Wednesday, January 5, 2011
Posted by Joel Wendland on Political Affairs:
Here is a summary from Veterans for Common Sense:
WikiLeaks Reveals a Smoking Gun - U.S. Ambassador Gave "Green Light" to Iraq in July 1990, Starting Gulf War
The world finally knows more of the truth about how the Gulf War started. A secret July 25, 1990, State Department Cable released by Wikileaks shows how U.S. Ambassador April Glaspie told Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein the U.S. had "no position" on the Iraq - Kuwait border dispute, where Kuwait was allegedly stealing oil from Iraq. At the time, the U.S. supported Iraq's recently ended war with Iran (1980 - 1988) that had ruined Iraq's economy. On August 2, 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait. On January 17, 1991, prompted by a massive propaganda campaign, the U.S. began bombing Iraq - and never stopped. More than 20 years later, the war continues with deadly and devastating consequences for Kuwait, Iraq, and the U.S.
Based on the State Department cable, the facts are clear: in 1990, then-President George H. W. Bush's administration, failed to denounce Iraq's intended military action against in Kuwait in July 1990. The silence encouraged Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein to invade Kuwait in August 1990. The Gulf War was left unfinished for thirteen years, with an embargo, sanctions, and "no-fly" zones.
By 2001, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell said Iraq was contained. In 2003, then-President George W. Bush lied about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction and launched a second invasion. Now, 20 years later, the U.S. has seen our economy nearly crushed with trillions in war debt. Nearly one million new, non-fatal casualties have sought medical care as VA patient, according to VA documents obtained by VCS using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
The Glaspie Cable must go down in history as the smoking gun of failed diplomacy leading to 20 years of massive death and destruction. VCS encourages veterans to share the Glaspie Cable with fellow veterans, reporters, and legislators. We must learn the lesson from this tragic war that greater transparency is needed in how our nation operates overseas in order to reduce the chance for war.
Βy Martin Hickman, The Independent
Shame, vanity, laziness and the desire to fit in are all to be used as tools of Government policy by ministers acting on the advice of a new psychology unit in Whitehall.
The first glimpse into the confidential work of the Cabinet Office's Behavioural Insight Team came on Tuesday when ministers suggested members of the public should be able to make small charitable donations when using cashpoints and their credit cards.
On Friday, the Cabinet Office again followed the unit's advice in proposing that learner drivers be opted in to an organ donation scheme when they apply for a licence, and also floated the idea of creating a lottery to encourage people to take tests to prove they have quit smoking.
These initiatives are examples of the application of mental techniques which, while seemingly paradoxical to the Coalition's goal of a smaller state, are likely to become a common feature of Government policy.
The public will have "social norms" heavily emphasised to them in an attempt to increase healthy eating, voluntary work and tax gathering. Appeals will be made to "egotism" in a bid to foster individual support for the Big Society, while much greater use will be made of default options to select benevolent outcomes for passive citizens – exemplified by the organ donation scheme.
A clue to the new approach came early in the life of the Coalition Government, in a sentence from its May agreement: "Our Government will be a much smarter one, shunning the bureaucratic levers of the past and finding intelligent ways to encourage, support and enable people to make better choices for themselves," it read.
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, established the seven-strong unit in July, since when the Government has declined to divulge all its members and the full extent of its work. However, The Independent has learnt its guiding principles and some of the projects that have used its favoured techniques.
One experiment involved Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs (HMRC) secretly changing the wording of tens of thousands of tax letters, leading to the collection of an extra £200m in income tax.
Other ideas tried elsewhere that have been studied by the unit include reducing recidivism by changing public perception of ex-prisoners, and cutting health costs by encouraging relatives to look after family members in "patient hotels".
The unit draws inspiration from the Chicago University professor Richard H Thaler and his colleague Cass Sunstein, whose book Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness is required reading for Conservative frontbenchers.
