My favorite nickname for Chomsky – from a 2003 New Yorker article – is "The Devil's Accountant." He dares to ruthlessly and dispassionately catalog the lies of accepted conventional knowledge. Read his May 6 accounting of the Bin Laden killing here.
"Bin Laden dies knowing he accomplished what he set out to do: destroy America. For fifteen years, he carefully dissected the weaknesses of our "democracy" and our capitalist economy. He demonstrated the fear will trump (pun intended) principles every time. He managed to reveal that America can torture with the best of tyrannies, that America can oppress its people economically, that America can take a thriving economy and turn it into a bankruptcy, and that America will elect the weakest possible leaders if given half a chance and a [SIC] immoral faction whose lust for power overwhelms their patriotism. Allah could not have handed him a better adversary than George W. Bush, a man so morally corrupt and politically inept that he managed to take a moment that could have united the entire world, including the Arabic street, behind him and make that same world ridicule him and hate us."
Yes, we have killed Osama Bin Laden -- after 10 years during which Al Qaeda, led by a man in ill health, has disseminated the preeminent global model for decentralized terrorism. We have killed Osama Bin Laden, and crowds have gathered in New York and Washington, including officers with fists in the air, to chant with satisfaction at having answered murder with murder, at having had the latest heaping helping in a by-now-regular diet of fear and rage. Remember the weakened, angry Germany in the years prior to Hitler's rise? Take a close look. This is what a declining nation looks like.
about national security, then, for your sake, I hope you won't answer the phone when a scammer calls and offers you sure-fire wealth in exchange for your credit card number.
The hearings are another installment of Fear Theater, this time brought to you by House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King (R-NY). They will offer nothing that the nation needs for greater security – no innovations for improved international police work, no smartened relations with majority-Muslim nations and communities, no push for more competitive fairness in the international economy – but they will bring us wagonloads of politely coded alarm about the Turbaned Brown Menace and the need for those in "the Muslim community" to "do their part" in assisting anti-terrorist authorities. As if law-abiding Muslim citizens are not already doing their part by simply being law-abiding.
This photo-op congressional farce is as excruciatingly obvious as it is disgusting, which is why the hearings are being met with street protests even before they begin. In New York, protesters stood in the rain on Sunday and decried Rep. King's exercise in stereotype and blame by association.
King, for his part, offered a comically lame defense. According to CNN:
King defended the hearings on CNN's "State of the Union" program. "We're talking about al Qaeda," he said. "We're talking about the affiliates of al Qaeda, who have been radicalizing, and there's been self-radicalization going on within the Muslim community, within a very small minority, but it's there." King compared the goal of the hearings to investigating the Mafia within the Italian community or going after the Russian mob.
Right. Which is why I am utterly confident that Rep. King's Mafia hearings would be titled "The Radicalization of American Italians."
The name of the Muslim hearings, in fact, says everything. The title is a dead giveaway that the hearings serve only as another stunt to toss scraps of red-meat race-bait to scared, angry voters who, without such continual distractions, might start asking intelligent questions about the kinds of policies that would actually make us all safer. There is no widespread terrorist-friendly "radicalization" of Muslim Americans any more than there is a rampant mob-friendly radicalization of Italian-Americans. In fact, there is a better case for holding hearings on "the radicalization of malcontent American whites," e.g., the Tea Party (complete with publicly-wielded guns and violent anti-government dogma), than there is for an inquiry into American Muslims.
If King's hearings were serious, they would be titled "Combatting al Qaeda's influence in America." And they would, like any smart threat analysis, look at all potentially dangerous players, including the Jihad Janes and munitions sellers. But these Muslim hearings are about neither seriousness nor safety. They are about playing the simplistic fear card in yet another attempt to convince 300 million Americans that a smattering of presumed Muslim potential suicide bombers poses a greater threat to their health than, say, a broadly toxic food industry and a completely broken health care industry.
After all, why actually address the terrorism problem when you can instead scapegoat Muslims and leave things as they are?
