Saturday, May 19, 2007

U.S. Takes Gold in Arms Olympics- We're # 1!

Hey, aren't we the most exceptional nation in history? George Bush and his pals thought so -- and they were in a great American tradition of exceptionalism. Of course, they were imagining us as the most exceptional empire in history (or maybe at the end of it), the ultimate New Rome. Anyway, explain this to me: Among all the exceptional things we claim to do, how come we never take credit for what may be the most exceptional of all, our success of successes, the thing that makes us uniquely ourselves on this war-ridden planet -- peddling more arms to Earthlings than anyone else in the neighborhood? Why do we hide this rare talent under a bushel? In the interest of shining a proud light on an under-rated national skill, I asked Frida Berrigan to return the United States to its rightful place in the Pantheon of arms-dealing nations. Tom

We're # 1!

A Nation of Firsts Arms the World
By Frida Berrigan

They don't call us the sole superpower for nothing. Paul Wolfowitz might be looking for a new job right now, but the term he used to describe the pervasiveness of U.S. might back when he was a mere deputy secretary of defense -- hyperpower -- still fits the bill.
Face it, the United States is a proud nation of firsts. Among them:

First in Oil Consumption:

The United States burns up 20.7 million barrels per day, the equivalent of the oil consumption of China, Japan, Germany, Russia, and India combined.

First in Carbon Dioxide Emissions:

Each year, world polluters pump 24,126,416,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) into the environment. The United States and its territories are responsible for 5.8 billion metric tons of this, more than China (3.3 billion), Russia (1.4 billion) and India (1.2 billion) combined.

First in External Debt:

The United States owes $10.040 trillion, nearly a quarter of the global debt total of $44 trillion.

First in Military Expenditures:

The White House has requested $481 billion for the Department of Defense for 2008, but this huge figure does not come close to representing total U.S. military expenditures projected for the coming year. To get a sense of the resources allocated to the military, the costs of the global war on terrorism, of the building, refurbishing, or maintaining of the U.S. nuclear arsenal, and other expenses also need to be factored in. Military analyst Winslow Wheeler did the math recently: "Add $142 billion to cover the anticipated costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; add $17 billion requested for nuclear weapons costs in the Department of Energy; add another $5 billion for miscellaneous defense costs in other agencies…. and you get a grand total of $647 billion for 2008."

Taking another approach to the use of U.S. resources, Columbia University economist Joseph Stiglitz and Harvard Business School lecturer Linda Blimes, added to known costs of the war in Iraq invisible costs like its impact on global oil prices as well as the long-term cost of health care for wounded veterans and came up with a price tag of between 1 trillion and $2.2 trillion.
If we turned what the United States will spend on the military in 2008 into small bills, we could give each one of the world's more than 1 billion teenagers and young adults an Xbox 360 with wireless controller (power supply in remote rural areas not included) and two video games to play: maybe Gears of War and Command and Conquer would be appropriate. But if we're committed to fighting obesity, maybe Dance Dance Revolution would be a better bet. The United States alone spends what the rest of the world combined devotes to military expenditures.

First in Weapons Sales:

Since 2001, U.S. global military sales have normally totaled between $10 and $13 billion. That's a lot of weapons, but in fiscal year 2006, the Pentagon broke its own recent record, inking arms sales agreements worth $21 billion. It almost goes without saying that this is significantly more than any other nation in the world.

In this gold-medal tally of firsts, there can be no question that things that go bang in the night are our proudest products. No one makes more of them or sells them more effectively than we do. When it comes to the sorts of firsts that once went with a classic civilian manufacturing base, however, gold medals are in short supply. To take an example:

Not First in Automobiles:

Once, Chrysler, General Motors, and Ford ruled the domestic and global roost, setting the standard for the automotive industry. Not any more. In 2006, the U.S. imported almost $150 billion more in vehicles and auto parts than it sent abroad. Automotive analyst Joe Barker told the Boston Globe, "it's a very tough environment" for the so-called Detroit Three. "In times of softening demand, consumers typically will look to brands that they trust and rely on. Consumers trust and rely on Japanese brands."

Not Even First in Bulk Goods:

The Department of Commerce recently announced total March exports of $126.2 billion and total imports of $190.1 billion, resulting in a goods and services deficit of $63.9 billion. This is a $6 billion increase over February.

But why be gloomy? Stick with arms sales and it's dawn in America every day of the year. Sometimes, the weapons industry pretends that it's like any other trade -- especially when it's pushing our congressional representatives (as it always does) for fewer restrictions and regulations. But don't be fooled. Arms aren't automobiles or refrigerators. They're sui generis; they are the way the USA can always be number one -- and everyone wants them. The odds that, in your lifetime, there will ever be a $128 billion trade deficit in weapons are essentially nil.

Arms are our real gold-medal event.

First in Sales of Surface-to-Air Missiles:

Between 2001 and 2005, the United States delivered 2,099 surface-to-air missiles like the "Sparrow" and the "AMRAAM" to nations in the developing world, 20% more than Russia, the next largest supplier.

First in Sales of Military Ships:

During that same period, the U.S. sent 10 "major surface combatants" like aircraft carriers and destroyers to developing nations. Collectively, the four major European weapons producers shipped thirteen. (And we were first in the anti-ship missiles that go along with such ships, with nearly double (338) the exports of the next largest supplier Russia (180).

First in Military Training:

A thoughtful empire knows that it is not enough to send weapons; you have to teach people how to use them. The Pentagon plans on training the militaries of 138 nations in 2008 at a cost of nearly $90 million. No other nation comes close.

First in Private Military Personnel:

According to bestselling author Jeremy Scahill, there are at least 126,000 private military personnel deployed alongside uniformed military personnel in Iraq alone. Of the more than sixty major companies that supply such personnel worldwide, more than 40 are U.S. based.

Rest assured, governments around the world, often at each others' throats, will want U.S. weapons long after their people have turned up their noses at a range of once dominant American consumer goods.

Just a few days ago, for instance, the "trade" publication Defense News reported that Turkey and the United States signed a $1.78 billion deal for Lockheed Martin's F-16 fighter planes. As it happens, these planes are already ubiquitous -- Israel flies them, so does the United Arab Emirates, Poland, South Korea, Venezuela, Oman and Portugal, not to speak about most other modern air forces. In many ways, F-16 is not just a high-tech fighter jet, it's also a symbol of U.S. backing and friendship. Buying our weaponry is one of the few ways you can actually join the American imperial project!

In order to remain number one in the competitive jet field, Lockheed Martin, for example, does far more than just sell airplanes. TAI -- Turkey's aerospace corporation -- will receive a boost with this sale, because Lockheed Martin is handing over responsibility for parts of production, assembly, and testing to Turkish workers. The Turkish Air Force already has 215 F-16 fighter planes and plans to buy 100 of Lockheed Martin's new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter as well, in a deal estimated at $10.7 billion over the next 15 years.

$10.7 billion on fighter planes for a country that ranks 94th on the United Nations' Human Development Index, below Lebanon, Colombia, and Grenada, and far below all the European nations that Ankara is courting as it seeks to join the European Union -- now that's a real American sales job for you!

Here's the strange thing, though: This genuine, gold-medal manufacturing-and-sales job on weapons simply never gets the attention it deserves. As a result, most Americans have no idea how proud they should be of our weapons manufacturers and the Pentagon -- essentially our global sales force -- that makes sure our weapons travel the planet and regularly demonstrates their value in small wars from Latin America to Central Asia.

Of course, there's tons of data on the weapons trade, but who knows about any of it? I'm typical here. I help produce one of a dozen or so sober annual (or semi-annual) reports quantifying the business of war-making. In my case: the Arms Trade Resource Center report, U.S. Weapons at War: Fueling Conflict or Promoting Freedom? These reports get desultory, obligatory press attention -- but only once in a blue moon do they get the sort of full-court-press treatment that befits our number one product line.

Dense collections of facts, percentages, and comparisons don't seem to fit particularly well into the usual patchwork of front-page stories. And yet the mainstream press is a glory ride, compared to the TV News, which hardly acknowledges most of the time that the weapons business even exists.

In any case, that inside-the-fold, fact-heavy, wonky news story on the arms trade, however useful, can't possibly convey the gold-medal feel of a business that has always preferred the shadows to the sun. No reader checking out such a piece is going to feel much -- except maybe overwhelmed by facts. The connection between the factory that makes a weapons system and the community where that weapon "does its duty" is invariably missing-in-action, as are the relationships among the companies making the weapons and the generals (on-duty and retired) and politicians making the deals, or raking in their own cut of the profits for themselves and/or their constituencies. In other words, our most successful (and most deadly) export remains our most invisible one.

Maybe the only way to break through this paralysis of analysis would be to stop talking about weapons exports as a trade at all. Maybe we shouldn't be using economic language to describe it. Yes, the weapons industry has associations, lobby groups, and trade shows. They have the same tri-fold exhibits, scale models, and picked-over buffets as any other industry; still, maybe we have to stop thinking about the export of fighter planes and precision-guided missiles as if they were so many widgets and start thinking about them in another language entirely -- the language of drugs.

After all, what does a drug dealer do? He creates a need and then fills it. He encourages an appetite or (even more lucratively) an addiction and then feeds it.

Arms dealers do the same thing. They suggest to foreign officials that their military just might need a slight upgrade. After all, they'll point out, haven't you noticed that your neighbor just upgraded in jets, submarines, and tanks? And didn't you guys fight a war a few years back? Doesn't that make you feel insecure? And why feel insecure for another moment when, for just a few billion bucks, we'll get you suited up with the latest model military… even better than what we sold them -- or you the last time around.

Why does Turkey, which already has 215 fighter planes, need 100 extras in an even higher-tech version? It doesn't… but Lockheed Martin, working the Pentagon, made them think they did.

We don't need stronger arms control laws, we need a global sobriety coach -- and some kind of 12-step program for the dealer-nation as well.

Frida Berrigan is a Senior Research Associate at the World Policy Institute's Arms Trade Resource Center.

