Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Sound of Eternity, Resounding in the Voices of Democracy Now!

There are moments, glimpses of eternity, fleeting times when the resonance of history comes through loud and clear.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to bring in Ali Abunimah, who is in Jacksonville, Florida, though usually based in Chicago, founder of the Electronic Intifada. Your comments on the situation, on Mahmoud Abbas, for example, saying that it was Hamas that brought this on?

ALI ABUNIMAH: I want to say, Amy, first of all, that we have to go back to the Warsaw Ghetto or Guernica to find crimes in the modern era of the scale of the viciousness and of the deliberateness of what Israel is committing with the full support of the United States, not just the Bush administration, but apparently as well the incoming Obama administration. We have to recognize the complicity not just of the so-called international community, but also of the Arab regimes, Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak, the Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit of Egypt. Tzipi Livni, when she issued her threats against Gaza, was in Cairo in the biggest Arab capital, and Aboul Gheit stood next to her silently.

Mahmoud Abbas is not a bystander, the so-called president of the Palestinian Authority. For two years since the elections, which Hamas won, he and his coterie have been collaborating with Israel and the United States, first to overthrow the election result and then to besiege Gaza. We have talked before of the Palestinian Contras, funded and armed by the United States, which sought to overthrow Hamas in June 2007 and had the tables turned on them. And now this. The complicity of Mahmoud Abbas is very clear and must be clearly stated. He does not have the authority, moral or otherwise, to call together the Palestinian people for anything. He has gone over to the other side. He has joined the Israeli war against the Palestinian people, and I choose my words very carefully.

And let me say this, as well, Amy, that Israel is trying to produce and promote the fiction that it is engaged in a war with a so-called enemy entity. What Israel is doing is massacring a captive population. You heard—you said in the headlines how Nancy Pelosi, our so-called progressive, liberal, antiwar Speaker of the House, gave her full support to these crimes. Obama has done the same through a spokesman. And that will not change. The United Nations issued a weak statement aimed at covering the backsides, let me say, of those who issued it, not aimed at changing the situation.

What are Palestinians calling for today? Yesterday, the Palestinian National Committee for the Campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions reissued and reaffirmed its call on all international civil society in the United States, in North America, in Europe, everywhere, to redouble the efforts for boycott, divestment and sanctions modeled on the anti-apartheid movement. This is necessary. This is moral. This is the nonviolent resistance we can all participate in. And it is more urgent than ever. Let’s not look back at these crimes like we look at the Warsaw Ghetto and like we look at Guernica and we look at the other atrocities of the twentieth century and say, “We had the chance to act, but we chose silence and complicity.” The time to stop this is now.

And we also have to be clear that those who are accountable—Ehud Barak, his orders over the past few months to withhold insulin, chemotherapy drugs, dialysis supplies, all forms of medicine from the people of Gaza, were just as lethal and just as murderous as the orders to send in the bombers and warplanes to attack mosques, to attack universities. The Islamic University in Gaza is not a military site. It is a university with 18,000 students, 60 percent of them women. Last night, Israeli warplanes attacked a female dormitory in the Islamic University. This is what Israel is attacking. They attacked the fishing port. No food gets into Gaza. People can barely fish enough to sustain them, and Israel has attacked the fishing boats that sustains them. These are historic crimes, and we cannot be silent about them.

And we have to continue this nonsense that there’s fault on both sides. We have a captive occupied population. 80 percent of the people in the Gaza Strip are refugees. 750,000 of them are children. Where else in the world can these crimes be committed while the world looks on, while our elected politicians in Congress, Democrats and Republicans, sit there applauding, when you see the shameful statement of Howard Berman, the Democrat chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee, giving his full support to Israel? People have to stand up to this. We cannot sit on our hands anymore and say change is coming. Change is not coming unless we create it.

AMY GOODMAN: We have to break. Then we’re going to come back to this discussion. We are going to put off the playing of the speech of Harold Pinter, the Nobel Prize winner, to tomorrow. He died last week. We’ll play an extended excerpt of that speech tomorrow. We’re talking about what’s happening in Gaza right now, joined by guests from Ramallah, from Gaza City, from Rafah, from Tel Aviv and from the United States. We’ll be back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: We have on the line with us Dr. Mustafa Barghouti in Ramallah. We’re joined by Dr. Moussa El-Haddad. He is a retired physician in Gaza City. We’re joined by Fida Qishta. She is joining us from Rafah. And Ali Abunimah is on the line with us from Jacksonville, Florida, in studio.

Ali Abunimah, I wanted to ask you about the statements at this point of Barack Obama, or the lack of them. Of course, he’s on holiday right now in Hawaii, but David Axelrod was on the networks. Again, they are continuing to say that there is only one president at a time, and that president is President Bush now. Condoleezza Rice is briefing Barack Obama. But he did say that not only would it be counterproductive for the President-elect to weigh in too deeply, but he said that Obama’s commitment to the "special relationship” between the United States and Israel, in a way that suggested general sympathy for the Jewish state’s actions. I’m reading from the Huffington Post. Your response?

ALI ABUNIMAH: Isn’t it convenient that we only have one president at a time, when it suits Barack Obama to stay silent on something that is enflaming the whole world? Apparently, we don’t have one president at a time when it comes to the economy or Iraq or Afghanistan or other issues. But on this, Barack Obama is content to remain silent and, in fact, to give, through the statements of David Axelrod, his more or less open support for what Israel is doing, which fits with the policies that he has enunciated consistently of supporting Israel’s attacks on Gaza, supporting the blockade of Gaza, supporting the Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006.

And this is why Israel feels so comfortable carrying out these sorts of atrocities, which cross every red line of the Fourth Geneva Conventions, of the Nuremberg Principles, of all of the laws of war that were developed in the twentieth century. Israel feels totally comfortable crossing them, because it knows that it will have full support from any US administration, no matter what political shade it is.

And this is why it’s crucially important that people don’t sit by waiting ’til January 20th. January 20th, the calendar flipping is not going to change anything. What’s going to change things is boycott, divestment and sanctions, people rising up and demanding an end to impunity, demanding, for example, that Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, Tzipi Livni be brought to account before an international war crimes court for the orders that they have given for these massacres of the civilian population of Gaza. That’s what’s going to bring change, and that’s what people must call and organize for.

JUAN GONZALEZ: I’d like to bring in Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, again. The issue of what is the potential for reaction in the West Bank and in the Arab street, as opposed to the complicity of many of the Arab governments at this point—your sense of, if this continues much further, what will be the reaction?