The broad-daylight assassination of Salman Taseer, high-profile governor of Pakistan's Punjab Province, by one of his own bodyguards, apparently an Islamic militant, has blasted another bloody hole in the Obama Administration's fantasy that robot drones and widely-mistrusted American battalions have a prayer of altering the fundamental course of Pakistan and Afghanistan, two nations in which America refuses to confront the reasons for the public illegitimacy of the regimes it tries in vain to prop up.
Meanwhile, modern descendants of North America's most disastrous and violent tsunami of illegal immigrants -- centuries of invaders from Europe -- have grown ever more wickedly and delusionally selfish in their fervor to shut the gates behind themselves, most recently with a growing effort to deny citizenship to babies born in the United States whose parents came here illegally from the artificially-depressed and peril-wracked storehouse of desperately cheap labor to our south, otherwise known as Mexico.
At the White House, the Obama Administration has collapsed on the issue of Medicare coverage for end-of-life planning, doing a 180 to delete the provision, which had been hailed by doctors and hospice caregivers as a way of making end-of-life medical care both more humane and cost-effective. Any suggestions for names to be circulated for an alternative 2012 Democratic presidential nominee?
It's your country. Use it or lose it. And whatever you do, keep yourself grounded in things that are not subject to the decay and inevitable collapse of the unsustainable machinery that passes for current American normalcy.
which some news outlets (including NPR) still coyly call "harsh interrogation," continue to mount. The latest consequence is a judge's ruling that a key witness cannot testify in the trial of an accused terrorist bomber because the witness's name was obtained by torture (the judge didn't use the word but it's clear it's what he meant). The defendant, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, was held for years in a secret CIA prison overseas and at Guantanamo.
Thank God for what remains of an independent judiciary. Federal Judge Lewis Kaplan spoke for the missing conscience of national security when he declared in his ruling, "the Constitution is the rock upon which our nation rests. We must follow it not only when it is convenient, but when fear and danger beckon in a different direction. To do less would diminish us and undermine the foundation upon which we stand."
The torture issue is, of course, about far more than the vanity of our moral self-esteem. It is, first and foremost, about the fact that torture is wrong. Torture is wicked. Torture is evil.
The fact that we are even discussing these things -- waterboarding and other U.S. torture methods, secret U.S. prisons abroad -- pretty much screams an indictment of the contemporary United States of America.
This is horrifying, and it naturally leads to such questions as, "Should Americans be allowed to reproduce without international supervision?" The stabbing of a Muslim cabbie, allegedly by a white man who asked the man's religion before attacking him, underlines the atrocity. And understand me: this is not just about addle-brained white Americans. As an African American, I have heard downright wicked remarks about Muslims out of the mouths of black people, including one of my own late relatives.
But an additional finding from the CBS poll, and from a Siena College poll of New Yorkers, puts a slight twist on this. In both polls, a majority of respondents did say they don't like putting a mosque in that location. But a majority -- 67% in the CBS poll and 63% in the Siena poll -- also said they believe the developers have the constitutional right to build the mosque there. So, beyond the screaming headlines, a truer interpretation of the polls is, "I don't like the mosque being there, but I think it has a right to be there under American law." This is still terrible, but not quite as terrible as voters fantasizing that the mosque and Center do not enjoy constitutional guarantees. So you could say that we have a nation of largely pragmatic racists.
Other twists: Ron Paul, staying true to Libertarian principle, has defended the Center and mosque and denounced the "demagogy" of those opposed to it. And Howard Dean, turning his back on progressive ideals, has condemned the project as "a real affront" to 9/11 victims.
Meanwhile, the project's developers say they're not budging. Hallelujah.
is a must-read if you want to get a sense of the colossally out-of-control enterprise of "national security" that has mushroomed since 9/11 and continues to careen along under the Obama administration. The series of articles, by Post investigative reporters Dana Priest and William M. Arkin, is about as good as corporate journalism gets these days. It accounts in exhaustively factual, and personally compelling, detail how this network has sprawled, largely invisibly, throughout everyday American life.