Venezuelan Economy Shows Continued Growth

By: Chris Carlson -

Mérida, May 15, 2007 (— The Venezuelan economy has had a continuous annual growth rate of 12.6 percent for the last three and a half years Venezuela's Development Minister Jorge Giordani reported today. According to preliminary indicators released by the Central Bank of Venezuela, the Venezuelan economy has sustained this high average of growth for 14 consecutive trimesters. The GDP grew a total of 8.8 percent in the first quarter of 2007, and the unemployment level reached its lowest level since 1999.

Jorge Giordani made the announcement today at a press conference in the presidential palace. Using statistics from the Central Bank of Venezuela for the first quarter of 2007, the minister explained that all productive sectors of the economy have shown growth so far this year.

"This shows that the Venezuelan economy has entered a new period of general high-sustained growth," reported Giordani. "The last time (the economy) grew at a similar rate was during the mid-1950's," he said.

The private sector accounted for most of the growth with a 10.3 percent expansion. The public sector, on the other hand, only grew 1.7 percent according to the Central Bank. A boom in non-petroleum-related activity contributed significantly to the growth expanding 10.6 percent.

According to the report the growth was generalized among all sectors. Manufacturing grew 15.8 percent so far this year, the machine industry 13.8 percent, plastic and tires saw growth of 24 percent, transportation 16.4 percent, communications 18.3 percent, and the food and drink industry grew 13 percent.

"Recent growth in demand for food indicates that people are eating more and better," said Giordiani.

As a result of the growth in these sectors, demand increased in other sectors such as the construction industry, which grew 26.5 percent, and financial brokering 26.2 percent. Growth in the construction industry is largely due to the increase in housing projects both in the private sector and public sector, which have both grown in recent years.

The Central Bank attributes the growth of the economy to a number of factors. Among those factors are the increase in household income, the recovery of purchasing power, the expansion of government social programs, and increased employment. The minister also mentioned the recent increases in minimum wage.

"Venezuela is practically at the top of Latin American countries," he said.

Other factors stimulating growth include increased investment and consumption due to the greater access to credit. The government has also increased spending and investment in public infrastructure.

Government services in general continue to show growth. Health services increased by 2 percent for the period, education by 5.9 percent, and public administration and defense by 1.6 percent. Higher government revenues as a result of increased tax collection and petroleum income has allowed the government to finance a number of social programs to meet the needs of the population.

Also released today, a report by the National Institute of Statistics (INE) showed that unemployment has dropped by 1.4 percent over the last year to a level of 8.8 percent, the lowest since 1999. According to the report, between April 2006 and April 2007 the number of unemployed people dropped from 10.2% to 8.8% for a total of 469,675 more employed people than a year ago.

The President of the INE, Elias Eljuri, pointed out that the number was the lowest rate of unemployment since 1999. According to the numbers of the INE, taken every April for the last nine years, unemployment rates have been as follows:

1999: 14.6 percent
2000: 14.7 percent
2001: 14.5 percent
2002: 15.9 percent
2003: 19.1 percent
2004: 16.3 percent
2005: 12.1 percent
2006: 10.2 percent

Between April 2006 and April 2007 the amount of the population employed in the formal sector increased by 239,428 to a total of 6,307,881 and making up 55.4 percent of the work force.

Terrorist Luis Posada Carriles - Double Standard in the U.S. War on Terror

By: Venezuela Information Office

Luis Posada Carriles is one of Latin America's most notorious criminals, a terrorist protected by the U.S. and allowed to live freely within its borders. Recruited by the CIA in 1962, Posada has since carried out deadly bombings and other crimes against humanity.

The Deadliest Terrorist Attack before 9/11
In 1976, the Cuban-born Venezuelan citizen blew up an airliner, killing all 73 passengers aboard, including 24 teenage members of Cuba's champion fencing team and 11 Guyanese medical students. Until 9/11, this was the deadliest attack on an airplane ever to occur in the Western Hemisphere. Posada was arrested in Venezuela and charged with masterminding the attack. However, he escaped from prison in 1985 and resumed coordinating terrorist acts throughout the region. In 1997, Posada was linked to several bombings in Havana hotels that left an Italian tourist dead and several injured. In 2000, he was arrested in Panama for attempting to kill Cuban President Fidel Castro using C-4 explosives in a school auditorium. Each time, Posada evaded those seeking to bring him to justice.

Extradition Requests Ignored
In March 2005, Posada entered the U.S. illegally. He was allowed to languish in a luxurious Miami apartment, emboldened by the fact that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) had not detained him. In May of 2005, Venezuela formally requested his extradition from the U.S. so that he could be tried for 73 counts of murder in the 1976 bombing. The U.S. has yet to honor the extradition request or even respond to it. Only after bragging to the Miami press that the DHS was not looking for him, Posada was detained by DHS officials who neglected even to handcuff him as they took him away.

The Immigration, Customs and Enforcement Agency (ICE) quickly stated that it would not deport Posada to Cuba or “a country acting on behalf of Cuba”. By doing so, ICE set a precedent that indicated the U.S. government’s lenient stance on Posada even before his immigration case had begun. Despite Venezuela's repeated requests that the U.S. detain Posada for extradition purposes, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has yet to act. On June 15, 2005, Venezuela filed a formal extradition request with the State Department, providing voluminous documentary evidence of Posada's crimes. The State Department referred the case to the DOJ, which failed to bring it to court as required by law.

Protected by the U.S.
By flaunting extradition treaties, the U.S. has chosen to treat Posada Carriles’ case as a minor immigration offense, charging him only with illegal entry into the country. Posada brought a single witness to testify in that case, his long time lawyer and associate Joaquín Chaffardet, who was never cross-examined nor questioned about his own links to Posada and terrorist activities. Instead, Chaffardet was allowed to testify as an objective expert on Venezuela's human rights record. The DHS submitted no evidence against Posada, indicating to the defense and to the Judge that the U.S. government would prefer he be granted Convention Against Torture relief. However, no evidence exists to support claims that he would be tortured in Venezuela.

22 months have passed since Venezuela's first extradition request, and the U.S. has failed to present Posada's case to a federal court, despite treaty obligations that require it to do so. Though a U.S. ICE officer admits that Posada has a "long history of criminal activity and violence in which innocent civilians were killed," the Justice Department has not charged him with the 1976 attack. This is despite the binding obligations of a 1971 international convention to which the U.S. is a party. Nor has Posada been classified as a terrorist, which the Patriot Act allows. Indeed, the 79-year-old terrorist has never been charged by U.S. justice officials with participating in a violent act.

Posada Freed by U.S. Courts
On May 9, 2007, immigration charges brought against Posada were overturned by Texas District Judge Kathleen Cardone, leaving a man branded by the U.S. DOJ as "a dangerous criminal and an admitted mastermind of terrorist plots" free to roam a country he entered illegally and from which another court has ordered him to be deported. There is no explanation for having a high profile case that deals with a known-terrorist be ruled as an immigration matter, when it clearly should be oversee by the highest levels of government. “In addition to engaging in fraud, deceit and trickery, this Court finds the Government's tactics in this case are so grossly shocking and so outrageous as to violate the universal sense of justice. As a result, this Court is left with no choice but to dismiss the indictment," Judge Cardone wrote in her scathing opinion.

As international condemnation mounts against the U.S.' failure to prosecute an admitted terrorist, congressional leaders have demanded to know why U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales never declared Posada a security threat nor jailed him under the Patriot Act. Congressman William Delahunt (D-MA) stated in a letter to Gonzales that "Mr. Posada's release from prison calls into question our commitment to combating terrorism and raises concerns about a double standard in our treatment of terrorists." Delahunt is launching an investigation into Posada's relationship with the U.S. government as well as the failure of the Bush administration to designate Posada a terrorist. A former prosecutor himself, Rep. Delahunt called Judge Cardone's critique of the government's handling of the case unprecedented. Interestingly, Cardone threw out transcripts containing incriminating evidence against Posada on the grounds that an interpreter hired by the U.S. government was unreliable.

A Double Standard in the War on Terror
By refusing to extradite or prosecute Posada, the U.S. demonstrates contradictions in its war on terror. While claiming to lead a global offensive against terrorism using measures such as foreign intervention and the restriction of civil liberties at home, the U.S. also continues to recruit, tolerate, and protect terrorists within its own borders. A consistent hesitance to bring Posada to justice – and, more broadly, to allow political loyalties to define who is a terrorist, regardless of criminal records – confirms this fact.

Venezuela’s Ambassador to the White House, Bernardo Alvarez, recently confirmed the same: “While relations between Venezuela and the U.S. have been strained, nothing should prevent the U.S. government from either extraditing Posada to Venezuela or prosecuting him for the 1976 bombing. Posada’s violent attack could not be justified then; much less should it be overlooked now. Should Posada be allowed to escape justice for his vicious crimes, it will send a powerful message to the international community that some terrorism is acceptable. It isn’t.”

Chomsky Takes on the World (Bank)

Michael Shank | May 16, 2007

Editor: John Feffer

Foreign Policy In Focus

Noam Chomsky is a noted linguist, author, and foreign policy expert. On April 26, Michael Shank interviewed him about the conflict between Congress and the U.S. president over Iraq and Syria, the scandal enveloping World Bank head Paul Wolfowitz, and the nature of foreign debt.

Michael Shank: Given that the U.S. Congress is no longer calling for binding timelines for troop withdrawal, how is this indicative of a broader struggle between the executive and legislative branches?

Noam Chomsky: There are a number of issues. One is the unitary executive conception. The Republican Party happens to be right now in the hands of a very extreme fringe. That goes from the legal system and the Federalist Society to the executive and so on. What they basically want, to put it simply, is a kind of an elective dictatorship. The chief executive should have total control over the executive branch. And the executive branch should dominate the other branches. That’s an effective mode of authoritarian control, natural for those whose dislike of democracy goes beyond the norm.

There’s a real fascist streak there, definitely. And Congress, to some extent, is trying to recreate more of a balance between the executive and legislative branch. So that’s part of the struggle. Part of it is just that neither party is willing to face the consequences of a withdrawal from Iraq. It’s not a trivial matter. First of all, there’s almost no public discussion of the issues involved in the war. Why did we invade? Why don’t we want to get out?

Shank: Right, it is minutiae now; it is troop numbers, timelines, etc.

