Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Anti-Empire Report #129 - Edward Snowden By William Blum

The Anti-Empire Report #129

By William Blum – Published June 6th, 2014

Edward Snowden

Is Edward Snowden a radical? The dictionary defines a radical as “an advocate of political and social revolution”, the adjective form being “favoring or resulting in extreme or revolutionary changes”. That doesn’t sound like Snowden as far as what has been publicly revealed. In common usage, the term “radical” usually connotes someone or something that goes beyond the generally accepted boundaries of socio-political thought and policies; often used by the Left simply to denote more extreme than, or to the left of, a “liberal”.
In his hour-long interview on NBC, May 28, in Moscow, Snowden never expressed, or even implied, any thought – radical or otherwise – about United States foreign policy or the capitalist economic system under which we live, the two standard areas around which many political discussions in the US revolve. In fact, after reading a great deal by and about Snowden this past year, I have no idea what his views actually are about these matters. To be sure, in the context of the NBC interview, capitalism was not at all relevant, but US foreign policy certainly was.
Snowden was not asked any direct questions about foreign policy, but if I had been in his position I could not have replied to several of the questions without bringing it up. More than once the interview touched upon the question of whether the former NSA contractor’s actions had caused “harm to the United States”. Snowden said that he’s been asking the entire past year to be presented with evidence of such harm and has so far received nothing. I, on the other hand, as a radical, would have used the opportunity to educate the world-wide audience about how the American empire is the greatest threat to the world’s peace, prosperity, and environment; that anything to slow down the monster is to be desired; and that throwing a wrench into NSA’s surveillance gears is eminently worthwhile toward this end; thus, “harm” indeed should be the goal, not something to apologize for.
Edward added that the NSA has been unfairly “demonized” and that the agency is composed of “good people”. I don’t know what to make of this.
When the war on terrorism was discussed in the interview, and the question of whether Snowden’s actions had hurt that effort, he failed to take the opportunity to point out the obvious and absolutely essential fact – that US foreign policy, by its very nature, regularly and routinely creates anti-American terrorists.
When asked what he’d say to President Obama if given a private meeting, Snowden had no response at all to make. I, on the other hand, would say to Mr. Obama: “Mr. President, in your time in office you’ve waged war against seven countries – Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen, Libya and Syria. This makes me wonder something. With all due respect, sir: What is wrong with you?”
A radical – one genuine and committed – would not let such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity pass by unused. Contrary to what his fierce critics at home may believe, Edward Snowden is not seriously at war with America, its government or its society. Does he have a real understanding, analysis, or criticism of capitalism or US foreign policy? Does he think about what people could be like under a better social system? Is he, I wonder, even anti-imperialist?
And he certainly is not a conspiracy theorist, or at least keeps it well hidden. He was asked about 9-11 and replied:
The 9/11 commission … when they looked at all the classified intelligence from all the different intelligence agencies, they found that we had all of the information we needed … to detect this plot. We actually had records of the phone calls from the United States and out. The CIA knew who these guys were. The problem was not that we weren’t collecting information, it wasn’t that we didn’t have enough dots, it wasn’t that we didn’t have a haystack, it was that we did not understand the haystack that we had.
Whereas I might have pointed out that the Bush administration may have ignored the information because they wanted something bad – perhaps of unknown badness – to happen in order to give them the justification for all manner of foreign and domestic oppression they wished to carry out. And did. (This scenario of course excludes the other common supposition, that it was an “inside job”, in which case collecting information on the perpetrators would not have been relevant.)
The entire segment concerning 9/11 was left out of the television broadcast of the interview, although some part of it was shown later during a discussion. This kind of omission is of course the sort of thing that feeds conspiracy theorists.
All of the above notwithstanding, I must make it clear that I have great admiration for the young Mr. Snowden, for what he did and for how he expresses himself. He may not be a radical, but he is a hero. His moral courage, nerve, composure, and technical genius are magnificent. I’m sure the NBC interview won him great respect and a large number of new supporters. I, in Edward’s place, would be even more hated by Americans than he is, even if I furthered the radicalization of more of them than he has. However, I of course would never have been invited onto mainstream American television for a long interview in prime time. (Not counting my solitary 15 minutes of fame in 2006 courtesy of Osama bin Laden; a gigantic fluke happening.)
Apropos Snowden’s courage and integrity, it appears that something very important has not been emphasized in media reports: In the interview, he took the Russian government to task for a new law requiring bloggers to register – the same government which holds his very fate in their hands.

Who is more exceptional: The United States or Russia?

