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Inside "democracy promotion" hypocrisy fair

News Fifth column Recommended Links Democracy as a universal opener for access to natural resources Hypocrisy and Pseudo-democracy "Fight with Corruption" as a smoke screen for neoliberal penetration into host countries
Neoliberalism and the End of Liberal Democracy   Predator state Neocolonialism as Financial Imperialism Anatol Leiven on American Messianism Exploiting Revolutionary Romantics as polit-technology
Control of the MSM during color revolution is like air superiority in the war Delegitimization of Ruling Party Parasitism on Human rights: children of Lieutenant Schmidt Human right activists or globalism fifth column The art of manufacturing of prisoners of consciousness Sect of fraudulent election witnesses
Neoliberalism as a New Form of Corporatism Neoconservatism Media-Military-Industrial Complex The Deep State Energy returned on energy invested (EROEI) Russian Ukrainian Gas Wars
Hillary "Warmonger" Clinton NGOs as braintrust of color revolutions Hong Cong Color Revolution of 2014 EuroMaidan Russian Color Revolution of 2012 Ukrainian orange revolution
Frustrated underachievers Russian neoliberal compradors Net Hamsters as a part of fifth column IntelliXencia: Corruption of Intelligentsia and it usage in fifth column in Russia Gene Sharp Recipes and Russian Experience Compradors
Elite Theory And the Revolt of the Elite The Iron Law of Oligarchy Two Party System as polyarchy Foreign Agents Registration Act Totalitarian Decisionism & Human Rights: The Re-emergence of Nazi Law Destruction by the USA of international law
Corporate Media: Journalism In the Service of the Powerful Few The Guardian Slips Beyond the Reach of Embarrassment The Real War on Reality Media as a weapon of mass deception Patterns of Propaganda Who Shot down Malaysian flight MH17?
American Exceptionalism Non-Interventionism Hypocrisy of British ruling elite Politically Incorrect Humor Russian Fifth column Humor Etc
 
Our perception of the United States has been that of a democracy inside and an empire outside: Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.
We have admired democracy: we have deplored empire. And we have suffered the actions of this country, which constantly intervened in our lives in the name of manifest destiny, the big stick, dollar diplomacy, and cultural arrogance.

naked capitalism reader forum

TIMEO DANAOS ET DONA FERENTES!

To continue with the classical Latin theme, the above phrase would be appropriate for Russians when considering the “gifts” of freedom, democracy and human rights ostensibly being offered them by the West through the agency of NGOs.

These above Latin words were given by Virgil in his Aeneid to the Trojan priest Laocoön, who uttered them after having been informed of the Greek “gift” of the Trojan Horse: “Beware the Greeks, even when they are bearing gifts!”

More appropriately, one would better say in this day and age: TIMEO PINDOSOS ET DONA FERENTES!

 Moscow Exile in The Kremlin Stooge Forum

We should stop going around babbling about how we're the greatest democracy on earth, when we're not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarized republic. The founding fathers hated two things, one was monarchy and the other was democracy, they gave us a constitution that saw to it we will have neither. I don't know how wise they were.

"Gore Vidal and the Mind of the Terrorist", interview by Ramona Koval, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Radio National (November 2001)

The USA is a highly influential democracy educator, specializing is teaching democracy the countries with oil reserves or having strategic importance for other reasons. No wonder that Saudi Arabia regime is exempt from lectures about the great value of democracy, the simple fact which makes that the whole cycle of "lectures" just a hypocrisy fair in best British style. In a discussion of contemporary British foreign policy, Mark Curtis stated that (Wikipedia):

 "Polyarchy is generally what British leaders mean when they speak of promoting 'democracy' abroad. This is a system in which a small group actually rules and mass participation is confined to choosing leaders in elections managed by competing elites." [8]

This is fully applicable to the US practice of "democracy promotion" as well. After Iraq and Libya nobody takes lectures about democracy from the US officials seriously, but in reality they should, because it is dangerous and powerful instrument of the USA foreign policy. A mechanism for demonization of the country that it contains is really awesome, and probably can compete only with the role that Christianity played during Crusades.  Any county can be declared non-democratic or worse authoritarian at any time and bombers and cruse missiles can be send to rectify this dismal situation and help people to get rid of this unworthy, evil regime.  The fact that some percentage of woman and children will be "democratized" during this procedure (which according to Lancet was especially successful in Iraq) does not matter much. It's just a collateral damage.

In reality "democracy promotion" is a powerful instrument of Neocolonialism. This is a policy based on both military and technological superiorly on the USA as well as world-dominance of ideology of  neoliberalism, which defeated and displaced Marxism. Actually it borrowed so much from Trotskyism, including the idea of "permanent revolution" that is can legitimately be called "Trotskyism for rich". The charge against Bush administration as a bunch of neo-Trotskyites was quite popular. Paleoconservatives openly charged that a 'cabal of Jewish neocons" is manipulating US foreign policy and implementing Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution from the White house. (Neo Trotskyism aka Neoconservatism)

Export of democracy" by military invasions (Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya) and color revolutions (Serbia, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Tajikistan, Russia) replaced "export of revolution". Neocons substituted the Trotskyite idea of "export of revolution" with the "export of democracy." The original neocons were a small group of  Trotskyites who, in the 1960s and 70s, saw the overwhelming US military strength as a panacea to solving all world problems and objected to what they saw as the reluctance of  the political establishment to endorse the unlimited "arms race" with the USSR. From the very beginning neocons were openly militaristic and allied with the military industrial complex. Where most conservatives favored détente and containment of the Soviet Union, neocons pushed direct confrontation, which became their raison d'etre during the 1970s and 80s. Many of them worked in the 1970s for Democratic Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson closely connected with military-industrial complex and were rewarded by forming the core of the Defense Department during Ronald Reagan implementing his aggressive strategy of  undermining the USSR economy with steep hikes in military spending.  With the demise of the Soviet Union in 1991, the United States emerged as the uncontested solo superpower in the world. Still, the neocons decried any reductions of defense spending. During the 1990s, they were the most prominent pro-military-industrial complex PR force constantly exaggerating the threats and warning the public about supposed dangers of reducing the defense spending, openly using the disinformation for the advocating military intervention on "humanitarian grounds" and so-called "nation building". They played a prominent role in misinforming the public and unleashing extremely profitable for the military-industrial complex Yugoslavian war.  Their long-time ties to the military-industrial complex helped many neocons win key posts in the second Bush administration. The reasons for second Iraq war were probably different but profits for military-industrial complex were even bigger. 

Using Michael Ledeen's quote, the neocons approach is that "Change - above all violent change - is the essence of human history" .  The "violent change" here means that the USA has a responsibility to fight  "liberation" wars to create democratic governments in place of "failed states" or any regimes that are threatening to the US or its interests.  Any regime that is hostile to the USA and could pose a threat should be confronted aggressively, not "appeased" or merely contained.

As an ideology  neoliberalism (as previous "white people burden" ideology of British colonialism is a set of assumptions that justifies, supports, and legitimates the conquest, control, and domination of lands that are inhabited by other people by transnational elite. Land inhabited with people, who speak different languages and have other traditions.

Neocolonialism uses  indirect rule and reliance on the compradors -- a transnational part of national elite and using debt slavery instead of direct occupation via international financial sector and its institutions (IMF, World bank, etc) to keep countries on short leash. Thus it is distinct from old-fashioned British-style colonialism, which is the actual conquering, controlling, and domination of other lands and people. In a way, it is the intellectual, cultural, an ideological base which makes an otherwise morally dubious project of conquering and ruling over other nations seem acceptable, even justifiable. 

And we should see the role of "democracy promotion" as a perfect smoke screen for promotion of vital economic interests, and often in a very brutal way. In a way "democracy" is the top US export product (sometimes on the tips of bayonets, exactly like Trotsky envisions export of revolution).  In reality they are exporting polyarchy with transnational (and, as such, friendly to the USA interests) part of the elite of the top. In essence this is imperialism with lighter touch and better smokescreen. And truth be told this proved to an extremely efficient strategy.  You can actually admire the efficiency of the USA foreign policy establishment. In no way the  USA foreign policy can be considered to be inept or confused. It is laser focused and very consistent and successful in serving the interests of the transnational elite (if not the interest of the US public), in keeping the world safe for the transnational corporations, in making sure that most of the world remains weak, divided,  poor, compliant, so that the international corporations (which are predominantly the USA and Western corporations with a few entrants from Japan and Korea) remains strong, rich, and dominant. Those who do not believe this should take a close look at Ukraine, one of the countries where the democracy promotion was the most successful (Orange Revolution   one of the most successful "color revolutions" brought into power the regime of Viktor Yushchenko, a representative of Ukrainian collaborationism with the Axis powers)It is now completely "Latin-Americanized" country with huge, unserviceable foreign debt (Ukraine's Economy is on a Rocky Path - Forbes),  destroyed industries,  mass poverty, super-high unemployment, rampant criminality, prostitution, child poverty, child pornography, drug abuse and other typical for such countries problems.  A dozen of new billionaires and oligarchs emerged. Also some categories of professions, especially those who work for international corporations, such as computer programmers, dentists, advocates and judges etc managed to raise their standard of living (some considerably). But this happened on the background of sliding of the rest of the Ukraine population into abject poverty with average monthly wages of less then $400 and the US level of food prices.  In other words Ukraine can serve as a visit card of the USA democracy promotion results for a country with "average" elite (some countries elites managed to play this card better then others and suffered less).

Here is couple of relevant quotes from Polyarchy Documents Alienation:

[1943-1944]  George Orwell,  Animal Farm, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1966

-  "Rations, reduced in December, were reduced again in February, and lanterns in the stalls were forbidden, to save oil. But the pigs seemed comfortable enough, and in fact were putting on weight if anything."
"But if there were hardships to be borne, they were partly offset by the fact that life nowadays had a greater dignity than it had had before. There were more songs, more speeches, more processions. Napoleon had commanded that once a week there should be held something called a Spontaneous Demonstration, the object of which was to celebrate the struggles and triumph of Animal Farm." (pp. 97-98)

[1948]  George Orwell,  Nineteen Eighty-Four, Penguin, Harmondsworth, 1999

-  "The Lottery, with its weekly pay-out of enormous prizes, was the one public event to which the proles paid serious attention. It was probable that there were some millions of proles for whom the Lottery was the principal if not the only reason for remaining alive. It was their delight, their folly, their anodyne, their intellectual stimulant." (p. 89)

[1964]  Tristram Coffin,  The Armed Society. Militarism in modern America, Penguin Books, Baltimore, Maryland

- "A demonologist is important to warfare, at least for Americans, Russians, Chinese and Arabs. We must hate an enemy before we can fight him properly." (p. 122)

- "The Pentagon understands ... that it must keep the electorate in a state of semi-terror to get its large appropriations. The Navy spots Russian sub-marines off the coasts. The Air Force 'leaks' a story to a senator of a new Soviet missile build-up." (p. 197)

One of the most eye-opening facts about "democracy promotion" the extremely important role in this (semi-subversive) activity played by non-governmental organizations (NGO's). Those organizations (or Trojan Horses of color revolutions to be exact) actually serve as incubators both for the leaders of color revolutions and for the transnational elite which should replace current "not enough friendly" to the USA regime. The majority of the staff  of these organizations are local employees' which are often have good connections with local elite and law enforcement. They as a rule have, in general, very strong ties with parts of the society that benefit from globalization and presence of transnational corporations the he country and they effectively organize those part to launch a quite (or not so quite) coup to take power.  They are paid by those institutions / countries pretty decent salaries to become a the tools of propaganda and promotion on interests of host countries.

Another important tool are multinational corporations. They by their mere presence enlarge the part of transnational elite interested in supporting the USA foreign policy objectives. As they operate with huge money they are also quite effective at neutralizing any dissent, exploiting indigenous populations, and indirect bribing politicians (invitation to conferences, etc) and, especially, penetration into the country mainstream media.   This is the Imperialism that governments practice by supporting favorable to them part of national elite, the part of elite that is connected and favor foreign business interests in their country, be it oil, bananas, or automobiles. Business interests are much more important than any ideals including this fuzzy (and by-and-large unachievable) idea of democracy, so the USA historically without any hesitations have supported brutal dictatorships and murderous regimes that are friendly to the USA businesses and investors(Pinochet, anybody?).  And the regime change that the USA recently managed to implement in Iraq, Libya and are trying to implement in Syria is always an elite rotation that ensures that a  more friendly to the USA interest part of the national elite is helped to acquire and maintain power.  It is also true about unsuccessful "white revolution" of 2011-2012 in Russia.

The administration's September 2002 National Security Strategy, which lays out our post-September 11 strategic vision, prominently features "democracy promotion" as the key instrument of foreign policy. The strategy describes it as a core part of our overall national security doctrine and is applicable mainly to  countries that contain oil or significant other raw material deposits. Here is a pretty typical post from guardian.co.uk (Why American ‘democracy promotion’ rings hollow in the Middle East Mark Weisbrot):

I have to laugh when I see the International Republican Institute (IRI) described by the international media as an “organization that promotes democracy” (in this case, on NPR). The IRI is in the news lately because Egypt’s military government has put some of its members on a “no-fly” list and thereby trapped them in the country, facing investigation and possible trial. I am wondering just how credulous these journalists and editors are: if I were to describe the Center for Economic and Policy Research as “a magical organization that transforms scrap metal into gold”, would that become CEPR’s standard description in the news?

That document helps to understand why Western powers and frost of all the USA are so passionate and eager to see other less developed countries embrace democracy and by extension "free market".

Internal use of democracy in the USA does exist on local level, but on national level is very limited by two party system which is actually an improved variant of Soviet one party rule. In reality the USA is the country that is ruled by oligarchy, like most other countries in the world. The only problem here is that the USA oligarchy is more aggressive then others and created a huge global empire that now is experiencing some troubles.  What they actually mean by democracy internally is "rotation of elite". But even from this point Russia for example is much more democratic the then USA in which old elite that came to power in late XIX century still cling to power. In Russia there were two big "rotations": in 1917 and in 1991.

That's why hiding behind the slogan of defending "democracy" and "freedom"  The Bush administration as well as later Obama administration actually pursued an extremely pragmatic interests of maximum gain power and influence of America and the weakening of real and imaginary opponents. In other word "democracy promotion" serves as empire repair kit. As Anatol Lieven noted in his classic article Putin versus Cheney - The New York Times

WASHINGTON — In many ways, Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney are rather similar characters. Both are highly intelligent, but both see the world above all through the restrictive prisms of security and national power.

Both are patriots, but - like so many leaders - with a tendency to see national power and their own power as one and the same thing. Both are capable of great ruthlessness in defending what they see as the vital interests of their countries. Both are publicly committed to democracy and human rights, but both have been responsible for policies that have called this commitment into question.

But to judge by their records, and especially their speeches of the past week, there is also an important difference between them. Putin is a statesman, and Cheney is not.

Cheney's tub-thumping speech in Vilnius, Lithuania, attacking Russia for lack of democracy and energy "blackmail," coupled with his attempts to create an energy alliance against Russia, invited a blistering response from the Russian president. With perfect fairness, and with the approval - in this case - of most of humanity, Putin could have torn Cheney's speech apart on a whole range of issues.

These include the hypocrisy of denouncing Russia over democracy and going straight on to lavish praise on the oil- rich dictators of Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan; the general weirdness of Cheney talking about human rights at all; theinsolence of an administration with the Bush-Cheney team's record in the Middle East daring to demand automatic Russian support against Iran in the name of "the international community," and so on.

If Putin had issued such a response in his state of the union address on Wednesday, he would have had the approval of the overwhelming majority of Russians - while of course doing still further damage to U.S.-Russian relations.

It is hard to imagine a U.S. president turning down a domestic political opportunity like this, whatever the likely effect on his country's interests. But apart from a couple of mild and indirect comments, Putin said none of these things. Instead, he focused on the issue that is indeed the greatest threat to the Russian nation, namely demographic decline.

Putin's calm response to Cheney may be rooted partly in a new confidence in Russia's strength, especially when it comes to influence within the former Soviet Union. One of the marks of Putin's statesmanship is that with some exceptions (mainly with regard to Ukraine, about which Russians tend to be irrational) he has displayed an accurate feel for Russia's real strengths and weaknesses.

To give one example, Putin last year withdrew the remaining Russian military bases from Georgia proper, where they were provocative and vulnerable, while continuing the Russian military presence in the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where it enjoys overwhelming local support.

On critical issues like the Iraq war and Iran's nuclear program, Putin has tried to resist U.S. pressure while keeping Russia in line with China and whenever possible Western Europe as well.

This is statesmanship - cynical maybe, but still statesmanship.

The Bush-Cheney administration, by contrast, has a record of grossly over-estimating American power. To judge by Cheney's speech in Vilnius, it may be repeating the same disastrous mistake with regard to U.S. policy towards Russia and in the former Soviet Union.

For if Washington's chief goal is to destroy Russian influence in this region and replace it with that of the United States, it needs to remember that whatever its weakness on the world stage, in its own backyard Russia has some tremendous latent strengths.

If, on the other hand, the more important factor behind Cheney's attack was Russia's role in the U.S. struggle with Iran, then his attack on Russia in Vilnius raises two possibilities - one of them depressing, the other disastrous.

The first is that Cheney and other leading U.S. officials genuinely believe that the United States can gain support for its policies by abusing and threatening other major states.

If so, this reflects not only a Neanderthal approach to diplomacy, but a failure to grasp the damage to American power from the Iraq debacle, and the increased strength and confidence of Russia, China and other countries.

The other possibility is that Cheney is no more interested in a negotiated compromise with Iran than he was with a deal to prevent the Iraq war; and that by driving Russia into Iran's arms, he hopes to wreck any possibility of such a compromise and leave military action against Iran as the only apparent U.S. option.

If this is so, then given the potentially catastrophic implications of a U.S. attack on Iran, not only Russians but the world in general should be grateful for the statesmanship of Putin's response, and should hope that this Russian line continues.

(Anatol Lieven is a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation in Washington. His book "Ethical Realism and American Foreign Policy," cowritten with John Hulsman, will be published in October.)

As Anatol Lieven noted (The Gap Between U.S. Rhetoric and Reality, 2006)

The United States cannot afford to use the rhetoric of spreading democracy as an excuse for avoiding dealing with pressing national grievances and wishes. If the United States pursues or supports policies that are detested by a majority of ordinary people, then these people will react accordingly if they are given a chance to vote.

And that spells troubles for neoliberal project.

Above all, U.S. policy makers must understand that other peoples have their own national pride and national interests, which they expect their governments and representatives to defend. In Russia in the 1990s, the liberals helped to destroy their electoral chances by giving Russian voters the impression that they put deference to American wishes above the interests of Russia.

In fact, the distance between the US administration rhetoric and observable reality in area of democracy is beginning to look almost reminiscent of Soviet Communism. And as was the case with the USSR, this gap is also becoming more and more apparent to the rest of the world.

Undoing the demos: Neoliberalism’s stealth revolution: Review of Wendy Brows book by Lars Cornelissen

Wendy Brown
Zone Books, New York, 2015, 296pp., $29.95/£20.95 (hc), ISBN: 978-1935408536

University of Brighton, Brighton BN2 4AT, UK

Undoing the Demos argues that ‘neoliberalism is profoundly destructive to the fiber and future of democracy in any form’ (p. 9). More precisely, it is concerned with mapping the myriad ways in which neo-liberalism, conceived as a productive mode of reason that today saturates ever more spheres of life, articulates crucial elements of democratic language, practice and subjectivity ‘according to a specific image of the economic’ (p. 10). In so doing neo-liberalism directly assaults the democratic imaginary that animated so much of modernity, hollowing out liberal democratic practices and institutions while at the same time cauterising radical democratic expressions.

Undoing the Demos is divided into two parts: the first, ‘Neoliberal Reason and Political Life’, puts forward the book’s main argument and is moreover concerned with Michel Foucault’s account of neo-liberalism, developed in his 1978–1979 lectures at the Collège de France, and discusses its merits and its shortcomings in detail; the second, ‘Disseminating Neoliberal Reason’, is concerned with how neo-liberal rationality is extended to spheres heretofore untouched by economic parameters, including ‘statecraft and the workplace, … jurisprudence, education, culture, and a vast range of quotidian activity’ (p. 17). The central argument of the book is that ‘neoliberalism assaults the principles, practices, cultures, subjects, and institutions of democracy understood as rule by the people’ (p. 9). Brown sets out to understand how it does so and develops a theoretical framework, deeply reliant upon, but not uncritical of, Foucault’s seminal account.

In the first chapter Brown does the theoretical legwork upon which the entire argument rests. While democracy is understood simply (and, in my view, problematically – an issue I will return to below) as ‘rule by the people’ (p. 19; cf. pp. 9, 20, 178, 202, 209), neo-liberalism is understood, with Foucault, as ‘a distinctive mode of reason, of the production of subjects, a “conduct of conduct”, and a scheme of valuation’ (p. 21). Neo-liberalism, then, is not the name given to capitalism’s latest guise, nor is it an ideology that masks the resurgence of class politics. Instead, it is conceptualised as a mode of reason, a ‘political rationality’ (pp. 20–21; cf. Chapter 4), that today invades all spheres of life and recasts in an economic register their constituent concepts, practices, institutions, subjects and truths. Accordingly, the book is not concerned with studying neo-liberal techniques of government, but with the rationality, the regime of truth, that underlies them.

Chapters 2 and 3 offer a systematic reading of Foucault’s lectures on neo-liberalism (later published as The Birth of Biopolitics) and lead to a number of significant insights that expand the Foucauldian approach beyond his own groundwork. Importantly, Brown signals no less than 12 features of the contemporary neo-liberal landscape that Foucault could not account for because they either did not yet exist or were still only nascent (pp. 70–72). These include the rise of finance capital, permanent financial and social crises and crisis-fuelled austerity politics, the rise of governance, and, for Brown perhaps most profound, a number of changes within the neo-liberal subject, who is now tethered to competitive markets in such a way that she has lost all remnants of protection against brutal and impersonal market forces. This last feature is related to what Brown takes to be the biggest flaw in Foucault’s analysis: it is not attentive towards homo politicus and its subsequent extinction by neo-liberal reason. Homo politicus, referred to as the ‘demotic subject’ (p. 87), theorised first by Aristotle, whose morphology changes continuously throughout her odyssey through occidental thought – via, inter alia, Locke, Smith, Bentham, Marx and Freud (see pp. 87–99) – is finally usurped by homo oeconomicus. When the economic subject reigns, what is vanquished is the form of subjectivity that animates democracy – a member of a demos, a democratic citizen, an autonomous, sovereign, Kantian subject.

Chapters 4, 5 and 6 – which make up the second part of the book – map the different ways in which neo-liberal rationality is disseminated through legal reason (Chapter 5) and through higher education (Chapter 6). This dissemination is made easier by contemporary governance practices (discussed in Chapter 4), which are ‘not identical with or exclusive to neoliberalism’ (p. 122). In other words: governance is not born of neo-liberal rationality, but once articulated to it, gives rise to novel ways of managing and disciplining subjects, states and firms. Governance practices thus provide the tools through which neo-liberal reason flows smoothly from sphere to sphere, including devolution, responsibilisation, ‘benchmarking’ and ‘best practices’ (see pp. 131–142). Through meticulous analysis of legal jargon, Brown shows, in Chapter 5, how the US Supreme Court opinions have in recent years been saturated with neo-liberal reason, thus assisting in discursively reconstructing democracy both at home and abroad. She further maps, in Chapter 6, how neo-liberalised higher education undercuts the formation of a critical, educated citizenry, without which democracy cannot survive.

Because its main aim is to study neo-liberal rationality, which has not been studied so rigorously before, Undoing the Demos is a timely and innovative book. At the same time, however, its scope invites some issues that have, on different levels and in different ways, a negative bearing on the strength of the argument. One such problem is that because Brown sets out primarily to understand neo-liberal rationality and how it is disseminated she pays little or no attention to elements that, although they fall outside of this scope, are arguably intimately related to the problem of rationality. For instance, the book does not engage in much depth with the problem of resistance to neo-liberalism (see pp. 220–222); with other de-democratising rationalities and their relationship to neo-liberal rationality; or with those theorists who were crucial in shaping the discursive framework from which neo-liberal rationality now draws (Röpke, Eucken, Hayek, Friedman, Becker and so on). The point is not so much that Brown should have investigated all of these separate issues, but that she provides few to no conceptual tools for investigating them or their relationship to neo-liberal rationality either.

A related concern is that Undoing the Demos is all-too-narrowly focused on a specific and contemporary (Anglo-)American form of neo-liberalism. While Brown acknowledges at the outset that she is aware of neo-liberalism’s internal complexity and heterogeneity (see pp. 20–21) the rest of the book falls short of developing a convincing account of how neo-liberal rationality functions when it enters into different contexts. This is a book about present-day North American neo-liberalism, and little work is done to move outside of that context, even to Europe, let alone the rest of the world. Accordingly, Brown’s ahistorical and geographically limited approach cannot explain how the neo-liberalisation of, for instance, British universities has insidiously merged with the already deeply entrenched class-based education system. Likewise, the reader is left guessing whether legal reason has been neo-liberalised in, for instance, Northern Europe in the same way as it has in the United States. Here again the point is not that Undoing the Demos should have been a book about contextually specific neo-liberalisms, but that it remains silent on the question of how neo-liberal rationality takes shape when it is inserted into the messy and complex landscape of micro-politics, where it will inevitably have to negotiate with pre-existing discourses or with stubborn remnants of previously hegemonic rationalities.

A final objection revolves around the notion of democracy and how Brown defines it. In defining democracy as ‘rule by the people’ Brown deliberately sticks to an ‘open and contestable’ (p. 20) understanding of democracy in order to show not just how a specific model of democracy (liberal, social, deliberative, elitist and so on), but also how ‘the bare promise of bare democracy’ (p. 203) tout court is undone. There are several problems with such a strategy. First, the Greek δημοκρατία does not straightforwardly translate into ‘rule by the people’, as Brown says it does (see pp. 19, 202), grounding the argument in a problematic claim from the start. Second, Brown wants to show that neo-liberalism is destructive of ‘democracy in any form’, meaning that it undermines the ‘bare promise of bare democracy’. However, it could be argued that this promise is not at all shared by all forms of democracy: Does Schumpeterian elitist democracy really promise that ‘all might be regarded as ends, rather than means’ or that ‘all may have a political voice’ (p. 203)? Notwithstanding Brown’s insistence on the openness of her definition, we appear to still be talking about quite a specific conception of democracy. Third, because of her definition, Brown’s primary focus is on the people that ought to rule – that is, on demotic subjectivity and the exercise of sovereignty. Yet this focus cannot capture how neo-liberal rationality rearticulates notions outside of that definition, such as, to name but one element, the legitimacy of the legislature (which surely is different both from the legitimacy of the state and from popular sovereignty, which Brown does discuss because they do fit inside the scope of her definition). Brown’s open and contestable definition, in brief, in fact limits her scope and thus the force of her argument.

While I think Undoing the Demos would have been all the better for pre-empting these issues, the book’s merits outweigh these shortcomings. Besides providing a theoretical framework that allows for a deep understanding of neo-liberal rationality, it does so accessibly. More than merely speaking to Brown’s comrades-in-arms on the Left, the book appears to be written for a broader audience and Brown’s familiar style – lucid and rhythmic yet rigorous – makes even intricate Foucauldian claims easily digestible.

Undoing the Demos conveys a sober and mournful message: democracy is under attack and it might not survive. The book will leave anyone looking for strategies of resistance disappointed. But whoever wants to understand the rationality that informs and governs so much of our lives today would do well to read it.

 

 


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Old News ;-)

[Sep 18, 2017] End Democracy Promotion Balderdash by James Bovard

Notable quotes:
"... The Trump administration's foreign policy often resembles a Mad Hatter's Tea Party or a loose cannon on a ship deck. But every now and then, a good idea emerges from the fracas. Such is the case with a reform that could sharply reduce America's piety exports. ..."
"... this is like presuming that any preacher who fails to promise to eradicate sin is a tool of the devil. Instead, it is time to recognize the carnage the US has sown abroad in the name of democracy. ..."
"... In his 2005 inaugural address, President George W. Bush proclaimed that the US would "seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." While Bush's invocation thrilled Washington, the rest of the world paid more attention to his support for any tyrant who joined his War on Terror. ..."
"... In 2011, Obama portrayed the US bombing of Libya as a triumph of democratic values. After Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi was killed, Obama speedily announced that Libyans "now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic Libya." But violence spiraled out of control and claimed thousands of victims (including four Americans killed in Benghazi in 2012). Similarly, Obama administration officials invoked democracy to justify arming quasi-terrorist groups in Syria's civil war, worsening a conflict that killed hundreds of thousands and created millions of refuges. ..."
"... Democracy promotion gives US policymakers a license to meddle almost anywhere on Earth. The National Endowment for Democracy , created in 1983, has been caught interfering in elections in France, Panama , Costa Rica , Ukraine , Venezuela, Nicaragua, Russia, Czechoslovakia , Poland , Haiti and many other nations. The State Department has a long list of similar pratfalls, including pouring vast amounts of money in vain efforts to beget democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan . ..."
"... Rather than abandoning all moral goals in foreign policy, Washington could instead embrace a strict policy of "honesty in democracy promotion." Under this standard, the US government would cease trying to covertly influence foreign elections, cease glorifying tinhorn dictators who rigged elections to capture power, and cease bankrolling authoritarian regimes that blight democratic reforms in the bud. But the odds of Washington policymakers abiding by those restraints is akin to the chances that all of Trump's tweets will henceforth be edifying. ..."
"... Rather than delivering political salvation, US interventions abroad more often produce "no-fault carnage" (no one in Washington is ever held liable). At a minimum, we should get our own constitutional house in order before seeking to rescue benighted foreigners. Ironically, many of the same people who equate Trump with Hitler still insist that the US government should continue its political missionary work during his reign. ..."
Aug 13, 2017 | ronpaulinstitute.org

The Trump administration's foreign policy often resembles a Mad Hatter's Tea Party or a loose cannon on a ship deck. But every now and then, a good idea emerges from the fracas. Such is the case with a reform that could sharply reduce America's piety exports.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is revising the State Department mission statement to focus on promoting "the security, prosperity and interests of the American people globally." Washington pundits are aghast that "democracy promotion" is no longer trumpeted as a top US foreign policy goal. Elliott Abrams, George W. Bush's "democracy czar," complained, "We used to want a just and democratic world, and now apparently we don't the message being sent will be a great comfort to every dictator in the world."

But this is like presuming that any preacher who fails to promise to eradicate sin is a tool of the devil. Instead, it is time to recognize the carnage the US has sown abroad in the name of democracy.

The US has periodically pledged to spread democracy ever since President Woodrow Wilson announced in 1913: "I am going to teach the South American republics to elect good men!" Democracy is so important that the US government refuses to stand idly by when foreign voters go astray. Since 1946, the US has intervened -- usually covertly -- in more than 80 foreign elections to assist its preferred candidate or party.

In his 2005 inaugural address, President George W. Bush proclaimed that the US would "seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world." While Bush's invocation thrilled Washington, the rest of the world paid more attention to his support for any tyrant who joined his War on Terror.

President Barack Obama was supposed to redeem the honor of US foreign policy. In 2011, Obama portrayed the US bombing of Libya as a triumph of democratic values. After Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi was killed, Obama speedily announced that Libyans "now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic Libya." But violence spiraled out of control and claimed thousands of victims (including four Americans killed in Benghazi in 2012). Similarly, Obama administration officials invoked democracy to justify arming quasi-terrorist groups in Syria's civil war, worsening a conflict that killed hundreds of thousands and created millions of refuges.

But the Obama team, like prior administrations, did not permit its democratic pretensions to impede business as usual. After Egyptian protestors toppled dictator Hosni Mubarak, Obama pledged to assist that nation "pursue a credible transition to a democracy ." But the US government disapproved of that nation's first elected leader, Muslim Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsi. After the Egyptian military deposed Morsi in 2013, Secretary of State John Kerry bizarrely praised Egypt's generals for " restoring democracy ." Similarly, many Ethiopians were horrified when Obama visited their country in 2015 and praised its regime as " democratically elected " -- despite a sham election and its brutal suppression of journalists, bloggers and other critics.

Democracy promotion gives US policymakers a license to meddle almost anywhere on Earth. The National Endowment for Democracy , created in 1983, has been caught interfering in elections in France, Panama , Costa Rica , Ukraine , Venezuela, Nicaragua, Russia, Czechoslovakia , Poland , Haiti and many other nations. The State Department has a long list of similar pratfalls, including pouring vast amounts of money in vain efforts to beget democracy in Iraq and Afghanistan .

Democracy at its best is a wonderful form of government but many so-called democracies nowadays are simply elective despotisms. Elections abroad are often herd counts to determine who gets to fleece the herd. Many democracies have become kleptocracies where governing is indistinguishable from looting.

In some nations, election victories legitimize destroying voters en masse. This is exemplified by the Philippines, where the government has killed 7,000 suspected drug users and dealers , including several mayors . After President Rodrigo Duterte publicly declared that he would be " happy to slaughter " three million drug users, Trump phoned him and, according to a leaked transcript, said, "I just wanted to congratulate you because I am hearing of the unbelievable job [you're doing] on the drug problem." Similarly, Trump congratulated Turkish president Recep Erdogan after he won a referendum that awarded him quasi-dictatorial powers.

It is time to admit that America lacks a Midas touch for spreading democracy. Freedom House reported that, even prior to Trump's election, more than 100 nations have seen declines in democracy since 2005.

Rather than abandoning all moral goals in foreign policy, Washington could instead embrace a strict policy of "honesty in democracy promotion." Under this standard, the US government would cease trying to covertly influence foreign elections, cease glorifying tinhorn dictators who rigged elections to capture power, and cease bankrolling authoritarian regimes that blight democratic reforms in the bud. But the odds of Washington policymakers abiding by those restraints is akin to the chances that all of Trump's tweets will henceforth be edifying.

Rather than delivering political salvation, US interventions abroad more often produce "no-fault carnage" (no one in Washington is ever held liable). At a minimum, we should get our own constitutional house in order before seeking to rescue benighted foreigners. Ironically, many of the same people who equate Trump with Hitler still insist that the US government should continue its political missionary work during his reign.

James Bovard, author of Public Policy Hooligan , is a member of USA TODAY's Board of Contributors . Follow him on Twitter @JimBovard

Reprinted with author's permission from USA TODAY .

[Sep 18, 2017] Americas Deadliest Export -- Democracy - The Truth about US Foreign Policy and Everything Else by Gary Corseri

Notable quotes:
"... "If you [Americans] are sincere in your desire for peace and security... and if Bush decides to carry on with his lies and oppression, then it would be useful for you to read the book Rogue State." ..."
Amazon.com

William Blum's "Cri de Coeur", February 9, 2013

William Blum's Cri de Coeur
A review of "America's Deadliest Export: Democracy" by William Blum (Zed Books, London/New York, 2013.)

(As it has appeared at DissidentVoice, OpEdNews, etc.):

In activist-author-publisher William Blum's new book, America's Deadliest Export: Democracy, he tells the story of how he got his 15 minutes of fame back in 2006. Osama bin Laden had released an audiotape, declaring:

"If you [Americans] are sincere in your desire for peace and security... and if Bush decides to carry on with his lies and oppression, then it would be useful for you to read the book Rogue State."

Bin Laden then quoted from the Foreword of Blum's 2000 book, Rogue State: A Guide to the World's Only Superpower, in which he had mused:

"If I were... president, I could stop terrorist attacks [on us] in a few days. Permanently. I would first apologize... to all the widows and the 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... have come to an end. And I would inform Israel that it is no longer the 51st state of the union but... a foreign country. I would then reduce the military budget by at least 90% and use the savings to pay reparations to the victims. ... That's what I'd do on my first three days in the White House. On the fourth day, I'd be assassinated."

Unfortunately, Blum never made it to the White House! But, fortunately, for those who have read his books or follow his "Anti-Empire Reports" on the Web, he was not assassinated! And now he has collected his reports and essays of the last dozen years or so into a 352-page volume that will not only stand the test of time, but will help to define this disillusioned, morose, violent and unraveling Age.

America's Deadliest... is divided into 21 chapters and an introduction--and there's something to underline or memorize on every page! Sometimes it's just one of Blum's irrepressible quips, and sometimes it's a matter of searing American foreign or domestic policiy that clarifies that Bushwhackian question of yore: "Why do they hate us?"

Reading this scrupulously documented book, I lost count of the times I uttered, "unbelievable!" concerning some nefarious act committed by the US Empire in the name of freedom, democracy and fighting communism or terrorism. Reading Blum's book with an open mind, weighing the evidence, will bleach out any pride in the flag we have planted in so many corpses around the world. The book is a diuretic and emetic!

Blum's style is common sense raised to its highest level. The wonder of America's Deadliest ... is that it covers so much of the sodden, bloody ground of America's march across our post-Second-World-War world, yet tells the story with such deftness and grace-under-fire that the reader is enticed--not moralized, not disquisitionally badgered--, but enticed to consider our globe from a promontory of higher understanding.

Some of the themes Blum covers (and often eviscerates) include:

  1. Why they hate us;
  2. America means well;
  3. We cannot permit a successful alternative to the capitalist model to develop anywhere in the world;
  4. We will use whatever means necessary--including, lies, deception, sabotage, bribery, torture and war--to achieve the above idea.

Along the way, we get glimpses of Blum's experientially rich life. A note "About the Author" tells us that, "He left the State Department in 1967, abandoning his aspiration of becoming a Foreign Service Officer because of his opposition to what the US was doing in Vietnam. He then became a founder and editor of the Washington Free Press, the first "alternative" newspaper in the capital."

In his chapter on "Patriotism," Blum relates how, after a talk, he was asked: "Do you love America?" He responded with what we may take for his credo: "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."

America's Deadliest... is a book of wisdom and wit that ponders "how this world became so unbearably cruel, corrupt, unjust, and stupid?" In a pointillistic approach, sowing aphoristic seeds for thought, Blum enumerates instances of that cruelty, often with wry, pained commentary. "War can be seen as America's religion," he tells us. Reflecting on Obama's octupling Bush's number of drones used to assassinate, collaterally kill and terrorize, he affirms:

"Obama is one of the worst things that has ever happened to the American left." And, he avers, "Capitalism is the theory that the worst people, acting from their worst motives, will somehow produce the most good." And then turns around and reminds us--lest we forget--how the mass media have invaded our lives, with memes about patriotism, democracy, God, the "good life": "Can it be imagined that an American president would openly implore America's young people to fight a foreign war to defend `capitalism'?" he wonders.

"The word itself has largely gone out of fashion. The approved references now are to the market economy, free market, free enterprise, or private enterprise."

Cynthia McKinney writes that the book is "corruscating, eye-opening, and essential." Oliver Stone calls it a "fireball of terse information."
Like Howard Zinn, Ralph Nader, Paul Craig Roberts, Cindy Sheehan and Bradley Manning, Blum is committed to setting the historical record straight. His book is dangerous. Steadfast, immutable "truths" one has taken for granted--often since childhood--are exposed as hollow baubles to entertain the un/mis/and dis-informed. One such Blumism recollects Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez's account of a videotape with a very undiplomatic Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and cowboy George Bush: "`We've got to smash somebody's ass quickly,'" Powell said. "`We must have a brute demonstration of power.'

Then Bush spoke: `Kick ass! If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! ... Stay strong! ... Kill them! ... We are going to wipe them out!'"

Blum's intellectual resources are as keen as anyone's writing today. He also adds an ample measure of humanity to his trenchant critiques. He juxtaposes the noble rhetoric of our professed values with the mordant facts of our deeds. The cognitive dissonance makes for a memorable, very unpretty picture of how an immensely privileged people lost themselves, while gorging on junk food, junk politics, junk economics, junk education, junk media. Like an Isaiah, a Jeremiah, he lambastes his own--us!--flaying layers of hypocrisy and betrayals while seeking to reveal the core values of human dignity, empathy and moral rectitude.

Gary Corseri has published and posted prose, poetry and dramas at hundreds of periodicals and websites worldwide, including CommonDreams, Countercurrents, BraveNewWorld.in, OpEdNews, CounterPunch, Outlook India, The New York Times, Dissident Voice. He has published novels, poetry collections and a literary anthology (edited). His dramas have been presented on PBS-Atlanta and elsewhere, and he has performed his work at the Carter Presidential Library. He has taught in US public schools and prisons, and at American and Japanese universities. Contact: gary_corseri@comcast.net.

[Sep 18, 2017] Down With Western Democracy !

Notable quotes:
"... German Nazis and Italian Fascists defined their rule as 'democratic', and so does this Empire. The British and French empires that exterminated tens of millions of people all over the world, always promoted themselves as 'democracies'. ..."
"... And now, once again, we are witnessing a tremendous onslaught by the business-political-imperialist Western apparatus, destabilizing or directly destroying entire nations, overthrowing governments and bombing 'rebellious' states into the ground. All this is done in the name of democracy, in the name of freedom. ..."
"... This sacrificial altar is called, Democracy, in direct mockery to what the term symbolizes in its original, Greek, language. ..."
Aug 02, 2014 | CounterPunch

A specter is haunting Europe and Western world - it is this time, the specter of fascism. It came quietly, without great fanfare and parades, without raised hands and loud shouts. But it came, or it returned, as it has always been present in this culture, one that has, for centuries, been enslaving our entire planet.

As was in Nazi Germany, resistance to the fascist empire is again given an unsavory name: terrorism. Partisans and patriots, resistance fighters – all of them were and have always been defined by fascist bigots as terrorists.

By the logic of Empire, to murder millions of men, women and children in all corners of the world abroad is considered legitimate and patriotic, but to defend one's motherland was and is a sign of extremism.

German Nazis and Italian Fascists defined their rule as 'democratic', and so does this Empire. The British and French empires that exterminated tens of millions of people all over the world, always promoted themselves as 'democracies'.

And now, once again, we are witnessing a tremendous onslaught by the business-political-imperialist Western apparatus, destabilizing or directly destroying entire nations, overthrowing governments and bombing 'rebellious' states into the ground. All this is done in the name of democracy, in the name of freedom.

An unelected monster, as it has done for centuries, is playing with the world, torturing some, and plundering others, or both.

The West, in a final act of arrogance, has somehow confused itself with its own concept of God. It has decided that it has the full right to shape the planet, to punish and to reward, to destroy and rebuild as it wishes.

This horrible wave of terror unleashed against our planet, is justified by an increasingly meaningless but fanatically defended dogma, symbolized by a box (made of card or wood, usually), and masses of people sticking pieces of paper into the opening on the top of that box.

This is the altar of Western ideological fundamentalism. This is a supreme idiocy that cannot be questioned, as it guarantees the status quo for ruling elites and business interests, an absurdity that justifies all crimes, all lies and all madness.

This sacrificial altar is called, Democracy, in direct mockery to what the term symbolizes in its original, Greek, language.

***

In our latest book, "On Western Terrorism – from Hiroshima to Drone Warfare", Noam Chomsky commented on the 'democratic' process in the Western world:

"The goal of elections now is to undermine democracy. They are run by the public relations industry and they're certainly not trying to create informed voters who'll make rational choices. They are trying to delude people into making irrational choices. The same techniques that are used to undermine markets are used to undermine democracy. It's one of the major industries in the country and its basic workings are invisible."

But what is it that really signifies this 'sacred' word, this almost religious term, and this pinnacle of Western demagogy? We hear it everywhere. We are ready to sacrifice millions of lives (not ours of course, at least not yet, but definitely lives of the others) in the name of it.

Democracy!

All those grand slogans and propaganda! Last year I visited Pyongyang, but I have to testify that North Koreans are not as good at slogans as the Western propagandists are.

