Monday, December 27, 2010

2011: A Brave New Dystopia by Chris Hedges

The two greatest visions of a future dystopia were George Orwell’s “1984” and Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.” The debate, between those who watched our descent towards corporate totalitarianism, was who was right. Would we be, as Orwell wrote, dominated by a repressive surveillance and security state that used crude and violent forms of control? Or would we be, as Huxley envisioned, entranced by entertainment and spectacle, captivated by technology and seduced by profligate consumption to embrace our own oppression? It turns out Orwell and Huxley were both right. Huxley saw the first stage of our enslavement. Orwell saw the second.

We have been gradually disempowered by a corporate state that, as Huxley foresaw, seduced and manipulated us through sensual gratification, cheap mass-produced goods, boundless credit, political theater and amusement. While we were entertained, the regulations that once kept predatory corporate power in check were dismantled, the laws that once protected us were rewritten and we were impoverished. Now that credit is drying up, good jobs for the working class are gone forever and mass-produced goods are unaffordable, we find ourselves transported from “Brave New World” to “1984.” The state, crippled by massive deficits, endless war and corporate malfeasance, is sliding toward bankruptcy. It is time for Big Brother to take over from Huxley’s feelies, the orgy-porgy and the centrifugal bumble-puppy. We are moving from a society where we are skillfully manipulated by lies and illusions to one where we are overtly controlled.

Orwell warned of a world where books were banned. Huxley warned of a world where no one wanted to read books. Orwell warned of a state of permanent war and fear. Huxley warned of a culture diverted by mindless pleasure. Orwell warned of a state where every conversation and thought was monitored and dissent was brutally punished. Huxley warned of a state where a population, preoccupied by trivia and gossip, no longer cared about truth or information. Orwell saw us frightened into submission. Huxley saw us seduced into submission. But Huxley, we are discovering, was merely the prelude to Orwell. Huxley understood the process by which we would be complicit in our own enslavement. Orwell understood the enslavement. Now that the corporate coup is over, we stand naked and defenseless. We are beginning to understand, as Karl Marx knew, that unfettered and unregulated capitalism is a brutal and revolutionary force that exploits human beings and the natural world until exhaustion or collapse. 

“The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake,” Orwell wrote in “1984.”  “We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites. The German Nazis and the Russian Communists came very close to us in their methods, but they never had the courage to recognize their own motives. They pretended, perhaps they even believed, that they had seized power unwillingly and for a limited time, and that just round the corner there lay a paradise where human beings would be free and equal. We are not like that. We know that no one ever seizes power with the intention of relinquishing it. Power is not a means; it is an end. One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes the revolution in order to establish the dictatorship. The object of persecution is persecution. The object of torture is torture. The object of power is power.”

The political philosopher Sheldon Wolin uses the term “inverted totalitarianism” in his book “Democracy Incorporated” to describe our political system. It is a term that would make sense to Huxley. In inverted totalitarianism, the sophisticated technologies of corporate control, intimidation and mass manipulation, which far surpass those employed by previous totalitarian states, are effectively masked by the glitter, noise and abundance of a consumer society. Political participation and civil liberties are gradually surrendered. The corporation state, hiding behind the smokescreen of the public relations industry, the entertainment industry and the tawdry materialism of a consumer society, devours us from the inside out. It owes no allegiance to us or the nation. It feasts upon our carcass. 

The corporate state does not find its expression in a demagogue or charismatic leader. It is defined by the anonymity and facelessness of the corporation. Corporations, who hire attractive spokespeople like Barack Obama, control the uses of science, technology, education and mass communication. They control the messages in movies and television. And, as in “Brave New World,” they use these tools of communication to bolster tyranny. Our systems of mass communication, as Wolin writes, “block out, eliminate whatever might introduce qualification, ambiguity, or dialogue, anything that might weaken or complicate the holistic force of their creation, to its total impression.”

The result is a monochromatic system of information. Celebrity courtiers, masquerading as journalists, experts and specialists, identify our problems and patiently explain the parameters. All those who argue outside the imposed parameters are dismissed as irrelevant cranks, extremists or members of a radical left. Prescient social critics, from Ralph Nader to Noam Chomsky, are banished. Acceptable opinions have a range of A to B. The culture, under the tutelage of these corporate courtiers, becomes, as Huxley noted, a world of cheerful conformity, as well as an endless and finally fatal optimism. We busy ourselves buying products that promise to change our lives, make us more beautiful, confident or successful as we are steadily stripped of rights, money and influence. All messages we receive through these systems of communication, whether on the nightly news or talk shows like “Oprah,” promise a brighter, happier tomorrow. And this, as Wolin points out, is “the same ideology that invites corporate executives to exaggerate profits and conceal losses, but always with a sunny face.” We have been entranced, as Wolin writes, by “continuous technological advances” that “encourage elaborate fantasies of individual prowess, eternal youthfulness, beauty through surgery, actions measured in nanoseconds: a dream-laden culture of ever-expanding control and possibility, whose denizens are prone to fantasies because the vast majority have imagination but little scientific knowledge.”

Our manufacturing base has been dismantled. Speculators and swindlers have looted the U.S. Treasury and stolen billions from small shareholders who had set aside money for retirement or college. Civil liberties, including habeas corpus and protection from warrantless wiretapping, have been taken away. Basic services, including public education and health care, have been handed over to the corporations to exploit for profit. The few who raise voices of dissent, who refuse to engage in the corporate happy talk, are derided by the corporate establishment as freaks.

Attitudes and temperament have been cleverly engineered by the corporate state, as with Huxley’s pliant characters in “Brave New World.” The book’s protagonist, Bernard Marx, turns in frustration to his girlfriend Lenina:
“Don’t you wish you were free, Lenina?” he asks.
“I don’t know that you mean. I am free, free to have the most wonderful time. Everybody’s happy nowadays.”
He laughed, “Yes, ‘Everybody’s happy nowadays.’ We have been giving the children that at five. But wouldn’t you like to be free to be happy in some other way, Lenina? In your own way, for example; not in everybody else’s way.”
“I don’t know what you mean,” she repeated.
The façade is crumbling. And as more and more people realize that they have been used and robbed, we will move swiftly from Huxley’s “Brave New World” to Orwell’s “1984.” The public, at some point, will have to face some very unpleasant truths. The good-paying jobs are not coming back. The largest deficits in human history mean that we are trapped in a debt peonage system that will be used by the corporate state to eradicate the last vestiges of social protection for citizens, including Social Security. The state has devolved from a capitalist democracy to neo-feudalism. And when these truths become apparent, anger will replace the corporate-imposed cheerful conformity. The bleakness of our post-industrial pockets, where some 40 million Americans live in a state of poverty and tens of millions in a category called “near poverty,” coupled with the lack of credit to save families from foreclosures, bank repossessions and bankruptcy from medical bills, means that inverted totalitarianism will no longer work.

We increasingly live in Orwell’s Oceania, not Huxley’s The World State. Osama bin Laden plays the role assumed by Emmanuel Goldstein in “1984.” Goldstein, in the novel, is the public face of terror. His evil machinations and clandestine acts of violence dominate the nightly news. Goldstein’s image appears each day on Oceania’s television screens as part of the nation’s “Two Minutes of Hate” daily ritual. And without the intervention of the state, Goldstein, like bin Laden, will kill you. All excesses are justified in the titanic fight against evil personified.

The psychological torture of Pvt. Bradley Manning—who has now been imprisoned for seven months without being convicted of any crime—mirrors the breaking of the dissident Winston Smith at the end of “1984.” Manning is being held as a “maximum custody detainee” in the brig at Marine Corps Base Quantico, in Virginia. He spends 23 of every 24 hours alone. He is denied exercise. He cannot have a pillow or sheets for his bed. Army doctors have been plying him with antidepressants. The cruder forms of torture of the Gestapo have been replaced with refined Orwellian techniques, largely developed by government psychologists, to turn dissidents like Manning into vegetables. We break souls as well as bodies. It is more effective. Now we can all be taken to Orwell’s dreaded Room 101 to become compliant and harmless. These “special administrative measures” are regularly imposed on our dissidents, including Syed Fahad Hashmi, who was imprisoned under similar conditions for three years before going to trial. The techniques have psychologically maimed thousands of detainees in our black sites around the globe. They are the staple form of control in our maximum security prisons where the corporate state makes war on our most politically astute underclass—African-Americans. It all presages the shift from Huxley to Orwell.

“Never again will you be capable of ordinary human feeling,” Winston Smith’s torturer tells him in “1984.” “Everything will be dead inside you. Never again will you be capable of love, or friendship, or joy of living, or laughter, or curiosity, or courage, or integrity. You will be hollow. We shall squeeze you empty and then we shall fill you with ourselves.”