A sample from the series introduction:
The top-secret world the government created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, has become so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it or exactly how many agencies do the same work.
These are some of the findings of a two-year investigation by The Washington Post that discovered what amounts to an alternative geography of the United States, a Top Secret America hidden from public view and lacking in thorough oversight. After nine years of unprecedented spending and growth, the result is that the system put in place to keep the United States safe is so massive that its effectiveness is impossible to determine.
The investigation's other findings include:
* Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the United States.
* An estimated 854,000 people, nearly 1.5 times as many people as live in Washington, D.C., hold top-secret security clearances.
* In Washington and the surrounding area, 33 building complexes for top-secret intelligence work are under construction or have been built since September 2001. Together they occupy the equivalent of almost three Pentagons or 22 U.S. Capitol buildings - about 17 million square feet of space.
Just as interesting is an interview that series co-author Arkin did with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now, in which Arkin talked at length about the implications of what he and Priest learned, particularly the fact that there are now nearly 2,000 private firms carrying out top-secret U.S. government work: in effect, a for-profit wing of the government that now entrusts the highest secrets concerning Americans -- at taxpayer expense -- to companies driven by money.
Kudos to the Post. I would love to see enough substantial investigative work by mainstream journalists to render operations such as WikiLeaks (see yesterday's post) obsolete.
even if he waited until after the NYC panel and Mayor Bloomberg's strong stand made it politically safer. One could reasonably argue, actually, that it would have been a slap to the mayor for Obama to declare ahead of Bloomberg that the site should go forward. On the other hand, Obama is the president, and if the president can't get out in front on the issue of religious freedom, who can?
Yes, it would be nice if Obama were to show this kind of passionate leadership on 9/11-related issues beyond the symbolic -- say, actually closing Guantanamo. But his stance on the Muslim center is still important as a rebuke to the racist, xenophobic fecal matter that has been running so freely on Fox and around the office water cooler on this issue.
For one thing, the lies need to be called out: It's not a "mosque," but a community center with all sorts of facilities, of which a mosque is one part. It's not "at Ground Zero," but blocks away. It's not some new insertion of Islam into the Ground-Zero environs (as if Islam wouldn't have that right anyway), but an affirmation of freedom in a neighborhood where Muslims and mosques are already present, and where innocent Muslims died alongside innocent Christians, Jews, and atheists.
And beyond all that, the entire "it's an affront to 9/11 victims" whine has always been a crock. I am tempted, for example, to mount a campaign against the construction of any new churches in my city, Baltimore, because of the long and unconscionable history of Christianity's having been used as a tool of terrorism, racism, conquest, torture, rape, slavery, discrimination, pedophilia, and a thousand varieties of hatred.
So it is gratifying to see Obama rise to his feet on this one. The guy is so damned good when he rears up and actually takes a stand. I wish he'd do it more. Maybe someday he will better understand his own power to inspire and lead.
Afghanistan's Taliban insurgents are training monkeys to use weapons to attack American troops, according to a recent report by a British-based media agency.
Reporters from the media agency spotted and took photos of a few "monkey soldiers" holding AK-47 rifles and Bren light machine guns in the Waziristan tribal region near the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan. The report and photos have been widely spread by media agencies and Web sites across the world.
Ahsan at Five Rupees blog has a terrific post on the six-step "lather, rinse, repeat" American panic cycle, most recently in response to Yemen. An excerpt:
People in power have to
respond to step 3, which has shifted the contours of the debate
significantly toward crazyland. It makes the new "moderate" position
anything but, because "moderate" becomes defined by the split between
the two extremes in the debate when it should actually be defined in
terms of actual conditions on the ground. As an example, consider being
on the edge of a cliff, and having two advisers. One tells you to jump.
The other tells you to jump, but to untie your shoelaces. Do you know
what the moderate position becomes? Your death. With one shoe untied.