"In the name of freedom and democracy!" Hundreds of millions tons of bombs fell from the sky on the Laotian, Cambodian and Vietnamese countryside bodies were burned by napalm, mutilated by spectacular explosions.

"Defending democracy!" Children were raped in front of their parents in Central America, men and women machine-gunned down by death squads that had been trained in military bases in the United States of America.

"Civilizing the world and spreading democracy!" That has always been a European slogan, their 'stuff to do', and a way of showing their great civilization to others. Amputating hands of Congolese people, murdering around ten million of them, and many more in Namibia, East Africa, West Africa and Algiers; gassing people of the Middle East ( "I am strongly in favour of using poisonous gas against uncivilised tribes", to borrow from the colorful lexicon of (Sir) Winston Churchill).

So what is it really? Who is it, that strange lady with an axe in her hand and with a covered face – the lady whose name is Democracy?

***

It is all very simple, actually. The term originates from the Greek δημοκρατία (dēmokratía) "rule of the people". Then and now, it was supposed to be in direct contrast to ἀριστοκρατία (aristokratia), that means "rule of an elite".

'Rule of the people' Let us just visit a few examples of the 'rule of the people'.

People spoke, they ruled, they voted 'democratically' in Chile, bringing in the mild and socialist government of 'Popular Unity' of Salvador Allende.

Sure, the Chilean education system was so brilliant, its political and social system so wonderful, that it inspired not only many countries in Latin America, but also those in far away Mediterranean Europe.

That could not be tolerated, because, as we all know, it is only white Europe and North America that can be allowed to supply the world with the blueprint for any society, anywhere on this planet. It was decided that "Chile has to scream", that its economy had to be ruined and the "Popular Unity" government kicked out of power.

Henry Kissinger, belonging, obviously, to a much higher race and country of a much higher grade, made a straightforward and in a way very 'honest' statement, clearly defining the North American stand towards global democracy: "I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go Communist due to the irresponsibility of its people."

And so Chile was ravaged. Thousands of people were murdered and 'our son-of-a-bitch' was brought to power. General Pinochet was not elected: he bombed the Presidential palace in Santiago, he savagely tortured the men and women who were elected by the Chilean people, and he "disappeared" thousands.

But that was fine, because democracy, as it is seen from Washington, London or Paris, is nothing more and nothing less than what the white man needs in order to control this planet, unopposed and preferably never criticized.

Of course Chile was not the only place where 'democracy' was 'redefined'. And it was not the most brutal scenario either, although it was brutal enough. But it was a very symbolic 'case', because here, there could be absolutely no dispute: an extremely well educated, middle class country, voted in transparent elections, just to have its government murdered, tortured and exiled, simply because it was too democratic and too involved in improving the lives of its people.

There were countless instances of open spite coming from the North, towards the 'rule of the people' in Latin America. For centuries, there have been limitless examples. Every country 'south of the border' in the Western Hemisphere, became a victim.

After all, the self-imposed Monroe Doctrine gave North Americans 'unquestionable rights' to intervene and 'correct' any 'irresponsible' democratic moves made by the lower races inhabiting Central and South America as well as the Caribbean Islands.

There were many different scenarios of real ingenuity, in how to torture countries that embarked on building decent homes for their people, although soon there was evidence of repetitiveness and predictability.

The US has been either sponsoring extremely brutal coups (like the one in Guatemala in 1954), or simply occupying the countries in order to overthrow their democratically elected governments. Justifications for such interventions have varied: it was done in order to 'restore order', to 'restore freedom and democracy', or to prevent the emergence of 'another Cuba'.

From the Dominican Republic in 1965 to Grenada in 1983, countries were 'saved from themselves' through the introduction (by orders from mainly the Protestant North American elites with clearly pathological superiority complexes) of death squads that administered torture, rape and extrajudicial executions. People were killed because their democratic decisions were seen as 'irresponsible' and therefore unacceptable.

While there has been open racism in every aspect of how the Empire controlled its colonies, 'political correctness' was skillfully introduced, effectively reducing to a bare minimum any serious critiques of the societies that were forced into submission.

In Indonesia, between 1 and 3 million people were murdered in the years1965/66, in a US -sponsored coup, because there too, was a 'great danger' that the people would rule and decide to vote 'irresponsibly', bringing the Communist Party of Indonesia (PKI), at that time the third most numerous Communist Party anywhere in the world, to power.

The democratically elected President of Congo, Patrice Lumumba, was murdered in 1961, by the joint efforts of the United States and Europe, simply because he was determined to use the vast natural resources of his country to feed his own people; and because he dared to criticize Western colonialism and imperialism openly and passionately.

East Timor lost a third of its population simply because its people, after gaining independence from Portugal, dared to vote the left-leaning FRETILIN into power. "We are not going to tolerate another Cuba next to our shores", protested the Indonesian fascist dictator Suharto, and the US and Australia strongly agreed. The torture, and extermination of East Timorese people by the Indonesian military, was considered irrelevant and not even worth reporting in the mass media.

The people of Iran could of course not be trusted with 'democracy'. Iran is one of the oldest and greatest cultures on earth, but its people wanted to use the revenues from its oil to improve their lives, not to feed foreign multi-nationals. That has always been considered a crime by Western powers – a crime punishable by death.

The people of Iran decided to rule; they voted, they said that they want to have all their oil industry nationalized. Mohammad Mosaddeq, the democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran from 1951 to 1953, was ready to implement what his people demanded. But his government was overthrown in a coup d'état, orchestrated by the British MI6 and North American CIA, and what followed was the murderous dictatorship of the deranged Western puppet – Reza Pahlavi. As in Latin America and Indonesia, instead of schools, hospitals and housing projects, people got death squads, torture chambers and fear. Is that what they wanted? Is that what they voted for?

There were literally dozens of countries, all over the world, which had to be 'saved', by the West, from their own 'irresponsible citizens and voters'. Brazil recently 'celebrated' the 50th anniversary of the US-backed military coup d'état, which began a horrendous 20 year long military dictatorship. The US supported two coups in Iraq, in 1963 and 1968 that brought Saddam Hussein and his Baath Party to power. The list is endless. These are only some random examples.

On closer examination, the West has overthrown, or made attempts to overthrow, almost any democratically elected governments, on all continents attempting to serve their own people, by providing them with decent standards of living and social services. That is quite an achievement, and some stamina!

Could it be then that the West only respects 'Democracy' when 'people are forced to rule' against their own interests? And when they are 'defending' what they are ordered to defend by local elites that are subservient to North American and European interests? and also when they are defending the interests of foreign multi-national companies and Western governments that are dependent on those companies?

***

Can anything be done? If a country is too weak to defend itself by military means, against some mighty Western aggressor, could it approach any international democratic institutions, hoping for protection?

Unthinkable!

A good example is Nicaragua, which had been literally terrorized by the United States, for no other reason than for being socialist. Its government went to court.

The case was called: The Republic of Nicaragua v. The United States of America.

It was a 1986 case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in which the ICJ ruled in favor of Nicaragua and against the United States and awarded reparations to Nicaragua.

The judgment was long, consisting of 291 points. Among them that the United States had been involved in the "unlawful use of force." The alleged violations included attacks on Nicaraguan facilities and naval vessels, the mining of Nicaraguan ports, the invasion of Nicaraguan air space, and the training, arming, equipping, financing and supplying of forces (the "Contras") and seeking to overthrow Nicaragua's Sandinista government.

Judgment was passed, and so were UN votes and resolutions. The UN resolution from 1986 called for the full and immediate compliance with the Judgment. Only Thailand, France and the UK abstained. The US showed total spite towards the court, and it vetoed all UN resolutions.

It continued its terror campaign against Nicaragua. In the end, the ruined and exhausted country voted in 1990. It was soon clear that it was not voting for or against Sandinista government, but whether to endure more violence from the North, or to simply accept depressing defeat. The Sandinista government lost. It lost because the voters had a North American gun pointing at their heads.

This is how 'democracy' works.

I covered the Nicaraguan elections of 1996 and I was told by voters, by a great majority of them, that they were going to vote for the right-wing candidate (Aleman), only because the US was threatening to unleash another wave of terror in case the Sandinista government came back to power, democratically.

The Sandinistas are now back. But only because most of Latin America has changed, and there is unity and determination to fight, if necessary.

***

While the Europeans are clearly benefiting from neo-colonialism and the plunder that goes on all over the world, it would be ridiculous to claim that they themselves are 'enjoying the fruits of democracy'.

In a dazzling novel "Seeing", written by Jose Saramago, a laureate for the Nobel Prize for literature, some 83% of voters in an unidentified country (most likely Saramago's native Portugal), decide to cast blank ballots, expressing clear spite towards the Western representative election system.

This state, which prided itself as a 'democratic one', responded by unleashing an orgy of terror against its own citizens. It soon became obvious that people are allowed to make democratic choices only when the result serves the interests of the regime.

Ursula K Le Guin, reviewing the novel in the pages of The Guardian, on 15 April 2006, admitted:

Turning in a blank ballot is a signal unfamiliar to most Britons and Americans, who aren't yet used to living under a government that has made voting meaningless. In a functioning democracy, one can consider not voting a lazy protest liable to play into the hands of the party in power (as when low Labour turn-out allowed Margaret Thatcher's re-elections, and Democratic apathy secured both elections of George W Bush). It comes hard to me to admit that a vote is not in itself an act of power, and I was at first blind to the point Saramago's non-voting voters are making.

She should not have been. Even in Europe itself, terror had been unleashed, on many occasions, against the people who decided to vote 'incorrectly'.

Perhaps the most brutal instance was in the post WWII period, when the Communist Parties were clearly heading for spectacular victories in France, Italy and West Germany. Such 'irresponsible behavior' had to be, of course, stopped. Both US and UK intelligence forces made a tremendous effort to 'save democracy' in Europe, employing Nazis to break, intimidate, even murder members of progressive movements and parties.

These Nazi cadres were later allowed, even encouraged, to leave Europe for South America, some carrying huge booty from the victims who vanished in concentration camps. This booty included gold teeth.

Later on, in the 1990's, I spoke to some of them, and also to their children, in Asuncion, the capital of Paraguay. They were proud of their deeds, unrepentant, and as Nazi as ever.

Many of those European Nazis later actively participated in Operation Condor, so enthusiastically supported by the Paraguayan fascist and pro-Western dictator, Alfredo Strössner. Mr Strössner was a dear friend and asylum-giver to many WWII war criminals, including people like Dr. Josef Mengele, the Nazi doctor known as the "Angel of Death", who performed genetic experiments on children during the WWII.

So, after destroying that 'irresponsible democratic process' in Europe (the post-war Western Empire), many European Nazis that were now loyally serving their new master, were asked to continue with what they knew how to do best. Therefore they helped to assassinate some 60,000 left-wing South American men, women and their children, who were guilty of building egalitarian and just societies in their home countries. Many of these Nazis took part, directly, in Operacion Condor, under the direct supervision of the United States and Europe.

As Naomi Klein writes in her book, Shock Doctrine:

"Operación Cóndor, also known as Plan Cóndor, Portuguese: Operação Condor) was a campaign of political repression and terror involving intelligence operations and assassination of opponents, officially implemented in 1975 by the right-wing dictatorships of the Southern Cone of South America. The program was intended to eradicate communist or Soviet influence and ideas, and to suppress active or potential opposition movements against the participating governments."

In Chile, German Nazis rolled up their sleeves and went to work directly: by interrogating, liquidating and savagely torturing members of the democratically elected government and its supporters. They also performed countless medical experiments on people, at the so-called Colonia Dirnidad, during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, whose rule was manufactured and sustained by Dr. Kissinger and his clique.

But back to Europe: in Greece, after WWII, both the UK and US got heavily involved in the civil war between the Communists and the extreme right-wing forces.

In 1967, just one month before the elections in which the Greek left-wing was expected to win democratically (the Indonesian scenario of 1965), the US and its 'Greek colonels' staged a coup, which marked the beginning of a 7 year savage dictatorship.

What happened in Yugoslavia, some 30 years later is, of course clear. A successful Communist country could not be allowed to survive, and definitely not in Europe. As bombs fell on Belgrade, many of those inquisitive and critically thinking people that had any illusions left about the Western regime and its 'democratic principles', lost them rapidly.

But by then, the majority of Europe already consisted of indoctrinated masses, some of the worst informed and most monolithic (in their thinking) on earth.

Europe and its voters It is that constantly complaining multitude, which wants more and more money, and delivers the same and extremely predictable electoral results every four, five or six years. It lives and votes mechanically. It has totally lost its ability to imagine a different world, to fight for humanist principles, and even to dream.

It is turning into an extremely scary place, a museum at best, and a cemetery of human vision at the worst.

***

As Noam Chomsky pointed out:

Americans may be encouraged to vote, but not to participate more meaningfully in the political arena. Essentially the election is a method of marginalizing the population. A huge propaganda campaign is mounted to get people to focus on these personalized quadrennial extravaganzas and to think, "That's politics." But it isn't. It's only a small part of politics.
The population has been carefully excluded from political activity, and not by accident. An enormous amount of work has gone into that disenfranchisement. During the 1960s the outburst of popular participation in democracy terrified the forces of convention, which mounted a fierce counter-campaign. Manifestations show up today on the left as well as the right in the effort to drive democracy back into the hole where it belongs.

Arundhati Roy, commented in her "Is there life after democracy?"

The question here, really, is what have we done to democracy? What have we turned it into? What happens once democracy has been used up? When it has been hollowed out and emptied of meaning? What happens when each of its institutions has metastasized into something dangerous? What happens now that democracy and the Free Market have fused into a single predatory organism with a thin, constricted imagination that revolves almost entirely around the idea of maximizing profit? Is it possible to reverse this process? Can something that has mutated go back to being what it used to be?

***

After all that brutality, and spite for people all over the world, the West is now teaching the planet about democracy. It is lecturing Asians and Africans, people from Middle East and Sub-Continent, on how to make their countries more 'democratic'. It is actually hard to believe, it should be one of the most hilarious things on earth, but it is happening, and everyone is silent about it.

Those who are listening without bursting into laughter are actually well paid.

There are seminars; even foreign aid projects related to 'good governance', sponsored by the European Union, and the United States. The EU is actually much more active in this field. Like the Italian mafia, it sends covert but unmistakable messages to the world: "You do as we say, or we break your legs But if you obey, come to us and we will teach you how to be a good aide to Cosa Nostra! And we will give you some pasta and wine while you are learning."

Because there is plenty of money, so called 'funding' members of the elite, the academia, media and non-government organizations, from countries that have been plundered by the West – countries like Indonesia, Philippines, DR Congo, Honduras, or Colombia –send armies of people to get voluntarily indoctrinated, (sorry, to be 'enlightened') to learn about democracy from the greatest assassins of genuine 'people's power'; from the West.

Violating democracy is an enormous business. To hush it up is part of that business. To learn how to be idle and not to intervene against the external forces destroying democracy in your own country, while pretending to be 'engaged and active', is actually the best business, much better than building bridges or educating children (from a mercantilist point of view).

Once, at the University of Indonesia where I was invited to speak, a student asked me 'what is the way forward', to make his country more democratic? I replied, looking at several members of the professorial staff:

"Demand that your teachers stop going to Europe on fully funded trips. Demand that they stop being trained in how to brainwash you. Do not go there yourself, to study. Go there to see, to understand and to learn, but not to study Europe had robbed you of everything. They are still looting your country. What do you think you will learn there? Do you really think they will teach you how to save your nation?"

Students began laughing. The professors were fuming. I was never invited back. I am sure that the professors knew exactly what I was talking about. The students did not. They were thinking that I made a very good joke. But I was not trying to be funny.

***

As I write these words, the Thai military junta has taken over the country. The West is silent: the Thai military is an extremely close ally. Democracy at work

And as I write these words, the fascist government in Kiev is chasing, kidnapping and "disappearing" people in the east and south of Ukraine. By some insane twist of logic, the Western corporate media is managing to blame Russia. And only a few people are rolling around on the floor, laughing.

As I write these words, a big part of Africa is in flames, totally destroyed by the US, UK, France and other colonial powers.

Client states like the Philippines are now literally being paid to get antagonistic with China.

Japanese neo-fascist adventurism fully supported by the Unites States can easily trigger WWIII. So can Western greed and fascist practices in Ukraine.

Democracy! People's power!

If the West had sat on its ass, where it belongs, in Europe and in North America, after WWII, the world would have hardly any problems now. People like Lumumba, Allende, Sukarno, Mosaddeq, would have led their nations and continents. They would have communicated with their own people, interacted with them. They would have built their own styles of 'democracy'.

But all that came from the Bandung Conference of 1955, from the ideals of the Non-Aligned movement, was ruined and bathed in blood. The true hopes of the people of the world cut to pieces, urinated on, and then thrown into gutter.

But no more time should be wasted by just analyzing, and by crying over spilt milk. Time to move on!

The world has been tortured by Europe and the United States, for decades and centuries. It has been tortured in the name of democracy but it has all been one great lie. The world has been tortured simply because of greed, and because of racism. Just look back at history. Europe and the United States have only stopped calling people "niggers", but they do not have any more respect for them than before. And they are willing, same as before, to sacrifice millions of human lives.

Let us stop worshiping their box, and those meaningless pieces of paper that they want us to stick in there. There is no power of people in this. Look at the United States itself – where is our democracy? It is a one-party regime fully controlled by market fundamentalists. Look at our press, and propaganda

Rule of the people by the people, true democracy, can be achieved. We the people had been derailed, intellectually, so we have not been thinking how, for so many decades.

Now we, many of us, know what is wrong, but we are still not sure what is right.

Let us think and let us search, let us experiment. And also, let us reject their fascism first. Let them stick their papers wherever they want! Let them pretend that they are not slaves to some vendors and swindlers. Let them do whatever they want – there, where they belong.

Democracy is more than a box. It is more than a multitude of political parties. It is when people can truly choose, decide and build a society that they dream about. Democracy is the lack of fear of having napalm and bombs murdering our dreams. Democracy is when people speak and from those words grow their own nation. Democracy is when millions of hands join together and from that brilliant union, new trains begin to run, new schools begin to teach, and new hospitals begin to heal. All this by the people, for the people! All this created by proud and free humans as gift to all – to their nation.

Yes, let the slave masters stick their pieces of paper into a box, or somewhere else. They can call it democracy. Let us call democracy something else – rule of the people, a great exchange of ideas, of hopes and dreams. Let our taking control over our lives and over our nations be called 'democracy'!

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries. His discussion with Noam Chomsky On Western Terrorism is now going to print. His critically acclaimed political novel Point of No Return is now re-edited and available. Oceania is his book on Western imperialism in the South Pacific. His provocative book about post-Suharto Indonesia and the market-fundamentalist model is called "Indonesia – The Archipelago of Fear". He has just completed the feature documentary, "Rwanda Gambit" about Rwandan history and the plunder of DR Congo. After living for many years in Latin America and Oceania, Vltchek presently resides and works in East Asia and Africa. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.

[Sep 18, 2017] A Foreign Enemy is a Tyrants Best Friend

Notable quotes:
"... This activates what Randolph Bourne called their "herd mind," inducing them to rally around their governments in a militaristic stampede so as to create the national unity of purpose deemed necessary to defend the homeland against the foreign menace. When you lay siege to an entire country, don't be surprised when it starts to look and act like a barracks. ..."
"... Imperial governments like to pretend that affairs are quite the reverse, adopting the essentially terrorist rationale that waging war against the civilian populace of a rogue state will pressure them to blame and turn against their governments. In reality, it only tends to bolster public support for the regime. ..."
"... The imperial "bogeygoat" is an essential prop for the power of petty tyrants, just as rogue state bogeymen are essential props for the power of grand tyrants like our own. Thus, it should be no surprise that the staunchest opponents to the Iran nuclear deal include both American and Iranian hardliners. Just as there is a "symbiosis of savagery" between imperial hawks and anti-imperial terrorists (as I explain here), there is a similar symbiotic relationship between imperial and rogue state hardliners. ..."
Jul 28, 2015 | Antiwar.com

Cold wars freeze despotism in place, and thaws in foreign relations melt it away

The recent Iran nuclear deal represents a thaw in the American cold war against that country. It is a welcome sequel to the Obama administration's partial normalization with Cuba announced late last year.

Hardliners denounce these policies as "going soft" on theocracy and communism. Yet, it is such critics' own hardline, hawkish policies that have done the most to ossify and strengthen such regimes.

That is because war, including cold war, is the health of the state. Antagonistic imperial policies - economic warfare, saber-rattling, clandestine interventions, and full-blown attacks - make the citizens of targeted "rogue states" feel under siege.

This activates what Randolph Bourne called their "herd mind," inducing them to rally around their governments in a militaristic stampede so as to create the national unity of purpose deemed necessary to defend the homeland against the foreign menace. When you lay siege to an entire country, don't be surprised when it starts to look and act like a barracks.

Rogue state governments eagerly amplify and exploit this siege effect through propaganda, taking on the mantle of foremost defender of the nation against the "Yankee Imperialist" or "Great Satan." Amid the atmosphere of crisis, public resistance against domestic oppression by the now indispensable "guardian class" goes by the board. "Quit your complaining. Don't you know there's a cold war on? Don't you know we're under siege?"

Moreover, cold wars make it easy for rogue state governments to shift the blame for domestic troubles away from their own misrule, and onto the foreign bogeyman/scapegoat ("bogeygoat?") instead. This is especially easy for being to some extent correct, especially with regard to economic blockades and other crippling sanctions, like those Washington has imposed on Cuba, Iran, etc.

Imperial governments like to pretend that affairs are quite the reverse, adopting the essentially terrorist rationale that waging war against the civilian populace of a rogue state will pressure them to blame and turn against their governments. In reality, it only tends to bolster public support for the regime.

The imperial "bogeygoat" is an essential prop for the power of petty tyrants, just as rogue state bogeymen are essential props for the power of grand tyrants like our own. Thus, it should be no surprise that the staunchest opponents to the Iran nuclear deal include both American and Iranian hardliners. Just as there is a "symbiosis of savagery" between imperial hawks and anti-imperial terrorists (as I explain here), there is a similar symbiotic relationship between imperial and rogue state hardliners.

The last thing hardliners want is the loss of their cherished bogeygoat. Once an emergency foreign threat recedes, and the fog of war hysteria lifts, people are then more capable of clearly seeing their "guardians" as the domestic threat that they are, and more likely to feel that they can afford to address that threat without exposing themselves to foreign danger. This tends to impel governments to become less oppressive, and may even lead to their loss of power.

Thus after Nixon normalized with communist China and belatedly ended the war on communist Vietnam, both of those countries greatly liberalized and became more prosperous. Even Soviet reforms and the ultimate dissolution of the Soviet Union only arose following American detente.

Simultaneously, as the American cold wars against communist Cuba and communist North Korea continued without stint for decades, providing the Castros and Kims the ultimate bogeygoat to feature in their propaganda, the impoverishing authoritarian grip of those regimes on their besieged people only strengthened.

Similarly, ever since the 1979 Islamic Revolution overthrew the puppet dictator that the CIA had installed over Iran in a 1953 coup, the Ayatollahs have been able to exploit ongoing hostility from the American "Great Satan" to retain and consolidate their repressive theocratic power.

All this is an object lesson for US relations with Putin's Russia, Chavista Venezuela, and beyond. Disastrously, it is being unheeded.

Even while thawing relations with Iran, the Obama administration has triggered a new cold war with Russia over Ukraine. This has only made Russian President Vladimir Putin more domestically popular than ever.

And even while normalizing relations with Cuba, Obama recently declared Venezuela a national security threat, imposing new sanctions. As journalist Alexandra Ulmer argued, these sanctions "may be godsend for struggling Venezuelan leader," President Nicolas Maduro. As Ulmer wrote in Reuters:

"Suddenly, the unpopular leader has an excuse to crank up the revolutionary rhetoric and try to fire up supporters, copying a tactic used skillfully for more than a decade by his mentor and predecessor, the late socialist firebrand Hugo Chavez.

A new fight with the enemy to the north may also help unite disparate ruling Socialist Party factions and distract Venezuelans from relentless and depressing talk about their day-to-day economic problems."

[Jun 18, 2017] As a Chosen People with what Niebuhr refers to as a Messianic consciousness, Americans came to see them selves as set apart, their motives irreproachable, their actions not to be judged by standards applied to others.

Jun 18, 2017 | economistsview.typepad.com

JohnH -

, June 17, 2017 at 04:18 PM
Bacevich is a treasure...he's been inside the belly of the beast, and understands from first hand knowledge how it produces immense quantities of BS for public consumption and for preserving its own perks, privileges, and budgets.
libezkova - , June 17, 2017 at 11:39 PM
Yes, Bacevich is an interesting conservative critic of neocon foreign policy.

See for example his recent book:

https://www.amazon.com/Americas-War-Greater-Middle-East/dp/0553393952

He wrote a foreword to reprint of The Irony of American History (Paperback) by Reinhold Niebuhr which you can read on Amazon for free.

Niebuhr thought deeply about the dilemmas confronting the United States as a consequence of its emergence after World War I and, even more, after World War II, as a global superpower. The truths he spoke are uncomfortable ones for us to hear-uncomfortable not only because they demand a great deal of us as citizens, but also because they outline so starkly some of our recent failures. Four such truths are especially underlined in The Irony of American History: the persistent sin of American Exceptionalism; the indecipherability of history; the false allure of simple solutions; and, finally, the imperative of appreciating the limits of power.

The Anglo-American colonists who settled these shores, writes Niebuhr, saw their purpose as "to make a new beginning in a corrupt world." They believed "that we had been called out by God to create a new humanity." They believed further that this covenant with God marked America as a new Israel.

As a Chosen People with what Niebuhr refers to as a "Messianic consciousness," Americans came to see them selves as set apart, their motives irreproachable, their actions not to be judged by standards applied to others.

... ... ...

Niebuhr has little patience for those who portray the United States as acting on God's behalf. "All men are naturally inclined to obscure the morally ambiguous element in their political cause by investing it with religious sanctity," he once observed. "This is why religion is more frequently a source of confusion than of light in the political realm."

In the United States, he continued, "The tendency to equate our political with our Christian convictions causes politics to generate idolatry."9

Evangelical conservatism and its growing influence on American politics, which Niebuhr did not live to see, have only reinforced this tendency.

Niebuhr anticipated that the American veneration of liberty could itself degenerate into a form of idolatry. In the midst of World War II, he went so far as to describe the worship of democracy as "a less vicious version of the Nazi creed." He cautioned that "no society, not even a democratic one, is great enough or good enough to make itself the final end of human existence."

Although he rarely uses the term "American [neoliberal] empire", and I think never terms "Washington consensus", "debt slavery", or neoliberalism.

[Mar 03, 2017] America Right or Wrong An Anatomy of American Nationalism

Notable quotes:
"... an unwillingness or inability among Americans to question the country's sinlessness feeds a culture of public conformism, ..."
"... he daringly points out America's "hypocrisy," which also is corroborated by other scholars, among them James Hillman in his recent book "A Terrible Love of War" in which he characterizes hypocrisy as quintessentially American. ..."
"... The combined resentments lead to a sort of chip on the shoulder patriotism which so characterizes American nationalism. ..."
"... The book suggests that the Republican Party is really like an old style European nationalist party. Broadly serving the interests of the moneyed elite but spouting a form of populist gobbledygook, which paints America as being in a life and death, struggle with anti-American forces at home and abroad. It is the reason for Anne Coulter, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. That is the rhetoric of struggle acts as a cover for political policies that benefit a few and lay the blame for the problems of ordinary Americans on fictitious entities. ..."
"... The main side effects of the nationalism are the current policies which shackles America to Israel uncritically despite what that country might and how its actions may isolate America from the rest of the world. It also justifies America on foreign policy adventures such as the invasion of Iraq. ..."
"... " The [U. S.] conduct of the war against terrorism looks more like a baroque apotheosis of political stupidity;" ..."
"... "One strand of American nationalism is radical...because it continually looks backward at a vanished and idealized national past; " ..."
"... " [George W.] Bush, his leading officials, and his intellectual and media supporters..., as nationalists, [are] absolutely contemptuous of any global order involving any check whatsoever on American behavior and interests ;" ..."
"... I find that Mr. Lieven's assessment of both the United States' and Israel's role rings true. While he does not excuse Arab leaders for their misdeeds, he clearly documents a history in which the United States has repeatedly subordinated vital U.S. regional interests in favor of accepting whatever Israel chooses to do. ..."
Oct 30, 2016 | www.amazon.com
America Right or Wrong An Anatomy of American Nationalism is one of the best book on American exceptionalism. Here are some Amazon reviews

From Siegfried Sutterlin March 21, 2006

... While there are incontestable civilizing elements to America's nationalism, there are also dangerous and destructive ingredients, a sort of Hegelian thesis and antithesis theme which places a strong question mark in America's historical theme of exceptionalism.

Unlike in other post-World War II nations, America's nationalism is permeated by values and religious elements derived mostly from the South and the Southern Baptists, though the fears and panics of the embittered heartland provide additional fuel.

Lieven's book, among other elements, is also a summation of lots of minor observations--even personal ones he made as a student in the small town of Troy, Alabama--and historical details which reflect the grand evolution of America's nationalism. When he says that "an unwillingness or inability among Americans to question the country's sinlessness feeds a culture of public conformism," then he has the support of Mark Twain who said something to the effect that we are blessed with three things in this country, freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and, thirdly, the common sense to practice neither one! Ditto when he daringly points out America's "hypocrisy," which also is corroborated by other scholars, among them James Hillman in his recent book "A Terrible Love of War" in which he characterizes hypocrisy as quintessentially American.

Lieven continues with the impact of the Cold War on America's nationalism and then, having always expanded the theme of Bush's foreign policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, examines with commendable perspective the complex and very much unadmitted current aspects of the U.S.'s relationships with the Moslems, the Iraq War and the impact of the pro-Israeli lobby. It is the sort of assessment one rarely finds in the U.S. media . He exposes the alienation the U.S. caused among allies and, in particular, the Arabs and the EU.

Lieven wrote this book with passion and commendable sincerity. Though it comes from a foreigner, its advice would without question serve not only America's interest but also provide a substantial basis for a detached and objective approach to solving the intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the satisfaction of all involved before worse deeds and more burdens materialize.

Tom Munro:

What this book suggests is that a significant number of Americans have an outlook similar to European countries around 1904. A sense of identification with an idea of nation and a dismissive approach to other countries and cultures. Whilst in Europe the experience of the first and second world wars put paid to nationalism in America it is going strong. In fact Europeans see themselves less as Germans or Frenchmen today than they ever have.

The reason for American nationalism springs from a pride in American institutions but it also contains a deep resentment that gives it its dynamism . Whilst America as a nation has not lost a war there are a number of reasons for resentment. The South feels that its values are not taken seriously and it is subject to ridicule by the seaboard states. Conservative Christians are concerned about modernism. The combined resentments lead to a sort of chip on the shoulder patriotism which so characterizes American nationalism.

Of course these things alone are not sufficient. Europeans live in countries that are small geographically. They travel see other countries and are multilingual. Most Americans do not travel and the education they do is strong in ideology and weak in history. It is thus easier for some Americans to develop a rather simple minded view of the world.

The book suggests that the Republican Party is really like an old style European nationalist party. Broadly serving the interests of the moneyed elite but spouting a form of populist gobbledygook, which paints America as being in a life and death, struggle with anti-American forces at home and abroad. It is the reason for Anne Coulter, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh. That is the rhetoric of struggle acts as a cover for political policies that benefit a few and lay the blame for the problems of ordinary Americans on fictitious entities.

The main side effects of the nationalism are the current policies which shackles America to Israel uncritically despite what that country might and how its actions may isolate America from the rest of the world. It also justifies America on foreign policy adventures such as the invasion of Iraq.

The book is quite good and repeats the message of a number of other books such as "What is wrong with America". Probably there is something to be said for the books central message.

Keith Wheelock (Skillman, NJ USA)

A Socratic 'America know thyself': READ IT!, August 13, 2010

Foreigners, from de Tocqueville and Lord Bryce to Hugh Brogan and The Economist's John Micklethwait and Adrian Woodridge, often see America more clearly than do Americans. In the post-World War II period, R. L. Bruckberger's IMAGES OF AMERICA (1958) and Jean -Jacques Servan-Schreiber's THE AMERICAN CHALLENGE (1967) presented an uplifting picture of America.

Two generations later, Englishman Anatol Lieven paints a troubling picture of a country that is a far cry from John Winthrop's' "city upon a hill."

Has America changed so profoundly over the past fifty years or is Mr. Lieven simply highlighting historical cycles that, at least for the moment, had resulted in a near `perfect storm?' His 2004 book has prompted both praise [see Brian Urquhart's Extreme Makeover in the New York Review of Books (February 24, 2005)] and brick bats. This book is not a polemic. Rather, it is a scholarly analysis by a highly regarded author and former The Times (London) correspondent who has lived in various American locales. He has a journalist's acquaintance of many prominent Americans and his source materials are excellent.

I applaud his courage for exploring the dark cross currents in modern-day America. In the tradition of the Delphic oracle and Socrates, he urges that Americans `know thy self.' The picture he paints should cause thoughtful Americans to shudder. Personally, I found his book of a genre similar to Cullen Murphy's ARE WE ROME? THE FALL OF AN EMPIRE AND THE FATE OF AMERICA.

I do not consider Mr. Lieven anti-American in his extensive critique of American cross currents. That he wrote this in the full flush of the Bush/Cheney post-9/11 era suggests that he might temper some of his assessments after the course corrections of the Obama administration. My sense is that Mr. Lieven admires many of America's core qualities and that this `tough love' essay is his effort to guide Americans back to their more admirable qualities.

Mr. Lieven boldly sets forth his book's message in a broad-ranging introduction:

  1. " The [U. S.] conduct of the war against terrorism looks more like a baroque apotheosis of political stupidity;"
  2. "Aspects of American nationalism imperil both the nation's global leadership and its success in the struggle against Islamic terror and revolution;"
  3. "Insofar as American nationalism has become mixed up with a chauvinist version of Israeli nationalism, it also plays an absolutely disastrous role in U.S. relations with the Muslim world and in fueling terrorism;"
  4. "American imperialists trail America's coat across the whole world while most ordinary Americans are not looking and rely on those same Americans to react with `don't tread on me' nationalist fury when the coat is trodden on;"
  5. "One strand of American nationalism is radical...because it continually looks backward at a vanished and idealized national past; "
  6. "America is the home of by far the most deep, widespread and conservative religious belief in the Western world;"
  7. "The relationship between the traditional White Protestant world on one hand and the forces of American economic, demographic, social and cultural change on the other may be compared to the genesis of a hurricane;"
  8. "The religious Right has allied itself solidly with extreme free market forces in the Republican Party although it is precisely the workings of unrestricted American capitalism which are eroding the world the religious conservatives wish to defend;"
  9. "American nationalism is beginning to conflict very seriously with any enlightened, viable or even rational version of American imperialism;"
  10. " [George W.] Bush, his leading officials, and his intellectual and media supporters..., as nationalists, [are] absolutely contemptuous of any global order involving any check whatsoever on American behavior and interests ;"
  11. "Nationalism therefore risks undermining precisely those American values which make the nation most admired in the world;" and
  12. "This book...is intended as a reminder of the catastrophes into which nationalism and national messianism led other great countries in the past."

Mr. Lieven addressed the above points in six well-crafted and thought-provoking chapters that I find persuasive. For some readers Chapter 6, Nationalism, Israel, and the Middle East, may be the most controversial. I am the only living person who has lunched with Gamal Abdel Nasser and David Ben-Gurion in the same week. I have maintained an interest in Arab-Israeli matters ever since. I find that Mr. Lieven's assessment of both the United States' and Israel's role rings true. While he does not excuse Arab leaders for their misdeeds, he clearly documents a history in which the United States has repeatedly subordinated vital U.S. regional interests in favor of accepting whatever Israel chooses to do.

In 1955 American historian Richard Hofstadter wrote,

"The most prominent and persuasive failing [of political culture] is a certain proneness to fits of moral crusading that would be fatal if they were not sooner or later tempered with a measure of apathy and common sense."

I am confident that Professor Hofstadter would agree with me that AMERICA RIGHT OR WRONG is a timely and important book.

[Oct 30, 2016] Anatol Lieven · The Push for War The Threat from America

[Oct 30, 2016] Anatol Lieven · A Trap of Their Own Making The consequences of the new imperialism · LRB 8 May 2003

[Sep 21, 2016] An interesting view on Russian intelligencia by the scientist and writer Zinoviev expressed during perestroika in 1991

The intelligentsia (Latin: intellegentia, Polish: inteligencja, Russian: интеллигенция; IPA: [ɪntʲɪlʲɪˈɡʲentsɨjə]) is a social class of people engaged in complex mental labor aimed at guiding or critiquing, or otherwise playing a leadership role in shaping a society's culture and politics.[1] This therefore might include everyone from artists to school teachers, as well as academics, writers, journalists, and other hommes de lettres (men of letters) more usually thought of as being the main constituents of the intelligentsia.
Intelligentsia is the subject of active polemics concerning its own role in the development of modern society not always positive historically, often contributing to higher degree of progress, but also to its backward movement.[2]... In pre-revolutionary Russia the term was first used to describe people possessing cultural and political initiative.[3] It was commonly used by those individuals themselves to create an apparent distance from the masses, and generally retained that narrow self-definition. [citation needed]
en.wikipedia.org

If intellectuals replace the current professional politicians as the leaders of society the situation would become much worse. Because they have neither the sense of reality, nor common sense. For them, the words and speeches are more important than the actual social laws and the dominant trends, the dominant social dynamics of the society. The psychological principle of the intellectuals is that we could organize everything much better, but we are not allowed to do it.

But the actual situation is as following: they could organize the life of society as they wish and plan, in the way they view is the best only if under conditions that are not present now are not feasible in the future. Therefore they are not able to act even at the level of current leaders of the society, which they despise. The actual leaders are influenced by social pressures, by the current social situation, but at least they doing something. Intellectuals are unhappy that the real stream of life they are living in. They consider it wrong. that makes them very dangerous, because they look really smart, while in reality being sophisticated professional idiots.

[Sep 30, 2015] Obama Re-Defines Democracy – A Country that Supports U.S. Policy naked capitalism by Michael Hudson

September 29, 2015

In his Orwellian September 28, 2015 speech to the United Nations, President Obama said that if democracy had existed in Syria, there never would have been a revolt against Assad. By that, he meant ISIL. Where there is democracy, he said, there is no violence of revolution.

This was his threat to promote revolution, coups and violence against any country not deemed a "democracy." In making this hardly veiled threat, he redefined the word in the international political vocabulary. Democracy is the CIA's overthrow of Mossedegh in Iran to install the Shah. Democracy is the overthrow of Afghanistan's secular government by the Taliban against Russia. Democracy is the Ukrainian coup behind Yats and Poroshenko. Democracy is Pinochet. It is "our bastards," as Lyndon Johnson said with regard to the Latin American dictators installed by U.S. foreign policy.

A century ago the word "democracy" referred to a nation whose policies were formed by elected representatives. Ever since ancient Athens, democracy was contrasted to oligarchy and aristocracy. But since the Cold War and its aftermath, that is not how U.S. politicians have used the term. When an American president uses the word "democracy," he means a pro-American country following U.S. neoliberal policies. No matter if a country is a military dictatorship or the government was brought in by a coup (euphemized as a Color Revolution) as in Georgia or Ukraine. A "democratic" government has been re-defined simply as one supporting the Washington Consensus, NATO and the IMF. It is a government that shifts policy-making out of the hands of elected representatives to an "independent" central bank, whose policies are dictated by the oligarchy centered in Wall Street, the City of London and Frankfurt.

Given this American re-definition of the political vocabulary, when President Obama says that such countries will not suffer coups, violent revolution or terrorism, he means that countries safely within the U.S. diplomatic orbit will be free of destabilization sponsored by the U.S. State Department, Defense Department and Treasury. Countries whose voters democratically elect a government or regime that acts independently (or even that simply seeks the power to act independently of U.S. directives) will be destabilized, Syria style, Ukraine style or Chile style under General Pinochet. As Henry Kissinger said, just because a country votes in communists doesn't mean that we have to accept it. It is the style of "color revolutions" sponsored by the National Endowment for Democracy.

In his United Nations reply, Russian President Putin warned against the "export of democratic revolution," meaning by the United States in support of its local factotums. ISIL is armed with U.S. weapons and its soldiers were trained by U.S. armed forces. In case there was any doubt, President Obama reiterated before the United Nations that until Syrian President Assad was removed in favor of one more submissive to U.S. oil and military policy, Assad was the major enemy, not ISIL.

"It is impossible to tolerate the present situation any longer," President Putin responded. Likewise in Ukraine. "What I believe is absolutely unacceptable," he said in his CBS interview on 60 Minutes, "is the resolution of internal political issues in the former USSR Republics, through "color revolutions," through coup d'états, through unconstitutional removal of power. That is totally unacceptable. Our partners in the United States have supported those who ousted Yanukovych. … We know who and where, when, who exactly met with someone and worked with those who ousted Yanukovych, how they were supported, how much they were paid, how they were trained, where, in which countries, and who those instructors were. We know everything."

Where does this leave U.S.-Russian relations? I hoped for a moment that perhaps Obama's harsh anti-Russian talk was to provide protective coloration for an agreement with Putin in their 5 o'clock meeting. Speak one way so as to enable oneself to act in another has always been his modus operandi, as it is for many politicians. But Obama remains in the hands of the neocons.

Where will this lead? There are many ways to think outside the box. What if Putin proposes to air-lift or ship Syrian refugees – up to a third of the population – to Europe, landing them in Holland and England, obliged under the Shengen rules to accept them?

Or what if he brings the best computer specialists and other skilled labor for which Syria is renowned to Russia, supplementing the flood of immigration from "democratic" Ukraine?

What if the joint plans announced on Sunday between Iraq, Iran, Syria and Russia to jointly fight ISIS – a coalition that US/NATO has refrained from joining – comes up against U.S. troops or even the main funder of ISIL, Saudi Arabia?

The game is out of America's hands now. All it is able to do is wield the threat of "democracy" as a weapon of coups to turn recalcitrant countries into Libyas, Iraqs and Syrias.

By Michael Hudson, a research professor of Economics at University of Missouri, Kansas City, and a research associate at the Levy Economics Institute of Bard College. His latest book is "KILLING THE HOST: How Financial Parasites and Debt Bondage Destroy the Global Economy."

nippersdad, September 29, 2015 at 10:22 am

"We know who and where, when, who exactly met with someone and worked with those who ousted Yanukovich, how they were supported, how much they were paid, how they were trained, where, in which countries, and who those instructors were. We know everything."

That sounds like a pretty clear threat to the Democratic front runner for the Presidency to come to terms, or else. While it is good to see someone threatening accountability, it would be nice if it didn't have to come from Russia.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®©

September 29, 2015 at 11:49 am

Accountability will not come from an Administration that made Victoria Nuland an Assistant Secretary of State in the first place.

https://consortiumnews.com/2015/07/13/the-mess-that-nuland-made/

nippersdad, September 29, 2015 at 1:41 pm

No doubt, but I was kind of hoping that the progressive caucuses might make more of a fuss than they did over our "the king is dead, long live the king", foreign policy. That is, after all, what got many of them elected. It never ceases to amaze me how fast candidates become coopted by the establishment once elected.

Synoia, September 29, 2015 at 2:03 pm

The establishment has files on them. Hudson's piece reads as a prelude to war.

Nick, September 29, 2015 at 10:38 am

This post is nothing but tinfoil-hattery. I can assure you, the US is shedding no tears for the pain Russia is about to inflict on itself by putting Russian boots on the ground in Damascus.

