Tuesday, March 4, 2014
The following essay appeared in Common Dreams and is used with permission (see below).
Monday, February 3, 2014
Those who reflexively oppose President Obama on foreign policy share one thing in common with those who defend his actions unquestioningly: Neither is using a realistic measure to appraise him. In addition, partisan supporters who are unwilling to criticize him fail to use a consistent yardstick to compare his actions with those of his predecessor. Despite his many accomplishments, the similarities in foreign policy between the Obama administration and that of Bush are more striking to most critics than are the differences. While there is truth in this observation, it is not the whole story.
There is a pervasive myth that we elect Presidents who will represent the interests of America in foreign policy, if we choose correctly. The reality is that as a consequence of an electoral system thoroughly corrupted by special interest money, we elect Presidents who are vetted by a relative handful of extremely powerful individuals. They have a huge financial stake in the maintenance of the status quo in international economic affairs. “American” interests have become defined as what serves the aims of powerful international financial institutions that have a disproportionate influence on both US domestic and international policy. The interests of these institutions have nothing to do with the interests of America or any nation. In fact, if Americans do not develop a clearer understanding of the nature of their power, nation states themselves will become obsolete. The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) is designed to do just that.
Of the largest 25 international corporations, almost all are financial institutions. Members of their Boards are also members of the Boards of the top 147 corporate behemoths that control 40% of the assets of over 14,000 international corporations and collect 60% of their total profits. This is how global financiers control key industries such as aeronautics, insurance, armaments, energy, telecommunications and others whose profits depend on control of natural resources and human capital around the world, including the US. Their enormous influence over the fortunes of businesses puts them in the position to determine who is a viable candidate for President. If you were hoping that Dennis Kucinich or Ron Paul can become President if we elect enough Democrats or Republicans, think again.
Foreign policy is not created de novo with each new administration. The general direction of foreign policy is determined by corporations and foundations that fund the think tanks that gave us the neocon agenda in foreign policy that is still the blueprint for military strategy. Think tanks also came up with the neoliberal agenda of free trade. These two ideologies are really two sides of the same coin. Both seek to extend corporate domination of the planet. Where economic coercion and bribery in the form of free trade agreements, IMF loans and economic and military aid are not persuasive and regime change is not possible by covert means, military force is used. Neoconservatism and neoliberalism are so called because they are neither liberal nor conservative, but corporatist.
This is the reality that confronts the President. He still has all the powers granted him under the constitution as well as powers claimed by previous Occupants of the White House, but his use of them is sharply constrained by the political influence of special interests over Congress, the military, a CIA unaccountable to him under the doctrine of plausible deniability, the media and even the courts. If he wanted to end the “war on terror” that is a think disguise for an agenda of global corporate domination, he would have to take on the entire military-industrial-government complex that has mushroomed since WWII. It is a direct threat to democracy, as Kennedy found out when he tried toend the Cold War.
You may say Obama still has a choice and you would be right, but what chance of success would he have without America behind him? While we should and must criticize him when he chooses war over diplomacy as he did in Libya has largely done in Syria, we cannot expect him to take on alone the entrenched power of the entire political, economic and military structure of the oligarchy that the US has become. If we want to see democracy and justice in the US and the rest of the world, we must be the change that will make him do what must be done. We did it on Syria, when we told Congress in no uncertain terms that we will not use US taxpayer money to start WWIII.
What few seem to appreciate is that the President set up a situation where our voice would determine a major foreign policy decision. The pressure on him to attack Syria from Israel, Saudi Arabia and neocons in the US was intense, yet he consulted with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and allowed him to publicly report that not only would an attack be incredibly risky, but that a decision was not necessary immediately. He then threw the decision to Congress, giving citizens a chance to weigh in. Our victory in stopping a disastrous attack on Syria showed that we are not powerless over the architects of what former CIA chief and President George HW Bush called the New World Order.
One of the most powerful forces aligned against Obama is the alliance between right-wingers in Israel and the US, who see their interests as identical. The base of fundamentalist Christians in the US constitutes the vast majority of Zionists in America. One of our tasks surely has to be to awaken Americans to the facts of Israeli occupation and apartheid. Obama has given us the chance by allowing diplomacy to succeed in Syria at least to the extent that he avoided a direct US attack that could have led to a regional and even world war. Many have concluded that by showing his willingness to let Putin score major points and rebuffing the attempts of Israel and Saudi Arabia to directly attack both Syria and Iran, Obama is showing that he will not bow to the demands of neocons in either Israel or the US. If there were any doubts about this, they should have been dispelled when he immediately reached out to Iran.
