Death in Lebanon : Spinning an assassination....

25 November 2006.

  • Yesterday, Information Clearing House published an article entitled Syria is a convenient fallguy for Gemayel’s death in which Jonathan Cook took the liberty of calling attention to what should be the obvious fact that none of the journalists, including himself, who pontificate on the recent assassination of the Phalangist politician and Minister of Industry in the Lebanese coalition government, Pierre Gemayel, know for a fact who it was that lay behind the Mafia-style murder (unless, of course, they maintain unusually close connexions with the perpetrators). Unlike many of his colleagues, however, Mr Cook does not claim to know who did the deed, but he does offers a «few impolite thoughts» regarding who benefits from it. He points out that neither Syria nor Hezbollah (nor the Lebanese people, of course) stand to gain from the situation resulting from the assassination, which nudges Lebanon further to the brink of civil war (here, I cannot help but reflect over the fact that the US «intervention» has resulted in something that certainly resembles a civil war. There are those, of course, who claim that this is an unforeseen and undesired consequence of the invasion ; there are also those who believe in the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy). Which states then, do stand to gain from the assassination and its aftermath ? Mr Cook is not coy about indicating a possible answer :
    Conversely, civil war may pose serious threats to Syrian interests -- and offer significant benefits to Israel. If Hizbullah’s energies are seriously depleted in a civil war, Israel may be in a much better position to attack Lebanon again. Almost everyone in Israel is agreed that the Israeli army is itching to settle the score with Hizbullah in another round of fighting. This way it may get the next war it wants on much better terms; or Israel may be able to fight a proxy war against Hizbullah by aiding the Shiite group’s opponents. Certainly one of the main goals of Israel’s bombing campaign over the summer, when much of Lebanon’s infrastructure was destroyed, appeared to be to provoke such a civil war. It was widely reported at the time that Israel’s generals hoped that the devastation would provoke the Christian, Sunni and Druze communities to rise up against Hizbullah.
    The Litani River remains, no doubt, a major (if not the ultimate) strategic goal for Israeli expansionism ; a civil war in Lebanon could, perhaps be perceived by its strategists as providing yet another opportunity to attain that for which the Israeli state has been straining but never quite achieved (despite a 20-year occupation of southern Lebanon) during the whole of its 60 years of existence. In any event, Mr Cook's voice is one to which we should be wise to listen ; below the response I posted to the International Clearing House thread and to StumbleUpon, upon reading his article :

Somehow, I doubt that we shall be given the opportunity to read Jonathan Cook any time soon in the New York Times, for example, or the Washington Post, or, for that matter, in the Independent or the Guardian. But we very much need to hear more from him, and of his carefully reasoned, dispassionate analyses of the latest spin on the latest atrocity taking place in Southwest Asia. We are thus all indebted to Information Clearing House for publishing Mr Cook's work....


Eye on Pyongyang - APEC meets in Ha Noi....

18 November 2006.

  • This week a series of meetings have been taking place in Vietnam's capital Ha Noi under the auspices of an organisation known as APEC, an acronym for Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. Reports from the meeting of the heads of state of the 21 states that are members of this forum indicate that most of the talk taking place there concerns another state, both Asian and Pacific, but whose voice is not allowed to be heard in the forum. Ironically, the recent history of that state, North Korea, resembles to a great degree that of the state, Vietnam, hosting the forum this year, in that both of these states were subjected to a colonial war on the part of a United States that intended to gather all the remnants of the Japanese empire that collapsed in 1945 in its own far-flung empire. The results of these two wars were disappointing to the leadership of the United States - the first ended in 1953 with a divided Korean peninsula, the second in 1975 with a unified Vietnam. But for reasons which would require far more space to analyse than that available here, successive US administrations have found the first defeat even more difficult to accept than the second, which has lead to the fact that even today, more than 53 years after the armistice ending major hostilities in Korea was signed in 1953, a peace treaty finally bringing the war to a formal end is yet to be concluded between the United States and the Democratic Republic of Korea. (Readers with good memories might here observe that a peace treaty between Russia and Japan formally ending the hostilities of WW II has never been signed, despite the passage of more than 60 years, but all must agree that relations between these two countries proceed on a far different basis from that which governs those obtaining between the US and the DPRK.) Given the total success in the case of North Korea that the extreme demonisation of opponents so characteristic of US psychological warfare has enjoyed, Stephen Gowans' article reviewing the history of the conflict, published first on his blog What's Left under the title Understanding North Korea, and republished by Global Research in an article with the same title, provides a necessary antidote to the «common [lack of] knowledge» concerning that state and its history. But as the Chinese saying goes, 良药苦口, and I fear that many of my readers will find it extremely difficult to swallow the bitter pill of this knowledge, no matter how salubrious its effects would be upon their view of the world. Here below, in any event, the response I posted to StumbleUpon after reading Mr Gowans' article :