DR. MUSTAFA BARGHOUTI: Well, let me explain one very specific point. Israel is very proud, with the complicity of some Arab regimes and some of the people in the Palestinian Authority, about what’s going on. But I want to remind you that what is happening in Gaza and in the West Bank is nothing but also a slaughter of democracy. We have, as Palestinians—we, the civil society in Palestine, we, the Palestinian democratic forces, jointly with many others—managed to have the best democratic experience ever in the Arab world. Everybody knows that, and President Carter reported it when we had the last elections. And I think this complicity of some certain Arab sides are specifically because they don’t want this democracy to happen. They don’t want this democracy to survive. And if Israel is very proud to be in alliance with dictatorships, then that reveals how democratic Israel itself is.

Israel has been claiming that it’s the only democracy and so on, but why is it slaughtering Palestinian democracy? They did that in 1976, when we had elections for the first time for our municipalities, and within one year, because they didn’t like the elected people, they either bombarded them or deported them or arrested them. And now, after 2006 elections, they are putting forty-five members of our parliament in jail. One of the leaders, one of the members of parliament, is not Hamas. His name is Ahmed Saadat. He’s from the left, from the secular democratic left. He was just sentenced to thirty years in jail, just because he is the secretary-general of a Palestinian organization. It’s amazing how the world is silent about this slaughter of democracy. And if Israel is happy with being in alliance with some dictator, then it is the one that is losing.

The main question here, that I want to come back to some myths that Israel is spreading. They keep stressing that they are attacking Hamas. This is not on Hamas; this is on the whole Palestinian population. They claim that they ended occupation in Gaza. This is not true. They never ended occupation in Gaza. They continue to occupy Gaza. Now they’re changing the form of occupation again, and they’re threatening to complete the invasion again and destroying people’s lives. Third, they claim that it was the Palestinians who broke the ceasefire. This is false. This is incorrect. Israel broke the ceasefire. And now the party that is refusing to have ceasefire is Barak, the Defense Minister of Israel, and he’s the one who is refusing to allow ceasefire to happen again.

At the same time, I must say that Israel is not only attacking the Gaza Strip. Practically, Israel in the West Bank has created a system that can only be described as an apartheid system, a much worse apartheid than the one that prevailed in South Africa at one point of time. Why do we have all these problems? For one very simple fact: the violence is a symptom of the disease. The disease has been there all the time, for forty-one years, and it is the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories. And because the Israeli government does not want to stop this occupation, that’s why we keep running from one conflict into another. Please.


Gaza massacres must spur us to action

Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 27 December 2008

Palestinians carry the body of a victim of an Israeli air strike in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, 27 December 2008. (Hatem Omar/MaanImages)

"I will play music and celebrate what the Israeli air force is doing." Those were the words, spoken on Al Jazeera today by Ofer Shmerling, an Israeli civil defense official in the Sderot area adjacent to Gaza, as images of Israel's latest massacres were broadcast around the world.

A short time earlier, US-supplied Israeli F-16 warplanes and Apache helicopters dropped over 100 bombs on dozens of locations in the Israeli-occupied Gaza Strip killing at least 195 persons and injuring hundreds more. Many of these locations were police stations located, like police stations the world over, in the middle of civilian areas. The US government was one of the first to offer its support for Israel's attacks, and others will follow.

Reports said that many of the dead were Palestinian police officers. Among those Israel labels "terrorists" were more than a dozen traffic police officers undergoing training. An as yet unknown number of civilians were killed and injured; Al Jazeera showed images of several dead children, and the Israeli attacks came at the time thousands of Palestinian children were in the streets on their way home from school.

Shmerling's joy has been echoed by Israelis and their supporters around the world; their violence is righteous violence. It is "self-defense" against "terrorists" and therefore justified. Israeli bombing -- like American and NATO bombing in Iraq and Afghanistan -- is bombing for freedom, peace and democracy.

The rationalization for Israel's massacres, already being faithfully transmitted by the English-language media, is that Israel is acting in "retaliation" for Palestinian rockets fired with increasing intensity ever since the six-month truce expired on 19 December (until today, no Israeli had been killed or injured by these recent rocket attacks).

But today's horrific attacks mark only a change in Israel's method of killing Palestinians recently. In recent months they died mostly silent deaths, the elderly and sick especially, deprived of food and necessary medicine by the two year-old Israeli blockade calculated and intended to cause suffering and deprivation to 1.5 million Palestinians, the vast majority refugees and children, caged into the Gaza Strip. In Gaza, Palestinians died silently, for want of basic medications: insulin, cancer treatment, products for dialysis prohibited from reaching them by Israel.

What the media never question is Israel's idea of a truce. It is very simple. Under an Israeli-style truce, Palestinians have the right to remain silent while Israel starves them, kills them and continues to violently colonize their land. Israel has not only banned food and medicine to sustain Palestinian bodies in Gaza but it is also intent on starving minds: due to the blockade, there is not even ink, paper and glue to print textbooks for schoolchildren.

As John Ging, the head of operations of the United Nations agency for Palestine refugees (UNRWA), told The Electronic Intifada in November: "there was five months of a ceasefire in the last couple of months, where the people of Gaza did not benefit; they did not have any restoration of a dignified existence. We in fact at the UN, our supplies were also restricted during the period of the ceasefire, to the point where we were left in a very vulnerable and precarious position and with a few days of closure we ran out of food."

That is an Israeli truce. Any response to Israeli attacks -- whether peaceful protests against the apartheid wall in Bilin and Nilin in the West Bank is met with bullets and bombs. There are no rockets launched at Israel from the West Bank, and yet Israel's attacks, killings, land theft, settler pogroms and kidnappings never ceased for one single day during the truce. The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah has acceded to all of Israel's demands, even assembling "security forces" to fight the resistance on Israel's behalf. None of that has spared a single Palestinian or her property or livelihood from Israel's relentless violent colonization. It did not save, for instance, the al-Kurd family from seeing their home of 50 years in occupied East Jerusalem demolished on 9 November, so the land it sits on could be taken by settlers.

Once again we are watching massacres in Gaza, as we did last March when 110 Palestinians, including dozens of children, were killed by Israel in just a few days. Once again people everywhere feel rage, anger and despair that this outlaw state carries out such crimes with impunity.

But all over the Arab media and internet today the rage being expressed is not directed solely at Israel. Notably, it is directed more sharply than ever at Arab states. The images that stick are of Israel's foreign minister Tzipi Livni in Cairo on Christmas day. There she sat smiling with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. Then there are the pictures of Livni and Egypt's foreign minister smiling and slapping their palms together.

