Lecture at McGill University
Friday, October 31, 2008
Lecture at McGill University
World war or world peace is the blunt choice that will face either Barack Obama or John McCain when one of them is elected president of the United States on Tuesday, November 4, 2008.
For a major eruption of violence to be averted, the new president must deal positively with the reappearance of Russia on the world stage, the emergence of China as an economic force, and the aspirations of all the nations on earth for a decent and secure way of life.
Making matters much more dangerous are the ongoing financial crisis, along with what appears to be the start of a worldwide economic recession of as yet undetermined depth and duration.
It is Europe, not the U.S., from which proposals are emerging for a transformative approach to the most compelling issues. But will it be enough?
THE DISASTROUS PRESIDENCY OF GEORGE W. BUSH
In December 2000, at the time the U.S. Supreme Court was intervening in the disputed vote count in Florida to name Republican George W. Bush president over Democrat Al Gore, the stock market began to crash. The "dot.com" bubble, based largely on foreign investment in internet companies and technology stocks, deflated. By the time Bush was inaugurated in January 2001, signs of a recession were appearing.
This did not prevent the Bush administration from initiating a $450 billion tax cut for the upper income brackets that Congress approved in March 2001. A similar cut was subsequently enacted in May 2003.
On September 11, 2001, the World Trade Center's Twin Towers in New York City were attacked by airplanes flying into them, followed that morning by an air attack on the Pentagon in Washington, D.C.
Terrorists from Al Qaeda, an organization of Islamic extremists associated with the Afghan mujaheddin, and a Saudi figure, Osama bin Laden, alleged to be their leader, were blamed. The wealthy bin Laden family had close ties to the U.S. and the Bush family.
Within a few weeks, the Bush administration pulled a battle plan from the shelves of the Pentagon and invaded Afghanistan. The object was to wrest control of that nation from the Taliban, supposedly Al Qaeda collaborators. A new U.S. Asian land war had begun.
In March 2003, the Bush administration added to the Afghan action the second invasion of Iraq in the past thirteen years, following the "Shock and Awe" aerial attack. The assaults on Afghanistan and Iraq, with torture of prisoners, use of depleted uranium weapons, and killing of civilians, was methodical and brutal.
Americans who had opposed the Vietnam War in the 1960s and 70s were appalled at how history was repeating itself. The public was subjected to a relentless barrage of pro-war propaganda by square-jawed military talking heads
Behind the scenes were the international financial and oil interests who stood to benefit from the removal of Iraqi president Saddam Hussein as an independent actor in the Middle East. Financiers like David Rockefeller, who had founded the Trilateral Commission and was one of the "internationalist" leaders of what had come to be called the "New World Order," tended to remain in the shadows, but their presence was palpable.
Rockefeller had reportedly expressed his world view in a statement at a 1991 meeting of the Bilderberg Group:
"The supra-national sovereignty of an intellectual elite and world bankers is surely preferable to the national auto-determination practiced in past centuries."
With respect to most of the U.S. military actions after World War II, especially the ones after Ronald Reagan was elected president in 1980, an argument could be made that the internationalists were using the U.S. military as their personal global police force.
Even so, the Neocons—"new conservatives"—who had rushed to the forefront after September 11, 2001, working chiefly through Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice-President Richard Cheney, seemed to be a more radical element than the officials who had been in charge during the Clinton years, when the U.S. and NATO went to war against Serbia. Many of the Neocons were Jewish, with strong ties to Israel.
In 1997 the Neocons had created the Project for a New American Century, which advocated a new invasion of Iraq, and published a statement that positive change might result from a "catalyzing event—a new Pearl Harbor." Later this was interpreted as possibly having foreshadowed the 9/11 attacks.
President George W. Bush justified the Iraq invasion by claiming that the regime of Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. Later this claim proved to be a lie.
To many the attack was a simple act of aggression. Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the U.N. said of the invasion on September 16, 2004, "I have indicated it was not in conformity with the U.N. charter. From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal." The U.S. paid no attention to Annan's misgivings.
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Americans are addicted to spectacle, especially those involving absurdity, sex, violence and the icons of violence. Which makes America's tiny "Nazi Party" fringe a magnet for TV cameras anywhere it shows up in public. We like our bad guys so blatantly labeled a four-year-old can read them.
The formal name of the largest Nazi organization in America is the American National Socialist Workers Party (ANSWP). Of course having the word "socialist" in its name plays so neatly into the corporate government of America's hands, one wonders just who is funding ANSWP's glossy magazine, or National Commander Bill White's dozens of radio broadcasts and appearances around the country. Then too, ANSWP marchers carrying signs reading "What Would Hitler Do?" almost too conveniently fit the bill in a nation where anti-hate is a big and hyperbolic business.
For instance, according to the famous Morris Dees, whose Southern Poverty Law Center pulls in some $40 million a year mainly from the hate crime industry, my home state of Virginia has 31 organized hate groups. Now as much as I have criticized Republican Virginia in print as one of the stupidest and cruelest damned places in America, and though the ANSWP commander Bill White lives in Roanoke, Virginia, even I don't believe there are anywhere near 31 organized hate groups here, and certainly none that are beating people in some unseen alley. Hell, ANSWP by its own count, presently has 227 members nationwide, and picks up maybe 30 more virtual members monthly via the Internet. Not too many people get beaten up in alleys by Internet Nazi wannabes who think Swastika bling is cool looking stuff.