OIFVet, September 29, 2015 at 11:10 am

Did a latter-day Charlie Wilson tell you that? I have no doubt that the stuck-in-the-past meatheads in DC have a wet dream over just such a scenario. I also have no doubt that Russia (as well as China and Iran) have no intention of falling into such a trap. The ongoing peeling-off of Euro/NATO lemmings is as clear indication as any that the US will end up either backing off or try to go it alone. The latter is a recipe for disaster, as even Obama realizes. So right now it's all posturing for domestic consumption, behind the scenes things are a bit different as certain recent incidents would seem to indicate. But hey, we can dream the Russophobic/Slavophobic dreams, amiright?


lylo, September 29, 2015 at 12:05 pm

Yeah, my reading too.

I also have to point out how ironic it is that a country stuck in several unresolved conflicts that continue to drain resources and produce instability years later is hoping that, somehow, their opponents get suckered into a quagmire in a country they are already stuck in.

So, sure, I guess that's what they're hoping for. Makes about as much sense as anything else they've come up with recently (including direct confrontation with Russia just to enrich a few ME and corporate pals.)

And "tinfoil hattery" is generally used as things not accepted and proven. Which part of this isn't proven? US toppling democracies and installing dictators who we then call democratic? That we have less pull on the international stage than anytime in our lives? That the other bloc has a serious advantage in this conflict, and going forward? These are all facts…


washunate, September 30, 2015 at 12:10 pm

Give Nick a little credit now; there is a shred of cleverness to the comment(!). He's trying to plant a big lie inside of the framing – namely, that the rise of IS is a legitimate rebellion within Syria.

When of course the truth is the opposite. It's IS that is the foreign invader; Russian boots on the ground would be working with the recognized government, not against it. Indeed, the comparison might inadvertently be quite apt. Syria looks more and more like a marker on the road from Pax Americana to a multipolar world. Just like the Soviet-Afghan war was a marker on the road from the Cold War to Pax Americana.

Perhaps another incident is a better comparison. Maybe Syria is our Suez moment.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suez_Crisis

Thure Meyer, September 29, 2015 at 11:15 am

Nick,

Tinfoil-hattery, interesting choice of words. So who's conspiracy are you talking about?

As to your assurance; well it would be a bit more convincing if you were to unveil your identity so that I know who speaks for all of us (US)...

readerOfTeaLeaves, September 29, 2015 at 2:32 pm

Oh, crikey Nick.
What codswaddle!

As near as I can tell, the US Foreign Policy establishment is driven by think tanks that are funded by oil companies, Saudis, Israelis, and others for whom 'putting America first' means covering their own asses and letting the US military (and well-compensated military contractors) do all the heavy lifting.

As if that weren't bad enough, we also have the R2Pers ("responsibility to protect"), whose hypocrisy could gag a maggot - the R2Pers seem to think it is urgent to solve every other nation's (and corporations) problems - indeed, so very urgent that kids from Iowa, Arkansas, Louisiana, Idaho, etc should all be sent into harm's way in distant lands, whose languages the R2Pers don't happen to speak, whose histories the R2Pers are ignorant about, and whose cultural nuances are unknown to the R2Pers.

IOW, Washington DC appears to be awash in egoism and careerism.

I think that Russians have managed to figure that out.

washunate, September 30, 2015 at 11:54 am

I find it rather amusing that this is the best the Democratic establishment can throw at posts pointing out the idiocy of imperialism. How the Obots have fallen.

steelhead23, September 29, 2015 at 10:56 am

It isn't just the lies and abject stupidity that keeps the U.S. constantly at war, it is our alliances with repressive dictators, like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia that is leading the U.S. toward confrontation with civilization, and Russia. Not so much a leader, the U.S. has become the militant vassal of KSA. The undying irony is that it was wealthy Saudis who started the most recent mess on 9/11/01. This will not end until the U.S. turns its back on the KSA.

Sufferin' Succotash, September 29, 2015 at 11:15 am

Or KSA self-destructs.

http://www.middleeasteye.net/columns/collapse-saudi-arabia-inevitable-1895380679

Ranger Rick, September 29, 2015 at 11:00 am

Russia has always maintained that the Ukrainian revolution was CIA-backed if not -instigated. It's a shrewd move given the US's track record with regime change. No one will ever be sure if the new Ukrainian government is entirely legitimate or not.

What really gets terrifying is when you take a step back and realize that the 1800s imperialist regime never really changed. When you start talking about "superpower" or "regional power" you are no longer talking about power in the military or economic sense. These countries regularly meddle in, if not directly control, the politics in other countries. It honestly does not matter to the United States or Russia or any other country what your government chooses to do as long as it does what the other country wants.

NotTimothyGeithner, September 29, 2015 at 11:48 am

The Kiev rump failed to meet constitutional standards for impeachment even with the threats of the mob, and with elections just three or four months away in September following the Maidan event, there was no practical reason for a forceful removal of the government. Third party or not, the Kiev rump government has the same legality as the Confederacy. The "separatists" and the Crimeans saw their country dissolved by a mob, not an election with a regularly scheduled one on the horizon. The Ukraine was not a case where they would be waiting four years under a tyrant. If they had made it to September with electioneering issues, then the situation would be different, but as the current cabal didn't do that, they are akin to Jefferson Davis just with a better hand.

Americans as celebrators of the Declaration of Independence should note it is not legitimate to change established governing customs because your side might lose there has to be a litany of grievances with no possibility of redress. By Mr. Jefferson's standards, this country should have nothing to do with the Kiev government until the concerns of the separatists have been addressed. Unfortunately the use of law doesn't exist in this country.

Eureka Springs, September 29, 2015 at 11:11 am

Obamacrats rhetoric and behavior (policy) are both reminiscent and escalation of Bushco in so many ways.

Wasn't it Bush Jr. who said something along the line of "Democracies don't attack each other"?

NotTimothyGeithner, September 29, 2015 at 12:03 pm

It's just the old Democratic peace theory. It's utter garbage. I'm sure 43 said it because he repeated the last thing he heard anyway. World War I is pitched as a battle between old world tyrannical such as Germany (with universal male suffrage for its power base) versus shining beacons of democracy such as the UK and France which weren't quite democracies yet. Hitler sort of won a national election. Churchill was selected in a secret meeting when Chamberlain had to step down. So where is the democratic line? It's always been subjective test.

Of course, all governments rule by the consent of the governed.

JerseyJeffersonian, September 29, 2015 at 5:37 pm

Actually, Leander, the vaunted "independence" of the central banks of the US, Great Britain, and Deutschland is largely a fiction. And this very fiction has the effect of hyper-empowering both the financial sector and the oligarchs with whom the financial sector exists in a symbiotic relationship; in point of fact, these "independent" central banks are largely mere creatures of the financial sector and the symbiont oligarchs. The carefully cultivated appearance of independence is a sham under whose cover the truth about how central bank policies cater slavishly to the interests of the financial sector and oligarchs remains unrecognized.

Careerist movement back and forth between the central banks and the financial sector (along with the academic and think tank communities in which neo-liberalism reigns supreme as the only accepted school of economics) facilitates the group-think that culminates in the intellectual capture of the "independent" central banks. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Welcome to Naked Capitalism; our hosts provide us with a rich spread of knowledge and analysis, rather as Col. Lang does at his blog, Sic Semper Tyrannis, at which I have also read your posts.

MaroonBulldog, September 29, 2015 at 11:13 pm

In United States administrative law, the word "independent" has an interesting meaning: it refers to an executive regulatory agency that is "independent of the president," in the sense that the president cannot easily remove the head of the agency. The Fed is independent in this sense: the president cannot easily fire Chair Yellen or any other member of the Fed's board of governors.

An agency can be "independent" in this sense and still completely captured by the industry it purports to regulate.

Yves Smith, September 30, 2015 at 3:42 am

*Sigh*

The Fed is NOT owned by banks.

Banks hold shares of non-voting preferred stock in regional Feds. The Board of Governors, which approves the hiring of all regional Fed presidents, is most assuredly part of the Federal government. The regional Feds are more like a nasty public-private partnership with a bad governance structure (as in the regional Fed boards on which banks have some, and I stress some, director seats, cannot hire or fire ANYONE at a regional Fed, they do not approve budgets or other policy actions. Their role is strictly advisory, although the regional Feds, being more than a little captured cognitively, give that advice a fair bit of weight.

To give an idea how much power those banks you incorrectly deem to be owners have: Congress is looking at passing a bill to cut the dividends of the all but small banks how hold shares in the Fed by 75%. Pray tell, can Congress tell a private company to cut its dividends?

TedWa, September 30, 2015 at 10:21 am

Hi Yves : I don't see any Fed "independence" in action and haven't for quite some time.


Max, September 29, 2015 at 11:40 am

Ah yes, the notoriously secular and definitely legitimate PDPA government of Afghanistan 'overthrown' by the US. Is that a joke? Has Michael Hudson ever read a book about the Afghan civil war, a highly complex, decade-plus asymmetrical conflict with constantly shifting actors and allegiances? Reducing it to a narrative about US imperialism is intellectually dishonest on its own (there is no evidence that the US ever provided material support to the Taliban – everything from HRW to internal US documents to the academic consensus to journalistic accounts such as Ahmed Rashid's Taliban (2001?) contradicts that claim), nevermind that the Khalqi-Parcham government was a Soviet puppet government and an imperial construct in its own right. Check out any works by Barnett Rubin (U Nebraska?) or Thomas Barfield (B.U.)

The Mujahideen debacle (Which is both a separable and conjoined issue to the rise of the Taliban depending on time frame) was a result of poor US oversight of Pakistan, an internal US policy failure (no accountability or human intelligence on the ground) and of course intimately tied to the USSR's campaign of genocide in Afghanistan. Yes, the CIA gave the ISI $2-3bil in loose change to funnel into the Mujahideen (which were not united in any meaningful sense at any point in time, and frequently factionalized over pork-barrel / ethnic / tribal issues), however, the US policy at the time was hands-off with regard to how that money was spent, and if you read Peter Tomsen's book about his time as HW's special envoy it becomes quite clear that the blinders were on in Washington with regard to what was actually happening there on the ground.

Here's a quick and outdated overview for anyone who would like to educate themselves about this conflict: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/afghan2/Afghan0701-02.htm

I understand that the Russophilia on this blog runs strongly but the inhumane destruction visited upon the Afghan people by the USSR's geopolitics is and was sickening, imperialistic and functionally a genocide. How am I supposed to take any of this polemic seriously when the author can't even be bothered to read about a conflict? This is a prime example of ideology driving discourse. There are plenty of fair-game examples to call out the US's short-sighted and globally destructive foreign policy. I do not see the point in allowing ideology to cover for misinformation and misrepresentation of historical facts – that's the playbook of neoliberal hustlers.

Faroukh Bulsara, September 29, 2015 at 2:53 pm

"…the notoriously secular and definitely legitimate PDPA government of Afghanistan 'overthrown' by the US. Is that a joke?"

Umm, Max buddy, where in this article did Hudson say such a thing? Right, he didn't. But thanks for the Afghan history lesson anyway.

Max, September 29, 2015 at 3:13 pm

"Democracy is the overthrow of Afghanistan's secular government by the Taliban against Russia."

It's right there in the opening paragraph, and the accusation is rather explicit.

juliania, September 29, 2015 at 8:53 pm

That's an awkward sentence to be sure, Max – I puzzled over that one myself. I'm more in favor of this extract from Putin's speech at the UN:

". . .We should all remember the lessons of the past. For example, we remember examples from our Soviet past, when the Soviet Union exported social experiments, pushing for changes in other countries for ideological reasons, and this often led to tragic consequences and caused degradation instead of progress. . ."

Sort of 'puts paid' to trying to equate the Russian Federation with the Soviet Union, doesn't it?

OIFVet, September 29, 2015 at 3:15 pm

Is that the same HRW that can't find evidence of Kiev purposefully targeting and killing civilians? The same HRW that has never said a thing about the US support for murderous regimes in Latin America? Or about US war crimes? Yeah OK, I will take their word on how Afghanistan went down, over the US' proven track record of destroying any and all left-leaning Third World governments from 1950 onward.

Max, September 29, 2015 at 3:38 pm

Attack one of my sources, fine – the others still exist in far greater numbers. Barnett Rubin is my favorite, his book "Blood on the Doorstep" is excellent.

Is everything part of the US capitalist plot or is there some verifiable source that you will accept without dismissing out of hand? You didn't even attempt to read the source.

The Afghan government was left leaning in the sense that it was more socially progressive than the population living outside of Kabul, all 80% of the country that the government did not control in fact; and their authoritarian approach to instituting gender equality and abolishing Islam had a disastrous effect on the government's popularity and tribal credit, which was and is necessary to gain the support of the rural population. Other than that it was your typical post-Stalinist tankie failed experiment in land redistribution and Party education apparatus that only served to create a new class of insular elites & alienating/disenfranchising the majority of the population while hamstringing developmental progress made by actual Afghans in the decades before the Soviets (and eventually Pakistan and the US) got their hands in the pot.

OIFVet, September 29, 2015 at 3:55 pm

IOW, the Soviets and the US were like peas in a pod. Funny that the "accomplishments" cited by Empire apologists also used to include gender equality and the creation of insular elites. So what's your point, that the Soviets tried to prop-up their flunkies by force? Pot calling the kettle black, much like 0bama's speech yesterday. And HRW has often acted in concert with the US to cover up its crimes while hypocritically calling out those who weren't "our sonzofbiatches."

likbez, September 30, 2015 at 9:23 pm

The Afghan government was left leaning in the sense that it was more socially progressive than the population living outside of Kabul, all 80% of the country that the government did not control in fact; and their authoritarian approach to instituting gender equality and abolishing Islam had a disastrous effect on the government's popularity and tribal credit, which was and is necessary to gain the support of the rural population. Other than that it was your typical post-Stalinist tankie failed experiment in land redistribution and Party education apparatus that only served to create a new class of insular elites & alienating/disenfranchising the majority of the population while hamstringing developmental progress made by actual Afghans in the decades before the Soviets (and eventually Pakistan and the US) got their hands in the pot.

That's plain vanilla propaganda. Or more charitably you are oversimplifying the issue and try to embellish the USA behavior. Which was a horrible crime. Soviets were not that simplistic and attempts to abolish Islam were not supported by Soviets. They tried to create a secular country that's right but with Islam as a dominant religion.

See http://www.historycommons.org/timeline.jsp?timeline=afghanwar_tmln&afghanwar_tmln_soviet_occupation_of_afghanistan=afghanwar_tmln_us_aid_to_islamist_mujaheddin

And how many years Afghan government survived after the USSR dissolved and financial and technical aid disappeared. You need to shred your post and eat it with borsch. It's a shame.


fajensen, September 30, 2015 at 5:35 am

Ah, but: "A man is known by the company he keeps".

Whatever Putin is besides, he is *not* a friend, ally and global protector of Saudi Arabic Wahhabism!

With friends like that, it is clear o everyone else that you people are circling pretty close to the drain already and we non-USA-nian un-people prefer to not be sucked into your decline via TTIP et cetera.

Michael Hudson, September 29, 2015 at 11:17 pm

Max, your comment does not make sense.

All I can say is that this blog is NOT Russiaphilia. That's name calling. It is not Russiaphilia to note the effect of U.S. foreign policy on bolstering the most right-wing fundamentalist Islamic groups, Latin American right-wing kleptocracies or other dictatorships.

Whatever Soviet oppression was in Afghanistan, it did not back religious extremism. Just the opposite.

OIFVet, September 29, 2015 at 11:38 pm

Nick was probably one of those who screamed about cheese-eating surrender monkeys while stuffing themselves with supersized freedom fries orders.

September 29, 2015 at 3:47 pm


Ahem. Egypt. Egypt had a brief democracy.

Iran had a very real and true democracy (1955) but it was wiped out by the US.

Lot's of countries actually have democratic elections but when the people elect someone the US disapproves of, that democracy has to go and is ALWAYS replaced by a dictatorship.

Obama's a corrupt idiot. Syria is a mess only because the US made it that way, NOT because Assad is a meanie.

Reply ↓

cwaltz

September 30, 2015 at 2:50 am


It's possible that Assad is a meanie AND that Syria is a mess because as usual we half assed support people who are just as horrible as him. It isn't like Saddam wasn't our great friend before we declared him horrible, terrible awful leader.

Reply ↓

OpenThePodBayDoorsHAL, September 29, 2015 at 5:39 pm

The words in their respective UN speeches were very clear. Obomba: "I believe that what is true for America is true for virtually all mature democracies". Putin: "No one is obliged to conform to a single development model that is considered by someone else as the right one".
Ask yourself which statement the Founding Fathers of the U.S. would agree with. Yankee go home.

bh2, September 29, 2015 at 10:40 pm

"Hope and change", baby! The long arc of history bends toward despotism.

Knute Rife, September 29, 2015 at 11:25 pm

This has been a favorite US tactic since the Marines hit Tripoli (anti-piracy myths notwithstanding), took off with the Spanish-American War, went through the roof when the Latin American interventions started in earnest in the 20s, and became our peculiar and cherished institution with the Cold War. Obama is just continuing the tradition.

cwaltz , September 30, 2015 at 2:37 am

I'll give him this- it's as close to being transparent on our foreign policy as I've seen any of his predecessors come.

At least, he's admitting that our end game has always been first and foremost about our own interests. Now if he'll only admit that THIS is why the world really hates us. Being selfish and protecting only your own interests at the cost of others is never going to be a winning plan to encourage people to like you or trust you(particularly when you collude behind closed doors to carry out those interests.)

*Sigh* We're America. We set the bar low when it comes to caring about how others wish to govern themselves, our only criteria is that your leader always consider US interests first(nevermind that they aren't actually a US leader and should be putting their own inhabitants first.)


[Sep 13, 2015] Putin attacks U.S. electoral college system 'There is no democracy there'

The Washington Post

ravensfan20008

I can't believe I'm saying this...but Putin is right. You want to talk about a system that should cease to exist, it's this one.

And before you point to the Constitution and say "not gonna happen," there are plans out there that would render it a moot point, like states pledging to award electors to whoever wins the popular vote nationwide. And they'd easily pass constitutional muster.

jaysonrex1

Actually, Putin is right. After all these years, it is high the time a constitutional amendment changes this system for the straight voting method used in the entire world by democracies and even by dictatorships.

And while we are at it, maybe it is also high the time U.S. abandons the imperial system (it inherited from Britain - a country that already abandoned it many years ago) and finally adopts the metric system thus joining the civilized world - so to say.

And while we are at it, U.S. should get rid of the Senate. It serves no useful purpose apart from representing a unacceptable drain of public funds.

And while we are at it, .....

mvymvy

A constitutional amendment could be stopped by states with as little as 3% of the U.S. population.

Instead, by state laws, without changing anything in the Constitution, The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the majority of Electoral College votes, and thus the presidency, to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by replacing state winner-take-all laws for awarding electoral votes.

Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined outcomes. There would no longer be a handful of 'battleground' states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80% of the states that now are just 'spectators' and ignored after the conventions.

The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of Electoral College votes-that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). The candidate receiving the most popular votes from all 50 states (and DC) would get all the 270+ electoral votes of the enacting states.

The presidential election system, using the 48 state winner-take-all method or district winner method of awarding electoral votes, that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founders. It is the product of decades of change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

The bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 250 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

NationalPopularVote

Follow National Popular Vote on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc

[Jul 12, 2015] Democracy in neoliberal society is illusive

"...As for democracy it does exists, but only for a tiny fraction of population - the elite and upper middle class. And this is nothing new. Historically democracy always existed mostly for the members of ruling class. For Greece that was class of slave-owners. Nothing essentially changed. This dream of "perfect democracy" is just a propaganda trick. And here you are right: "perfect democracy", "mass democracy" or "democracy for everybody" does not exist and never existed. Some strata of population and first of all low income strata historically were always excluded and marginalized. A simple question is: Does democracy exists if a party accepts $100K contributions?"
"...I agree, Anatoly. Western media networks have a wide variety of opinions on a limited number of issues only, and sing in startling unison on the some other extremely important matters. Wikileaks is a great example, the policy on Israel in the US is another."
"..."True democracy requires multi-party system." You are mixing apples and oranges. Democracy requires that citizens are equal before the law and have equal voting rights. By extension it leads to such thing as "tyranny of majority" which is inevitable (that's why Hegel prefer monarchy). Democracy also presuppose that alternative parties are not banned. But representation is completely another thing. If you are representing 3% of population and to get to Parliament requires 5% you are f*cked absolutely legitimately within this framework and can do nothing without undermining the notion of democracy as expressed. "

cartman, October 6, 2011 at 12:51 am

Slavic untermensch – especially Orthodox Christian ones – must be destroyed. Catholic Slavs are much easier to control. Witness that Poland has the presidency of the EU at the same time Merkel is giving ultimatums to the Serbs and German soldier are once again shooting Serbs at the border checkpoints (which are illegal under UNSC 1244). No matter what they say, it is totally irrelevant as a power.

kievite,October 5, 2011 at 11:23 pm

IMHO you are going a little bit too far both in regard of the value of Russian independence and existence of democracy.

As for independence. nobody cares too much about Russian independence as long as most oligarchs have London real estate, keep money in Western banks, teach children abroad in best colleges, etc.

As for democracy it does exists, but only for a tiny fraction of population - the elite and upper middle class. And this is nothing new. Historically democracy always existed mostly for the members of ruling class. For Greece that was class of slave-owners. Nothing essentially changed. This dream of "perfect democracy" is just a propaganda trick. And here you are right: "perfect democracy", "mass democracy" or "democracy for everybody" does not exist and never existed. Some strata of population and first of all low income strata historically were always excluded and marginalized. A simple question is: Does democracy exists if a party accepts $100K contributions?

But situation is more subtle. If the people's ability to vote candidates in and out of office has no meaningful influence on the decisions they make while in office, does democracy exist? The second important question is: "How much civil liberty and protection against government abuse remains in the system?"

In view of those arguments I think it is more correct to say that what in most cases what is sold under the marketing brand of "democracy" should be more properly be called "inverted totalitarism". Like with totalitarism the net effect is marginalization of citizens to control the direction of the nation through the political process. But unlike classic totalitarian states which rely on mobilization around charismatic leader, here a passive populace is preferred (famous "Go shopping" recommendation by Bush II after 9/11).

Barriers to participation like "management" of elections using two party system and by preselection of candidates by party machine are used as more subtle and effective means of control. Formally officials purport to honor electoral politics, freedom and the Constitution. In reality manipulation the levers of power excludes everybody but a tiny percentage of the population (oligarchy).

Like in classic totalitarism propaganda dispensed by schools and the media, not to mention the entertainment. The stress is on eliminating the audience for anybody who does not support the regime. Ideology is supported by powerful research institutions (aka "think tanks") and is adapted to modern realities by well paid "intellectual agents". Milton Friedman is a classic example. The goal is the same as in classic totalitarism: the dominance of official ideology, especially in schools and universities. But this is achieved without violent suppression of opposing views, mainly by bribing and ostracizing instead of the key ingredient of classical totalitarism - violence toward opponents.

October 6, 2011 at 2:17 am

The part about media self-censorship is at least every bit as prevalent in "free" societies such as the US as in Russia. Noam Chomsky's concept of the propaganda mode cannot be mentioned enough. The latest example is how The Guardian and NYT – and remember, print newspapers everywhere are more sophisticated than TV – colluded in with-holding from publication many Wikileaks cables that cast a bad light on the power elites.

Another question is ask is, which of these countries has the most democracy – one where many policy decisions are based on the wishes of corporate lobbyists; and one where many policy decisions are made as per opinion polls and the interests of the "overwhelming majority." Much of the "free" West is in the former category; Russia and China are in the latter.

Reply

kievite,October 6, 2011 at 2:45 am

AK: "Noam Chomsky's concept of the propaganda mode cannot be mentioned enough"

I think the right term is "Manufactured Consent". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manufacturing_Consent:_The_Political_Economy_of_the_Mass_Media

It describes five editorially-distorting filters applied to news reporting in mass media:

1. Size, Ownership, and Profit Orientation: The dominant mass-media outlets are large firms which are run for profit. Therefore they must cater to the financial interest of their owners – often corporations or particular controlling investors. The size of the firms is a necessary consequence of the capital requirements for the technology to reach a mass audience.

2. The Advertising License to Do Business: Since the majority of the revenue of major media outlets derives from advertising (not from sales or subscriptions), advertisers have acquired a "de-facto licensing authority".[1] Media outlets are not commercially viable without the support of advertisers. News media must therefore cater to the political prejudices and economic desires of their advertisers. This has weakened the working-class press, for example, and also helps explain the attrition in the number of newspapers.

3. Sourcing Mass Media News: Herman and Chomsky argue that "the large bureaucracies of the powerful subsidize the mass media, and gain special access [to the news], by their contribution to reducing the media's costs of acquiring [...] and producing, news. The large entities that provide this subsidy become 'routine' news sources and have privileged access to the gates. Non-routine sources must struggle for access, and may be ignored by the arbitrary decision of the gatekeepers."[2]

4. Flak and the Enforcers: "Flak" refers to negative responses to a media statement or program (e.g. letters, complaints, lawsuits, or legislative actions). Flak can be expensive to the media, either due to loss of advertising revenue, or due to the costs of legal defense or defense of the media outlet's public image. Flak can be organized by powerful, private influence groups (e.g. think tanks). The prospect of eliciting flak can be a deterrent to the reporting of certain kinds of facts or opinions.[2]

5. Anti-Communism: This was included as a filter in the original 1988 edition of the book, but Chomsky argues that since the end of the Cold War (1945–91), anticommunism was replaced by the "War on Terror", as the major social control mechanism.[3][4

kovane,October 6, 2011 at 7:25 am

I agree, Anatoly. Western media networks have a wide variety of opinions on a limited number of issues only, and sing in startling unison on the some other extremely important matters. Wikileaks is a great example, the policy on Israel in the US is another.

The real difficulty of politics is making weighted decisions that would be beneficial for the future of the country, listening both to lobbyist and the popular opinion. And mistakes can be made on both extremes. In retrospection, few would argue that the repeal of the Glass-Steagall act in the US was made under significant pressure of financial lobby and it seriously contributed to the 2008 meltdown. But populism is equally dangerous, as it is evidenced by Greece. Adopting policies only because they are popular, without considering the long term effect, can be a ruin of any country. Keeping a right balance between these two approaches is the key.

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grafomanka,October 6, 2011 at 9:57 am

'Managed democracy' is a front, and I would say it's kind of refreshing that we can stop living this hypocrisy now. And it's not because of Prokhorov and Kudrin, but because of bizzaro way in which Putin and Medvedev announced that they decided 'years ago'(!) about the job swap. And not even United Russia knew what was going on. What does it make United Russia then?

kovane,October 6, 2011 at 11:19 am

Democracy, first and foremost, is about the wishes of the voters. Putin can run all he wants, but if he doesn't get elected, their decision will be worth as much as my decision to run, for instance. And that's democracy and all that matters. By the way, why do you conclude that since Putin and Medvedev simply announced their decision, there were no consultations, etc?

yalensis,October 6, 2011 at 12:17 pm

@grafomanka: I don't think the main problem is what goes on within United Russia and how they internally pick their candidate. It is the job of any political party to nominate their best candidate who, in this case is obviously Putin. The real problem is that they are the ONLY viable political party. So, Russia is effectively a one-party system now. True democracy requires multi-party system.

grafomanka,October 6, 2011 at 12:41 pm

Yes, basically….

kievite, October 6, 2011 at 7:33 pm

"True democracy requires multi-party system."

You are mixing apples and oranges. Democracy requires that citizens are equal before the law and have equal voting rights. By extension it leads to such thing as "tyranny of majority" which is inevitable (that's why Hegel prefer monarchy). Democracy also presuppose that alternative parties are not banned.

But representation is completely another thing. If you are representing 3% of population and to get to Parliament requires 5% you are f*cked absolutely legitimately within this framework and can do nothing without undermining the notion of democracy as expressed.

Also you can have an illusory alternative parties system like the USA two party system with "winner takes all" provisions in each state which make success of the third party extremely unlikely. My impression is that the existing two party system in the USA is just an improved version of one party system that existed in the USSR with the only difference that that two wings of the same party (let's say that one that represents mainly Wall Street but is friendly to military-industrial and Energy complex and that other the represents mainly Military-industrial and Energy complex but also is quite friendly to Wall Street) are staging the theatrical battles to amuse the electorate.

I hope you are not proposing special anti-democratic regime of affirmative action to change that situation (as you might remember from Okudzhva song "A pryanikov sladkih vsegda ne hvataet na vseh").

grafomanka,October 6, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Two party system is just like 'upgraded' one party system. Right. But in one political change is possible, in the other it isn't.

yalensis,October 7, 2011 at 12:36 am

Ha ha! No, I do not believe USA 2-party system is true democracy. How can there be any democracy when 1% of the population owns 99% of all the wealth? Is ridiculous situation.

grafomanka, October 6, 2011 at 11:49 am

@kovane

They certainly pretended that there were consultations for the last 4 years, with Medvedev not ruling out that he's going to run, with the talk about some kind of modernizing fraction in the Kremlin.

Now it turned out that none of this was for real. I have more respect for Putin, at least he chose not to violate Russian constitution.

And about wishes of the votes, please. I read that opposition ads in some Russian regions were banned from state TV. Let's not pretend this is a democracy.

kovane,October 6, 2011 at 12:04 pm

So you suppose that if "elites" (that's a very democratic term, straight from the Constitution) were unanimously opposed to Putin's nomination, he would be running anyway? Just because he and Medvedev allegedly made the decision 4 years ago?

Yes, if Nemtsov's talking head was on every channel 24/7 then the opposition would have every chance to win the election. The Muslim Brothers in Egypt were banned altogether, let alone the access to media, but that didn't stop them from being the most popular movement. So let's not pretend that isn't a democracy, having own TV network is not one of the God-given rights last time I checked.

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grafomanka,October 6, 2011 at 12:33 pm

If you didn't mean consultations within the elites then what consultations did you have in mind?

TV coverage is crucially important, because as Kremlin PR masters know right TV coverage can add as much as 15-20% support to a party/candidate. And they have no competition. TV is used for black PR all the time. I don't think Egypt is the fair example, for many reasons, religious etc.

Putin is popular and quite probably Putin is what Russia needs now. It doesn't make Russia a democracy. Democracy is run on institutions, fair competition, public discussion….

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kovane,October 6, 2011 at 12:50 pm

I meant exactly consultations within elites, though "consultations" is a very unsuitable term. Maneuvering and falling behind the right candidate, that's how I would put it.

TV coverage is crucially important

That's what I wrote in the piece. And that's why the Kremlin controls TV so zealously.

Democracy is run on institutions, fair competition, public discussion

That's not democracy, that's a spherical model of democracy. Let's talk about two countries that are usually presented as model democracies, the UK and US. Does anybody discuss the policy on Israel in the US media? Did they discuss if the US should get into the war on Iraq? Bailout of the big banks in 2008? Or any major problem for that matter. And by being discussed I mean not presenting 1001 reason why it should be done. The UK mass media is even more pitiable in that regard. So, please, get off your high horse and stop gluing labels.

grafomanka,October 6, 2011 at 10:14 pm

I don't want to go into 'In America they…' If Russia is a democracy then where are the mechanisms for political change? They are technically there but in reality the Kremlin makes sure that they are useless. I certainly don't see anything democratic about how politics is handled.

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kovane,October 7, 2011 at 8:49 am

Oh, no, you're not going to reduce it to lynching Negroes. The mechanism for political change is present in Russia, and you know it. When the citizens become dissatisfied with the government UR will be forced to make some changes. In many respect the Russian system is more responsive to negative tendencies in public sentiment, because UR can't shift blame on Democrats or Republicans or the Labour party. Whatever happens, everyone knows that's UR's fault.

yalensis,October 7, 2011 at 11:01 am

Well, this is how it is with artists, they experience everything in a vivid emotional manner and are not always rational thinkers. The good news is: Bondarchuk DID show up for work the following day (ergo, he was not whisked away to death star for torture by Putin). I like his rant, I like the way he talks. But I am still scratching my head: what specific policy changes is he asking for? If he decides to build his own faction within United Russia, then he will need a platform of proposed policies. Is not enough to show: "Look how brilliantly I am expressing my emotions! I should be the next Hamlet!"

apc27,October 6, 2011 at 2:48 pm

That desire for a "public discussion" is a common criticism of the way Putin makes decisions, as he seems to prefer to keep his cards close to his chest. Some "discussion" is necessary, but all too often there is that annoying Russian delusion that "any housewife can run a country", that dictates peoples' desire to discuss things, rather than any practical considerations.

The decision as to who will run for a president may have huge implications, but at the end of the day, it is a deeply personal one. What good would our uninformed discussions could have done, besides rocking the boat and setting the power elites on the course for a direct confrontation? Plus, its not as if people's opinions are not considered. There plenty of polls and, of course, the elections themselves where Russians can have their say.

People often use US as an example of the way democracy should work, but what they themselves do not appreciate is that only in US can such polarising and all encompassing "discussions" NOT lead to chaos and ruin.

October 6, 2011 at 5:13 pm

The impression that running a country is little more complicated than baking a cake or changing a tire is common to a great deal wider group than Russians. Please don't think I'm endorsing politicians, but politics and government are their business and they typically have some educational background that suits them to the purpose. The notion that a farmer who spends 70% of his waking hours running a farm and doesn't have time to watch more than the local news can engage at an international level and make decisions that will affect complicated relationships of which he is not even aware is beyond silly. But people insist on the right to be involved with the political process without exercising their own due diligence of informing themselves on the issues, and persist with the fiction that anyone could do the job just as well. Anyone who thinks mistakes in that respect are of little consequence, and any damages caused by a foolish choice based on sloganeering and jingoism are easily repaired should review the G.W. Bush and Yeltsin presidencies.

Putin is largely respected and trusted by the Russian people because his policies have generally brought Russia success, and under his guidance Russia has prospered while avoiding most of the stumbling-blocks placed in its path. They believe he can continue this record of success, and they believe it more than they believe Boris Nemtsov could achieve a similar level of success. Nemtsov was a Deputy Prime Minister – it is unrealistic to imagine there is a significant group of voters who do not know who he is and his name on the ballot would be instantly recognizable to nearly all voters. Voting in Boris Nemtsov, or Kasyanov or Kasparov just to prove the validity of the multiparty system would have consequences far beyond the immediate.

Just once, I wish the government would not mess with Nemtsov – would allow him all the free advertising time he wanted and access to the voters as he pleased. Of course the government could not let him just blather and make shit up the way he does in his egregious "white papers", but rebuttal should be confined to calm, reasoned ripostes that do not attempt to overpower his message, rather offering citizens the opportunity to fact-check his claims. When Nemtsov still lost by a wide margin, as I'm sure he would, he would have to confront the fact that he has nothing to offer Russians but a big ego, a big aggreived pout and an inflated sense of self-worth.

yalensis,October 7, 2011 at 11:07 am

Why cannot a housewife run the country? Was Katherine the Great not a housewife before she became Emperess? Most historians agree she was pretty good ruler, except for that unpleasant business surrounding Pugachev uprising.

October 7, 2011 at 3:42 pm

I assume you were joking, but ruling – as a member of the nobility – in days gone by is quite a bit different than ruling in the superpower age when all is comprised of alliances, "what have you done for me lately?" expectations and constant jockeying for advantage. Resolving international conflicts is unlikely to be brought about by challenging the enemy to a pie-making contest, winner take all. The more you don't possess any background knowledge in – political science, international affairs, foreign policy, trade….the more you must rely on advisors: and then, not only is the resulting policy not your own, you don't even understand it well enough to know if you've been sold a bag of shit that will have serious negative effects on the country.

George W. Bush is an excellent example of the radical pursuit of a narrow ideology that can result when someone is elected on his folksy charm and his devoutness, and not much else. He relied on a tight, like-minded circle of advisors to coalesce his opinions for him, decided things based on "gut feeling" rather than analysis and was not well-read in any subject except baseball despite having had the benefits of an excellent education. And he was a member of the political class!

While some modest, ordinary citizens might make excellent leaders on a community scale or with a simple problem in a subject with which they are acquainted, international politics are generally beyond them and they are not prepared for the infighting among their own political system that will make it difficult to get anything constructive done. I'm not suggesting ordinary citizens are too stupid to be politicians – merely that their life experiences have not prepared them for the political arena and I don't understand why anyone would invest their formative years in preparing for such a career (except that you can make quite a lot of money for doing little but talking and voting).

October 7, 2011 at 5:56 pm

Sorry if I sound a little disillusioned with politics and politicians right now, but I'm still steaming after watching this video from Leos Tomicek's Austere Insomniac, which shows members of the European Parliament showing up at 7:00 AM just to enregister for the day – and pocket their 284-Euro allowance for doing so – and then buggering off for the weekend: many of them have their suitcases with them. I'm not sure what the language is, but it sounds like German and the film takes pains to point out EU Parliamentarians can earn more than Chancellor Merkel for basically doing dick-all. The reporter who is filming this gets kicked out by EU Parliament security.

October 6, 2011 at 4:31 pm

"Democracy is run on institutions, fair competition, public discussion…."

Please provide an example of somewhere that occurs absent influence or interference by the party currently in power.

yalensis,October 7, 2011 at 12:42 am

…or absent influence of big money interests…

October 6, 2011 at 4:25 pm

This is the crux of the argument for me – let's not pretend this is a democracy, but while we're caught up in the tide of refreshing honesty, let's stop pretending there is real democracy anywhere. In that light, Russia is no better and no worse than anywhere else, so let's stop with the finger-pointing and the self-righteous pontificating. I'm not opposed to criticism of Russia, provided it is not hypocritical or unfair.

The Italian papers wouldn't run a toothpaste ad without consulting their guidelines, because Berlusconi owns the media – but nobody suggests Italy isn't a democracy or is a managed democracy. In every country that exercises a simple vote and is not a monarchy, the leaders maneuver behind the scenes to gather more power for themselves and reduce or eliminate the possibility of successful challenge by opposition – by control of media outlets, by manufactured scandal and by inflation or fabrication of their own accomplishments. When everyone drops the pretense that they're a real democracy, the accusation that this country or that country oppresses its citizens by unduly and unfairly influencing their exercise of a free vote will lose its sting altogether. Hey, you, you're a crook – say, fellow crook; like to get together for a drink after work, and compare notes?

On the opposite pole of the argument are the voters, who don't know shit about governance or running a country, much less the nuances of international relationships and alliances, but are ready to vote for the leader with the best hair or the most affable public-speaking style. Let's not pretend that's democracy, either.

October 7, 2011 at 12:04 am

There is no democracy anywhere – and hasn't been for a long time – like the idealized model you describe. I know you don't want to get involved in a Russia-vs-the USA discussion, but the USA sets itself up for just such a comparison by regularly expounding that American-style democracy is so wonderful they simply must export it to others, and by virtue of the fact that most of Russia's harshest critics are Americans or products of American agencies.

Russia is not an ideal democracy, as kovane already pointed out, in that not all parties have equal access to media and the ruling party has extensive control over both voting mechanisms and the rulebook for viability of new parties. However, the USA is similarly deficient in democratic values in that it uses gerrymandering, redistricting and voter disenfranchisement to manipulate the popular vote, and the current opposition seems perfectly willing to use the filibuster to crash the economy so that its chances of regaining power are improved. That's manifestly not what the electorate wants, since polls regularly reveal jobs and the economy as its biggest concerns.

Granted, that's the opposite problem to Russia – in that the opposition has too much power and can highjack every economic initiative by misusing the supermajority rule – but it ushers in what some analysts describe as "the normalization of extortion politics", and is plainly not democracy because party discipline supersedes loyalty to the constituent.

"Tame" media outlets like Fox News regularly report outright falsehoods, misstate the qualifications of their guests and frequently push made-up narratives as if they were real news – is that democracy?

grafomanka,October 7, 2011 at 9:22 am

Mark, in America Democrats and Republicans are locked in constant battle, and of course it has negative effects like extortion policies and Fox News. Maybe It's even too extreme and bad for the country. Quite probably Chinese with their 5-year plans will turn out to be more effective in governing because they're not locked in constant competition battle. But America is democracy and China isn't. Americans don't have it ideal, half of the country alienated when Bush became president. But it is democracy, power shifts, you can watch the daily show which takes a piss out of Fox News.

October 7, 2011 at 3:51 pm

However nice TDS may be, it still behaves as though there are important differences between the two parties when, when it comes to (all-important) economic policy, there really isn't.

Both parties encourage outsourcing, both give huge subsidies to industries while cutting back on redistributive programs, neither party is willing to regulate and prosecute corrupt businesses/behavior (Cheney).. Certainly they differ a bit in the area of abortion/gay rights/etc., but they're doing as little as possible while still seeming distinct.

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grafomanka,October 8, 2011 at 10:31 pm

They differ economically too, but both pander to big businesses, yes. I think if Russia had more diversified economy and more different big businesses maybe politics would be a different story. But when big business in the country are oil and gas, why wouldn't the elites collude instead of competing? Collusion makes more sense to them.

About 'made-up narratives' I think Americans arrived at the conclusion that it doesn't matter what you say as long as it evokes emotional response. In the end it's emotions that win elections, not rational thinking. That's why Sarah Palin, Fox News, etc feel that they can spawn any bullshit.

[Jul 10, 2015] Greece is the latest battleground in the financial elite's war on democracy

"...And what were the boards, and risk and compliance committees of the lending banks, and the regulators of Germany, France and the EU doing while the banks were lending hand over fist to a country which plainly was over extended?

Hardly surprising that the number one priority of the ECB, EU, France, and Germany was to bail out their banks, regardless of what happened to the feckless Greeks."
.
"...Your point is valid if you believe the drug-pusher has no responsibility for the state of the addict. A sensible economy is one where you keep the banksters on a leash - the free market agenda beloved of the IMF put paid to that."
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"... Monbiot is saying that 21st century neoliberalism is the same as 19th century laissez-faire."
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"...To me, what the Europeans are doing to Greece is so transparent, if one knows a little about the history of other parts of the world. But other parts of the world are periphery, in Europe's view, and they are the center. Now they are treating even parts of the Eurozone as periphery. At some point the center gets smaller and smaller and everything is periphery, the other, out there, those people, and the European identity becomes a black hole rather than a beacon of light."
.
"...A very succinct article that hits some of the historical notes that explains how the elites have controlled the masses to their advantage. All the financial laws, regulations that have been put in place such as compound interest, the corporation as a 'person', and the takeover of the IMF and World Bank by US and European elites are geared to keep the wealth in those few hands."
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"...Great article. Particularly nails the canard that right wing IMF policies are "natural", "objective" and "correct." All economics is politics in disguise, especially neo-liberal economics.""
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"...The Greek people did not know that Goldman Sachs had cooked the books to allow them entry into the Euro. They didn't know that Goldman Sachs was betting against them providing the final nail in the coffin of their economy. They didn't know that sub prime mortgages were being re-packaged as mortgage backed securities causing a GLOBAL financial crisis. Only the most informed would have been able to see through their previous governments lies about spending levels. "
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"...Agreed: the IMF is politicised and has operated as a means of enforcing market capitalism on countries which were not in a position to make it work. Agreed: the EU project and the single currency in particular were extremely ambitious projects which in some respects were based on a degree of utopia and some pretty fundamental fallacies. None of which excuses successive Greek governments for being complacently corrupt, economically incompetent and, in Syriza's case, deliberately inflammatory, of course. Not that Greece is entirely alone in this, even within the EU, though as shambles go it takes some beating. "
"

The Guardian

From laissez-faire economics in 18th-century India to neoliberalism in today's Europe the subordination of human welfare to power is a brutal tradition

Greece may be financially bankrupt, but the troika is politically bankrupt. Those who persecute this nation wield illegitimate, undemocratic powers, powers of the kind now afflicting us all. Consider the International Monetary Fund. The distribution of power here was perfectly stitched up: IMF decisions require an 85% majority, and the US holds 17% of the votes.