Chomsky: That’s right. I was listening to the National Public Radio tribute to David Halberstam the other day, and they had on Neil Sheehan, David Greenway, and others. They were talking correctly about these young reporters in Vietnam who with great courage stood up against power and told truth to power. Which is correct, but what truth did they tell to power? The truth they told to power was: "you’re not winning the war." I listened through the hour and there were never any questions like: should you be fighting the war or should you be invading another country? The answer to that is not the kind of truth you tell to power.

In fact, it’s rather similar to what critical journalists in the Soviet Union were saying in the 1980s. They were saying, “Yeah we’re not winning the war in Afghanistan.” From my point of view, that’s not telling truth to power. Truth to power would be: why are you invading Afghanistan, what right do you have to commit crimes against peace and against humanity? But that question never came up. And the same is true in the discussion of Iraq. The question of whether it’s legitimate to have a victory doesn’t even arise. In fact, the current debate about Iraq reminds me very much of the dove/hawk debate over Vietnam.

Take, for example, Arthur Schlesinger, leading historian, Kennedy advisor, and so on. He was originally a strong supporter of the war during the Kennedy years. But by the mid-1960s, there was a mood spreading in the country generally, but also among the elites, that the war is not wise, it’s harming us. Then he had a book that came out in 1966 called Bitter Heritage, which is very much like what’s happening today. He was one of the extreme liberal critics of the war by then. He said, “We all pray that the hawks will be correct in thinking that sending more troops will bring us victory. And if they are, we’ll be praising the wisdom and statesmanship of the American government in winning a victory in a land that they’ve left in wreck and ruin. But it doesn’t look like it’s going to work.”

You can translate that almost verbatim into the liberal dove critique of the war today. There’s no question about whether we are justified in invading another country. The only question is: is this tactic going to work, or is some other tactic going to work, or maybe no tactic and it’s costing us too much. And those are the limits of the presidential debates, the congressional discussion, and the media discussion.

That’s why you can have debates such as those going on now about whether Iran is interfering in Iraq. You can only have that debate on the assumption that the United States owns the world. You couldn’t debate in 1943 whether the Allies were interfering in occupied France. It was conquered and occupied by a foreign power. Who can interfere in it? In fact, it’s the right thing to do, interfering. Or, say, Russia’s Afghanistan: is the United States interfering in Afghanistan while the Russians conquered it? You’d crack up in laughter if you heard that question.

Those are the limits of discussion here. That’s part of the reason the outcomes of the debates are so inconclusive. The issues are not discussable.

First of all there is the issue of legitimacy. Invading Iraq was the kind of crime for which Nazi war criminals were hanged at Nuremberg. They were hanged, primarily, for crimes against peace, i.e. aggression, the supreme international crime. Von Ribbentrop, foreign minister, was hanged. One of the main charges was that he supported a preemptive war against Norway. It’s kind of striking that at the end of the Nuremberg tribunal, the chief counsel for the prosecution Justice Robert Jackson, an American justice, made some pretty eloquent speeches about the nature of the tribunal. After the sentencing, he said, “We’re handing the defendants a poisoned chalice and if we sip from it we must be subject to the same charges and sentencing or else we’re just showing that the proceedings are a farce.” So if they mean anything the principles have to apply to us.

Try to find a discussion of that anywhere, either in the case of Vietnam or in the case of Iraq, or any other aggression.

Shank: Another schism opened up recently between the two branches with Cheney’s comment that Pelosi’s trip to Syria was bad behavior. Do you think Pelosi has a right to speak to Syria?

Chomsky: Of course she does. If you don’t believe in an elective dictatorship, everyone has that right, even the local congressman, even you and I. If it’s a free democratic country you don’t have to follow the orders of the dear leader. The whole discussion is ridiculous. And the fact that she has to defend herself is ridiculous.

The question is: are we living in an elective dictatorship? Or is it supposed to be a free country in which people pursue their interests?

Shank: How much will that [unitary executive] foundation shift if/when the Democrats take over the executive branch in 2008? Will it be more open?

Chomsky: It’ll be more open, but I don’t think there will be fundamental changes. The basic fundamentals are shared by the parties. But the Bush administration happens to be on the very extreme end of a pretty narrow spectrum. So if liberal Republicans were in [the White House] it would also change. The mainstream Democrats by now are kind of liberal Republicans. It’s very hard to make a distinction.

So sure, it would soften the edges. The parties have different constituencies, and you give something to your constituency. The Democratic constituency is more of the general population, the working people and so on. So you give something to them and maybe less to the super rich. But the framework of thinking is almost the same.

Shank: Is the foundation on which the current unitary executive stands beginning to erode? Given the corruption charges facing Paul Wolfowitz at the World Bank, the scandal surrounding Alberto Gonzales, the Justice Department’s firing of attorneys, and the indictment of Scooter Libby?

Chomsky: The struggle over the unitary executive and the elective dictatorship… that’s beginning to erode from internal corruption primarily, not because what it did was wrong. Yes, of course, some of things were wrong, like firing a prosecutor, but that is so minor compared to the array of crimes committed by the administration. It gains its significance because of the conflict over legislative and executive powers.

Take Wolfowitz. The charges against Wolfowitz are maybe correct but pretty minor compared to his record. Forget his involvement in the Iraq war, let’s put that aside, though it was surely significant. He was the ambassador to Indonesia under Reagan. He was one of the strongest supporters of Suharto, who was one of the worst monsters in the modern period, comparable to Saddam Hussein. When Wolfowitz was appointed to the World Bank, Indonesian human rights and democracy activists were bitterly critical because he never lifted his finger to help them when he was ambassador. In fact, he harmed them and they explained how he did it.

Here’s a man who strongly opposes democracy, who strongly opposes human rights. That’s not the myth. The myth is his great ideals. But in his actions, he supported a hideous dictator and in fact he supported extreme corruption. Transparency International ranked Suharto’s Indonesia as the world champion in corruption. This is the man he was defending while at the same time saying that he was going to the World Bank to do something about corruption.

His record with regard to democracies is also outlandish. You may recall in Turkey, to everyone’s surprise, the government went along with the will of 95% of the population and did not let U.S. troops use the country as a base for the war against Iraq. There was bitter condemnation of Turkey in the United States, from Colin Powell and others. But the most extreme was Wolfowitz. He berated the Turkish military for permitting this to happen. He said, “look, you have power, you can force the civilian government to do what we want them to do. The idea that they should listen to 95% of the population is outrageous.” Then he demanded that Turkey apologize to the United States and in fact say that it understands its job to help the United States. A couple of months later he was being hailed as the “idealist-in-chief” leading the crusade for democracy.

Shank: So why is he going down now for a salary?

Chomsky: He’s very much disliked in the Bank. Apparently he’s very authoritarian. So they picked an issue on which to expel him: a kind of corruption issue and a governance issue. And that’s okay. It’s good to see corrupt people go down. But those are not the issues. It’s just like in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Shank: Analysts in the media are questioning whether or not the Bank can redeem itself post-Wolfowitz. Can it redeem itself or is it done?

Chomsky: Redeem itself from what? Through the 1970s, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were pressuring countries to take loans, borrow, and create huge debt. They argued that it was the right thing to do. In the early 1980s, with the Volcker regime in Washington, the whole system collapsed and the countries that had taken the debts were hung out to dry. Then the World Bank and the IMF pressured them strongly to introduce structural adjustment programs -- which means that the poor have to pay off the debts incurred by the rich. And of course there was economic disaster all over the world.

That’s the World Bank. They’ve done some good things. I’ve seen some World Bank projects that I think are great. For example, in Colombia the World Bank has supported very interesting projects run partly by the church, partly by human rights organizations. They are trying to create zones of peace, which means communities that separate themselves from the various warring factions and ask the military, paramilitaries, and guerillas to leave them alone. The people that are doing that are very brave, honorable people. It’s very constructive work, and it’s supported by the World Bank.

So again, I think that’s good. But if you look at the overall range of the Bank’s policies, it hasn’t been benign by any means. The Bank would have a long way to go to “redeem itself.”

Shank: So it’s the same problem facing Iraq, the whole conversation is wrong?

Chomsky: The conversation is too narrow. Within the narrow framework, yes, it’s a good thing to get rid of corruption and press for good governance. But there’s a much wider framework…

Shank: …that’s not being talked about.

Chomsky: Right. Take the IMF. The IMF is not the World Bank, but it’s closely related. The IMF’s former U.S. executive director Karin Lissakers accurately described the Fund as the credit community’s enforcer. The IMF is very anti-capitalist. For example, suppose I lend you money. And I know that you’re a risky borrower, so I insist on a high-interest rate. Now, suppose that you can’t pay me back. In a capitalist system, it’s my problem. I made a risky loan. I got a lot of profit from the interest. You defaulted. It’s my problem.

That’s now what the IMF is about. What the IMF is saying, to put it in personal terms, is that your friends and neighbors have to pay off the loan. They didn’t borrow the money, but they have to pay it back. And my friends and neighbors have to pay me to make sure that I don’t lose any money. That’s essentially what the IMF is.

If Argentina takes out an IMF loan with huge interest rates because it’s risky and then they default, the IMF comes along and says the workers and peasants and other people in Argentina have to pay for that. They may not have borrowed it, it may have been borrowed by a military dictatorship, but they have to pay it back. That’s what structural adjustment is. And the IMF will ensure that western taxpayers pay off the bank. It’s radically anti-capitalist, whether you like that or not. The whole system has no legitimacy. In fact the whole debt system in the world, which is crushing much of the world, most of it is fake debt.

If Suharto, one of the biggest debtors in the world, borrows money and ends up the richest man in Indonesia or maybe the world, why is it the responsibility of the farmers in Indonesia to pay it off? They didn’t borrow it; they didn’t get anything from it. They were repressed, but they have to pay it off. And the IMF makes sure that the lenders don’t lose money on their risky loan after making a lot of profit from it. Why should the system even exist?

Shank: The micro version of that in the United States with sub-prime lending is coming back to bite us pretty quickly.

Chomsky: Exactly.

Shank: Are we going to have that kind of awareness on the global scale? Because I think people are realizing that sub-prime lending isn’t working.