The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported today that last wednesday the Israeli "cabinet authorized the prime minister, the defense minister, and the foreign minister to determine the timing and the method" of Israel's attacks on Gaza. Everywhere people ask, what did Livni tell the Egyptians and more importantly what did they tell her? Did Israel get a green light to turn Gaza's streets red once again? Few are ready to give Egypt the benefit of the doubt after it has helped Israel besiege Gaza by keeping the Rafah border crossing closed for more than a year.

On top of the intense anger and sadness so many people feel at Israel's renewed mass killings in Gaza is a sense of frustration that there seem to be so few ways to channel it into a political response that can change the course of events, end the suffering, and bring justice.

But there are ways, and this is a moment to focus on them. Already I have received notices of demonstrations and solidarity actions being planned in cities all over the world. That is important. But what will happen after the demonstrations disperse and the anger dies down? Will we continue to let Palestinians in Gaza die in silence?

Palestinians everywhere are asking for solidarity, real solidarity, in the form of sustained, determined political action. The Gaza-based One Democratic State Group reaffirmed this today as it "called upon all civil society organizations and freedom loving people to act immediately in any possible way to put pressure on their governments to end diplomatic ties with Apartheid Israel and institute sanctions against it."

The global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement for Palestine (http://www.bdsmovement.net/) provides the framework for this. Now is the time to channel our raw emotions into a long-term commitment to make sure we do not wake up to "another Gaza" ever again.

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada, Ali Abunimah is author of One Country: A Bold Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse (Metropolitan Books, 2006).

Related Links

Latest articles on EI:

Palestine : Human Rights: Gaza's main hospital struggling to cope (30 December 2008)
Palestine : Diaries: Live from Palestine: Bloodied in Gaza as the world silently watches (30 December 2008)
Palestine : Diaries: Live from Palestine: Deserted streets and fear as Israel demolishes Gaza (30 December 2008)
Palestine : Activism News: Union urges immediate boycott following Gaza university bombing (30 December 2008)
Palestine : Development: Israeli electioneering with bombs (30 December 2008)
Palestine : Opinion/Editorial: Falling into the moral abyss (30 December 2008)
Palestine : Human Rights: Israeli shelling badly damages human rights offices (30 December 2008)
Palestine : Human Rights: Only mild Security Council criticism for Israeli attacks (29 December 2008)
Palestine : Diaries: Live from Palestine: Why would Israel bomb a university? (29 December 2008)
Palestine : Development: Gaza without electricity, water (29 December 2008)


Attachment 2/6/

/6/Confidential. Drafted by Bowling on March 20.


A meaningful definition of the Iranian urban middle class must be sociological and historical, not primarily economic. The urban middle class constitutes that element of Iranian society in which there are present two cultures, two value systems, the traditional and the Western. Those elements of society in which the traditional value systems are overwhelmingly predominant are excluded, i.e., the peasantry, both in the countryside and recently arrived in the large cities, most landlords, older religious leaders, and the great majority of small merchants and artisans outside the capital. Similarly excluded is the very small minority of thoroughly Westernized individuals, in high levels of society, who are really strangers in their own society.

The political middle class must be identified with the process of cultural clash. We may for the purposes of this paper attempt a rough breakdown of the urban middle class as follows:

(a) The upper middle class.

Its mark is primarily money. It includes industrialists, contractors, richer merchants who have shed the limits of the bazaar mentality, senior officials and professors, and other top professional types. Iranian society is and always has been relatively mobile, and this class includes individuals who have risen from below and others who have dropped down into it from the traditional elite.

(b) The middle middle class.

It is typified by junior civil servants, bazaar merchants, students, engineers, teachers, and journalists, who are products of the local universities and secondary schools.

(c) The lower middle class.

It is typified by clerks, skilled workers, taxi drivers, and that portion of the urban proletariat which has been cut adrift by long city residence from the thought patterns of the traditional society. It appears to be extending itself downward with the erosion of the traditional structure of society. There is a small increment of individuals who drop into it from the middle middle class. It is literate but otherwise poorly educated.

The key to the entire class lies in the middle group. Most of the upper group is "in" at the present time; is economically satisfied, feels itself participating in and adjusted to the status quo to some extent, and, while ready to support any stable regime which would not disturb its position, is at least passively content with things as they are. From this relatively sophisticated group, however, particularly among the younger elements with foreign educations, is drawn much of the political leadership for which the key middle group is crying. The lower middle class is restive and dissatisfied, and by virtue of its numbers will form the mass of effective street demonstrations, but depends on the groups above it to provide the political and social channels for the expression of its discontent. The comments below will be concentrated on the key middle group.

Psychological Characteristics

It is well known that individuals the world over tend to rationalize political behavior which stems from deep emotional needs. This is particularly true with regard to extremist views aimed at radical changes in an existing society. To take at face value the rationalizations of an Iranian middle class leader is as unrewarding as to accept the rationalizations of anti-Semites, Negro-haters, or communists in the United States. Some understanding of the psychological background of such individuals is necessary in order to be able to understand them and to predict their behavior.

The political reactions of the key elements of the Iranian middle class find their psychological roots in the fact that these people are partly Westernized and partly attached to their traditional culture. The result is an inability to adjust to society, and an inability to find security. Thus, if a student tries to "date" a girl, and to choose his own wife, one side of his "super-ego" tells him that he is behaving atrociously; if he asks his parents to find him a wife and does not expect to become acquainted with her until after the marriage, the other side says he is behaving atrociously. He is continually frustrated, unhappy, and unable to achieve adjustment to, and security within, his society.

At the same time, he is oppressed by feelings of inferiority. He has lost the deft understanding which enables one to fit into the traditional society in its small middle niches; he is unable to sense the nuances which allow for security through sycophancy, flattery, and the manipulation of chains of influence. He is likewise, with only a few exceptions, quite incompetent by Western standards. There is enough of the traditional culture in him that he is not able to work for the sake of the results, and to view a task as separate from considerations of personal prestige and status.

He is not willing to accept now the old idea of status, self-fulfillment, and success resting upon traditional values, nor can he adjust to the ideally Western concept of rewarding an individual strictly according to how he performs. Too often, he tends to accept the basic idea of rewards based on membership in an autocratic group, but wishes to substitute for the badges of the traditional autocracy what he conceives as the badge of Western autocracy--"educational qualifications". He feels, understandably enough, that he should, by virtue of formal educational qualifications, be allowed to attain the security and status of an informal autocracy. The traditionalist element of society refuses to recognize this claim, holding rather that "qualifications" are based on traditional values; the Westerner laughs at him and tells him that performance, continual performance against competition, is the only standard by which status can be achieved.

Our typical member of the urban middle class now becomes desperate. He becomes anxious and then angry. He cannot, as a normal human being, admit of his inadequacy to meet either system, much less the confused mixture of both which confronts him. He suspects that he is being persecuted and plotted against, and develops aggressive desires for revenge against "the system".