The noose is tightening. The era of amusement is being replaced by the era of repression. Tens of millions of citizens have had their e-mails and phone records turned over to the government. We are the most monitored and spied-on citizenry in human history. Many of us have our daily routine caught on dozens of security cameras. Our proclivities and habits are recorded on the Internet. Our profiles are electronically generated. Our bodies are patted down at airports and filmed by scanners. And public service announcements, car inspection stickers, and public transportation posters constantly urge us to report suspicious activity. The enemy is everywhere.

Those who do not comply with the dictates of the war on terror, a war which, as Orwell noted, is endless, are brutally silenced. The draconian security measures used to cripple protests at the G-20 gatherings in Pittsburgh and Toronto were wildly disproportionate for the level of street activity. But they sent a clear message—DO NOT TRY THIS. The FBI’s targeting of antiwar and Palestinian activists, which in late September saw agents raid homes in Minneapolis and Chicago, is a harbinger of what is to come for all who dare defy the state’s official Newspeak. The agents—our Thought Police—seized phones, computers, documents and other personal belongings. Subpoenas to appear before a grand jury have since been served on 26 people. The subpoenas cite federal law prohibiting “providing material support or resources to designated foreign terrorist organizations.” Terror, even for those who have nothing to do with terror, becomes the blunt instrument used by Big Brother to protect us from ourselves.
“Do you begin to see, then, what kind of world we are creating?” Orwell wrote. “It is the exact opposite of the stupid hedonistic Utopias that the old reformers imagined. A world of fear and treachery and torment, a world of trampling and being trampled upon, a world which will grow not less but more merciless as it refines itself.”

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle

Thursday, December 23, 2010

For CIA drone warriors, the future is death By Pepe Escobar

Forget the iPad; the ultimate icon of fetishized commodity is the drone. Israelis do it - and sell them like hot cakes. Mexicans do it - to patrol their side of the border. Brazilians wanna do it - to patrol the Rio favelas. Saudis wanna do it. Uzbeks wanna do it. Everybody's singing: Let's do it. Let's fall in love (with the drone).

Furthermore, abandon all hope those who enter (the doors of misperception): Afghanistan is now officially just a lowly, troop-infested sideshow to the AfPak war. The real thing is an illegal drone war against Pakistan. Viva Richard Nixon. As much as Tricky Dick annexed Cambodia to the Vietnam War, the Barack Obama administration pulled a Nixon regarding Pakistan. And the great thing is that no one needs another WikiLeaks "dump" to know this. It's out there in the open.

Tricky Dick's tricks paved the way to Year Zero for the Khmer Rouge. Obama's throw of the dice may be paving the way to a Year Zero for the Pashtun brotherhood. The 16-agency US intelligence establishment says the Afghan adventure is doomed. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is somewhat gloomy. But the surge-addicted White House - in a stark reminder of those George W Bush-era reports about Iraq - says it's all swell (Taliban "momentum has been arrested in much of the country"). Pentagon supremo Robert Gates says Washington now controls more Afghan territory than a year ago; maybe in terms of Kabul shopping malls - and that's already a stretch.

Taliban momentum, anyway, is just an afterthought. What matters for the White House is to smash ("significant progress") al-Qaeda, allegedly holed up not in Afghanistan but in Pakistan's tribal areas. Take them Pakistani Talibs out from the air, with the CIA playing Ride of the Valkyries, just like in an orgiastic Facebook-friendly remix of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now, with all those US Marine tanks rolling along in Helmand province offering a cute counterpart. I love the smell of a burning Talib in the morning. Makes me think of ... re-election.

But what about collateral damage? Tough guys of the "real men go to Tehran" type say this is for sissies (the New America Foundation says around a third of drone deaths are civilians, but that's hugely underestimated, according to Pakistani sources.) Blowback, anyway, is guaranteed to last until the 22nd century.

Faster CIA, kill, kill

So it's not the Pentagon but the CIA that is showering Death from Above over dirt-poor mud-hut villages in a country against which the US is not at war. Things may change - witness the frenzy to legally nail "terrorist" Julian Assange - but US law does not exactly condone mass assassination campaigns.

The CIA drone war is obviously secret and illegal. That can be fixed with the incoming chairman of the US House Armed Services Committee updating the congressional authorization for this extended war on al-Qaeda. As for Pashtuns collaborating with the CIA, they are technically Afghans, not Pakistanis, from different tribes; that will foster centuries of subsequent tribal trouble once the families of the dead ascertain who the snitches are.

Whatever the rhetoric emanating from Washington in 2011, the game will keep being duly played according to only one plot-advancing script; American Pentagonists visit Islamabad/Rawalpindi to warn the Pakistanis of Washington's perennial "strategic impatience" with what they're doing, while their military/intelligence establishment go live to spin they're doing all they can, but also need to be watchful of Pakistan's own interests.

In a nutshell: expect for 2011 an endless parade of Predators and Reapers firing barrages of missiles at the usual "suspected militants" in North Waziristan, Khyber or anywhere else in the tribal areas; and forget about Islamabad/Rawalpindi sending their army into North Waziristan to fight "al-Qaeda" or even the local tribes.

What this essentially means is that the nebula/myth conveniently branded "al-Qaeda" remains in the clear. There's no way its few dozen invisible jihadis can be crushed by the CIA's illegal air war, not to mention troops from Islamabad/Rawalpindi. And even supposing they were, the "franchises" would still be in business - as in AQAP, al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula/Yemen.

Drone Eye for the Straight Guy
Who cares about Don't Ask, Don't Tell? The new hit in all things AfPak is Drone Eye for the Straight Guy. The next chief of the CIA's National Clandestine Service - that is, the CIA's new top spy - is John D Bennett, none other than the former head of a drone-infested CIA paramilitary wing. An Associated Press story even claimed that he directed the drones in Pakistan during the Bush era.

Even the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General "Hoss" Cartwright, has totally gone Drone Eye for the Straight Guy. As he sees it, COIN is now history; the hip thing to do is "counter-terrorism", as in drone-saturated air war. Consider the drone war as Washington's premier stimulus package to Central Asia.

Progress in over-stimulated Afghanistan, according to the Obama administration's year-end report, is "frail and reversible". This means in practice that for all the spin, missile-saturated Kandahar is not becoming Orange county anytime soon.

The Afghanistan plot won't thicken; it will dilute in the usual diarrhea. Afghans will keep saying over and over again they are not exactly Taliban fans - but they hate the corrupt Hamid Karzai gang and Washington even more, for allowing their occupied country to be controlled by gangsters and warlords.

Washington will keep tweaking its losing "strategy" of smashing the Taliban with extreme firepower. The Taliban for their part have already fine-tuned their own strategy of "flee the south-go north". All the roads in Afghanistan lead to Kabul; not by accident, all are intercepted or under Taliban attack. Karzai rule stops abruptly at the last rickety police station south of Kabul, on the road to Kandahar. It's as if Kabul was enveloped by an eerie Titanic feeling - that pampered, gated-condo isolated neo-colonial coterie of generals, diplomats, non-governmental organizations and security contractors partying hard as in before the fall of Saigon.

But soon anyway a "new" narrative will be taking over - the snail-pace North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) "drawdown" from 2011 to 2014. But does that mean the beginning of the endgame - no more war? Rather it's back to the beginning, as in "abandon all hope those who enter (the doors of misperception)". To (literally) thunderous applause by a coterie of neophyte neo-jihadi bombers, the Obama White House has explicitly emphasized "NATO's enduring commitment beyond 2014".

A key feature of this "enduring commitment" is that the Afghan army soldiers and cops NATO is training (supplemented by US private contractors of the Dyncorp/Blackwater mould) will need no less than US$6 billion a year, every year, till probably eternity, from the usually euphemistic "international donors", key among them US taxpayers.

It's a gas, gas, gas

And here's where The Year of the Drone merges with what the late, great deconstructionist Jacques Lacan would qualify as "the unsayable": the invisible, dangerous liaisons between the "war on terror" and the energy war, as in the topography of the war on terror matching all the key 21st-century sources of energy from the Middle East to Central Asia.

This implies a key Pipelineistan chapter - the never-ending saga of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline, which has been at the very core of the troubled Washington-Kabul marriage since the mid-1990s.

The TAPI inter-government agreement was finally signed in mid-December. Make no mistake; this is Washington in overdrive. The Washington-backed Asian Development Bank is to come up with the bulk of the $7.6 billion (and counting) financial package. The 2,000 kilometer-long TAPI - to be built by an international consortium - should snake through a very dodgy 735 kilometers of Afghanistan and 800 kilometers of Pakistan.

Hype apart, there's no hard evidence that TAPI will "stabilize" Afghanistan or contribute to India and Pakistan trading kisses instead of insults. AfPak in this case are both transit countries. Most of the Afghan stretch will be underground - much as the US-supported BTC from Baku in Azerbaijan to Ceyhan, Turkey. In theory, local villages will be paid to guard the pipeline. But that still does not guarantee security to a steel serpent crossing western Afghanistan and then going east through Kandahar.