Chomsky: It’s bad because vulnerable people were exploited. But at least you can say that the sub-prime borrowers did borrow the money. In the South the people didn’t borrow the money. It was their leadership that did. What do the people of Indonesia have to do with Suharto borrowing money from the Bank?

Take Duvalier in Haiti. He fled with U.S. help, with most of the treasury. Why do the people of Haiti have to pay off the debt? Most debt is just illegitimate. In fact, the United States itself has instituted an international regime that regards these debts as totally illegitimate. They’re called odious debts. It’s the notion that the United States introduced when we “liberated” Cuba. The United States didn’t want to pay off the debts to Spain, so they were dismissed accurately as illegitimate, later called odious debts. The people of Cuba had no responsibility for them.

A huge amount of the debt in the global south is odious debt. Why should anybody pay it?

Michael Shank is a doctoral student at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University and a frequent contributor to Foreign Policy In Focus (

Fascist America, in 10 easy steps by Naomi Wolf

From Hitler to Pinochet and beyond, history shows there are certain steps that any would-be dictator must take to destroy constitutional freedoms. And, argues Naomi Wolf, George Bush and his administration seem to be taking them all

Naomi Wolf


Last autumn, there was a military coup in Thailand. The leaders of the coup took a number of steps, rather systematically, as if they had a shopping list. In a sense, they did. Within a matter of days, democracy had been closed down: the coup leaders declared martial law, sent armed soldiers into residential areas, took over radio and TV stations, issued restrictions on the press, tightened some limits on travel, and took certain activists into custody.
They were not figuring these things out as they went along. If you look at history, you can see that there is essentially a blueprint for turning an open society into a dictatorship. That blueprint has been used again and again in more and less bloody, more and less terrifying ways. But it is always effective. It is very difficult and arduous to create and sustain a democracy - but history shows that closing one down is much simpler. You simply have to be willing to take the 10 steps.

As difficult as this is to contemplate, it is clear, if you are willing to look, that each of these 10 steps has already been initiated today in the United States by the Bush administration.

Because Americans like me were born in freedom, we have a hard time even considering that it is possible for us to become as unfree - domestically - as many other nations. Because we no longer learn much about our rights or our system of government - the task of being aware of the constitution has been outsourced from citizens' ownership to being the domain of professionals such as lawyers and professors - we scarcely recognise the checks and balances that the founders put in place, even as they are being systematically dismantled. Because we don't learn much about European history, the setting up of a department of "homeland" security - remember who else was keen on the word "homeland" - didn't raise the alarm bells it might have.

It is my argument that, beneath our very noses, George Bush and his administration are using time-tested tactics to close down an open society. It is time for us to be willing to think the unthinkable - as the author and political journalist Joe Conason, has put it, that it can happen here. And that we are further along than we realise.

Conason eloquently warned of the danger of American authoritarianism. I am arguing that we need also to look at the lessons of European and other kinds of fascism to understand the potential seriousness of the events we see unfolding in the US.

1 Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy

After we were hit on September 11 2001, we were in a state of national shock. Less than six weeks later, on October 26 2001, the USA Patriot Act was passed by a Congress that had little chance to debate it; many said that they scarcely had time to read it. We were told we were now on a "war footing"; we were in a "global war" against a "global caliphate" intending to "wipe out civilisation". There have been other times of crisis in which the US accepted limits on civil liberties, such as during the civil war, when Lincoln declared martial law, and the second world war, when thousands of Japanese-American citizens were interned. But this situation, as Bruce Fein of the American Freedom Agenda notes, is unprecedented: all our other wars had an endpoint, so the pendulum was able to swing back toward freedom; this war is defined as open-ended in time and without national boundaries in space - the globe itself is the battlefield. "This time," Fein says, "there will be no defined end."

Creating a terrifying threat - hydra-like, secretive, evil - is an old trick. It can, like Hitler's invocation of a communist threat to the nation's security, be based on actual events (one Wisconsin academic has faced calls for his dismissal because he noted, among other things, that the alleged communist arson, the Reichstag fire of February 1933, was swiftly followed in Nazi Germany by passage of the Enabling Act, which replaced constitutional law with an open-ended state of emergency). Or the terrifying threat can be based, like the National Socialist evocation of the "global conspiracy of world Jewry", on myth.

It is not that global Islamist terrorism is not a severe danger; of course it is. I am arguing rather that the language used to convey the nature of the threat is different in a country such as Spain - which has also suffered violent terrorist attacks - than it is in America. Spanish citizens know that they face a grave security threat; what we as American citizens believe is that we are potentially threatened with the end of civilisation as we know it. Of course, this makes us more willing to accept restrictions on our freedoms.

2 Create a gulag

Once you have got everyone scared, the next step is to create a prison system outside the rule of law (as Bush put it, he wanted the American detention centre at Guantánamo Bay to be situated in legal "outer space") - where torture takes place.

At first, the people who are sent there are seen by citizens as outsiders: troublemakers, spies, "enemies of the people" or "criminals". Initially, citizens tend to support the secret prison system; it makes them feel safer and they do not identify with the prisoners. But soon enough, civil society leaders - opposition members, labour activists, clergy and journalists - are arrested and sent there as well.

This process took place in fascist shifts or anti-democracy crackdowns ranging from Italy and Germany in the 1920s and 1930s to the Latin American coups of the 1970s and beyond. It is standard practice for closing down an open society or crushing a pro-democracy uprising.

With its jails in Iraq and Afghanistan, and, of course, Guantánamo in Cuba, where detainees are abused, and kept indefinitely without trial and without access to the due process of the law, America certainly has its gulag now. Bush and his allies in Congress recently announced they would issue no information about the secret CIA "black site" prisons throughout the world, which are used to incarcerate people who have been seized off the street.

Gulags in history tend to metastasise, becoming ever larger and more secretive, ever more deadly and formalised. We know from first-hand accounts, photographs, videos and government documents that people, innocent and guilty, have been tortured in the US-run prisons we are aware of and those we can't investigate adequately.

But Americans still assume this system and detainee abuses involve only scary brown people with whom they don't generally identify. It was brave of the conservative pundit William Safire to quote the anti-Nazi pastor Martin Niemöller, who had been seized as a political prisoner: "First they came for the Jews." Most Americans don't understand yet that the destruction of the rule of law at Guantánamo set a dangerous precedent for them, too.

By the way, the establishment of military tribunals that deny prisoners due process tends to come early on in a fascist shift. Mussolini and Stalin set up such tribunals. On April 24 1934, the Nazis, too, set up the People's Court, which also bypassed the judicial system: prisoners were held indefinitely, often in isolation, and tortured, without being charged with offences, and were subjected to show trials. Eventually, the Special Courts became a parallel system that put pressure on the regular courts to abandon the rule of law in favour of Nazi ideology when making decisions.

3 Develop a thug caste

When leaders who seek what I call a "fascist shift" want to close down an open society, they send paramilitary groups of scary young men out to terrorise citizens. The Blackshirts roamed the Italian countryside beating up communists; the Brownshirts staged violent rallies throughout Germany. This paramilitary force is especially important in a democracy: you need citizens to fear thug violence and so you need thugs who are free from prosecution.

The years following 9/11 have proved a bonanza for America's security contractors, with the Bush administration outsourcing areas of work that traditionally fell to the US military. In the process, contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars have been issued for security work by mercenaries at home and abroad. In Iraq, some of these contract operatives have been accused of involvement in torturing prisoners, harassing journalists and firing on Iraqi civilians. Under Order 17, issued to regulate contractors in Iraq by the one-time US administrator in Baghdad, Paul Bremer, these contractors are immune from prosecution

Yes, but that is in Iraq, you could argue; however, after Hurricane Katrina, the Department of Homeland Security hired and deployed hundreds of armed private security guards in New Orleans. The investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill interviewed one unnamed guard who reported having fired on unarmed civilians in the city. It was a natural disaster that underlay that episode - but the administration's endless war on terror means ongoing scope for what are in effect privately contracted armies to take on crisis and emergency management at home in US cities.

Thugs in America? Groups of angry young Republican men, dressed in identical shirts and trousers, menaced poll workers counting the votes in Florida in 2000. If you are reading history, you can imagine that there can be a need for "public order" on the next election day. Say there are protests, or a threat, on the day of an election; history would not rule out the presence of a private security firm at a polling station "to restore public order".

4 Set up an internal surveillance system

In Mussolini's Italy, in Nazi Germany, in communist East Germany, in communist China - in every closed society - secret police spy on ordinary people and encourage neighbours to spy on neighbours. The Stasi needed to keep only a minority of East Germans under surveillance to convince a majority that they themselves were being watched.

In 2005 and 2006, when James Risen and Eric Lichtblau wrote in the New York Times about a secret state programme to wiretap citizens' phones, read their emails and follow international financial transactions, it became clear to ordinary Americans that they, too, could be under state scrutiny.

In closed societies, this surveillance is cast as being about "national security"; the true function is to keep citizens docile and inhibit their activism and dissent.

5 Harass citizens' groups

The fifth thing you do is related to step four - you infiltrate and harass citizens' groups. It can be trivial: a church in Pasadena, whose minister preached that Jesus was in favour of peace, found itself being investigated by the Internal Revenue Service, while churches that got Republicans out to vote, which is equally illegal under US tax law, have been left alone.

Other harassment is more serious: the American Civil Liberties Union reports that thousands of ordinary American anti-war, environmental and other groups have been infiltrated by agents: a secret Pentagon database includes more than four dozen peaceful anti-war meetings, rallies or marches by American citizens in its category of 1,500 "suspicious incidents". The equally secret Counterintelligence Field Activity (Cifa) agency of the Department of Defense has been gathering information about domestic organisations engaged in peaceful political activities: Cifa is supposed to track "potential terrorist threats" as it watches ordinary US citizen activists. A little-noticed new law has redefined activism such as animal rights protests as "terrorism". So the definition of "terrorist" slowly expands to include the opposition.

6 Engage in arbitrary detention and release

This scares people. It is a kind of cat-and-mouse game. Nicholas D Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn, the investigative reporters who wrote China Wakes: the Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power, describe pro-democracy activists in China, such as Wei Jingsheng, being arrested and released many times. In a closing or closed society there is a "list" of dissidents and opposition leaders: you are targeted in this way once you are on the list, and it is hard to get off the list.