These desires are channelled, naturally, against both of the structures which form the underpinnings of his society. He applies Western standards against the traditional element of his society, and finds it wanting. He applies traditional standards in a critique of the Western element in his society, and naturally finds it wanting, too. It is a short step from these judgments to an uncritical aggressive desire for revenge, and for a final justification of himself by punishing and humiliating the two figures who seemingly mock at his plight, the self-assured member of the traditional upper class and the self-assured Westerner.

Good and Evil

There are certain key concepts of the world which are born and bred into Iranians which unfortunately tend to sharpen the terrible psychological dilemma outlined above. They are rooted in Iranian history, and can be traced back to Zoroastrianism and picked up again in the Iranian interpretation of Shi'a Islam.

Persians tend to believe in the all-pervasive presence of a powerful force of evil in the world. All actions, all motives, are divisible into good and evil. It is probable at any time in history that the forces of evil control the world, while the good man, like the hidden Imam, is forced to hide and remain inconspicuous, to lie and pretend if need be, until the moment arrives for battle. Thus, most Persians cannot ascribe political actions with which they disagree to error, or to grant good intentions to the author of such actions. The term "political compromise" cannot be translated into colloquial Persian without a connotation of "sell-out".

Two results follow from this--first, since the forces of evil are strong and organized, actions by others which one disapproves are not isolated, they are linked together in a mesh of intertwining conspiracies with an overall evil motive behind them. Second, public and private morality are inextricably confused--no politician with a reprehensible private life can be other than evil in his public actions, and no saintly man can be really wrong in his public life.

As a corollary of the above, Persians tend to follow blindly a man who has convinced them that he is on the side of right, without examining political issues critically. Since members of the urban middle class have deep aggressive drives against the traditional ruling class and the Westerner, it is natural to associate a saintly leader with opposition to these two forces. All the ingredients are present for what we would call demagogic politics directed against them as scapegoats and as evil forces.


Persians, and especially the urban middle class, have, from historical experience and from their own peculiarities, evolved an amazing political mythology whereby almost all political developments are viewed in terms of foreign influence, usually selfish and malignant. Most such influence has been ascribed to the Russians and the British; practically every national leader was in the past characterized as "pro-British" or "pro-Russian". Since German and U.S. power was far away and supposedly disinterested, members of the urban middle class for a long time tended to describe themselves as "pro-German" or "pro-American". Nowadays, with the U.S. obviously in the Shah's graces, the term "pro-American" is taking on the evil overtone which "pro-British" has had; the Germans are out of the picture.

There is a deep residue of hatred and distrust of Russia in Iran, but communism has its attractions. This attraction for the urban middle class is based primarily on (a) the communist opposition to the existing scheme of things, and (b) a hope that communism really means that the "educationally qualified" urban middle class displaces the traditional autocracy and thereafter enjoys status, security, and justification. However, even the most angry and frustrated Persian tends to draw back in alarm when he suspects that a Russian lurks behind the fair mask of communism.


Let us set aside immediately the common conception that the urban middle class is primarily concerned with national economic development. Nothing interests it less. It would like an aristocratic standard of living, but it channels this desire primarily through the idea of stepping into the seats of the traditional ruling class and the high-living Westerners resident in Iran. It has repeatedly shown its almost total lack of concern for the peasantry and even for the urban proletariat, except insofar as it can turn these groups against the traditional ruling class and the West. It is noteworthy that the consumption levels of the urban middle class have been rising sharply over the past eight years, while its political discontent has been rising even more sharply.

Members of the class, with Western tastes whetted by an addiction to movie-going, often bemoan the absence of "a decent standard of living" for themselves. This "decent standard" is measured in Western terms. Its provision, in a society still desperately poor, would obviously result in a profound increase in the gap between the educated and the uneducated, and therefore of "social injustice".

This class has, over the past ten years, shown itself to be ready at any time to put almost all other factors ahead of economic development for the nation. They have opposed infrastructure development and have instead demanded relatively non-productive amenities such as hospitals, colleges, asphalt streets, and urban water and sewage systems. They have been particularly opposed to any development involving foreign contractors or suppliers, which they feel is by definition somewhat nefarious.

It is important to note, however, that an expanding economy and a high rate of investment, particularly in the private sector, provide (a) attractive outlets for the energies of the more intelligent and better-educated members of the class, and (b) obviate the dangers of mass urban unemployment. They do not effectively modify political and psychological attitudes, but they dilute the readiness of the urban population to take drastic action along the lines indicated by these attitudes.

Political Aspirations

Most members of the class look back on the Mosadeq era with undisguised nostalgia. We are thus not operating in a vacuum when we attempt to determine the results of a political change or changes in which power would come into the hands of this group.

In 1957, one urban middle class group indicated in a public manifesto that it was willing to live with CENTO and with the Consortium Agreement. We must note, however, that the leader of this particular group is probably the most moderate of all potential leaders of the class, and that he and his followers admitted openly that the promise represented the stiff price which they are willing to pay for American "support" in a bid for power. In practice, it seems highly unlikely that any leader would be able to hold to such a position for long. His rivals would make life intolerable for him by accusing him of being a stooge of the West. It is almost a certainty that any government responsive to the urban middle class would as a minimum be forced to withdraw from CENTO and initiate some kind of squeeze on the Consortium, at least to the extent that it could prove to its followers that it was hostile to Western interests. Similarly, in the international arena, such a government would be forced to display its opposition to Western interests in the Arab world, the Congo, the Far East, and other trouble spots, and to extend sympathy to urban middle class leaders in those areas who are now opposing the West.

It is highly probable that, as another minimum, the U.S. military mission to Iran would be invited to leave. The Army is highly unpopular with the urban middle class, and to retain any position whatever in society, the Army itself would have to acquiesce in good grace.

The urban middle class has historically had no interest in or knowledge of financial realities. The degree of financial stability which has been maintained recently would almost certainly go overboard. One cannot imagine school teachers agreeing to postpone wage demands, for example, in view of esoteric and complicated financial factors, nor a government responsive to the urban middle class refusing to embark on a highly desirable hospital-building program because there was not enough money in the kitty. After all, as in the Mosadeq era, the printing press is always available.

Democracy in the Western sense means nothing to the urban middle class. It is probable that the oft-proposed measure to disenfranchise the illiterate classes would be brought up again and adopted, if there were any desire to utilize a freely-elected assembly.

