The truth about American politics is this: disguised by the theatrics of squabbling Democrats and Republicans, Washington governs according to limits prescribed by a fixed and narrow consensus. The two main parties collaborate in preserving that consensus. Doing so requires declaring out-of-bounds anything even remotely resembling a fundamental critique of how power gets exercised or wealth distributed.
Barack Obama has two serious leak problems.
One is a real leak — of oil from the bowels of the Earth into the Gulf of Mexico and onto the shores of the Gulf States. The other is a metaphoric leak — of information from the vast reservoir of secrecy our military and its wars have become.
Dishonesty, the notion of “too big to fail” and Bacevich’s consensus are at the core of both leak problems.
Kevin Neish of Victoria, British Columbia, didn’t know he was a celebrity until he was about to board a flight from Istanbul to Ottawa. “This Arab woman wearing a beautiful outfit suddenly ran up to me crying, ‘It’s you! From Arab TV! You’re famous!’” he recalls with a laugh. “I didn’t know what she was talking about, but she told me, ‘I saw you flipping through the Israeli commando’s book! It’s being aired over and over!’”
A soft-spoken teacher and former civilian engineer with the Canadian Department of Defense, Neish realized then that a video taken by an Arab TV cameraman in the midst of the Israeli assault on the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza of him flipping through a booklet had been transmitted before the Israelis blocked all electronic signals from the flotilla. The booklet had pictures and profiles of all the passengers, and he’d found it in the backpack of an Israeli Defense Force commando.
Neish, 53, was on the second deck of the flotilla’s lead ship, the Turkish Mavi Marmara, with a good view of the stern, when the IDF, in the early morning darkness of May 31, began its assault with percussion grenades, tear gas and a hail of bullets. He then moved to the fourth deck in an enclosed stairwell, from which he watched and took photographs as casualties were carried down past him to a makeshift medical station. Several IDF commandos, captured by the passengers and crew, were also brought past him.
An American art student loses an eye when struck in the face by a tear gas canister fired by Israeli Defense Force (IDF) personnel breaking up, in the occupied West Bank, a demonstration which itself is a protest against the deadly commando raid on the Free Gaza flotilla.
No, you didn’t miss U.S. news media coverage of this IDF attack on 21-year-old Emily Henchowicz, a student at Cooper Union in New York City who was standing with a group of foreigners during that demonstration near a checkpoint between Ramallah and Jerusalem.
You didn’t miss it because the mainstream media in the U.S. ignored it.
What does it say about the the American government, its president, and its military today, that the the largest military/intelligence organization in the history of mankind has launched a global manhunt for Julian Assange, head of the Wikileaks organization? And what does it say about corporate American journalists that they attack the only real journalist in the White House press corps, when she alone has shown the guts to speak truth?
The false narrative initially put out by the Israeli government of hapless IDF commandos severely threatened by hardened “terrorists” on the Mavi Marmara has fallen apart, amid revelations of doctored photos, dubbed voices and other deceptions and the patent absurdity of the claim that the commandos had boarded the ship armed only with “paint guns” and low-caliber pistols. Now the Big Lie stands further exposed, thanks to a smuggled-out video showing IDF commandos kicking a prone, helpless victim and then apparently executing him with semi-automatic rifle fire at almost point-blank range.
1st Lt. Milo Minderbinder
“We’re gonna come out of this war rich!”
“You’re gonna come out rich. We’re gonna come out dead.”
-From the Buck Henry screenplay of Catch 22
No one has captured the absurd spirit of US war-making better than Joseph Heller in Catch 22. Here’s one of the greatest literary symbols for capitalism, Milo Minderbinder, on the future of US warfare:
“In a democracy, the government is the people,” Milo explained. “We’re people, aren’t we? So we might just as well keep the money and eliminate the middleman. Frankly, I’d like to see the government get out of war altogether and leave the whole field to private industry.”
General Fonseka quit the military after the May 2009 defeat of the Liberation Tigers for Tamil Eelam (LTTE), and ran for the presidency in January, 2010. He came in second, losing to the incumbent, Rajapakse. The former war hero was then promptly arrested and remains in military detention, charged with corruption and politicking while in uniform. Mahinda Rajapakse, together with Gotbhaya and two other brothers—who also hold key government posts—are reportedly furious with Fonseka for an interview he did with The Sunday Leader, and for his assertion that two of those brothers, Gotabhaya and presidential adviser Basil, had issued the orders that “all LTTE leaders must be killed.”
Tamils claim the four brothers’ actions are just the latest chapter of a long history of Sinhalese government-sponsored genocide against them.
Last March I went to the Left Forum in New York, which is a yearly gathering of liberals, progressives, anarchists, socialists, communists, hippies, punks, mystics, conspiracy theorists and anti-conspiracy theorists who are all trying to figure out how to get to a decent future from the indecent present. Nobody, of course, knows how to do that. There may not even be a path to a decent future from the indecent present, but I always find the Left Forum hopeful because a few thousand people in one place are at least putting their minds to the problem.
The panel discussion I most wanted to see (out of 300 or so) was called “The Crisis That Gives the Capitalist Class Nightmares,” because Michael Hudson was speaking. Whenever Hudson writes something, I read it, because he’s one of a tiny number of economists with academic credentials who predicted the present debt crisis. (Apparently not predicting crises is necessary for tenure in most economic departments these days.) At the panel, he explained that when labor is squeezed to the point that it can’t purchase anything, the capitalist is left with nothing to invest in, except more debt, and so we end up with Wall Street creating ever more complicated, ever more leveraged, ever more worthless junk for its gambling habit. When this collapses, as it must, half the hospitals in Latvia (which Hudson advises) have to shut down for lack of funds.
(From the AARP Magazine, May/June 2010 issue)
The true cost of American wars is much higher than what is spent in Supplemental Appropriations each year. It is also the cost of permanent medical care for the troops who are sent overseas to kill and who come home maimed in body and mind–and their loved ones. Over the years Congress has passed bills granting veterans generous benefits, but it doesn’t publicize them, and it doesn’t always make them easy to get, either–Dave
Last Memorial Day, Sue Christensen had a revelation. A retired nurse administrator, Christensen, then 83, was laying a wreath at the veterans’ monument in East Norriton, Pennsylvania, when she heard a speaker at the remembrance ceremony say that many vets suffer lingering problems from their wartime service—and don’t realize they could receive help from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). “It suddenly hit me,” recalls Christensen. “For 57 years I’ve suffered from panic attacks. Could it be from my time in the Navy?”
Is it coincidence or conspiracy?
Supporters of five Cuban intelligence agents now serving lengthy sentences in US federal prison following controversial espionage convictions, say federal government documents detailing payments made by a US government-run anti-Castro propaganda operation to prominent Miami-area journalists prove a conspiracy.
Articles by those journalists and others, a federal appeals court once noted, contributed significantly to inflaming “pervasive community prejudice” in Miami which made it impossible for the agents known as the Cuban Five to receive a fair trial.