Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The real State of the Union By Pepe Escobar

The real State of the Union
By Pepe Escobar 

US President Barack Obama's State of the Union (SOTU) address was a somewhat surrealist spectacle. Way beyond avalanches of PR spin, the US government for a long time has not exactly done wonders for the public good. So as it advertises itself in front of a dysfunctional US Congress dismissed as repellent by an overwhelming majority of Americans - including, and expanding, on those 76% who are living paycheck to paycheck - what's left is a grand, old Hollywood production. 

And Obama, of course, is a decent actor who can deliver a decent speech - certainly better than Ronnie Reagan, whom Gore Vidal used to describe as "the acting president". 

The key theme of SOTU 2014 was the appalling income inequality in the US. Call it an appendix of this past week at the World Economic Forum in Davos - that snowy Vegas for the 0.00001% - in which the Masters of the Universe finally "discovered" inequality. So much inequality, in fact, that 2014 was instantly tagged by the Masters - and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe - as the new 1914, all that furiously tweeted to all corporate boardrooms of the liquid modernity elite. 

As Obama got into his groove, he proclaimed that Obamacare had won; that he would resort to ruling by executive order to get things done; and that a mixed salad of platitudes and vague proposals/generalities attested to the imminent success of his agenda of improving "opportunity" as the only answer to fighting inequality. Oh yes; and that the American Dream was not in a coma. 

No word, of course, about the "gentle", progressive dismantling of what's left of US democracy, via the Orwellian/Panopticon complex, through which 0.00001% elite rule is painfully achieved in a sanitized Total Information Awareness (TIA) environment. With the US government in total control of the Internet, that once-upon-a-time dream - the revolution will be televised - won't happen even on the web. 

Neoliberalism or death
In the absence of the late, great Howard Zinn, Americans now have to put up with historic Clintonista Robert Reich. Reich may be correct on two of his reasons for the American malaise. 

With the US working class paralyzed and fearful of losing their jobs (labor unions have been virtually destroyed), and with students mired in horrendous debt (even as the average starting salary for graduates has been dropping steadily), two key vectors of protest are neutralized. 

But Reich is wrong on his third reason - that over 80% of US public opinion distrusts government so much that they have given up on any possibility of reform. 

The key point would be to examine how American turbo-financial capitalism has been drifting since the mid-1970s. The point is not that a cabal of medievalist Republicans, evil corporate CEOs (and their handpicked pols), plus Wall Street is in charge. The point is to examine how demented financial asset speculation plus a demented inflation of dodgy financial securities have been the defining features of the US and global system. 

This would imply a hardcore critique of advanced capitalism - which in fact is neither "advanced" nor really capitalism - that is absolute taboo in US corporate media. And the whole thing started even before the prophet Ronnie Reagan, then through Bubba Clinton and all the way to the Dubya/Obama continuum. 

The latest graphic illustration is a system in which 85 people - packable in a London double-decker - own as much wealth as the bottom 50% of humanity. How's that possible? A cursory examination of David Harvey's groundbreaking A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford University Press, 2005) would answer most questions - all related to such tricks as trickle-down economics, slashing taxes for the wealthy and corporations, the destruction of labor unions, lower real wages, job outsourcing, the disenfranchising of just about anyone who's not part of the 0.00001%, and a free for all in the 0.00001% banking and finance casino. End result; a vortex of wealth concentration - which has absolutely nothing to do with democracy in a republic. 

Good ol' Uncle Marx would tell it for what it is: a class war. And the 0.00001% has won, hands down, fast and loose. 

It's easy to forget that Dubya inherited a sizable budget surplus. He then slashed taxes for the wealthy; presided over two horrendously expensive wars, one because he "had to bomb somebody" and the other a war of choice; and then he was the MC of the biggest Wall Street crash since the Great Depression. 

And yes, it's all about the Bush-Obama continuum. In Obama's "recovery" era, asset values for the wealthiest 7% of Americans has shot up 28% while declining 4% for the rest. 

At least 80% of US voters don't want social programs to be cut so the budget can be balanced; they want more taxes on the wealthy and corporations. Obama instead cut from social security. 

Then there's the destruction of American cities; this study details how Detroit was screwed while the state of Michigan was spending a fortune on "business incentives". 

And to top it off, there's the Jamie Dimon syndrome, as in the CEO of JP Morgan Chase, aka Obama's "one of the smartest bankers we've got". Even if the US's number one bank has lost billions in dodgy toxic mortgage-backed securities, manipulated energy prices and even defrauded credit card customers, your CEO still gets a hefty bonus as the bank's stock were up 21% in 2013. 

