More unconstitutional fascist / authoritarian / police state crap — what else were you expecting?
Nothing has changed under Obama. Video is just as relevant right now, and in a bunch of other nations.
William Blum Interviewed in Superpower, The Movie
Unmasking Imperial America
by JASON HIRTHLER
If you took all the uncomfortable truths omitted from mainstream media over the past half century, compiled and indexed them, and added a dash of withering sarcasm, you might end up with a book a lot like, America’s Deadliest Export: Democracy [Zed Books, 2013] the latest offering from serial dissident William Blum. Like his better-known peers Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn and Gore Vidal, Blum is a perennial gadfly on the imperial hide, puncturing falsehood and punctuating hypocrisy with an implacable zeal. On the back cover of Blum’s book Rogue State—and repeated in the current volume—is the following paragraph, probably the finest he has or may put to paper:
If I were the president, I could stop terrorist attacks against the United States in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologize – very publically and very sincerely –to all the widows and orphans, the impoverished and the tortured, and all the many millions of other victims of American imperialism. I would then announce that America’s global interventions – including the awful bombings – have come to an end. And I would inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the union but – oddly enough – a foreign country. I would then reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims. There would be more than enough money. One year’s military budget of $330 billion is equal to more than $18,000 an hour for every hour since Jesus Christ was born. That’s what I’d do on my first three days in the White House. On the fourth day, I’d be assassinated.
This paragraph was famously quoted by Osama Bin Laden in one of his grainy video homilies to the world in 2006. A minor media storm followed, hovering over Blum like a drone over a Waziristan hamlet. Once the furor subsided, however, Blum’s connection to OBL contaminated his reputation as a public figure. In the half dozen years since, Blum has received scant few speaking invitations from universities after enjoying a steady diet of engagements in the years prior. One can just envision the blandly decorous university administrator, seated in his mahogany office, dismissing out of hand a proposed invite to Blum, admonishing naïve student advocates to use a bit more discretion in their choice of speakers. But it was their loss.
Blum’s latest offering confirms that his exile from the college circuit has done nothing to dim his fury. The new book is a compilation of essays and articles dating from the middle of the Bush years through 2011, and covering a vast range of foreign policy issues. Blum writes with disarming informality, a writer with little time for the artful turns of the poet or novelist. His mission feels too urgent for anything but blank candor. In contrast to a more measured analyst like Chomsky, Blum holds nothing back. He launches salvo after salvo at the edifice of imperial falsification, a veritable babel of cloaked belligerence. Yet his indignation is leavened by healthy doses of humor, including a late chapter that envisions a global police state of comical extremes.
Blum’s central objective, it seems, is to expose the American mythology of good intentions. He states in the introduction, writing about the American public, “No matter how many times they’re lied to, they still often underestimate the government’s capacity for deceit, clinging to the belief that their leaders somehow mean well. As long as people believe that their elected leaders are well intentioned, the leaders can, and do, get away with murder. Literally.”
From this premise, Blum quickly establishes the central goal of U.S. foreign policy: world domination. The concept, so infrequently phrased like this—even on the left—may sound like something out of a Bond novel—the sinister plot of SPECTRE, hatched in some underwater command center. But as Blum begins to lay the foundation for his claim, the ostensibly fictive begins to feel factual. He asserts that the American military is the vanguard of American business, bent on corporate globalization by any means available to it, which happen to include state terror, undermining elections, bombing, assassination, support of autocratic mass-murderers, and a general suppression of populist movements. In fact any means by which it can vanquish the threat of economic democracy—a model that would needlessly tax and encumber corporations in their efforts to advance the bottom line.
Our Bipolar Worldview
Blum then walks us through a litany of foreign policy issues, throwing aside the façade of official doublespeak and subterfuge, and revealing the honest face of American foreign policy—and it is almost never a pretty or admirable or defendable reality. Reading through the cases, a disturbing polarity emerges. On one hand, the Noble American, whose civilizing missions abroad are always necessary interventions, conditioned by a desire to ennoble benighted peoples. On the other, the Terrorist, a shockingly savage barbarian frothing with fundamentalist ire at the profligate and infidel freedoms of the West. The Terrorist would reduce the western hemisphere to dust, given the chance. Hence the forward positions of our military—purely a defensive measure against a foe with whom negotiation is a fool’s errand.
According to received orthodoxy, U.S. foreign policy is at best an almost messianic force for global good, and at worst capable of blundering mistakes that misread the cultural character of the developing world. Note here the preclusion of even the capacity for immoral behavior. Misguided, yes. Unethical, never. Think of Barack Obama’s oft-cited claim that the Iraq war was the “wrong” war, a “dumb” war, and poorly managed. Not once in his 2008 campaign, or prior to it, did our future president even hint that the Iraq war was deeply immoral. If it wasn’t, it follows that none of the war’s prosecutors should themselves be prosecuted for war crimes. Hence Obama’s swift decision to “look forward” and permit criminals like George Bush, Dick Cheney, and Donald Rumsfeld to stroll leisurely into the history books. It likewise follows that violations of our civil liberties can be effected with a clean conscience, since the government means only to protect its citizenry. What this perspective requires of the average citizen is the unstinting faith of childhood, an increasingly risible notion in the age of Wikileaks.