The IMF is controlled by the rich, and governs the poor on their behalf. It's now doing to Greece what it has done to one poor nation after another, from Argentina to Zambia. Its structural adjustment programmes have forced scores of elected governments to dismantle public spending, destroying health, education and all the means by which the wretched of the earth might improve their lives.

The same programme is imposed regardless of circumstance: every country the IMF colonises must place the control of inflation ahead of other economic objectives; immediately remove barriers to trade and the flow of capital; liberalise its banking system; reduce government spending on everything bar debt repayments; and privatise assets that can be sold to foreign investors.

Using the threat of its self-fulfilling prophecy (it warns the financial markets that countries that don't submit to its demands are doomed), it has forced governments to abandon progressive policies. Almost single-handedly, it engineered the 1997 Asian financial crisis: by forcing governments to remove capital controls, it opened currencies to attack by financial speculators. Only countries such as Malaysia and China, which refused to cave in, escaped.

Consider the European Central Bank. Like most other central banks, it enjoys "political independence". This does not mean that it is free from politics, only that it is free from democracy. It is ruled instead by the financial sector, whose interests it is constitutionally obliged to champion through its inflation target of around 2%. Ever mindful of where power lies, it has exceeded this mandate, inflicting deflation and epic unemployment on poorer members of the eurozone.

The Maastricht treaty, establishing the European Union and the euro, was built on a lethal delusion: a belief that the ECB could provide the only common economic governance that monetary union required. It arose from an extreme version of market fundamentalism: if inflation were kept low, its authors imagined, the magic of the markets would resolve all other social and economic problems, making politics redundant. Those sober, suited, serious people, who now pronounce themselves the only adults in the room, turn out to be demented utopian fantasists, votaries of a fanatical economic cult.

All this is but a recent chapter in the long tradition of subordinating human welfare to financial power. The brutal austerity imposed on Greece is mild compared with earlier versions. Take the 19th century Irish and Indian famines, both exacerbated (in the second case caused) by the doctrine of laissez-faire, which we now know as market fundamentalism or neoliberalism.

In Ireland's case, one eighth of the population was killed – one could almost say murdered– in the late 1840s, partly by the British refusal to distribute food, to prohibit the export of grain or provide effective poor relief. Such policies offended the holy doctrine of laissez-faire economics that nothing should stay the market's invisible hand.

When drought struck India in 1877 and 1878, the British imperial government insisted on exporting record amounts of grain, precipitating a famine that killed millions. The Anti-Charitable Contributions Act of 1877 prohibited "at the pain of imprisonment private relief donations that potentially interfered with the market fixing of grain prices". The only relief permitted was forced work in labour camps, in which less food was provided than to the inmates of Buchenwald. Monthly mortality in these camps in 1877 was equivalent to an annual rate of 94%.

As Karl Polanyi argued in The Great Transformation, the gold standard – the self-regulating system at the heart of laissez-faire economics – prevented governments in the 19th and early 20th centuries from raising public spending or stimulating employment. It obliged them to keep the majority poor while the rich enjoyed a gilded age. Few means of containing public discontent were available, other than sucking wealth from the colonies and promoting aggressive nationalism. This was one of the factors that contributed to the first world war. The resumption of the gold standard by many nations after the war exacerbated the Great Depression, preventing central banks from increasing the money supply and funding deficits. You might have hoped that European governments would remember the results.

Today equivalents to the gold standard – inflexible commitments to austerity – abound. In December 2011 the European Council agreed a new fiscal compact, imposing on all members of the eurozone a rule that "government budgets shall be balanced or in surplus". This rule, which had to be transcribed into national law, would "contain an automatic correction mechanism that shall be triggered in the event of deviation." This helps to explain the seigneurial horror with which the troika's unelected technocrats have greeted the resurgence of democracy in Greece. Hadn't they ensured that choice was illegal? Such diktats mean the only possible democratic outcome in Europe is now the collapse of the euro: like it or not, all else is slow-burning tyranny.

It is hard for those of us on the left to admit, but Margaret Thatcher saved the UK from this despotism. European monetary union, she predicted, would ensure that the poorer countries must not be bailed out, "which would devastate their inefficient economies."

But only, it seems, for her party to supplant it with a homegrown tyranny. George Osborne's proposed legal commitment to a budgetary surplus exceeds that of the eurozone rule. Labour's promised budget responsibility lock, though milder, had a similar intent. In all cases governments deny themselves the possibility of change. In other words, they pledge to thwart democracy. So it has been for the past two centuries, with the exception of the 30-year Keynesian respite.

The crushing of political choice is not a side-effect of this utopian belief system but a necessary component. Neoliberalism is inherently incompatible with democracy, as people will always rebel against the austerity and fiscal tyranny it prescribes. Something has to give, and it must be the people. This is the true road to serfdom: disinventing democracy on behalf of the elite.

• Twitter: @georgemonbiot. A fully referenced version of this article can be found at Monbiot.com

SaguaroRex 9 Jul 2015 22:30

It really is a religion. It's fun sometimes to imagine certain twinings-- compare and contrast. So one day I was sitting around thinking: US...and IS... what do they have in common?

Well,

1) they both pursue really totalitarian ideologies with every conviction of the religious fanatic.

2) Meaning they will subordinate their very humanity to the propagation, nay: perfection! of this brand of 'Utopianism'.

3)They each of them want to completely wipe something out and feel they must do so in order for their Creed to survive. The IS wants to destroy the Past ...as is evidenced by their historical monuments destructions. But the US, they want to destroy the Future... Or, specifically: any future where they are not practicing their own very self-interested brand of money-power religion and are not on top of the world lording it over everyone else.

Both of these visions are so deranged as to be impossible to achieve, but like any ardent Totalitarians-- they will damn sure try and over the dead bodies Of Others, regardless of how many or how much suffering need be inflicted to serve their 'God'...

Remco van Santen 9 Jul 2015 21:36

Conspiracist twaddle to argue the problem is external. Greece was corruptly managed for decades with the less wealthy bearing the burden disguised by an on-going devaluation of the drachma that devalued seven-fold in the two decades to joining the euro (http://www.economagic.com/em-cgi/data.exe/fedstl/exgrus).

The Europeans were naïve to expect the internal corruption to cease and the fixed exchange rate, presented by the adopted euro, simply brought it out to the surface. Greece is the home of democracy, but it is also became the home of those saying we might all be equal, but some are more entitled than others. Adopting the euro exposed the rot and so this is an opportunity for Greece to get its own house in order.

The Eurozone might like to think of helping the more vulnerable like the pensioners are protected and not used by the Greek government for grandstanding. Greece, the sheep, is parasite-infested and to be held just long enough under the sheep-dip pesticide to kill the parasites but not too long to kill the sheep.

Go Tsipras, show you are a leader of a true democracy.

motram 9 Jul 2015 20:50

Looks like the Tsyriza government has surrendered to Eurozone and IMF austerity demand. The game is over. The Rothsyz and the bilderbergys have carried the day in the end.

zolotoy -> peeptalk 9 Jul 2015 20:38

Only the little people pay taxes, as Mrs. Helmsley so trenchantly observed. That holds for all countries, not just Greece.

Allykate mikebain 9 Jul 2015 17:38

Interesting comment Mike Bain, thank you. Only a couple of points the "hoi polloi" are the lower classes not the elite (a common error!) and I dispute the notion that all humans are exploiters and takers. History proves otherwise. The early banks and building societies in England were created by non-conformists, Unitarians and Quakers etc, who did not spend their wealth on themselves but lived sparingly, ploughed their money back into their businesses, and ultimately achieved amazing reforms for the ordinary people here. If the rich, modern Greeks had the same selfless Christian philosophy, the corrupt tax system and greedy loans may not have destroyed their economy.

Allykate 9 Jul 2015 17:20

The "true road to serfdom" or revolution. Don't blame me..... I made speeches in support of the Referendum Party to oppose the signing of The Maastricht Treaty. John Major just would not listen to the people.


Boghaunter mikebain 9 Jul 2015 17:00

Governments are not the people. Germans were not Hitler. He was elected but then assumed dictatorial power. Look at the US - our government is made up of politicians bought by the 0.1%. The 0.1% do a great job controlling what the average American is told.

As for Germany reaping the benefit of no military, we'd be A LOT better off if we made the choice to invest in our country instead of in our ridiculously large military budget. We could choose that benefit. General Butler famously said, "War is a racket," and he was right.

The Marshall Plan was enlightened self interest as the US feared the spread of communism in devastated Europe. The UK received the most $. It also was disbursed with tight control over German politics/administration/economy and required dismantling of much of Germany's remaining industry. It was not a simple handout.


NYbill13 9 Jul 2015 15:45

Why Did They Lend Mega-Billions to Greece?

I still can't figure out what 'Greece' needed so badly that a handful of men who ran its government a decade ago took on these loans.

Was the money invested in public infrastructure? Does Greece now have a fabulous highway, airport and rail systems?

Did the previous Greek government ('conservative,' perhaps?) build a dozen new public hospitals, renovate the nation's schools or build networks of water and sewer treatment plants or desalination stations?

If so, then the Greek people may indeed owe a great debt to European financiers.

If not, who spent all this money and on what? Did those who signed the loan agreements receive any sort of commission for doing so?

Do those signatories now work for the IMF or perhaps Deutsche Bank?

All the press says is 'the Greeks' owe the Germans a ton of money. After 11,789 headlines and articles, I definitely understand that much.

After that, it's just pompous quotes and dire speculation about the future of the damn euro.

How about some background information, fellas? I'll bet you could even find out who signed the loan papers on both sides and talk to them.

Oh, but that would take, you know, research.


syenka CaptainGrey 9 Jul 2015 14:22

The point cap'n, is that the money isn't actually going to the Greeks. It's going to Greece's creditors (the ECB et al) who made incredibly irresponsible loans to a tiny slice of the Greek population. That irresponsibility should NOT be rewarded. The way out, of course -- oh horrors! -- is to just let the creditors take a bath, i.e. wipe the debt off the books. Then, put some money into the pockets of regular Greeks who will, of course, proceed to spend it and thereby relaunch the economy. Would you or I or any European be hurt by such a move? If your answer is yes, tell us how. And, the suffering of millions of Greeks would come to an end.


alpine1994 CaptainGrey 9 Jul 2015 13:22

It's true, the Greek government took the money. We all know about the Legarde List and the rampant corruption of the previous government administrations. They've all got off scot free and instead it's the Greek people who suffer through aggressive austerity. One might be so callous to blame them too, but if the government decreed citizens could retire young with a fat pension, most people would excitedly take up the offer. If the EU had any balls, it would authorize INTERPOL or what ever agency to crack down on corrupt current and former Greek politicians and other financial criminals to help recover money to satiate the debt. These fat cats get away with sinking whole countries!


CollisColumbulus Patrick Moore 9 Jul 2015 09:43

The greatest landholders in Ireland were almost to a man absentees, living in comfortable houses in Britain with wealth extracted from Irish peasants by their middlemen. Furthermore, they were alien in religion, often language, and nationality (the landholders may have considered themselves Irish - in some cases - by they were certainly 'British' in identity also, which cannot be said of the mass of the population) from the peasantry who provided their wealth. The ethno-religious land settlement in Ireland and the stranglehold on the Irish peasantry that resulted were the direct result of British policy in Ireland from the sixteenth and especially the seventeenth century onward and were maintained by the power of the British military. While the situation is too often reduced to 'Irish good, English bad' - note the heroic relief efforts of many private British individuals, especially the Quakers - it is impossible to excuse the British state from a large dose of culpability for the Famine without resorting to historical dishonesty of the highest level.


Giannis Kalogeropoulos athenajoseph 9 Jul 2015 09:40

you are not well informed. please read http://www.forbes.com/sites/johntharvey/2015/07/07/five-reasons-greeks-were-right/ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sectoral_balances

and remember: "the ones who have no knowledge, should not express opinion" Plato 460bc

CollisColumbulus -> Patrick Moore 9 Jul 2015 09:37

"The potato famine was a tragedy, but it is a little reported fact that the only crop that was blighted. During the time of the famine Ireland was an exporter of meat and grain. There was no shortage of food in Ireland - but there was a shortage of potatoes, which was the staple of the poor".

I am astonished that you use this to argue against British culpability in the Irish famine. The actions of the British state and Anglo-Irish colonial landholding society both created the conditions of dreadful rural poverty (and potato dependency) that were a sine qua non of the Famine and directly exacerbated the situation through their adherence to laissez-faire economics. It might be noted that many starving Irish farm labourer families emigrated to Britain to enter the workhouses there, rather than the workhouses in Ireland, because they knew the poor would not be allowed to starve to death in Britain.

Giannis Kalogeropoulos -> athenajoseph 9 Jul 2015 09:33

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Debt-to-GDP_ratio see that map. Debt for countries is not like debt for people ... get informed before you blame ....


nottrue -> CitizenCarrier 9 Jul 2015 08:45

Something brought down Greece.

Its called the GFC. To refresh your memory financial institutions had manufactured schemes that made them lots of money from money that did not exist. When they eventually got caught out the tower of cards collapsed and the world was left short of cash and economies everywhere shrank. The financial institutions that caused the problem were bailed out by taxpayers because they were too big to fail. This meant that a few thousand very wealthy kept there wealth and the institutions could continue to play their game and make more money. The next collapse is not far away. The Greek loans (and other bad and risky loans) were bought by the taxpayer as part of their bail out package. It is shameful that governments refuse a similar bailout deal to the Greeks which involves the misery of millions of people. It is even sicker that the condition they imposed have been known and shown repeated not to work since the 1930 depression.


mikebain 9 Jul 2015 08:30

A great essay with a sad but true take-away point-humans are exploiters, takers. Humans can see no other way forward than to take from the weak - it's the easiest thing to do. Wealth must be protected at all costs. History is replete and is an unyielding witness to human exploitation of anything exploitable, especially the defenseless.

There is one exception to this-the aftermath of WWII. It is interesting that Germany never repaid its WWII debits (or those from WWI) and was the beneficiary of the Marshall Plan and U.S. military protection during the Cold War. So as Germany had no real debt-after murdering millions-and did not have the expense of maintaining a military, it was able to focus on growing it's economy at the cost of the U.S. taxpayer, some who had family members killed by Germans in WWII.

Of course this does not enter into the reporting of the credit crisis in Greece, where Germany is demanding austerity.

And so it goes: money talks, hoi polloi walks. True democracy will always be threatened by the human exploiters, the takers of this world, many who we call "Leaders"-and unfortunately they are legion and reborn on our planet every second; entering life with a mind fully open to and waiting to be filled with Free Market, Libertarian hubris, avarice, and the right to self-righteous exploitation of any and everything.

Michael Bain
Glorieta, New Mexico


Celtiberico 9 Jul 2015 08:27

the gold standard – the self-regulating system at the heart of laissez-faire economics – prevented governments in the 19th and early 20th centuries from raising public spending or stimulating employment. It obliged them to keep the majority poor while the rich enjoyed a gilded age. Few means of containing public discontent were available, other than sucking wealth from the colonies and promoting aggressive nationalism. This was one of the factors that contributed to the first world war. The resumption of the gold standard by many nations after the war exacerbated the Great Depression, preventing central banks from increasing the money supply and funding deficits. You might have hoped that European governments would remember the results.

The worrying part is that a repeat performance today would quite possibly result in the destruction of human civilisation, or even life on earth.


Cecelia O'brien 9 Jul 2015 05:22

there may be a few errors here but fundamentally this article is spot on! Good for you!

I'd add though we let this happen - we too were greedy and the managerial middle class stood by as the unions were destroyed - we all took this 15% returns on dicey investments and did not question how such high rates could be possible - we celebrated globalism while and we supported elected officials who promised us deregulation was going to bring more prosperity.

Take your government back while you can.


JimGC athenajoseph 9 Jul 2015 04:58

And what were the boards, and risk and compliance committees of the lending banks, and the regulators of Germany, France and the EU doing while the banks were lending hand over fist to a country which plainly was over extended?

Hardly surprising that the number one priority of the ECB, EU, France, and Germany was to bail out their banks, regardless of what happened to the feckless Greeks.


Cafael Skeffo 9 Jul 2015 04:34

Appeal to authority.

Capitalism destroyed feudalism? No, historical cataclysms and technological advances destroyed feudalism, but after a period of flux which you call capitalism, power and wealth is again concentrated at the top and new aristocracies emerge who move to guard their position and make it permanent; we are seeing this now with the increase in inequality and the end of post-industrial revolution/post-war social mobility in Western nations.

And you appear to subscribe to survival of the fittest approach of the extreme right wing: 'destroying the inefficient'. Heard that before.


Skeffo Cafael 9 Jul 2015 03:51

Your thinking so extraordinarily confused that it almost impossible to confront all the contradictions and inanities. You really need to do some philosophy courses, and focus on logic please.

Then start to learn some economic history: capitalism does not lead to feudalism, it destroyed feudalism. (I mean, even a simple time line could help you there.)

Capitalism, through its creative destruction, is continuous revolution. Try to get your head around it. It may take a few decades, or even the rest of your life, but you will understand if you work at it seriously.

ThanksNeolibZombies athenajoseph 9 Jul 2015 03:48

"Has Monbiot lost it?" No, his article looks spot on to me. Forcing a country to adopt austerity / structural adjustement policies that have a long, proven track record of causing economic devastation everywhere they have been tried is a form of persecution...and of course these policies have caused economic devastation in Greece.

"Why should [Greece] be allowed to walk away from a debt of its own making?"
(Sigh.) I got tired of hearing this in the 1980s and 90s and the 2000s, the same argument was used to justify beating African economies to a pulp.

Interesting that the rich people who made trillions out of throwing us all into unsustainable debt in the decades leading up to the financial crash have been bailed out and have been "allowed to walk away" with trillions of pounds, leaving us with the bill. It's one rule for the rich and another rule for everyone else, so Greeks have to suffer big cuts in living standards.

Debt is a big stick with which the rich continually beat the poor, and it's always the fault of the poor for some reason.


Benjamin Raivid Giannis Kalogeropoulos 9 Jul 2015 03:45

You don't need to be 'bailed out' - the money you own is fake - made from thin air by banks who never had the money, but were allowed to metamorphosis it (i.e. just type the numbers they wanted, but didn't have) onto a screen. This fake money is then charged at interest. The audacity! It's 'legalised' counterfeiting and totally corrupt. Why should anyone have to pay back fake money, let alone at interest?

The EU waged war against the Greeks - calling them lazy and saying they are in debt because they don't pay their taxes (lol! Forget about being insulted, it reveals a total ignorance of the nature of taxes: even buying clothes at a store, or fuel from a petrol station is taxed! We are always paying taxes!). Brits seriously believe that Greeks are in debt because they don't pay taxes....(while, of course, Britain itself is great at paying taxes, just ask Vodafone and Amazon and Boots and Specsavers...)

Forget the bailout; do an Iceland. Or use the resources you have, land, fields, food - the basic necessities of life, and live.


merlin2 pdre 9 Jul 2015 03:05

Agree with others here. The vast majority of the money (240B or so) went to servicing the debt owed to German banks, laundered through the ECB agent). Another 40B went to Greek banks to stave off bankruptcy and most of the rest was spent (by necessity and EU dictats) on various private/public equities and entities. Much less than 10% of the original actually went towards internal social programs, infrastructure and/or any stimulus activities that could help the country actually regrow its economy.

With no funds for growth and a substantial reduction in tax receipts and economic activities due to mandated austerity, a catch 22 was created as sure as night follows day. This result is so obvious that one is left wondering - could the EU financial elitocrats be that clueless or did they know and caused the Greek collapse deliberately? I see no other possibility. Not when every economist worth their salt, from Krugman to de Long to Piketty and just about everyone (even a few Austrians!) saw ihe crisi coming from miles away and issued warnings by the bushel for some time now.

That leaves a major question unanswered - if the economic wizards of Europe are not entirely incompetent/clueless - what does the alternative mean? if they knew what's going to happen, and let it roll, what purpose did/does it serve?

athenajoseph 9 Jul 2015 02:46

Has Monbiot lost it? Those who persecute Greece he says....

Greece has been incompetent, corrupt and profligate and now owes more than it can pay. Why should it be allowed to walk away from a debt of its own making?

An individual cannot. Did the Greek economists not read the fine print? Why did they not act when the debt got to $100billion? Why wait until you have added another $270billion?

Sure the EU has played a part but the biggest part was played by Greece. The sooner it is out of the EU the better.


athenajoseph 9 Jul 2015 02:44

One may well argue that there were flaws in the EU from the beginning, however, as an exercise and experiment, sourced in a deep desire to unite Europe and perhaps avoid a third disastrous war, it is to be commended and has offered much of value.

Given the Greek propensity for corruption and default it was perhaps singularly unwise for the EU to ever admit Greece into their ranks. However, what was done is done. The Greeks may well be better off outside of the EU or at least back to the drachma, but anyone who thinks that there will be anything 'better' without Greece dealing with its endemic corruption and incompetence is deluded.

You can lay perhaps 30% of the blame for this situation at the door of the EU and banks but the rest is surely on the shoulders of Greece.

The Greek Government should have acted when the debt got to $100billion. It did not. It did not when it got to $200billion or $300billion and it now sits at $370billion. And that is supposed to be someone else's fault??

Tsipras has been playing childish games. Calling a referendum and then encouraging a no vote, which he got, and then sacrificing his finance minister in the name of it, as was correct given his appalling use of the term 'terrorism' applied to the EU, and then returning supposedly to negotiate with the EU with nothing concrete in his hands.

The manipulative, cavalier, incompetent, childish and corrupt behaviour of the Greeks should have them thrown out and the sooner, the better. Let them create their utopia themselves and put their money where their very large mouth is.

http://www.vanityfair.com/.../10/greeks-bearing-bonds-201010


ID7678903 Giannis Kalogeropoulos 9 Jul 2015 02:13

A great description of their actions and the pain they cause. The reason they cut the army is to ensure there could not be a popular uprising that it would support . Also a large number of Greeks have done their military service. A popular uprising led by such a knowledgeable group would preserve democracy and they don't want that.


AnonForNowThanks corstopitum 8 Jul 2015 23:25

But WHO really got the "haircut?"

Who got the commissions? Who set up the insurance products? Who is actually holding the note, and what stream of income did they expect to get and what are they getting instead?

I don't think you understand modern "risk shifting," or how much money is made on such deals, and I don't think that anyone does, frankly.

But like Socrates, at least I realize that I don't know -- because these are not regulated markets, their actions are hidden from scrutiny yet have massive, global ramifications, and all we have been fed are ridiculous, home-spun metaphors designed to stoke mindless rage. I'm sorry, but you've fallen for it.


AnonForNowThanks BeastNeedsMoreTorque 8 Jul 2015 23:13

As John Lanchester pointed out in IOU: Why Everyone Owes Everyone and No One Can Pay, there were a lot of things that "could" be done when the US and its sphere of influence had to "compete" with the Soviets in a "beauty contest."

Thanks to Sputnik, little American children learned physical science and calculus in public schools, thanks to the Cuban system of medicine the elderly got Medicare, thanks to the Red Army Germany got debts forgiven, and thanks to the whole lot of them major appliances ran trouble-free for 20 years.

Don't dismiss it. Read what he has to say.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/06/books/06book.html?_r=0

In any event, that was then. This is now.


AnonForNowThanks iOpenerLo114Lat51 8 Jul 2015 22:52

So you believe investment bankers have to be FORCED to set up bond auctions that will result in commissions so large that they and their children and their children's children will be set up for life?

They were screaming, "no, NO!" and trying to push the money back out of their pockets, but they were forced.

In the case of Greece, the bonds were engineered by a right-wing government acting in collusion with Goldman Sachs. And there will be complete idiots who will believe your tale, that the "leftists" forced loans to be made to Greece.

The sad part is that although you do have to count on mass idiocy, a two-minute memory and an even shorter attention span, you can.


Giannis Kalogeropoulos 8 Jul 2015 22:44

if they only could give us some time to breath ... Greece from 1994 till 2008 have pay for loans 540 billions and everything was fine to the country and the loaners. we can pay 320 billion we owe now (that was 190bn before EU run to "save" us) but they don't want to get the money! they have made a trap! they turn the Goldman Sachs loans to EU loans, so ordinary EU people will have to pay it! why? ask your governments ... who did it! (so it seems we are not the only ones with corrupted governments) ... then, they come to tell us how to run the country (and sell all the valuable to German France etc. private companies for a penny ) ... HOW WOLD YOU FEEL, if you get a loan to buy a house and someone from the bank comes every day to your house, to tell you what to eat, how to dress, how to use water and electricity ... to don't pay to educate your kids, to sell your favorite leather chair, so he can make sure he will get his money back???? and all that, while you were paying the debt on time!!!!!!!! how would you feel??? ... that's how we feel ... they did it to us, they will try it on you all too, sooner or later ... its harvest time and banks don't know what is civil rights or democracy. they need assets, houses cars gold land for to turn their worthless paper in to real value!!!! keep in mind that in Greece at 1998 it was discovered one of the biggest oil reserves in Europe .... coincidence that after that Goldman sachs "bomb" us with loans???? think again. ordinary people are in danger of loosing our freedom today in Europe from banks who we owe some paper they type and tell us it has value ... but it cost to them, some ink and paper ... Greek referendum scared them. they are afraid of little people come together and form groups of common interests. cause that gives us power. we have power to change our faith, as we Greeks are trying to do. we stopped them from stealing the valuable of our country and to drink our blood just by choosing the right government and say no to fear! they try to scare us by saying we become Zimbabwe (no offence to that country) that we die from hunger with out money, they close our banks, they said we ll become fail state etc. still we vote no! one and only reason. ENOUGHT IS ENOUGHT and when someone feed a desperate man to the wolfs, he will return leading the wolfs!!! I think banks will not stop so we must all be suspicious and supportive to each other. together we won the Huns, we won the Turks, we won the Nazis, we won dark ages, we can win banks ... we want and we will pay back every penny of what we owe (even if its with tricky interests) as we always did. but they have to let us to do so. how on earth, they make us to close our factories and productive companies and they expect us to pay back?? they ask to double costs on touristic businesses. but if so Greece will become expensive for tourists and they will go elsewhere! tourist industry produces 7% of Greek economy!!!! hmmm wait! German companies last 10 years have bought great deal of hotels in turkey!!!! ... and they say they want to save us... 5 years they did the worst they could to save us and the best they could for to buy all the valuable assets here. so that is what its all about ... fortunately we have a strong army (one of the best trained in world, and that because we have near war events with turkey all time around), cause else they will threaten us even with army force. how accidental that 5 years now, they cut 60% of money for the army, and they want to cut even more ... Germany France and others last 20 years sold us weapons worth over 90bn euro. now they say we have very big army. but we don't have neighbors Luxemburg or Belgium! we have aggressors like turkey (2 biggest army in NATO), Syria's crisis Libya Albania's uck etc. why now they discover that we have to cut 50% of our army??? they used it to all crisis but now is a danger ... also because we are the last neighboring battle grounds like Syria etc we receive refugees and emigrants from all poor countries. estimates say they are now over 30% of Greek population!!!! over 3million!!! EU offers advise their respect but nothing else!!!

WE HAVE CRISIS! we have 1,5 million unemployed! how can we feed the poor emigrants who want to go to England Germany France etc and we are forced by EU rools to keep them here??? why EU acts like nothing is wrong? ... I hope you are wiser now about what is happening to a small but proud country called Greece, last borders of EU with the "dangerous" out world ...


Naseer Ahmad 8 Jul 2015 20:40

The Bengal famines were engineered by the East India Company http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/mar/04/east-india-company-original-corporate-raiders

Tsipras should tell the latter day East India Companies to take a hike. Sadly, I think he'll back down because socialists are just as bound by economic orthodoxy as Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus and their descendants.

As Alfred Marshall argued, "man should be equally important as money, services are as important as goods, and that there must be an emphasis on human welfare, instead of just wealth".


LostintheUS 8 Jul 2015 19:49

Excellent essay. Hear, hear!

I was just reading exactly this last night, that the famine was caused "partly by the British refusal to distribute food, to prohibit the export of grain" in the "Chronicles of the Macedonian". A ship that was the second ship captured by the American navy during the War of 1812. In the 1840s, the "Macedonian" was borrowed by a private citizen/sea captain to take food to Ireland. He made the observation that none of the other crops had failed and that people were starving by the hundreds of thousands because the British government would not distribute these other crops that had been extremely successful.


seaspan 8 Jul 2015 19:47

Predatory international finance is killing capitalism. Where austerity simply means shrinking the private economy and making more and more working age people to be dependent on government, but receiving less and less money driving them to poverty and penury, which kills capitalism even more. This will surely lead to socialism (massive govt intervention and investment) or fascism (economic slavery under authoritarian rule).


Rozina DavidRees 8 Jul 2015 19:45

Unfortunately, people didn't like the results of communism and it depended in the assumption that humans like sharing and aren't greedy. We don't and we are.

That last sentence itself could also be an assumption. How much of the self-interest and greed, that we are taught is innate, is actually inculcated into us by culture and becomes ingrained habit hard to overcome and easy to indulge in an environment where we are constantly pushed to acquire more possessions and pile up more debt?

There are other alternatives to capitalism and communism: you could try investigating social credit as one alternative.

According to Douglas, the true purpose of production is consumption, and production must serve the genuine, freely expressed interests of consumers. In order to accomplish this objective, he believed that each citizen should have a beneficial, not direct, inheritance in the communal capital conferred by complete access to consumer goods assured by the National Dividend and Compensated Price.[6] Douglas thought that consumers, fully provided with adequate purchasing power, will establish the policy of production through exercise of their monetary vote.[6] In this view, the term economic democracy does not mean worker control of industry, but democratic control of credit.[6] Removing the policy of production from banking institutions, government, and industry, Social Credit envisages an "aristocracy of producers, serving and accredited by a democracy of consumers."[6]


CodePink 8 Jul 2015 19:38

And yet, when the private banks (financial elite) needed bailing out to the tune of TRILLIONS of dollars due to their own greedy practices, the taxpayer was forced into it.

Given most of Greece's debt was originally owed to private banks like Goldman Sachs who continued to loan them money despite the fact they knew they couldn't pay it back, and they then somehow managed to convince the ECB to take on the debt - the old socialise the losses, privatise the profits scheme - perhaps the IMF should be looking to GS and the likes to contribute significantly to paying down Greece's debt.

lifeloveroverall 8 Jul 2015 19:26

The order from and to the Brussels Donkeycrats : Attack and no mercy to Greece. Regardless: we are the chosen, on a holy mission to keep safe our beloved money power. But here is my wish to all Donkeycrats, may you all burn in Hell.
PS: my apologies to the poor donkeys


estragon11 8 Jul 2015 19:09

as far as that goes, who cares about the planet as long as there is money to be made?

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/jul/08/exxon-climate-change-1981-climate-denier-funding


blacksox666 8 Jul 2015 18:58

Austerity, Merkel style, is just a modern version of Le droit du Seigneur, but writ large. it's time for another version of 1932 when the Republicans were thrown out and men and women who cared about the middle and lower classes took the reigns of government. Time for the Greeks to start printing Drachmas and go forward. it has been said "better a horrible end than horrors with no end"


goldstars 8 Jul 2015 18:25

More people need to know about the IMF's actions in the world, and how that affects all of us. It won't get better unless people realise they can stand up to it. The Guardian is still vaguely leftwing enough (or has that history) that it attracts those who already have sympathy or understanding. We need to see Monbiot's articles, and similar information, spread far and wide in all mainstream media.


RealWavelengths 8 Jul 2015 18:15

"The IMF is controlled by the rich, and governs the poor on their behalf. It's now doing to Greece what it has done to one poor nation after another, from Argentina to Zambia. Its structural adjustment programmes have forced scores of elected governments to dismantle public spending, destroying health, education and all the means by which the wretched of the earth might improve their lives."

Best synopsis of the IMF. However, I disagree that returning to the gold standard during the interwar period was a factor in the Great Depression. Creative credit policy was the main culprit.


seaspan 8 Jul 2015 17:30

The Greek pension system has four aspects that should be considered. 1) demographics,,, 20% of the population is aged 65 and over, 2) Govt layoffs by attrition (early retirement options), 3) no clear distinction between social security and welfare, 4) disability pensions. Officially, the retirement age is 66 years old climbing from 57 in 2009. Where people get manipulated is the malicious citing of individual cases as being the rule rather than the exception. Demand context when reading these false statistics...

oldamericanlady YouDidntBuildThat 8 Jul 2015 16:57

The notion that public spending didn't make a dent in the poverty rate is simply absurd, but it's one of those invented facts repeated endlessly by right-wingers because it sounds like it might be true.

In fact, there was a sharp decline in various indicators of poverty from the late 1960s until the early 1980s, when the launch of Reaganomics took the American economy into a long, slow, steady decline; and even in the three subsequent decades, by measurements like housing, medical care and nutrition poor Americans are unquestionably better off than they were before the war on poverty.

Moreover, look at social spending over a greater span of time: the long-term success of Social Security and Medicare at lifting America's elderly out of the direst ranks of poverty is just unquestionable--except, of course, by reactionary propagandists who insist it can't possibly be true because it's such an inconvenient truth.

Before Social Security, nearly half of America's elderly lived in poverty, many of them in dire poverty. It was not unheard of for old people to starve to death in this country, and many were forced out of their homes and into wretched existences in county homes and poor farms.

Today, thanks to social spending, the poverty rate among the elderly is down to about 10%--still far too many, with income inequality worsened by Reaganism in this age cohort as in all others, but an incredible improvement over the rate just a few generations ago nevertheless.

Public spending works.

Unfortunately, so do incessant right-wing mantras and lies.

Arjen Bootsma 8 Jul 2015 16:55

The world we live in values property rights over human rights.

AuntieMame Ykuos1 8 Jul 2015 16:53

73% of Greece's exports are mineral fuels, followed by salt, sulphur, stone and cement. And don't forget Virgin Olive oil, the best in the world, since it is not mixed with inferior oils the way Italian produce theirs mixed with normal imported oils.

Tourism is a large sector of the service industry in that absolutely stunningly beautiful country, but by far not the largest.

Do a little research before spewing platitudes her about Greece, a country that you obviously know nothing about.

seaspan shout_at_me 8 Jul 2015 16:35

Greece has the highest self employed sector in all of Europe. In any country that sector is the most difficult for tax collection. It is a libertarian paradise...


AuntieMame shout_at_me 8 Jul 2015 16:06

Actually the Greek crisis was caused by prior conservative government, not the lefty coalition of Tsipras which only became the majority five short month ago.

But I guess that you are one of those calling all of Europe as socialist haven, including the conservative government with universal healthcare, free higher education, and strong safety nets for the less fortunate among their citizens.


easterman FenlandBuddha 8 Jul 2015 15:15

Don't borrow from the IMF and none of this applies. Run a sensible economy and you never need the IMF

Sounds logical - until you factor in the fact that the market's-know -best IMF was a cheerleader for the de-regulation of the banks which led to the credit boom which led to the credit crunch which led to taxpayer bailouts of the banks (and counter-cyclical fiscal policy by the G7 in order to head of a global depression) which led to quadrupling of budget deficits in many countries which led the weaker ones into the clutches of ...the IMF who then set about deflating them using a dodgy estimate of the fiscal multiplier which grossly underestimated the damage this would do to output and tax revenue which left them needing more bailouts to pay the interest on the loans ( created at the push of a button) and subject to even more deflation ...

Your point is valid if you believe the drug-pusher has no responsibility for the state of the addict. A sensible economy is one where you keep the banksters on a leash - the free market agenda beloved of the IMF put paid to that.


Henforthe SteB1 8 Jul 2015 14:48

The whole modern system is a gigantic Ponzi Scheme, I mean it literally.

I certainly get what you mean- I've always suspected it's more to do with our banking system though. Interest rates are routinely manipulated specifically in order to encourage growth, and fractional reserve systems can mean that this growth isn't based in anything of real value. Sure, growth creates jobs and can lift communities out of poverty, but can it be sustained indefinitely? And once a society becomes developed, does it really need further growth, at least enough to continue to manipulate currencies to encourage it?

It's presumably possible for economic growth to decouple from physical resource use, although it's not really happened yet. But I suspect there are still 'Limits to Growth' within the pure economic realm. Growth seems to inevitably slow to a crawl as a society becomes developed and its population stabilises: see Japan and much of Europe, and perhaps also look at China where this week the government is desperately trying to keep markets rising in the face of a gradual realisation that the actual demand just isn't there. Perhaps if we learnt to accept this, things might be more stable in the long term.

I agree that we should look back at the Enclosures as a heinous crime perpetrated by the landed elites. The Enclosures are doubly relevant here: in the event of market uncertainty, one can fall back on savings or assets. But government economic policy makes that more difficult: interest manipulation and capital controls mean savings become diminished or inaccessible. But also, in some parts of the world people can still weather hard economic times by going 'back to the land'.

But in the West this is no longer possible, because the common land was stolen.


SocratesTheGooner -> Colin Chaplain 8 Jul 2015 14:17

Take the 19th century Irish and Indian famines, both exacerbated (in the second case caused) by the doctrine of laissez-faire, which we now know as market fundamentalism or neoliberalism.

Not a straw man. Monbiot is saying that 21st century neoliberalism is the same as 19th century laissez-faire. How much more explicitly could he put it?


shaheeniqbal 8 Jul 2015 13:33

This Greek Tragedy highlights the interferences of IMF and World Bank into the democratic processes of a country. From the collapse of Greek economy it is quite clear that "Confessions of a Hitman" was not a conspiracy theory. Every day the third world is constantly suffering the IMF excesses... Greece is lucky that it is in Europe otherwise it would have suffered the same fate as the African and other third world countries indebted to IMF and World Bank and had their arms and legs twisted. It is not only that IMF dictates the prices of Electricity and Gas and imposition of taxes ie general sales taxes but they also interfere in the Democratic processes by backing their favorite chosen corrupt and criminal political leaders who loot these countries with both hands and shift the assets of the impoverished countries to foreign shores.

One hopes that with the establishment of Brics Bank the poor and deprived third world will be able to shop around for cheaper loans and suffer less interference in the internal politics.

The events in Greece highlight the misery and suffering of the impoverished third world countries at the hands of the unscrupulous lenders who once allowed into the country will keep thrusting the indebted economies into further debt and ultimate ruination.


Piotr Szafrański -> hankwilliams 8 Jul 2015 12:51

Hank, you think that "40% [of enterprises] wouldn't have been lost and many Poles would not have left if the austerity programme wasn't inflicted on the Poles.". You might be right, you might be not right. The only way to decide was to check the other way.

Well, at least 51% of Poles did not want to check the other way. Our choice.

Of some interest here is that there WERE countries which tried "the other way" (no austerity). Did not work so well for them. So this alternative might not had worked. But you are free to have your opinion.

"get their rich to pay their share"??? Always those mystical "rich"... Used to be "rich Jews", but after WWII this is somehow awkward, isn't it? But well, the Bolshevik revolution definitely made the rich pay, didn't it? How well did it work for Russia? Wanna recommend this to the Greeks?

But sorry, this time we have "rich Germans". It is politically correct to call to take their money, of course. Social justice and international justice in one package. They are all Nazi, I forgot.


Piotr Szafrański -> hankwilliams 8 Jul 2015 11:59

Hank, our "austerity programme" had started in 1989. And continues. Back then the country was in such dire straights that even the ruling elite ("communists") had problems with buying basic appliances. People's wages were below 100$/month.

Since then, supported by the international community (massive debt relief, massive investments) we GRADUALLY progressed. But the said debt relief was ONLY at the very beginning of the reforms (1989/90). We pay our dues on time since then.

Meanwhile, the price of reform was high. Whole cities had found over 50% of jobs disappearing. Factories employing tens of thousands were being closed. Some of those jobs/enterprises maybe could be saved (we estimate say 40% of the closed ones), but there were no lenders willing to experiment. Axes were in full swing. Many people remember this today with revulsion, and in many cases they are right. About 10% of population (i.e. over 3mln people) emigrated or are shuttling between jobs elsewhere and families in Poland. Unemployment remains high (about 10%). Poles work, on average, supposedly the longest hours worldwide, except for the Koreans.

But since 1991/92, Poland had an uninterrupted growth. Most Poles today earn money they would not believe back in 1989. We slowly grow enterprises and industries competitive or even dominant in their markets worldwide. And obviously, the more you eat, the bigger the appetite grows. Ask average Pole - we are grumbling. Which is not bad - we still have way to go.

But maybe were we were "lucky" it was that 1989 was a clear break - we got suddenly full freedom and responsibility, after 50 years. So it was obvious to most that we start low and we have to keep belts tight for a long time. That precious 51% of people feeling less of entitlement and more of duty was there.


sassafrasdog Gerbetticus 8 Jul 2015 11:57

Yes, I have the Shock Doctrine, and my professor of Latin American history required that we view the documentary version of Shock Doctrine on a day when he was out of town at a conference or something.

I sat there with my jaw dropped. Other students in the room, all much younger, were muttering curses. As an older adult student, I remembered the day when Salvador Allende fell, and could still picture the TV in my mother's kitchen where we had watched the coverage.

Shock Doctrine explained all, like the other shoe dropping.

To me, what the Europeans are doing to Greece is so transparent, if one knows a little about the history of other parts of the world. But other parts of the world are periphery, in Europe's view, and they are the center. Now they are treating even parts of the Eurozone as periphery. At some point the center gets smaller and smaller and everything is periphery, the other, out there, those people, and the European identity becomes a black hole rather than a beacon of light.

It is hard to look at oneself sometimes, but a wise teacher once told me that the characteristics that we dislike in others, are the same characteristics that we ourselves contain. That is the fear. The answer is that by facing the truth of that, we are able to attend to our own faults, and become, humbly, more tolerant of the things that make us all human.

I hope that Europe can acquire some wisdom before it is too late.


BritCol 8 Jul 2015 11:27

A very succinct article that hits some of the historical notes that explains how the elites have controlled the masses to their advantage. All the financial laws, regulations that have been put in place such as compound interest, the corporation as a 'person', and the takeover of the IMF and World Bank by US and European elites are geared to keep the wealth in those few hands.

What has been so worrying is how few people seem to realize that, and cheer on the status quo. Have they such little self-respect that they believe these elites are better, smarter than them? All they have is all the advantages of being born rich. Although certainly some entrepreneurs, like artists, have natural advantages.

Gerbetticus 8 Jul 2015 11:06

Dr Karen Adler states in a letter to The Guardian today:

"The debt that the Greek government is attempting to negotiate on is around £237billion. Compare that with the British government bailout which, at its peak, guaranteed £1,162 billion to the banks. One bank alone (Deutsche Bank) got £226 billion......

So Dr Adler, , if you're on here, can you explain how, in the face of EU prohibition of State Aid to private companies , a , no , The German bank, was bailed out by the British taxpayer to a total sum only £11 billion less than the total owed by the entire Greek state? Forgive me, Im not a practitioner of the dismal science!

bridgefergal -> BeTrueForAll 8 Jul 2015 11:05

Agreed. The general ignorance extant about how money is created - it's created from thin air, for free and is essentially an unlimited resource - is truly breathtaking. The Bank of England had a circular on money creation a short while back, which should have been required reading for the usual "there's no money left" Tory trolls who infest CiF. But who needs the truth when comforting untruths are far more reassuring viz. Labour spent all the money; benefits and welfare caused the crash and the deficit; tax cuts for business and the wealthy trickle down to everyone; only Labour raises taxes (it can't be said often enough that Tories hiked VAT by a third in 2010). Etc. Etc.