Professor Thaler, who advises the UK team, suggests that instead of forcing people to behave more virtuously through legislation, governments can guide them in the right direction using psychology. Ministers should become, in his jargon, "choice architects", making virtuous choices more attractive than unvirtuous ones. In his books he quotes the example of automatically opting workers into company pensions to raise the amount saved for old age, which will come into force in the UK in 2012 having been enacted by Labour. Another is from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport, where flies were etched on to urinals to give men something to aim at, reducing spillages in the gent's toilets.
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Βy: Henry A. Giroux, t r u t h o u t
By eviscerating public services and reducing them to a network of farmed-out private providers, we have begun to dismantle the fabric of the state. As for the dust and powder of individuality: it resembles nothing so much as Hobbes's war of all against all, in which life for many people has once again become solitary, poor and more than a little nasty.(1) -Tony Judt
Responding in 1940 to the unfolding catastrophes perpetrated by the rise of fascism in Germany, Walter Benjamin, a German Jewish philosopher and literary critic, wrote his now famous "Thesis on the Philosophy of History." In the ninth thesis, Benjamin comments on Paul Klee's painting "Angelus Novus." He writes:
"Angelus Novus" shows an angel looking as though he is about to move away from something he is fixedly contemplating. His eyes are staring, his mouth is open, his wings are spread. This is how one pictures the angel of history. His face is turned toward the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe which keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage and hurls it in front of his feet. The Angel would like to stay, awaken the dead and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm is blowing from Paradise; it has got caught in his wings with such violence that the angel can no longer close them. The storm irresistibly propels into the future to which his back is turned, while the pile of debris before him grows skyward. This storm is what we call progress.(2)
The meaning and significance of Benjamin's angel of history has been the subject of varied interpretations by philosophers, literary critics, and others.(3) Yet, it still offers us a powerful lesson about a set of historical conditions marked by a "catastrophe that keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage."(4) In this instance, catastrophe both undermined any hope of democracy in Europe and gave rise to the dark forces of a brutal authoritarianism and the industrialization of death. In the midst of such a crisis, Benjamin's angel is frozen in time, paralyzed by a storm called "progress" that pulls him into the future without being able to "awaken the dead" or mend the catastrophe at his feet.
For Benjamin, the storm of progress was a mode of modernity gone askew and a deceit that made a claim on happiness rather than the horrors of destruction, constituting a set of conditions that unleashed a barrage of unimaginable carnage and suffering in the 1930s and 1940s. The utopian belief in technologically assisted social improvement had given way to a dystopian project of mad violence that would inevitably produce the context for Benjamin to take his own life in 1940. According to Benjamin, the horrors of the past made it difficult to believe in progress as a claim on and history as a narrative of the advancement of human civilization. In fact, as Zygmunt Bauman has pointed out, the overdetermined force of history was not just at stake in Benjamin's narrative, but also the notion that "we are pulled forward by future happiness - [when] in fact, [as Benjamin noted], we are pushed from behind by the horror of destruction we keep perpetrating on the way."(5) Within this narrative, Benjamin's angel of history would be at home today And, yet, even in the darkest times, there were people brave enough to struggle for a more progressive understanding of history and a more promising democratic future, waging that the catastrophes of the past and the false claims of a history propelled by predetermined laws and order building imperatives could be prevented through a kind of memory work and politics in which such atrocities were acknowledged and condemned as part of a larger project of freedom, collective struggle and social justice.
Like the angel of history in Benjamin's rendering of Klee's painting, the American public is surrounded by another catastrophe of history visibly invisible in the horrible suffering produced by two unnecessary wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the current economic recession exacerbating already high levels of poverty, homelessness and joblessness now spreading like a poisonous blight across the American landscape. But unlike the forces constricting Benjamin's angel, the storm that pins the wings of the current diminutive angel of history is more intense, more paralyzing in its hyper-materialistic visions and more privatizing in its definition of agency. The historical forces producing this storm and its accompanying catastrophes are incorrigibly blind to the emergence of a "pulverized, atomized society spattered with the debris of broken inter-human bonds and their eminently frail and breakable substitutes."(6) This is best exemplified in the now infamous and cruel tenets of a harsh neoliberalism stated without apology by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s in their mutual insistence that "government is the problem not the solution" and "there is no such thing as society."
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