But when it comes to beating folks up, this country has nearly a million people legally authorized to beat, kidnap at gunpoint (arrest) and kill if deemed necessary, a large portion of which exercise the first two of these rights thousands of times daily. At last count in 2002 America had 14,254 law enforcement agencies employing 675,734 sworn officers and 294,854 civilians.
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The next president is likely to face a major international crisis within his first nine months in office, according to a senior group of business advisers to the defense secretary.
Accordingly, the Defense Business Board says the new administration should set a goal to win Senate confirmation of key Pentagon posts in the first 30 days of the inauguration, in order to have a full team in place to deal with such a contingency.
Michael Bayer, chairman of the Defense Business Board and veteran Pentagon consultant, this week called for the next administration to move quickly to avoid encountering civilian leadership vacuums that often accompany political transitions.
"Prepare for a likely first 270 days crisis," Bayer warns in an Oct. 23 briefing. "Too many presidents were ill prepared for this."
Joe Biden, the Democratic ticket's vice presidential nominee, drew criticism earlier this week for suggesting that should he and Barack Obama prevail in the Nov. 4 election, U.S. adversaries will mount an attack of some kind to test the new president.
Bayer's briefing, presented yesterday to a public meeting of the Defense Business Board, recommends the future president elect and his advisers "set aside time in transition to identify the planning, gravitas and interagency process necessary to respond to a likely first-270-day crisis."
For months, the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the service chiefs and the Joint Staff have been preparing for the first wartime transfer of Pentagon political authority in four decades. In addition to identifying defense policy issues for an incoming to understand, the military is also on high operational alert, according to a Joint Staff official.
A key goal for the next administration, according to Bayer, must be to fill civilian posts requiring Senate confirmation as soon as possible.
The incoming administration "must not wait until June" to get assistant secretaries confirmed and October for deputy assistant secretaries to be Senate confirmed, his briefing states.
"Need a very concerted, well-defined process to have top 3 tiers ready to go to Senate confirmation in first 30 days," Bayer recommends.
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But along came 2004…when Chomsky said stuff like this: "Anyone who says 'I don't care if Bush gets elected' is basically telling poor and working people in the country, 'I don't care if your lives are destroyed'." And like this: "Despite the limited differences [between Bush and Kerry] both domestically and internationally, there are differences. In a system of immense power, small differences can translate into large outcomes."
Standing alongside Chomsky was Howard Zinn, saying stuff like this: "Kerry, if he will stop being cautious, can create an excitement that will carry him into the White House and, more important, change the course of the nation."
Fast forward to 2008 and Chomsky sez: "I would suggest voting against McCain, which means voting for Obama without illusions." And once again, Howard Zinn is in agreement: "Even though Obama does not represent any fundamental change, he creates an opening for a possibility of change." (Two word rejoinder: Bill Clinton)
This strategy of choosing an alleged "lesser evil" because he/she might be influenced by some mythical "popular movement" would be naïve if put forth by a high school student. Professors Chomsky and Zinn know better. If it's incremental change they want, why not encourage their many readers to vote for Ralph Nader or Cynthia McKinney? The classic (read: absurd) reply to that question is: "Because Nader or McKinney can't win."
Of course they can't win if everyone who claims to agree with them inexplicably votes for Obama instead. Paging Alice: You're wanted down the goddamned rabbit hole.
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Today in history is another black day in the Palestinian history.
1. On October 29, 1948, when Israeli brigades captured the village of Safsaf. The known details of the massacre come to us via several contemporary second-hand Zionist reports and via Arab oral history. Yosef Nachmani, a senior officer in the Haganah (and later the director of the Jewish National Fund in Eastern Galilee), recorded in his diary what he was told by Immanuel Friedman, a representative of the Minority Affairs ministry:
In Safsaf, after … the inhabitants had raised a white flag, the [soldiers] collected and separated the men and women, tied the hands of fifty-sixty fellahin [peasants] and shot and killed them and buried them in a pit. Also, they raped several women… (quoted in Zertal, 2005, p. 171; see also Morris, 2005, p. 500).
Moshe Erem reported on the massacre to a meeting of the Mapam Political Committee but his words were censored from the minutes. According to the notes taken by another person present, Erem spoke of:
Safsaf 52 men tied together with a rope. Pushed down a well and shot. 10 killed. Women pleaded for mercy. 3 cases of rape . . . . A girl of 14 raped. Another four killed (Morris, 2004, p. 500).
These accounts in broad detail are supported by Palestinian witnesses who told their stories to historians.
An unnamed Israeli soldier told this version: "The first wave of conquerors killed about 80 to 100 Arabs, women and children. The children they killed by breaking their heads with sticks. There was not a house without dead."
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There was no mention of loyalty and friendship last Monday. Merkel stood in the glass-roofed entrance hall of one of the German parliament's office buildings in Berlin and prepared her audience of roughly 1,000 businesspeople from all across Germany for the foreseeable consequences of the financial crisis. It was a speech filled with concealed accusations and dark warnings.
Merkel talked about a "distribution of risk at everyone's expense" and the consequences for the "economic situation in the coming months and possibly even years." Most of all, she made it clear who she considers the true culprit behind the current plight. "The German government pointed out the problems early on," said the chancellor, whose proposals to impose tighter international market controls failed repeatedly because of US opposition. "Some things can be done at the national level," she said, "but most things have to be handled internationally."
Merkel had never publicly criticized the United States this harshly and unapologetically. In this regard, she enjoys the wholehearted support of her coalition government partner, the center-left Social Democrats (SPD). In a speech before Germany's parliament, the Bundestag, Finance Minister Peer Steinbrück of the SPD spoke of the end of the United States as a "superpower of the global financial system."
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