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The West’s policies and actions in the Middle East have set the stage for tragedy. The destruction and destabilization of states and the creation of a new Cold War flash-point in Syrian (and one upcoming in the Ukraine) are spreading chaos in the world. The mass murder in Nice, France is an example, par excellence, of what Chalmers Johnson describes as Blowback. What is ‘Blowback’?
Blowback – is a term invented by the CIA, refers to the unintended consequences of American policies that are predicated on projecting its military power to every corner of the earth and using American capital and markets to force global economic integration on its own terms.
So this is what happened in Nice [from cbc.ca]:
The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria claimed responsibility for the truck attack on the French city of Nice on Saturday as French police arrested three people there in connection with the carnage that claimed the lives of at least 84 people.
“The person who carried out the operation in Nice, France, to run down people was one of the soldiers of Islamic State,” the news agency Amaq, which supports ISIS, said via its Telegram account.
“He carried out the operation in response to calls to target nationals of states that are part of the coalition fighting Islamic State,” the statement said.
We in North America tend to think (unless you happen to not to be white) of terrorism and war as something that happens ‘over there’. We sit with a manufactured placidity behind our oceans and vicariously experience the horror visited on people in foreign lands and, if moved enough, make a post about it on some social media platform (irony noted). What is difficult for North Americans is the teasing out the questions of “How, if at all(?), does this relate to us?”, while wading though the media slideshow of human misery and death. Our media is failing us by not providing context to the images we see, so we don’t know how to respond.
Blowback is coming. Through the direct result of our use of military and economic power we are fracturing countries and immiserating their people for our Geo-poltical gain. The people of North America are subject to a severe disconnect between the foreign policy goals stated at home and what those goals look like when actualized in reality. I am fairly confident that most of the policy initiatives that involve displacing people and murdering them wouldn’t get much popular support.
However, call it (murder et cetera) bringing “stability’ to a region, it sounds palatable to the citizenry, and thus their consent is ensured. How many lives hang in the balance or have been sacrificed because of word/not-words like ‘precision bombing’ and ‘democracy promotion’? Our use of opaque sanitized language cuts people off from the empathy we all possess and allows for the most pernicious of behaviours.
We in the West feel connected only when the chickens of violence come home to roost and vengeance is delivered to our innocent populations. The sympathetic news coverage begins immediately, more so if the victims happen to be Caucasian (because #whitelivesmattermore), and we can connect with the sorrow and horror being visited on the people in question.
Did believe in Islam play a role in the mass-murder in Nice. Almost certainly. Even traumatized desperate people need persuading to enable them to commit murderous acts. The ISIS brand of Islam is tailor made to undermine empathetic thoughts and feelings, to numb the fundamental kindness we feel toward each other (this applies to almost all organized religions, of course) and make atrocities such as what happened in Nice possible.
Fervent belief in ideology – religious or otherwise – helps make disastrous events possible, because as soon as we can start people as the ‘enemy’ and the ‘other’ it becomes so much easier to destroy their lives.
So, did Allah take the wheel and instigate vehicular homicide on a grand scale? Probably not, but he certainly put gas in the tank and keys in hand.
Getting stuck on the US election race? Tired of hearing about how the authoritarian left is, yet again, stifling free speech? How about some Nuclear Armageddon to cleanse the palate? Dilip Hiro takes us to South East Asia and the conflict between India and Pakistan.
“Undoubtedly, for nearly two decades, the most dangerous place on Earth has been the Indian-Pakistani border in Kashmir. It’s possible that a small spark from artillery and rocket exchanges across that border might — given the known military doctrines of the two nuclear-armed neighbors — lead inexorably to an all-out nuclear conflagration. In that case the result would be catastrophic. Besides causing the deaths of millions of Indians and Pakistanis, such a war might bring on “nuclear winter” on a planetary scale, leading to levels of suffering and death that would be beyond our comprehension.
Alarmingly, the nuclear competition between India and Pakistan has now entered a spine-chilling phase. That danger stems from Islamabad’s decision to deploy low-yield tactical nuclear arms at its forward operating military bases along its entire frontier with India to deter possible aggression by tank-led invading forces. Most ominously, the decision to fire such a nuclear-armed missile with a range of 35 to 60 miles is to rest with local commanders. This is a perilous departure from the universal practice of investing such authority in the highest official of the nation. Such a situation has no parallel in the Washington-Moscow nuclear arms race of the Cold War era.