I was going to write a commentary about President Obama’s speech to the graduating class at the US Military Academy (West Point) on May 28. When he speaks to a military audience the president is usually at his most nationalistic, jingoist, militaristic, and American-exceptionalist – wall-to-wall platitudes. But this talk was simply TOO nationalistic, jingoist, militaristic, and American-exceptionalist. (“I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being.”) To go through it line by line in order to make my usual wise-ass remarks, would have been just too painful. However, if you’re in a masochistic mood and wish to read it, it can be found here.
Instead I offer you part of a commentary from Mr. Jan Oberg, Danish director of the Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research in Lund, Sweden:
What is conspicuously lacking in the President’s West Point speech?
  1. Any reasonably accurate appraisal of the world and the role of other nations.
  2. A sense of humility and respect for allies and other countries in this world.
  3. Every element of a grand strategy for America for its foreign and security policy and some kind of vision of what a better world would look like. This speech with all its tired, self-aggrandising rhetoric is a thin cover-up for the fact that there is no such vision or overall strategy.
  4. Some little hint of reforms of existing institutions or new thinking about globalisation and global democratic decision-making.
  5. Ideas and initiatives – stretched-out hands – to help the world move towards conflict-resolution in crisis areas such as Ukraine, Syria, Libya, China-Japan and Iran. Not a trace of creativity.
Ironically, on May 30 the Wall Street Journal published a long essay by Leon Aron, a Russia scholar at the conservative American Enterprise Institute in Washington. The essay took Russian president Vladimir Putin to task for claiming that Russia is exceptional. The piece was headed:
“Why Putin Says Russia Is Exceptional”
“Such claims have often heralded aggression abroad and harsh crackdowns at home.”
It states: “To Mr. Putin, in short, Russia was exceptional because it was emphatically not like the modern West – or not, in any event, like his caricature of a corrupt, morally benighted Europe and U.S. This was a bad omen, presaging the foreign policy gambits against Ukraine that now have the whole world guessing about Mr. Putin’s intentions.”
So the Wall Street Journal has no difficulty in ascertaining that a particular world leader sees his country as “exceptional”. And that such a perception can lead that leader or his country to engage in aggression abroad and crackdowns at home. The particular world leader so harshly judged in this manner by the Wall Street Journal is named Vladimir Putin, not Barack Obama. There’s a word for this kind of analysis – It’s called hypocrisy.
“Hypocrisy is anything whatever may deceive the cleverest and most penetrating man, but the least wide-awake of children recognizes it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised.” – Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoi, (1828-1910) Russian writer
Is hypocrisy a moral failing or a failing of the intellect?
The New Cold War is getting to look more and more like the old one, wherein neither side allows the other to get away with any propaganda point. Just compare any American television network to the Russian station broadcast in the United States – RT (formerly Russia Today). The contrast in coverage of the same news events is remarkable, and the stations attack and make fun of each other by name.
Another, even more important, feature to note is that in Cold War I the United States usually had to consider what the Soviet reaction would be to a planned American intervention in the Third World. This often served as a brake to one extent or another on Washington’s imperial adventures. Thus it was that only weeks after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, the United States bombed and invaded Panama, inflicting thousands of casualties and widespread destruction, for the flimsiest – bordering on the non-existent – of reasons.  The hostile Russian reaction to Washington’s clear involvement in the overthrow of the Ukrainian government in February of this year, followed by Washington’s significant irritation and defensiveness toward the Russian reaction, indicates that this Cold War brake may have a chance of returning. And for this we should be grateful.
After the “communist threat” had disappeared and the foreign policy of the United States continued absolutely unchanged, it meant that the Cold War revisionists had been vindicated – the conflict had not been about containing an evil called “communism”; it had been about American expansion, imperialism and capitalism. If the collapse of the Soviet Union did not result in any reduction in the American military budget, but rather was followed by large increases, it meant that the Cold War – from Washington’s perspective – had not been motivated by a fear of the Russians, but purely by ideology.

Lest we forget: Our present leaders can derive inspiration from other great American leaders.