The urban middle class complains bitterly about corruption in the government, but shows little interest in reducing corruption at low levels. Rather, it sympathizes with low-level officials in trouble for this reason, and insists that nothing can be done to remedy the basic problem until high-level corruption, involving the traditional upper class and foreigners, is eliminated. Almost all members of the upper class and most foreigners are believed to be guilty of corruption, unless they are openly sympathetic to the Mosadeqist groups. It seems quite likely that this middle class concern over corruption is actually a rationalization of its deeper emotional antipathies, and its justification in terms of the actual situation is coincidental.

The traditional upper classes, and the upper strata of the upper middle class as well, would probably be victimized in one way or another, ranging from confiscatory taxation to hanging. These policies would naturally quickly dry up the sources of capital formation for the private sector of the economy. Economic enterprise would turn toward the statist road, primarily because it is in the bureaucracy that the urban middle class is closest to having a vehicle through which it can institutionalize status and security for itself.

Political Realities

The aspirations described above do not constitute a prediction of the future. They represent the existing political raw material provided by the urban middle class. When one considers that they are inchoate, contradictory, and emotional in essence, it is obvious that they will be shaped by leadership. They cannot be disregarded. They are growing and spreading every day at an accelerating rate, upward into the younger sons of the aristocracy and downward into the proletariat, pushed by increasing urbanization. Their spread can only be stopped by stopping the process of culture clash, and that is impossible in the world of today.

There is no discernible competent leadership in the urban middle class at present. Should its incompetent leadership of today be catapulted into power, it is likely that a process of confused demagoguery would ensue, which would result in uncoordinated moves in the direction of the various negative aspirations listed above and increase potential for the communists, who obviously by virtue of their program and organization, would have a good chance of eventually filling the vacuum if they have learned to stop bowing publicly in the direction of the hated Russians.

The Iranian military does not offer potential leadership which could deal with these aspirations and satisfy them. Most junior officers share the prejudices of the middle class families from which they sprang; senior officers are roundly hated as members of the traditional aristocracy.

Traditional leaders--clergy, landlords, and the really big merchants--offer little hope of providing competent leadership, and are blind to the threat which the urban middle class represents. It might conceivably still be possible to "bypass" the urban middle class by providing a dynamic to the inert traditional-minded peasantry and proletariat, perhaps based on a regeneration of Shi'a Islam with new values adjustable to semi-Western values and to modern techniques of production and organization. But there is no sign of the gigantic creativity which would be necessary for such a reversal of the current historical trend.

There is one potential leader who has the necessary ability, personality, and talent, and whose political capital is not yet quite exhausted. That is the Shah himself. The Shah would still be capable, if he could only see the truth, of taking steps like the following which might allow him to seize and mold middle class aspirations.

(a) Channelling current resentments against Ministers rather than against himself.

(b) Dumping his family, or most of it, in Europe.

(c) Abstaining from state visits abroad and discouraging state visits to Iran.

(d) Reducing his military forces gradually to a small, tough force of infantry and artillery capable of internal security and guerrilla activities.

(e) Removing gradually most U.S. advisers from the Iranian Government except those few engaged in health, education, and welfare work in the field.

(f) Publicly excoriating the traditional ruling class for a lack of social responsibility.

(g) Withdrawing from his openly pro-Western international posture with as little damage as possible to Free World morale and to his own prestige.

(h) Ostentatiously reducing his personal standard of living, and the pomp and panoply of his life.

(i) Proceeding loudly with at least a token land distribution program against the big landlords.

(j) Making menacing gestures against the Oil Consortium and "extracting" concessions from it, in such a way as to make it appear that the Consortium was reluctantly bowing to his power and determination.

(k) Making public scapegoats of scores of "corrupt" high officials, whether or not the "corruption" could be proved.

(l) Appointing respected moderate Mosadeqists to positions such as those of Minister of Finance and Head of the Plan Organization, where they could assume responsibilities without being able to reverse policy.

(m) Making public all details of the operations of the Pahlavi Foundation, and appointing as its supervisors a few moderate Mosadeqists.

(n) Employing his personality to make constant personal contact with the members of the middle class.

The foregoing items are not intended to be a comprehensive program of action for the Shah. They are rather examples of actions which would have a positive effect on relations between the Shah and the class under discussion, and as indications of the types of action and gesture by the Shah to which the class would respond. Many of them would be demagogic in nature and would be hard for the West to swallow. But it is still possible that the Shah could turn the trick. He has the brains, the personality, and the cunning to do it.

United States Policy

Elements of U.S. policy which are presently open and which would serve to protect U.S. interests against the dangers represented by the rise of the urban middle class in Iran are as follows:

(a) Inducing the Shah to turn his political talents and his attention, as a matter of priority over military and foreign affairs, to the broad task of winning the confidence of the urban middle class by providing them with a sense of participation in, and identification with, his regime.

(b) Providing economic assistance to Iran sufficient to prevent economic and financial collapse, maintain a high rate of economic growth in both the public and private sectors, and provide for the continuing provision of a reasonable amount of relatively non-productive urban amenities.

(c) Watching political developments carefully with a view to the identification and analysis of effective and responsible alternative political leaders who might, as a last resort, be available to replace the Shah should he fail completely as a political leader.

28. Memorandum From Acting Secretary of State Bowles to President Kennedy/1/

Washington, March 30, 1961.

/1/Source: Department of State, Central Files, 611.84A45/3-3061. Secret. Drafted by Lewis Jones.

Dimona Reactor in Israel

On March 27 you inquired regarding the status of the promised invitation for American experts to visit quietly the Israeli nuclear reactor at Dimona. Deputy Under Secretary Roger Jones promised to provide you with a reply. This invitation was first promised to us by Prime Minister Ben-Gurion on January 4 through Ambassador Reid./2/

/2/See Document 1.

The enclosed chronology regarding the Dimona reactor shows that the Department has been reminding the Israel Government at approximately weekly intervals through Ambassador Harman of the importance of an early "quiet" visit by Americans to Dimona./3/

/3/Attached but not printed.

Following your telephone call, Assistant Secretary Lewis Jones called in Ambassador Harman and again told him that we are anxiously waiting the Israeli invitation (see memorandum of conversation enclosed)./4/ On this occasion Harman, who personally shares our belief that the visit should take place soon, reiterated the difficulties occasioned by the internal political crisis in Israel. He said, and our Embassy at Tel Aviv confirms, that the Israeli leaders are profoundly preoccupied by their internal political problems. This is particularly true of Prime Minister Ben-Gurion, who is personally in charge of Israel's atomic energy program.

/4/Attached but not printed. Also in Department of State, Central Files, 884A.1901/3-2861.

When Jones urged Harman to make a new effort to hasten the invitation, Harman said he would do so but that in any case it was unlikely that any decision could be taken in Israel during the next few days. Between April 3 and April 10 is Passover Week, when little work is done in Israel.

