worse off, but this is not a reason for complacency.

    Real change does not come from above; it never has. McCain or Obama serve America’s ruling classes not common folks. Today, this is not some abstract assertion. You can see it with your own eyes as they steal from the poor to bail-out the rich and the crooks. They just differ in terms of methods to achieve those same goals: making the rich wealthier and keeping them in power.

    Real change comes from grass-roots organizing, and not just during elections but throughout the year. We need to understand common people’s frustrations and put forth slogans that reflect those. Ralph Nader speaks quite appropriately when he says that corporate CEOs and other criminals need to be put away. We need to increase our demonstrations and protests and come up with new and creative forms of resistance. It is only through these methods that we will be able to put enough pressure on the ruling classes to get them to back down.

  28. Max Shields said on December 4th, 2008 at 6:17am #

    Andres Kargar
    Well said.

    I do not look to Nader as the next “President”; frankly I don’t think he does. If one must pull a “lever” and is offered a real choice then at least that vote, that voice can be summarily recorded as “This is the new way forward…rather than what the plutocracy provides…”

    I am fairly certain that when it comes to securing and protecting and expanding the empire in the name of “vital national interests” there is no real difference between McCain and Obama (or Hillary). Since all things (foreign and domestic) flow from that source we can expect the status quo (inclusive of the one we just lived through for 8 years).

    The sorrow of empire is what it is and incompetency/competency one change that one iota.

    Those who believe that the system is a murderous deadend, need to plan and act on the alternative: NOW!

  29. David said on December 4th, 2008 at 8:33am #

    Mr. Blum:

    I suggest that you give yourself a time-out.

    I once told my attorney, after listening to him complain about the endless incompetence he saw in the justice system, that if you choose to stand in shit all day then you have no business complaining about the smell.

  30. Lloyd Rowsey said on December 4th, 2008 at 9:12am #

    Yes, Bill. It sounds like David just hit it on the head.

    I read your intro and your conclusion. But skip to the point(s). Are you happy or regretful that you voted for the Nades?

    Is the coming battle domestic or foreign?

    Or you just confused, or are you standing in shit?

  31. Don Hawkins said on December 4th, 2008 at 9:44am #

    I sent this to one of financial channels today after a guest said the government doesn’t know what they are doing.

    So the government doesn’t understand and has no idea what they are doing and the markets do. It sure looks to me that many don’t know what they are doing. A couple of reasons for that could be short term thinking not using reason to overcome there instincts and trying to get back to normal. Normal or what passed for normal is what got us here. Just maybe a new way of thinking is needed. Getting back to normal is probably the wrong approach. The same thinking in December 2008 that got us to this point will solve little we need a new way of thinking. This can be painful at first but in the long run probably work out much better. Knowledge and the use of could help.

  32. Josie Michel-Brüning said on December 4th, 2008 at 10:14am #

    Appreciating this article of William Blum again, as well as the many comments and constructive contributions it has caused I want to join the “need to plan and act on the alternative: NOW! ” – There is nothing good, if you don’t do it!
    Talking about the double-standard and hypocrysis of Washington’s war against terrorism it reminds me at the notorious terrorists within your borders: Luis Posada Carriles and Orlando Bosch Àvila living freely in Miami after having masterminded or carried out so many terrorist acts, the most famous one because of being the first on airliners happened to be in Oktober 1976 on a Cuban airliner by which 73 persons died. There were many terrorist acts following.
    However, just now 5 Cubans are kept in US prisons since more than 10 years for having tried to prevent such terrorist acts not only against their country but also against US citizens.
    They are still waiting for justice by US law according to your own constitution and to international law, as well.
    For many people of the world they are the peak of the iceberg for US political motivated injustice.

    Please have a look at the following:

    May, 27, 2005: The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Committee of Human Rights in Geneva publishes, after having analyzed the case for two years, its “Opinion No. 19/2005” addressed to the Government of the United States on April 8, 2004. Their conclusion on page 6: “The deprivation of liberty” of the Cuban Five “is arbitrary, being in contravention of article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and corresponds to category III of the applicable categories examined in the cases before the Working Group.”
    s. http://www.freethefive.org/updates/Solidarity/SLUNJudgement_052705.htm

    August 9, 2005: The panel of three judges of the Court of Appeals in Atlanta issues its 93-page opinion, saying the sentences of the Five must be annulled because of the pervasive biased atmosphere during the trial in Miami-Dade and a new trial is granted in a new venue outside of Miami.
    s. http://www.freethefive.org/legalFront/LF11thCirOpinion08-09-05.pdf

    Opinion published on June 4, 2008 and confirmed on September 3, 2008:
    Compare especially to the dissent of judge Phyllis Kravitch
    http://www.freethefive.org/legalFront/LFAppealsDecision060408.pdf

    I wonder why not fighting for these concrete persons when at the same time you could rehabilitate your country and could show to the world (the rest of US) the majority of your people is not as what they are regarded for.
    You are not able to stop the war against Iraq, Afghanistan, not yet, as it seems, but you would be able to free innocent persons from prison.
    There are not only the Cuban Five, but also Mumia Abu Jamal in Philadelphia and Leonard Peltier. At least those are the most famous in abroad.
    Pleasse, write respective letters to Barack Obama, Eric Holder, Hillary Clinton, to your main stream papers, within their blogs etc.