At the far polarity of the moral spectrum is the terrorist. Those we dislike—redistributive Marxists, agrarian reformers, big-government socialists, anti-totalitarians—are cavalierly labeled terrorists by our government, thanks to the magical euphemism of “material support.” Simply add a heavy dose of fearmongering and the general consent is induced. Thus, your freedom fighter becomes my insurgent. My indigenous resistance becomes your Maoist army. The terrorist is characterized as a moral degenerate, impossible to understand because fundamentally depraved—unlike us. As exemplified by state rhetoric, the terrorists always strike first. History begins with a car bomb and ends with a humanitarian intervention.
Blum exposes this perverted reading of history in scenario after scenario: Iraq and Iran; the Bush White House; the demonization of Wikileaks; the catastrophes of the former Yugoslavia; the bombing of Libya and the support of state terror in Latin America. In a chapter on the Cold War, Blum revises what is perhaps the 20th Century’s most serviceable fable by making the startling claim that the Cold War was not a back-channel battle between capitalism and communism, but was rather an American effort to crush populism in the Third World. Even the establishment has sometimes conceded this claim. No less than influential Harvard political scientist Samuel Huntington, said in a recorded private conversation in 1981, “You may have to sell intervention or other military action in such a way as to create the misimpression that it is the Soviet Union that you’re fighting. That’s what the United States has been doing ever since the Truman doctrine.”
There are plenty of forays into related terrain, including social ideology, environmentalism, the contradictions of capitalism, the effectiveness of government, religion, dissent, the mainstream media’s proclivity for deceit through omission. The chapter on media is smartly followed by a takedown of Barack Obama, who Blum’s strips of his public-relations façade as a progressive reformer. The president is revealed as a rhetorically vacuous warmonger, an ally of big finance, and a committed imperialist. To underscore the power of rhetoric to cloak not only venality but villainy, Blum closes the chapter with a stunning passage from a speech by Adolf Hitler in 1935, which sounds a chorus of pacifist platitudes and internationalism that might have been mouthed by any neoliberal elect in any developed economy. Among other statements of perfect liberal pragmatism, Hitler states:
Our love of peace perhaps is greater than in the case of others, for we have suffered most from war…The German Reich…has no other wish except to live on terms of peace and friendship with all the neighboring states. Germany has nothing to gain from a European war. What we want is liberty and independence.
Blum is a perfect portrait of candor when contending with rabid patriots and reflexive nationalists. When asked by one if he loves America, he bluntly replies, “No, I don’t love any country. I’m a citizen of the world. I love certain principles, like human rights, civil liberties, meaningful democracy, an economy which puts people before profits.” This characteristic and unadorned honesty shimmers throughout the book. On page after page, Blum translates the complexities of doublespeak into layman’s language, unpacking the malevolent aims of American militarism.
Outflanking Big Brother
As with most left screeds and polemics, there comes a final chapter in which much of the force and momentum of the preceding text is lost, and when the elephantine question is finally voiced, “So what do we do about it?” Fortunately, Blum’s answers are as simple and sensible as the rest of his work. For the author, the “sine qua non” for any real political change is clear: the removal of money from politics. To summon the kind of political pressure required to force such a systemic overhaul, we need an educated populace. Blum notes that the best we can do is educate ourselves on the imperial project. By unmasking the subtle and not-so-subtle deceits of state-sanctioned media, we can inform ourselves and others until we reach a critical mass of dissent, at which point change might be effected.
In a late chapter on resistance, Blum offers a measure of hope from a report from the Defense Science Board, a Federal outfit created to give independent advice to the Secretary of Defense. In 2004, the group critiqued global Muslim attitudes toward America. After debunking the myth of the Middle East’s irrational hatred of American freedoms, the report came to this lapidary conclusion: “No public relations campaign can save America from flawed policies.”
True enough abroad, but you would have to be asleep to miss the effectiveness of public relations on public opinion in the United States. We are presided over by the P.R. President, by whose invisible hand our reality is sanitized of its sanguinary character. We find ourselves seduced by the soothing platitudes of state-sanctioned media—putting people first, compassionate conservatism, change we can believe in, Camelot, a shining city on a hill, morning in America. Gustave Le Bon, a pioneer of mass psychology, once noted that the masses are especially susceptible to comforting fantasies, and that, “Whoever can supply them with illusions is easily their master; whoever attempts to destroy their illusions is always their victim.”