White House tape recordings, April 25, 1972:
President Nixon: How many did we kill in Laos?
National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger: In the Laotian thing, we killed about ten, fifteen [thousand] …
Nixon: See, the attack in the North [Vietnam] that we have in mind … power plants, whatever’s left – POL [petroleum], the docks … And, I still think we ought to take the dikes out now. Will that drown people?
Kissinger: About two hundred thousand people.
Nixon: No, no, no … I’d rather use the nuclear bomb. Have you got that, Henry?
Kissinger: That, I think, would just be too much.
Nixon: The nuclear bomb, does that bother you? … I just want you to think big, Henry, for Christsakes.
May 2, 1972:
Nixon: America is not defeated. We must not lose in Vietnam. … The surgical operation theory is all right, but I want that place bombed to smithereens. If we draw the sword, we’re gonna bomb those bastards all over the place. Let it fly, let it fly.
“Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show the world we mean business.” – Michael Ledeen, former Defense Department consultant and holder of the Freedom Chair at the American Enterprise Institute 

Help needed from a computer expert

This has been driving me crazy for a very long time. My printer doesn’t print the document I ask it to print, but instead prints something totally unrelated. But what it prints is always something I’ve had some contact with, like an email I received or a document I read online, which I may or may not have saved on my hard drive, mostly not. It’s genuinely weird.
Now, before I print anything, I close all other windows in my word processor (Word Perfect/Windows 7); I go offline; I specify printing only the current page, no multiple page commands. Yet, the printer usually still finds some document online and prints it.
At one point I cleared out all the printer caches, and that helped for a short while, but then the problem came back though the caches were empty.
I spoke to the printer manufacturer, HP, and they said it can’t be the fault of the printer because the printer only prints what the computer tells it to print.
It must be the CIA or NSA. Help!


  1. William Blum, Killing Hope, chapter 50
  2. Jonah Goldberg, “Baghdad Delenda Est, Part Two”National Review, April 23, 2002
Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to this website are given.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Leaked Obama workout tape: Well... that was awkward

Leaked Obama workout tape: Well... that was awkward

Published time: June 05, 2014 11:12
screenshot from youtube video by 
screenshot from youtube video by MostViewed02

President Obama came to Eastern Europe to reaffirm his commitment to NATO allies over the crisis in Ukrainian amid criticism in Washington that he is not taking a hard enough line.
A leaked video of President Obama pumping iron in a Polish gym has got social media in a spin. Far from complimenting the leader on his workout, people poked fun at the ‘Nerd-in-Chief’ for emboldening the enemy with his ‘weedy’ weights routine.

However, leaked footage of the President’s workout in a Warsaw hotel has got social media users questioning Obama’s tough-guy image. The video shows Obama making his way around the gym in a dark tracksuit, doing lunges and doing upper body exercises with a range of weights.
It seems that most social media users were less than impressed by the president’s choice of weights.

Obama and Putin should be in the same room at Normandy celebrations’ by Pepe Escobar

Obama and Putin should be in the same room at Normandy celebrations’

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia.
Published time: June 04, 2014 14:29
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)
U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin (Reuters/Kevin Lamarque)

President Hollande plans to dine twice in one night, separately with Barack Obama and with Vladimir Putin. Is this smart diplomacy or exacerbating the awkwardness?The Obama administration is pursuing schoolboy tactics by refusing to sit down with Putin at the same room to discuss the Ukrainian crisis and to try to diffuse existing tensions, Asia Times roving reporter Pepe Escobar told RT.
Pepe Escobar: I’ve been wondering about the menu actually. Who gets the cheeseburger, who gets the stick of foie gras. But this is really very serious because Ben Rhodes, that spectacular mediocrity that acts as one of Obama's foreign policy advisors, leaked to the American press that there was never supposed to be a one-on-one meeting between Obama and Putin. So, the White House actually refused to be in the same room with Hollande and Putin. So the French had to scramble to organize two dinners in a row. This is so ridiculous I cannot find words to qualify it. And coming on the heels of the $1 billion Obama hammer, which is more NATO expansion in Poland and close the Ukrainian border as well, practically giving a blank check to the extremely hysterical Polish government to keep trying telling the world that Russia is going to invade tomorrow, or the day after. It’s completely absurd. And they are in Normandy to celebrate 70 years [since the Normandy landings in WWII]. This is an extremely serious business, the participation especially of Russia. Twenty five million to 30 million people there were dead. In fact, Russia won the war first, and then the West won the war against Nazi Germany. So Obama and Putin should be in the same room, they belong to the same room vis-à-vis the effort of the 70 years ago. Now because of schoolboy tactics of the Obama administration we have these ridiculous two dinners in a row on Thursday in France.
RT: Obama will get the first meal sitting, the Russian president second. That's probably no accident, is it?
PE: The empire first with cheeseburgers and then Putin with borshch and beef stroganoff. Obama doesn’t know how to drink wine and Putin is not a big fan of it, so who is going to drink the big ones? Hollande. We have been diverted into faits de guerre (acts of war - RT) as the French say. Stupidity. When we should be talking about serious business like Obama, Putin and Hollande in the same room at a dinner discussing Ukraine, discussing the expansion of NATO, discussing the BRICS and NATO as opposing camps nowadays and trying to diffuse the international tensions they were stalked up essentially by the Obama administration going back to the putsch in February in Ukraine. And now we have the completely crazy narrative that over 200 or 300 civilians killed in Eastern Ukraine are terrorists. We have the victims being blamed. This is completely crazy. This should be discussed at the presidential level at the same room.
RT: Which of the dinners is likely to prove toughest for Hollande to digest, in your opinion?
PE: I would say more indigestible dinner would be with Obama in fact. French big business, they are not interested in applying more sanctions on Russia. French business wants to stay in Russia and do business with Russia and the Russian sphere. The Americans are more complicated because they are trying to ram over the heads of assorted European governments, the Trans-Atlantic Partnership and the French are absolutely terrified about it. Not only parts of Hollande’s government but the average French citizen. First of all, because of the drubbing that the Socialists got in the European Parliamentary elections, much of it had to do with the Trans-Atlantic Partnership, which is in a nutshell American big business taking over large slates of European industry and markets. This is what Obama is going to be plugging to Hollande on Thursday night: “Please, sign the Trans-Atlantic Agreement.” Obama is on a military trip – Poland, Brussels, NATO – and on a commercial trip, which is this very special meeting with Hollande, trying to convince Hollande to sign this agreement within the next few months. It’s not going to happen, and public pressure in France is going to be enormous against it.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