It takes a great bit of chutzpah to claim that the decisions that led to Americans stopping a rush to war for the first time in history was the result of a series of foolish stumbles by a President some claim is in the pocket of Israel. If that were the case, how do they explain his immediately reaching out to Iran as soon as the crisis was over, infuriating both Israel and Saudi Arabia, already seething at his “mistakes” in carrying out the planned attack on Syria? Anyone who still thinks the President doesn’t know what he is doing has been gamed. For the rest of us, let’s take the hint and “be the change we need.” Demand immediate cuts in the defense budget. Shut down unneeded military bases around the world, get rid of space age weapons that we will never need in an age of American dominance, end drone warfare, drastically curtail domestic surveillance and redirect the money to rebuilding America and becoming a responsible member of the world community.
In a democracy, the people are responsible for the actions of their government. If Americans aspire to living in a democracy and becoming a model for the rest of the world, it is time they took back their government from the hands of the architects of the New World Order. It is possible, and it begins when the movement to amend the constitution to reform campaign finance and abolish the doctrine of corporate constitutional rights becomes the basis of a social movement to end the corrupt rule of the plutocracy.
Thursday, January 9, 2014
It is impossible to build a movement without having a shared understanding of the problem we are trying to solve. The difficulty in doing this is that all of us view the world from different perspectives, often radically divergent ones. To build a movement of sufficient influence to change the dangerous trajectory the world is currently on, we need to be able to get the broadest coalition of individuals of differing philosophies possible.
We are up against a powerful coalition of wealthy and influential individuals with the simple goal of consolidating their control over the nations of the world and their resources. Our objective has to be as simple and must appeal to people across the spectrum of political ideologies. In this third in a series of articles about how to dismantle the New World Order, I consider how opinions are formed and use my experience as a psychotherapist to explain how even deeply held beliefs can be challenged and changed.
Listening to self-identified “liberals” and “conservatives” debate, it almost seems like you are listening to people who live in different worlds. In a very real sense, they do. That is because each of us exists within a mental reality we construct based on concepts we acquire early in life and that far too often, we do not challenge. The more divergent our most fundamental beliefs are, the more it seems that we are speaking in different languages when we try to discuss politics. The solution is not to avoid the subject, but to recognize the source of these differences and try to find a common language with which to discuss possible solutions to problems that affect us all.
It helps to understand that we are fundamentally more alike than we are different and that it is our commonalities that make us human. Thinking of ourselves as humans first and members of any other group second helps us keep in mind that we all share important basic values and concerns. We must use the awareness of our common interests to stay focused on the task of building a future in which all can thrive. Rather than fighting each other, we must remember that our differences are a source of strength if we are willing to listen to each other with respect, learn from each other and integrate diverse points of view into a formulation of a problem that we can agree on. If we then put ideology aside and develop common strategies based on shared goals and values, it is possible to change the world. We have to try, because the alternative is almost certainly the self-destruction of human civilization.
We are all born into a world that is an undifferentiated confusion of sense impressions. We only gradually come to make sense of it by forming concepts that approximate what we perceive and experience. When a young enough child sees something round, it sees “a ball.” It doesn’t matter if the round thing is a baseball or a basketball. The concept serves the purpose well enough until the child is old enough to understand that various balls are used in different sports for specific reasons. But what if a child looks at the sun and sees only a ball? It certainly looks round. The child has to learn to develop more sophisticated concepts about round things to understand how an apparently round object that they cannot touch is fundamentally different from the “ball” it resembles. Understanding such differences is essential to building a personal model of reality that corresponds to "objective" reality as defined by logical conclusions based on observations and the applications of internally consistent theories about the world.
So it is with all simple concepts. As we grow and acquire more information, we have to modify and refine the concepts by which we construct our views of reality. Failing to do so in a changing world leads to increasing divergence between our personal world and objective reality. When people who disagree start to rely on ideological arguments that conflict with observable fact, the collective consciousness becomes literally "schizophrenic" in the sense that it is a "split mind." That is the key to understanding why those who think themselves liberals and conservatives really do live in different universes. Only when they find a common language to share their world views can they come to a common understanding of how the world works and how we can change it together.
The fundamental obstacle to people uniting around common values and goals is the nearly universal conservative impulse. Far from being unique to those who identify as conservatives, it is based on a fear of change that most of us have whether we are conscious of the prejudice or not. Any psychotherapist knows this from experience. Many if not most of the people we work with come to us with problems so painful that they are willing to ask for help, yet seem to reject any suggestion that solving the problem requires sometimes painful questioning of basic philosophical beliefs that form the core of their identities.
This tendency is of course even more pronounced in those who blind themselves to the fact that they are in pain. It is even harder to address this pain when the individual insists that he must solve all his problems on his own. At least those who seek help in psychotherapy have taken the first steps of admitting that they have a problem they cannot solve on their own and are willing to seek help thinking through the problem from another person’s perspective. When therapists encounter what they call “resistance” from those who find it difficult, they may throw up their hands and place the blame on the patient. However, the effective ones try to find ways to help motivate patients to change. That is the essential task we face in awakening our fellow citizens to what they have to do to change the political reality that is the ultimate source of our pain.