Blum cites some illusion-shattering work of the sixties counterculture, notably activist and musician Gil Scott-Heron, whose song, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”, warns America that a revolution is coming. Scott-Heron sings that people, in Blum’s paraphrase, “would no longer be able to live their normal daily life,” and—more incisively—that they, “should no longer want to live their normal daily life.” But in today’s tranquilized social climate, this last line feels at once terrifically apposite and sadly naïve. How many of us simply want to leave work, repair to our couch, sufficient alcoholic sedatives at hand, televisual narcotics coloring the living room, and slip into a state of unthinking reprieve? Creature comforts may be the opiate of the American people. Deflating this bubble of banalities, via the expanding tools of information, seems to be viable way forward.
And so long as lonely prophets like Blum soldier on, a handful of excavated truths may threaten to capsize the artfully constructed narrative of empire. A note of injustice may sound in the thought stream of a blandly acquiescent middle manager or tongue-clipped service worker. Mao Zedong once intoned, “A single spark can start a prairie fire.” Without that tremulous hope, the fact that Blum’s central premise of malign intent has been proved right so often is of little consolation. A Cassandra acquitted is little more than a salve to the ego of the gadfly. But given the damage done to democracy and its prospects here and abroad, which of us can safely say that this is not his fight?
Jason Hirthler is a writer, strategist, and 15-year veteran of the corporate communications industry. He lives and works in New York City. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
 Sequestering the Poor, UFO Phenomena, Wall St. Extorts Washington
Must quibble with the guest about calling Eric Holder “afraid” of prosecuting JP Morgan and the Wall Street banksters. Eric Holder is not afraid. Eric Holder is an employee of said banksters. He is where he is to do the job he is doing. There’s nothing to do with fear at all. Why would anyone believe a criminal’s excuse for why he’s too “afraid” to do his job? He is aiding and abetting the banksters, that makes him one of them.
A great little indie movie about an old man and his robot. Frank Langella plays an alzheimers victim losing his memories and unable to cope on his own. Enter the robot, and then Frank starts getting his life and his thoughts back together. Only Frank’s thorughts revolve around being a cat burglar. Extremely funny moments, and the robot steals the show.
This is shocking and extremely informative. Wayne Madsen traces connections of recently deceased 9/11 author Phillip Marshall back to Iran Contra and Barry Seal (CIA drug pilot). Original interview with audio on Kevin Barret’s radio show.
Published in Veterans Today:
MADSEN: Yeah, so [Phillip Marshall] was on Coast-to-Coast with Susan Lindauer, and y’know, his book The Big Bamboozle, about how, y’know, the Bush family, Cheney, the Saudi Government, they were all complicit in 9/11; he also added the Neo-Cons in that.
BARRETT: Let’s not forget the Neo-Cons…
MADSEN: Yeah, right. And more importantly, he told a friend of his that he was working on a fourth book, and he said “you’re really going to be shocked to see what I have in this fourth book.”
The Big Bamboozle: 9/11 and the War on Terror
From the perspective of a Boeing 767 captain and former “special activities” contract pilot, Philip Marshall straps the reader into the cockpits of hijacked commercial airliners to tell the story of the most sophisticated terrorist attack in history. Based on a comprehensive ten-year study into the murders of his fellow pilots on 9/11, he explains how hijackers, novice pilots at the controls of massive guided missiles, were able to beat United States Air Force fighters to iconic targets with advanced maneuvering, daring speeds and a kamikaze finish. But, as Marshall explains, the tactical plan was so precise that it rules out car-bombers and shoe-bombers known as al Qaeda, KSM and Osama bin Laden. So then, who was it? That’s what you are about learn. Backed by official NTSB, FAA and black box recordings, Marshall finds the most capable and most documented group of conspirators buried deep within a Congressional Inquiry’s report and retraces their work in gripping detail. Fasten your seatbelt— the sad truth is that all of the solid evidence points to a dark collaboration between members of the Bush Administration and a covert group of Saudi government officials. This is a game changer that will finally set the record straight on the most horrific crime in US history. This book is a compilation of official reports that disputes the Bush Administration, the Bush Intelligence Community and the American media’s account of the 9/11 attack. United States Senator Bob Graham’s Congressional Joint Inquiry in 2002 revealed that Saudi Arabian Intelligence agents met the 9/11 hijackers in the Los Angeles in January of 2000, harbored them and led them to 18 months of flight training in Florida and Arizona. Marshall follows reports from FBI field agents that warned George W. Bush’s Administration that a “cadre of individuals of investigative interest were engaged in flight training” in the Arizona desert in the spring of 2001. Marshall identifies three top federal investigators who complained that Dick Cheney obstructed justice by refusing access to suspects who supposedly confessed to the greatest crime in U.S. history. None of the federal investigators were ever allowed to verify the confession of Khalid Sheik Mohammed who had been water boarded over 180 times at Guantanamo detention facility. The book disputes the video and media confession of Osama bin Laden and points out that none of the accusations by the Bush Administration could be proved. Marshall asserts that the Saudi government was the true executioners of the 9/11 attack and framed their enemies while CIA special operations set up an elaborate decoy named Osama bin Laden to divert attention away from the Saudi operation. He follows the hijackers to flight training airports and finds that Saudi agents led the hijackers to the Arizona desert where Boeing 757 and Boeing 767 airliners were parked at a secluded CIA operated airport. The operators of the CIA airport were traced to suspicious insider stock trades on two airlines, United Airlines and American Airlines, the only two airlines used in the 9/11 attack. Marshall breaks down the tactical flight plan that was used by the hijackers and chronicles the actions of Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Saudi Arabian Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Dick Cheney and George W. Bsuh to learn that their account of the attack was severely flawed. Three top investigators wrote that Dick Cheney had obstructed the investigation and redacted the involvement of the Saudi government agents who were employed in California by the Saudi Civil Aviation authority. The Congressional Inquiry reported that the Saudi agents had “seemingly unlimited funding from Saudi Arabia” and had traced the hijacker financial support to Prince Bandar through a Riggs Bank account. Finally Marshall chronicles the media trial that allowed Bush and Cheney to derail American Justice by trying the 9/11 case with media propaganda and away from the American federal court system.