Once again in theory, TAPI is indeed a steel Silk Road between Central and South Asia. If TAPI is ever built - and that's still a big "if" - certainly it will mark a monster crossover of Pipelineistan with the US Empire of Bases. Because none other than the Pentagon and NATO will provide the overall security. And that means the Atlanticist West forever embedded in AfPak. One can imagine what the Taliban on both sides - not to mention disgruntled Pashtuns in general - will make of that.

And even if TAPI is built, this still does not mean that its key competitor, the $7.3 billion Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline, also known as the "peace pipeline", has lost the battle - much to Washington's horror. The Indians have said that much - they are now chasing insurance giants of the Lloyds variety. And Pakistan definitely wants both TAPI and IPI.

TAPI theoretically should be finished by 2014. Surprise! That's exactly the deadline year (for now ...) for American troops to exit Afghanistan. No one will be exiting anything. Finally, the whole AfPak imbroglio will be revealed for what it is; a Pipelineistan gambit.

Meanwhile, enjoy the Year of the Drone. And while we're at it, here's some breaking news. The 2011 Pentagon/NATO strategy for AfPak is already established: wait for the Taliban spring/summer offensive to see where they're at. And then drone them to death. Call it Drone Eye for the Bad Guy.

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

He may be reached at 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Emperor waits in wings with waterboard By Pepe Escobar

Oh! spies are of no use nowadays. Their profession is over. The newspapers do their work instead.
- Oscar Wilde, An Ideal Husband, Act III

"He will not be going back to that cell once occupied by Oscar Wilde."

Eventually he didn't. But little did Mark Stephens, one of Julian Assange's lawyers, know that it would still take over three twisting-and-turning hours for his client to finally exit the Royal Courts of Justice in central London a free man.

It's as if WikiLeaks founder Assange, emerging from the silence of the shadows to the proverbially frantic media scrum, already knew that the real war starts now - and has nothing to do with jealous groupies, broken condoms and "sex by surprise".

This was the key passage of Assange's brief statement, read immediately after he was able to breathe the air of London again. He said, "During my time in solitary confinement in the bottom of a Victorian prison, I had time to reflect on the conditions of those people around the world also in solitary confinement, also on remand, in conditions that are more difficult than those faced by me. Those people also need your attention and support."

As in: pay excruciatingly close attention to what the US government is doing to Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old army private accused of leaking hundreds of thousands of cables to WikiLeaks. Manning has been held in solitary confinement at the US Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Virginia, for five months now. He has not been convicted of any crime. In a devastating Salon article, Glenn Greenwald has stressed that Manning is "under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture".

So that was Assange's terse way of saying to the world: Big Brother is watching you. And what they're doing to Manning they want to do to me, to you, and metaphorically to anyone who believes in freedom of information.

Make my day, leaker
Much to the horror of the emperor, WikiLeaks is still in business, from now on comfortably ensconced in a vast, remote Georgian country house, Ellingham Hall, to where Assange is bailed, on the borders of Norfolk and Suffolk.

Assange will be the guest of honor of former British army captain Vaughan Smith, also the founder of the Frontline media club in London, where Assange previously lived for a while. As WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson made it clear, broadband is good. And that's all the members of WikiLeaks, who "have never all been in the same place", need.

What a far cry from Assange almost turning into the most notorious political prisoner in the world.

Now everyone knows, thanks to legal blogger Carl Gardner, that it was actually UK crown prosecutors - and not Sweden - that were against the Westminster court's granting of bail to Assange this past Tuesday (technically in line with Article 12 of European Arrest Warrant legislation - the Swedish prosecution has at any rate also pointed out that the door remains open to an Assange extradition to other European Union countries).

This only served to fuel worldwide suspicion that the United Kingdom was using the broken condom/"sex by surprise" Swedish drama as an excuse to hold Assange in solitary confinement, without his computer, 23 hours and 30 minutes a day, under non-stop infrared surveillance, until the "special relationship" US master could come up with some brand-new charge and go for an extradition order.

This Thursday though, before granting Assange conditional bail, British judge Duncan Ouseley acknowledged a crucial point. He stressed that Assange had cooperated with the Swedes, and even if he was ultimately convicted in Sweden there was a strong probability he would not even go to jail.

Earlier in the day, Assange's lawyer Stephens had said: "We haven't addressed the question of American legal action or the potential for it." Well, they better do it, and fast. Even if a possible US government charge of "conspiracy" has no legal equivalence in the UK. Not to mention that the US does not have jurisdiction over where any of these US-only so-called "crimes" may have occurred.

Only the terminally naive could believe that the US Justice Department did not order the Swedish government to mobilize Interpol into producing a lightning-fast arrest warrant linked to the syrupy broken condom/"sex by surprise" saga.

All across the land of the free, the emperor has been pulling a Beijing (one may say emperors are all alike), deploying a variety of methods to actually censor the net - and TV - and dispatch the cables to digital oblivion. Some methods are worthy of the Three Stooges: the US Air Force blacking out from its computers anything linked to "cablegate"; the Pentagon banning anyone from even looking at newspapers.

Other methods are slightly more refined. Assange won the readers' poll as Time magazine's Person of the Year. But the editors could not possibly have the guts to respect public opinion and infuriate the emperor even more. So they gave the prize to an autistic geek who invented Facebook
because his girlfriend dumped him.

Barbara Walters, who in the US is worshipped as a sort of Hera of TV interviewers, regards Assange as "borderline criminal"; if she didn't, she wouldn't even get a "hi!" from Hillary Clinton. Bill Keller, the chief editor of The New York Times, had the gall to write: "We agree wholeheartedly that transparency is not an absolute good. Freedom of the press includes freedom not to publish, and that is a freedom we exercise with some regularity". Keller, a so-called journalist, in practice wishes he didn't have to publish "cablegate". He has made it plain that the New York Times sees the role of mass media as upholding government secrecy. In ancient Soviet times there was Pravda; now Pravda lives in New York and is written in English.

And to top it off we have Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama's administration pulling out all stops in its extra-judicial blitzkrieg on WikiLeaks. The fact that WikiLeaks broke no US law is of course irrelevant.

The emperor badly needs to set an example: see what happens when you defy my will. Yet the US Department of Justice's strategy doesn't exactly embody Kant's categorical imperative. They will try by all means necessary to force Manning to testify against Assange - and then charge Assange as a conspirator in "cablegate" and the Iraq and Afghan file leaks.

In a nutshell: the Obama administration is about to criminalize investigative journalism. And criminalize good journalism, period. Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin has stressed that "the conspiracy theory also threatens traditional journalists as well". And all this by applying tortuous logic worthy of the Bush era: "OK, let's make a deal with this American geek who leaked the bloody thing so we can nail that bloody foreigner who put it on the net."

The US government is out to waterboard Wiki. We're all about to get drowned.

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

He may be reached at

SPECIAL REPORT. Bush administration officials "in on" 9/11 planning.

In April 2000, a year-and-a half before the 9/11 attack, General Eric Shinseki, the Army Chief of Staff who is currently President Obama's Secretary of Veterans Affairs, ordered armed agents into the offices of the joint Defense Department open-source intelligence gathering and data mining operation code-named Able Danger. An affiliated data mining program was code-named Dorhawk Galley. There were a number of other data mining programs, assigned various code names like Sensor Harvest, Retract Barley, IMPACTS, and Topsail, that helped provide pieces to the planned 9/11 plot.

Able Danger's data at the U.S. Army's Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA) at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, was confiscated on the orders of Shinseki. It included information, including the travel and financial details for the so-called "Al Qaeda" cell headed by accused 9/11 lead hijacker Mohammed Atta, as well as financial funding sources for those who would later be accused of carrying out the hijackings of four passenger aircraft on 9/11. The financial data linked the embryonic 9/11 plot to financiers in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Able Danger involved the Army, Defense Intelligence Agency, Navy, and some elements of the CIA.

Sources who were with Able Danger have confirmed to WMR that the program was successful in pinpointing a number of connections between the "Al Qaeda" hijackers and major western banks that were transferring the funds for the "Al Qaeda" cell members. Connections between the cell and known operatives for Israeli intelligence were also pinpointed with a collateral intelligence windfall: that Israeli military intelligence personnel, including an Israeli army lieutenant colonel, were involved in aiding and abetting the theft of classified information from the NASA Ames Research Center  in Moffett Field, California, on U.S. Navy submarine design data for a highly-classified program to reduce ocean surface wave displacement caused by U.S. submarines that can be detected by ocean surveillance satellites. The intelligence operations of the Israelis were coordinated with Chinese intelligence agents with the goal of using the stolen information to aid the stealth submarine programs of both nations' navies.

Although Able Danger was originally ramped up to primarily investigate Chinese intelligence operations against the United States, the activities of Atta and his colleagues soon appeared on the program's radar screens.

When Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA), the vice chair of the House Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees, championed the Able Danger program and insisted the operation had identified Atta and his cell in 2000 and took no action, Weldon became the target of a Justice Department corruption probe. WMR was told by a source close to Weldon that the FBI concocted charges against Weldon that attempted to link him and his daughter Karen to Russian firms as well as to former Yugoslav leader Slobodon Milosevic. The investigation, according to the source, was in retaliation for Weldon's insistence that the Clinton and Bush administrations had advance knowledge of the plans of Atta prior to 9/11. Weldon's other daughter, Kimberley, and his son Andrew, were also targeted in the Justice Department's corruption probe, which was assisted by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a non-profit organization partly funded by George Soros. CREW's long-serving executive director Melanie Sloan has since left the organization to join the lobbying firm of Lanny Davis, the White House Counsel under President Clinton. Davis represented Pakistan for Patton Boggs at the time of the 9/11 attack and the junta that overthrew Honduran president Manuel Zelaya in 2009. Davis is also the spokesman for the Israel Project, a pro-Israeli lobbyist group in Washington.

Weldon was defeated for re-election in 2006 by retired Navy Admiral Joe Sestak. Just weeks prior to the 2006 election, on October 16, 2006, the home of Karen Weldon and the offices of five of Weldon's associates in Pennsylvania and Florida were raided by FBI agents on the orders of FBI director Robert Mueller who wanted to send a clear message to Weldon as well as ensure that his re-election chances were scuttled.

Weldon continues to have a politically-motivated Justice Department investigation hanging over his head as a way to ensure his silence about anything concerning Able Danger and prior knowledge of the 9/11 attack plans possessed by senior members of the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations.

Nothing about Able Danger's and its pre-9/11 attack data was mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report. Able Danger officer, Lieutenant Colonel Anthony Shaffer saw 10,000 first-run copies of his memoir, "Operation Dark Heart," bought up by the Department of Defense earlier this year and destroyed. Shaffer, like Weldon and his family, was also subject to a bogus investigation. One trumped up charge against Shaffer was that he stole pens and other office supplies twenty years prior to 2005. Shaffer also had his security clearance suspended by the Pentagon.

On February 16, 2006, WMR reported: "
Testifying before the House Subcommittee on National Security, Emerging Threats and International Relations chaired by Connecticut Republican Rep. Chris Shays, five national security whistleblowers testified yesterday about malfeasance involving senior Bush administration officials.

The most stunning testimony came from Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer, a Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) officer who was involved in a Top Secret data mining operation called Able Danger. Prior to 911, Able Danger identified Mohammed Atta and other members of his hijacking team but were prevented from informing the FBI and other agencies. Pennsylvania Republican Curt Weldon, who is not a member of Shays's subcommittee but was invited to participate in the hearings, said that Shaffer had been the victim of extreme retaliation by DIA and the Pentagon.
Two incidents Shaffer testified about point to malfeasance involving 911 Commission Executive Director Phil Zelikow, a colleague and friend of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and CNN's Wolf Blitzer.

While Shaffer was stationed under cover and using an assumed name in Bagram, Afghanistan in October 2003, he was interviewed by Zelikow about Able Danger. After returning to the United States, Shaffer attempted to talk to Zelikow again. There were no further meetings and Zelikow stated he never met with Shaffer in the past. However, in testimony before Weldon and the House Armed Services Committee today, Shaffer said he is prepared to produce a business card given him by Zelikow in Afghanistan.

After Shaffer and Able Danger became public, Wolf Blitzer blindsided Shaffer during his appearance on Blitzer's 'Situation Room.' [on CNN]. Blitzer told Shaffer that he had "information" that Shaffer was having an affair with a member of Weldon's congressional staff. In a direct answer to Weldon's question and under oath, Shaffer said he had no such relationship with a member of Weldon's staff, female or male.

Shaffer also testified about the planting of classified documents in a package sent by DIA to Shaffer's home. Shaffer said the package contained five classified documents that he was not authorized to receive. In addition to the five documents, the package contained a bag of 20 U.S. government 'Skilcraft' pens. The DIA also said that Shaffer was untrustworthy because of an accusation that he took home government pens from the U.S. embassy where his father worked. Shaffer was 13 years old at the time of the alleged 'pen theft.'

On August 23, 2005, WMR reported: "
The recent revelations that the Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, David Satterfield, is the USGO-2 named in the [Larry] Franklin-[Steven] Rosen- [Keith] Weismann indictment and the coming forward of the Defense Intelligence Agency's (DIA) Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer and his evidence that the elite Able Danger force had Mohammed Atta and three other hijackers under surveillance in 2000 and was prevented from taking action are related stories. Shaffer was the liaison between DIA and the U.S. Special Operations Able Danger team that was tracking Atta and his cell in the United States and abroad. The Pentagon inaction is being blamed on lawyers for the U.S. Special Operations Command who prevented the FBI from being informed of the Atta team's activities. What is being overlooked is that there was a significant neo-con element within the Clinton administration. It included then-Secretary of Defense William Cohen (a Republican) and the career Pentagon officials like Office of Net Assessment chief Andy Marshall, the indicted Larry Franklin, and Harold Rhode, who all increased their power in the Bush administration. This network was close to Clinton State Department officials Martin Indyk, who lost his security clearance while ambassador to Israel, and  Dennis Ross, now of the pro-Likud Washington Institute for Near East Policy (WINEP), the think tank that provided a number of personnel for Douglas Feith's Office of Special Plans, including David Schenker and Michael Makovsky (brother of WINEP Senior Fellow David Makovsky). WINEP's advisory board includes such neocon figures as Richard Perle, James Woolsey, James Roche (of Boeing-Air Force tanker contract fraud infamy), Jeane Kirkpatrick, and Max Kampelman. The pre-911 restrictions on Able Danger are evidence that the neo-cons were as damaging to the security interests of the United States under Clinton as they have been under Bush.

The two shill chairmen of the 911 Commission, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, have now said they did not consider the information about pre-911 U.S. military surveillance of Atta and his confederates to be "historically significant." 911 Commission Executive Director Phillip Zelikow swept Lt. Col. Shaffer's testimony under the rug. Zelikow is a close associate of Condoleezza Rice.

And in what represents yet another whistleblower situation from within the US Intelligence Community, Shaffer had his security clearance at DIA suspended in March 2004 and was put on paid administrative leave. It has been recently revealed that Shaffer's Navy colleague, who had also identified the Atta team prior to 911, Captain Scott Phillpott, has been reassigned from DIA to a staff project code named 'Deep Blue.' On August 23, the New York Times reported Phillpott confirmed that Able Danger had Atta and his team under surveillance in the United States in 2000. Shaffer's story has been treated shabbily by the Washington Post, not because it lacks merit, but because the story is getting closer to the neo-con cell operating within the Pentagon from the days of the Clinton administration.

On August 20, 2010, WMR reported: "The Able Danger team used data mined by sophisticated DIA (for example, the four Trans World Information Warfare Support --- TWI --- groups, like the super-classified TWI-1, the Special Activities TWI group), NSA, and military service information warfare elements that used 'deep drilling' web and non-web connected search tools to identify information linked to targeted terrorist cells. The threat and warning indication intelligence came from systems operated by the Army's Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA) at Fort Belvoir, Virginia (now known as the Army's First Operations Command [Land]), the Naval Information Warfare Activity (NIWA) at Fort Meade, Maryland, and the Air Force Information Warfare Center (AFIWC) at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. Some cover names for projects associated with the data mining and reporting are Sensor Harvest (Air Force 'Country Build' database system targeted on such threat nations as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and Yemen), Oilstock (NSA geographic information system), the IW Mission, Planning, Analysis, and Command and Control Targeting System (IMPACTS) (Navy, offensive information warfare), Retract Barley (Navy), Constant Web (Air Force signals intelligence fusion), Rigel (Navy, counter-narcotics/narco-terrorist intelligence fusion system -- which may have alerted DIA and other intelligence agencies to Atta's reported heroin smuggling activities from Afghanistan and Pakistan in the 1990s), THREADS (Threat Humint Reporting, Evaluation, Analysis and Display System) (Air Force/NRO), and Topsail (CIA-NSA-DIA)."

WMR's Able Danger sources have concluded that the 9/11 attack was allowed to happen "on purpose" by senior members of the Clinton and G.W. Bush administrations. As far as who in the Bush administration was primarily involved in helping to accommodate the attack, the answer pointed to one man: Vice President Dick Cheney.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hell hath no fury like an empire mocked

By Pepe Escobar

The revolution will not be televised, will not be televised. 
The revolution will be no rerun brothers; 
The revolution will be live. 
- Gill Scott-Heron, 1970 

Heaven has no rage like love to hatred turned
Nor hell a fury like a woman scorned. 
- William Congreve, The Mourning Bride, 1697 

No episode of Law and Order or The Good Wife can top this. 

It all seemed to boil down to the not-insignificant detail of finding, in a rush, a mere US$315,000 in cash. 