Maria Pospotiki -> Extremophile 8 Jul 2015 11:01

Tsipras right after his election, was the first to open Lagarde's list, he asked Swiss bank's collaboration to impose taxes on those who had sent their money abroad, he even dealt with media corruption even though this could do harm to his party. And all these in five months. Us Greeks are not proud about the corruption of our system, but this corruption was reinforced by foreign forces all these years. Even recently, the ex minister of health has signed under much suspicion a contract with a German company offering technical support which hasn't yet been delivered. All these years this was exactly what was happening in Greece with the consistent opinion of the european countries. Solidarity and democracy seem to be a utopia in our days.


Chenoa mickstephenson 8 Jul 2015 10:50

Yes, exactly.

I said before and I'll say it one more time:

Syriza aren't playing ball so they must be dealt with and used as an example in case Spain, Portugal, Italy et al get any similar ideas.

A good question that many people ask is this: why does the current illegal and fascist government in Ukraine get loans from the IMF straight away & 'no questions asked' yet the democratically-elected government in Greece will only be allowed to receive loans if they meet with the harsh, inhumane conditions attached? Double standards due to ineptitude etc etc or planned tactics by neoliberal & neoconservative ideologues? I think I'll go with the latter. This is all about economic warfare and the asset-stripping of countries (read books like 'The Shock Doctrine' by Naomi Klein and 'Confessions of an Economic Hitman' by John Perkins for more info) it's all been done before in so-called 'developing countries' and they are currently doing it to the 'developed countries'.

Also, research shows that the US/Israel/Europe/NATO and allies (the actual planners are linked to the BIS, CFR, Committee of 300, Trilateral Commission aka the corporatocracy) want global hegemony and won't stand for any competition. The neocons/neolibs/zionists have even written books and documents about these things themselves:

- 'The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives' by Zbigniew Brzezinski

- Project for a New American Century

- 'Crisis of Democracy' by the Trilateral Commission

- The Wolfowitz Doctrine:

"Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union. This is a dominant consideration underlying the new regional defense strategy and requires that we endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power."


Brollachain 8 Jul 2015 10:31

The Maastricht treaty, establishing the European Union and the euro, was built on a lethal delusion: a belief that the ECB could provide the only common economic governance that monetary union required. Those sober, suited, serious people...turn out to be demented utopian fantasists, votaries of a fanatical economic cult.

Well, quite, because in Guardianland the basic delusion is to believe in a market system in the ifrst place.

If, on the other hand, you do subscribe to the market - as just about everybody on the planet outside the Guardian does - then one of the things you could do would be to link up with other people of the same mind, and set some rules for the market. But then , as part of the price for joining the club, you also have to keep to the rules.

Monbiot is quite right; ECB is not democratic in this sense. It's a game manager - in its way, not unlike a moderator on CiF, for example. Democracy doesn't really come into it. As a participant, you may like the rules, or not, but nobody forced you to join the club in the first place - the joining part is where democracy comes in, and everyone gets to decide whether to join or not.

Now, Monbiot doesn't like this; but then, he doesn't believe in the system to start with. Like many Guardian writers, he believes in a system where there is an inexhaustible pot of Scott Trust money to support everyone's way of life, and no accountability whatsoever to produce a product that anyone is actually prepared to pay for. Not unlike the Greeks, in fact, until about two days ago.

So what exactly happened recently? In the first place, the Greeks were so keen to get into the game that they lied their way in. Since then, Greek governments have lied repeatedly to stay in. The last Greek Finance Minister was so contemptuous of the system that he openly declared his determination to 'game the system' - to take it for all it was worth, and give nothing in return. From his point of view, there was literally nothing to lose. If the system gave in, he could claim victory. If the system failed, this would simply be an interesting academic demonstration of the correctness of his own convictions. If Greece left, or was ejected from the system for ignoring its rules, then there would always be the Monbiots of this world, with their Scott Trust mentalities, to put the blame on everyone else.

Let's once and for all do away with the myth that all this is somehow to do with 'austerity'. Were Monbiot's ecological pretensions ever to be realised, life in the West would be infinitely more austere than anything the ECB has proposed. Monbiot is not against austerity, in fact he is all for it, provided it is on his own terms; he is against 'the system'.

The system is the market system, which in its current incarnation defers to the not-so-invisible hand of organisations such as the ECB. That is the way the game works , as played nowadays. Monboit needs to be honest with himself. Democracy and markets are two sides of the same coin. If you have a planned economy, democracy makes no sense, since the State invariably knows what is best for the people anyway.

So, as a non-believer in democracy, why is he concerned about 'undemocratic powers' in the first place? In his ideal, market-free State, democracy would not exist. Let the Greeks starve, should be his war-cry - just as it seems to have been Varoufakis's. Let the whole of Europe starve, as long as it brings 'the system' down! Who cares, as long as the game ends with the withering away of democracy and the market he so heartily detests.

BeTrueForAll Rusty Richards 8 Jul 2015 10:29

The EU were as much a part of the lie to help Greece gain membership of the EU as the Greeks were and must be held equally liable. An all round con job by the EU and the IMF.

Correct! The motive was the wealthy wanted the Greeks to join because they could "rent" out their wealth to the Greek government in the form of Greek government bonds and at a higher interest rate to boot than other Eurozone countries particularly Germany. Where there's greed there's always miscalculation of risk!


JustsayNO1954 MightyDrunken 8 Jul 2015 10:28

"The UK doesn't need the IMF. We have Gideon Osborne."

That's just as well, because we have nothing left to sell!

Unlike the Greeks, we gave ours away without a fight, the only thing left are Public Services and they go in the TTIP!

TTIP is the NWO next move, which will give Corporations control of each nations Sovereignty, it's also a Slave Charter, which is why EU insist on Free Movement!


BeTrueForAll cambridgefergal 8 Jul 2015 10:20

Great article. Particularly nails the canard that right wing IMF policies are "natural", "objective" and "correct." All economics is politics in disguise, especially neo-liberal economics."

Your comment really hits the nail on the head in regard to the Greek debt fiasco and indeed all the Austerity War-Mongering politicians around the planet. The "politics" is really about a few trying to get away with "dominating" the many!

Geoffrey Ingham, the Cambridge University Professor of Sociology, in the concluding remarks of his truly excellent book "The Nature of Money" states the following:-

"...... the two sides of the economy - entrepreneurial (and consumer) debtors - struggle with creditor capitalists over the real rate of interest."

I would add to this that in reality creditor capitalists prowl the planet like savage beasts always looking to force societies to be as utterly dependent upon privately created money for sale as possible and ignorant of sovereign governments ability to create public money debt and interest free.

The Eurozone is a classic example of the war going on between public interest and private greed. Likewise the war in the UK with the austerity promoting Conservative and Labour Parties trying to pull the wool over individual's eyes that there is no such thing as a sovereign society being able to create public money.


roninwarrior 8 Jul 2015 10:17

Nothing here many haven`t worked out long ago, but still good to see the truth being written.

This should lead people to the current trade agreements being negotiated secretly. TPP and TTIP are completely nefarious items of legislation that will further destroy democracy, and people need to enlighten themselves and start leaning on their local representatives to be the will of the people.

I watched this recently, and although it`s not directly on topic of these trade agreements, what`s said within it has extremely pertinent echoes to how these processes are being carried out, and generally the entitlement attitude of these corrupted plutocrats.

Greece has once again taught the world a lesson in democracy, and the world needs to take careful heed. It`s also worth revisiting the words of Joseph Stiglitz, , recently published in these very pages. Stiglitz said,

It is hard to advise Greeks how to vote on 5 July. Neither alternative – approval or rejection of the troika's terms – will be easy, and both carry huge risks. A yes vote would mean depression almost without end. Perhaps a depleted country – one that has sold off all of its assets, and whose bright young people have emigrated – might finally get debt forgiveness; perhaps, having shrivelled into a middle-income economy, Greece might finally be able to get assistance from the World Bank. All of this might happen in the next decade, or perhaps in the decade after that.

By contrast, a no vote would at least open the possibility that Greece, with its strong democratic tradition, might grasp its destiny in its own hands. Greeks might gain the opportunity to shape a future that, though perhaps not as prosperous as the past, is far more hopeful than the unconscionable torture of the present.

I know how I would vote.


Youmadbrah 8 Jul 2015 10:14

Corruption at all levels and dysfunctional financial and legal systems are at the heart of any developing economy crisis. Spending less on more vulnerable people in the society will do nothing fix it. Governments usually go this route because the old and the children are less likely to revolt, well they did in Greece so at the democracy works there. The way to fix the country is by radical reform and debt relief. Austerity is just a patch on a dysfunctional system.


skinnywheels feliciafarrel 8 Jul 2015 10:09

This idea that the Greeks went and blew all the money on women, cars and drink is a convenient argument for insisting that a nation of people are made to pay for reckless actions of others that were largely out of their control.

The Greek people did not know that Goldman Sachs had cooked the books to allow them entry into the Euro. They didn't know that Goldman Sachs was betting against them providing the final nail in the coffin of their economy. They didn't know that sub prime mortgages were being re-packaged as mortgage backed securities causing a GLOBAL financial crisis. Only the most informed would have been able to see through their previous governments lies about spending levels.

There was asymmetric information, so when the huge amount of spin and marketing was used to get people to take on these loans people were not aware of all the facts. These loans should not have been made and there are far more factors involved then just Greeks partying all their money away. So why should it just be the Greek people who pay? Why not the banks who were offering out loans at a time when they must have known there was a high likelihood of default?

TruthseekerD 8 Jul 2015 09:54

Indeed, Sir!!

It beggars belief that anyone with a conscience and an open mind can defend the Troika/IMF. They did this to African countries throughout the latter half of the 20th century, hence the problems and instabilities that have continued to unfold there. People in the west didn't give a damn then and stayed asleep, believing the victim-blaming propaganda that gets put about to create a perception that 'the poor did this to themselves'.

Now, having run out of developing countries to pillage and plunder, they have turned their parasitic gaze towards Southern Europe. Again, disingenuous bullshit is sold through their complicit media wing of the vampire banking elites that buys into the right-wing nationalism and isolationist mood that has been carefully cultivated, sowing seeds in the minds of the unquestioning that 'they were profligate, it's their own fault and they should take their medicine'.

It's only when the shit hits the fan (and it will) in a major western economy that enough people will suddenly wake up and smell the coffee, and realise that the banking elites are the ones controlling bought and paid for puppet governments, leading the majority to hell in a handcart.

The much-vaunted sham of western democracy has been exposed - if a people elect a government that doesn't fit in with the agenda of the parasitic banking elites, it is discredited and destabilised so as to punish them for their temerity in not bending over for more virtual slavery. That's what this is really about..........

PixieFrouFrou SocalAlex 8 Jul 2015 09:51

'And to think a decade and a half ago, Monbiot was one of the reasons why I paid for the (paper) Graun every day. I am DONE with this paper!'

George has done sterling work in his reportage on environmental matters. I salute and support him for this. Just don't read any of his articles on finance or economics.


Albert_Jacka_VC 8 Jul 2015 09:37

It should never be forgotten that economics of the Austrian School, as re-baptised by Friedman & Co as economic rationalism, or neo-liberalism, was born of religious impulses -- by fat Calvinists for whom Hell was for others, not for their own class.

And class warfare is what neo-liberalism is. Guilt and shame over sinful debt are the propaganda weapons. But they grow blunt, when the fraud becomes exposed.

The Euro phase is war by the banker class, on everyone else. Only the One Percent are supposed to benefit.

The Irish fell for the trap, Spain's Indignados appear to have been infiltrated by Soros shills, but in Greece, they have run into a problem. SYRIZA is in touch with a desperatre people, whose backs are against the wall, and who have nothing to lose.

The Eurogarchs had better beware. SYRIZA owns printing presses, and is perfectly able to begin running off tewenty-euro notes. The next phase, now that the Troika has bared its bloody fangs, is open and guerilla war against these vicious parasites. Harrying the Germans is not novel to Greeks. They did it before, during the war. And Greece is not alone.


BeTrueForAll Bob adda 8 Jul 2015 09:44

It is hard for those of us on the left to admit, but Margaret Thatcher saved the UK from this despotism.

I was never a fan of Margaret Thatcher's but on this issue she was spot on. I am so glad that Britain is not part of the eurozone. It is an extremely destructive force that I think will end up destroying the EU.

Unfortunately this is myth making due to a shallow understanding of money mechanics. Here is Margaret Thatcher declaring there is no such thing as "public money":-

"One of the great debates of our time is about how much of your money should be spent by the State and how much you should keep to spend on your family. Let us never forget this fundamental truth: the State has no source of money other than money which people earn themselves. If the State wishes to spend more it can do so only by borrowing your savings or by taxing you more. It is no good thinking that someone else will pay-that "someone else" is you. There is no such thing as public money; there is only taxpayers' money."

http://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/105454

Now see my above comment why free "public money" has to be created before "private money" for sale can exist and why public money is essential to deal with crises and in particular crises caused by the misuse of private money creation.


dedalus77uk 8 Jul 2015 09:16

Agreed: the IMF is politicised and has operated as a means of enforcing market capitalism on countries which were not in a position to make it work. Agreed: the EU project and the single currency in particular were extremely ambitious projects which in some respects were based on a degree of utopia and some pretty fundamental fallacies. None of which excuses successive Greek governments for being complacently corrupt, economically incompetent and, in Syriza's case, deliberately inflammatory, of course. Not that Greece is entirely alone in this, even within the EU, though as shambles go it takes some beating.

Two things strike me, though.

If so we need someone to either reform the IMF, or set up the "ethical" alternative to the IMF - any takers?


MightyDrunken Stilts 8 Jul 2015 09:16

It is the obvious problem with the IMF, some countries contribute and other borrow. The ones who contribute gets the votes which means the power is in the hands of the creditors.

Therefore if a country is unlucky enough to need an IMF loan they have to sign a deal which is in the creditors interest and not their own. However the purported purpose of the IMF is not to further the interest of the developed nations but to;

foster global growth and economic stability by providing policy, advice and financing to members, by working with developing nations to help them achieve macroeconomic stability, and by reducing poverty.


Terence Skill rathbaner 8 Jul 2015 08:57

As a German, I want to tell you two things. 1st: I totally agree with your point. 2nd: But Wolfgang Schauble is everything but blind. He is one eager globalist using his power to the fullest to reach his goals. To me, it all depends on the assault on his life in 1989 - he should never had become the interior minister of Germany after that (set up several surveillance laws "to protect the public from terrorism", but only achieved one thing: surveillance) nor the financial minister of this country.

His view on the world and how things should be is just another one than ours might be - his vision has always been a European super-state. unfortunately he is a psych, oder "damaged goods" as I believe to call him. A politically motived criminal who shouldn´t be in disposal of more than his own, barrier-free house.


onoway 8 Jul 2015 08:52

The thing is that the politicians who get in do not practice what they promise.

Nobody gets into power promising to make things worse for people, they spin things so that what they say will do has the shiny promise of a better future. Politicians and businesses have learned very well how to push the emotional buttons hard wired into humanity. Witness the way women were brought to the idea that smoking was a symbol of independence and the implication that women who did not smoke were dependent and servile. Nothing is said at the time about cancers and other issues directly related.

Also, people have a very limited choice as to who they vote for, the only option to protest the choices is to abstain, which accomplishes nothing but make it easier for the government to push through things they would never otherwise be able to do.

Nobody rational would vote for total control of the world's food supply by 4 or 5 chemical companies, possibly the most powerful being one for which the basis of their business is the development and manufacturing of poisons, but that's now what we have, mandated and promoted by governments. Perhaps a suggestion made on QI is the answer, instead of career politicians, all of whom are in it for the power it gives them, governments should be run like jury duty, your turn comes up you are part of the government for however long. Or as the Inuit and others did; nothing can become law unless ALL the politicians agree, if they don't, then it simply doesn't happen. Then we might get back to some form of democracy.

At the very least, it would take longer to get to the totalitarian state we are rapidly approaching if not indeed already in. All we have now is the (very expensive) veneer, not democracy at all.


MrBlueberry DrChris 8 Jul 2015 08:41

The wealth of this world is owned by the Corporate companies not governments and the gap keeps growing each year. For example Corporates take 900$ billion annually in tax avoidance from poor countries while the poorest countries pay 600$ billion in debt each year to the rich corporations. In all 2$ trillion goes from the poorest countries to bolster the wealth of the riches corporations. The total wealth of the world is 223$ trillion.

8 out 6 people are poor. The richest 300 people (not governments) have the same wealth as the poorest 3 billion. It's worth pondering over.


rathbaner 8 Jul 2015 08:40

I'v been struck many times by the similarity in attitude - and the blindness - shown by Wolfgang Schauble and by Lord John Russell.

Russell to Parliament at the height of the famine: "Sir, I am obliged to say, therefore, that while we attempt all that we think practicable, we must, in the first place, refuse to make promises of that which is out of our power; and in the next place, we must call upon and expect those who have local duties to perform in Ireland, to perform those duties, and to assist the Government and Parliament in their arduous duty: and when I say that I expect this, I am quite sure that many will perform it, because I know that in many, very many instances, the resident proprietors in Ireland have been most ready with their money, with their time, and with their attendance, in endeavouring to provide for the relief of their destitute countrymen."

Just like Schauble saying we've done everything we can and it is now up to the Greek govt to rescue themselves and their country.

Both seem utterly blinded to the - utterly obvious - reality by their ideological beliefs. And all this while Ireland was a net exporter of food (to the Empire) and German banks and the ECB are making profits on the €bn from interest on the Greek loans.


halfdan Rahere2015 8 Jul 2015 08:39

Indeed. When one looks at the money lent to bail out a number of banks, e.g. $868 billion to Barclays, why can it not be done to bailout a national economy. There could be conditions attached, such as a caretaker financial advisory team to make sure it was spent correctly, the aim being to get the Greek economy back into a position from which it could grow rather than fail. This may have been done, but Greeks being Greeks, they won't look a gift horse in the mouth for fear that it is a wooden one.

[May 02, 2015] The TPP A Quiet Coup for the Investor Class by Hilary Matfess

September 25, 2012 | FPIF

The struggle over the Trans-Pacific Partnership reveals a disturbing trend in American politics. The much discussed Citizens United ruling granting corporations personhood has given way to a trade negotiation process in which corporations are granted more rights than American citizens, their elected representatives, or foreign governments impacted by the deal.

That trade negotiations with such an immense potential impact on numerous sectors of the American economy have been conducted in secret is troubling enough. To consider that those negotiating the treaty have willfully ignored experts and elected representatives in favor of corporate interests calls into question the sustainability of American democracy.

tom anocu

Patricia Gray is right. It's better if we stop using the much maligned term 'democracy' to a system that works against and NOT for the interests or ordinary people. Using it to justify the abuses government and corporations commit against citizens the world over is a travesty. You CAN'T have both, concentrations of power in the hands of the few and democracy. That is a contradiction not very well understood in the US. Journalists should recognize this and stop perpetuating the patent FARSE. The illusion of 'choice' in the Nov. elections reflects all this.

[Apr 07, 2015] How America Became An Oligarchy by Ellen Brown

Zero Hedge/The Web of Debt blog

"The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don't. . . . You have owners."

- George Carlin, The American Dream

According to a new study from Princeton University, American democracy no longer exists. Using data from over 1,800 policy initiatives from 1981 to 2002, researchers Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page concluded that rich, well-connected individuals on the political scene now steer the direction of the country, regardless of – or even against – the will of the majority of voters. America's political system has transformed from a democracy into an oligarchy, where power is wielded by wealthy elites.

"Making the world safe for democracy" was President Woodrow Wilson's rationale for World War I, and it has been used to justify American military intervention ever since. Can we justify sending troops into other countries to spread a political system we cannot maintain at home?

The Magna Carta, considered the first Bill of Rights in the Western world, established the rights of nobles as against the king. But the doctrine that "all men are created equal" – that all people have "certain inalienable rights," including "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness" – is an American original. And those rights, supposedly insured by the Bill of Rights, have the right to vote at their core. We have the right to vote but the voters' collective will no longer prevails.

In Greece, the left-wing populist Syriza Party came out of nowhere to take the presidential election by storm; and in Spain, the populist Podemos Party appears poised to do the same. But for over a century, no third-party candidate has had any chance of winning a US presidential election. We have a two-party winner-take-all system, in which our choice is between two candidates, both of whom necessarily cater to big money. It takes big money just to put on the mass media campaigns required to win an election involving 240 million people of voting age.

In state and local elections, third party candidates have sometimes won. In a modest-sized city, candidates can actually influence the vote by going door to door, passing out flyers and bumper stickers, giving local presentations, and getting on local radio and TV. But in a national election, those efforts are easily trumped by the mass media. And local governments too are beholden to big money.

When governments of any size need to borrow money, the megabanks in a position to supply it can generally dictate the terms. Even in Greece, where the populist Syriza Party managed to prevail in January, the anti-austerity platform of the new government is being throttled by the moneylenders who have the government in a chokehold.

How did we lose our democracy? Were the Founding Fathers remiss in leaving something out of the Constitution? Or have we simply gotten too big to be governed by majority vote?

Democracy's Rise and Fall

The stages of the capture of democracy by big money are traced in a paper called "The Collapse of Democratic Nation States" by theologian and environmentalist Dr. John Cobb. Going back several centuries, he points to the rise of private banking, which usurped the power to create money from governments:

The influence of money was greatly enhanced by the emergence of private banking. The banks are able to create money and so to lend amounts far in excess of their actual wealth. This control of money-creation . . . has given banks overwhelming control over human affairs. In the United States, Wall Street makes most of the truly important decisions that are directly attributed to Washington.

Today the vast majority of the money supply in Western countries is created by private bankers. That tradition goes back to the 17th century, when the privately-owned Bank of England, the mother of all central banks, negotiated the right to print England's money after Parliament stripped that power from the Crown. When King William needed money to fight a war, he had to borrow. The government as borrower then became servant of the lender.

In America, however, the colonists defied the Bank of England and issued their own paper scrip; and they thrived. When King George forbade that practice, the colonists rebelled.

They won the Revolution but lost the power to create their own money supply, when they opted for gold rather than paper money as their official means of exchange. Gold was in limited supply and was controlled by the bankers, who surreptitiously expanded the money supply by issuing multiple banknotes against a limited supply of gold.

This was the system euphemistically called "fractional reserve" banking, meaning only a fraction of the gold necessary to back the banks' privately-issued notes was actually held in their vaults. These notes were lent at interest, putting citizens and the government in debt to bankers who created the notes with a printing press. It was something the government could have done itself debt-free, and the American colonies had done with great success until England went to war to stop them.

President Abraham Lincoln revived the colonists' paper money system when he issued the Treasury notes called "Greenbacks" that helped the Union win the Civil War. But Lincoln was assassinated, and the Greenback issues were discontinued.

In every presidential election between 1872 and 1896, there was a third national party running on a platform of financial reform. Typically organized under the auspices of labor or farmer organizations, these were parties of the people rather than the banks. They included the Populist Party, the Greenback and Greenback Labor Parties, the Labor Reform Party, the Antimonopolist Party, and the Union Labor Party. They advocated expanding the national currency to meet the needs of trade, reform of the banking system, and democratic control of the financial system.

The Populist movement of the 1890s represented the last serious challenge to the bankers' monopoly over the right to create the nation's money. According to monetary historian Murray Rothbard, politics after the turn of the century became a struggle between two competing banking giants, the Morgans and the Rockefellers. The parties sometimes changed hands, but the puppeteers pulling the strings were always one of these two big-money players.

In All the Presidents' Bankers, Nomi Prins names six banking giants and associated banking families that have dominated politics for over a century. No popular third party candidates have a real chance of prevailing, because they have to compete with two entrenched parties funded by these massively powerful Wall Street banks.

Democracy Succumbs to Globalization

In an earlier era, notes Dr. Cobb, wealthy landowners were able to control democracies by restricting government participation to the propertied class. When those restrictions were removed, big money controlled elections by other means:

First, running for office became expensive, so that those who seek office require wealthy sponsors to whom they are then beholden. Second, the great majority of voters have little independent knowledge of those for whom they vote or of the issues to be dealt with. Their judgments are, accordingly, dependent on what they learn from the mass media. These media, in turn, are controlled by moneyed interests.

Control of the media and financial leverage over elected officials then enabled those other curbs on democracy we know today, including high barriers to ballot placement for third parties and their elimination from presidential debates, vote suppression, registration restrictions, identification laws, voter roll purges, gerrymandering, computer voting, and secrecy in government.

The final blow to democracy, says Dr. Cobb, was "globalization" – an expanding global market that overrides national interests:

[T]oday's global economy is fully transnational. The money power is not much interested in boundaries between states and generally works to reduce their influence on markets and investments. . . . Thus transnational corporations inherently work to undermine nation states, whether they are democratic or not.

The most glaring example today is the secret twelve-country trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If it goes through, the TPP will dramatically expand the power of multinational corporations to use closed-door tribunals to challenge and supersede domestic laws, including environmental, labor, health and other protections.

Looking at Alternatives

Some critics ask whether our system of making decisions by a mass popular vote easily manipulated by the paid-for media is the most effective way of governing on behalf of the people. In an interesting Ted Talk, political scientist Eric Li makes a compelling case for the system of "meritocracy" that has been quite successful in China.

In America Beyond Capitalism, Prof. Gar Alperovitz argues that the US is simply too big to operate as a democracy at the national level. Excluding Canada and Australia, which have large empty landmasses, the United States is larger geographically than all the other advanced industrial countries of the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) combined. He proposes what he calls "The Pluralist Commonwealth": a system anchored in the reconstruction of communities and the democratization of wealth. It involves plural forms of cooperative and common ownership beginning with decentralization and moving to higher levels of regional and national coordination when necessary. He is co-chair along with James Gustav Speth of an initiative called The Next System Project, which seeks to help open a far-ranging discussion of how to move beyond the failing traditional political-economic systems of both left and Right..

Dr. Alperovitz quotes Prof. Donald Livingston, who asked in 2002:

What value is there in continuing to prop up a union of this monstrous size? . . . [T]here are ample resources in the American federal tradition to justify states' and local communities' recalling, out of their own sovereignty, powers they have allowed the central government to usurp.

Taking Back Our Power

If governments are recalling their sovereign powers, they might start with the power to create money, which was usurped by private interests while the people were asleep at the wheel. State and local governments are not allowed to print their own currencies; but they can own banks, and all depository banks create money when they make loans, as the Bank of England recently acknowledged.

The federal government could take back the power to create the national money supply by issuing its own Treasury notes as Abraham Lincoln did. Alternatively, it could issue some very large denomination coins as authorized in the Constitution; or it could nationalize the central bank and use quantitative easing to fund infrastructure, education, job creation, and social services, responding to the needs of the people rather than the banks.

The freedom to vote carries little weight without economic freedom – the freedom to work and to have food, shelter, education, medical care and a decent retirement. President Franklin Roosevelt maintained that we need an Economic Bill of Rights. If our elected representatives were not beholden to the moneylenders, they might be able both to pass such a bill and to come up with the money to fund it.

[Mar 28, 2015] Pentagon paid accused Chilean killer for years despite revoked visa National Security & Defense

March 27, 2015 | McClatchy DC

The Pentagon rebuffed efforts to remove a Chilean professor accused of torturing and murdering political prisoners, keeping him on the payroll of a prestigious U.S. military school for almost three years after the State Department revoked his visa because of the alleged human rights violations.

Exploiting legal loopholes and inaction across several government agencies, the accused torturer was able to remain in the United States, renew his work contract twice and even travel widely despite his visa revocation, a McClatchy investigation reveals.

The Pentagon now promises changes to its vetting process for foreign nationals working throughout its National Defense University, with an emphasis on accusations of human rights violations.

Officials with the U.S. military school – the William J. Perry Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies – knew by at least 2008 that Jaime Garcia Covarrubias had been accused of being part of Chile's brutal secret police and stood accused of torture and murder.

Yet after the State Department revoked his Defense Department-sponsored visa on June 18, 2011, and a special U.S. human rights violator unit notified defense officials afterward, Garcia Covarrubias was paid sick leave and collected an annual salary in excess of $100,000 until February 2014.

The compensation was paid despite recommendations from the U.S. Embassy in Chile that Garcia Covarrubias face deportation proceedings and potential removal from the United States because of the allegations.

The handling of the matter, some critics say, casts doubt on the U.S. commitment to human rights. Multiple government sources, who insisted on anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, confirmed that once the State Department revoked his visa, no one else moved aggressively against Garcia Covarrubias, partly in deference to the Defense Department.

Garcia Covarrubias was not called in for a hearing by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which reached out to the Defense Department. Pentagon lawyers shrugged off the visa revocation and said the school had no grounds to fire Garcia Covarrubias, even renewing his contract to teach after he took advantage of immigration laws to remain in the country.

"This is extremely troubling. Someone has to be held accountable within the Obama administration and in the Defense Department," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas division of Human Rights Watch, an advocacy group. "It's really hard to believe that it was just a lack of oversight by the Pentagon."

The allegations against Garcia Covarrubias, reported in detail by McClatchy on March 12, sparked disagreement between the U.S. military and the diplomatic corps over how to deal with the case.

U.S. immigration laws allow revocation of visas or expulsion from the United States over the accusation of being a human rights violator. The State Department usually makes this determination but the Department of Homeland Security has ultimate say.

In Garcia Covarrubias' case, U.S. Embassy officials in Chile were struck by a compelling account from one of the alleged victims and early on recommended that the professor be subjected to deportation proceedings.

"It was a very troubling, poignant and compelling rendition," said a former U.S. official with close knowledge of the case, having never discussed the accuser's account before with the media. The former official demanded anonymity because the Garcia Covarrubias affair remains an open legal matter in Chile.

Despite the accusations, Defense Department lawyers repeatedly concluded that the school, part of the National Defense University, was not compelled to fire Garcia Covarrubias because he had not been convicted of a crime. And school officials thought highly of his teaching abilities and expertise in the transition from military to civilian rule in Latin America. Garcia Covarrubias was a military leader during Chile's dictatorship and in subsequent elected governments.

"Termination of a faculty member for misconduct must be based on a determination that the allegations are substantiated, after the employee is provided due process," said a written response from the Pentagon to McClatchy's questions about the case, adding that "Dr. Garcia had not been found guilty in any case brought against him in the Chilean justice system."

In a separate followup statement, the Pentagon noted human rights accusations sometimes occur decades after the fact, and an internal review underscored the need for a "stringent new process to scrutinize the background of new hires." This would include input from human rights groups.

"To further support these checks, (the Pentagon) has developed formal guidance that specifically states all future foreign hires will undergo ongoing human rights vetting for the duration of their employment," the statement said.

The burden of proof cited by the Defense Department for its inaction isn't necessary for the State Department, because many countries have weak justice systems that allow violators to escape any real consequences for their actions.

In the Chilean professor's case, former school officials said he was hit by the State Department with a "provisional revocation." This type of action was ushered in following the 9/11 terror attacks and makes it easier for the government to quickly bar the holder of a revoked visa from re-entering the United States without a new visa.

So how did an accused murderer and torturer remain in the United States with a revoked visa and was even permitted to travel abroad?

Even though his visa was revoked, there were no deportation proceedings or even a notice to appear before an immigration judge. Garcia Covarrubias was actually entitled to remain in the United States until this revoked visa would have expired, on Jan. 30, 2012, current and former government officials confirmed.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement had little room to move. His visa was sponsored by the Defense Department, limiting the ability to pursue criminal or immigration fraud charges. Defense officials were put on notice about the revocation and chose not to terminate his contract, even renewing it later.

As a result, Garcia Covarrubias was able to apply on Nov. 14, 2011, for lawful permanent residency. He was granted what's called "advance parole," and he acquired related permission to work and to travel. Those actions trumped the visa revocation when, according to one former school official, Garcia Covarrubias returned to the United States on separate occasions from the Dominican Republic and Mexico and was screened and permitted back into the country by Customs and Border Protection supervisors.

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2015/03/27/261255/pentagon-paid-accused-chilean.html#storylink=cpy

[Jan 16, 2015] Don't worry. The authorities will quickly explain to you what "freedom of speech" means but putting you in jail, if you uttered something stupid by Olga Tukhanina

vz.ru

Neoliberal Empire is so close in spirit to late USSR that closeness of event strikes everybody. As in cult soviet satirical film "Kin-DZA-DZA: "You now find yourselves in cells, because you say things without thinking, and think about things that you should not think at all". If Kafka were alive, these days he would have definitely died again. The only thing unclear whether from laughing or from envy. Although it can be both.

"No respectable publication in the citadel of the free world reprinted the cartoons"

The Associated Press reported from Paris that after the most massive in the history of mankind demonstrations in defense of freedom of speech, 54 people were arrested for wrong words which supposedly demonstrate hate and support of terrorism. Then the arrests continued, and now the number of arrested exceeded sixty people.

Among them is the famous comedian Dieudonne Mbala Mbala. The funny thing is that this comic was ideologically close ally of cartoonists from Charlie Hebdo . It now looks as if cartoonists, who were perished were Communists, they would be so left to the Chairman of Communist Party of Russia Gennady Zyuganov, that he on their background looks like obnoxious right-wing conservative.

The absurdity of what is happening, when in support of freedom of speech government can immediately arrest the person just saying something politically incorrect, and put him in jail for six months, it has become evident even for selected Russian neoliberals. They, however, try to ignore the obvious concern by saying that those events happened in backward France, and that's why Obama did not fly to the largest demonstration of the freedom of speed in world history.

However, in the citadel of the free world, where freedom of speech is protected by a separate amendment to the Constitution, for some reason no respectable publication reprinted the cartoons.

Talking about large multinationals, it's funny that on the English version of the Apple website, for example, there were no words in support of the victims, but on the French page sacramental Je suis Charlie was hanging. Looks like variant of support of Freedom of expression with severely restricted export channels

Within the neoliberal worlds almost nobody is supposed by those inconsistencies. They explain that freedom of speech includes the freedom to criticize and make fun of all religions. And believers must bow their heads and endure. But hate speech is a completely different matter; it is about inciting hatred and ethnic strife. and you can be jailed for such an action.

Let's try to give a Russian example of such a behaviour. It looks like this: when satirist Shenderovich rhetorically asks the priest why he did not learned anything from the events of the twenties, this is a freedom of speech. But when the Shenderovich asked why Jews learned nothing from events of 30th, this is hate speech and anti-Semitism. Here Article 282 of Russian Criminal codex might be applicable.

For a normal person it is extremely difficult to understand nuances of interpretation of the subtle difference between "free speech" and "hate speech" in the neoliberal world. But neoliberals suck the right interpretation with their genetically modified neoliberal milk. Such an interpretation looks as following "Freedom only for the free men, and all the barbarians mouth should better be shut".

For anybody who lived in Brezhnev's USSR it looks like ideological poles of modern world just reversed and West happily adopted the model used in the USSR 40 years ago. Now we can understand why the US and Western European citizens were so stunned by absurdity of Soviet propaganda and millions of people who on May 1 come to street to march for Freedom of people from exploitation, against oppression and for personal liberties including the Freedom of expression. Under the strict guidance of the party and government and watchful eyes of KGB.

There were also a lot of talk about the "freedom of expression" in late USSR, and you really can criticize decadent West as much as you can, but openly criticizing Soviet regime could sometimes get you a jail term for anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda. However, I will make a special reservation: the Soviet Union was my homeland. and despite all the shortcomings and broken economic model life for ordinary people in late USSR was very good. We have had something that today can be found nowhere - there was no unemployment, no homeless children, no crime, and for children especially it was a great environment to grow up with state provided free education (including university education) and medicine.

However, I repeat, to Western public Communist rituals looked f*cking ridiculous. But at the same time Soviet people have perfect understanding of of this situation and nobody took them seriously; everybody felt that the system was completely rotten from inside and that communist ideology is no longer viable. In the 70s the Soviet ideology lost any hold of people minds. Ideology of Neoliberal Empire in Europe is still relatively new and smell with flesh layer of "free markets" utopia paint and new level of neoliberal hypocrisy after the events of 2008. It still hold minds of a lot of Western European lemmings.

It's pretty telling that Neoliberal Empire strikes former citizens of the USSR as ideological reincarnation of "Brezhnev USSR" in all its rotten ideological glory and absurdity. But it's still relatively clean on the streets of Western capitals (but not New York). And infrastructure is still relatively in order. And people have rather high standard of living. But the real situation with the "freedom of expression" is exactly like in the cult Soviet satirical film "Kin-DZA-DZA": "You now find yourselves in cells, because you say things without thinking, and think about things that you should not think at all". And it is this parade of hypocrisy that we observe right now. There are powerful and corrupt guys who define in what cases "Freedom of expression" is applicable and when it is not. And you need to obey. Or...

But, of course, what Russian people living under authoritarianism can understand in Western European events. Those savages in work robes as neoliberal journalists from "Echo of Moscow" would characterize us. And after such a characterization, the journalist from "Echo of Moscow" will go to have one or two Americano, and is not afraid of being arrested and jailed for some time for inciting hatred and enmity. He is serving the right boss, for the right convertible currency, so why should he/she? Exactly like in "Kin-DZA-DZA". In other words, not everybody can pretend that "We are Charlie" in this neoliberal world. Only selected few.

[Oct 23, 2014] Henry Giroux on the Rise of Neoliberalism

Oct 19, 2014 : truth-out.org

Henry, to build on your last point, how has this growth in neoliberal thought and doctrine contributed, in your view, to a democratic deficit nowadays in Europe and the United States?

Democracy has really become two things for a whole range of anti-democratic politicians, anti-intellectuals, and the people who support these policies. Democracy basically is a word they use, but they empty it, and invert its meaning to justify the most anti-democratic practices and policies, meaning that it's a term that has nothing to do with questions of justice, nothing to do with questions of rights, nothing to do with questions of legality.

As a matter of fact, it becomes a term of deception and diversion - a kind of counterfeit term that's used to justify a whole range of policies that actually are anti-democratic. It's oxymoronic. The other side of this is that the financial elite and oligarchs despise democracy since they know that neoliberalism is the antithesis of real democracy because it feeds on inequality; it feeds on privilege, it feeds on massive divisiveness, and it revels in producing a theater of cruelty. All you have to do is look at the way it enshrines a kind of rabid individualism. It believes that privatization is the essence of all relationships. It works very hard to eliminate any investment in public values, in public trust. It believes that democracy is something that doesn't work, and we hear and see this increasingly from the bankers, anti-public intellectuals and other cheerleaders for neoliberal policies.

"Neoliberalism is the antithesis of real democracy because it feeds on inequality; it feeds on privilege, it feeds on massive divisiveness, and it feeds on a theater of cruelty."

What shocks me about neoliberalism in all of its forms is how utterly unapologetic it is about the misery it produces. And it's unapologetic not just in that it says "we don't care," because we have a punishing state that will actually take care of young black kids and dissenting college students and dissenting professors who basically don't believe in this stuff. It also blames the very victims that suffer under these policies.

The vocabulary of neoliberalism posits a false notion of freedom, which it wraps in the mantle of individualism and choice, and in doing so reduces all problems to private issues, suggesting that whatever problems bear down on people, the only way to understand them is through the restrictive lens of individual responsibility, character and self-resilience. In this instance, the discourse of character and personal responsibility becomes a smoke screen to prevent people from connecting private troubles with larger social and systemic considerations.

[Oct 18, 2014] The Tragedy of Modern Democracy by John Chuckman

October 13, 2014 | dissidentvoice.org
I read and heard about Hong Kong's students putting themselves at risk demonstrating for democracy, and my first instinct was sympathy, sympathy for their passionate idealism, but sympathy in another sense too, for their sad illusions. I ask myself, and it is not a trivial question, what is it exactly that they believe they fight for? Democracy has become such a totemic word, we all are trained to revere it, unquestioningly, almost the way 16th century people were expected to behave in the presence of the Host during Communion. But just where in the West do we see countries who call themselves democracies behaving in democratic ways, indeed where do we see genuine democracies? And if it is such an important concept, why should that be?

In Canada, to start where I live, we have a serious democratic deficit. A Conservative government today, elected to a parliamentary "majority" with about 39% of the national vote, behaves for all the world as an authoritarian government in many things at home and abroad. It turned its back completely on Canada's historic support of green initiatives, embarrassing our people in international forums with blunderingly incompetent ministers of the environment. It has built a large new batch of prisons, completely against the general public's sympathies and in contradiction to historically low and falling crime rates. It echoes the sentiments from Washington on almost anything you care to name and does so completely against Canada's modern history and prevailing public opinion. It has lost the respect Canada once commanded in the United Nations. It has dropped Canada's tradition of fairness in the Middle East, blindly supporting Israel's periodic slaughters, ignoring the horrifying situation of the Palestinians. Only now the government decided to send fighter jets to support the American anti-ISIS farce, an act completely out of step with Canada's long-term policy of using force only where there is a United Nations' mandate.

But Canada still has a way to go to match the appalling modern record of Great Britain. Its recent prime ministers include Tony Blair and David Cameron – men, supposedly from separate parties, who both cringingly assent to America's every wink or nod suggesting some policy, ever ready to throw armies, planes, money, and propaganda at questionable enterprises their people neither understand nor would be likely to support if they did. Promoting the mass deaths of innocents and the support of lies and great injustice are now fixtures in the mother of all parliaments. And, with all the scandals around Rupert Murdoch's news empire, we got a breathtaking glimpse of how shabbily public policy is formulated behind the scenes, of how smarmy politicians like Blair and Cameron cater to unethical individuals of great wealth and influence.

Israel's endless patter of propaganda always includes the refrain, "the Middle East's only democracy." The press does not think to ask how you can have a democracy with only one kind of person wanted as a voter and with only one kind of citizen enjoying full rights. Nor do they inquire about the millions who live under systematic oppression enforced by that "democracy." Effectively, Israel rules millions of people who have no rights and no ability to change their status through any form of citizenship, not even the ability to keep their family home if Israel suddenly wants to take it. We have seen "democracies" like that before, as, for example, in South Africa or in the Confederate States of America, both places where people voted but only a specified portion of the people, millions of others being consigned to a netherworld existence maintained with a carefully designed structure of fraudulent legality. Ironically, viewed from the Middle East's perspective, it is undoubtedly a good thing there are not more such democracies as Israel.

And the students should perhaps keep in mind the tragic example of Egypt. It too had huge demonstrations with thrilling moments like a dictator of thirty years fleeing and the nation assembling its first free election. But a brief spring garden of elected government was bulldozed after the government said and did things its small neighbor, Israel, did not like. There were more huge demonstrations and thousands of deaths and illegal arrests and the return to military dictatorship in a threadbare disguise of elected government. Eighty million people must now continue life under repressive government because seven million people with extraordinary influence in Washington can't tolerate democracy next door.

As far as what Colin Powell once called, in a tit-for-tat with a French Foreign Minister, "the world's oldest democracy," well, he was just as inaccurate in that assertion as he was about hidden weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. America's own founding documents do not proclaim a democracy but rather that most fuzzily-defined of all forms of government, a republic. It was a republic in which the President was not elected by the general population, where the Senate was appointed, where the Supreme Court had no authority to enforce the high-sounding phrases of the Bill of Rights, and where as little as one-percent of the population could even vote – it was, in sum, an aristocracy of wealthy and influential citizens dressed up in high-sounding phrases. The American Revolution was aptly summed up by a writer as "a homegrown aristocracy replacing one from abroad."

And since America's founding, while the voting franchise gradually has been extended to become nearly universal (prisoners and ex-convicts still often cannot vote in a nation with the world's highest incarceration rate), equally gradual changes in the structure of America's institutions pretty much keep that original form of government intact. At every level, barriers erected by the two ruling parties make it nearly impossible to establish an effective alternative party. Even getting listed on all the ballots was an immense task for a billionaire – Ross Perot – who, in fact, represented no substantive alternative by any measure. The two parties' privileged position also is protected by the need for immense amounts of campaign funds, America's regular election costs being in the billions, the Supreme Court having declared money as "free speech." You do not get that kind of money from ordinary citizens, and you necessarily owe those who do supply it, and you simply cannot compete in American politics without it.