Another indie look at America’s wasted young, a society that doesn’t value its next generation. Little Birds fits neatly alongside other dystopian explorations such as Kids (1995), Thirteen (2003) and Suburbia (1983).
The story involves a girl stuck in a polluted hellhole and raging to break free and go to the city. Juno Temple plays Lily, a wild and crazy teen, who will do anything to feel different and wanted. Her best friend Allison enables her to escape the Salton Sea and run off to LA to find a particular street boy. Once in LA, the kids subsist from petty crime to petty crime, and Lily falls instantly in love with the crazy lifestyle.
Juno Temple, recently also seen in Killer Joe, is pushing ahead with edgy, disturbing roles on the far side of sane.
Little Birds is on DVD at the Redboxes and Netflix.
Disposable street kid turned hero, Kai:
I have this odd affinity for white trash theater. There’s something about the dark recesses of American culture that’s intrinsically entertaining. Not sure why. The reality is far less attractive, but cinematic representations do seem to pop.
Killer Joe was another film this year with that trailer park magic. It also featured McConaughey Some hated it, but I found it a decent, tightly plotted noir. The Paper Boy is not as raw as Killer Joe, and has more of a dulled edge. Perhaps this is the fault of the formulaic nature of its ending.
While the film establishes some pretty well conceived characters and situations, the ending sort of fizzles into a tired good v. evil battle that I just found to be a letdown. If you’re going to dive into the psychosis of twisted swamp rats and the lunatic women who lust for murderers, the possibilities are wide open. Don’t squander it.
I did like the film for its performances more so than its story. John Cusack shows up in the sleaziest role of his life. Nicole Kidman, ditto. Would that the story focused more on them, instead of the paperboy.
Unfortunately it’s a slow season for DVDs, and not much else around worth taking a chance on. The Paperboy (Netflix link).
Next up: Branded.
I found this by way of some gun nut types who are screaming “Nazi” and “treason” over what may be a pretty good idea. The comments on Youtube are ridiculous and ignorant. The program itself would bankrupt the city in a matter of days, but if the targets are armed drug dealers wielding illegal weapons out on the streets, and terrorizing neighborhoods, then this mayor may be onto something:
He’d better lower his payment amount though. The city is bound to go into bankruptcy quickly if they start paying out those kinds of sums.
This film is stuffed with dramatic material in every scene. The central argument concerns recidivism, the propensity for criminals to go on returning to the lives they are more comfortable with. The issues concern crime and punishment, the slippery slopes of committing ever more serious offenses, and the moral and ethical choices we make and which define us.
True Grit (2010) is the remake by the Coen Brothers, which I finally caught online after resisting it all this time. The original starred John Wayne, which I also had no interest in watching. Not a Wayne fan, by any stretch. Here Jeff Bridges steps into the role of Rooster Cogburn, a murderous, torturing, broken down bully with a badge.
Perhaps Cogburn isn’t the worst person in this thing, as the fourteen year old Mattie Ross gives him a run for his money. Mattie is a cold-blooded capitalist with a slave owner mentality. Interestingly enough, she treats Cogburn like her own personal assassin slave for most of the picture. Her quest for vengeance seems to be out of principle alone, with zero love ever expressed for her murdered father.
In this world of murder at every turn, where justice is at the end of a rope, there is no one to care about anywhere in this depressing, harsh story. Not sure why the Coen brothers chose to remake this film. It should have been left alone. They are so much better at original, twisted comedy tales.