The first step in establishing dialogue between people of different political philosophies is to abandon the notion of “conservative” and “liberal.” As soon as you label yourself, you start to see people who see things differently as “the other.” You attribute beliefs to them that they may not hold, at least when their beliefs are held up to close questioning. When we try to talk to each other in a friendly and nonjudgmental manner about our differences, we are showing that we are not engaged in a contest of wills but seeking genuine understanding. If we manage to communicate our desire to work together toward common goals based on common values, we have the basis for healing the artificial left-right split. This is the Great Divide that keeps us fightingeach other instead of the common enemy: the economic elite who would have us become their slaves in a permanent fascist New World Order.
Thanks to a corporate media and the politicians whose interests it serves, the concepts of “conservative” and “liberal” have been turned on their heads. Traditionally, the intellectual defense of conservatism was the belief that radical change can lead to chaos and the loss of all the gains that have been made in creating governments more responsible to the needs of the people who form them. It is based in part on the idea that everyone is inherently corruptible, or at least those who seek the power to determine the destiny of nations and the world.
There is a logical basis for this fear, given lessons of history. However, thanks to the politics of division and corporate media and politicians that frame political debate to serve the interests of their wealthy patrons, most people who consider themselves conservatives today have supported the most radical turn away from representative democracy to date. Those most dissatisfied with the results not only blame “liberal” politicians and their supporters but fault the party most have supported for years because they do not think they favor change that is radical enough.
Modern liberalism has been as drastically perverted. With the Democratic Party moving ever closer to outright support of fascist policies in an attempt to appeal to what the corporate media defines as the political center, it is gradually moving that illusory center away from the ideal of representative democracy and toward an ever more powerful plutocracy. The effect is to have turned traditional liberalism into its antithesis. Instead of realizing that radical change has become imperative, they seen content with the incremental efforts of a corrupt party that claims to challenge the economic elite while voting to support it on nearly every issue where the corporate interest conflicts with that of We the People.
This can only end when partisan Democrats learn to question their deeply held belief that if and only if they can elect more Democrats can the country be saved from the depredations of a wealthy and powerful aristocracy that has in fact gained control over both parties. As with the Tea party movement, liberals most angry at the direction the country has taken have taken to actively opposing the Democratic Party. They blame the stubborn refusal of the rank and file to hold their leaders accountable for the miserable state of what passes for liberalism in America. In their ridicule of all Democrats, they fail to acknowledge the legitimacy of trying to work within the system for those who choose to do so. Instead, they are abandoning the political process altogether or forming an ever-expanding array of third parties that further divide their cause because they cannot seem to work together.
Fortunately, psychotherapy offers a way to resolve the conflicts between political reality and the way most people perceive it, whether they consider themselves liberal, conservative or neither. The trick to dealing with the patient who resists examining their own role in creating their problems is first establish rapport, then help them explore their beliefs. If those which are healthy and life-affirming can be shown to be incompatible with those more deeply held, one of the beliefs must change. If the person is capable of honest self-reflection, the healthy belief will be retained and beliefs based on cognitive distortions will be rejected. As a result, the belief system itself changes.
The alternative is to distort information that reveals the contradiction so that one can resist that change. Either way, being aware of two contradictory beliefs simultaneously creates a form of anxiety known as cognitive dissonance. It is the reason Albert Ellis' rational emotive therapy technique works. In RET, the therapist’s job is to help the patients look at their lives objectively so that they may choose to change rather than resist it at a cost to not only their psychological integrity but their happiness. When the therapist succeeds at helping the patient see the connection between the simplistic beliefs that made the world make sense to the child and the problems they experience when they try to hold onto these beliefs as adults, it is possible to help them find more nuanced ways to view the world that are consistent with their core values.
I will not go into the basic differences in the modern conservative and modern liberal mind sets. I have little to add to George Lakoff’s description of the one as favoring a stern, paternal view of government that encourages individuals to succeed on their own in a rigged system and the other as favoring a nurturing, cooperative society with a prominent role for government. I suggest that those interested in exploring these ideas read his excellent treatise Don’t Think of an Elephant. What is more important is what he doesn’t say, which is how to reconcile these different world views. That requires focusing not on the differences in the beliefs we are raised with, but the ideals we were all taught to regard as sacred. Among these are the principles of representative democracy and liberty and justice for all. While concepts of these ideals differ, there is nearly unanimous agreement that they are thwarted by a system that is deeply corrupted by special interests.
By framing our common interest as ending the corruption that is threatening America and the world, we can find a way to talk to each other about how to create a united national and international front against fascism, even if we choose not to put it in those terms. How we might best have that discussion will be the topic of a future essay on tactics for conducting a nonviolent, democratic revolution.