In 2004, America's Transportation Security Administration confirmed that it had a list of passengers who were targeted for security searches or worse if they tried to fly. People who have found themselves on the list? Two middle-aged women peace activists in San Francisco; liberal Senator Edward Kennedy; a member of Venezuela's government - after Venezuela's president had criticised Bush; and thousands of ordinary US citizens.

Professor Walter F Murphy is emeritus of Princeton University; he is one of the foremost constitutional scholars in the nation and author of the classic Constitutional Democracy. Murphy is also a decorated former marine, and he is not even especially politically liberal. But on March 1 this year, he was denied a boarding pass at Newark, "because I was on the Terrorist Watch list".

"Have you been in any peace marches? We ban a lot of people from flying because of that," asked the airline employee.

"I explained," said Murphy, "that I had not so marched but had, in September 2006, given a lecture at Princeton, televised and put on the web, highly critical of George Bush for his many violations of the constitution."

"That'll do it," the man said.

Anti-war marcher? Potential terrorist. Support the constitution? Potential terrorist. History shows that the categories of "enemy of the people" tend to expand ever deeper into civil life.

James Yee, a US citizen, was the Muslim chaplain at Guantánamo who was accused of mishandling classified documents. He was harassed by the US military before the charges against him were dropped. Yee has been detained and released several times. He is still of interest.

Brandon Mayfield, a US citizen and lawyer in Oregon, was mistakenly identified as a possible terrorist. His house was secretly broken into and his computer seized. Though he is innocent of the accusation against him, he is still on the list.

It is a standard practice of fascist societies that once you are on the list, you can't get off.

7 Target key individuals

Threaten civil servants, artists and academics with job loss if they don't toe the line. Mussolini went after the rectors of state universities who did not conform to the fascist line; so did Joseph Goebbels, who purged academics who were not pro-Nazi; so did Chile's Augusto Pinochet; so does the Chinese communist Politburo in punishing pro-democracy students and professors.

Academe is a tinderbox of activism, so those seeking a fascist shift punish academics and students with professional loss if they do not "coordinate", in Goebbels' term, ideologically. Since civil servants are the sector of society most vulnerable to being fired by a given regime, they are also a group that fascists typically "coordinate" early on: the Reich Law for the Re-establishment of a Professional Civil Service was passed on April 7 1933.

Bush supporters in state legislatures in several states put pressure on regents at state universities to penalise or fire academics who have been critical of the administration. As for civil servants, the Bush administration has derailed the career of one military lawyer who spoke up for fair trials for detainees, while an administration official publicly intimidated the law firms that represent detainees pro bono by threatening to call for their major corporate clients to boycott them.

Elsewhere, a CIA contract worker who said in a closed blog that "waterboarding is torture" was stripped of the security clearance she needed in order to do her job.

Most recently, the administration purged eight US attorneys for what looks like insufficient political loyalty. When Goebbels purged the civil service in April 1933, attorneys were "coordinated" too, a step that eased the way of the increasingly brutal laws to follow.

8 Control the press

Italy in the 1920s, Germany in the 30s, East Germany in the 50s, Czechoslovakia in the 60s, the Latin American dictatorships in the 70s, China in the 80s and 90s - all dictatorships and would-be dictators target newspapers and journalists. They threaten and harass them in more open societies that they are seeking to close, and they arrest them and worse in societies that have been closed already.

The Committee to Protect Journalists says arrests of US journalists are at an all-time high: Josh Wolf (no relation), a blogger in San Francisco, has been put in jail for a year for refusing to turn over video of an anti-war demonstration; Homeland Security brought a criminal complaint against reporter Greg Palast, claiming he threatened "critical infrastructure" when he and a TV producer were filming victims of Hurricane Katrina in Louisiana. Palast had written a bestseller critical of the Bush administration.

Other reporters and writers have been punished in other ways. Joseph C Wilson accused Bush, in a New York Times op-ed, of leading the country to war on the basis of a false charge that Saddam Hussein had acquired yellowcake uranium in Niger. His wife, Valerie Plame, was outed as a CIA spy - a form of retaliation that ended her career.

Prosecution and job loss are nothing, though, compared with how the US is treating journalists seeking to cover the conflict in Iraq in an unbiased way. The Committee to Protect Journalists has documented multiple accounts of the US military in Iraq firing upon or threatening to fire upon unembedded (meaning independent) reporters and camera operators from organisations ranging from al-Jazeera to the BBC. While westerners may question the accounts by al-Jazeera, they should pay attention to the accounts of reporters such as the BBC's Kate Adie. In some cases reporters have been wounded or killed, including ITN's Terry Lloyd in 2003. Both CBS and the Associated Press in Iraq had staff members seized by the US military and taken to violent prisons; the news organisations were unable to see the evidence against their staffers.

Over time in closing societies, real news is supplanted by fake news and false documents. Pinochet showed Chilean citizens falsified documents to back up his claim that terrorists had been about to attack the nation. The yellowcake charge, too, was based on forged papers.

You won't have a shutdown of news in modern America - it is not possible. But you can have, as Frank Rich and Sidney Blumenthal have pointed out, a steady stream of lies polluting the news well. What you already have is a White House directing a stream of false information that is so relentless that it is increasingly hard to sort out truth from untruth. In a fascist system, it's not the lies that count but the muddying. When citizens can't tell real news from fake, they give up their demands for accountability bit by bit.

9 Dissent equals treason

Cast dissent as "treason" and criticism as "espionage'. Every closing society does this, just as it elaborates laws that increasingly criminalise certain kinds of speech and expand the definition of "spy" and "traitor". When Bill Keller, the publisher of the New York Times, ran the Lichtblau/Risen stories, Bush called the Times' leaking of classified information "disgraceful", while Republicans in Congress called for Keller to be charged with treason, and rightwing commentators and news outlets kept up the "treason" drumbeat. Some commentators, as Conason noted, reminded readers smugly that one penalty for violating the Espionage Act is execution.

Conason is right to note how serious a threat that attack represented. It is also important to recall that the 1938 Moscow show trial accused the editor of Izvestia, Nikolai Bukharin, of treason; Bukharin was, in fact, executed. And it is important to remind Americans that when the 1917 Espionage Act was last widely invoked, during the infamous 1919 Palmer Raids, leftist activists were arrested without warrants in sweeping roundups, kept in jail for up to five months, and "beaten, starved, suffocated, tortured and threatened with death", according to the historian Myra MacPherson. After that, dissent was muted in America for a decade.

In Stalin's Soviet Union, dissidents were "enemies of the people". National Socialists called those who supported Weimar democracy "November traitors".

And here is where the circle closes: most Americans do not realise that since September of last year - when Congress wrongly, foolishly, passed the Military Commissions Act of 2006 - the president has the power to call any US citizen an "enemy combatant". He has the power to define what "enemy combatant" means. The president can also delegate to anyone he chooses in the executive branch the right to define "enemy combatant" any way he or she wants and then seize Americans accordingly.

Even if you or I are American citizens, even if we turn out to be completely innocent of what he has accused us of doing, he has the power to have us seized as we are changing planes at Newark tomorrow, or have us taken with a knock on the door; ship you or me to a navy brig; and keep you or me in isolation, possibly for months, while awaiting trial. (Prolonged isolation, as psychiatrists know, triggers psychosis in otherwise mentally healthy prisoners. That is why Stalin's gulag had an isolation cell, like Guantánamo's, in every satellite prison. Camp 6, the newest, most brutal facility at Guantánamo, is all isolation cells.)

We US citizens will get a trial eventually - for now. But legal rights activists at the Center for Constitutional Rights say that the Bush administration is trying increasingly aggressively to find ways to get around giving even US citizens fair trials. "Enemy combatant" is a status offence - it is not even something you have to have done. "We have absolutely moved over into a preventive detention model - you look like you could do something bad, you might do something bad, so we're going to hold you," says a spokeswoman of the CCR.

Most Americans surely do not get this yet. No wonder: it is hard to believe, even though it is true. In every closing society, at a certain point there are some high-profile arrests - usually of opposition leaders, clergy and journalists. Then everything goes quiet. After those arrests, there are still newspapers, courts, TV and radio, and the facades of a civil society. There just isn't real dissent. There just isn't freedom. If you look at history, just before those arrests is where we are now.

10 Suspend the rule of law

The John Warner Defense Authorization Act of 2007 gave the president new powers over the national guard. This means that in a national emergency - which the president now has enhanced powers to declare - he can send Michigan's militia to enforce a state of emergency that he has declared in Oregon, over the objections of the state's governor and its citizens.

Even as Americans were focused on Britney Spears's meltdown and the question of who fathered Anna Nicole's baby, the New York Times editorialised about this shift: "A disturbing recent phenomenon in Washington is that laws that strike to the heart of American democracy have been passed in the dead of night ... Beyond actual insurrection, the president may now use military troops as a domestic police force in response to a natural disaster, a disease outbreak, terrorist attack or any 'other condition'."

Critics see this as a clear violation of the Posse Comitatus Act - which was meant to restrain the federal government from using the military for domestic law enforcement. The Democratic senator Patrick Leahy says the bill encourages a president to declare federal martial law. It also violates the very reason the founders set up our system of government as they did: having seen citizens bullied by a monarch's soldiers, the founders were terrified of exactly this kind of concentration of militias' power over American people in the hands of an oppressive executive or faction.

Of course, the United States is not vulnerable to the violent, total closing-down of the system that followed Mussolini's march on Rome or Hitler's roundup of political prisoners. Our democratic habits are too resilient, and our military and judiciary too independent, for any kind of scenario like that.

Rather, as other critics are noting, our experiment in democracy could be closed down by a process of erosion.

It is a mistake to think that early in a fascist shift you see the profile of barbed wire against the sky. In the early days, things look normal on the surface; peasants were celebrating harvest festivals in Calabria in 1922; people were shopping and going to the movies in Berlin in 1931. Early on, as WH Auden put it, the horror is always elsewhere - while someone is being tortured, children are skating, ships are sailing: "dogs go on with their doggy life ... How everything turns away/ Quite leisurely from the disaster."