For major offices, the vetting of politicians is now so long and demanding that no candidate can possibly run who isn't completely acceptable to the establishment. The campaign money simply will not appear otherwise. Such quiet political controls are now backed up by a gigantic military-intelligence establishment with such authorities and resources that it much resembles a government within the government. For example, with the NSA spying on every form of communication by every person around the clock, information about politicians is close to perfect. No undesirables can slip through and no undesirable policy can be enacted given the ability to threaten or blackmail every politician over his or her monitored personal and financial affairs. Nobody in his right mind calls that democracy.

The truth is that despite a long history of struggle, revolutions, and movements of various descriptions characterizing the West's modern era, those with great wealth and influence still rule as effectively as they did centuries ago. Their rule is not as apparent and open to scrutiny as it once was, and there are many mechanisms in place to give the appearance of democracy, at least for those who do not examine closely. Modern elections require money and lots of it. Voters' choices are limited as surely as they are in many authoritarian states. The ability of any elected officials to act in the public interest is curtailed by a powerful establishment and a number of special interests.

Once in power, modern democratic governments behave little differently than many authoritarian states do. Wars are started without consent and for purposes not in the public interest. Secret services carry out acts government would be ashamed to be seen openly doing. Armies for needless wars are conscripted or bribed into existence. Rights people regarded as basic may be suspended at any time. Injustices abound. Many "democratic" states practice illegal arrest, torture, assassination, and, above all, secrecy. Secrecy is so much a part of things today that when citizens do vote, they haven't the least idea what they are voting for. Public education is generally poor, especially with regard to the real workings of government and the encouragement of critical thinking. The press has become nothing more than an informal extension of government, a volunteer cheering section, in many important matters. Voters go to the polls hardly understanding what is happening in the world.

So I praise the idealism and bravery of the Chinese students, but I know democracy everywhere remains only a small, hopeful glimmer in the eyes of people.

Hypocrisy and Pseudo-democracy by Stan Moore

It is well-known that Saddam Hussein gassed thousands of Iraqis, but usually left unmentioned is that those victims were in armed revolt against his regime. What would any U.S. President do if American citizens took up armed revolt against the U.S. Government? We have a clue in what took place in Waco, Texas a few years ago. There was no armed revolt, just some citizens with unregistered firearms. The U.S. government considered those armed citizens to be such a risk that the government sent in tanks and military personnel, ultimately using military personnel to set a conflagration which burned scores of women and children alive. Imagine if those people had actually been involved in revolt against the government!

The U.S. stresses "freedom and democracy" as a goal for a reconstituted Iraq. Of course some of the nations providing military support in the "coalition of the willing" are already democracies, and while their citizenry is voicing 90% disapproval of the preemptive war of aggression and conquest, the democratically-elected leadership of Britain, Australia, and Turkey adopt policies directly contrary to the loudly expressed will of their populations. So much for democracy, but proof the coercion and bribery of leadership for corporate interests is what Western-style "democracy" is usually all about.

The U.S. wants to spread democracy and freedom, but their latest attempt at nation building in Afghanistan has resulted in a puppet president Karzai (a former Chevron official) who is afraid to leave his own offices, while brutal warlords remain in control of the county. No democracy yet, while the U.S. military pussy-foots around the warlords and tries not to get in their way.

So, America bravely presses forward towards "liberating" Iraq. But don't mention it to the Kurds up north, who are dreading the recent arrival of a thousand and a half Turkish troops (with more likely to come) for the purpose of preventing the establishment of a Kurdish independent republic, or to prevent an unacceptable refugee burden. A Kurdish Democratic Republic would be too unsettling to the region for the Bush administration (or any American administration) to ever allow or promote THAT much democracy!

What really counts in Iraq is military firepower and corporate economic power. Dick Cheney, American Vice-President has been more or less totally absent from the American public's view, but only because he has basically reverted to his pre-election corporate role of lining up contracts for his old company and others to come in and mop up Iraq with billions of dollars' worth of reconstruction and infrastructure and oilfield repair contracts.[1] Forget democracy, and bring on the corporate bureaucracy and lets get that Iraqi oil flowing to pay the American debts for liberating her! Maybe American corporations will be democratically elected or appointed to do a little "nation building" which seemed very distasteful to Bush when Clinton was President, but seems like a fine idea now.

Was it all necessary? Or was any of it necessary? Well, the U.N. was making great strides in disarming Iraq and would have done so in reasonable time frames without warfare. But Bush needed war like like a cruise missile needs propellant. His presidency didn't even take off and begin flying until 9/11 pushed his military/industrial complex ambitions onto the front burner. No wonder Bush wouldn't allow the U.S. military to shoot down any of the four hijacked planes on 9/11, even after one World Trade Center tower was struck and even though the Pentagon lies under the most heavily defended airspace in the world. The hits had to occur to get the ball rolling for the Bush agenda, and so the military was stood down that day and thousands of Americans, including Pentagon personnel had to die so the Bush agenda could come to life.

From a Bush perspective, which is limited in scope, narrowly focused and myopic as a house mouse's eyesight, the situation looks very good and very promising. Baghdad is burning. Saddam is squirming. Congressional support is firming.

But the rest of the world, and many, many Americans see the hypocrisy of pseudo-democracy. Some of us see a regime change ahead in Washington at the time of the next election. And we see war crimes trials as Perle and Rumsfeld fail to bring down the U.N. and Rumsfeld and maybe even Bush and Powell get charged with crimes against humanity.

At least, there is room for hope.

How the Public Misses Out on How Fights Over Bank Regulations Affect Them

Naked capitalism

The public keeps losing and losing and losing to big finance because financiers have made an art form of using complexity, opacity, and leverage to cover their tracks.

The last example comes in an anodyne-seeming article in the Financial Times about collateralized loan obligations, or CLOs. CLOs are a structured credit product, in this case, made from leveraged (as in risky) corporate loans. Think of it as the corporate lending analogy to subprime bonds. The major differences between CLOs and RMBS are that CLOs are not secured by collateral (houses) and that CLOs turned out to be much better diversified than RMBS (the mortgage bond designers thought that a geographic mix would provide adequate diversification, since the modern US had never suffered a nation-wide housing market price decline. Whoops!)

CLO volumes exploded in the runup to the crisis due to a cheap-debt-fueled M&A boom, with private equity firms the big source of increased deal demand. And when the music stopped, the big banks were stuck with lots of unsold inventory. While their losses were no where near as bad as the ones they suffered on CDOs, they were still well above what was thought to be consistent with AAA rated paper. In the spring and summer of 2008, Bloomberg would report intermittently on the sorry state of the CLO market, with prevailing prices in the mid to low 80s. There were also reports of dealers selling small lots to compliant hedge funds at inflated so they could use those values to justify the marks on their positions.

Now the banks seem to have amnesia as far as the crisis is concerned, but US regulators (at least for the moment) have taken an uncharacteristic interest in reducing the risks banks carry, including those of CLOs. But the unfortunate aspect of the discussion in the Financial Times, and we assume elsewhere, is that this issue is being framed too narrowly, as being a matter of bank and financial system safety. Absent is the notion of the societal cost of making cheap debt too readily available to what in the 1980s were called takeover artists.

As an unnamed insider noted in Ron Suskind's Confidence Men, private equity depends on being able to load companies up with debt, and (according to him) only one in ten deals needs to succeed for the fund to do well. Many industry professionals would argue a bigger proportion of deals to work out for a PE player to be deemed successful, but the general point still holds: a leveraged buyout firm can drive a lot of companies into the ditch and still come out a winner. And low cost debt allows them to operate at a much higher level of activity. As we noted in ECONNED:

Cheap funding similarly played a major role in the breakneck pace of mergers and acquisitions, which became more and more frenzied until the onset of the credit contraction, in the summer of 2007. Global mergers for the first six months of 2007 were $2.8 trillion, a remarkable 50% higher than the record level for the same period in 2006. And takeovers for the full year 2006 ran at a stunning seven times the level seen four years prior.

The EU has decided it does not like the nasty propensity of PR funds to lever up corporations, pull out a lot in the way of special dividends, and too often overdo the cash extraction and leave a bankrupt hulk in their wake. The EU has been working on a proposal to restrict investors in the EU from putting funds in private equity and hedge fund firms outside the EU, and also limit the ability of foreign investors to buy European companies. The response was huffing and puffing, that this move would "seriously disturb" the biggest PE firms. So? That was the plan, wasn't it?

But in the US, the home of the biggest players, you hear nary a peep of this sort of talk, one that would likely argue for even bigger curbs that the ones being contemplated (and sure to be watered down). And the banks are certain to fight hard against any restriction, because M&A is a source of big advisory fees as well as new issue profits. Key extracts from the Financial Times:

Wall Street is set to pick another fight with regulators as the loan industry and big banks push back against new rules that they say could limit lending to companies with low credit ratings…

The desire among regulators – the Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp and Office of Comptroller of the Currency – to prevent another financial crisis carries the risk of unintended consequences; namely that tough rules could impair market liquidity and ultimately hurt the broader economy.

Yves here. Ah, yes, the perennial threat: cut off our cheap leverage, and you'll damage the economy. I'd love to see an analysis of how many levered loans went to fund corporate investment as opposed to takeovers (although the percentages deemed a failure vary, pretty much every study that has looked at corporate takeovers has concluded that most fail, so discouraging corporate acquisitions would also be salutary).

The FT article does mention, in a single sentence, that the levered loans used in CLOs stoked acquisitions during the credit bubble. But the political argument is over a proposed increase in capital for CLOs kept on bank balance sheets as a way to reduce systemic risks. This debate may seem a bit overdone, since CLO issuance was a mere $12.5 billion this year versus $97 billion in 2006. But in many ways, these debates are not simply over how the rules should read, but what form of capitalism will have. And unfortunately, despite occasional tough gestures by regulators, the framework and assumptions that produced the last crisis remain largely intact.

Topics: Banana republic, Banking industry, Credit markets, moral hazard, Politics, Private equity, Regulations and regulators, Risk and risk management

westrev

THE THOUSAND YEARS OF WESTERN REVOLUTION
AND THE GATHERING RUSSIAN ORTHODOX COUNTER-REVOLUTION

Why is it that Europe alone among the civilizations of the world has been continually shaken and transformed by an energy of spiritual unrest that refuses to be content…? It is because its religious ideal has not been the worship of timeless and changeless perfection, but of a spirit that strives to incorporate itself into humanity and change the world.

Christopher Dawson in Christianity and the New Age (1931), pp. 94-96


As the above Roman Catholic philosopher of history remarked, the West has always been the seat of unrest and revolt.

It was present in the original first phase, the still glorified Western Revolution of 1054. This was led by the tyrant Hildebrand and carried out by his Norman shock-troops against the Christian Church and the spiritual authority of the Tradition. This was justified by its individualist filioque ideology, which replaced the Spirit of God, received through Christ, by a mere man.

It was present in the later extension of this revolt in the still glorified anti-Papal revolution and terror of Luther in the early sixteenth century. This was justified by its individualistic protest ideology, which replaced the Spirit of the Pope, received through the clergy, by mere human interpretation.

Whatever the case, the essence of Western ideology has always been the revolt of the individual and the terrorization of the masses. And this so that the egoistic wants of the most powerful individuals might reign supreme over the primary needs of society as a whole.

Indeed, after the second revolution, that of Luther, Western history was further punctuated by a series of terrorist revolts, called 'wars of religion'. Thus, in England there came Henry VIII, who pillaged his way through England. Then came the English Lenin, Cromwell, who ordered the beheading of the King and the massacre of half a million Irish peasants, as 'enemies of the people'. Then, a few decades later and also in England, there came the still glorified 'Inglorious Revolution' of 1688, when a handful of greedy capitalist Parliamentarians, supported by the same 'get rich quick' Protestant ideology as Cromwell, sent the pro-Catholic King of England packing and usurped him with a Dutch Protestant princeling, who would support their capitalism.

In the eighteenth century, Cromwell's heirs, the English colonists in America, followed with their still glorified Masonic Revolution. A few years later men of evil in France went even further with their still glorified and most bloody episode in Western history, regicide and twenty-five years of Bonaparte's permanent Revolution and incessant wars. The aim, to spread Revolution Europe-wide, was later to be imitated by Bronstein-Trotsky with his schemes for World Revolution. As a result of the catastrophe of 1789, the French peasantry of the Vendee became the first to understand the meaning of the word 'genocide', the peasantry of every European nation following them. By the end of that period, in 1815, the peasantry of uninvaded England had also been abolished – through starvation achieved by the collectivization of the 'Enclosures'. This ensured that there were plenty of hands willing to enter into the serfdom of the Industrial Revolution. That creation of cheap labour was further guaranteed by the starvation of the potato famine in Ireland, which, some eighty years later, Stalin accurately imitated in the Ukraine.

Other countries followed the English Industrial Revolution, carrying out the same processes. These were the same well-trodden path of regicide, devastation of the spiritual and moral conscience of the nation through attacks on the Church, destruction of the peasantry and their factory enslavement and lumpenization. Notably, in 1917, Russia, a country originally outside the Western ideological sphere, entered into the same downward spiritual spiral.

The first phase of its anti-Russian Revolution was organized by the West through Russia's Westernized elite, created through 200 years of propaganda. This elite, jealously hating the Anointed Monarch, later fled to Paris, from where some of their descendants to this day continue their anti-Russian and anti-Orthodox propaganda. The Soviet Revolution imitated every phase of the Western Revolution. It concentrating all the violence and terror of every tyrant in some nine centuries of Western history, from Hildebrand to Luther, from Cromwell to Bonaparte, into just a few decades of Russian history. The result was a genocide, both physical and spiritual, on a scale never before seen in world history and moreover made worldwide.

The slaughter carried out by the Westernized, anti-Russian leaders of the 'Soviet Union' and their materialist ideology was interrupted by another Western demon, Hitler. On 22 June 1941, the day that the Russian Church commemorated All the Saints Who Have Shone Forth in the Russian Land, invaded the Soviet Union. Only this catastrophe brought some sense to the Bolshevik tyrants. This was a punishment allowed in order for Russia to repent. Even the leaders of the regime realized that they could not win a war against Hitler without the support of the martyred Russian Orthodox Church. This was the beginning of the end of the Western–inspired Soviet regime. Nevertheless, even after the Russian, and not Soviet, victory over Nazi-Germany had come in 1945, the Bolshevik nightmare was to continue for over another forty years, with all of Eastern Europe now also tyrannized by Western Marxist-Leninist materialist ideology.

When in 1991 Communism at last fell in Russia, the West was horrified as Russians began to repent for, and nor glorify, their Revolution and regicide. Therefore, first of all, the Western powers destroyed the unity of the Russian people, dividing peoples and cutting off Belarus and the Ukraine from Great Russia. Then it attempted to put its 'New World Order' ideology into position in those and surrounding countries, so that their troops, arms and propaganda could later be positioned there. This they did by replacing the brutal dinosaur of old Western Communism with the subtle beast of modern Western Secularism, deluging Russia with pseudo-democracy, pornography and pseudo-spiritual ideologies, conceived to weaken the will of the people to resist.

For most of the 1990s, it seemed as though Non-Russian oligarchs, who had stolen large chunks of Russian national assets through so-called 'privatization' (i.e. legalized mass theft), were winning the battle on behalf of Western secularism. However, those oligarchs were later exiled to their spiritual homes in London and Tel-Aviv. Moreover, today, Western secularism is being challenged in Russia by the Orthodox Church and those inside the Russian government who support Orthodox moral, spiritual, social and economic values.

The battle is bitter, as the secularists, with the full support of the Western media, launch massive hate-attacks on the Russian national idea – ultimately, Orthodox Christianity. Using as a shield Western humanist liberalism with its political correctness and 'human rights', the secularists, who so dominate Russian television in particular and its policy of zombyization, are bent on promoting individual 'freedom'. This, of course, is not freedom in the Christian sense, freedom from passion, but enslavement to sin, the freedom to be enslaved to passion, to the mental and physical illnesses caused by narcotics, alcohol and tobacco, to venereal disease and sexual perversion, to abortion and the refusal to have children, resulting in a dramatically falling population. And although abortion in Moscow, for example, has decreased fourfold in the last few years, nevertheless the secularists appear to be winning in many domains, as ever dividing and ruling.

This is the struggle which is going on in Russia today. Will Russia return to its own, historic path and destiny of Orthodox Christian values, becoming the spiritual leader of the rest of the Orthodox Christian world, or will it become just another Westernized secular and spiritually insignificant State? Will the Orthodox Russia that has been through Golgotha and seen the Resurrection be able to inculcate its values to the whole of Russian society and indeed witness to them before the atheist West that lost its Orthodox roots a thousand years ago, or will it wither beneath the onslaught of Western secularism? Will the demons of secularism occupy the vacuum in so many Russian souls, or will those souls be filled by the love of Christ and His Church? Will, in other words, the Apocalypse, that has now been brought so near by the Western Revolution that goes back to 1054, be postponed by the Russian Orthodox Counter-Revolution of Faith and the restoration there of Orthodox Monarchy, or will the end come within a relatively short space of time?

We do not know the answers to any of these questions. However, nearly ninety years ago, speaking in English in St Paul's Cathedral in London on 16 December 1919, the greatest Serbian saint of the twentieth century, the seer St Nicholas of Zhicha, looks to us today and prophesies thus in his address 'The Spiritual Rebirth of Europe':

If you see that the Church in Russia is the victor in its struggle against atheism, then you can be sure that you have been counted worthy to witness the sign of the spiritual rebirth of Europe…And if you see that for a whole century and more Europe has indeed been the most unChristian continent on earth, then your whole soul will tremble from fear. Your trembling will be the surest sign of the postponement of the coming of the end of the world. Nothing changes the human spirit and leads to its spiritual awakening so forcefully as the realization of its sins and fear in the face of the truth of God…

When the religious spirit – the only authentically life-giving and creative spirit – becomes the spirit that reigns supreme in family life, education, literature, art and journalism; when you see it on the streets and in the shops, in the towns and in the villages, not only in England, but all over Europe, then know that God has forgiven Europe and that it is on the path to becoming a new Europe.

Let him who is able to labour, labour and further this rebirth. Do not stop him who wishes to pray from praying. Let him who can reflect on this give birth to thought. All of this will no doubt help the common cause. These first lightning flashes of the religious rebirth of Europe must be clearly discerned and filled with living power. Otherwise, there will be nothing in history to compare with the drama of a whole Continent shaken to its very foundations…


Priest Andrew Phillips
East Anglia

False Cheers for Democracy The National Interest Blog

When democtatizing srrt mening killing (as in "the USA democratized half million of Iraqis") this is ultimate death of the word.

There are many criteria by which we in the West can assess what is good and what is bad about the events in these countries and any others in which similar political change occurs. What happens to democracy is only one of those criteria. There are the various issues of human rights and governmental integrity, and in this respect an end to the more thuggish and corrupt aspects of Yanukovych's presidency may be a good thing. (Zbigniew Brzezinski describes Yanukovych as "a mendacious schemer, a coward and a thief.") And for realist observers, the foreign policy orientation of a government may be at least as important as any of the internal considerations.

Each individual case is worthy of assessment in its own right. The two cases mentioned here are quite different in important respects. Some of the cheering over Morsi's ouster reflected an ignoble Islamophobia that is not a factor in Ukraine. The alternatives to the ousted leadership are also quite different; in Egypt it is a restored authoritarian military regime, while in Ukraine we can still hope it will be something not just different but more to the benefit of the Ukrainian people.

In any assessment, we should be clear and honest about our concepts and terms. We should not apply the label of democracy where it does not belong. We should not automatically apply it to phenomena that involve in some messy way "people power"-while bearing in mind that people in the streets of a capital are not necessarily speaking and acting for most of their countrymen, or for people in the streets of, say, Kharkiv or Donetsk. Misuse of the term democracy exacerbates confusion in our own thinking about the criteria we are applying to assessments of foreign situations and the reasons we do, or should, favor or oppose a particular development. It also cheapens the concept of democracy itself and encourages cynicism about it.

[Sep 25, 2014] High Cost of Bad Journalism on Ukraine by Robert Parry

September 22, 2014 | consortiumnews.com

By driving a wedge between President Obama and President Putin over Ukraine, America's neocons and the mainstream media can hope for more "shock and awe" in the Mideast, but the U.S. taxpayers are footing the bill, including $1 trillion more on nuclear weapons, writes Robert Parry.

The costs of the mainstream U.S. media's wildly anti-Moscow bias in the Ukraine crisis are adding up, as the Obama administration has decided to react to alleged "Russian aggression" by investing as much as $1 trillion in modernizing the U.S. nuclear weapons arsenal.

On Monday, a typically slanted New York Times article justified these modernization plans by describing "Russia on the warpath" and adding: "Congress has expressed less interest in atomic reductions than looking tough in Washington's escalating confrontation with Moscow."

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who pushed for the Ukraine coup and helped pick the post-coup leaders.

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, who pushed for the Ukraine coup and helped pick the post-coup leaders.

But the Ukraine crisis has been a textbook case of the U.S. mainstream media misreporting the facts of a foreign confrontation and then misinterpreting the meaning of the events, a classic case of "garbage in, garbage out." The core of the false mainstream narrative is that Russian President Vladimir Putin instigated the crisis as an excuse to reclaim territory for the Russian Empire.

While that interpretation of events has been the cornerstone of Official Washington's "group think," the reality always was that Putin favored maintaining the status quo in Ukraine. He had no plans to "invade" Ukraine and was satisfied with the elected government of President Viktor Yanukovych. Indeed, when the crisis heated up last February, Putin was distracted by the Sochi Winter Olympics.

Rather than Putin's "warmongering" – as the Times said in the lead-in to another Monday article – the evidence is clear that it was the United States and the European Union that initiated this confrontation in a bid to pull Ukraine out of Russia's sphere of influence and into the West's orbit.

This was a scheme long in the making, but the immediate framework for the crisis took shape a year ago when influential U.S. neocons set their sights on Ukraine and Putin after Putin helped defuse a crisis in Syria by persuading President Barack Obama to set aside plans to bomb Syrian government targets over a disputed Sarin gas attack and instead accept Syria's willingness to surrender its entire chemical weapons arsenal.

But the neocons and their "liberal interventionist" allies had their hearts set on another "shock and awe" campaign with the goal of precipitating another "regime change" against a Middle East government disfavored by Israel. Putin also worked with Obama to resolve the dispute over Iran's nuclear program, averting another neocon dream to "bomb, bomb, bomb Iran."

The Despised Putin

So, Putin suddenly rose to the top of the neocons' "enemies list" and some prominent neocons quickly detected his vulnerability in Ukraine, a historical route for western invasions of Russia and the scene of extraordinarily bloody fighting during World War II.

National Endowment for Democracy president Carl Gershman, one of the top neocon paymasters spreading around $100 million a year in U.S. taxpayers' money, declared in late September 2013 that Ukraine represented "the biggest prize" but beyond that was an opportunity to put Putin "on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself."

The context for Gershman's excitement was a European Union offer of an association agreement to Ukraine's elected President Viktor Yanukovych, but it came with some nasty strings attached, an austerity plan demanded by the International Monetary Fund that would have made the hard lives of the average Ukrainian even harder.

That prompted Yanukovych to seek a better deal from Putin who offered $15 billion in aid without the IMF's harsh terms. Yet, once Yanukovych rebuffed the EU plan, his government was targeted by a destabilization campaign that involved scores of political and media projects funded by Gershman's NED and other U.S. agencies.

Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland, a neocon holdover who had been an adviser to Vice President Dick Cheney, reminded a group of Ukrainian business leaders that the United States had invested $5 billion in their "European aspirations." Nuland, wife of prominent neocon Robert Kagan, also showed up at the Maidan square in Kiev passing out cookies to protesters.

The Maidan protests, reflecting western Ukraine's desire for closer ties to Europe, also were cheered on by neocon Sen. John McCain, who appeared on a podium with leaders of the far-right Svoboda party under a banner honoring Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera. A year earlier, the European Parliament had identified Svoboda as professing "racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views [that] go against the EU's fundamental values and principles."

Yet, militants from Svoboda and the even more extreme Right Sektor were emerging as the muscle of the Maidan protests, seizing government buildings and hurling firebombs at police. A well-known Ukrainian neo-Nazi leader, Andriy Parubiy, became the commandant of the Maidan's "self-defense" forces.

Behind the scenes, Assistant Secretary Nuland was deciding who would take over the Ukrainian government once Yanukovych was ousted. In an intercepted phone call with U.S. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, Nuland crossed off some potential leaders and announced that "Yats" – or Arseniy Yatsenyuk – was her guy.

The Coup

On Feb. 20, as the neo-Nazi militias stepped up their attacks on police, a mysterious sniper opened fire on both protesters and police killing scores and bringing the political crisis to a boil. The U.S. news media blamed Yanukovych for the killings though he denied giving such an order and some evidence pointed toward a provocation from the far-right extremists.

As Estonia's Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said in another intercepted phone call with EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Asthon, "there is a stronger and stronger understanding that behind snipers it was not Yanukovych, it was somebody from the new coalition."

But the sniper shootings led Yanukovych to agree on Feb. 21 to a deal guaranteed by three European countries – France, Germany and Poland – that he would surrender much of his power and move up elections so he could be voted out of office. He also assented to U.S. demands that he pull back his police.

That last move, however, prompted the neo-Nazi militias to overrun the presidential buildings on Feb. 22 and force Yanukovych's officials to flee for their lives. Then, rather than seeking to enforce the Feb. 21 agreement, the U.S. State Department promptly declared the coup regime "legitimate" and blamed everything on Yanukovych and Putin.

Nuland's choice, Yatsenyuk, was made prime minister and the neo-Nazis were rewarded for their crucial role by receiving several ministries, including national security headed by Parubiy. The parliament also voted to ban Russian as an official language (though that was later rescinded), and the IMF austerity demands were pushed through by Yatsenyuk. Not surprisingly, ethnic Russians in the south and east, the base of Yanukovych's support, began resisting what they regarded as the illegitimate coup regime.

To blame this crisis on Putin simply ignores the facts and defies logic. To presume that Putin instigated the ouster of Yanukovych in some convoluted scheme to seize territory requires you to believe that Putin got the EU to make its reckless association offer, organized the mass protests at the Maidan, convinced neo-Nazis from western Ukraine to throw firebombs at police, and manipulated Gershman, Nuland and McCain to coordinate with the coup-makers – all while appearing to support Yanukovych's idea for new elections within Ukraine's constitutional structure.

Though such a crazy conspiracy theory would make people in tinfoil hats blush, this certainty is at the heart of what every "smart" person in Official Washington believes. If you dared to suggest that Putin was actually distracted by the Sochi Olympics last February, was caught off guard by the events in Ukraine, and reacted to a Western-inspired crisis on his border (including his acceptance of Crimea's request to be readmitted to Russia), you would be immediately dismissed as "a stooge of Moscow."

Such is how mindless "group think" works in Washington. All the people who matter jump on the bandwagon and smirk at anyone who questions how wise it is to be rolling downhill in some disastrous direction.

But the pols and pundits who appear on U.S. television spouting the conventional wisdom are always the winners in this scenario. They get to look tough, standing up to villains like Yanukovych and Putin and siding with the saintly Maidan protesters. The neo-Nazi brown shirts are whited out of the picture and any Ukrainian who objected to the U.S.-backed coup regime finds a black hat firmly glued on his or her head.

For the neocons, there are both financial and ideological benefits. By shattering the fragile alliance that had evolved between Putin and Obama over Syria and Iran, the neocons seized greater control over U.S. policies in the Middle East and revived the prospects for violent "regime change."

On a more mundane level – by stirring up a new Cold War – the neocons generate more U.S. government money for military contractors who bestow a portion on Washington think tanks that provide cushy jobs for neocons when they are out of government.

The Losers

The worst losers are the people of Ukraine, most tragically the ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine, thousands of whom have died from a combination of heavy artillery fire by the Ukrainian army on residential areas followed by street fighting led by brutal neo-Nazi militias who were incorporated into Kiev's battle plans. [See Consortiumnews.com's "Ukraine's 'Romantic' Neo-Nazi Storm Troopers."]

The devastation of eastern Ukraine, which has driven an estimated one million Ukrainians out of their homes, has left parts of this industrial region in ruins. Of course, in the U.S. media version, it's all Putin's fault for deceiving these ethnic Russians with "propaganda" about neo-Nazis and then inducing these deluded individuals to resist the "legitimate" authorities in Kiev.

Notably, America's righteous "responsibility to protect" crowd, which demanded that Obama begin airstrikes in Syria a year ago, swallowed its moral whistles when it came to the U.S.-backed Kiev regime butchering ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine (or for that matter, when Israeli forces slaughtered Palestinians in Gaza).

However, beyond the death and destruction in eastern Ukraine, the meddling by Nuland, Gershman and others has pushed all of Ukraine toward financial catastrophe. As "The Business Insider" reported on Sept. 21, "Ukraine Is on the Brink of Total Economic Collapse."

Author Walter Kurtz wrote:

"Those who have spent any time in Ukraine during the winter know how harsh the weather can get. And at these [current] valuations, hryvnia [Ukraine's currency] isn't going to buy much heating fuel from abroad. …

"Inflation rate is running above 14% and will spike sharply from here in the next few months if the currency weakness persists. Real wages are collapsing. … Finally, Ukraine's fiscal situation is unraveling."

In other words, the already suffering Ukrainians from the west, east and center of the country can expect to suffer a great deal more. They have been made expendable pawns in a geopolitical chess game played by neocon masters and serving interests far from Lviv, Donetsk and Kiev.

But other victims from these latest machinations by the U.S. political/media elite will include the American taxpayers who will be expected to foot the bill for the new Cold War launched in reaction to Putin's imaginary scheme to instigate the Ukraine crisis so he could reclaim territory of the Russian Empire.

As nutty as that conspiracy theory is, it is now one of the key reasons why the American people have to spend $1 trillion to modernize the nation's nuclear arsenal, rather than scaling back the thousands of U.S. atomic weapons to around 900, as had been planned.

Or as one supposed expert, Gary Samore at Harvard, explained to the New York Times: "The most fundamental game changer is Putin's invasion of Ukraine. That has made any measure to reduce the stockpile unilaterally politically impossible."

Thus, you can see how hyperbolic journalism and self-interested punditry can end up costing the American taxpayers vast sums of money and contributing to a more dangerous world.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America's Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com). For a limited time, you also can order Robert Parry's trilogy on the Bush Family and its connections to various right-wing operatives for only $34. The trilogy includes America's Stolen Narrative. For details on this offer, click here.

[Jan 23, 2014] International Justice and Impunity - The Case of the United States ...

International justice will lose all credibility if powerful states continue to benefit from total impunity.

Amazon.com

The case of the United States is emblematic: political aggression, inhuman treatment, illegal detention are all "international crimes" for which the guilty must be pursued, according to the United Nations Charter and the Geneva Conventions.

John Martin

A Clear account of American misbehavior in the world August 18, 2008

International Justice and Impunity: The Case of the United States, edited by Nils Andersson, Daniel Iagolnitzer and Diana G. Collier is must reading for anyone who is concerned about the role the United States plays in the world today. The book covers the proceedings of an international conference on the issue of impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity that was held in Paris in September, 2005. It is divided into three parts: From Hiroshima to Guantanmo, Humanitarian Law: Legal and Moral Values to Defend, and In Pursuit to an End to Impunity. A total of 26 articles are presented.

The list of contributers includes Ramsey Clark, Samir Amin, William Blum, Stephane Hessel, Jan Myrdal, Michaei Parenti, Tadatoshi Akiba, Antoine Bernard, and Genevieve Sevrin. These individuals, both personally and as respresentatives of their organization, make a compelling case that the United States has acted with impunity from at least the closing days of WW II in order to impose its worldview on others. The violence that American has perpetrated continues unabated and unpunished.

The book also provides a primer on international law and as such provides important information for anyone seeking to understand humanitarian law from an international perspective.

While the book may be faulted as providing only the prosecution side of the case against the United States, given that country's failure to acknowledge its crimes and its strong propaganda machine, the book is an important and valuable commentary. Further, coming as it does at the end of one of the most inhumane and unjust political administrations in American history it can serve as a lesson to the next American government if it will only pay attention.

Midwest Book Review

Has the United States been ignoring international law? July 11, 2008

Has the United States been ignoring international law? "International Justice and Impunity: The Case of the United States" claims so. Recent American acts in the middle east are skirting the Geneva Conventions and even inducing the torture of prisoners - a black mark on the country that used to be the champion of the United Nations. A scholarly work with contributions from people in various levels of the government and from around the world, "International Justice and Impunity: The Case of the United States" is highly recommended for community library International Studies and Political Science collections.

US 'world leader' in color revolution engineering

April 25, 2012 | RT News

The US is the foremost power when it comes to creating and applying "color revolutions": America invented the know-how and has the best experts in this area, political scientist Mateusz Piskorski told RT.

RT: What are the key ingredients to start a color revolution?

Mateusz Piskorsky: There has to be a real political and social crisis, which may be an inspiration for those groups who protest. There is no color revolution without a social basis. Common consciousness of a real economic or social problem is needed to easily manipulate the protesting groups.

RT: So the problem has to be economic or social rather than a regime problem, like a dictatorship?

MP: Yes, about 90 per cent of every society, including the societies of Central and Eastern Europe, are first and foremost interested in their social and economic interests. Which means they don't care about politics, the political system or the character of a political regime. They're just worried about their economic prospects and possibilities of keeping their families on a certain social level. This is the most important factor in every revolution.

RT: What is the infrastructure behind a protest?

MP: Really professional coordination centers… secret from ordinary protesters, but functioning very effectively.

RT: What is the share of people power versus the power of the people who actually pull the strings?

MP: Every protester has his own interests to participate in the protest, but it is really very easy for him to lose his rationality and become a subject of "emotional engineering".

RT: When people realize they have been subject to manipulation – what is their reaction?

MP: Usually they do not realize they are subject to manipulation. It's a question of the so-called information area or mass-media.

One of the very important factors in any color revolution is the control of mass-media. First you take control over alternative mass media which has good reliability in the opinion polls. Then you think about a color revolution.

One of the decisive parts of a color revolution project is the media.

This is not a war between the regime and the people. It is a conflict between PR specialists of the government on one hand and the protest movement, or some foreign powers engaged on the other.

RT: Talking about foreign powers – where does the funding come from for such [color revolution] projects?

MP: This is the most interesting question, and also the most guarded secret… Certain foundations from some western countries, including the US, funded protests in Ukraine and Belarus.

RT: Is the US always present in such conflicts?

MP: I'm not sure about always, but it is in most of the conflicts. Another factor here – you have geopolitical interests.

Every superpower like the US makes its decision: is it worth engaging, starting or igniting a color revolution or not? It is not only the US, but to be honest the US has the best experts in this area. The man who invented the whole technology is Gene Sharp [considered by many the world's best expert on non-violent revolution, author of From Dictatorship to Democracy].

The US is the leading power when it comes to this technology, I can say.

RT: The US new ambassador in Russia Michael McFaul has admitted that America used to fund opposition movements and color revolutions but under a different administration, that it's no longer done under the Obama administration. Do you believe that?

MP: I believe that Mr. McFaul is one of the best specialists and scholars working on color revolutions, including in Ukraine. He's an expert. I don't believe the US is not using this technology.

Sometimes a color revolution may not end on a peaceful note and may proceed to a civil war, the case with Syria and Libya.

RT: How much can a project like installing a new regime in Ukraine in 2003 cost?

MP: Most of them range from $20 million to $120 million.

Anonymous user

IT IS A MIRROR IMAGE of the American student revolutionary movement of the '60's.

Done deliberately

[Jan 20, 2014] Democratisation, NGOs and colour revolutions openDemocracy by Sreeram Chaulia

January 19, 2006

Sreeram Chaulia is a writer and journalist whose work has been published in many publications in India, Pakistan, the United States, and elsewhere.

"…power does its work by stealth, and the powerful can subsequently deny that their strength was ever used at all."

Salman Rushdie, Shalimar the Clown (2005)


Samuel Huntington, summarising the mix of primary causes for the "third wave" of democratisation that began in 1974, listed a new but not decisive factor that had been absent in the preceding two waves: "Changes in the policies of external actors…a major shift in US policies toward the promotion of human rights and democracy in other countries…". American international NGOs ("Ingos") were prominent mechanisms through which this causal link between superpower foreign policy interests and regime change worked out in many transitions from authoritarian rule in the twenty-one-year-long "third wave".

This essay attempts to extend the analysis on Ingo instrumentality and democratisation to the geopolitical storms popularised as "colour" or "flower" revolutions that have been sweeping the post-communist world since 1999. It sets out to assess the strength of the impact of transnational actors on recent international political events of great consequence, and explore the parasitic relationship between Ingos and a hegemonic state.

The intention is to bring the state back into a field dominated by flawed renderings of transnational activism. The principal argument is that the main and direct causes of the colour revolutions were United States foreign-policy interests (strategic expansion, energy security and the war on terrorism) as they were serviced by Ingos. Without the intervention of these US-sponsored Ingos, the political landscapes in countries like Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan would not have been repainted in new colours.

These three revolutions – the "rose revolution" in Georgia (November 2003-January 2004), the "orange revolution" in Ukraine (January 2005) and the "tulip revolution" in Kyrgyzstan (April 2005) – each followed a near-identical trajectory; all were spearheaded by the American democratisation Ingos working at the behest of the US foreign policy establishment.

It will be argued that the comparable political convulsions of Uzbekistan (May 2005) and Azerbaijan (November 2005) did not experience "colour revolutions" due to a variation in the independent variable, US foreign-policy priorities.

The contexts of democratisation

Most studies of democratisation recognise the international context in which regime change occurs, but such studies never go to the extent of giving external causes prime place. The consensus is that exogenous factors "are difficult to apply in a sustained manner over the long term." In the case of the former communist bloc, some scholars regard international organisations, western economic aid and the Catholic church as "catalysts of democratisation"; others claim that international human-rights norms triggered fundamental political changes leading to the demise of communism.

Transnational actors, comprising Ingos at the hub of advocacy networks, are viewed as capitalising on opportunity structures offered by "internationalism", acting as "ideational vectors of influence", and maintaining constant criticism of vulnerable "target states" that are repressive in nature. Portrayals of advocacy networks as autonomous entities that skilfully manoeuvre states and international organisations for achieving their own principled ends suggest that democratisation was "both a contributing cause and an effect of the expanding role of transnational civil society."

On the question of how transnational actors "penetrate" target states, which is of seminal interest for our colour-revolutions quest, constructivist theory harps on norm institutionalisation in issue-areas like human rights that enable coalitions with powerful state actors who favour such norms. The manner in which American democratisation Ingos penetrated Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, however, did not follow this route.

Another pathway for penetration is presented by the "boomerang pattern", wherein international contacts "amplify the demands of domestic groups, pry open space for new issues and then echo back these demands into the domestic arena. " Though campaign strategies and pressurising tactics of Ingos do approximate to what happened before the colour revolutions in Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan, the origin of American INGO involvement in these states was not as straightforward as an invitation from local civil society to global civil society.

Former communist countries are characterised by weak local civil societies and embryonic homebred intermediate organisations. Nor were the dynamics of INGO intervention in these states as simple as domestic grievances being resolved by coalitions with principled external networks "motivated by values rather than by material or professional norms. " For the most apposite theoretical framework that fits the story of Ingos and colour revolutions, we must leave constructivism and turn to the revolving applications of realism in world politics.

Ingos as vehicles of strategic penetration

Realism asserts that transnational actors can punch above their weight and have disproportionate impact on world affairs only if they lobby and change the preferences, practices and policies of powerful states. The Helsinki network in Europe followed this game plan to great effect by winning over the US government to its side in the struggle against communism.

Norm-driven theorists fail to concede that superpowers have minds and agency of their own and only give in to transnational "pressures" when the issue area serves larger geo-strategic purposes. Rarely has the US promoted human rights and democracy in a region when they did not suit its grander foreign-policy objectives.

Thomas Carothers, a leading authority on US democracy promotion, has decried the instrumentalisation of democratisation by recent American administrations: "The United States has close, even intimate relations with many undemocratic regimes for the sake of American security and economic interests… and struggles very imperfectly to balance its ideals with the realist imperatives it faces."

The flip side of this reality is the fact that when undemocratic regimes prove to be thorns in the flesh, the US sees great merit in their overthrow by a range of diverse methods. In the cold-war era, selectivity in democracy promotion was best reflected by Jeane Kirkpatrick's distinction between "totalitarian" and "authoritarian" regimes, the latter being states which can be supported in the scheme of bigger US interests.

As we delve into the case studies of colour revolutions, the same "good despot-bad despot" patchiness of superpower attitudes to democratisation in the post-communist world will resurface in the new context of the "war on terrorism".

Geoffrey Pridham divides geo-strategic impact over regime changes into the two dimensions of space and time. The Mediterranean had turned into an area of intense superpower rivalry in the mid-1970s due to the enhanced Soviet naval presence and instability in the middle east. Regime transitions in that hotspot, therefore, sharpened US and western interests in the outcomes.

As a corollary, at sensitive world historical moments, American inclinations to intervene in regime politics of countries tend to be greater. Early cold-war economic instability in Italy and Greece in the 1970s was one juncture where the outcome stakes were felt to be so high in Washington that it took an active interventionist role. Thirty years on, the spatial and temporal importance of Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan in the geo-strategic sweepstakes was ripe for colour revolutions orchestrated from outside.

Laurence Whitehead has deepened understanding of democratisation as a geopolitical strategy that redistributes global power and control with the metaphor of a vaccine, not of a contagion or virus. US military and other modes of destabilising interventions in Central America were meant to inoculate polities from contamination by Castroism and this treatment was labelled "democracy". "Two-thirds of the democracies existing in 1990 owed their origins to deliberate acts of imposition or intervention from without…It is not contiguity but the policy of a third power that explains the spread of democracy from one country to the next." The colour revolutions under our bioscope were integral to this power-politics tradition motoring dominant states in international relations.

Realist views on transnational actors as instruments of powerful states date back to debates about multinational corporations (MNCs) and their entanglement with American hegemony. Robert Gilpin was the first to explain the rise of MNCs as a function of hegemonic stability, i.e. that the leadership of a powerful political state actor is essential for the creation and maintenance of a liberal world economy in which MNCs thrive.

Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye also warned in the 1970s that "transnational relations may redistribute control from one state to another and benefit those governments at the centre of transnational networks to the disadvantage of those in the periphery." Ingos had not burst onto the global notice board during these early reviews on transnationalism. However, the usage of Ingos as foreign-policy instruments was not unknown right from the start of the cold war.

Humanitarian Ingos like the International Rescue Committee (founded in 1933 to assist anti-Nazi opponents of Hitler) and democratisation Ingos like Freedom House (founded in 1941; an important component of the Marshall Plan to prevent communist takeover of western Europe) are two high-profile cases that represented US governmental interests while maintaining INGO legal status.

Inducing defectors and refugees from behind the "iron curtain" to cross over, public diplomacy, propaganda and funding of electoral candidates in foreign countries by charities and Ingos existed long before the voluntary sector attained an overtly pivotal position in the annals of US foreign policy. More recently, humanitarian (not human-rights) Ingos heavily dependent on US finances have been found to be consciously or subconsciously extending US governmental interests. As Julie Mertus writes: "It's not the NGOs driving the government's agenda; it's the US government driving the NGO agenda."