The Department believes that Harman is probably right regarding the unlikelihood of the Israelis issuing an invitation prior to April 10, although our latest démarche to Harman using your name is likely to be helpful to this end.

We believe that Ben-Gurion fully intends to issue the invitation. Part of his difficulty is (a) that, having given his word, he does not like to be pushed by the United States, and (b) he is personally in the greatest internal political difficulty of his career. He probably feels that his problems may be compounded if his enemies have something new to pin on him arising out of his handling of the Dimona reactor affair. It is for the latter reason that when the visit takes place it should be a quiet one regarding which there should be no United States publicity.

Chester Bowles/5/

/5/Printed from a copy that indicates Bowles signed the original.

Et tu, Eritrea?

Only a few proper nouns distinguish this account, of Eritrean myth-jacking, from our American myth-jacking.
U.S. Policy in the Horn of Africa
James Swan, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs
4th International Conference on Ethiopian Development Studies
Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan
August 4, 2007

As Delivered



Now, let me turn to Eritrea. While the rest of the Horn of Africa is making political, economic, and social advances and seizing opportunities -- albeit with periodic important setbacks -- the opposite is true for Eritrea.

Eritrea has experienced economic decline and a lack of freedoms, for the press and political expression. There is widespread and arbitrary conscription. The government has worked to destabilize its neighbors, including Ethiopia and Somalia.

Given the American penchant for supporting the underdog, it is disheartening to see what has become of Eritrea in the 14 years since it gained independence and produced a praiseworthy constitution. President Isaias Afwerki has become increasingly tyrannical and megalomaniacal. He has actively sought to destabilize the Horn, fueling regional insurgencies and supporting groups affiliated with terrorists.

Eritrean Government policies have also choked the Eritrean economy and consolidated political power among a small cadre of cronies, who are distinguished only by their unwavering loyalty to the President. The government has actively blocked humanitarian assistance from international donors. It initiated the border war with Ethiopia that cost tens of thousands of lives.

The Eritrean Government has fabricated a national mythology by demonizing neighboring Ethiopia, for the central purpose of garnering complete compliance with his autocratic domestic policies. By channeling Eritreans' patriotism into hostility toward Ethiopia, the government ensures that [it] can rule as it likes, without public opposition. Democracy and economic opportunity remain purely theoretical concepts for the people of Eritrea.

As you know, the reality is atrocious. Youth are sent to camps for indoctrination. Citizens in the prime of their lives are forced into national service; anyone who refuses is beaten. If you flee, your family is imprisoned. Those who fail to espouse officially sanctioned opinions languish in metal shipping containers.

As in the former Soviet Union, the Eritrean government controls both the message and the medium. There are no opposition political parties, no non-governmental organizations, no private media. Any senior government official who dares to speak out puts himself at risk. The brave individuals known as the G-15, who challenged Eritrea's path back in the spring of 2001, are missing.

Elsewhere in the region, Eritrea has chosen to support extremist elements, including the al-Qaida affiliated al Shabaab militia in Somalia, in an effort to undermine the political process. While the rest of the region and the international community have united behind a common strategy for achieving lasting peace and stability in Somalia, Eritrea has opted to support terrorists and spoilers while encouraging continued violence. There is no justification for such actions. The ruling cabal is – to our great regret -- leading Eritrea along the path toward increased domestic repression and hardship, and regional and international isolation....

Monday, December 29, 2008

RSS Feeds I'm Following

Henry Kissinger: Eminence Noire
Editor Parry on LBJ's 'Treason' Tapes
Two Dangerous Bush-Cheney Myths
Washington Needs a Makeover
Cheney Defends Waterboarding Order
Democrats Need Their Own Cheney
Cheney's Contempt for the Republic
'Australia' Makes Worthy Apology
Deterring Torture Through the Law
CIA Warned Condi on Niger Claim
Ray McGovern on US-Russia Relations
Obama v. Washington Mythmaking
Secrecy Worsens Wall Street Mess
Cheney Admits Detainee-Abuse Role
Obama and US-Russia Tensions
Ray McGovern on Obama's Risky Path
The Bigger Pay-to-Play Picture
Torture Trail Seen Starting with Bush
Bush's Farewell Hallelujah Chorus
'Surge' Importance Disputed
Will Obama Buy Torture-Lite?
We All Failed Gary Webb
Iraqis Push for US Withdrawal
Condi's Advice to India on Terror
The Significance of Nixon's 'Treason'
Pakistan Pressured on Mumbai Attack
Ray McGovern Discusses Gates
Nixon's 'Treason' and Historical Gaps

Obama's Familiar Orbit of Advisers
Obama v. King, on War and Peace
Obama's Empire Lite
Bush Still Lies about Iraqi Inspections

Obama's 'Centrist' Security Team
Obama's Risky 'Team of Rivals'
Obama's Fateful Choice of Gates
'Continuity of Government' Dangers
President-Elect's Queries to Briefers"
Kafka and Uighurs at Guantanamo,
Washington Old Guard Wins on Gates
Obama, Ask the Kremlin About Gate,
Gates and the Urge to Surge
Robert Gates: As Bad as Rumsfeld?"
Obama Risks Clinton-Era Mistakes
Predictable Disaster of George W. Bush,"
Lieberman's Weak Record on Oversight
The Danger of Keeping Robert Gates"
Obama: Beware the Lessons of '93
Fear and Racism on the Campaign Trail
McCain's Real-ly Stupid America"

Toll From Deadly, Coordinated Mumbai Attacks Tops 170, Two Top Indian Officials Resign, Tensions Rise Between India and Pakistan

Change or More of the Same? Obama Introduces National Security Team

Chevron Cleared in 1998 Shooting Deaths of Protesters in Niger Delta

US Interrogator in Iraq Says Torture Policy Has Led to Deaths of Thousands of American Soldiers

Attorney Scott Horton on "Justice After Bush: Prosecuting an Outlaw Administration"

Indiana Guardsmen Sue KBR Over Chemical Exposure in Iraq

Vietnamese Agent Orange Victims Demand Accountability from US, Chemical Companies in Suit

Gov't Study Concludes “Gulf War Syndrome” is Legitimate Condition, Affects 1 in 4 Vets

CEOs of Big Three Automakers Return to Capitol Hill to Plead for $34B Federal Bailout

The Blogging Revolution: A Look at the Repression of Online Journalism Around the World

The Right Livelihood Award: A Look at Sweden's "Alternative Nobel"

"India's Soul" - Krishnammal Jagannathan Awarded Right Livelihood for Realizing

"Gandhian Vision of Social Justice and Sustainable Human Development"

Gynecologist Monika Hauser Receives Right Livelihood for Work on Behalf of Victims of Sexual Violence in War