By 3:25 pm GMT on Tuesday, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange had been granted bail by a London court. Sure, the conditions were more suitable to someone accused of being an al-Qaeda mole: bail to the amount of said $315,000 in cash only; curfew from 10am-2pm and 10pm-2am; reporting to a police station at 6pm every day; surrendering his passport; and carrying an electronic ankle bracelet. But at least he would be free. 

Well, not really. Two hours later, Assange was rerouted back to the slammer; the Swedish prosecution had appealed the ruling. For another 48 hours at least, Assange would remain in Wandsworth prison, under conditions his lawyer Mark Stephens described as "Orwellian", "Dickensian", "Victorian" or all of the above. 

The cliffhanger unraveled as in a wild and wacky Cannes Film Festival red carpet extravaganza - complete with media scrum, flash bulbs exploding, frantic straight-from-court twittering and supporting celebs from Jemima Goldsmith to Ken Loach and Benazir Bhutto's niece. And all this engendered by accusations of rape brought by erstwhile Assange groupies Anna Ardin and Miss W, the twin Scandinavian version of Congreve's "a woman scorned". That wouldn't even be considered rape under English law, according to Assange lawyer Geoffrey Robertson. Thus, if this is no rape, there's no reason for extraditing Assange to Sweden - and from Sweden to the US, as selected "patriotic" American pitchfork mobs are clamoring for. 

Saint Julian or Assange the Rapist? 
Oh, the dangerous liaisons between sex and press freedom. 

Speaking outside the court immediately after Assange was (not) freed on bail, Vaughan Smith, the founder of the FrontLine club in west London, tried hard to frame the pertinent level of the debate. He said, "This is not just about press freedom, it is about the Internet. As journalists, we should be very concerned about the possibility of legislation that would restrict our freedom. Assange has held up a very large mirror in front of journalists. Journalists are concerned by the reflection they see." 

Before all the courtly sound and fury, Assange had won the readers poll in Time magazine's person of the year for 2010, way ahead of second place, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the same Erdogan who US diplomats, in WikiLeaks' "cablegate", described as a dangerous anti-American Islamist. 

Now couple this progressive Assange/Erdogan double bill with a CNN poll where 44% of Britons declared themselves sure that the Swedish sex charges against Assange are "an excuse" to keep him in custody so he can be prosecuted by the US government. Oh, those dangerous liaisons between sex and press freedom, again. 

And all this after Assange had sent a message to the world via his mum, Christine, relayed to the Australian news site Seven News. In it, Assange didn't fail to drop a bombshell, "We now know that Visa, Mastercard and PayPal are instruments of US foreign policy. It's not something we knew before." Now that's a front page, if there ever was one. 

So who gives the chief executive officers of Amazon, Mastercard, Visa, PayPal, Facebook, Twitter and, sooner rather than later, Google - all private corporations who exercise a barely-disguised Internet monopoly - the right to act as editors of what sort of information public opinion should have access to? Mega-corporations making public-interest political decisions? World public opinion may say: "OK, you can buy the US Congress as much as you want, but don't mess with our right to choose." 

Instead of following the - granted, gripping - made-in-Scandinavia sex saga, the whole world ought to be discussing the really key issue of the times. Who is bound to benefit the most from crucial information leaks? Will it be relentlessly hegemonic hyper-capitalism and its minions? Or will it be democratic, anti-hegemonic global social movements - in sum, people power? 

Were the great Herbert Marcuse alive, he would already be warning that the empire is very quick in learning, and profiting from, the WikiLeaks lesson. 

Realists already expect fresh imperial, "anti-terrorist" legislation. It doesn't matter that former Central Intelligence Agency analyst Ray McGovern has stressed a key point to CNN: Pentagon head Robert Gates said the WikiLeaks cables do not put American lives in danger (these reports are "greatly overwrought", said Gates). The North Atlantic Treaty Organization also said: "no sources have been compromised". Even AfPak supremo General David "I'm always positioning myself to 2012" Petraeus said the same thing. But that should not be enough to appease the power elite establishment, with its slimy coterie of sycophants, ideological gangsters and assorted parasites, all frothing at the mouth and eager to take out Assange. 

They lost control, again 
Make no mistake on what the real "new world order" is all about: the battlefield reads like a resistance movement to the appropriation of information technology by the power elites. The eagerness to silence if not take out Assange by all means necessary reveals the true face of the emperor: I shall have undisputed, indivisible control over any technology. 

Naturally, even WikiLeaks itself is not immune to the battle. An apparent orgy of transparency may reveal no more than a smokescreen. Assange himself has always complained that alternative media has never been able to fully analyze and synthesize the torrents of data in WikiLeaks' massive document releases. Yet vast swathes of world public opinion are having access to "cablegate" mostly via WikiLeaks' mainstream media partners. They select, edit and find their "angle" to release the cables. That is, they manipulate them. 

There's no reason for anyone to swallow the spin applied by Le Monde, El Pais or The New York Times. There are numerous examples already of how a passing, innocuous opinion by a US diplomat becomes an indisputable fact if skillfully spun. Nothing compares to the public reading the cables themselves (WikiLeaks is already mirrored in 1,885 sites, and counting). 

On a parallel track, the net is overflowing with conspiracy theories stating that WikiLeaks is nothing but a very sophisticated psy ops – including the assertion that Assange was handsomely paid by Israel to delete any embarrassing cables (as if Israel was not embarrassed enough already for what it is perpetrating in Palestine). True, WikiLeaks should also be scrutinized for what it is not disclosing. 

But there are problems with the Israel psy-ops scenario. A writer may - or may not - have heard this from Daniel Domscheit-Berg, a former, disgruntled Assange collaborator who is now launching his own whistle-blowing site, OpenLeaks, whose main differential will be to release leaks in smaller volume, and more slowly. As it stands, the best source on all these developments is WikiRebels, an enlightening one-hour documentary by Sweden's public television SVT, which may be watched here: here

The sack of Rome 
One does not need to possess Michel Foucault's analytical powers to be extremely suspicious of how the power elites, be they in Sweden or the US, and always in the name of "freedom", "security" and a market-friendly consensus, try to impose their own hegemonic brand of transparency. 

Sweden has managed to circumscribe and frame virtually every overtone of freedom and unpredictability in the realm of sexual relations - with the extra bonus that everything can be furiously dissected/inspected. 

So beware those fornicators whose condoms malfunction in the middle of the proceedings! And be 100% sure that in each and every second of the nitty gritty there is irrefutable, foolproof mutual consent. Otherwise, you're a rapist. Once again, it sounds like a "liberal" re-run of Monty Python's Spanish Inquisition sketch. Confess! Confess! The Orgy of Transparency meets the Joy of Inquisition. 

And that's where Saint Julian the Apostle (of freedom of expression) converges with Assange the Rapist, the Martyr of Transparency. And this in a country that has one of the more advanced freedom of expression laws in the world. 

Deep down, it gets shabbier. From Naomi Klein to Naomi Wolf, it's clear to every thoughtful woman that Assange's Scandinavian groupies thought they were enraptured by "love". Well, it was just a one-night stand piled up on another - and how horrible to find out, in a "girlish" chat, that "love" was in fact "betrayal" by the usual soulless, chauvinist male. Who would have thought that Scandinavia harbors "women scorned" who believe in Hollywood fairy tales. Worse yet: cultured, fiercely independent women in both Europe and the US who take Hollywood for what it is consider it deeply humiliating for this chameleon Swedish law to infantilize women to such an extent. 

And since we're talking about sex, how not to refer to the poetic coincidence of this latest courtroom drama happening the same day when Italian Prime Minister Silvio "Il Cavaliere" Berlusconi, who Wiki cables basically depict as a greedy, irresponsible nutcase fond of cavorting with nymphs at Nero-style parties, barely survived a non-confidence vote and immediately afterwards Rome was (literally) burning in rage. Makes one think of Nero in reverse. 

Yet make no mistake: it's not only Ancient Rome that's burning. It's the whole empire. Hardcore hyper-capitalism may be simultaneously a Terminator and a giant with clay feet. Progressives must solve the riddle of how to fight this paradox. Sun Tzu's Art of War meets Gilles Deleuze and his underground war machine. Nomad information-technology guerrillas are already deployed. The US counter-insurgency is being turned upside down. Netwar is a go. And don't forget the condoms. 

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

He may be reached at

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Why I'm Posting Bail Money for Julian Assange (A statement from Michael Moore)

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010


Yesterday, in the Westminster Magistrates Court in London, the lawyers for WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange presented to the judge a document from me stating that I have put up $20,000 of my own money to help bail Mr. Assange out of jail.

Furthermore, I am publicly offering the assistance of my website, my servers, my domain names and anything else I can do to keep WikiLeaks alive and thriving as it continues its work to expose the crimes that were concocted in secret and carried out in our name and with our tax dollars.