Previous essays in this series are here:
Part I: Toward a strategy for dismantling the New World Order
Part II: Setting goals for real global revolution
Tuesday, December 10, 2013
I talked to Ed Schultz today. Those who know me likely find that surprising. They might ask why someone who constantly beats his head against the wall trying to get people to quit listening to the corporate media would waste his time with someone who many regard as the ultimate gatekeeper of the left. After all, they could point out, how else does someone get the privilege of hosting both a national call in radio show and a nationally televised show on the “liberal” MSNBC channel? Most people who understand how the corporate media defines the terms of political debate in the US have concluded that all such shows do is reinforce phony narratives that obscure the real problems and their solutions. Why bother trying to influence these talking heads?
Try as it may to appear otherwise, MSNBC does not challenge its corporate sponsors any more than FOX. Both are little more than echo chambers for what the corporate media defines as the “left” and “right. “Anyone who discusses the issues in terms of how they reflect on corporate power in the US is labeled “far left” at best, and “radical” if they lay the facts out too plainly. When someone like Schultz is the most popular voice for “the left” in the mainstream media, you might conclude that it is time to turn off the radio. I have to disagree. While I don't spend a lot of time listening to the nonsense that passes for progressive talk radio most of the time, I do think there is a value in joining a conversation listened to by millions.
I caught Schultz’s radio show on my way to the store, while changing CD discs of a book on tape. I listen to them when I am driving to escape the nattering of radio pundits on both sides of the corporate media-created left-right divide. He was talking about an issue that is a pet peeve of mine: health care reform. Or rather, he was talking about Obamacare instead of health care reform. Okay, I’ll admit that is a slight exaggeration. Obamacare does insure millions of people. However, it does so at an enormous expense to taxpayers and policy holders, as will soon become too obvious to deny. If partisan Democrats like Schultz don’t start acknowledging that Obamacare is only a short term compromise, they are going to set back the cause of universal health care even more than they did when they fell in lockstep behind the Public Option, despite its being revealed as a bait-and-switch by Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) in 2009.
Even Harry Reid has admitted that ACA is at best a small step in direction of the only real solution, a single payer system. I pointed this out to Schultz, but he ignored it. Apparently, it didn’t fit with the narrative he has bought into to explain why he is still supporting a plan that bears no resemblance to what he advocated for so strongly in 2009. Failure to quit defending Obamacare before it collapses will cost the Democratic Party dearly in the long run. When health care inevitably becomes more expensive than tax payers will tolerate, voters who know nothing about health care economics will conclude that the Democrats lied to them. At that point, they will almost certainly conclude that the Republicans were right all along in saying that the US can’t afford to provide universal health care, as they do in the rest of the world. That is what happens when the “liberals” on talk radio let politicians and other pundits in the corporate media frame political debate. They just reinforce the fantasy that of the two parties that constitute the Duopoly, one puts the interests of average Americans over those of its corporate backers. When they accept that, they have lost all credibility.
Obamacare is in essence a bailout of a failing insurance industry that was on the brink of pricing its product out of existence due to uncontrolled costs. The typical plans now available to those who have to pay premiums on their own have high deductibles, making them too expensive for many people to use. Even the best plans provide little protection against medical bankruptcy, which is unheard of in countries with single payer. Under the “Affordable” Healthcare Act, the quality of health care coverage is eroding. This temporary measure to hold the line on premium rates is the only thing concealing the fact that Obamacare does almost nothing to control the costs of a private medical system that now consumes nearly 20% of US GDP. It would be more honest to call it the UNaffordable Healthcare Act. That is the main point I wanted to make, but Schultz was having nothing to do with it.
Like all apologists for the Democrats, he trotted out the following arguments: “Obamacare is the only politically possible thing;” “There are some corporate Democrats, but we have to stand behind the party because the Republicans are so dangerous” and “Obamacare is a step in the right direction.” He ignored my argument that it is debatable whether it brings us closer to single payer, even though his good pal Harry Reid said the same thing. He dismissed out of hand the idea that Democrats will pay dearly when its true costs become apparent. His argument for doing so was astounding, even by the standards of corporate media pundits: He claimed that the cost was irrelevant! Apparently, he missed the whole debate about the debt “crisis,” the idea of which Democratic politicians have swallowed as wholly as Republicans. So have the voters. Why does he think Tea Party types keep getting elected?
I am not going to try to go into all the details of the arguments I made, or Big Eddie’s inane responses. I am not writing this to sell the idea of single payer. Anyone who wants to look at the facts will conclude that we cannot afford any plan that allows the medical-industrial complex to keep sucking up 30% of every health care dollar while the total bill keeps rising. Insurance is the cause of the inefficiencies that are the main drivers of health care cost inflation, as Shultz has said many times. The only justification he can give for the idea that voters will accept the costs of Obamacare even while the corporate media and Democrats and Republicans in Congress insist that the nation is going broke is that sees short term partisan gain in defending the program. That is the problem with going along with the "politics of the possible." As long as we ignore the corruption in Congress that led Democrats to arrest single payer advocates instead of inviting them to the health care reform debate, what is possible will never be anywhere near what is necessary.