What do you know about North Korea - aside from, of course, that it is the very epitome of inhumanity and repression, the linchpin that holds the «Axis of Evil» in place ? You've learned - unfortunately, somewhat post festum - to be suspicious of the US administration's picture of the situation in Iraq or Afghanistan, and you realise that the image of Vietnam propagated by another US administration as an excuse to make war on that country and that region, with approximately three million premature deaths as a result, was false. But when King George and his loyal courtiers - loyal to whom and to what, it might be asked, but alas, all too often is not - present their view of North Korea, it remains almost completely unchallenged. Who remembers that the US war in Korea was, just like the war in Vietnam which started at the same time (1945, under French auspices) but which was, unlike that in Korea which ended - at least for the time being - in 1953, to continue for another three decades), part of an attempt to pick up the pieces of the erstwhile Japanese empire that WW II had brought to an end and incorporate them in a new, larger US empire ? Stephen Gowans, a Canadian writer and activist, is to be commended for publishing this brief but well-researched review of Korean history from 1945 on his blog, and Global Research for bringing it to the attention of a wider readership....


Bush's East Asian baby, or how to build a nuclear bomb by remote control...

6 November 2006.
  • Given my obvious shortcomings as a theologian (and the difficulties of adducing evidence on the matter), I am reluctant to pontificate upon the adequacy of the view attributed to the 3rd century religious reformer, known to us only by his title Mani, of the universe as the transitory result of an attack from the realm of darkness on the realm of light, created by the Living Spirit, an emanation of the light realm, out of the mixture of light and darkness. But as a guide to human affairs, views which postulate a dichotomy between an Axis of Good on the one side, and one of Evil on the other, are bound to lead us astray, no matter on which side of the divide we happen to find ourselves. As always, and not least in our times, this Manichaean view of human conflict is promoted mainly by those who have most to hide themselves ; thus a certain George W Bush has felt it incumbent upon himself to pronounce upon what he (or rather his speechwriter) has dubbed the «Axis of Evil». One of the charter members of this so-called «axis» is North Korea, a country almost totally destroyed by a US-led war from 1950 - 1953 and with which the latter power has been unwilling to conclude a treaty of peace, despite the passage of more than half a century. Recently, this country, under constant threat of military attack by a superpower whose nuclear arsenal includes tens of thousands of weapons and whose military budget is greater than that of the rest of the world combined, had the temerity to conduct a test of what it claimed was a nuclear weapon. All the Chicken Littles of the world, both the sincere who are concerned with the real threats to our existence, and the less sincere, who are very selective concerning which threats they allow to exercise them, threw their hands into the air, crying that the world had become a much more insecure place and that the United Nations Organisation(yes, indeed, I kid you not - indeed, His Excellency John Bolton, whose dislike of and contempt for the organisation were his primary qualifications for his appointment as US ambassador to it, led the choir), must do something about this disgusting breach of etiquette. I briefly addressed this anomaly on this page in a review, supra, of Gregory Elich's Global Research article last week ; the publication of Tim Beal's carefully documented North Korea's Nuclear Test—Bush's Godchild? in the latest number of Japan Focus has provided me with the occasion to return to the matter in a posting to StumbleUpon, which I take the liberty of reproducing, infra. Japan Focus is to be thanked for publishing this article detailing one particular aspect of US foreign policy under the reign of King George on the eve of the US 2006 mid-term elections; would that that portion of the US electorate which is allowed by the guardians of order to cast a ballot would read it before doing so ! But alas, I fear the Living Spirit has not yet progressed that far....