When it comes to Pakistan’s strategic nuclear weapons, their parts are stored in different locations to be assembled only upon an order from the country’s leader. By contrast, tactical nukes are pre-assembled at a nuclear facility and shipped to a forward base for instant use. In addition to the perils inherent in this policy, such weapons would be vulnerable to misuse by a rogue base commander or theft by one of the many militant groups in the country.”
Catch the rest of this sunny story at Tom’s Dispatch, I highly recommend you subscribe to their newsletter.
Chris Hedges occasionally has some good ideas when it comes to the American body politic. Consider what we are seeing on the news, and is it really that far off from what is being stated here?
“As Arendt noted, the fascist and communist movements in Europe in the 1930s “… recruited their members from this mass of apparently indifferent people whom all other parties had given up as too apathetic or too stupid for their attention. The result was that the majority of their membership consisted of people who had never before appeared on the political scene. This permitted the introduction of entirely new methods into political propaganda, and indifference to the arguments of political opponents; these movements not only placed themselves outside and against the party system as a whole, they found a membership that had never been reached, never been ‘spoiled’ by the party system. Therefore they did not need to refute opposing arguments and consistently preferred methods which ended in death rather than persuasion, which spelled terror rather than conviction. They presented disagreements as invariably originating in deep natural, social, or psychological sources beyond the control of the individual and therefore beyond the control of reason. This would have been a shortcoming only if they had sincerely entered into competition with either parties; it was not if they were sure of dealing with people who had reason to be equally hostile to all parties.”
Fascism is aided and advanced by the apathy of those who are tired of being conned and lied to by a bankrupt liberal establishment, whose only reason to vote for a politician or support a political party is to elect the least worst. This, for many voters, is the best Clinton can offer.
Fascism expresses itself in familiar and comforting national and religious symbols, which is why it comes in various varieties and forms. Italian fascism, which looked back to the glory of the Roman Empire, for example, never shared the Nazis’ love of Teutonic and Nordic myths. American fascism too will reach back to traditional patriotic symbols, narratives and beliefs.”
“There is only one way left to blunt the yearning for fascism coalescing around Trump. It is to build, as fast as possible, movements or parties that declare war on corporate power, engage in sustained acts of civil disobedience and seek to reintegrate the disenfranchised—the “losers”—back into the economy and political life of the country. This movement will never come out of the Democratic Party. If Clinton prevails in the general election Trump may disappear, but the fascist sentiments will expand. Another Trump, perhaps more vile, will be vomited up from the bowels of the decayed political system. We are fighting for our political life. Tremendous damage has been done by corporate power and the college-educated elites to our capitalist democracy. The longer the elites, who oversaw this disemboweling of the country on behalf of corporations—who believe, as does CBS Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves, that however bad Trump would be for America he would at least be good for corporate profit—remain in charge, the worse it is going to get.”
It would seem that the revival of class consciousness is going to play a large role in saving democracy in the United States. Remembering class interests and organizing to protect them may be a way to bring people back into the political fold.
Our corporate news media is very good at keeping inconvenient facts away from the public eye. A six minute video, by definition, cannot provide many startling revelations, but rather a starting point to become informed and hopefully take action.
Paul Street writes a foreboding analysis of what the TPP is on Counterpunch.
“Lawyers and lobbyists for giant multinational corporations have been working up the TPP and promoting it for nearly a decade. The measure would join the United States along with 11 other nations along the Pacific Rim (Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam) in a “free-trade zone” covering nearly 40 percent of the world’s economy. Obama and his largely Republican “free trade” allies say the TPP will open foreign markets to American goods and “level the playing field by forcing Asian competitors to improve labor and environmental standards.”
But that’s just blatantly deceptive business propaganda. The measure isn’t really about trade and it certainly isn’t about improved standards. Its real thrust is to strengthen corporations’ ability to protect and extend their intellectual property rights (drug patents, movie rights, and the like) and to guarantee that they will be compensated by governments for any profits they might lose from having to meet decent public labor and environmental (and other) standards – something certain to discourage the enactment and enforce of such standards. Key parts of the TPP permit foreign capital to freely and easily enter a country and for profits to be just as easily removed. The TPP would ban capital controls, which let nations block disruptive inflows of ‘hot money’ from speculative investors and then escape before the bubble they create explodes. It would also block the passage of financial transaction taxes, a method for checking speculation and generating public revenue. The measure also legitimizes the extensive privatization of public enterprises.