In promoting the nonsense that all we need to do to solve our problems is vote Democratic, Schultz and other so-called progressive talk show hosts fail their audiences. If they really think Democrats can do the job, they have a platform they can use to push party leadership, just as Rush Limbaugh pushed Republicans to the hard right. Like Rush, they might even affect the outcome of a few elections if they were to be honest about the cost of basing voting decisions only on whether there is a D or an R after a candidates name. If they do not choose to use this power, we have a responsibility to not just tune out or to become progressive versions of ditto-heads (what you might call d-Ed heads). We must speak up and challenge the gatekeepers of the left at every opportunity. It’s not like you have to listen to them for very long to find an opening to make the point. When you hear them abandoning principle and letting the rest of the corporate media define the debate, call them and call them out.
They probably won’t listen, but some of their listeners will. They are the ones we most need to come to the light.
Wednesday, December 4, 2013
It should be obvious that the only reason war is possible at this point in history is the widespread acceptance of the idea that it is inevitable. With this idea so firmly entrenched in the minds of millions, few bother to question it. After all, there is no sense in trying to understand the reasons for war if it will not lead to any change. If the real causes of war were generally understood, Americans might ask whether they should allow them to be fought in their name. In a real democracy, the People would be responsible for the actions of their government.
War has always been about controlling other people's resources. It is inherently inconsistent with the basis of democracy, which is recognition of the inalienable rights of all and the responsibility of governments to ensure them. A truly democratic government is one of, by and for the People. Not some, but all the people. If the rights purportedly guaranteed by the constitution are universal, then they are also the rights of the Peoples of all nations. The US has no right to deny them. As long as Americans allow their government to violate the rights of others, they mock the idea of liberty and justice for all. In doing so, they are enabling corporate powers that control the US government to deny these basic rights to themselves.
It is Mankind’s oldest and greatest dream to rid the world of the scourge of war, yet at a time when the US military unquestionably dominates the rest of the world Americans continue to accept the obvious lie that they must waste their resources on the destruction of other nations. In a 2013 poll, over half opposed cutting the military budget even while funds to care for the poor are slashed. Are Americans such cowards that they would accept seemingly random US state-sponsored terror in the name of “freedom” and “security" forever if they knew wars were really fought for corporate profit? After NDAA and the revelations of NSA spying, would they still accept the loss of their constitutional rights in the name of "American interests" if they saw that these have been defined as the interests of transnational corporations with no loyalty to the US, its citizens, or humanity itself? If so, is there any price they will not pay?
European citizens, despite having experienced war directly within living memory, are not much better at recognizing that their self-interest is served by opposing war. In the modern era, it has been argued that warfare is justified to fight threats to freedom. For decades, communism was seen as such a menace, when in fact it was merely a threat to the profits of global elites cooperating to carve up the resources of the planet. Now stateless terrorism is claimed to a threat and warfare the only answer. The Global War on Terror has provided cover for the global war on democracy and national self-determination. If those who are profiting from it succeed in creating a worldwide corporate Empire, no nation will be spared. Somehow, we have to make citizens of the US and other NATO countries understand that war is always about competition for resources and that this one is to secure all the resources of the planet for the benefit of war profiteers. Only then can they make a conscious decision about whether it is worth sacrificing the lives of their children and those of targeted nations.
The fact that wars are conducted for the sole purpose of expanding the power of the ruling elite was well understood prior to the revival of the archaic notion of “democracy,” the idea that people can rule themselves. The ruling class never really relinquished its power. When the concept of divine rights of kings was questioned, the economic elite dusted off the ancient idea of democracy and systematically encouraged the masses to delude themselves into believing that they controlled their own national destiny and through their governments, protected their rights from foreign tyrants. The allure of the idea of democracy was so powerful that Americans failed to see the rise of tyranny within their own government. Somewhere along the way, the delusion of democracy became so ingrained that a majority seemed to accept the insane notion that the root of terrorism was that perpetrators were “jealous of our freedom.” What could be more ironic?
In the generations since the American Revolution that real cause of war has been forgotten by the People. A mythical version of American history has been created that clouds the minds of those indoctrinated by the American educational system. The outrage over Vietnam led to a glimmer of awareness of the connection between corporate power and war in the minds of that generation, but with the end of the war and then the end of the draft the lesson has been largely forgotten. That is how we came to be faced with the prospect of what the corporatocracy expects to become a permanent corporate-dominated New World Order. Only a revival of awareness that all just authority arises from the People can citizens of the United States use their collective power to help ensure that the last, best hope for Mankind does not perish from the Earth. For that, they will need the support of other NATO nations and the Peoples of the world, with whose fate theirs is intertwined.
It is said that no two democracies have ever fought a war against each other. To the extent that is true, it is not by chance. “Democracy” has come to be defined by the ruling class as any form of government that submits to the will of the Anglo-American Empire and thereby concede sovereignty to the international corporations that dictate its foreign policy. If national interests are defined as synonymous with defending and expanding the wealth and power of the global elite that control these corporations, any nation that submits to the Empire is defined as "democratic." While citizens of NATO nations have come to equate democracy with the power of the vote in the absence of any other evidence of its presence, the majority fail to realize that their governments do not even apply the same minimal standard to others that they label “democratic” or “despotic,” friend or foe.