Readers who have forced their way through my review last week of Gregory Elich's Why Bush is seeking confrontation with North Korea are aware that, despite assiduous efforts towards this end, I find it difficult to share the Manichaean view of the world with USA in the role of Light and North Korea in that of Darkness that for the obvious reasons is de rigeur when discussing why the former is allowed to possess thousands of nuclear warheads and a military doctrine which insists on the «right» to first use and «pre-emptive war», while the latter is excoriated for perhaps possessing as many as five warheads and a doctrine which permits their use only if the country is under attack. Alas, Tim Beal's carefully researched Japan Focus article does nothing to reduce my skepticism in this respect - quite the contrary. As Mr Beal, Senior Lecturer at Victoria University in Wellington, points out,
... Since it is a small country targeted by the world's superpower, which, though hemorrhaging and perhaps in relative decline, still possesses such formidable political, economic and military power that no country, or international civil servant for that matter, dares openly speak up, even if they so desired. Politicians have hastened to express moral outrage even if, and perhaps especially if, they come from countries which have many nuclear weapons and have conducted tests. Journalists have been having a field day, many delighting in the opportunity to write lurid stories unencumbered by the need to check facts and qualify opinions. Under the circumstances, it is more necessary than ever before to keep a clear head and try to disentangle fact from fantasy, to unearth what has been going on, and what is likely to happen.
The only thing I should like to add to Mr Elich's and Mr Beal's analyses is that the present US policy vis-a-vis North Korea does not, it should be noted, aim at regime change only in that country, but also, and not least, in South Korea, where one of the most important US policy objectives is to discredit the Kim/Roh «Sunshine Policy» towards the North and bring the country back to the state of a loyal US vassal it found itself in before Kim Daejung's election to the presidency in December 1997. To the United States, North Korea is undoubtedly far more important as a tool for keeping South Korea under its thumb than it is in its own right....


War and civil courage in our times....

5 November 2006.

  • Seldom do I find myself disturbed by articles I read in the press or online, but I must confess that I found Elizabeth de la Vega's article on Ricky Clousing, Move Over G.I. Joe and Han Solo : Sgt. Ricky Clousing, Peace Action Hero, published a few days ago on Tom Engelhardt's Tom Dispatch, deeply disturbing. To summarise, Mr Clousing is a 24 year-old man who, after joining the US military after the 11 September 2001 attacks and undergoing intensive language training found himself posted to Iraq as an interrogator. On patrol there he experienced an event, hardly uncommon, which seems to have marked his young life indelibly :
    Ricky was on patrol when he saw a boy, "probably 18 years old, a small maybe high-school age kid" turn down a road his unit was attempting to secure. The teenager, Ricky said, was quite visibly terrified at the sight of "a whole bunch of Americans with big weapons" staring him in the face. He started turning the car around, but didn't get very far. This is how Ricky described what happened next:

      One of the soldiers in the turret of the humvee behind me just opened up fire on the machine gun on the vehicle. As the vehicle was turning away, all I heard above my head was "pop, pop, pop, pop." This was my first deployment, my first combat experience was that moment right then, and just the sound of machine guns going off over my head. He popped about five or six rounds in the side of the vehicle. Myself and two of the other guys ran over to the vehicle, smashed the window, and pulled the guy out to provide first aid on him… I was looking down at this kid who had just been shot in the stomach for no reason really -- he was trying to leave…I was still just standing there in shock, looking down at this kid, and he looked right up at me. And his mouth was foaming. His stomach was falling out in his hands… I was looking down at this kid, this young boy who was just trying to drive around town and took a wrong turn and tried to go the other direction, was shot at and killed, and I'm looking down at him now. And we made eye contact for about five seconds, and he just looked at me with the most empty, terrified look in his face that will never leave me in my whole life I'm sure.

    That Iraqi boy died on the way to the hospital. I think the boy in Ricky Clousing died that day as well, but what an extraordinary man he has since become. Deciding he would be haunted forever if he kept silent about such an egregious violation of the rules of engagement, Sgt. Clousing notified the unit's Platoon Sergeant, who did not "take kindly" to his advice.