The History of the Nobel Prize: A Look at Alfred Nobel, the Man Who Invented Dynamite

Bush, Rove Tied to Effort to Dismantle Sweden's Social Welfare Program

Blackwater Guards Indicted for Role in Nisoor Square Massacre

Illinois Governor Arrested on Corruption Charges Including Scheme to Sell Obama’s Senate Seat

Workers Win Offer from BofA in Chicago Factory Sit-In

Unsteady Calm Following Settler Violence Against Palestinian Residents in Hebron

Uprising in Greece: Protests, Riots, Strikes Enter 6th Day Following Fatal Police Shooting of Teen

EXCLUSIVE...AWOL US Soldier Seeks Asylum in Germany Over Returning to "Illegal" War in Iraq

Senate Report Finds Rumsfeld Directly Responsible for US Torture of Prisoners

“The Fed Who Blew the Whistle"

Farmers and Food Advocates Urge Obama to Create a National Sustainable Food and Agricultural Policy

Federal Report Finds $100B Failure in US Reconstruction of Iraq

As Madoff Scandal Wipes Out Charities and Foundations, SEC Admits it Missed Repeated Warnings on Historic $50B Financial Fraud

Days After Calling Israeli Blockade of Gaza "A Crime Against Humanity," UN Human Rights Investigator Richard Falk Detained, Expelled from Israel

Obama Picks Pro-Ethanol, Agribusiness Ex-Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack to Head Agricultural Dept.

Shunning Environmental Groups, Obama Taps Colorado Sen. Ken Salazar for Interior Dept.

Obama's Choice for Education Secretary, Arne Duncan, Seen as Compromise Between Divided Strands

Katrina's Hidden Race War: In Aftermath of Storm, White Vigilante Groups Shot 11 African Americans in New Orleans

Posing as a Bidder, Utah Student Disrupts Government Auction of 150,000 Acres of Wilderness for Oil & Gas Drilling

Republican IT Specialist Dies in Plane Crash

Linda Bilmes: "The $10 Trillion Hangover: Paying the Price for Eight Years of Bush"

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) Calls for Independent Counsel to Investigate Cheney and Rumsfeld for Violating Torture Laws

Max Blumenthal on "Rick Warren's Double Life"

Spill at Tennessee Coal Plant Creates Environmental Disaster

HRW Says US Intervention Worsening Somalia Crisis

Activist, Right Livelihood Winner Asha Hagi Fights for Women's Role in Somali Peace Process

Peace Women: A Look at the 11 Women to Win the Nobel Peace Prize

An Hour with the Renowned South African Poet, Writer, Painter and Anti-Apartheid Activist Breyten Breytenbach

Reverend Billy: The Revolution in the Hello
David Sirota: We WERE Punked

In Praise of a Rocky Transition
Naomi Klein: 'We can't lose this moment'

Marty Peretz and the American political consensus on Israel
Politico reviews the year in American "political journalism"
Torture ambivalence masquerading as moral and intellectual superiority
Some observations after being involved in a Fox News report
Cheney says top congressional Democrats complicit in spying
If criminal penalties are removed, what will deter lawbreaking by political officials?
Demands for war crimes prosecutions are now growing in the mainstream
Committing war crimes for the "right reasons"
Prostitution vs. war crimes: The real moral offense
Senate report links Bush to detainee homicides; media yawns
Some observations on this week's television appearances
Top Democrat urges "continuity" for CIA, DNI and interrogation policies
Salon Radio: Retired Rear Adm. John Hutson on torture
Gen. Hayden and the claimed irrelevance of presidential appointments
The CIA and its reporter friends: Anatomy of a backlash
A Democratic insider's call for a new presidential secrecy power
Vague pledges to "end torture" and "comply with treaties and laws"

Schubart’s Defiant Trout
Pelikan on Tradition and Traditionalism
SCOTT HORTON—Is $40,000 the New Going Rate for Presidential Pardons?
John Donne’s Nativity
Góngora’s Nativity
SCOTT HORTON—Justice after Bush: Prosecuting an outlaw administration
SCOTT HORTON—Pardon Time for Cheney?
SCOTT HORTON—The Irony of Public Integrity
SCOTT HORTON—Bush and the Meltdown on Wall Street
SCOTT HORTON—A Troubling Black Box Death
SCOTT HORTON—What Motivates the Torture Enablers?
Rousseau on Government and the People
SCOTT HORTON—John Dean: Prosecute Cheney
SCOTT HORTON—FBI Director Calls Cheney on Torture Lies

SCOTT HORTON—“The American Public has a Right to Know That They Do Not
Have to Choose Between Torture and Terror”: Six questions for Matthew Alexander, author of How to Break a Terrorist

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Warp Power of Myths Deployed as Propaganda

Glenn Greenwald highlights the enduring power of myths to distort our shared narrative, thereby misdirecting us into false realities in which our every action, as the sovereign electorate, is preempted by definition and absolutely void: empty, meaningless actions like voting on rigged machines. Greg Palast calls vote caging "lynching by laptop," the unspoken penalty for simply being insufficiently like The Powers That Be.

* * * * *

Speaking of invented storyline myths becoming entrenched in our media discourse and then never dissolving no matter how factually inaccurate it is, here is a superb video compiled by Jed Lewison documenting the completely fact-free reporting that has driven the tawdry media attempt to connect Barack Obama (through Rahm Emanuel) to the Blagojevich scandal. Obviously, it's perfectly appropriate to ask questions about Obama and Emanuel's involvement, but the media simply invented a pure fiction to implicate Obama in order to drive the story -- a fiction that has had a considerable impact on public perception:

That's almost certainly damage that will never be undone. That's why it is, in my view, worthwhile to dissect the Brennan coverage -- what one finds there is a deceitful methodology that is used in almost every story.

* * * * *

"Mind not my words, let the play say the thing." --Robin Williams, extemporizing Shakespeare, on the album Reality: What A Concept

Joseph Campbell began lecturing, for I don't know how long, at State's Foreign Service Institute in 1957. How many times since then have we used the power of myth as the engine of regime change?

Somebody took the lessons of Goebbels and Goering to heart. Add some behaviorism and comparative mythology and BAM! An invisible weapon that leaves no marks and yet is more powerful than all the armies of the earth. As a Zen poet, non-matriculating grad student of research psychology, and devoted student of comparative mythology, I see it plain as day.

I call it myth-jacking. Robert Parry, whose Iran-Contra reporting brought me to my senses, just posted a great article on the power of myth:

Besides being only one of many factors in the reduced violence, the “surge” also failed to bring about the political-economic reconciliation in Iraq that Bush had promised when he announced the build-up in January 2007. Nor has it led to the expected drawdown of troops to below pre-surge levels, with almost 150,000 U.S. troops now in Iraq, about 16,000 more than before the “surge.”