THE ROVING EYE - Return of the living (neo-con) dead By Pepe Escobar

Return of the living (neo-con) dead
By Pepe Escobar

Amid much hysteria, the notion has been widely peddled in the United States that President Obama's "new" foreign policy doctrine, announced last week at West Point, rejects neo-cons and neo-liberals and is, essentially, post-imperialist and a demonstration of realpolitik.

Not so fast. Although stepping back from the excesses of the Cheney regime - as in bombing whole nations into "democracy" - the "desire to lead" still crystallizes might is right.

Moreover, "exceptionalism" remains the norm. Now not so blatant, but still implemented via a nasty set of tools, from financial warfare to cyber-war, from National Endowment for Democracy-style promotion of "democracy" to Joint Special Operations Command-driven counter-terrorism, drone war and all shades of shadow wars.

In the early 2000s, the model was the physical destruction and occupation of Iraq. In the 2010s the model is the slow-mo destruction, by proxy, of Syria.

And still, those who "conceptualized" the destruction of Iraq keep rearing their Alien-like slimy head. Their icon is of course Robert Kagan - one of the founders of the apocalyptically funereal Project for a New American Century (PNAC) and husband of crypto-Ukrainian hell raiser Victoria "F**k the EU" Nuland (thus their dream of Ukraine as the Khaganate of Nulands, or simply Nulandistan.)

Kagan has been devastatingly misguided on everything, as in his 2003 best-seller Of Paradise and Power: America and Europe in the New World Order, an eulogy of "benign" Americans standing guard against the "threats" (as in Muslim fundamentalism) emanating from a Hobbesian world way beyond the cozy Kantian precinct inhabited by Europe.

Then, in The Return of History and the End of Dreams (2008), the "evil" was not Muslim fundamentalism anymore (too shabby), but the emerging of those vast autocracies, Russia and China, antithetical to Western democracies. But with The World America Made (2012), the paradisiacal shining city on the hill would once again triumph, more than capable to see those autocracies off; after all, the only reliable guarantee of global peace is American exceptionalism.

Kagan still commands the attention even of the otherwise aloof Commander-in-Chief, who avidly consumed The World America Made before his 2012 State of the Union Address, in which he proclaimed "America is back".

It's enlightening to flash back to Kagan writing in the Weekly Standard in March 2011, sounding like an awestruck schoolboy praising Obama; "He thoroughly rejected the so-called realist approach, extolled American exceptionalism, spoke of universal values and insisted that American power should be used, when appropriate, on behalf of those values."

Any similarity with Obama's "new" foreign policy doctrine is, indeed, intentional.

Catfight at the Singapore corral
Now comes Kagan's latest opus, "Superpowers Don't Get to Retire: What our tired country still owes the world", with a sorry mess already inbuilt in the title (he's never read Paul Kennedy after all). History tells us that superpowers do retire because of over-extension - not only military but mostly economic and fiscal, as in facing bankruptcy.