    Further attempts to take up the matter with his superiors led to his being variously advised to effect a discharge from the US army by saying he was gay, or claiming he was suffering from PTSD, or filing as a conscientious objector, none of which, he felt applied to him, or at least avoid another tour in Iraq by serving in the US. But neither was that an acceptable alternative :
    I felt that my involvement in the army, whether it be directly or indirectly, whether in Iraq or training guys to go to Iraq, I was still that piece of machine in the system that was still allowing this war to take place and still supporting that. My actions, whether or not they were on the front line or back safely at home, were still part of the body of the machine that's occupying [Iraq]. So I ultimately felt that the only thing I could do was to leave, so I packed my stuff last June and I went AWOLI felt that my involvement in the army, whether it be directly or indirectly, whether in Iraq or training guys to go to Iraq, I was still that piece of machine in the system that was still allowing this war to take place and still supporting that. My actions, whether or not they were on the front line or back safely at home, were still part of the body of the machine that's occupying [Iraq]. So I ultimately felt that the only thing I could do was to leave, so I packed my stuff last June and I went AWOL.

    Mr Clousing turned himself in on 11 August 2006 and is currently serving a three-month sentence in a military brig. Why I was so disturbed by this article and what this particular incident has to say about the nature of war and civil courage in our times I leave to the reader to decide, but this is the letter (with one minor modification) I sent to Tom Englehardt (and posted to StumbleUpon) after reading Ms de la Vega's article :

What the hell, Tom ! I was beginning to become, if not comfortable with, at least inured to the cynicism and misanthropy, in particular with respect to your country, which recent events have contributed so richly to calling forth and maintaining in my mental life. Now you, Ms de la Vega, and in particular, Ricky Clousing, bust it all up and show that there do exist alternatives to cynicism and misanthropy, even if they do not seem to be so popular. For some reason this just makes the whole thing worse - the fact that alternatives to «le meilleur monde possible» as defined by Bush/Cheney and their ilk do exist makes the coming catastrophe all the harder to view with equanimity....


Vestigia terrent, or the 2006 US mid-term elections....

5 November 2006.

  • Under the timely title The 2006 U.S. Midterms: Another Stolen Election?, Michael Keefer, professor of English at the University of Guelph, has published on Global Research's valuable website what he himself calls «a very selective list of recent books, articles and documentary films which assess and analyze the evidence of flagrant Republican breaches of the most fundamental principles of democracy, together with the prospects for a repetition and extension of these fraudulent practices in the 2006 and subsequent elections». He divides the items into three categories : «Critical Studies», including «exemplary work by Steven Freeman (the book he co-authored with Joel Bleifuss is, in my opinion, the single most important of these studies), as well as work by other major contributors to an emerging understanding of the theft of the 2004 election», films «including one by the prize-winning director Dorothy Fadiman, which bring together documentary footage and illuminating interviews with election analysts», and, a «short list of items anticipating Republican fraud in the midterm election offers a representative cross-section of current concerns—including evidence of further massive purges of voters’ lists, and evidence from unimpeachable sources that the touch-screen machines manufactured by two of the major suppliers of voting machines, Diebold and Sequoia, have been designed to facilitate electoral fraud». I leave it to readers to judge for themselves whether they find the documentation listed by Professor Keefer (16 items in the first category, 7 in the second, and 12 in the third) convincing. For my Swedish readers, let me point out that my subjective impression is that, unlike the situation (hitherto) obtaining here, voting procedures in the United States seem designed to make voting in elections as cumbersome and difficult as possible, in particular for certain categories of voters. Thus, to take one example of many, US elections take place on a ordinary working day, with predictable effects upon voting rates in neighbourhoods with few polling places, where people can be forced to stand in line for hours to cast their ballets. That such conditions prevail in poorer districts seems more a matter of «Intelligent Design», than the result of random processes. But I have not made a scientific study of this matter, so my views, as noted above, can only be characterised as subjective. Their nature, at any rate, should be abundantly clear to any classically educated person who reads my brief response to Professor Keefer's article, as posted to StumbleUpon :

Who can predict the future ? Surprises can always occur, but our best guide to the future remains our experience of the past. In this particular case, as Quintus Horatius Flaccus put it in translating Aisopos' fable of the lion and the fox into his elegant Latin : «Vestigia terrent»....