Doctrinal developments in foreign policy kept pace with the growing potential of Ingos as valuable assets for promoting US national interests. Andrew Scott's (1965) "informal penetration" theory tied US foreign aid, technical assistance and international organisations together as a toolkit that can be used to increase the porosity and penetrability of rival states.

Permeability of national borders was both a precondition for the emergence of transnational entities like MNCs, Ingos and international organisations, as well as the end result of increasing transnationalism with the US as metropole. Richard Cottam theorised that the Zeitgeist of world politics had changed from the ultimate recourse of "shooting warfare" to political, economic and psychological warfare. The arenas at which critical international battles took place were increasingly the domestic politics of weaker target states that are vulnerable to foreign influence and interference.

Cottam was disappointed with the "ad hoc" nature of US foreign policy and its neglect of a long-term strategic plan based on "tactical interference". The contemporary blueprint for co-opting transnational actors as active wings of foreign policy was laid by Joseph Nye's liberal "soft power" idea that called for harnessing the US's tremendous reserve of intangible resources such as culture, ideology and institutions for preserving world dominance.

"Soft power" at the end of the cold war would be less costly and more effective to Nye because of its subtlety and seductive quality. The prohibitive costs of direct military action in modern times ensure that "other instruments such as communications, organisational and institutional skills, and manipulation of interdependence have become important instruments of power. " To manage the challenges of "transnational interdependence", Nye urges greater US investment in international institutions and regimes on issue-areas that can perpetuate the American lead in global power.

His emphasis on private actors operating across international borders as a key category that has to be managed by the hegemonic state aims at the heart of our discussion on democratisation Ingos as pawns. Among practitioners of US diplomacy too, soft power's utility in furthering strategic ends has been toasted after the end of the cold war. Warren Christopher, President Clinton's first secretary of state, proposed a strategic approach based on "new realism" to promoting democracy: "By enlisting international and regional institutions in the work, the US can leverage our own limited resources and avoid the appearance of trying to dominate others."

The democratisation Gongos

The watershed that brought Ingos to the forefront of global democracy-promotion was the Reagan administration's decision to create the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) in 1983 to roll back Soviet influence. With a stated raison d'etre of "strengthening democratic institutions around the world through nongovernmental efforts", NED was conceived as a quasi-governmental foundation that funnelled US government funding through Ingos like the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), and Freedom House.

These Ingos in turn "targeted" authoritarian states through a plethora of programmatic activities. NED's first president, Allen Weinstein, admitted openly that "a lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA. " The organisation was a deus ex machina in the face of scandalous Congressional investigations into the CIA's "soft side" operations to destabilise and topple unfriendly regimes that embarrassed the government in the late 1970s.

As William Blum writes: "An NGO helps to maintain a certain credibility abroad that an official US government agency might not have. " 97% of NED's funding comes from the US state department (through Usaid and before 1999, the Usia), the rest being allocations made by right-wing donors like the Bradley Foundation, the Whitehead Foundation and the Olin Foundation. Since its conception, and despite the bipartisan structure, "neoconservatives have held tight control over NED's agenda and institutional structure."

Senior figures in the George W Bush administration who are signatories to the Project for a New American Century (PNAC), which wears aggressive US foreign interventions on its sleeve, have officiated in NED. Notwithstanding its claims to "independence" and "nongovernmental status", the US state department and other executive agencies regularly appoint NED's programme personnel. As one 'Project Democracy' (codename for NED in the Iran-Contra scandal) advocate put it, "These 'private' agencies are really just fronts for the departments they serve; the agency may prepare a report or a research project that it then gives to the private firm to attach its letterhead to, as if it were really a private activity or initiative."

A survey of NED's partner Ingos reveals a similar pattern of public priorities forwarded by private agents. Freedom House, a neocon hub which succoured the colour revolutions, has a history of being headed and staffed by ex-CIA high-level planners and personnel.

NDI is dominated by "liberal hawks" or right-wing Democrats who find their way to prime foreign-policy slots when their party is in power. IRI comprises a herd of far-right Republican politicians and representatives of major financial, oil, and defence corporations. IFES top brass belong to conservative Republican ranks, the CIA or military intelligence. IREX, the training school for colour revolution elite protagonists, is peopled by political warfare, public diplomacy and propaganda specialists from the news media, US foreign service and the US military.

For our purpose, it is interesting to note that compared to humanitarian and development Ingos, which have often promoted US foreign-policy objectives, democratisation and human-rights Ingos boast of a far greater preponderance of US government and intelligence operatives. This owes much to the fact that democratisation is a sensitive political minefield with direct bearings on international relations. It is too important a foreign policy subject for the US government to hand over reins to the voluntary sector.

Armed with the luxury of a sea of democratisation Gongos (governmental NGOs) and quangos (quasi-governmental NGOs), William DeMars says: "The US government has a greater capacity than any other single actor in the world to keep track of them, channel them, thwart them, or ride them in a chosen direction."

Usaid's avowal that democracy can be promoted around the world without "being political" is totally fictional, because the onus of NED and its family is on altering the balance of political forces in the target country in the pretext of "civil society assistance."

Criticising the brazen politicisation of democratisation Ingos, Elizabeth Cohn recommends: "Close consultation between the U.S. government and nongovernmental groups should stop. NGOs should set their own goals and not be servants of U.S. national interests, as NED is by congressional mandate."

That such relinquishment would appear foolhardy for the realists in US government goes without saying, for it is tantamount to killing the goose that lays golden eggs. To its supporters, the NED family has numerous successes to show off – interventions "to protect the integrity of elections in the Philippines, Pakistan, Taiwan, Chile, Nicaragua, Namibia, Eastern Europe and elsewhere."

Neutral assessments would rate these as electoral manipulations. Left out of the above count are victorious overthrows of democratically-elected governments in Bulgaria (1990), Albania (1992) and Haiti (late 1990s) and destabilisation in Panama, Cuba and Venezuela. The next section will demonstrate that the latest feathers in NED's cap are the colour revolutions.

Ukraine's operation orange

Ukraine epitomises habitual American "instrumentalisation of value-based policies", thus "wrapping security goals in the language of democracy promotion and then confusing democracy promotion with the search for particular political outcomes that enhance those security goals."

Identified by the Clinton administration as a priority country for democratisation and the lynchpin of US post-Soviet foreign policy, Ukraine's importance for Nato's eastward expansion is second to none. Clinton's special adviser on the former USSR, Richard Morningstar, confirmed during the 1997 Ukraine-Nato pact that "Ukraine's security is a key element in the security policy of the United States. " For Zbigniew Brzezinski, the liberal hawk who influences the Democratic party's foreign policy:

"Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire ... if Moscow regains control over Ukraine, with its 52 million people and major resources, as well as access to the Black Sea, Russia automatically again regains the wherewithal to become a powerful imperial state."

With the accession of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to Nato by 1999, Ukraine remained the last frontier, the single largest buffer on the Russia-Nato "border". The orange revolution has to be viewed in the context of a defensive Russia attempting to hold on to its sphere of influence in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and an aggressive Euro-Atlantic eastward push by the European Union and Nato.

The line-up of foreign backing for the two presidential candidates on the eve of the revolution unambiguously unravels this background tug of war. Viktor Yanukovych, the candidate of outgoing president, Leonid Kuchma, received strong verbal and financial support from the Kremlin before, during and after the disputed 2004 election. In a personal meeting with Russian president, Vladimir Putin, just before the election, Yanukovych promised "that he would end Ukraine's policy of seeking membership in NATO." Viktor Yushchenko, the pro-market challenger who benefited from American diplomatic, intelligence and Ingo assistance for the orange revolution, put his eggs entirely in the EU and Nato basket.

Energy politics also figured in Washington's regime change calculus for Ukraine. In July 2004, much to the consternation of the Bush administration and Brussels, Kuchma's government reversed an earlier decision to extend the Odessa-Brody pipeline to Gdansk in Poland. Had the extension occurred, it would have carried enormous Caspian oil flows to the EU, independent of Russia, and weakened Ukraine's overwhelming dependence on Russia for its energy needs.

Jettisoning a project that would have cemented Kiev's westward trajectory, Kuchma decided to open an unused pipeline that would transport oil from the Russian Urals to Odessa. The fallout on US interests was not negligible, as W Engdahl reports: "Washington policy is aimed at direct control over the oil and gas flows from the Caspian, including Turkmenistan, and to counter Russian regional influence from Georgia to Ukraine to Azerbaijan and Iran. The background issue is Washington's unspoken recognition of the looming exhaustion of the world's major sources of cheap high-quality oil, the problem of global oil depletion."

The US ambassador to Ukraine, Carlos Pascual, repeatedly beseeched Kuchma to give up the reversal, arguing that the Polish plan would be more attractive for investors and more profitable for Ukraine in the long term, particularly by attenuating Russian monopoly control and diversifying Ukraine's energy inventory. It was no coincidence that Yushchenko's government, after the orange revolution, restored status quo ante on Odessa-Brody, announcing "positive talks with Chevron, the former company of US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice, for the project."

The install-Yushchenko operation in Ukraine had several components. Important power-brokers like the Ukrainian army, the ministry of internal affairs, the security service and senior intelligence officials (silovki) worked against Kuchma's crackdown orders and passed critical inside information to Yushchenko's camp.

Though these Praetorians claimed to have disobeyed executive commands altruistically, there was a pro-US tilt in many vital state agencies. Their communication channel with Yushchenko's aide, Yevyen Marchuk, a Nato favourite and former defence minister who discussed the upcoming elections with US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, in August 2004, suggests a well planned coup d'etat. Yushchenko's wife, Kateryna Chumachenko, a former Reagan and George H Bush administration official and émigré Ukrainian heavyweight, is alleged to have played a key backdoor part.

None of the above machinations would have mattered without the disputed election result, the amassing of people power on the streets and the engineering of democracy through civil disobedience. It is here that NED and its family of Ingos were most needed.

Having penetrated Ukraine in 1990 at the behest of the George H Bush administration with the assent of the pro-American Leonid Kravchuk, the effective leader of the republic, these Ingos had the power to finance and create the local NGO sector from scratch, controlling its agenda and direction.

The neo-liberal Pora organisation, for instance, was an offshoot of the groundwork done by the "Freedom of Choice Coalition" that was put together in 1999 by the US embassy, the World Bank, NED and the Soros Foundation. On the eve of the orange revolution, NED Gongos hired American pollsters and professional consultants to mine psephological data and unite the opposition under Yushchenko's electoral coalition, months before the poll; trained thousands of local and international election monitors partisan to Yushchenko; organised exit polls in collaboration with western embassies that predicted Yushchenko's victory; and imported "consultants" who had experience in the Serbian overthrow of Milosevic and the Georgian rose revolution.

The mass mobilisation in Kiev was handpicked from Yushchenko's western Ukraine bastions and did not reflect nationwide sentiments. "A few tens of thousands in central Kiev were proclaimed to be 'the people', notwithstanding the fact that many demonstrators nursed violent and anti-democratic viewpoints", writes John Laughland. The NGO monitors, teamed up with western media outlets, deliberately exaggerated electoral fraud involving Yanukovych's party, ignoring serious violations by Yushchenko's.

US government expenditure on the orange revolution has been put at $14 million, while the overall civil-society promotion budget set by Washington for Ukraine (2003-2004) was $57.8-$65 million. The Soros Foundation and Freedom House pumped in a steady flow of funds through Ingos and local NGOs for "elections-related projects."

Massing of pro-Yushchenko crowds in Kiev's Independence Square was a meticulous operation of "careful, secret planning by Yushchenko's inner circle over a period of years" that oversaw distribution of thousands of cameras, backup teams of therapists and psychologists, transportation, heaters, sleeping bags, gas canisters, toilets, soup kitchens, tents, TV and radio coverage, all of which needed "large sums of cash, in this case, much of it American." (Daniel Wolf.)

Local oligarchs and US-based émigré Ukrainian businesspersons also chipped in with sizeable contributions to the neo-liberal Yuschchenko. The shadowy and fungible ties between the US government and democratisation Gongos leave little doubt that the latter were purveyors of large amounts of money in Ukraine that will not appear in audits or annual reports. Public acknowledgements of spending are understatements akin to official casualty figures given by governments during counterinsurgencies.

According to Congressman Ron Paul, the US allocated $60 million for financing the orange revolution "through a series of cut-out NGOs – both American and Ukrainian – in support of Yushchenko." The figure happens to be "just the tip of the iceberg". Claims that "Russia gave Yanukovych far more money than the United States (gave to Yushchenko)" rest on the myth that US government financing through the NED family "is publicly accountable and transparent."

The NED family's role in first following the Bush administration's lead and anointing Yushchenko's outfit as the only valid manifestation of "civil society" (at the expense of non-neoliberal, anti-authoritarian parties) and then consistently bolstering it with funds and regime-toppling expertise completely blurs lines between impartial democracy promotion and meddling in Ukraine's political process.

It tinkers with Robert Dahl's basic dimension of democratisation – contestation, i.e. the playing-field of political competition and the relative strengths of contenders. Much that was done by the Ingos in the name of democratisation in Ukraine was outright biased, including voter education that is supposed to neutrally inform citizens to make free choices rather than to campaign for a particular candidate: "Yushchenko got the western nod, and floods of money poured in to groups which support him, ranging from the youth organisation, Pora, to various opposition websites." (Jonathan Steele.)

The sinuous route taken by western money can be illustrated with an example. The Poland-America-Ukraine Cooperation Initiative (Pauci), a prominent grantee of Usaid and Freedom House, funded NGOs active in the orange revolution like the International Centre for Policy Studies, which had Yushchenko on its supervisory board. In essence, American Ingos constricted the Ukrainian political space by plumping for the interests of the neo-liberal candidate before the 2004 elections, and partook in a multi-pronged regime-change operation orchestrated in Washington.

Kyrgyzstan's tulip implantation

Central Asia has long been in the crosshairs of great-power competition games. After the fall of communism, the George H Bush and Clinton administrations defined a set of geo-strategic goals for this heavily meddled region: "To secure an alternative source for energy, help Central Asia gain autonomy from Russia's hegemony, block Iran's influence, and promote political and economic freedoms."

From 1993, goals of diversifying long-term energy reserves (finding alternatives to Persian Gulf sources) and pressures from the oil and gas private sectors "began to take centre stage" in Washington's policy toward Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. The Pentagon pressed for increasing US military presence in the region and succeeded in securing membership for four of the five central Asian states, including Kyrgyzstan, in Nato's Partnership for Peace in 1994.

Frequent joint military exercises and "interoperability" training in the Clinton years were expected to yield American bases in the region from which to counter Russian and Chinese hegemonic ambitions. With limited oil and natural gas reserves, Kyrgyzstan's weak economy was heavily dependent on Russia, a vulnerability that the Clinton administration sought to counteract by deepening the US defence interests and nudging the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank to lend voluminous amounts of development aid to Askar Akayev's relatively democratic government.

IMF technical assistance was critical to Kyrgyzstan becoming the first state in the region to leave the Russian rouble zone. Despite the 1999 extension of the CIS collective security treaty that boosted Russian military leverage in Kyrgyzstan, kidnappings and effortless incursions into Kyrgyz territory by the fundamentalist Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) exposed chinks in the security apparatus of Akayev's "Switzerland of central Asia". As Kyrgyzstan got dragged into central Asia's Islamist tangle by geography, the narcotics trade and border conflicts, the subterranean US-Russian race for military bases came into the open, paving the road to the tulip revolution.

After 11 September 2001, the Pentagon ventured on an epic journey: "The greatest shake-up in America's overseas military deployments since the end of the second World War to position U.S. forces along an 'arc of instability' that runs through the Caribbean, Africa, the middle east, the Caucasus, Central Asia and southern Asia."

The cash-strapped Akayev offered the largest American military base in the region at Manas, outside Bishkek, an installation that was not taken lightly in Moscow. China, which shares a border with Kyrgyzstan was equally alarmed and, together with Russia, steered the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation toward opposing and ending US military bases in central Asia. The expectation that Manas base would "reduce Kyrgyz dependence on Russia", besides being a logistic hub for the war in Afghanistan, was belied when in 2003 President Putin negotiated with Akayev to open up a Russian airbase at Kant – thirty kilometres from the American "lily pad".

China was also reported to be engaged in secret parleys for its own base in Kyrgyzstan and for border adjustments; these kicked up a political storm against Akayev in March 2002. Russia's ministry of internal affairs, "Akayev's new friends", helped defuse the demonstrations. Akayev's moves to align Kyrgyzstan with China through "Silk Road diplomacy" and suppression of the Uighur guerrillas – explained mainly by his desperate need of finances to stem the tail-spinning domestic economy – upset Washington, which saw Beijing as a thorn in its strategic expansion agenda.

The American perspective on this dangerous development went as follows: "Given the 1,100-kilometer border between Kyrgyzstan and China – and Washington's already considerable foothold in nearby Uzbekistan and Tajikistan – the fall of the China-friendly government of disgraced president Askar Akayev would be no small victory for the 'containment policy'."

Prior to the Sino-Russian counteroffensive that found receptive ears in Bishkek, Akayev's progressively autocratic tendencies had not ruffled many feathers in Washington. His rigged presidential election in 2000 went largely unnoticed by the US government, even though NDI observers termed it unfair and laden with illegal subornment of the state machinery. In fact, Eric McGlinchey's study of the reasons for Akayev's slide into anti-democratic politics puts the blame squarely on US-inspired IMF doles that allowed him to "rein in political contestation and rebuild authoritarian rule."

Having cosseted Akayev for more than a decade, the volte-face done by the Bush administration before the tulip revolution was not an overnight realisation of how despotic he had become but a hard-nosed calculation that its vital interests were no longer being served. The visible consequences of Washington's displeasure with "the news from Kant" (the opening of the Russian base) were recorded thus: "The IMF office in Bishkek has become tougher towards Kyrgyzstan. And the State Department has opened its own independent printing house – which means opposition newspapers will be back in full force." (P Escobar.)

Diplomatic sources are on record that as soon as the Kant deal fructified, Akayev was "on the American watch list" and "the U.S. began supporting all conceivable elements arrayed against him."

Democratisation of Kyrgyzstan, a footnote in American policy, suddenly acquired an aura and urgency. We should add that there was also a generic strategic rationale mooted in the Bush administration for democratisation in central Asia after 11 September. Since anti-US popular feelings in the region are not as high as in other Muslim parts of the world, "the risk of democratisation in the region is relatively small." Winning the hearts and minds of central Asian Muslims through democratisation "will not only facilitate the process of liberalising the economy, but also, as a by-product, increase support for the United States."

11 September opened a classic realist "window of opportunity through which an 'arc of stability' can be established in the strategically important area between the Caspian Sea and the northwestern border of China." Wildly inconsistent in application, the notion that democracy promotion can soften the Islamist challenge to pax Americana fitted well with rising discontent in Washington with Akayev's usefulness. Kyrgyzstan, with a population of barely 5 million (the fourth smallest in the region) received a sum total of $26.5 million for "democratic reform" from the state department in 2003-04, second only to the much more populous Uzbekistan. As with Ukraine, the official figures shroud a fortune.

From 2003, NED-family Ingos got into the act of securing regime change at the next parliamentary elections, turning against Akayev who had initially allowed them access to the country during the heyday of IMF and Usaid conditional lending. Even more than in Ukraine, American dominance of the local NGO sector is complete in Kyrgyzstan. P Escobar describes the monopolisation of local civil society thus: "Practically everything that passes for civil society in Kyrgyzstan is financed by US foundations, or by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). At least 170 non-governmental organizations charged with development or promotion of democracy have been created or sponsored by the Americans."

The absolute control of Kyrgyz civil society by the NED family of Gongos is compounded by the donor-driven nature of "civil-society building" carried out in the region. Fiona Adamson's field research of democratisation aid in Kyrgyzstan finds that: "Local NGOs receive almost 100 percent of their funds from international actors and can easily become almost 100 percent donor driven. International donors implicitly or explicitly expect local NGOs to administer programmes that do not necessarily match local needs."

Among the strategies adopted by the Ingos in the name of democratisation was winning over local elites to western ideas and models, a time-tested cold-war tactic of psychological warfare. Irex organised conferences, seminars, "technical assistance" and exchange programmes with Kyrgyz elites, believing that domestic political change comes from exposure to western ideas.

That this tactic worked was evident by the trend among the Kyrgyz business and political elites to endorse a closer security and economic relationships with the US. Kurmanbek Bakiyev of the National Movement of Kyrgyzstan, the man who replaced Akayev as prime minister after the tulip revolution, was himself sent to the US on an exchange programme. Felix Kulov, the new head of security, and Omurbek Tekebayev, the new speaker of parliament after the tulip revolution, were also beneficiaries of state-department-sponsored visitors programmes.

Tekebayev disclosed what he learnt on the Washington jaunt candidly: "I found that the Americans know how to choose people, know how to make an accurate evaluation of what is happening and prognosticate the future development and political changes."

Top opposition leaders in the 2005 parliamentary elections like Roza Otunbayeva had reputations as "Washington's favourite", though not as across-the-board as in Ukraine. They were quick to see potential in the NED's arsenal for regime change and utilised Ingo-funded projects for publishing anti-government newspapers, training youth "infected" with the democracy virus through US-financed trips to Kiev for a glimpse of the orange revolution, and mobilising fairly large crowds in Bishkek that stormed Akayev's presidential palace and in the southern towns of Osh and Jalalabad.

Usaid "invested at least $2 million prior to the elections" for local activists to monitor government-sponsored malpractices but did not do anything to prohibit these "independent observers" from actually working for opposition candidates. The Coalition for Democracy and Civil Society (CDCS) and Civil Society Against Corruption (CSAC), key local NGO partners of the NED, worked in tandem with the anti-Akayev parties without any pretence of impartiality.

The US embassy in Bishkek, continuing the murky tradition of interventionist behaviour in crises, worked closely with Gongos like Freedom House and the Soros Foundation – supplying generators, printing presses and money to keep the protests boiling until Akayev fled. Information about where protesters should gather and what they should bring spread through state-department-funded radio and TV stations, especially in the southern region of Osh.

CDCS head, Edil Baisolov, admitted that the uprising would have been "absolutely impossible" without this coordinated American effort. On the utility of the NED Gongos to the entire exercise of the tulip revolution, Philip Shishkin noted: "To avoid provoking Russia and violating diplomatic norms, the US can't directly back opposition political parties. But it underwrites a web of influential NGOs."

It is important to note that the clan structure of Kyrgyz society, ethnic tensions with Uzbeks, and incipient Islamism in the Ferghana valley intervened on the ground to alter the revolutionary script charted in Washington. Russia too had learnt its lessons from Ukraine and cultivated some key opposition figures, making it impossible for the US to monopolise the opposition as was the case in the previous two colour revolutions.

The element of surprise, the slick media packaged proclamation of democracy's relentless march, the legitimisation by western capitals in lightning speed – all had become predictable by the time the democratisation caravan reached Bishkek. The ambivalent attitude of the new order in Kyrgyzstan – in sharp contrast to the euphoric pro-western policies in Georgia and Ukraine – owes much to this variation between these two case studies.

"Good" vs "bad" authoritarians

Before drawing final lessons from this analysis, it is worth knowing why questionable elections by semi-dictatorial rulers in other post-communist states did not end up in colour revolutions. The main reason why Ilham Aliev, the heir to Heydar Aliev's autocracy in Azerbaijan, could fix the November 2005 parliamentary elections and not have to run the gauntlet from Washington's public-relations machinery and NED Gongos was his regime's loyalty to immense American (and British) energy interests in the Baku-Tiblisi-Ceyhan pipeline.

This was the second time Ilham Aliev grossly manipulated an election and got away without repercussions. His succession façade in the notorious October 2003 presidential election was not only condoned in Washington but met with congratulatory messages from the Pentagon.

Uzbekistan's Stalinist strongman, Islam Karimov, brutally clamped down on a mass demonstration in Andijan against corruption and arbitrary detentions in May 2005, killing 500 and wounding 2,000, but Washington echoed the Uzbek government's claim that it was the handiwork of "Islamic terrorists".

Karimov, at the time of the tulip-revolution-inspired stirrings, had been the US's staunchest ally in the war on terrorism in central Asia, an insurance policy against democratisation pressures. His pre-emptive moves before the December 2004 parliamentary elections and after the tulip revolution to expel and constrict the activities of NED-family Ingos did not meet with any criticism from the US government. Comparing Uzbekistan to the other colour revolutions, the perceptive P Escobar wrote: "The former strongmen of colour-coded 'revolutionary' Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan were monsters who had to be removed for 'freedom and democracy' to prevail. So is the dictator of Belarus. Not Karimov. He's 'our' dictator."

The necessary causation of regime change

These case studies have upheld the realist paradigm by showing that American-democratisation Gongos are necessary, but not sufficient, causes for the colour revolutions. Unless US foreign-policymakers decide to field the full panoply of their intelligence, economic and military resources alongside the Gongos, the spectacle of yet another orchestrated colour revolution is unimaginable. Lacking strong US condemnation and proactive directions, the NED Gongos cannot manage to stage regime changes on their own in conjunction with local activists. It is the push factor from Washington that galvanises the Gongos into a war footing for regime toppling.

The orange and tulip revolutions are cases of "regime change", not "regime-type change", for they did not democratise Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. By their very nature, these episodes were replacements of anti-western elites with pro-western ones, not far-reaching changes that remodelled polities. Even a minimalist definition of democracy – free and fair elections – was not unambiguously achieved in the two cases.

So narrow was the base of these regime changes that it is a travesty to call them "revolutions", a term propagated by the US government and western media. The replacements of Kuchma by Yushchenko and of Akayev by Bakiyev are no more "revolutionary" than the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in Iraq, which has been christened by the Bush administration as a "purple revolution". The difference in methods – Gongos and backroom intrigue in post-communist states and direct military occupation in Iraq – does not nullify the similarity of the independent variable: US strategic ambitions.

Predictions for future regime changes on the lines of the colour revolutions will need to carefully track how this independent variable evolves vis-à-vis undemocratic states in the post-Soviet space and how it shapes the concatenation of hard and soft power instruments. American strategy would also depend on domestic political peculiarities in individual states, factors that could not be fully covered in this essay due to the methodological problem of degrees of freedom.

American Gongos are highly effective in certain domestic milieus and moments and less so in others. Sabotage can suffice in some countries while full-scale military offensives may be needed in others. As Peter Gourevitch points out, purely international causation for domestic causes is "not totally convincing" except in the case of complete military occupation by a foreign power.

A full range of necessary causation for regime change would have to include internal political and socio-economic variables, besides the NED brand of interposing.

US Threatens Ukraine Sanctions Over Protest Crackdown by Jason Ditz

Insists 'Range of Options' to Use Against Govt
December 12, 2013 http://antiwar.com/

In comments that seem tailor-made to fuel more criticism about their double-standards with respect to human rights worldwide, the Untied States today threatened sanctions against Ukraine over the use of riot police against demonstrators in Kiev, an action which injured several dozen people.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel also warned of unspecified retaliation if the Ukraine government used its military in ending the protests, though President Yanukovych has already said that's not going to happen.

The Ukraine protesters are calling for closer ties with the European Union, and support the pro-West opposition. The current government, by contrast, leans toward stronger ties with Russia, it's largest trading partner.

The US has been repeatedly criticized for their piecemeal stance toward crackdowns, cheerfully looking the other way during bloody military crackdowns in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia, and shrugging off a military coup and several subsequent massacres of protesters in Egypt with less fuss than they are now making of a Ukraine crackdown that, so far, has seemed tame by comparison.

The difference is, of course, the nature of the protesters, as when they're calling for reforms or replacement of pro-US regimes, the administration cheers anything done to silence them, while the Ukrainian government is pro-Russian, so the US views the stance of the pro-West protesters more favorably.

[Nov 20, 2013] America's Deadliest Export Democracy - The Truth About US Foreign Policy and Everything Else by William Blum

Gary Corseri

William Blum's "Cri de Coeur" February 9, 2013

Like Howard Zinn, Ralph Nader, Paul Craig Roberts, Cindy Sheehan and Bradley Manning, Blum is committed to setting the historical record straight. His book is dangerous. Steadfast, immutable "truths" one has taken for granted--often since childhood--are exposed as hollow baubles to entertain the un/mis/and dis-informed. One such Blumism recollects Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez's account of a videotape with a very undiplomatic Secretary of State, Colin Powell, and cowboy George Bush: "`We've got to smash somebody's ass quickly,'" Powell said. "`We must have a brute demonstration of power.' Then Bush spoke: `Kick ass! If somebody tries to stop the march to democracy, we will seek them out and kill them! ... Stay strong! ... Kill them! ... We are going to wipe them out!'"

Blum's intellectual resources are as keen as anyone's writing today. He also adds an ample measure of humanity to his trenchant critiques. He juxtaposes the noble rhetoric of our professed values with the mordant facts of our deeds. The cognitive dissonance makes for a memorable, very unpretty picture of how an immensely privileged people lost themselves, while gorging on junk food, junk politics, junk economics, junk education, junk media. Like an Isaiah, a Jeremiah, he lambastes his own--us!--flaying layers of hypocrisy and betrayals while seeking to reveal the core values of human dignity, empathy and moral rectitude.

Joan M McGreevy

Truth of American foreign policy, June 6, 2013

America's deadliest export;Democracy was not a big surprise to me since I have been aware of the nature of our bloody brutal empire for about 10 years when I was 42, but it did reveal to me some things that I was still unaware of. I devoured it. I finished it much quicker than most books I read. I particularly love pages 16 and 17 where he gives 6 main points the empire is interested in.

  1. The US does not mean well.
  2. The US is not concerned with democracy.
  3. Anti-american terrorists are motivated by decades of awful things done to their homelands by US foreign policy.
  4. The US supports terrorism against "OFFICIAL" enemies.
  5. Iraq was no threat to the US.

... ... ...

E.W.

The Truth Hurts February 7, 2013

Blum lays it all out for you. Like his other books, "Killing Hope" and "Rogue State", he sets out to prove that the United States is absolutely NOT a force for good in the world - quite the opposite.

The ruling class owners of this society don't mean well and just fall short from time to time. All the sanctimonious babbling about freedom and democracy are nothing more than completely cynical hypocrisy.

Blum succeeds in tearing away the curtain and showing the U.S. in its true guise: a deadly empire with no regard for its own citizens or anyone else in the relentless pursuit of power, profit and world domination; ultra-wealthy capitalists at their very worst.

Ted Radamaker

America must know about its governments imperialist policies. William Blum always tells it like it is and for the good of society.

[Nov 10, 2013] Latest Massacre of Syrian Christians Covered Up in the West

When a false-flag atrocity occurs of which Muslims are the purported victims, the United States goes to war to save them-the January 1999 stage-managed "massacre" at Račak, in Kosovo, being a classic example. When all-too-real massacres of Christians by Muslims take place, they are unreported in the Western media and uncommented upon by Western politicians.

"Slaughter in Syria: 45 Christians Killed by Islamists in Sadad and Thrown into Mass Graves," CatholicOnline reported on November 5. The facts of the case are obvious from the rebels' own shockingly gruesome footage ( here with English subtitles ) and from the government forces' initial video report after liberating the town (viewer discretion advised). As The Tablet reported on the same day, civilians unable to escape – including the elderly, disabled, women and children-were subjected to death by torture, including strangulation. The bodies of six members of a single Christian family, aged 16 to 90, were found in a well, prompting the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III to ask, "How can somebody do such inhumane and bestial things to an elderly couple and their family? I do not understand why the world does not raise its voice against such acts of brutality."

Sadad, a town of 15,000 mostly Syriac Orthodox people, is on the strategically important road from Damascus to Homs. It is mentioned in the Old Testament books of Numbers and Ezekiel. Most of its 15 churches have been destroyed or looted during the week-long jihadist reign of terror (October 21-28), most prominently the Church of St Theodore which the jihadists from Al Qaeda's Nusra Front used as a base.

- See more at: http://www.chroniclesmagazine.org/2013/11/08/latest-massacre-of-syrian-christians-covered-up-in-the-west/#sthash.6zyGmF9O.dpuf

When a false-flag atrocity occurs of which Muslims are the purported victims, the United States goes to war to save them-the January 1999 stage-managed "massacre" at Račak, in Kosovo, being a classic example. When all-too-real massacres of Christians by Muslims take place, they are unreported in the Western media and uncommented upon by Western politicians.

"Slaughter in Syria: 45 Christians Killed by Islamists in Sadad and Thrown into Mass Graves," CatholicOnline reported on November 5. The facts of the case are obvious from the rebels' own shockingly gruesome footage ( here with English subtitles ) and from the government forces' initial video report after liberating the town (viewer discretion advised). As The Tablet reported on the same day, civilians unable to escape – including the elderly, disabled, women and children-were subjected to death by torture, including strangulation. The bodies of six members of a single Christian family, aged 16 to 90, were found in a well, prompting the Melkite Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregory III to ask, "How can somebody do such inhumane and bestial things to an elderly couple and their family? I do not understand why the world does not raise its voice against such acts of brutality."

Sadad, a town of 15,000 mostly Syriac Orthodox people, is on the strategically important road from Damascus to Homs. It is mentioned in the Old Testament books of Numbers and Ezekiel. Most of its 15 churches have been destroyed or looted during the week-long jihadist reign of terror (October 21-28), most prominently the Church of St Theodore which the jihadists from Al Qaeda's Nusra Front used as a base.

kirill says:
November 10, 2013 at 6:58 am

Thanks for the link. Yet more evidence of the phoney baloney "respect for human rights" that the west purports to have.

The REAL Reason U.S. Targets Whistleblowers Zero Hedge

U.S. leaders have long:

Can you spot a pattern of hypocrisy?

Indeed, the worse the acts by officials, the more they say we it must be covered up … for "the good of the country".

For example, Elizabeth Goitein – co-director of the Liberty and National Security Program at New York University School of Law's Brennan Center for Justice – writes:

The government has begun to advance bold new justifications for classifying information that threaten to erode the principled limits that have existed - in theory, if not always in practice - for decades. The cost of these efforts, if they remain unchecked, may be the American public's ability to hold its government accountable.

***

The government acknowledged that it possessed mug shots, videos depicting forcible extractions of al-Qahtani from his cell and videos documenting various euphemistically termed "intelligence debriefings of al-Qahtani." It argued that all of these images were properly classified and withheld from the public - but not because they would reveal sensitive intelligence methods, the traditional justification for classifying such information. The government did not stake its case on this time-tested argument perhaps because the details of al-Qahtani's interrogations have been officially disclosed through agency reports and congressional hearings. Instead, the government argued that the images could be shielded from disclosure because the Taliban and associated forces have previously used photos of U.S. forces "interacting with detainees" to garner support for attacks against those forces. Even more broadly, the government asserted that disclosure could aid in the "recruitment and financing of extremists and insurgent groups."

***

The government's argument echoed a similar claim it made in a lawsuit earlier this year over a FOIA request for postmortem photographs of Osama bin Laden. A CIA official attested that these images could "aid the production of anti-American propaganda," noting that images of abuse at Abu Ghraib had been "very effective" in helping Al-Qaeda to recruit supporters and raise funds. The appeals court did not address this argument, however, resting its decision on the narrower ground that these particular images were likely to incite immediate violence.

The judge in al-Qahtani's case showed no such restraint. She held that the photos and videos were properly classified because "it (is) both logical and plausible that extremists would utilize images of al-Qahtani … to incite anti-American sentiment, to raise funds, and/or to recruit other loyalists." When CCR pointed out that this result was speculative, the judge responded that "it is bad law and bad policy to second-guess the predictive judgments made by the government's intelligence agencies." In short, the government may classify information, not because that information reveals tactical or operational secrets but because the conduct it reveals could in theory anger existing enemies or create new ones.

This approach is alarming in part because it has no limiting principle. The reasons why people choose to align themselves against the United States - or any other country - are nearly as numerous and varied as the people themselves. Our support for Israel is considered a basis for enmity by some. May the government classify the aid we provide to other nations? May it classify our trade policies on the basis that they may breed resentment among the populations of some countries, thus laying the groundwork for future hostile relations? May it classify our history of involvement in armed conflicts across the globe because that history may function as "anti-American propaganda" in some quarters?

Perhaps even more disturbing, this justification for secrecy will be strongest when the U.S. government's conduct most clearly violates accepted international norms. Evidence of human rights abuses against foreign nationals, for instance, is particularly likely to spark hostility abroad. Indeed, the judge in the al-Qahtani FOIA case noted that "the written record of (al-Qahtani's) torture may make it all the more likely that enemy forces would use al-Qahtani's image against the United States" - citing this fact as a reason to uphold classification.

Using the impropriety of the government's actions as a justification for secrecy is the very antithesis of accountability. To prevent this very outcome, the executive order that governs classification forbids classifying a document to "conceal violations of law" or to "prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency." However, a federal judge in 2008 interpreted this provision to allow classification of information revealing misconduct if there is a valid security reason for the nondisclosure. Together, this ruling and the judge's opinion in the al-Qahtani FOIA case eviscerate the executive order's prohibition: The government can always argue that it classified evidence of wrongdoing because the information could be used as "anti-American propaganda" by our adversaries.

Human rights advocates cannot rely on al-Qahtani to tell us what the photos and videos would reveal. The government asserts that his own knowledge of what occurred at Guantánamo - knowledge he gained, not through privileged access to government documents but through his personal experience - is a state secret. The words that Guantánamo detainees speak, once transcribed by their attorneys, are "presumptively classified," and the government determines which of those words, if any, may be released. Legally, the government may classify only information that is "owned by, produced by or for, or is under the control of the United States Government." Because the detainees are under the government's control, so, apparently, are the contents of their memory.

That's why high-level CIA whistleblower John Kiriakou was prosecuted him for espionage after he blew the whistle on illegal CIA torture.*

Obviously, the government wants to stop whistleblowers because they interfere with the government's ability to act in an unaccountable manner. As Glenn Greenwald writes:

It should not be difficult to understand why the Obama administration is so fixated on intimidating whistleblowers and going far beyond any prior administration – including those of the secrecy-obsessed Richard Nixon and George W Bush – to plug all leaks. It's because those methods are the only ones preventing the US government from doing whatever it wants in complete secrecy and without any accountability of any kind.

But whistleblowers also interfere with the government's ability to get away with hypocrisy. As two political science professors from George Washington University (Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore) show, the government is so hell-bent to punish Manning and Snowden because their leaks are putting an end to the ability of the US to use hypocrisy as a weapon:

The U.S. establishment has often struggled to explain exactly why these leakers [Manning, Snowden, etc.] pose such an enormous threat.

***

The deeper threat that leakers such as Manning and Snowden pose is more subtle than a direct assault on U.S. national security: they undermine Washington's ability to act hypocritically and get away with it. Their danger lies not in the new information that they reveal but in the documented confirmation they provide of what the United States is actually doing and why. When these deeds turn out to clash with the government's public rhetoric, as they so often do, it becomes harder for U.S. allies to overlook Washington's covert behavior and easier for U.S. adversaries to justify their own.

***

As the United States finds itself less able to deny the gaps between its actions and its words, it will face increasingly difficult choices - and may ultimately be compelled to start practicing what it preaches. Hypocrisy is central to Washington's soft power - its ability to get other countries to accept the legitimacy of its actions - yet few Americans appreciate its role.

***

American commitments to the rule of law, democracy, and free trade are embedded in the multilateral institutions that the country helped establish after World War II, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, and later the World Trade Organization. Despite recent challenges to U.S. preeminence, from the Iraq war to the financial crisis, the international order remains an American one. This system needs the lubricating oil of hypocrisy to keep its gears turning.

***

Of course, the United States has gotten away with hypocrisy for some time now. It has long preached the virtues of nuclear nonproliferation, for example, and has coerced some states into abandoning their atomic ambitions. At the same time, it tacitly accepted Israel's nuclearization and, in 2004, signed a formal deal affirming India's right to civilian nuclear energy despite its having flouted the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty by acquiring nuclear weapons. In a similar vein, Washington talks a good game on democracy, yet it stood by as the Egyptian military overthrew an elected government in July, refusing to call a coup a coup. Then there's the "war on terror": Washington pushes foreign governments hard on human rights but claims sweeping exceptions for its own behavior when it feels its safety is threatened.

***

Manning's and Snowden's leaks mark the beginning of a new era in which the U.S. government can no longer count on keeping its secret behavior secret. Hundreds of thousands of Americans today have access to classified documents that would embarrass the country if they were publicly circulated. As the recent revelations show, in the age of the cell-phone camera and the flash drive, even the most draconian laws and reprisals will not prevent this information from leaking out. As a result, Washington faces what can be described as an accelerating hypocrisy collapse - a dramatic narrowing of the country's room to maneuver between its stated aspirations and its sometimes sordid pursuit of self-interest. The U.S. government, its friends, and its foes can no longer plausibly deny the dark side of U.S. foreign policy and will have to address it head-on.

***

The era of easy hypocrisy is over.

Professors Farrell and Finnemore note that the government has several options for dealing with ongoing leaks. They conclude that the best would be for the government to actually do what it says.

What a novel idea …

* Note: That may be why Guantanamo is really being kept open, and even prisoners that the U.S. government admits are innocent are still being blocked from release: to cover up the widespread torture by keeping the evidence – the prisoners themselves – in a dungeon away from the light of day.

[Oct 28, 2013] stan van houcke The End of Hypocrisy

A HYPOCRITICAL HEGEMON

Hypocrisy is central to Washington's soft power -- its ability to get other countries to accept the legitimacy of its actions -- yet few Americans appreciate its role. Liberals tend to believe that other countries cooperate with the United States because American ideals are attractive and the U.S.-led international system is fair. Realists may be more cynical, yet if they think about Washington's hypocrisy at all, they consider it irrelevant. For them, it is Washington's cold, hard power, not its ideals, that encourages other countries to partner with the United States.

Of course, the United States is far from the only hypocrite in international politics. But the United States' hypocrisy matters more than that of other countries. That's because most of the world today lives within an order that the United States built, one that is both underwritten by U.S. power and legitimated by liberal ideas. American commitments to the rule of law, democracy, and free trade are embedded in the multilateral institutions that the country helped establish after World War II, including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the United Nations, and later the World Trade Organization. Despite recent challenges to U.S. preeminence, from the Iraq war to the financial crisis, the international order remains an American one.

This system needs the lubricating oil of hypocrisy to keep its gears turning. To ensure that the world order continues to be seen as legitimate, U.S. officials must regularly promote and claim fealty to its core liberal principles; the United States cannot impose its hegemony through force alone. But as the recent leaks have shown, Washington is also unable to consistently abide by the values that it trumpets. This disconnect creates the risk that other states might decide that the U.S.-led order is fundamentally illegitimate.

Of course, the United States has gotten away with hypocrisy for some time now. It has long preached the virtues of nuclear nonproliferation, for example, and has coerced some states into abandoning their atomic ambitions. At the same time, it tacitly accepted Israel's nuclearization and, in 2004, signed a formal deal affirming India's right to civilian nuclear energy despite its having flouted the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty by acquiring nuclear weapons. In a similar vein, Washington talks a good game on democracy, yet it stood by as the Egyptian military overthrew an elected government in July, refusing to call a coup a coup. Then there's the "war on terror": Washington pushes foreign governments hard on human rights but claims sweeping exceptions for its own behavior when it feels its safety is threatened.

The reason the United States has until now suffered few consequences for such hypocrisy is that other states have a strong interest in turning a blind eye. Given how much they benefit from the global public goods Washington provides, they have little interest in calling the hegemon on its bad behavior. Public criticism risks pushing the U.S. government toward self-interested positions that would undermine the larger world order. Moreover, the United States can punish those who point out the inconsistency in its actions by downgrading trade relations or through other forms of direct retaliation. Allies thus usually air their concerns in private. Adversaries may point fingers, but few can convincingly occupy the moral high ground. Complaints by China and Russia hardly inspire admiration for their purer policies.