We were taken to war in Iraq on a lie. Hundreds of thousands are now dead. Just imagine if the men who planned this war crime back in 2002 had had a WikiLeaks to deal with. They might not have been able to pull it off. The only reason they thought they could get away with it was because they had a guaranteed cloak of secrecy. That guarantee has now been ripped from them, and I hope they are never able to operate in secret again.

So why is WikiLeaks, after performing such an important public service, under such vicious attack? Because they have outed and embarrassed those who have covered up the truth. The assault on them has been over the top:

**Sen. Joe Lieberman says WikiLeaks "has violated the Espionage Act."

**The New Yorker's George Packer calls Assange "super-secretive, thin-skinned, [and] megalomaniacal."

**Sarah Palin claims he's "an anti-American operative with blood on his hands" whom we should pursue "with the same urgency we pursue al Qaeda and Taliban leaders."

**Democrat Bob Beckel (Walter Mondale's 1984 campaign manager) said about Assange on Fox: "A dead man can't leak stuff ... there's only one way to do it: illegally shoot the son of a bitch."

**Republican Mary Matalin says "he's a psychopath, a sociopath ... He's a terrorist."

**Rep. Peter A. King calls WikiLeaks a "terrorist organization."

And indeed they are! They exist to terrorize the liars and warmongers who have brought ruin to our nation and to others. Perhaps the next war won't be so easy because the tables have been turned -- and now it's Big Brother who's being watched ... by us!

WikiLeaks deserves our thanks for shining a huge spotlight on all this. But some in the corporate-owned press have dismissed the importance of WikiLeaks ("they've released little that's new!") or have painted them as simple anarchists ("WikiLeaks just releases everything without any editorial control!").

WikiLeaks exists, in part, because the mainstream media has failed to live up to its responsibility. The corporate owners have decimated newsrooms, making it impossible for good journalists to do their job. There's no time or money anymore for investigative journalism. Simply put, investors don't want those stories exposed. They like their secrets kept ... as secrets.

I ask you to imagine how much different our world would be if WikiLeaks had existed 10 years ago. Take a look at this photo. That's Mr. Bush about to be handed a "secret" document on August 6th, 2001. Its heading read: "Bin Ladin Determined To Strike in US." And on those pages it said the FBI had discovered "patterns of suspicious activity in this country consistent with preparations for hijackings." Mr. Bush decided to ignore it and went fishing for the next four weeks.

But if that document had been leaked, how would you or I have reacted? What would Congress or the FAA have done? Was there not a greater chance that someone, somewhere would have done something if all of us knew about bin Laden's impending attack using hijacked planes?

But back then only a few people had access to that document. Because the secret was kept, a flight school instructor in San Diego who noticed that two Saudi students took no interest in takeoffs or landings, did nothing. Had he read about the bin Laden threat in the paper, might he have called the FBI? (Please read this essay by former FBI Agent Coleen Rowley, Time's 2002 co-Person of the Year, about her belief that had WikiLeaks been around in 2001, 9/11 might have been prevented.)

Or what if the public in 2003 had been able to read "secret" memos from Dick Cheney as he pressured the CIA to give him the "facts" he wanted in order to build his false case for war? If a WikiLeaks had revealed at that time that there were, in fact, no weapons of mass destruction, do you think that the war would have been launched -- or rather, wouldn't there have been calls for Cheney's arrest?

Openness, transparency -- these are among the few weapons the citizenry has to protect itself from the powerful and the corrupt. What if within days of August 4th, 1964 -- after the Pentagon had made up the lie that our ship was attacked by the North Vietnamese in the Gulf of Tonkin -- there had been a WikiLeaks to tell the American people that the whole thing was made up? I guess 58,000 of our soldiers (and 2 million Vietnamese) might be alive today.

Instead, secrets killed them.

For those of you who think it's wrong to support Julian Assange because of the sexual assault allegations he's being held for, all I ask is that you not be naive about how the government works when it decides to go after its prey. Please -- never, ever believe the "official story." And regardless of Assange's guilt or innocence (see the strange nature of the allegations here), this man has the right to have bail posted and to defend himself. I have joined with filmmakers Ken Loach and John Pilger and writer Jemima Khan in putting up the bail money -- and we hope the judge will accept this and grant his release today.

Might WikiLeaks cause some unintended harm to diplomatic negotiations and U.S. interests around the world? Perhaps. But that's the price you pay when you and your government take us into a war based on a lie. Your punishment for misbehaving is that someone has to turn on all the lights in the room so that we can see what you're up to. You simply can't be trusted. So every cable, every email you write is now fair game. Sorry, but you brought this upon yourself. No one can hide from the truth now. No one can plot the next Big Lie if they know that they might be exposed.

And that is the best thing that WikiLeaks has done. WikiLeaks, God bless them, will save lives as a result of their actions. And any of you who join me in supporting them are committing a true act of patriotism. Period.

I stand today in absentia with Julian Assange in London and I ask the judge to grant him his release. I am willing to guarantee his return to court with the bail money I have wired to said court. I will not allow this injustice to continue unchallenged.


Michael Moore

P.S. You can read the statement I filed today in the London court here.

P.P.S. If you're reading this in London, please go support Julian Assange and WikiLeaks at a demonstration at 1 PM today, Tuesday the 14th, in front of the Westminster court. 

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Sunday, December 12, 2010


The settlements were still being built, financed mostly by Jewish money from America, contributions from Wall Street speculators and owners of gambling dens.

By James Petras

Times were tough for Joseph and Mary.  The real estate bubble crashed.  Unemployment soared among construction workers.  There was no work, not even for a skilled carpenter.

The settlements were still being built, financed mostly by Jewish money from America, contributions from Wall Street speculators and owners of gambling dens.

“Good thing”, Joseph thought, “we have a few sheep and olive trees and Mary keeps some chickens.   But Joseph worried, “cheese and olives are not enough to feed a growing boy.  Mary is due to deliver our son any day”. His dreams foretold of a sturdy son working alongside of him…multiplying loaves and fish.

The settlers looked down on Joseph.  He rarely attended shul, and on the high holidays, he would show up late to avoid the tithe.  Their simple cottage was located in a nearby ravine with water from a stream, which flowed year round.  It was choice real estate for any settlement expansion.  So when Joseph fell behind on his property tax, the settlers took over their home, forcibly evicted Joseph and Mary and offered them a one-way bus ticket to Jerusalem.

Joseph, born and raised in the arid hills, fought back and bloodied not a few settlers with his labor-hardened fists.  But in the end he sat, battered on their bridal bed under the olive tree, in black despair.
Mary, much the younger, felt the baby’s movements.  Her time was near.

“We have to find shelter, Joseph, we have to move on …this is no time for revenge”, she pleaded.
Joseph, who believed with the Old Testament prophets in an “eye for an eye”, reluctantly agreed.
So it was that Joseph sold their sheep, chickens and other belongings to an Arab neighbor and bought a donkey and cart.  He loaded up the mattress, some clothes, cheese, olives and eggs and they set out for the Holy City.

The donkey path was rocky and full of potholes. Mary winced at every bump; she worried that it would harm the baby.  Worse, this was the road for the Palestinians with military checkpoints everywhere.  No one ever told Joseph that, as a Jew, he could have taken a smooth paved road – forbidden to the Arabs.
At the first roadblock Joseph saw a long line of Arabs waiting.  Pointing to his very pregnant wife, Joseph asked the Palestinians, half in Arabic, half in Hebrew, if they could go ahead.  A path was opened and the couple went forward.

A young soldier raised his rifle and told Mary and Joseph to get down from the cart.  Joseph descended and nodded to his wife’s stomach.  The soldier smirked and turned to his comrades, “The old Arab knocks up the girl he bought for a dozen sheep and now he wants a free pass”.

Joseph, red with anger, shouted in rough Hebrew, “I am a Jew.  But unlike you … I respect pregnant women”.

The soldier poked Joseph with his rifle and ordered him to step back:  “You are worse than an Arab – you’re an old Jew who screws Arab girls”.

Mary frightened by the exchange turned to her husband and cried, “Stop Joseph or he will shoot you and our baby will be born an orphan”.

With great difficulty Mary got down from the wagon.  An officer came out of the guard station, summoning a female soldier, “Hey Judi, go feel under her dress, she might be carrying bombs”.
“What’s the matter?  Don’t you like to feel them yourself anymore? ” Judith barked back in Brooklyn-accented Hebrew.  While the soldiers argued, Mary leaned on Joseph for support.  Finally, the soldiers came to an agreement.

“Pull-up your dress and slip”, Judith ordered.  Mary blanched in shame.  Joseph faced the gun in disgrace.  The soldiers laughed and pointed at Mary’s swollen breasts, joking about an unborn terrorist with Arab hands and a Jewish brain.

Joseph and Mary continued on the way to the Holy City.  They were frequently detained at the checkpoints along the way.  Each time they suffered another delay, another indignity and more gratuitous insults spouted by Sephardim and Ashkenazi, male and female, secular and religious – all soldiers of the Chosen people.