The simple rule is that the enemies of any nation that is a threat to corporate power are friends of the corporatocracy, regardless of how such governments treat their own people. Under the guise of protecting citizens from their own governments, the US selectively targets nations that refuse to fall into line with the globalist agenda. The doctrine of "Responsibility to Protect" is nothing more than a noble sounding version of preemptive warfare. Condemned when adopted by the Nazis and outlawed by the agreements that established the UN, it has become official US policy, with the nearly universal support of the governments of NATO nations if not their peoples. The world is full of such potential enemies, of course. Any nation that does not submit to the dictates of the global elite and in particular the international bankers who are the real Puppet Masters of the show is by definition an enemy. Anyone who doubts this likely fails to realize that all of the recently targeted countries from Iraq to Syria had central banks that operated independently of the Bank of International Settlements, where global financial warfare is plotted.
When the symbolic enemy of the Soviet Union collapsed under the weight of its economic inefficiency and the need to maintain an enormous military, it was not hard to find a substitute. Former allies became the enemy, as has become an ever more obvious pattern. It used to take years or decades for a former foe to become an ally. The process accelerated after WWII, when the US government made common cause with former Nazis where it served the purposes of the national security state and the economic interests whose interests it exists to protect. Today, yesterday’s enemy is today’s ally.
The Mujahudin were recruited to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan. It leaders were listed in a CIA data base that became known for its Arabic name: al Qaeda. These useful idiots were later put to use in Bosnia, the southern tier of the former Soviet empire, the Mideast, Africa and even the US. The Empire has abandoned any pretense of forming alliances based on defense of “democracy.” It is openly using the same fighters it claimed it sacrificed thousands of Americans to defeat to wage war on weaker nations whose resources it covets. Millions of innocents who are killed, maimed or displaced are dismissed as collateral damage. Its naked aggression has become apparent to all but the most casual observer.
That is why it is our duty to draw attention to the real reasons for war. If we believe that democracy is possible, then we must believe that humans are essentially good. Good people do not knowingly allow atrocities to be committed while they stand by. While willful ignorance helps explain inaction, so does the sense of helplessness that comes from blindly accepting the self-fulfilling prophecy that war is inevitable. We must help those blinded by a culture of self-interest to see the connection between war and the failure of democracy. Citizens of NATO countries are so distracted by their economic problems that they fail to see that those who have undermined their standard of living are the same economic elite who are expanding their Empire through economic coercion, bribery, murder and war in even less fortunate nations. They must be made to understand that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Democracy cannot exist in a society that tolerates injustice because it requires the acceptance of inequality that is antithetical to self-governance.
Time is running out for humanity to decide. Will we stand by as the last, greatest hope for Mankind vanishes from an Earth dying from the ravages of exploitation, of which war is the most glaring example? Or will we fight for real liberty and justice, using the tools of nonviolent resistance while it is still possible? Democracy will only become real if we can see ourselves as basically good and capable of ruling ourselves in the best interests of all. This will not happen naturally. It will take our best efforts. Each of us has something to contribute and together, we can end war. It starts when we abandon the self-imposed distinctions that divide us, and work together to free the 99% forever from that which has always been the greatest ambition of the global elite: the enslavement of the human race.
Wednesday, November 27, 2013
Dear President Obama:
I feel a little guilty that it took me so long to write this. I have been pretty quick to write letters, sign petitions and make phone calls criticizing your actions in the past. When you get something important right, it’s only fair that I take the time to express my support. Besides, I imagine that if all you hear from certain people is negativity, questioning of your motives and cynicism about your actions you might be disinclined to listen to them. I wouldn’t blame you, either.
You deserve credit for avoiding a direct attack on Syria and opening up dialogue with Iran. Cynics claimed that you bumbled your way into the situation, but that doesn’t add up. It seems to me that you have masterfully handled pressure from a Congress in the pockets of the military-industrial complex and blindly obedient to the wishes of the right wing Israeli government of Bibi Netanyahu. Your actions in response to the false flag attack in Syria not only allowed but encouraged a debate in which Americans finally spoke against further American imperialist overreach. Some even entertained the heretical notion that Israel’s interests are not identical to their own. This is a healthy skepticism that I am sure will only become more widespread as Israel’s aim of destabilizing Syria and attacking Iran at any cost becomes ever more nakedly apparent.
Holding our elected officials responsible for their actions may be everyone’s duty, but it’s obvious to me that without the support of the People, a President cannot change a nation that has gone so badly off course. Lincoln didn’t free the slaves until he believed that slavery proponents would not be able to use it to defeat the cause of preserving the Union. When citizens who had doubted him rallied to the cause after a Union Army victory, he took a calculated risk in challenging the property rights of slaveholders with the Emancipation Proclamation. He could not have done the same thing and won the war without political capital. That only comes when the People support the President for doing the right thing.