As Americans turn away quite leisurely, keeping tuned to internet shopping and American Idol, the foundations of democracy are being fatally corroded. Something has changed profoundly that weakens us unprecedentedly: our democratic traditions, independent judiciary and free press do their work today in a context in which we are "at war" in a "long war" - a war without end, on a battlefield described as the globe, in a context that gives the president - without US citizens realising it yet - the power over US citizens of freedom or long solitary incarceration, on his say-so alone.

That means a hollowness has been expanding under the foundation of all these still- free-looking institutions - and this foundation can give way under certain kinds of pressure. To prevent such an outcome, we have to think about the "what ifs".

What if, in a year and a half, there is another attack - say, God forbid, a dirty bomb? The executive can declare a state of emergency. History shows that any leader, of any party, will be tempted to maintain emergency powers after the crisis has passed. With the gutting of traditional checks and balances, we are no less endangered by a President Hillary than by a President Giuliani - because any executive will be tempted to enforce his or her will through edict rather than the arduous, uncertain process of democratic negotiation and compromise.

What if the publisher of a major US newspaper were charged with treason or espionage, as a rightwing effort seemed to threaten Keller with last year? What if he or she got 10 years in jail? What would the newspapers look like the next day? Judging from history, they would not cease publishing; but they would suddenly be very polite.

Right now, only a handful of patriots are trying to hold back the tide of tyranny for the rest of us - staff at the Center for Constitutional Rights, who faced death threats for representing the detainees yet persisted all the way to the Supreme Court; activists at the American Civil Liberties Union; and prominent conservatives trying to roll back the corrosive new laws, under the banner of a new group called the American Freedom Agenda. This small, disparate collection of people needs everybody's help, including that of Europeans and others internationally who are willing to put pressure on the administration because they can see what a US unrestrained by real democracy at home can mean for the rest of the world.

We need to look at history and face the "what ifs". For if we keep going down this road, the "end of America" could come for each of us in a different way, at a different moment; each of us might have a different moment when we feel forced to look back and think: that is how it was before - and this is the way it is now.

"The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands ... is the definition of tyranny," wrote James Madison. We still have the choice to stop going down this road; we can stand our ground and fight for our nation, and take up the banner the founders asked us to carry.

Operation Iraq Forever By Manuel Valenzuela

By Manuel Valenzuela

Catastrophic Success

The occupation of Iraq, still illegal and immoral by any sense of human understanding, has now run into its fourth bloody and horrific year, becoming a quagmire for America and a vast killing field for Iraqis. Indeed, for Iraqis, America’s invasion and subsequent occupation has been and will continue to be one massive war crime, an onslaught of criminality against humanity not seen since World War Two. It is they, the Iraqi people, who have undergone tremendous hardship, and it is they who will continue to suffer in horrific ways, due to the lunacy and delusions of America’s miscreant leaders. Indeed, hell on Earth has been imported into Iraq without so much as a care, concern or bother from the American people, without so much as a protest or two by the world entire.

For America and her people, on the other hand, to say that the Iraq debacle is the greatest strategic disaster in American foreign policy history is an understatement, for the implications of America’s defeat at the hands of Iraqis have only now begun to be seen, with its reverberations to be felt for years to come. What was once considered a cakewalk by an arrogant nation, basking in the glory of exceptionalism and ignorance, blinded to reality by addictions to materialism and televised charades, instead turned into an inextricable sand trap that threatens to turn a New American Century into the Last American Decade.

For unlike Vietnam, a backwater nation at the outer periphery of world affairs, where America’s defeat did not disturb the grand chess match of Cold War geostrategy or cause worldwide geopolitical earthquakes, Iraq is at the epicenter of the world, sitting atop vast oil fields, possessing two fresh water rivers in a region where water is scarce, situated in the middle of vitally strategic lands sought by rising powers and dwindling empires. A defeat in Iraq, as is already apparent, and had long since been predicted by many, would thus severely damage the interests of America, thereby altering a global balance of power where one superpower dominates the rest of the world. Inside her shores, a defeat would, similar to what happened after Vietnam, alienate her people away from further wars of conquest, thus making it harder to implement the plans for a New American Century, thus destroying the once great controlling power engendered by the New Pearl Harbor.

The occupation of Iraq has and will continue to severely cripple America, both in treasure and blood, bogging it down in a grueling guerilla war of attrition for years to come. Already the war and occupation has lasted longer than America’s involvement in World War II. Already it has cost, in only four years, over one trillion dollars. Already, America’s military is overstretched, overstressed, overburdened and overworked. So far, close to 3,500 troops have died, with up to 30,000 maimed and injured; tens of thousands of personnel have been forced to serve more than two tours of duty. The psychological costs to thousands of soldiers will never be quantified, as will the societal damage done by people returning home with different minds, different lives and altered circumstances.

Yet in spite of the apparent defeat, the apparent debacle taking place in Iraq, the American leviathan, that corporatist element within the parameters of the state, that elitist cabal embedded in predatory capitalist markets, will not allow itself or the nation to be extricated from Iraq, for the price of such a calamity would be disastrous. For the Iraq War was first and foremost a war for control of oil, that most important of natural resources, that devil’s excrement needed to run the engine called modern human civilization.

The subsequent occupation of Iraq, beyond the obvious lies of WMD, bringing democracy and freedom, ridding Iraqis of tyranny and Saddam, and fighting al-Qaeda in the “war on terror,” was built on the necessity of pacifying and controlling the Iraqi populace so that the rape and pillage of Iraq’s oil could commence. For this war has always been and will always be about black blood, that dark substance that condemns and curses all who live above it, and empowers and enriches those who extract it. He who controls the oil controls the world, after all, and he who controls the world controls humankind’s destiny.

It is the devil’s excrement that sustains modern civilization; its births Empire and makes overlords of those that control it. It is also a truism that those who seek the power of modern empire must make a deal with the devil to drink blood from its veins. It is this deal with the devil that invariably resurrects violence, destruction, suffering and the worst in human wickedness.

Empire’s Gas Station

As such, to purposefully give up such a prize as the oil fields of Iraq, along with its perfect strategic location, would be tantamount to giving up on a burgeoning empire, something the elite and the corporatists of the nation are not yet ready to do. Controlling the oil markets of the world, along with the spigots, pipelines and oil fields of Iraq, dictating supply and demand to the globe, possessing the power to control the amount of oil a rival or rising superpower is allowed to have, and establishing a beachhead for further attempts at acquiring yet more oil and gas, this time in Iran and Central Asia, is too tempting a proposition for America’s elite to extricate their armies from Mesopotamia. In truth, to leave Iraq would be to leave behind all delusions of a New American Century. It would be akin to declaring defeat to Russia and China, in essence granting these rising powers Iraq’s oil fields on a silver platter and cementing the precipitous fall of the American Empire itself.

Iraq is too valuable, in the minds of America’s elite and her corporatists, to simply walk away from. For all intents and purposes, therefore, Iraq has become America’s 51st state, a colony that will act as America’s gas station for decades to come. Iraq is destined to become the grease that provides the lubrication needed to run the great American engine. It will act as America’s aircraft carrier, the easier to patrol the world’s most strategic region. In time, Iraq will be used to invade, threaten, hold hostage and/or conquer the oil fields of Iran and those of the central Asian basin. From Iraq America’s new national security infrastructure, such as pipelines and refineries, can best be defended from any barbarian horde. Iraq is today the gateway towards attaining the Empire the elite and the delusional have always envisioned. It is the gateway towards power, control and untold wealth.

Of course the sacrifice of American treasure and blood is and will continue to be of no significance to those possessing the delusional blueprints of a New American Century. After all, it is not their children sent off to war, becoming cannon fodder, returning in a body bag, with missing appendages, burned bodies or psychologically maimed minds. It is not their wages being taxed in order to pay for the ever-expanding corporatist army. It is not their hard earned money being expropriated so that energy giants can further enrich themselves to the tune of tens of billions of dollars in profits every year.

To the elite way of thinking, the sacrifice of 3,500 dead soldiers, most poor and working class, from rural cesspools or urban jungles, is a minor and inconsequential inconvenience, along with the injury of 30,000 more, in the pursuit of Empire. These brave and oftentimes naïve and brainwashed soldiers are simply the expendable tools of wealth accumulation and empire building, the robots needed to pull the levers and push the buttons of the vast arsenal of killing machines developed by the military industrial complex. They are cannon fodder used not for defending freedom and democracy, but for defending the corporate bottom line and its shareholder wealth. In a nation of 300 million people, the death in Iraq of 3,500 soldiers, or 30,000 for that matter, is of little importance to the elite who see poor men and women as a means to an end. They are the collateral damage sacrificed in the name of predatory and debauched capitalism. They are the catalysts for corporatism to thrive.

Sadly, America will remain in Iraq for decades to come, occupying sand and dune, living behind massive concrete walls, inside enormous embassies and bases, all built to protect the ultimate prize of the 21st century: oil. Iraq is now a giant American forward operating base, a geostrategic prize from where the delusional elite can amplify their presence both in the Middle East and the Caspian basin. From Iraq the oil and natural gas fields of Iran are but a stone’s throw away. From Iraq and Afghanistan Central Asia becomes easier to threaten and control, easier for its energy resources to be exploited and defended against potential adversaries. From Iraq it is easier for the rising empire to contain, control and check the advancements of Russia, China and India.

The future death of thousands of American soldiers, and the maiming of tens of thousands more, is a reality that will inevitably come in the years ahead, will be but the price of doing business, of maximizing profit and power, of controlling the black blood necessary for empire to rise and breathe. Thousands dead and tens of thousands maimed is of little consequence or importance to those whose vision of delusion includes an empire greeted by the world as liberator, with flowers and candy thrown at its feet. Sacrifices need to be made for the sake of consumerism and materialism, for gluttony and greed, after all. Just not for the elite that steer the American ship. The trillions of dollars that have already been spent, and those trillions that will invariably be needed in the future will of course be taken from the American people, their treasure pillaged, their wages raped in the pursuit of empire. It will be us, the common peasant, that will be forced to absorb the present and future costs of delusions of grandeur and self-aggrandizing hubris. It will be our children who will have to sacrifice freedom, rights and blood.