Whether Obama played ball - small or otherwise - at the SOTU is irrelevant. Apart from flagrant absurdities on Iran, Syria and Israel-Palestine, and not a word on Russia and China, no wonder the climatic Hollywood tear-jerker sequence involved an Army Ranger almost killed by an improvized explosive device in Afghanistan. He was Obama's living metaphor of "Yes We Can", the 2014 remix. 

Curiously, just before SOTU, the US government and the Pentagon leaked to the New York Times that if "a small number" (Obama) of US troops actually remain in Afghanistan, the CIA will continue to drone the tribal areas of Pakistan to oblivion, and will continue to use Afghan bases to spy on Pakistan. 

So it's all about the CIA's dirty wars. Obviously none of the AfPak components want this state of affairs - so it looks like Obama's heroes will have to beat the hell out of Dodge for good. Good for them, as they will be exchanging lethal IEDs for a new shot at the ultimate land of "opportunity." Is that a fact? Yes, because POTUS said so. 

Pepe Escobar is the author of Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007), Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge (Nimble Books, 2007), and Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

He may be reached at

Sunday, January 26, 2014

US military says Martin Luther King would be proud of its weapons

Glenn Greenwald on security and liberty

US military says Martin Luther King would be proud of its weapons

A repellent piece of propaganda appropriates the words and images of this nonviolence advocate to glorify US militarism
Air Force MLK
A posting from the US Air Force's Global Strike Team claims Martin Luther King would be "proud" of its weapons. Photograph: screen grab of US Air Force release.
(updated below)
Yesterday, I highlighted the extraordinary anti-war speech Martin Luther Kinggave in 1967, in which he said, among other things, that the US government is "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today" and the leading exponent of "the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long." The speech was devoted to arguing that America's militarism and war-fighting were degrading the soul of the nation and the citizenry and - for financial, political and cultural reasons - were making domestic progress impossible.
The US Air Force's Global Strike Command yesterday posted a truly vile bit of propaganda in which it appropriates King's image, name and words in order to claim that he would "be proud to see our Global Strike team . . .standing side-by-side ensuring the most powerful weapons in the US arsenal remain the credible bedrock of our national defense" (ellipses in original):
"The Department of Defense is a leader in equal opportunity for all patriots seeking to serve this great nation. . . The vigilant warriors in AFGSC understand they are all equal and unified in purpose to provide a safe, secure and effective deterrent force for the United States. . . .
"Dr. King would be proud to see our Global Strike team - comprised of Airmen, civilians and contractors from every race, creed, background and religion - standing side-by-side ensuring the most powerful weapons in the US arsenal remain the credible bedrock of our national defense. . . Our team must overlook our differences to ensure perfection as we maintain and operate our weapon systems. . . Maintaining our commitment to our Global Strike team, our families and our nation is a fitting tribute to Dr. King as we celebrate his legacy."
The US military - which is currently bombing Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Yemen at least, all in secret - just exploited one of the 20th Century's greatest proponents of nonviolence and most vehement opponents of US militarism as a public face for its aggression and violence in the world. While King may have preferred to see an integrated military rather than one divided by racial strife, his condemnations of US militarism were particularly harsh when it came to the way the US military taught American citizens to embrace a culture of violence ("I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today - my own government").
The self-described mission of the Global Strike Command is to "develop and provide combat-ready forces for nuclear deterrence and global strike operations". The US military is actually publicly claiming that the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize winner and steadfast critic of US imperialism would be an admirer of its massive stockpile of nuclear weapons, its global assassination programs, and its covert use of violence in multiple countries around the world, including where no wars are declared (in fairness, though, its Commander in Chief is himself a winner of the Nobel Peace Prize). Merely to describe this agitprop is to illustrate its repulsiveness.

"Dirty Wars"

The great war journalist Jeremy Scahill, and the accomplished filmmaker Rick Rowley, have just premiered their new documentary, "Dirty Wars", at the Sundance Film Festival. I hosted a panel discussion of political documentarians in New York several months ago that included Scahill and "Dirty Wars", and this film - which chronicles the Obama administration's secret wars in Yemen and other places - will make a huge impact. I really encourage you to watch or read the transcript of the interview Scahill and Rowley did today on Democracy Now about their new film and the militaristic policies of the Obama administration. As you do so, I don't think you'll have much doubt about whether "Dr. King would be proud" of these policies.


Having the military exploit Martin Luther King to support the militarism which he despised seems to be a trend. Here's a tweet posted on the official account of the US Marine Corps on Monday:
And an article posted on the official Pentagon website last year during the week of King's birthday celebration expressly argued that King would support current US wars:
Pentagon MLK
This isn't a grotesque one-time aberration but rather a grotesque, institution-wide propaganda theme: to hold up Martin Luther King, of all people, as the justifying symbol of US aggression. That is just unspeakably foul.