  33. Josie Michel-Brüning said on December 4th, 2008 at 10:28am #

    “Es gibt nichts Gutes, außer man tut es!” Erich Kästner, German author.
    In English: There is nothing good, or you will do it!
    “Ceterum censeo”:
    As a proposal for the beginning:
    Free the Cuban Five unjustly held in US prisons since more than 10 years,
    see: http://www.freethefive.org

  34. Josie Michel-Brüning said on December 4th, 2008 at 10:31am #

    Additionally see:
    May, 27, 2005: The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the UN Committee of Human Rights in Geneva publishes, after having analyzed the case for two years, its “Opinion No. 19/2005” addressed to the Government of the United States on April 8, 2004. Their conclusion on page 6: “The deprivation of liberty” of the Cuban Five “is arbitrary, being in contravention of article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and corresponds to category III of the applicable categories examined in the cases before the Working Group.”
    s. http://www.freethefive.org/updates/Solidarity/SLUNJudgement_052705.htm

    August 9, 2005: The panel of three judges of the Court of Appeals in Atlanta issues its 93-page opinion, saying the sentences of the Five must be annulled because of the pervasive biased atmosphere during the trial in Miami-Dade and a new trial is granted in a new venue outside of Miami.
    s. http://www.freethefive.org/legalFront/LF11thCirOpinion08-09-05.pdf

    Opinion published on June 4, 2008 and confirmed on September 3, 2008:
    Compare especially the dissent of judge Phyllis Kravitch
    http://www.freethefive.org/legalFront/LFAppealsDecision060408.pdf

  35. Beverly said on December 4th, 2008 at 7:19pm #

    What’s up with all the crying and choking up over Obama’s “history making?” So what a black (actually, he’s biracial) guy got elected President. It isn’t as if blacks had not held power positions previously. Black professionals, executives, and politicians have been part of the landscape for quite a while.

    If anything, tears should be shed because despite this so-called fresh face touting change, said face is getting over big time on all the gullible, desperate voters who placed their hopes and dreams on a false prophet.

    I just don’t get people like William Blum. These folks were well aware of the emptiness of Obama’s message long ago but still preface any criticism of him with some feel goodism about Obama’s election being historic, giant step for race relations, blah, blah. WTF good is the first black/woman/latino/martian anything if said first shits all over the best interests of the majority of the population? Can the hats off to Obama accolades and call the man out on his evil assed ways.

  36. Brian Koontz said on December 5th, 2008 at 12:22pm #

    “Mr. Blum’s points about Hitler’s, Stalin’s etc. softer sides are meant to illuminate the contradictions in our human characters.”

    We’d all be murderers if we thought that was useful. The divide over whether or not to use violence, or murder in particular, is largely a practical matter about whether or not it works to achieve a worthwhile political objective.

    I would like to think that all of us would set up hunting parties to kill Dick Cheney, for example, if in doing so the American Empire would be destroyed. The opposition to such hunting parties is not that murder is immoral, but that it would not have that effect, and would also bring down the wrath of the state.

    We would have no problem with terrorism if we agreed with the objectives of terrorists and if terrorism worked in achieving those objectives (and if the outcome was worth the cost – such as achieving perpetual world peace by killing 10o civilians).

    “Civilians” are tools used as leverage against the dominant state by the terrorist organization – they are drafted troops who die or are injured in the front lines of a military conflict. They give their lives (usually not willingly of course) for the goals and political processes of the terrorist organization.

    Morally speaking, terrorism is equivalent to war.

    The extent to which terrorism works is based largely on the undermining of security which the dominant state can give to their subjects. This undermining of security causes the dominant state to lose political power, thus encouraging them to compromise or in some way cater to the desires of the terrorist group. Terrorism is an act of war intended to shift the balance of political power away from the state and toward this emergent “mini-state”.

    Terrorism thrives not in a *permissive* environment, but in a politically unstable one. The reason terrorism is a largely recent phenomenon is not technological, but political. Democracy has been a rising force over the last several decades, which causes unrest in both totalitarian and militarist states. This fundamental wedge between the desires of the state and it’s subjects can then be taken advantage of by groups with their own agenda.

    The state strategy of establishing a culture of fear and terror for it’s subjects to live under is the correct response (from their perspective) to the democratic threat. Since democratic hope offers the leverage for terrorism to work, squashing that hope destroys the wedge and eliminates the power of terrorism.

    The American state needs to use fear and terror on it’s own citizens, such as the establishment of a national surveillance system, in order to ensure they remain in power. Expecting them to do otherwise is ridiculous and forcing them to do otherwise will either be met with massive resistance or will lead them to construct alternative means to achieve the same goal. The only realistic method of an alleviation of the use of fear and terror by the state is to destroy the democratic hope of the subjects.

    In these times of both great hope and great oppression, the best outcome is the destruction of the state and emergence of democracy. Anyone who supports the existence of the state supports what it takes for the state to survive – hence the use of fear, terror, and surveillance.

    Terrorism is a side effect of the path to democracy.