The added benefit to the elite of this robbery of the American taxpayer is that for every dollar that goes to the Iraq War, to the military-industrial complex, to the bank accounts of the war profiteers and the energy corporatists, one less dollar is allocated for social services, education, healthcare, infrastructure and the general welfare of the American people. One more dollar taken out through taxes equals one less dollar in the pocket of the people, thereby eviscerating the middle class and shifting the burden of war from the wealthy to the middle and working classes. By gutting the middle class, by putting severe pressure on its ability to subsist on already diminishing wages, the elite further separate themselves from the rest of us, increasing the wealth gap, and by consequence, increasing their power and control over us as well. When the rich get richer and the poor poorer, only a nation of fools fails to see who wins and who loses.

As such, the Iraq War is also a war against the American people, for it is designed to make us anemic creatures dependent on the decisions of the elite. It is engineered in part to increase injustice, inequality, exploitation and dominion over us, robbing us of our power to mobilize and seek change. By redistributing America’s treasure away from the people and to the few elite and the corporations, using war as pretext and fear as a conditioning element, government is being rewired to stop acting in the interest of the masses. Meanwhile, it is being made to serve the interests of the corporate world, which have been getting enormously powerful through the looting of our treasure, under the rubric of fighting the fictional war on terror and under the illusion of destroying a nation only to later rebuild it. The shifting of resources away from what helps the people to what empowers the corporate world is but one more sign that the age of American corporatism is upon us.

The belief that the Iraq War will end once the Bush administration leaves office, and that American soldiers will return home, is an illusion and a mirage, a concoction of wishful thinking that has no basis in reality. America has cemented its presence, firmly planting the foundations for a long and prolonged occupation. Permanent military bases have been erected, as has the largest embassy the world has ever seen. It has manipulated elections so that its puppets are elevated to the highest echelons of Iraqi power. It has written oil laws favorable to its interests that it then demands be passed by so called sovereign Iraqi lawmakers, in essence writing the same laws it needs to make legal the exploitation and robbery of Iraq’s oil fields.

The Middle East is the most vital region in the world in terms of energy allocation and its subsequent strategic control, and is therefore of tremendous national importance to a nation desiring to elevate itself to full-fledged empire status. It has controlled the region for decades now, either by military force, destruction of democracy and through its large cadre of puppets, and by occupying Iraq with a large military force, it now possesses a stranglehold on the world’s second largest energy reserves. And, by making colonies of Afghanistan and Iraq, by supporting the tyrants of Central Asia, it now surrounds the third largest oil reserves in the world, namely those of Iran. Its rich oil and gas fields, now targeted for conquest, are located just across the Iraq border, within invading distance for American forces, far away from Tehran, close enough to smell the fumes.

Iraq, therefore, is a prize that will never be relinquished, and is the reason America will never extricate herself from the debacle it has created. No amount of pre-invasion ignorance, occupying incompetence and blinding arrogance will force America to abandon her cherished possession. No continued bleeding through a thousand cuts will force it to return home in defeat. To the architects of empire, there is more than enough cannon fodder, more than enough treasure from which to maintain control of Iraq’s oil fields. There is too much invested already, too much left to gain, too many fragile egos to appease, too many insecure men to protect, to simply abandon a prize that has been cherished by the elite for decades.

We are in Iraq, and though broken by our hands, though destroyed by our military, she is now ours, for our greed and our love of comfort and consumerism demands that she be pillaged of her oil and raped of her sovereignty. Our addiction to her black blood demands that we care nothing for the plight of her people or for the decimation of her society. It demands that we cast a blind eye to the holocaust now taking place there and the ethnic cleansing destroying families and neighborhoods.

It demands that we see Iraqis as subhuman brown skinned aliens, their plight and suffering ignored, their decimation at the hands of our military and our government lost in hollow memory banks. It is because of oil, after all, that we can share in the privileges of living in the wealthiest nation the world has ever known. And so to continue living in comfort and consumerism, the beast must be fed, it must gorge upon the dark liquid of the third world, and the deal with the devil must, invariably, continue well into the future.

As such, no matter which member of the political duopoly is in the White House, no matter how loudly the citizenry demands a pullout, the United States will not leave Iraq in the foreseeable future. The two headed hydra is, after all, attached to the same body, obeying the same master. No amount of lies or spin or promises will alter this reality. We live in the New American Century, after all, where reality is the domain of those in power. As the will of the people no longer matters or counts, our voices will be silenced, our growing anger suppressed. Sure the illusion of troops returning home will be created, with scenes of families reuniting and hero’s coming home gracing the airwaves, yet in the real world, back in the land of permanent bases and rich oil fields, back where enormous and modern embassies rise on the banks of ancient rivers, tens of thousands of troops will remain, guarding America’s ultimate prize, the blood that sustains Empire, comfort and the military-industrial-energy complex.

The mirage of American troops returning from Iraq with their heads held high, as always marching triumphantly, as always having defeated evil, will captivate millions of ignorant but otherwise well-intentioned Americans. To millions more, however, this charade will be seen for the fiction that it is, for Iraq will remain a very dangerous place, especially for energy exploiters and oil conglomerates eager to further enrich themselves by pillaging a nation blind. Tens of thousands of American soldiers will remain, we will be told, to secure democracy and freedom for the Iraqi people, to ensure security in the cities, to make sure the “democratically” elected puppet is protected from al-Qaeda. We will be made to think our soldiers need to remain to protect Iraqis from themselves.

In truth, tens of thousands of soldiers will establish a permanent presence in Iraq because the Anglo-American energy consortium will need protection while it pillages and rapes Iraq of her natural resources. America’s military will be needed to defend from the targeted sabotage and rebellion of freedom fighters, from the expected assassinations and kidnappings of energy workers. It will ask to protect pipelines, oil fields and their infrastructure; it will be told to suppress strikes and the rage of Iraqi oil workers. The safety and freedom of Iraqis will mean absolutely nothing in the grand scheme of greed and gluttony and American empire. To the empire, oil trumps blood just as much as profit trumps people.

Brand Marketing

Of course to hear the Iraq War apologists tell it, and there are many of these individuals in government and the corporatist media, America is in Iraq because we are fighting al-Qaeda, and nobody else. To the dwindling delusionists and supporters of this illegal war who are somehow inexplicably still given a voice in the media and in print, the illusion must be made that America is at war, given this war on terror, with the dreaded bogeymen from al-Qaeda, those same evildoers who attacked us on 9/11. This is the only way to keep the charade going in the minds of millions that America must remain in Iraq, staying the course, as always knowing that the deeply embedded myth of America being the epitome of good and always triumphing over evil, epitomized by whatever convenient scapegoat is needed, will again capture the minds of the naïve and gullible.

This fantasy, of course, is the last refuge of scoundrels, for it has been proven over and over again that only two to five percent of fighters in Iraq are foreign. But this does not preclude scoundrels from preaching lies to the congregation nonetheless. A convenient enemy is needed to validate the Iraq occupation, however, one that has already been conditioned into the American mind as being nefarious and monstrous.

Indeed, what America confronts is guerilla warfare in an urban setting. Her soldiers, sent to protect the interests of the elite and those of the military-industrial-energy complex, are engaged in a battle against freedom fighters, the vast majority from Iraq, most common peasants once living ordinary lives who want nothing more than to rid their land of the occupying forces. From the beginning of time resistance fighters have waged war against the more powerful invading and occupying force, as always using their skills and talents to bleed their rivals to death.

Like American Revolutionaries, Iraq’s freedom fighters fight for independence and freedom, for nationality and to expel foreign forces from their country. If America or any other nation were invaded and occupied, resistance fighters would immediately spring up as well, forming an army of brave patriots using the tactics of the poor to try and contain the weapons of the much more powerful and wealthier military. Unfortunately, it is the poor of both countries waging war against each other, killing and maiming one another, for the benefit of the wealthy and powerful. Such is war that the poor are always made to fight each other when it is the elite that is their common enemy.

Yet the truth of who and what America’s army is fighting can never be mentioned, for a myth has been embedded into the average American mind that America is in Iraq to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq, not to fight their freedom fighters or rape their women. Since an occupying power cannot fully dehumanize a legitimate resistance movement, given that its cause is nobler than that of the occupying force itself, it must resort to the realm of fiction and propaganda, concocting lies and distortions to smear the resistance. Only by making freedom fighters seem subhuman or evil in the eyes of its people can the occupying force thereby make it acceptable to mass murder, dehumanize, torture and illegally detain Iraqis.

Indeed, resistance movements such as those fighting the American military in Iraq are allowed under international law. When such an invasion and subsequent occupation has been proven to be based on lies and deceit, becoming immoral and illegal, a crime against humanity, any resistance movement would find broad support among the peoples of the world. Indeed, these movements are romanticized and applauded, for they become brave patriots and freedom fighters against criminality, illegality and immorality. Such was the case with the French resistance against the Nazis, the Jewish resistance in the ghettos, the plight of blacks in apartheid South Africa and the struggle of Palestinians against the oppressive and apartheid methods of the Israelis.

As such, in order to marginalize and vilify the resistance, in order for the American populace to accept wanton destruction and killing, in order to transform individuals fighting for independence and for an end to occupation, the impression must be made by the creators of reality that the Iraqi mujahedeen are really al-Qaeda in Iraq, thereby becoming the central myth of why America is in Iraq and why it must continue to remain there. This way, the dreaded evildoer extraordinaire, that entity that continuously haunts the American mind, that bogeyman that in the original conspiracy theory was said to have brought down World Trade Center towers 1,2 and 7 through controlled demolitions and at freefall speed, killing 3,000 innocent Americans in the process, can continue to spread fear and insecurity in the belief structure of millions of Americans who, like Pavlovian dogs, cower in fear at the sound of the word al-Qaeda. It is al-Qaeda, after all, and not Iraq freedom fighters, who attacked us on 9/11. It is al-Qaeda, after all, that planned war games on the day of 9/11 and ordered fighter planes to stand down, not Iraqi resistance fighters.