«Bumbling» one's way to power and profits in Iraq...

4 November 2006.

  • Yesterday, the Asian Times took the unusual step for this journal of publishing a leader (editorial) entitled Iraq: Bush has a plan, and it's working, the object of which seems to be to counter that self-serving commonplace of mass media spin (not merely in the US, but here in Europe as well), which maintains that the motives of US foreign policy are basically benevolent, but that implementation, as in all human endeavours, can sometimes leave something to be desired - the «bumbling benevolent giant» view of US foreign policy. To the editors of the A-Times, the wellsprings of US policy in Iraq have little to do with the pure water of democracy, but with another and more viscous liquid :
    A strategy of fomenting chaos makes perfect sense in a twisted sort of way: a stable, autonomous Iraq means oil will be pumped, bringing down international crude prices, and that's the last thing the Bush administration's backers want. Who are the administration's backers, and who has a hotline to the presidency, via Vice President Dick Cheney? Big Oil.
    «Consider», the paper asks its readers, «these well-known facts»:

  • Cheney was formerly chief executive officer of oil-services company Halliburton, which, incidentally, was found by a 2003 Pentagon audit to have overcharged the US government by US$61 million for delivering gasoline to Iraq.

  • Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice sat on Chevron's board of directors from 1991 to 2001, and Chevron named an oil tanker after her.

  • James A Baker III, secretary of state for Bush's father and now "fixer" for the Bush family, has been appointed co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, charged with advising Bush Jr on future Iraq policy. His law firm, Baker Botts, was ranked by Who's Who Legal last year as "Global Oil and Gas Law Firm of the Year". His clients include the royal family of Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries kingpin Saudi Arabia.

  • Bush himself was a Texas oilman, though not a very successful one. Ever heard of Bush's company, Arbusto? Probably not. Arbusto was going busto before it eventually ended up in the hands of Harken Energy in 1986. Harken gave Bush a seat on the board, some stock options and a $120,000 consulting contract. The energy industry pumped $2.8 million into Bush's 2000 campaign.
  • As the A-Times points out, these facts are «well-known», and should come as a surprise to no one whose knowledge of US politics is not limited to Fox News or newspaper headlines. But aside from the obvious economic benefits to the «decider» and his courtiers of US policy in Iraq, which has been less than «benevolent» to those Iraqis who made up the over half a million «excess deaths» which more than three years of warfare have brought to their country, there are other considerations, both foreign and domestic, which, in my judgement, certainly played vital roles in the decision to pursue an illegal and unnecessary war. Below, my response to the leader, in a letter to the A-Times (which, nota bene, has a new address for such correspondence - writeto@atimes.com) - which I took the liberty of copying to StumbleUpon :

To the editor :

Whether or not the present plan, which the A-Times leader describes in some detail, is Plan A or Plan B, the fact of the matter is that those who determine US policy profit from it immensely, not only economically, as there pointed out, but also politically, as the war - and in particular the «failure» in the war - «justifies» ever more extensive limitations on the liberties of not only foreigners (who as «enemy combatants» have «no rights which the white man was bound to respect»), but also to citizens of the United States itself. The right of habeas corpus is no longer a given, and the vast domestic prison industry - a «growth industry» whose staying power makes IT development look like a bubble and which incarcerates nearly one per cent of the US population - is shadowed by a secret chain of foreign detention centres, in which, presumably (we are not allowed to know), private enterprise plays, as it does at home, an ever more important role. Admittedly, the Bush regime has not succeeded in bring democracy to Iraq, but it must be recognised that has done a brilliant job of exporting it from the United States. All this, not to mention the benefit to the Imperial power (a k a the «Unitary Executive») of a classic divide et impera strategy which, in dividing not Gallia but Mesopotamia in partes tres, removes a hinder to the rule of the chosen regional satrap, Israel, and makes possible a move against the one remaining obstacle to total dominance, Iran....