The way I see it, we are in a similar situation but this time the People must rally around your efforts at waging peace, not war. Just as Lincoln forced a confrontation by challenging the economic interests of slave holders by seeking to limit slavery, your recent actions threaten the enormous investments of corporate war profiteers who would enslave the world in endless war if they could. If you can expect no support from those who would like to believe you mean what you say, it is hard to imagine how you could prevail against a Congress so deeply committed to serving the interests of those whose profits are threatened by the prospect of peace, when half the country will oppose whatever action you take.
I hope that I have been right in calling for patience from people who have demonized you for widening the war in Afghanistan, failing to close Guantanamo, exponentially expanding drone warfare, helping build a domestic spying apparatus so massive it could be the backbone of your jobs plan and insisting that Americans be subject to the same violations of constitutional rights as foreigners have suffered since the outbreak of the War of Terror. While I share their concerns about these and other decisions that threaten freedom in the US and the world, I try never to forget that I am not the one in the office that Kennedy held when he was murdered by the national security state for trying to end the Cold War. As a student of Presidential history, I am sure that you are fully aware of that fact and the implications it has for what you can accomplish without risking the same fate. I don’t feel that I have any right to judge you for what you have or haven’t done. I understand what you meant when, according to former senior CIA analyst Ray McGovern, you told disappointed friends who wanted you to explain your record “Don’t you remember what happened to Martin Luther King, Jr?”
With all this in mind, the world will be watching while you determine whether the cynics or the optimists will be vindicated by your conduct of the negotiations in Geneva. It seems to be a good sign that the long-delayed negotiations on Syria are finally scheduled, despite the opposition of Israel, Saudi Arabia and the terrorist groups they are hoping will topple the Assad government. Since the delay was due to a refusal of the Syrian insurgents to take part, this appears to be tacit recognition that the al Qaeda-led “rebels” are not going to prevail in turning Syria into a failed state, Libya-style. If the negotiations lead to substantive agreement, they will have to take what they can get.
At the same time, I cannot ignore the possibility that both negotiations may be a sham, like the Israeli “peace” negotiations with the illegitimate PA government. Just as there can be no negotiating for peace with a nation that continues to commit international crimes in expanding its colonization of an occupied country, so too can the US government talk peace while doing everything in its power to undermine it. Removing Assad from power as a precondition to peace in Syria is a nonstarter. The government is regularly defeating the terrorists in the field, but pundits and politicians are expressing hope that Iran can be convinced to “help” with negotiations around Syria. If you press Iran to convince Assad to step down, we will know that the negotiations in Tehran are just for show.
If you are serious about wanting peace, you will do everything possible to present an acceptable deal to the Iranians, taking into account that they have hardliners who benefit from politics of confrontation just as right wing hawks in both parties do in the US. It is a delicate balancing act, and anyone with an ounce of understanding of the situation will know why your tough rhetoric and hyperbole is necessary for domestic consumption even if you truly want to bargain fairly. After all, if that is what it takes to get support for a treaty in the Senate, the peoples of both nations will benefit. At the same time, you will have finally declared American independence from the right wing of the Knesset.
I really want to see you do the right thing. I am willing to trust you until I see proof that this move toward peace is insincere, if it is. Some people would rather be right in their cynical assumptions than be embarrassed should you prove them dead wrong, though they will never admit it. I am not one of them. I am not afraid of being embarrassed by having the audacity to still hope that we can be the change that will make you do what is right. If we fail to support you when you need us the most, I am not sure that we could handle democracy if we had one.
Rick Staggenborg, MD
Founder, Soldiers For Peace International
Monday, October 28, 2013
I love Alan Grayson. He says what most members of Congress won’t, in a way that cuts through the partisan nonsense that passes for debate in Congress. There are not too many like him, so I have been hesitant to check out the facts since I was told three years ago that he is a racist. It’s not something you want to believe about people you admire. That is why some people have such a hard time calling their friends out when they hear them making derogatory remarks about another racial group, although most of the people I know would. Now that Alan Grayson has made racism an issue by branding supporters of the Tea Party with the label, I feel it is only fair to point out his hypocrisy.
Consider the thinking behind his accusation. He is saying that any person who identifies with the Tea Party is a racist. That implies that everyone in that group of people agrees that African-Americans are inferior to “real” Americans. This assumption that “they are all alike” is the essence of racism. As with racist arguments, it is also utter nonsense. Has someone taken a poll and found this to be true? Liberals agree with the claim in part because the corporate media loves to show pictures of ignorant rednecks who cannot spell “gummint” displaying hateful messages with obvious racist content. That doesn’t give them the right to paint every individual who is a Tea Party supporter with that brush.