Thus, by using the concocted scapegoat of al-Qaeda, having escaped the caves and mud huts of Afghanistan, this time festering and planning to take over Iraq if we let them, and hiding the reality of whom exactly the American military is fighting in Iraq, millions of Americans readily accept the continued occupation as being beneficial to their own safety and security. For, as the scoundrels and the liars love to tell us, we are fighting them there so we do not have to fight them here. If we leave, we are told, they, being al-Qaeda, will follow us back, undoubtedly to wage holy jihad in the little towns of Indiana and Nebraska. This way, the creators of the new reality hide the true rival in Iraq while at the same time manipulating the American public into allowing the continued debacle taking place.

As long as the term al-Qaeda is used in symphony with Iraq, as long as Iraq and the so-called war on terror are similarly correlated, millions of Americans will continue to support an occupation that is illegal and immoral. As such, the Iraqi resistance movement will continue to gain strength, it will continue to engage the American military, and a war of attrition will continue to kill and maim both Americans and Iraqis. This way, a vicious cycle of violence will not cease, for Americans will continue to associate the need to wage war in Iraq, believing, albeit mistakenly, that America fights al-Qaeda in the fictional war on terror, not knowing or understanding the true nature of the rival.

With violence begetting violence, more resistance fighters will join the movement, as naturally occurs in a guerilla war against an occupation. With manipulations and lies, the American people will be made to believe that al-Qaeda in Iraq is growing more dangerous, that it is expanding, that it will indeed follow us home if we leave, that it presents a clear and present danger that must be defeated. Thus, the ingredients for the endless war the elite have dreamt about for decades, and the key to staying permanently in Iraq, have managed to rise out of one nation’s desire to be free of occupation and another’s systematically damaged and manipulated psyche, born on 9/11, that freezes in horror and loses all ability to reason and think logically at the mention of the words al-Qaeda and war on terror. As long as the term al-Qaeda is used over the airwaves, as long as it retains its corroding effect, the American people will allow the fictional war on terror to continue. Such is the damage done by the masters of reality.

Quite conveniently, then, Iraq’s freedom fighters are morphed by the state and the corporatist media into al-Qaeda, thereby validating America’s presence and continued occupation of a nation, and a people, fighting for her freedom. The liberty and ease by which the apologists of the war grant al-Qaeda franchises throughout Iraq, indeed, wherever America seems to pick fights, without even a hint at investigation by the corporatist media, underlies the fallacy of this myth. Along with the purported death of probably 100 al-Qaeda’s number two’s, it also demonstrates the level of propaganda and manipulation the Pentagon and its lackeys fill the media, and thus our minds with. Truth is the first casualty of war, after all. Therefore, under the auspices of fighting terrorism, America can stay and focus on the real and most important task at hand, namely the complete control, rape and pillage of Iraq’s oil fields and pipelines.

The Curse of Black Gold

And so America will continue fighting in Iraq because the state says we are fighting al-Qaeda, because it blames Iraq’s puppet government for its own incompetence and ignorance, because it says through its stenographers and talking heads that the war on terror must be fought, even if it takes decades to win, and because America is good and exceptional and she must defeat evil, just as she has always done. Along with our permanent occupation, we will continue mass murdering, torturing, dehumanizing and falsely imprisoning hundreds of thousands of Iraqis whose only crime, whose only curse, is living atop the devil’s excrement, that dark liquid waiting to be gorged on by a most greedy, ignorant and arrogant drug addict.

For when it comes to dominating that black gold called oil, easily available for conquest in various third world nations, either through puppets, market colonialism or military might, no dark skinned, non-European looking human is safe from the tentacles of modern empire, for soon subhuman you will be called, seen as primitive, as an animal, needing the “enlightened” hand of Western intervention for salvation. When the aim of categorizing you as alien, evil and below the parameters of being human is achieved your family will be murdered, your people displaced, your life forever altered, your plight ignored. Your death will never equal that of an American or a British citizen, for you are a third worlder, a person of the southern globe, bred to be exploited and oppressed, your lands becoming the feudal estates of corporatism, your blood, sweat and tears falling only after you have slaved yourself for the north’s comfort and wealth.

The death of your son will not be counted, the rape of your daughter will be dismissed as lies, the dehumanization of your father and the torture of your brother will never see light of day, for your country has been targeted as the next petrol station that will invariably be forced to pay tribute to the purple robe of empire. Whether you live in Nigeria, Venezuela, the Caspian Sea basin or Iran, it does not matter, for you live where black gold abounds, where the drug of oil can be found. As such your lands will become toxic, your air and water filled with poison. All the while, even as your natural resources are pillaged, your nation raped, your nation collapsing, you will never see a dime from the corporations of the empire. For poverty is your destiny, even as vast wealth lies below your feet. Subsisting on garbage, living in shacks, your national wealth stolen and embezzled, you thus realize that the black gold you were told would transform your nation has been nothing but a terrible curse you wish never existed.

Of course if you live where the devil’s excrement is bountiful you cannot help but notice the addiction of the empire, and how maddened it becomes if its fix is not satiated. You realize that death, destruction and suffering are the only realities and expectations for nations not willing to pay tribute to the empire. Thus, if you are not careful, if you are not ready, the next knock on your door might very well be that of a most immoral and criminal addict, ready to kill you and destroy your nation for its next much needed fix. And then you will automatically become the Empire’s next enemy, its next terrorist scapegoat, becoming the evildoer chosen to strike fear in the American populace. Inevitably, your face, your people and your culture will become the poster children in the next marketing campaign and psychological war against the American citizenry, designed, as always, by fascism’s public relations experts, its army of little Goebbels.

Deal With the Devil

America cannot exorcise itself from its addiction to oil that, like a demon inside our body, possesses us day and night, demanding that we satisfy our insatiable thirst for black blood. In this deal with the devil that we long ago made, we became dependent on a natural resource that, while not plentiful inside our own shores, is readily abundant in the Middle East, Central Asia, West Africa and Venezuela. For this reason the Middle East has become a militarized region, a vast feudal estate owned by the masters and lords of energy, protected by the Empire itself. For this reason it has become the world’s most volatile and sought after region. Inside its borders puppets and despots and proctors overlook America’s oil fields, proclaiming themselves princes, kings and presidents, as always oppressing and exploiting their people, as always overseeing the empire’s interests.

In our deal with the devil, the more we taste the more we want; the more we continue to grow the bigger we want to get. The more powerful we are the greedier and more gluttonous we become, expanding the size of everything we own, including our stomachs. Millions of us believe oil is abundant, as if it grows yearly in some global breadbasket. Millions of us fail to understand that hundreds of thousands of human beings are killed and maimed, and tens of millions live in perpetual indigence and oftentimes are forced to confront armed conflict because of our insatiable addiction to oil. Millions of us fail to see that it is our standards of living, our greed and gluttony, that contributes to so much misery and destruction worldwide.

Yet year after year our greed compels us toward ever larger vehicles and homes, bigger toys and an exponentially growing consumption habit. Through our actions it seems that we care nothing for the planet or its inhabitants, instead filling our minds with the arrogance and apathy of a spoiled child, transforming ourselves into a most insecure schoolyard bully. We behave as if we are entitled to what does not belong to us, in essence forcing the school’s other kids to give us their lunch money, threatening with violence those that decline or stand up for themselves.

Our greed and gluttony, our indifference and arrogance, our insistence on maintaining and even expanding our standards of living, all at the expense of the planet and its people, is the reason we invade, occupy and exploit weaker nations. It is the reason Iraq is in chaos, why Nigeria is on the verge of full rebellion, why Central Asia is full of despotic leaders and why Venezuela is vilified. It will be the reason why Russia and China will in the years ahead become rivals and enemies, why more and more people around the globe hate America and why we spend more on military equipment and weapons than the entire world put together. It is when we look in the mirror that the devil’s excrement can be seen, acting like an aura around our head, smearing our face with the darkness of wickedness and the madness of addiction.

We can continue believing the exceptionalism of America, the grandeur of her virtues, that of her leaders and her people, yet reality and truth are altogether different, presenting circumstances too uncomfortable for us to contemplate yet important enough to try and understand. We can continue living the delusion of myth and the charade of the American Dream. We can continue being brainwashed and conditioned that our way of life is the only way of life, that the world entire must conform to this way of life, and that bogeymen hate us for said way of life. Yet to confront the evil’s done in our name by the government we elect or fail to stop, we must realize that in many ways, we are to be blamed, we are guilty in failing to act, in putting a stop to an unsustainable standard of living.

Until we realize the damage we do around the planet so that we may live in comfort, so that we may enjoy the highest standards of living humans have ever had, so that we may drive giant SUVs and live in expansive, heated and air-conditioned homes, America will remain in Iraq indefinitely, her military garrisoned inside bases clustered around oil fields, facilities and pipelines. Until we confront the predatory capitalism that is turning America into a corporatist state and the world into a giant sweatshop Iraq and others like it will continue. Until we look ourselves in the mirror and realize that it is our failure to act and alter a doomed course, that it is our indifference to the damage our lifestyles cause Earth, we will finally grasp that it is ourselves, more than anything else, that are the reason we will remain in Iraq long into the future, for our way of life must be maintained and fed through the world’s last remaining petroleum reserves.

Until we realize our gluttony and greed, until we decide to put a stop to our addiction and arrogance, a new version of Iraq will metastasize every decade or so, popping up somewhere around the globe where black gold exists, every time new oil fields are needed to expand our economy or our comfort level, causing untold suffering and destruction in the process, resulting in resistance, conflict and a ever-growing hatred of America. To feed itself the empire thus needs to increase its military, it thus needs to maintain over 750 bases worldwide. To feed its peoples’ ever-growing greed and gluttony, its ever expanding waistline, Iraq must remain within the empire’s violent and voracious claws, becoming a colony of imperialism, to be exploited and raped.

No amount of propaganda or brainwashing or delusion or denial can make extinct this truth. We are thus stuck in Iraq for the long term, for her resources and land is needed to sustain and maintain the America we live in. To believe the empire will ever leave voluntarily is to live in delusion and fall prey to the myths of our conditioning. We have made a deal with the devil, and now we must pay its consequences.

Manuel Valenzuela is a social critic and commentator, international affairs analyst and Internet essayist. His articles as well as his archive can be found at his blog, and at as well as at other alternative news websites from around the globe. Mr. Valenzuela is also author of Echoes in the Wind, a fiction novel. Mr. Valenzuela welcomes comments and can be reached at