The TPP is designed to help big multinational businesses attain special deals they would be unable to get through existing political processes, considered excessively democratic by the global deep state of capital. A foreign corporation could sue and receive damages for anticipated profit losses resulting from an increase in the minimum wage (federal, state, or local) in the United States. A U.S. state or Canadian province (or any other member-state jurisdiction) would have to compensate oil and gas companies for anticipated profits lost to bans on the environmentally disastrous practice of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Big Pharma and the big corporate media firms would be granted stronger and longer-lasting patent and copyright protections across the “free trade” zone. Big multinational banking and investment firms would have to be paid by TPP governments that wanted to keep their nations’ financial systems safe through responsible regulation. Food, chemical, consumer goods, and pesticide industries will be able to able to limit the ability of TPP governments to impose safety and environmental regulations on the things they sell and how they make them. The giant global and U.S.-based consumer packaged goods firm Procter & Gamble could demand compensation from any TPP nation (including the U.S.) that dared to subject its products and workplaces to basic social and environmental standards. (One could go on and on with such examples.)
“Level playing field”? The TPP is about a race to the capitalist bottom, a levelling down of people and government’s capacity to impose limits on business behavior. Like its regressive predecessor the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), it’s about what the New York Times calls “investor protection.”
Of critical and dark significance, the TPP constructs a new legal structure that transcends the existing, nation-based legal system.
Phone, write, send smoke signals to your MP’s fellow Canadians. We do not want this for our country, NAFTA is bad enough.
Taken from his essay on Counterpunch called Slouching Toward Global Disaster.
It is impossible to understand and explain such a disastrous failure of military interventionism without considering the effects of two toxic ‘special relationships’ formed by the United States, with Israel and Saudi Arabia.
The basic feature of such special relationships is an unconditional partnership in which the Israelis and Saudis can do whatever they wish, including pursuing policies antagonistic to U.S. interests without encountering any meaningful opposition from either Washington or Europe.
This zone of discretion has allowed Israel to keep Palestinians from achieving self-determination while pursuing its own territorial ambitions via constantly expanding settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, fueling grassroots anti-Western sentiment throughout the Arab world because of this persisting reliance on a cruel settler colonialist approach to block for seven decades the Palestinian struggle for fundamental and minimal national rights.
The special relationship with Saudi Arabia is even more astonishing until one considers the primacy of economic strategic priorities, especially the importance of oil supplied at affordable prices. Having by far the worst human rights record in the region, replete with judicially decreed beheadings and executions by stoning, the Riyadh leadership continues to be warmly courted in Western capitals as allies and friends. At the same time, equally theocratic Iran is hypocritically bashed and internationally punished in retaliation for its far less oppressive governing abuses.
Of course, looking the other way, is what is to be expected in the cynical conduct of opportunistic geopolitics, but to indulge the Saudi role in the worldwide promotion of jihadism while spending trillion on counter-terrorism is much more difficult to fathom until one shifts attention from the cover story of counter-terrorism to the more illuminating narrative of petropolitics. Despite fracking and natural gas discoveries lessening Western dependence on Middle Eastern oil, old capitalist habits persist long after their economic justifications have lapsed and this seems true even when such policies have become damaging in lives and financial burdens.”
-Richard Falk. Slouching Toward Global Disaster
Just a little peek into what fairness and equality means on the global scale. Take note of how the playing field is levelled instead of it being ‘level’ and one might start to see the patterns in our society and maybe start to question the conceptions of ‘equality’ when we are told things are ‘fine’.
(I’m writing this early in the week, for publication Friday. I’m dreading coming back and editing this list…)
and all the places being terrorized by “our” side…
Gustav Mahler wrote his song cycle Kindertotenlieder, Songs on the Death of Children, over a century ago, a setting of five (out of over 400) poems written by Friedrich Rückert some sixty years earlier, in reaction to the death of two of his children from scarlet fever.
“Now the sun wants to rise as brightly”
- Now the sun wants to rise as brightly
- as if nothing terrible had happened during the night.
- The misfortune had happened only to me,
- but the sun shines equally on everyone.
- You must not enfold the night in you.
- You must sink it in eternal light.
- A little star went out in my tent!
- Greetings to the joyful light of the world.