The ease with which the United States has been able to act inconsistently has bred complacency among its leaders. Since few countries ever point out the nakedness of U.S. hypocrisy, and since those that do can usually be ignored, American politicians have become desensitized to their country's double standards. But thanks to Manning and Snowden, such double standards are getting harder and harder to ignore.

[Oct 23, 2013] Manning and Snowden Leaks 'Undermine Washington's Ability to Act Hypocritically' by John Glaser

October 22, 2013 | Antiwar.com

Writing in Foreign Affairs, two George Washington University professors note the strange inability of "the U.S. establishment" to substantiate their claims that leakers like Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning pose an enormous threat to national security.

The reason the establishment hasn't been able to back that up is because there is a "deeper threat that leakers such as Manning and Snowden pose [that] is more subtle than a direct assault on U.S. national security: they undermine Washington's ability to act hypocritically and get away with it."

The inability to get away with our own hypocrisy and double standards presents a dire threat to U.S. hegemony, write Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore:

Hypocrisy is central to Washington's soft power - its ability to get other countries to accept the legitimacy of its actions - yet few Americans appreciate its role. Liberals tend to believe that other countries cooperate with the United States because American ideals are attractive and the U.S.-led international system is fair. Realists may be more cynical, yet if they think about Washington's hypocrisy at all, they consider it irrelevant. For them, it is Washington's cold, hard power, not its ideals, that encourages other countries to partner with the United States.

…This system needs the lubricating oil of hypocrisy to keep its gears turning. To ensure that the world order continues to be seen as legitimate, U.S. officials must regularly promote and claim fealty to its core liberal principles; the United States cannot impose its hegemony through force alone. But as the recent leaks have shown, Washington is also unable to consistently abide by the values that it trumpets. This disconnect creates the risk that other states might decide that the U.S.-led order is fundamentally illegitimate.

Of course, the United States has gotten away with hypocrisy for some time now. It has long preached the virtues of nuclear nonproliferation, for example, and has coerced some states into abandoning their atomic ambitions. At the same time, it tacitly accepted Israel's nuclearization and, in 2004, signed a formal deal affirming India's right to civilian nuclear energy despite its having flouted the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty by acquiring nuclear weapons. In a similar vein, Washington talks a good game on democracy, yet it stood by as the Egyptian military overthrew an elected government in July, refusing to call a coup a coup. Then there's the "war on terror": Washington pushes foreign governments hard on human rights but claims sweeping exceptions for its own behavior when it feels its safety is threatened.

The reason the United States has until now suffered few consequences for such hypocrisy is that other states have a strong interest in turning a blind eye. Given how much they benefit from the global public goods Washington provides, they have little interest in calling the hegemon on its bad behavior. Public criticism risks pushing the U.S. government toward self-interested positions that would undermine the larger world order. Moreover, the United States can punish those who point out the inconsistency in its actions by downgrading trade relations or through other forms of direct retaliation. Allies thus usually air their concerns in private. Adversaries may point fingers, but few can convincingly occupy the moral high ground. Complaints by China and Russia hardly inspire admiration for their purer policies.

The ease with which the United States has been able to act inconsistently has bred complacency among its leaders. Since few countries ever point out the nakedness of U.S. hypocrisy, and since those that do can usually be ignored, American politicians have become desensitized to their country's double standards. But thanks to Manning and Snowden, such double standards are getting harder and harder to ignore.

So, while not even the most vicious government agent has been able to substantiate any claims of an actual threat to Americans' safety resulting from the Manning and Snowden disclosures, it is certainly true that their leaks have weakened Washington's ability to act in ways that are contrary to self-serving propaganda about freedom, democracy, and the rule of law.

And that is the kind of threat that power hates the most.

[Apr 05, 2013] Liberal Imperialism, by Justin Raimondo

LIBERAL IMPERIALISM: War and the soul of American liberalism. As Joseph Schumpeter noted in his 1919 essay, "The Sociology of Imperialisms,": If the interests were not Roman, they were those of Rome's allies; and if Rome had no allies, then allies would be invented. When it was utterly impossible to contrive such an interest-why, then it was the national honor that had been insulted.

During the cold war, foreign policy issues rarely cut across Right-Left lines: the Left was anti-interventionist, the Right was for "rolling back" the Soviets and the matter was pretty clear-cut. Oh, there were a few libertarians (such as Murray N. Rothbard) who harkened back to the Old Right "isolationists" of the pre-Pearl Harbor era, and were opposed to America's policy of global intervention on the grounds that it enormously increased the power of the State. But they were then too numerically insignificant to make much of a dent on the popular stereotypes of the long-haired hippie leftist with his Che Guevara T-shirt and the buttoned-down conservative with the crewcut and the "America, Love it or leave it!" bumpersticker. The former wanted us Out Now, the latter yearned to Nuke 'Em Now, and never the twain did meet – until the end of the cold war, that is.

When the Soviet bugaboo suddenly vanished, seemingly without warning, many on the Right did an about-face. The first Gulf war evoked opposition from Pat Buchanan and a core group of "paleoconservative" writers and publicists, grouped around Chronicles magazine, as well as Rothbard, Lew Rockwell, of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, the columnist Charlie Reese, and others. The Kosovo war expanded the ranks of the conservative anti-interventionists, until even the House Republicans were balking at supporting Bill Clinton's "humanitarian interventionism." The Old Right was back, and Buchanan expressed its essential spirit well:

"Most of us 'neo-isolationists,' a disparate, contentious lot, are really not 'neo' anything. We are old church and old right, anti-imperialist and anti-interventionist, disbelievers in Pax Americana. We love the old republic, and when we hear phrases like 'New World Order,' we release the safety catches on our revolvers."

On the Left, the opposite reaction set in. Former opponents of the Vietnam war began to reevaluate their old beliefs – now that they had attained power. With the election of President Clinton, the old Wilsonian Left was revived, and suddenly the Democrats were the interventionist party, as their leader sent more troops into more trouble spots than any Republican had ever dared propose. The Kosovo war, sold as armed "humanitarianism," was the apotheosis of the new war-liberalism.

I'll never forget confronting Rep. Nancy Pelosi, today elected House majority leader, over the Balkan issue back in 1996, when I had the dubious pleasure of being her Republican opponent. Dubious, because Republicans are down to 12.5 percent of the vote in San Francisco congressional elections, and a pleasure because Pelosi was outspoken in her support for our Balkan misadventure.

There, too, we attacked a nation that had never attacked us, and covered up our own crimes with a smokescreen of hysterical propaganda. When I asked her how and why the national interest of the United States could possibly involve the dismantling of Yugoslavia and the unleashing of a criminal gang of drug-dealing ultra-nationalists, she whinged on about "genocide" and cited a figure of 50,000 supposedly slaughtered by Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic. (That turned out to be a lie, not that she'd ever acknowledge it.) Pelosi then denounced Milosevic, a minor thug, in much the same terms as are now reserved for Saddam Hussein: he was, she said, "another Hitler." Today, as the Republicans call for "regime change" in a Middle Eastern venue, she is singing a different tune, but others remember the old Clintonian songs, and their voices are being heard in the present debate.

Aside from The New Republic – which is sui generis, since it has vociferously and pretty consistently supported every major war since its first issue in 1914, and was pretty much founded for that purpose – liberal voices in support of invading Iraq have been few, faint, and somewhat ambivalent. Among Democratic politicians, Senator Joe Lieberman and Rep. Richard Gephardt signed on to the President's war resolution, but the former House leader is in eclipse and Lieberman hasn't stuck his neck out all that far, as yet, confining himself to a single joint appearance with Gephardt and the President.

Unless you count Christopher Hitchens – and I would contend that renegade Trotskyists are a category unto themselves – no prominent and respected liberal writer or activist has joined the neoconservative war-birds in calling for the "liberation" of the Middle Eastern peoples from themselves, and their forced inculcation of the virtues of Jeffersonian democracy and the spirit of the Enlightenment. At least not until Richard Just's recent clarion call, entitled "Moral Imperative: Any self-respecting liberal ought to support an invasion of Iraq," in The American Prospect.

TAP is the theoretical journal of an eclectic amalgam of Hillary Clintonites and right-wing Social Democrats, aspiring American Blairites who hope to duplicate the success of the British example here in America. In its very title – which Just, as online editor of TAP, had some hand in writing – the piece revives the Wilsonian hectoring that had been the leitmotif of the Clintonian foreign policy, and this note of preening righteousness is maintained throughout.

Just points out that the Democrats in the 2000 election campaigned on a program of hard-line interventionism, and that "both Gore and his running mate, Joe Lieberman, had enthusiastically supported every American military action since the end of the Cold War." He also astutely notes what no Republicans now care to remember: that year, the Republicans were playing at "isolationism," and although Just doesn't cite George W. Bush's plea for a more "humble" foreign policy, he sees the guiding light of the Bush camp to have been Colin Powell's "virtual isolationism."

Just overstates the case, unless "virtual" means "not really." Bush not only supported the Kosovo war, once in office he kept our troops there, continuing the Clintonian policy of intervention on behalf of the Osama bin Laden-supported Kosovo "Liberation" Army. But what's interesting is that he also makes the key link between war and the achievement of liberal domestic goals:

"To Bush and Republican congressmen of the late 1990s, Bill Clinton's repeated deployment of American troops and American airpower in faraway places stunk of overambitious moralism in the same way that his health-care program stunk of overambitious concern for the disadvantaged."

Or, as the early 20th century classical liberal Randolph Bourne put it, "war is the health of the State." But for Just – a modern liberal, i.e., a kind of anti-libertarian – this is a good thing. State-worship is the secularized religion of modern liberalism, and it's only natural that the evangelical zeal of armed social workers bearing health-care programs and declaring their concern for the disadvantaged should seek to expand their good works well beyond our borders. Implicit in Just's argument is the promise of gaining some political advantage: support the war, and liberals will be rewarded with some victories on the home front.

In an odd twist, Just couples Bush and Green party candidate Ralph Nader as right and left versions of the same essentially "isolationist" (i.e. pro-peace) position, a juxtaposition that seems chiefly rhetorical. In any case, the author goes on to make the point that 9/11 marked a radical reversal of political polarities, as the Left went "isolationist" and the Right took on the colors of the War Party:

"Neoconservatives seized their chance to wrench the soul of Republican foreign policy away from the Powell realists, and liberals dutifully re-cloaked themselves in the awkward discomfort with American power that they had worn almost without interruption (and not always without justification) from the beginning of the Cold War through Clinton's deployment of troops to Haiti in 1994."

The process he describes is largely a function of partisan politics: the party out of power must be seen to forge an alternative policy, it is in opposition by definition, and the implication is clear: the liberal Democratic reaction was an unthinking reflex, and one that needs to be reconsidered. He writes:

"I do not know if this reversal is a bad thing for America. (There is, to be sure, inherent democratic value in genuine ideological opposition, even when that opposition is wrong.) But it is almost certainly a bad thing for liberalism. We now find ourselves about to go to war with Iraq, and most liberals have lined up against such an invasion. Their main argument rests on the thesis that Saddam Hussein can be deterred. This argument is bad for liberalism for three reasons: because its veracity is highly suspect, because it is woefully inadequate as a statement of policy and because it is not, in fact, a 'liberal' argument at all."

In their essence, these three arguments boil down to the following:

1) Saddam tried to assassinate George Herbert Walker Bush when he was President, and, since this would have meant war if successful, amounts to an act of war punishable, presumably, by invasion and indefinite occupation.

In that case, Cuba should have declared war on us at least three times over, because I don't know exactly how many attempts our intelligence agencies have made on Fidel Castro's life over the years, but surely by now the case for a Cuban preemptive strike is clearly established – at least if we use the moral yardstick employed by Just and his Bushian confreres. How many foreign heads of state have we had a hand in assassinating, and how many times did we bungle the job? If even the mere act of planning such an act is grounds for retaliation, then there's no telling how many countries have the alleged "right" to occupy Washington and put our leaders on trial. Or is Just's brand of liberal moralism only aimed outwardly, at other nations?

2) Once Saddam gets nuclear weapons, he, unlike Stalin, or the North Koreans, or the Indians, or the Pakistanis, (or the Israelis, for that matter) cannot be deterred, because – well, you see, he's "a madman." But even if he could be deterred, Just gets around that by enunciating the third leg of his pro-war trifecta:

"There is nothing good – or 'progressive' – about a situation that prevents us from shielding ethnic minorities from their tormentors or shielding democracies from their foes."

Given that principle, there can be little or nothing bad about a military action that "liberates" the Iraqi people and implants "democracy" as one might undertake surgery on a sick patient and implant a new heart. The radicalism of such a project, far from deterring our modern liberals, merely emboldens them, and Just's war manifesto rings with passionate conviction:

"Anti-war liberals have derided the prospect of a liberated Iraq serving as a model for Arab democracy – and starting a domino effect that could liberate the Muslim world from the grips of petty despots and theocratic lunatics – as fanciful. But for all their talk about the 'root causes' of terrorism, my fellow liberals have spoken very little about how they plan to remedy the situation."

Liberals must always be there with their State-created and subsidized remedies for all of society's ills, not only here but abroad as well. This Wilsonian nosiness and self-righteousness recognizes no borders: its ambition is boundless. As Just puts it:

"There have never been any great liberal strains in American life that were fueled by a desire to just let things be. Think of the domestic causes championed by liberals at this magazine and elsewhere: public financing of campaigns, measures to conserve the environment, universal health care – they are all ambitious in the great progressive tradition."

God forbid we should ever leave anybody alone. Now surely that is the leitmotif of modern liberalism, a principle that they logically wish to extend into the realm of foreign affairs. And who am I to argue with them? Given their (entirely false) premises, they are right.

Here we are witnessing the birth of a new political paradigm: national greatness liberalism. The neoconservative variety has long been aborning in the McCainite camp and the Weekly Standard crowd. The keeper of the "national greatness" flame, Marshall Wittmann, was recently hired on as Senator McCain's new communications director, and clearly a coalition is forming around the virulently pro-war, ultra-interventionist blowhard from Arizona, who could move into a leaderless Democratic party vacuum and take the prize.

Aside from building great "monuments," libraries, and other accouterments of great wealth and even greater power, the one big activity that constituted proof of a nation's "greatness," according to the neocons, is war. Now the liberals step forward, and add their own wing to this House of National Greatness: a section devoted to national healthcare, and one for full employment, and, who knows, perhaps even a "War on Poverty" at home to complement the perpetual "War for Democracy" abroad – just like in the good old days of the LBJ-Scoop Jackson Democrats!

Oh, happy days are here again!

Invoking Wilson, FDR, and the "liberating" power of the State, Just makes the case for the new war-liberalism by saying, essentially, let's get in on a little of this war fever and use it to achieve our own political goals. The Republicans are playing the war card, but two can play that game.

It's a seductive argument, because modern liberalism, as state-worship, has everything to gain and nothing to lose from the Bushian policy of perpetual war. In calling for the merger of the two main streams of American interventionism, Just implores liberals to throw in their lot with the empire-building neoconservatives, so as to ensure that all citizens of the Empire have state-subsidized health insurance, three squares a day, and the right to cast a ballot for the crook of their choice.

What gets Just's goat about liberal opponents of this war is their lack of the old crusading spirit: "It is not a policy of hope; it is a policy of little imagination and puny moral spirit." He is "disappointed," he says, in this puniness, and calls forth his liberal fellow warriors in a great crusade to … yes, to make the world safe for democracy.

And where have we heard all this before? Like the liberal crusaders of yesterday, who went abroad to "liberate" Europe – and created, instead, the conditions for the rise of Hitler and a new worldwide conflagration – Just and his cohorts are marching into the ever-darkening future, the bright banner of warrior liberalism unfurled. God save us from these liberal neo-imperialists, whose arrogance rises to the level of any neocon, and whose idea of "national greatness" is just as overblown and bloodthirsty.

Will liberals fall for it? We'll see, but I predict that the answer, in large part, will be yes, particularly if the United Nations can be forced into following the Bush administration into war. Then the "multilateralist" critique of Al Gore and even Todd Gitlin will be rendered irrelevant, and there would be little to prevent a general consensus of the "respectable" Left and the neoconservative Right around going to war with Iraq.

ANNOUNCEMENT – BERKELEY SPEECH

I'm speaking at UC Berkeley at a forum on Iraq sponsored by the Cal Libertarians, on November 20, at 7:00 pm, in Room 2050 of the Valley Life Sciences Building. My topic: "Iraq: First Stop on the Road to Empire."

– Justin Raimondo

[Mar 06, 2013] Humanitarian Imperialism Using Human Rights to Sell War Jean Bricmont 9781583671474

Amazon.com Books

Douglas Doepke

Sheep's Clothing October 1, 2007

Recovering from the popular trauma of Vietnam has been agonizing for the nation's imperial managers. Running a global empire requires seizing opportunity when it arises, as well as strafing the unruly when they threaten to break ranks. But all that got a lot harder once the bloody realities of southeast Asia gave intervention a bad name. Still, there's considerable truth in the old saying, "Where there's a will, there's a way", and there's definitely a "will" in Washington-- an imperial will. But after Vietnam, the "way" took some time to crystallize. Enter the concept "humanitarian intervention", a phrase bound to engage the heart of every well-meaning liberal. What better reason to intervene in another country's internal affairs, than to do so under the cover of aiding human rights. No more need for an Ollie North running covert intervention from the White House basement, or being thwarted by a restive anti-war Congress. Now even liberals and anti-globalists can climb on board the interventionist train. And many did, riding all the way to Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, and Iraq before the wheels fell off in Baghdad.

Bricmont's succinct little volume is about as timely as timely gets. In a 150-plus pages, we're reminded why the US cannot be trusted to conduct any post-WWII intervention, "humantarian" or otherwise. Just as importantly, Bricmont points out how counter-productive these intercessions prove in advancing ordinary standards of human rights. Much of the material here is likely familiar to students of US foreign policy. Still, discussing the track record within the context of humanitarian assumptions serves a very timely purpose, and should be required reading for all who want to climb aboard that meretricious train.

Several miscellaneous points: Situating the left's present predicament remains a key requirement for moving beyond our present benighted stage. The Preface presents a provocative set of 20th-century comparisons as signposts, e.g., anti-imperialism, not socialism, characterizes that century's trajectory, thus placing the Third World's evolutionary advances in a clearer light. Also aiding the text are the author's well-placed efforts at dealing honestly with the Soviet experience. There's little of the reflex anti-Sovietism that characterizes much of current left opinion. In fact, it's hard to see how the left can revive without an honest eye-level reckoning with 70 years of "socialism under siege". Lastly, the book deals with the issue of interventionism within the present era of US dominance. It's not a work of theory. There may be scattered references to certain conditions justjfying foreign intervention, but Bricmont's not trying to arrive at general criteria. Put succinctly, we have a better idea of what does not justify foreign intervention, than we have of what does.

Anyway, Bricmont's is a highly topical work, deserving of much greater attention than what it's currently getting on this site.

William Podmore

Fine demolition of the big lie of 'humanitarian' interventionism January 25, 2010

In this brilliant book, French scientist Jean Bricmont exposes the liberal lie of humanitarian imperialism, showing that imperialism is never humanitarian.

Throughout the last century, the USA and its allies, principally Britain, constantly attacked progressive forces, upholding by force the unjust world order under which we live, attacking workers seeking justice and national sovereignty. The USA is the organ-grinder, Britain the monkey.

The key example is the Soviet Union, which was always forced to defend itself against aggression. As Bricmont notes, defending the Soviet Union, "The leftist discourse on the Soviet Union, especially on the part of Trotskyists, anarchists, and a majority of contemporary communists, usually fails to recognize that aspect of things in its eagerness to denounce Stalinism. But insofar as a large part of Stalinism can be considered a reaction to external attacks and threats (imagine again a regular series of September 11 attacks on the United States), the denunciation amounts to a defense of imperialism that is all the more pernicious for adopting a revolutionary pose."

Bricmont defends workers' nationalism, pointing out, "the `nationalism' of a people that wants to protect advantages gained in decades of struggle for progress is not comparable to the nationalism of a great power that takes the form of military intervention at the other end of the earth. Moreover, if it is true that national sovereignty does not necessarily bring democracy, there can be no democracy without it." Nations that lose sovereignty lose their democracy.

When peoples defend their national sovereignty against an aggressor, they are upholding international law. But for Britain to follow the USA into endless wars would militarise our foreign and domestic policies, destroy civil liberties and waste billions on the military, with no end to terrorism.

If Britain instead practised non-intervention and peaceful cooperation, and respected other nations' rights to self-determination and national sovereignty, we would free billions of pounds to invest in our industries and services.

jcb

Resurgence of Imperialism, April 3, 2012

The collapse of the Soviet Union and its associated political project in the 1990's had a number of consequences. The political movements which had a symbiotic relationship to the old Soviet Union i.e. left wing movements ranging from Stalinists to anarchists fell into political disarray. The economic impact was equally severe, the `planned' economies of `actually existing socialism collapsed and the free market re-emerged in a manner reminiscent of the 19th century. The most important consequence has been the resurgence of imperialism. This has manifested itself in the unending series of wars and interventions which began with Kosovo in the late 1990s. Today the West is at war in Afghanistan having wrecked Iraq. Military intervention in Iran is being proposed by Israel. In addition to military intervention, torture has returned once more as an instrument of state policy. Unlike the 19th century when the slave trade or some such provided a justification for attacking other lands the imperialism of today requires a new ideological legitimacy cloaked in suitably soothing tones. This ideology goes under the banner of `humanitarian intervention'.

Bricmont's book is an analysis and critique of this ideology. Bricmont writes in a clear and simple fashion. In the chapter on Power and Ideology he makes the important points: a justifying ideology is always necessary when one one state attacks another. In democratic societies ideology is very important for thought and social control. Unlike North Korea where I imagine the populace have few illusions regarding their rulers, in democratic societies we believe ourselves to be masters of our own minds. In the 19th century King Leopold of Belgium took over the Congo, the ostensible reason was to defeat Arab slave traders. In a similar vein when Britain built its empire it was invariably for the good of those subjugated.

Bricmont defines the West as being USA and Europe. He defines imperialism to `designate Western colonial or neo-colonial policies in the Third World. He also makes the important point that decolonisation and not commumism was the most important feature of the 20th Century. Bricmont's critique focusses on the disregard for international law in favour of human rights as a justification for interventions. Leftists who 20 years ago would have opposed interventions in other States. have now become liberal imperialists. He points out that unending interventions have one direction only: that of unending war., a war of strong states against weak ones Chapter 4 "Weak and strong arguments against War" provides excellent examples.

Quoting a Canadian professor Michael Mandel ` contemporary international law has as its aim ....to preserve future generations from the scourge of war. To achieve that no country has the right to send its troops into another country without the consent of its government. This `government' merely needs to control the armed forces. It does not have to an elected government. International law for Bricmont is better than no law at all. Using this argument he then raises the question of why some attacks are `legitimate' but not others. Was the Japanese attack on Pearl harbour legitimate? Bricmont points out that liberal thought sees three political forms * The war of all against all * An absolute sovereign * Liberal democratic order.

The liberal imperialists in the West support democracy at home but interventions abroad. One aspect missing from the analysis is the gross military imbalance between the Western powers and the many states that have been attacked by the West.

The Battler of Omdurman in 1898 was between a british expedition led by Kitchener' and and Ansar army led by Abdullah Al Tashi. Numerically much stronger than the British the casualty outcome of the battle was "Around 10,000 Ansar were killed, 13,000 wounded and 5,000 taken prisoner. Kitchener's force lost 47 men killed and 382 wounded (see (source:[...].

The military imbalance today is on a similar scale The recent overthrow of the Libyan state facilitated by NATO bombing highlighted the disparity in military power and is possibly a reason why the West is emboldened to pursue further interventions. The UK newspaper The Guardian recently had an online poll on whether Nato airstrikes should be launched against Syria. This reflects a mentality and a confidence that these weak states cannot fight back against the West The more subtle aspects of the ideology is the use ofWW2 as a n example of what should have been done in the 1930s.

The futility of WW1 is rarely discussed. Similarly the ideologues have mutated Western Armies into a Mother Teresa charity operation. Armies by definition are for fighting and along with occupation comes torture , resistance etc. The liberal's response is to argue for a better planned `occupation'. Arguing against something on the basis that it doesn't work is not a principled approach, for instance torture worked for the French in Algeria. Similarly drone technology can be improved and bring less collateral damage.

Although Bricmont decries moral absolutism,suppose international law is changed to reflect NATO's wish to use the UN as a proxy political force - how does one argue against that? To this reviewer there is a case for a priori principles in arguing against pragmatism. Bricmont has written a fine polemical critique which deserves a wide readership.

[Mar 06, 2013] Michael McFaul and the End of the Reset by Mark Adomanis

Forbes

The specific cause of the latest firestorm is a rather anodyne presentation McFaul gave at the Higher School of Economics in Moscow. Apparently during his presentation of the slides, which themselves are mostly about the reset's accomplishments, McFaul suggested that the Russians sought a number of quid-pro-quo deals about totally unrelated issues* (this is true), that the Russians attempted to bribe the Kyrgyz government to evict US forces from the Manas airbase (this is true), and that the RT television station promotes the Russian point of view at the expense of the American (this is also true).

... ... ...

The American government is, today, undoubtedly far more polite and considerate in pressing its interests vis-à-vis Russia than it was under George W. Bush, but the difference in tone is not nearly as important as the fact that the actual content of the policy is surprisingly similar: ballistic missile defense, NATO expansion, and democracy promotion. It therefore not the least bit surprising that the Russians are not being less than cooperative: all of the 'low hanging fruit' in the US-Russia relationship has already been plucked, and from here on out getting more from the Russians will require giving something up.

evgeny

"the actual content of the policy is surprisingly similar: ballistic missile defense, NATO expansion, and democracy promotion. It therefore not the least bit surprising that the Russians are not being less than cooperative"

"Democracy promotion" is a pseudoscience, much like "marxism-leninism". It's mostly about taxonomy. Some countries are dubbed democracies and some countries are dubbed autocracies, while the criteria for distinguishing one from another are nowhere specified. Ratings by Freedom House are a joke, they are very arbitrary, Russia gets undeservingly poor ratings: http://lenta.ru/articles/2007/05/02/freedom/

How can you promote democracy, if you have no scientific understanding of what is a democracy and what is autocracy? When you have so arbitrary criteria, democracy promotion is a tool of the political elites which they use at their discretion. Also, they just cannot admit their faults because that means losing face. They are not concerned about truth.

Ergo: American elites do not promote democracy, but instead they excercise their power and enjoy their perceived supremacy.

Tatiana Chuvakhina 9 months ago

Please don't send to Russia ill-mannered clowns with long tongues. Then they wont't become the laughing stock of Runet.

P.S. I hope not all US professors behave and talk like that

Ivan Cherkashin

There was another part to his lecture at the Higher School of Economics that Mark omits here. According to professor McFaul, America has been trying to bribe Kyrgyz government as well, but the Russians overbid it by approximately 10 times. Does this raise legal issues under the USA law as bribing is crime? :)

Andorra

The honorable Ambassador McFaul sees the whole business of "reset" as one-sided advance of the American interests in Russia. If you look at the slides he presented during his lecture ( http://t.co/SJTJiqU 1 ), there is very little about Russian interests and a lot about American.

It is understandable since he represents the US interests, but he goes about it so blatantly that it is difficult to swallow. For example, he flaunts his work with the opposition. having had several "closed" meetings with the members of various groups, but not offering the same courtesy to the pro-Putin side. He insists on his ill-conceived "dual engagement track" which presumes the Ambassador's and other officials of Obama Administration meetings with the opposition, but openly criticizes the work of the RT station that is almost invisible in the US.

His agenda reeks of his teacher's, Condoleezza Rice', instructions of weakening Russia's central power by stirring malcontent among the young and ambitious professionals who hope to advance their own interests by affiliating themselves with the US. By bragging about creating the list of "undesirables" he clearly indicated that although he wants to repeal the Jackson-Venick Amendment, there is already something better in the works. Better because Jackson-Venick affects American business negatively, but the new amendment will be entirely one-sided.

I won't be surprised if Mr.Putin would shelf the Russia's ascendance to the WTO indefinitely. For the wide capitalism in Russia is the wet dream of such companies as Monsanto. The dreams of colonial imperialism are alive and Russia is the last frontier still unaffected by the supranational corporations. Mr. McFaul is no friend of Russia, and it is fine as long as he does not pretend that anything he does is "good for Russia'. I wonder if Obama will recall "the Obamas's boy"after the election, or the new president will send his own boy to ruffle Russian feathers.

Mark Adomanis

McFaul is representing the interests of his own country? Quelle horreur! The Russian ambassador in Washington DC, I am sure, cares only about how his activities bring the greatest benefit to all mankind; he would never do something so dastardly as straightforwardly advance the Russian national interest.

Andorra Andorra:

I wrote, "…there is very little about Russian interests and a lot about American. It is understandable since he represents the US interests.."

Nothing horrible in his doing just that, but.. Simply put it is not in his job description to stir trouble, utter insinuations, and antagonize the country he is charged to bring to peaceful and friendly coexistence with the US.

"Ambassadors manage the operations of the U.S. embassies in other countries. ….Each embassy is headed by only one ambassador. Charged with the responsibility of maintaining diplomatic relations, an ambassador represents the President in matters of foreign policy. Ambassadors help to promote peace, trade, and the exchange of information between the United States and foreign lands."

His "dual-track" engagement is his own invention, and has nothing to do with his job, as well as finishing the "Unfinished Revolution in Russia" is not in his job description, but his vanity pushes him to keep meddling in the internal affairs of his host country. He hopes his mane will go down in history as the Man Who Changed Russia. fat chance!

Girolamo Savonarola

Arrogant and stupid article. No need to idealize your pseudo-ambassador. The problem is that he just professionally untenable. To be a diplomat is needed for this long and hard to learn. Get a professional education. I do not understand why Americans sent to us the layman. Normal diplomat would not have made so many mistakes. But the Americans hypocrites, of course, says blame the Russian, although our only "meets" on unprofessional actions of your pseudo-ambassador. Maybe he is a good man, but he clearly is engaged not their work.

Derek Norberg:

You are very quick to dismiss one very important take away. You write "What I think is the most important takeaway from this soon to be forgotten incident is not that McFaul is a bad ambassador or that we ought to do a better job of preparing our ambassadors for the inevitable compromises with honesty that diplomacy demands." Others can judge whether McFaul is a good Ambassador (the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs indicated his opinion).

But the U.S. should prepare any new Ambassador and most particularly one who is not a career State Department diplomat. Remember, McFaul is only the second non-career State Department Ambassador to Russia in history. The statements of a U.S. Ambassador to Russia, whether true or not, should never be a distraction from progress in the bilateral relationship.

I expect that McFaul is neither so young or poorly aware to not understand basic diplomacy or the consequences of his public comments and tweets. But more importantly, your conclusion that the limits to U.S.-Russia cooperation have been exhausted is grossly incorrect. In fact, the surface has hardly been scratched. But we need the very best people from both sides working on this and, regrettably, the very best minds and hands from either side are not always at the table.

More dialogue and real diplomacy and fewer distractions. The well of opportunity is deeper than you imagine. There remains a great deal more to be achieved in U.S.-Russia cooperation.

commons.emich.edu

The U.S. policy of democracy promotion in Latin America has consisted of promoting governments that are favorable to U.S. political and economic interests rather than democracy itself. While the U.S. claims to have a tradition of "promoting democracy" in Latin America, justification for U.S. intervention has been questionable and inconsistent. U.S. support for Latin American regimes has coincided with favorable economic policies rather than with the strength of democracy within a country. Historically, the protection of resources for extraction has been one of the main goals of U.S. policy in Latin America. U.S. A historical overview of U.S. relations in Latin America shows that the promotion of democracy is secondary to economic and social factors. Relations between the U.S. and Latin America show that the U.S. has used democracy promotion as cover for U.S. imperialism in Latin America. During the Cold War, the U.S. supported anticommunist regimes that were often undemocratic because they were capable of protecting U.S. interests. Since the mid-1980s, we have seen a wave of democratization in Latin America and an embrace of market democracy. U.S. relations in Latin America since the end of the Cold War reveal that the U.S. is merely changing its means of establishing U.S. friendly governments by promoting low-intensity democracy. This low-intensity democracy is characteristic polyarchy, in which elites who adhere to the neoliberal model control the government. When democratic governments within Latin America have veered too far from this outline for democracy and have threatened U.S. interests, the U.S. has intervened to undermine and attempt to overthrow these governments.

Democracy Promotion: Cornerstone of U.S. Foreign Policy?

One of President George W. Bush's stated reasons for starting the war in Iraq was to bring democracy to that country. He stated in December 2006 that "[We] are committed to a strategic goal of a free Iraq that is democratic, that can govern itself, defend itself and sustain itself." More broadly, the Bush Administration has viewed democracy promotion as an instrument for combatting terrorism.

Arguably, the lack of a clear definition of democracy and a comprehensive understanding of its basic elements may have hampered the formulation of democracy promotion policy and effective prioritizing of democracy promotion activities over the years. Also, the lack of definition may have complicated coordination of democracy programs and the assessment of U.S. government activities and funding. Further, without a consensus on democracy definition and goals, what criteria will determine when, if ever, a country has attained an acceptable level of democratic reform and no longer needs American assistance?

Both the U.S. executive and legislative branches of government support democracy promotion in other countries. The Bush Administration has implemented both bilateral and multilateral programs to promote democracy, such as the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), and requested about $1.5 billion for democracy promotion in FY2008. Also, it identified "governing justly and democratically" as a key objective of its foreign aid policies.

Congress appropriates funds, authorizes programs, and is responsible for oversight. In 2007, Congress considered, among other democracy promotion bills, the ADVANCE Democracy Act of 2007 (H.R. 982). It contains provisions to promote democracy overseas, calls for specific State Department actions and reports, aims to strengthen the "Community of Democracies," and authorizes funding for democracy assistance for FY2008 and FY2009. Congress is currently carrying out its own program through the House Democracy Assistance Commission (HDAC), which was established in 2005. The Commission provides expert advice to fledgling legislatures. To date, 12 countries have received assistance from the Commission.

The issue among Members of Congress, presidential hopefuls, and in the wider policy community is not whether democracy promotion is worthwhile in general, but rather when, where, and how it is to be applied to get the desired results and the most for the taxpayer's dollar. In addition, coordination of democracy promotion activities is lacking among developed countries and within the U.S. government. The 110th Congress may scrutinize U.S. democracy promotion in Iraq and elsewhere. Whether or not "victory in Iraq" includes establishing an independent democratic Iraqi government will be important in evaluating the human and financial costs and benefits of U.S. involvement in Iraq and could affect other U.S. democracy promotion agendas. This report will be updated as warranted.

[Sep 08, 2012] Chomsky The U.S. is desperate to stop middle east democracy movements

The Raw Story

Speaking to a crowd earlier this week, renowned author and intellectual Noam Chomsky said that despite the noble public face America has put on regarding the democracy movements in the middle east, the U.S. government will instead do anything it can to stop freedom's spread.

"Plainly, the U.S. and allies are not going to want governments which are responsive to the will of the people [in the middle east]," he said. "If that happens, not only will the U.S. not control the region, but it will be thrown out."

Chomsky gave the talk at an event celebrating the 25th birthday of the media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR). He was joined by writer Glenn Greenwald, filmmaker Michael Moore and Democracy Now host Amy Goodman.

[Sep 08, 2012] 'Freedom' means more than the right to vote By Anatol Lieven

FT.com

The single most famous document expressing America's commitment to freedom in the world must surely be President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" speech of 1941, calling for US resistance to Nazi and Japanese aggression. The freedoms Roosevelt spoke of were freedom of speech and expression, freedom of worship, freedom from want and freedom from fear, which he defined in terms of the permanent abolition of aggressive war.

This statement is so familiar that few notice an extraordinary omission. The freedom to vote – electoral democracy – is not included. Indeed, all these freedoms can be present under mild and civilised autocracies (though not, of course, totalitarian systems) as well as democracies; and the last two, alas, can be absent in ill-governed, impoverished and chauvinist democracies.

Roosevelt's speech was made during a terrible world war against a Nazi regime elected by a plurality of the German people. Mass support for extremist movements had in turn been largely produced by the economic suffering and political anarchy of the 1920s and 1930s. Roosevelt understood that for a man forced to watch his family starve under an ineffective or indifferent elected government, the right to vote is unlikely to be his most important concern. Hence the absence of the freedom to vote and the presence of freedom from want in his list.

In recent years, by contrast, US official and semi-official rhetoric has too often reduced Freedom with a capital "F" chiefly to the right to vote. Even freedom of expression is usually taken to mean little more than unrestricted private media ownership, even if this leads to oligarchic control of the sources of mass information.

This attitude has survived what should have been the sobering experience of the elections in Iraq and Afghanistan. Loudly touted at the time as critically important signs of progress, two years later they appear to have achieved precisely nothing in terms of the creation of national polities or working states, let alone of peace, progress and security.

These reflections are provoked by the publication last week of "Freedom": the preliminary findings of the annual report on Freedom in the World by Freedom House, the partly government-funded institute. The bipartisan US establishment and media accord these documents some of the quasi-religious authority given in the Soviet Union to the pronouncements of the Institute of Marxism-Leninism on the progress of socialism in the world.

Like those Soviet pronouncements, Freedom House's statements combine ideological rigidity with tactical and moral flexibility. There is a nationalism that treats the US as the embodiment of democracy and support for America as a key index of virtue. The US, of course, invariably gets top marks for political rights and civil liberties. Meanwhile, the "freedom" rating of other countries shows a marked tendency to move up and down according to the degree of their alliance with the US and their commitment to a US version of unrestricted capitalism.

Worse than the hypocrisy is the fanaticism, leading to a world view that is often Soviet in its distance from reality. Thus China's freedom rating today is – grotesquely – barely different from its score in 1972, during the murderous Cultural Revolution. What does it mean for Freedom House to classify India as wholly free and Pakistan as wholly unfree, given that the predatory treatment of poor and powerless people by the police and lower officialdom is largely identical in both countries? What does it mean to give the Congo – a barely existent country racked by monstrous violence and misery – the same marks as Russia?

What will create real freedom for people in such countries will not be a simplistic version of "democracy" based on meaningless elections and a pro-US policy, but economic development leading to education and a real sense of individual rights and personal dignity, accompanied by the development of working state institutions.

We in the west need to remember Roosevelt's Four Freedoms if we are to craft international development strategies that will help lay these foundations for genuine democracy in the long term. Equally important, we need them to help us understand why so many people around the world are willing to support authoritarian systems that appear to guarantee some of these key freedoms better than some of their "democratic" alternatives.

The writer is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and co-author with John Hulsman of Ethical Realism: A Vision of America's Role in the World (Pantheon)

co-author " Commentary Magazine

Freedom House v. Anatol Lieven

Sam Munson 02.02.2007 - 12:54 PM

Anatol Lieven-a senior research fellow at the New America Foundation and the co-author of Ethical Realism: A Vision of America's Role in the World-has emerged in recent years as one of the more relentless critics of democratization as a core project of U.S. foreign policy. The latest effort in his anti-democratization campaign is a January 26 column published in the Financial Times in response to Freedom House's recently released annual index of global political rights and civil liberties, Freedom in the World. (contentions blogger Joshua Muravchik wrote about the Washington Post's own attempt to spin this report here.) Lieven levels a number of serious charges at Freedom House and democracy advocates in general. Let's examine these charges, one by one:

1. Democracy advocates, presumably including Freedom House, have exaggerated the impact of the elections in Iraq.

In its reports and findings on Iraq, Freedom House has consistently stressed the high incidence there of violence, terrorism, and sectarian strife. Freedom House has never described Iraq as a democracy or as a free society, and the country's rating has remained "not free" throughout the period of occupation.

2. Freedom House distorts its findings to suit the ideological leanings of the American government.

Only someone who has not read Freedom in the World carefully could come to this conclusion. The latest index suggests that, far from being on the march, freedom has entered a period of stagnation, with very little progress in recent years-a conclusion hardly in line with the ideological leanings of the Bush administration.

3. Freedom House gives the United States the highest possible freedom score while judging other countries by the degree of their alliance with America.

The United States does, indeed, receive the highest possible rating-as do practically all the countries of Western Europe. One feels almost ridiculous in pointing out that a number of these countries-for starters, France, Spain, and Germany-have had sharp differences with America over its foreign policy in recent years. At the same time, Freedom in the World gives low scores to such American allies or "partners" as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Egypt, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan.

4. Freedom House does not appreciate the levels of freedom in China and Russia.

China devotes billions of dollars to the political censorship of the Internet. The authorities regularly imprison journalists, human-rights lawyers, and ordinary citizens seeking redress in cases of official abuse of power. Russia is moving precipitously in the wrong direction in almost every sphere of freedom. (For a detailed look at Russia's regression, see Leon Aron's What Does Putin Want? in the December issue of COMMENTARY.) What, exactly, are we meant to appreciate?

5. Freedom House has a narrow and extremist definition of freedom that fails to consider political developments leading to "a real sense of individual rights and personal liberty."

Again, had Lieven read the report more carefully, he would have learned that Freedom House stresses precisely those institutions that are the key guarantors of "individual rights and personal liberty." The issues of concern singled out in the report include the global decline in freedom of expression and the press, the widespread failure to create the effective rule of law, and rampant corruption.

Anatol Lieven calls himself an "ethical realist." The "realist" component of this description seems to consist in his support of "benevolent" autocrats the globe over. Where the "ethical" comes in, given his slipshod reporting of the contents of Freedom in the World, remains rather mysterious.

National Endowment for Democracy and Iran's faux dissidents

March 18, 2008 at 10:11 pm (democracy promotion, faux democracy promotion)

An interesting post by Yoshie of Critical Montages.

However, I don't agree with her conclusion about "winning Iranians over for gender equality" - If anything, the Americans lefties and so-called feminists, have to be won over towards understanding Islam – the Americans leftists and feminists have little or nothing to offer the world. They have not been able to stop the war that has killed a million in Iraq, and are now backing a reactionary liberal imperialist man called Obama, and a liberal imperialist woman, Hillary Mrs. Clinton, as their savior.

Please keep your winning overs to yourselves, you have nothing of worth to be won over to - but do continue to expose these fraud dissidents – you do that well.

The National Endowment for Democracy, in its tireless effort to give democracy a bad name, initiated a project called "World Movement for Democracy" in 1999. The project's acronym, WMD, may very well be a bad inside joke among the guardians of the empire today.

On WMD's steering committee sits Mahnaz Afkhami, President of "Women's Learning Partnership for Rights, Development and Peace." One of WMD's projects is "International Women's Democracy Network," whose "secretariat [is] to be housed at an existing network with a substantial trans-regional membership, currently the Women's Learning Partnership." Iran must be close to the heart of this circle.

Afkhami, the first Minister for Women's Affairs under the Pahlavi regime, is naturally a friend of Reza Pahlavi, the son of the deposed Shah, who has not given up on the dream of restoration and is busily trying to organize Iranian exiles, not just monarchists but also leftists and separatists, in a vain attempt at regime change (Connie Bruck, "Exiles: How Iran's Expatriates Are Gaming the Nuclear Threat," New Yorker, 6 March 2006). What does Afkhami say about the former crown prince? "He's a regular guy" (qtd. in Franklin Foer, "Reza Pahlavi's Next Revolution: Successor Story," The New Republic, 3 January 2002). That says everything about the kind of world she lives in.

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Michael McFaul a leading special in "export of democracy" and color revolutions, a principal architect of Obama's "reset" agenda with Russia

The reception of this "expect of democracy promotion" in Russia was far from cordial. See



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