It was dusk when Mary and Joseph finally reached the Wall.  The gates had closed for the night.  Mary cried out in pain, “Joseph, I can feel the baby coming soon.  Please do something quickly”.

Joseph panicked.  He saw the lights of a small village nearby and, leaving Mary on the cart, Joseph ran to the nearest house and pounded on the door.  A Palestinian woman opened the door slightly and peered into the dark, agitated face of Joseph.  “Who are you?  What do you want?”

“I am Joseph, a carpenter from the hills of Hebron.  My wife is about to give birth and I need shelter to protect Mary and the baby”. Pointing to Mary on the donkey cart, Joseph pleaded in his strange mixture of Hebrew and Arabic.

“Well, you speak like a Jew but you look like an Arab,” the Palestinian woman said laughing as she walked back with him to the cart.

Mary’s face was contorted with pain and fear: her contractions were more frequent and intense.
The woman ordered Joseph to bring the cart around to a stable where the sheep and chickens were kept.  As soon as they entered, Mary cried out in pain and the Palestinian woman, who had now been joined by a neighbor midwife, swiftly helped the young mother down onto a bed of straw.

And thus the child was born, as Joseph watched in awe.

It came to pass that shepherds, returning from their fields, heard the mingled cries of birth and joy and hurried to the stable carrying both their rifles and fresh goat milk, not knowing whether it was friend or foe, Jew or Arab.  When they entered the stable and beheld the mother and infant, they put aside their weapons and offered the milk to Mary who thanked them in both Hebrew and Arabic.

And the shepherds were amazed and wondered: Who were these strange people, a poor Jewish couple, who came in peace on a donkey cart inscribed with Arabic letters?    The news quickly spread about the strange birth of a Jewish child just outside the Wall in a Palestinian’s stable.  Many neighbors entered and beheld Mary, the infant and Joseph.

Meanwhile, Israeli soldiers, equipped with night vision goggles, reported from their watchtowers overlooking the Palestinian neighborhood, “The Arabs are meeting just outside the Wall, in a stable, by candle light”.

The gates under the watchtowers flew open and armored carriers with bright lights followed by heavily armed soldiers drove out and surrounded the stable, the assembled villagers and the Palestinian woman’s house.  A loud speaker blared, “Come out with your hands up or we’ll shoot.”  They all came out from the stable together with Joseph, who stepped forward with his hands stretched out to the sky and spoke, “My wife, Mary cannot comply with your order.  She is nursing the baby Jesus”.

James Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York. He is the author of 64 books published in 29 languages, and over 560 articles in professional journals, including the American Sociological Review, British Journal of Sociology, Social Research, Journal of Contemporary Asia, and Journal of Peasant Studies. He has published over 2000 articles. His latest book is War Crimes  in Gaza and the Zionist Fifth Column in America (Atlanta:Clarity Pres 2010)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

A Critique on Julian Assange's accuser

In which we "smear" Julian Assange's accuser

Yesterday, Julian Assange turned himself in to British authorities for extradition to Sweden, to face a number of sexual-assault charges. Since it's for the court to determine whether or not he actually is guilty as charged, let's wait to see how that shakes out. Meanwhile, I'll address some things that started nagging at me as soon as the first feminist analyses of the situation started cropping up on Twitter yesterday.

It's pretty clear to me that battle lines are being drawn in this whole kerfuffle. The discourse has shifted from Wikileaks and Cablegate to Winkyleaks and Condomgate. And it's clear, too, that women are being used--and abused--atrociously here. No, I'm not talking about Julian Assange and what he's alleged to have done to those two women. I'm talking about feminists as a whole; we are being made into inadvertent pawns in the battle over freedom of information. And it seems to me that we're being expected to turn out against Assange--and by extension, against Wikileaks.

I've noted here before that condomless sex, while prosecutable, is not a jailing offence in Sweden; you pay a fine of a few hundred dollars, and that's it. But this case is strange, owing to the high international profile of the accused: the sex charges were pressed months ago, then dropped, and then reinstated. Awfully inconsistent prosecution for an offence generally remedied by a simple fine! And weirdest of all, why is the United States now looking to get involved, when none of the alleged offences happened on their soil? It seems obvious to me that this is all an effort to entrap the man who, for better or worse, is the public face of the Wikileaks organization.

But no, we feminists aren't supposed to remember all that, much less treat it as relevant to the case against Julian Assange. We're supposed to be righteously indignant at his obvious arrogance, and glad that Interpol was mobilized to catch an accused rapist, and deliver the douchebag to Sweden to be held without bail. Pending his extradition to the US, of course; the world's policeman and all-Amurrican good guy, natch.

But if this is how we're supposed to react as feminists, it is utterly ridiculous and an insult to our wits. As Naomi Wolf has humorously noted, this is a very strange and heavy-handed use of the legal remedies fought for--and, in Sweden, won by feminism:
I see that Julian Assange is accused of having consensual sex with two women, in one case using a condom that broke. I understand, from the alleged victims' complaints to the media, that Assange is also accused of texting and tweeting in the taxi on the way to one of the women's apartments while on a date, and, disgustingly enough, 'reading stories about himself online' in the cab. Both alleged victims are also upset that he began dating a second woman while still being in a relationship with the first. (Of course, as a feminist, I am also pleased that the alleged victims are using feminist-inspired rhetoric and law to assuage what appears to be personal injured feelings. That's what our brave suffragette foremothers intended!).
Well, poor Naomi Wolf--who is serious about issues of rape and withdrawn consent--just can't catch a break for mocking a few of the many absurdities of this case. Other feminists were quick to pile onto her, accusing her of "trivializing rape". Instead of looking at the peculiarities of the Wikileaks timeline and admitting that this is a disproportionate response to a charge formerly considered too weak even to prosecute, they accused her of smearing the alleged victim of one of the alleged attacks.

But what if the alleged victim is not so innocent? What if the alleged attack is part of an elaborate set-up?

We already know that the more prominent woman in question, Anna Ardin, has some very interesting CIA ties. And we know that just around the time the first alleged rape occurred, she tweeted enthusiastically about Assange:
I screen-capped those from here.

These tweets give no indication that anything untoward had happened. I ran them past my friend Anthony, who lives in Malmö, for a Swede's-eye view. Here's what he said:
The 8/14 tweet caught my attention; Anna wrote that Julian wanted to attend a crayfish party, so she wondered if there were any open seats that night or the following night. A few hours later, she wrote "Sitting outside at 2AM, freezing with the smartest people in the world, it's amazing!"
Ardin later deleted those tweets and locked down her blog.

But let's suppose for the sake of argument that you're convinced that Anna Ardin is just being smeared, and rape trivialized, and so on. The timing? Just a coincidence! The known CIA ties? How dare you play guilt-by-association! Rape is real, how dare "Naomi Effin' Wolf" make fun of it?

No one, least of all Naomi Wolf, is disputing that rape is real, or that victim-smearing is a dirty tactic, a re-victimization on no uncertain terms. What is being disputed here is the case against Julian Assange, which is pitifully weak and certainly doesn't warrant the involvement of Interpol. If it did, legions of human-rights abusers who used rape as a weapon of war would be behind bars by now, rotting deservedly away. You'd think Interpol could easily bust those bastards at Dyncorp, who openly bought child sex slaves in Bosnia and Afghanistan for the raping pleasure of their contractors. (That latter exposé, BTW, comes to the media courtesy of Wikileaks!)

Naomi Wolf was making fun not of rape, but of what is obviously an exceedingly stupid manhunt. And while her tone may be a bit too flip for some people's liking, she's not wrong to laugh at the transparent idiocy of it all. I do too, and so do plenty of other feminists who've been following the Wikileaks saga with interest. Oh, wouldn't it be lovely if Interpol DID chase down every dick who'd ever wronged us? I've got a couple of real lulus for them myself. Let's make a crayfish party out of this shit. You bring the wine, I'll bring the cheese. Share yer stories, girls!

And if that's not ludicrous enough, how about this? We are being asked to believe that two obviously strong women--Anna Ardin, a professed feminist who works for gender equity, and Sofia Wilen, with whom she banded together later to press charges, could not track down Julian Assange to ask him to get tested for STDs. So they were forced to press charges. They apparently had no trouble getting into his pants. So why would he suddenly be too difficult to simply meet for a coffee, like a civilized adult, to discuss blood tests? Gee, what a cad. Maybe he had something to hide?

According to the same Reuters account, Assange claims he had his cellphone turned off for fear that enemies would track him using its signal. Not an implausible reason, since he DOES have enemies in US intel circles, and if they can't track him through technology, ain't nobody can. But he was still in Sweden when the women were allegedly trying to reach him and just urge him to get tested. They could have waylaid him at his hotel, if it was really so urgent. How simple-minded do we have to be to believe that Anna Ardin's blogging about "thinking about some revenge over the last few days" can't be considered evidence that she was up to something more nefarious than simply trying to get him to a clinic?

Okay, you say, that does look bad, but that's still pretty weak. Her blog is now locked down, and it's very likely that she deleted any incriminating bits. Isn't there anything more definite? What about those alleged CIA ties you conspiracy kooks keep nattering on about?

Well, there we have a lot more to go on. A helluva lot.

Via Twitter, I found this article she'd written for the CIA-tied magazine she was working for. Here's Anthony again, translating:
GF's former columnist Anna Ardin has been in Cuba. Getting to know Cuba is a great political experience and the first thing I would say is that as a foreigner you are extremely discriminated against and constantly pressed for money.
Tourists should always use the hard currency convertible pesos, that is "dollars", which they are called to avoid misunderstandings. All trade with the U.S. dollar was banned in stores in November. A convertible peso is pegged to the dollar and worth 26 Cuban pesos.
Prevented to meet Cubans
You cannot go with the same cheap buses that Cubans use, but must take the tourist taxis, which can cost 20 dollars while the local bus for the same route costs 40 cents of a Cuban peso. Another example is that it is very difficult to live with friends, you always have to pay for hotels or bed and breakfast. The system is almost similar to apartheid!
I'm locked out of the Cuban world and the Cubans are excluded from foreigners - not just financially! Cubans are prevented in many different ways from even visiting the main tourist sites. Foreigners' cars have red registration plates instead of yellow and need not - as the Cubans - to stop and pick up hitchhikers to fill empty seats. In Cuba health care and education are free since the revolution and the Communist takeover in 1959; there are few or no one starving or living on the streets and virtually no need to worry about violence and robbery. But the wages are extremely low.
The salary for the best paid, the police, is $30, a doctor earns about 23, a garbage man 19 and a housekeeper earns seven dollars a month. A beer or a soda costs a dollar, a bottle of oil 2.50, internet for one hour 6, a sports bag 15 and a trip to a neighboring country costs several hundred pesos. Although the prices for most things - except for certain raw materials for food, bus transportation and little else - is in U.S. dollars (that is convertible pesos), the workers get salary in Cuban pesos, which is not always possible to switch.
To survive on these wages seem to be impossible (despite the very minimum required being relatively inexpensive). To save up for a pair of shoes could take half a year, not to mention buying a television or a car, yet many Cubans have this - how? Well, since 1993, it is allowed for Cubans to hold hard currency.
Want to change money
So by drinking or to work with private tourism differs more and more from the crowd. The ones that are excluded from the life you can only live if you have dollars. In that perspective, it is no wonder that in every street corner you are stopped by a so-called jinetero (riders). He asks where you come from, if you want to change money, buy cigars, follow them home to their backyard restaurant or have them as a personal guide to buy them food and clothing. As a woman, you notice nothing of the female counterpart to these, las jineteras, which might more literally ride their tourists for a few days or weeks in exchange for food, clothing and shoes. Or they run around them in their nice cars or pay, to the jinetera or directly to her jineteros - the pimps.
Sex tourism is increasing. Tourism combined with the money that exile Cubans send home accounts for well over half of the currency revenues of the treasury. That the country is so dependent on something that there is not enough of for the whole population, which excludes many and forces people to flee is not sustainable. Cuba needs a new policy. The question is what?
Between Castro or the U.S.
The Social Democratic opposition - Corriente Socialista Democrática Cubana - are trying to show that there is an alternative between the only two clearly presented options, the extremes: that Castro and his gang govern Cuba or the United States does. In a second article I will write more about what the Social Democrats in Cuba think will happen when the now 78-year-old dictator Fidel Castro dies.
Now, this is a load of crapaganda. If you can't smell the CIA's cheap cologne on that, you're hopeless.

Anyone who's really been to Cuba will tell you that it's not as bad as articles like this lead you to believe. The locals are not quarantined from you, or you from them, unless there's some good reason. Working for a CIA-connected crapaganda rag might well be a good reason for the authorities to confine you to your luxury tourist hotel room. But then, if poor Anna Ardin were really so confined, how would she "know" all those appalling details about how the poor oppressed Cubans really live? Unless, of course, she were simply being fed the dubious info by her CIA handlers, in which case she wouldn't even have to go to Cuba to "report" it; she could do it just as easily from home.

And that second-last bit really leapt out at me, too. Interesting focus on sex there for our sex-crimes complainant. Very typical CIA glurge, designed specifically to tweak our most sensitive feminist nerves: Look what that mean old dictator Fidel Castro is making those poor women do! Still more interesting is the lack of hard figures. She claims that prostitution revenues and remittances from "exiles" counts for more than half of the cash in the Cuban treasury. But without numbers and verifiable references to prove it, that all don't mean nuttin', honey.

Of course, it being a CIA rag, hard proof is not really required. Sensationalism is. And the article has that in spades. Just look at the language: "The system is almost similar to apartheid!"--the sky is falling! Oh noes!

Gee, you don't suppose someone who'd write such ghastly goop would have an ulterior motive regarding Julian Assange--whose organization just so happens to have uncovered a lot of embarrassing stuff from US embassies linked to various putsches in various countries allied to Cuba?

Nahhhh. Don't let's connect those dots. Let's just stick to our simple-minded pre-gummed narratives and be good, outraged little bourgeois féministes, huffing at the hacker boogyman and hoping The Hague locks him up for war crimes. Let's accuse those who find odd dirt on Anna Ardin of smearing her, when in fact she seems to have done a fair job of muddying herself. No, no, we can't allow that; let's just view her as a plain and simple victim. And pretend all the Wikileaks stuff is what's extraneous, and that it's not, perhaps, Julian Assange who's really being smeared.

But this feminist can't pretend, and certainly can't ignore the blindingly obvious.

Wikileaks is shining an uncomfortably bright light on things the US doesn't want us to see, and how they are being perpetrated. It's shown incriminating footage of US helicopters firing on innocent Iraqis in Baghdad. It's exposed the way US embassies lie to the citizens of the countries where they are posted, and lie about them as well. Is it really so far-fetched to surmise that Anna Ardin, who lied about Cuba in a CIA rag, just might have been sent by the same CIA to take Julian Assange down, by whatever means necessary? Is it really a smear to demonstrate--not suggest, not insinuate, but DEMONSTRATE--that she is more than a little bit connected to them, just as they are connected to every US diplomatic installation and quite a few seemingly private corporations?

Again, let's look at the timeline.

The first big bombshell Wikileaks dropped was Collateral Murder; this went down on April 5. On July 6, Bradley Manning was charged with leaking the video to Wikileaks. Anna Ardin and Sofia Wilen slept with Julian Assange on August 14 and 17, respectively, while the latter, undoubtedly feeling the heat from the US, was hoping to gain residency and whistleblower protection in Sweden. The encounters were consensual according to both women, and uneventful except for the respective alleged condom disputes. Later, both allegedly sought him out, being worried about catching a sexually-transmitted disease. They couldn't find him because his cellphone was turned off. Then they turned to the authorities to press charges, only to be told it was too hard to prove, and saw the charges dropped. Only to have them reinstated now, of all times. While Bradley Manning, surely by malign coincidence, is also already jailed and awaiting trial--facing 52 years of hard time in the federal pen. He is suspected of leaking the Cablegate documents, as well, although he has not been charged with that.

Would this case have gone anywhere if the man in question were anyone other than Julian Assange, who just happened to have humiliated the US government that spring with that ghastly video release? And would he have been sought for prosecution if he hadn't just gone public with the first of many expected Cablegate releases?

The Swedish prosecutors deny that any pressure was brought to bear on them by the US. Yet just last week, the Swedish government was mortified by the revelation that Sweden is no longer neutral. Who announced it? Wikileaks, via Cablegate. The local US embassy had the gall to write as much to Washington! And I reiterate: The US authorities are now looking to extradite Assange from Sweden. Even with no charges of their own against him. They are looking for a way to do it, some hook to hang those charges on. Doesn't matter if it's as flimsy as the anti-Castro tripe Anna Ardin used to write. It doesn't have to be true. It just has to be sensational enough to get public opinion on side...

Yeah, tell me it doesn't all hang together. Denial, river in Egypt. Cleo, you're up the creek!

It's much easier to go into a "good feminist" (or full-on conspiracy nut) tizzy, I grant you, than to follow complex international developments in a more intelligent manner. It's also safer than to do another smart thing: dovetail one's feminism and freedom-of-information advocacy for the common, global good. Unfortunately, it's also the perfect way to divorce feminism from the much larger international issues that we ignore at our peril. It makes us feminists all look like laughingstocks or Limbaughian feminazis. We inadvertently contribute to our own continued alienation from our sisters in the global south if we fall for that narrative. We also end up setting back our own progress, and theirs.

But we don't have to. This radical, left-wing feminist agrees wholeheartedly with Gloria Steinem: The truth will set us all free. But first, it will piss us off.
Let it.