Yet, the myth of the “successful surge” has proved extraordinarily powerful.

During the campaign, Obama faced hectoring from media interviewers, such as CBS News’ Katie Couric and ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, demanding that he admit he was wrong to oppose the “surge.”

For weeks, Obama held firm, insisting that the issue was more complicated than his interviewers wanted to admit. He argued that there were many factors behind Iraq’s changed security environment. But ultimately he caved in while being interrogated on Sept. 4 by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly.

"I think that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated," Obama confessed to O'Reilly. "It's succeeded beyond our wildest dreams."

Obama may have judged that continued resistance was futile. But his surrender on the “successful surge” myth may have other long-term consequences. [Retrieved 5:50 AM Pacific 23 Dec 08 from http://www.consortiumnews.com/2008/121808.html]

As if that weren't bad enough, check out this hair-raising little quote from Ray McGovern:

Obama is no shrinking violet. Just the same, it may be useful to warn him not to succumb to the particular brand of “shock and awe” that can be induced by ostensibly sexy intelligence to color reactions of briefees, including presidents. I have seen it happen. [Retrieved 5:55 AM Pacific 23 Dec 08 from http://www.consortiumnews.com/2008/110708c.html]

Our president is not ours alone. I think he's being, or about to be, run like any other asset of the same NSA-type fiends who've been myth-jacking us to hell, and sticking us with the bill, for god knows how long now.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Blagojevich is Exemplary of Our Bipartisan Feudalists

Retrieved 10:05 AM Pacific 18 Dec 2008 from
Is Governor Blagojevich's Conduct Any Different From Those in Congress?

knowBuddhaU permalink
Bravo, Sister! Respect to CREW. It's feudalism, not democratic republicanism, that rules our day.

"Lordship has emerged as a more centrally important topic than the feudum. The quality of lords" relationships with their dependents, free and unfree, has been debated, with some historians stressing the predatory, exploitative aspects of lordship and others emphasizing its protective, beneficial features." [EB1 http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/205583/feudalism]

You want yer despotism Malign, or Benign? Repub or Dem?

"[Feudalism is] based on the relation between lords and the peasants who worked their own land and that of the lord. ... [it] came to encompass all aspects of social organization and was characterized as a system that was both oppressive and hierarchical. [EB2 "feudalism." Encyclopædia Britannica. Standard Edition. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2008.]

"[F]eudalism involves the exchange of allegiance for a grant of land (fief) between two people, usually men, of noble status." [EB2]

"Historians and philosophers were persuaded that if the universe operated systematically, so too must societies. In the 16th century some students of the law and customs of the fief declared that feudal institutions were universal ..." [EB1]

Feudalism is the order of our day.

Posted 10:43 AM on 12/18/2008
knowBuddhaU permalink

To conclude: It's all about transferring the Commons into private property in the context of a "holy" or "good" war. RB is crass, but exemplary.

STEPHEN JAY GOULD: "From its late 17th century inception in modern form, science has strongly privileged the reductionist mode of thought that breaks overt complexity into constituent parts and then tries to explain the totality by the properties of these parts and simple interactions fully predictable from the parts. ("Analysis" literally means to dissolve into basic parts). The reductionist method works triumphantly for simple systems -- predicting eclipses or the motion of planets (but not the histories of their complex surfaces), for example. But once again -- and when will we ever learn? -- we fell victim to hubris, as we imagined that, in discovering how to unlock some systems, we had found the key for the conquest of all natural phenomena."


: "Larry Summers in 1992: 'Spread the truth. The laws of economics are like the laws of engineering. One set of laws works everywhere'...."


Feudalists live to exploit, to enrich themselves not as incompetence, but as the display and practice of prowess itself.

Posted 11:10 AM on 12/18/2008

With respect to Thorstein Veblen, Theory of the Leisure Class, http://xroads.virginia.edu/%7EHYPER/VEBLEN/veblenhp.html, and Michael Parenti, Contrary Notions, http://www.kexp.org/streamarchive/streamarchive.asp Mind Over Matters 8AM Sunday December 7, 2008

Robert Parry Details Poet-President-Elect Obama's Perils of Mythic Proportions

Speaking of the power of the spoken word and narratives to shape society and our shared future, Robert Parry has what looks to me like the answering article to questions I've been asking of him and McGovern for months now.

Obama v. Washington Mythmaking

By Robert Parry
December 18, 2008

Over the years, Washington has evolved into a city of deceptions where semantics cloud reality and where a hazy mix of lies, half-truths and mythology can combine to unleash the devastating military might of the United States for no good reason.

The “successful surge” myth is built around the widely accepted conventional wisdom that the increase in U.S. troop levels in 2007 brought Iraqi violence under control and carried the United States to the verge of “victory” in Iraq.

Yet, the myth of the “successful surge” has proved extraordinarily powerful.

During the campaign, Obama faced hectoring from media interviewers, such as CBS News’ Katie Couric and ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos, demanding that he admit he was wrong to oppose the “surge.”

For weeks, Obama held firm, insisting that the issue was more complicated than his interviewers wanted to admit. He argued that there were many factors behind Iraq’s changed security environment. But ultimately he caved in while being interrogated on Sept. 4 by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly.

"I think that the surge has succeeded in ways that nobody anticipated," Obama confessed to O'Reilly. "It's succeeded beyond our wildest dreams."

Obama may have judged that continued resistance was futile. But his surrender on the “successful surge” myth may have other long-term consequences.

Sizing Up Obama

In other words, the top U.S. commanders for Iraq have taken the measure of the President-elect and decided that they can openly flout his central campaign promise – that he would give them new orders on his first day in office to begin a monthly withdrawal of U.S. combat forces from Iraq, culminating after 16 months with only a modest residual force left behind.

Now on Day One, Obama can expect to face clear opposition to his withdrawal plan from the lead generals in the region and from Defense Secretary Gates, who also has spoken out against Obama’s timetable. If he presses ahead on a pullout, Obama can expect strong institutional resistance and leaks critical of his leadership.

However, if he reneges on his campaign promise and succumbs to the power play by these Bush holdovers, Obama will be sending another troubling signal – that he can be “handled” – a message that will resonate across Washington and around the world.

Rehabilitating Bush

Besides undercutting Obama, the myth of the “successful surge” has fueled a new narrative favorable to George W. Bush, that his decision to liberate Iraq may have suffered from many problems of execution but he bravely stuck with it until he came upon a winning strategy. http://www.consortiumnews.com/2008/121808.html