Yet it's hopeless to expect from Kagan and the neo-con nebula anything other than blindness to the lessons of history - with a special, tragic mention of Shock and Awe, trampling of Geneva Conventions, and institutionalized torture. Their parochial dichotomy is either eternal American global hegemony or outright chaos.

Progressives in the US still try to save the day, frantically calling for a core "restoration" of American economic and democratic health; a rather impossible undertaking when casino capitalism rules and the US is now for all practical purposes an oligarchy. These dreamers actually believe this "restoration" is what Obama has done or is trying to do; and that would project the US once again as a global model - and thus "encourage" democracy everywhere. Sorry to break the news, but for the overwhelming majority of the genuine, fact on the ground "international community", the notion of the US promoting democracy is now D.O.A.

So under the banner of exceptionalism - versus the competing birth of a Eurasian century - it's been a fascinating exercise to witness the catfight at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, which I described last year as the Spielbergs and Clooneys of the military sphere all locked up in a Star Wars room (actually a ballroom with chandeliers at the Shangri-La Hotel.)

It all started with Shinzo Abe, the militaristic prime minister of that American protectorate, Japan, denouncing "unilateral efforts" to alter the strategic status quo in Asia. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, piled up, saying Asia-Pacific was becoming less stable because of "coercion and provocation" by China. And Pentagon supremo Chuck Hagel also blasted Beijing, accusing it of "destabilizing, unilateral actions" in the South China Sea.

But then Lt Gen Wang Guanzhong, the deputy chief of general staff of the PLA, counterpunched in kind, saying Hagel's talk was "full of hegemony, full of words of threat and intimidation" and part of "a provocative challenge against China".

Major General Zhu Chenghu even allowed himself to be condescending (oh, those barbarians ... ); "The Americans are making very, very important strategic mistakes right now ... If you take China as an enemy, China will absolutely become the enemy of the US."

Major General Zhu also accused Hagel of hypocrisy; "Whatever the Chinese do is illegal, and whatever the Americans do is right." Zhu was quick to register Hagel's own threat, as in "the US will not look the other way when fundamental principles of the international order are being challenged." Translation: Don't mess with the exceptionalist. WE are the international order.

It's as if everyone was reading from Kagan's playbook. The difference is that Beijing is not Baghdad, and will not respond to threats by lying down. Instead, it is deploying selective, savvy, tactical moves all across the Western Pacific chessboard. Washington's Asian network of vassals/clients/protectorates is and will be slowly but surely undermined. And on top of it, Beijing clearly sees that both Hagel and Kerry - who know next to nothing about the complexities of Asia - are clearly panicking.

Those Deng Xiaoping dictum days - from "crossing the river by feeling the stones" to "carry a low profile" - are in the past. Now we're talking about the imminent number one economic power, already the world's top trading nation and America's top creditor.

Highway to Hillary
Russia - and not the US - is now the key partner or broker in negotiating hardcore international conflicts. The recent flurry of China-Russia energy and trade agreements, an essential part of their strategic partnership; the progressive integration and concerted economic/financial strategy of the BRICS; and even the slow moving process of Latin American integration all point towards a multipolar world.

Which bring us back to Obama's "new" foreign policy doctrine. Let's quickly survey the recent record.

Obama only refrained from pursuing his reckless, self-imposed red line and bombing Syria because he was saved (from himself) at the eleventh hour by Russian diplomacy.

The Iran dossier remains vulnerable to relentless pressure by neo-cons/Israel lobby/sectors of the weaponizing industry, with the Obama administration introducing extraneous factors bound to sidestep the negotiation.

Obama's sanctions on Russia because of Ukraine were not only unlawful; they are peripheral, as astute European Union business leaders quickly recognized.

A simulacrum of withdrawal is being pushed in Afghanistan - to be replaced by all-out shadow war.

And the Obama administration - covertly and not so covertly - has been supporting neo-nazis in Ukraine and jihadists in Syria.

All this is still not enough for the Kagan bunch - the "conceptual" architects of the 9/11 wars, who always wanted Obama to bomb Syria; bomb Iran; start a war with Russia over Crimea; and even, sooner rather than later, bomb China to prevent it from getting back to number one. Hobbesians gone mad - wallowing in their psychotic sense of perennial entitlement - will stop at nothing to prevent the emergence of a multipolar world. It's Exceptionalist Empire with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization as global Robocop, or hell.

Moscow and Beijing, to say the least, are not exactly impressed; rather, they detect desperation. Yet things could - and should - get much nastier, irrespective of imploding Khaganates. Just wait for the Hillary doctrine.

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

He may be reached at