I don’t believe these people represent all or even the majority of Tea Party supporters, who define themselves according to their attitudes on taxes and the size of government. With an African-American Democrat in the White House, it is natural that racists and people who hate all Democrats would be attracted to an anti-government movement. That doesn’t make all Tea Party enthusiasts racists. I will grant however that since the most sensible among them have been dropping their identification with the movement, those who are left probably do constitute a larger proportion of the group. However, when we start labeling our fellow citizens with derogatory names, we inevitably arouse the ire of those who are sympathetic to their stated aims, if not their tactics. How does that advance the cause of getting beyond ideological differences to establish democracy in America?
The claim that Tea Party fans are racists is not in itself racist, of course. By definition, racism refers to the attitude that every member of a “racial” group is alike because of genetic patterns that predominate in the group and by which they believe can be identified on sight. Others are slightly more sophisticated, believing that the problem lies in the culture or subculture that the class of people they look down on grow up in. In either case, the essential fallacy is that the features the other group share that separate them from the group they belong to make them all alike and essentially different from their group. They attribute to all members of the group character flaws and patterns of behavior that make it easy to demonize them or to consider them inferior.
Grayson is a racist because he is an unquestioning supporter of Israel, whose domestic policies can only be described as racist. Carter was not exaggerating when he described Israel as an apartheid state. The basis of apartheid is laws that create different classes of citizens with different rights. There are more than 50 laws in Israel that explicitly or effectively apply different standards to Jewish and non-Jewish Israeli citizens. This makes the claim that Israel is a democracy a bald-faced lie, since democracy is based first and foremost on equality of citizens. It follows from this that the idea of a “Jewish” state is antithetical to democracy, at least in a nation where the population growth rate is higher among Arabs than Jews as in Israel. That simple demographic fact is unlikely to change, since there is a consistent correlation between poverty and birth rate, and the apartheid nature of Israel works to ensure that most Arab Israelis will remain in poverty. This is only one of the consequences of the apartheid policies of an Israeli government that treats Palestinians in the occupied territories brutally and in violation of many international laws, including that against the occupation itself.
Political Zionism, the idea that the ethnic group comprised of Jewish persons has the right to violently displace the indigenous population of Palestine (Arabs, Christians and Jews) is inherently racist. It was recognized as such by most people until the Holocaust, which caused many people to accept the argument that a Jewish homeland was the only way to prevent another. Of course, it also served to make sure that Jews displaced by the war did not relocate in countries they were not wanted because of racist anti-Jewish sentiment rampant in many countries, including the US and UK. It is ironic that the majority of a people with a long history of discrimination against them support racism. The foundation of Israel is a racist assumption. It follows that anyone who accepts the premise is guilty of racism. That is one reason that many Jews have rejected Zionism, including all members of Neturei Karta, many members of Jewish Voice for Peace and many other Jewish organizations and individuals of conscience who have rejected the widespread belief that Israel is the birthright of all Jews and the only “democracy” in the Mideast.
Perhaps we should respect Grayson for his honesty, even though it doesn’t cost much since this type of racism remains unrecognized by most Americans. At the least, before we vilify him we should look at the fact that in all likelihood he is unaware that the assumption that Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state is racist. That is a belief that most Jews and fundamentalists Christians are taught to accept without question. To do so would invite anger and rejected by the group in which they invested much of their sense of identity. For Jews, speaking out against Israeli injustice often gets you labeled “self-hating,” while fundamentalist Christians might be driven from their churches or shunned. This can be the case even in some “progressive” churches in which somehow Jesus’ command that we treat everyone as brothers and sisters is believed not to apply to those who Israel considers its enemies.
What do we do when we admit that Grayson is a racist? Should we dismiss him along with all the other politicians who have proven to be less than advertised on some very important issues, while leading the action on others? We have done far too much of that, and as a result the vast majority of politicians will not tell us what they really think. Grayson has been a staunch opponent of some popular wars, but his support for Israel, which is pushing for war with Syria and Iran, makes him an unreliable ally in the peace movement. Each of us has to decide individually whether we can accept that one of our greatest allies in Congress on social justice issues for Americans is totally unwilling to recognize the same rights when it comes to Palestine. For those who choose to support him nonetheless, it is their moral duty not to overlook his racism but to challenge it at every opportunity.
IMPORTANT POSTSCRIPT: As I hope I made clear, I did not intend it to be a character attack on Congressman Grayson. I wrote this essay in the hope that the flap over his racism comments might stir up more than the usual Duopoly sniping we saw in the corporate media. My intent was to try and provoke a dialogue on the racist aspects of Zionism.
I have to apologize for my characterization of Grayson's relationship with AIPAC. I have been informed that the 2009 article by Max Blumenthal (the author of Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel) I cited to justify my labeling him an "unquestioning supporter of AIPAC" does not reflect his current political stance. A more recent article by MJ Rosenberg cites a quote from Grayson that clearly indicates he does not put the interests of Israel as expressed by its current right wing government and AIPAC over the interests of the US, especially when it comes to committing it to war. Speaking about how the recent rush to attack Syria was stopped, he said: