Category Archives: did you see?

Reviews and recommendations for TV, film and internet documentaries

WATCH THIS: Donbass (2016) | documentary by Anne-Laure Bonnel

“We will have work, not them. We will have pensions and they will not. We will have benefits for pensioners and children, they will not! Our children will go to school and kindergarten, their children will stay in cellars! Because they can’t do anything. And that’s precisely how we will win this war.”

— from President Petro Poroshenko’s speech about the population of eastern Ukraine made in December 2014.

In June 2014, the newly elected President of Ukraine, Petro Poroschenko, escalated the war on the ethnic Russian population of the Donbass regions of Luhansk and Donetsk. As the missiles soon rained down terror on the civilian population, the rest of the world mostly turned its back. No one put up flags on their social media accounts and no western news crews visited to the region to report the atrocities taking place. In the midst of the conflict, however, French documentary filmmaker Anne-Laure Bonnel travelled to Donbass to talk to the civilians on the ground and provide her own independent account of what was happening. Her heartbreaking reportage is currently still available on Youtube with subtitles in French, Italian, English and Spanish and is embedded below:

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You can also click here to find the documentary uploaded on Odysee.

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Ukraine on Fire | Oliver Stone’s 2016 documentary

Available for free on Youtube and embedded below for as long as it remains uploaded, here is the documentary “Ukraine on Fire” directed by Igor Lopatonok and produced by Oliver Stone, who also conducted the interviews for the film.

Framed within a broad historical context, the film reminds us of Nazi collaboration during WWII before bringing us sharply up to date with the 2004 Orange Revolution, followed by the bloody events of the 2013–4 Maidan culminating in the overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych, the onset of civil war in the Donbass and the tragic downing of MH17.

Peaceful at the outset and covered throughout by western media as a people’s revolution, we are reminded of how the Maidan became increasingly violent before climaxing in a coup d’état staged by far-right groups that was partially scripted by the US State Department.

In efforts to consolidate power, ultranationalist elements newly ensconced within the government then cracked down on pockets of anti-Maidan activists, some of whom gathered to protest outside a trade union building in Odessa. The massacre that ensued has received scarcely any attention in the West although it hugely inflamed growing tensions within the population of ethnic Russians and immediately accelerated the self-declared secession of the eastern territories of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Watching the events unfold today, it is staggering to see so many of the central protagonists from eight years ago still in place – Victoria Nuland, Joe Biden and of course Vladimir Putin. History doesn’t repeat, the film reminds us (quoting Mark Twain), but it rhymes.

Drawing to its close, the film takes us back to the first Cold War with the ever-present threat of major escalation between nuclear powers, asking if the events in Ukraine have laid the ground for a new Cold War. For this alone it could hardly be more prescient:

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The documentary is also currently available on Vimeo for a small fee.

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Update:

Note that Vimeo has since deplatformed the video upload linked to above, however, the film is also available on other platforms including Rumble and Odysee.

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Filed under analysis & opinion, did you see?, Ukraine

2021 was brought to you by Pfizer

Update:

In a move that should come as a surprise to absolutely no one, CNN Business has chosen to honour Pfizer’s Albert Bourla as the network’s “CEO of the Year.” Pfizer has enjoyed more than $30 billion in profits thanks to the coronavirus vaccine, and has spent plenty of those gains on advertising, much of it on CNN:

But no doubt this selection had nothing to do with that. In his puff piece, Paul R La Monica of CNN Business writes:

CNN Business considered several other influential CEOs for this year’s honor, including Lisa Su of AMD (AMD), Ford’s (F) Jim Farley, Marvin Ellison of Lowe’s (LOW), David Solomon of Goldman Sachs (GS), Alphabet’s (GOOGL) Sundar Pichai and, yes, Time Person of the Year Elon Musk of Tesla (TSLA)/SpaceX.

But Bourla was our choice for all that Pfizer has done in a year where Covid vaccines went mainstream (vaccine was even named word of the year by Merriam-Webster) and helped stabilize America’s economy — and the world’s for that matter.

“Pfizer did a lot of good [for] humanity and we are very, very proud of it,” Bourla said in an interview with CNN Business. “Not only were we able to save so many lives … but we are enjoying high levels of corporate reputation right now. People like us.”

Unintentionally hilarious, the same piece adds that:

Bourla also acknowledged that there are cynics who question whether Pfizer is just trying to make as much money as possible from the vaccine.

Original post begins below the asterisk

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Pfizers revenue from Q1 2010 to Q3 2021

In 2020, Pfizer generated total revenues of over $41.9 billion. This compares to its reported revenue of over $24 billion U.S. dollars during the third quarter of 2021, mostly driven by its covid-19 vaccine which was developed in cooperation with German company BioNTech. It is the highest quarterly revenue during the whole period shown above.

Based on report by Matej Mikulic, November 25th from Statistica.

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Meanwhile…

While AstraZeneca agreed to sell its vaccine at cost during the pandemic, Pfizer wanted to secure its profits. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which now has the brand name Comirnaty, will be one of the most lucrative drugs in pharmaceutical history.

[A] Channel 4 investigation reveals analysis by one biological engineering expert claiming the Pfizer vaccine costs just 76p to manufacture for each shot. It is reportedly being sold for £22 a dose to the UK government.

From an article entitled “‘Wall of secrecy’ in Pfizer contracts as company accused of profiteering” written by Jon Ungoed-Thomas published in The Observer on December 5th.

Click here to watch the Channel 4 Dispatches documentary entitled “Vaccine Wars: Truth About Pfizer” first broadcast on Friday December 10th.

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And here’s the news you didn’t hear:

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Additional:

Dinah Fuentesfina, Campaigns Manager at ActionAid International, writes:

“More than 200 million people have been infected during this pandemic, more than 4.5 million people have died, and at least nine new billionaires have been minted thanks to COVID.

“This truly is the inequality virus. We create vaccine billionaires but fail to vaccinate billions of people in desperate need. Given the vast public investment in the development of these vaccines and the overwhelming public health need throughout the world, these life-saving vaccines must be global public goods.”

Click here to read the full statement posted by ActionAid International on September 15th.

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the coming wars with Russia, China and Iran? why the stakes are raised in the last days of the unipolar order

While Britain’s political class is distracted by a Downing Street party, the world is at the most dangerous strategic juncture since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

These are the sobering thoughts of Daily Telegraph’s International Business Editor, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, as expressed in the opening paragraph in his latest article entitled “The West’s nightmare: a war on three fronts”.

Under the strapline “There has never been a more unsettling strategic landscape in my lifetime – we must turn our attention to the prospect of conflict”, the same piece then continues:

The West faces escalating threat of conflict on three fronts, each separate but linked by unknown levels of collusion: Russia’s mobilisation of a strike force on Ukraine’s border, China’s “dress rehearsal” for an attack on Taiwan, and Iran’s nuclear brinksmanship.

Each country is emboldening the other two to press their advantage, and together they risk a fundamental convulsion of the global order.

You have to go back yet further to find a moment when Western democracies were so vulnerable to a sudden change in fortunes. Today’s events have echoes of the interlude between the Chamberlain-Daladier capitulation at Munich in 1938 and consequences that followed in rapid crescendo from Anschluss to the Hitler-Stalin Pact.

Click here to find Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s article published on December 9th behind The Telegraph paywall.

Meanwhile, in the Washington Post, regular columnist Michael McFaul, Director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and a Hoover fellow at Stanford University teamed up with Oleksiy Honcharuk, former Ukrainian Prime Minister under current President Volodymyr Zelensky, and member of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center in an article headlined “The best response to Russia’s threats is a closer relationship with Ukraine”, which states:

Since 1939, the specter of an all-out conventional war in Europe between two major militaries has never been greater.

Click here to read the full article published by the Washington Post on Dec 1st.

It is quite easy, of course, to write off commentators like Evans-Pritchard and McFaul as alarmists, since what they are speculating on – even forecasting – is more or less unthinkable. War with Russia. War with Iran. War with China. War with all three simultaneously! This is absolute madness, and nothing good could possibly come from a war with any of these three rising powers.

However, if we accept Evans-Pritchard’s account this build up to the terrifying potential of full-fledged global conflict becomes very nearly inevitable, as an unavoidable response to the expansionism of Putin and Xi and/or the belligerence of the Iranians. To have stood by and done nothing, he compares directly with appeasement of Nazism – all three rivals to western hegemony duly compared to the most wicked and unassuageable enemy of humanity in modern times. Such unabashed reduction ad Hitlerum is always deemed permissible when enemies under scrutiny are ours!

Setting aside the partisanship, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is both a well-informed and (for what it’s worth) a respectable mainstream commentator and so his concerns surrounding this growing crisis and the tripartite nature of the envisioned threat surely demand our attention, even when the background he paints overlooks countless and crucial pieces that are required to the complete the picture.

When he says straightforwardly “there has never been a more unsettling strategic landscape in my lifetime” and then announces “we must turn our attention to the prospect of conflict” I don’t believe he is exaggerating purely for effect. This is not mere hyperbole. It represents an honest appraisal of the rapidly escalating geopolitical tensions and of the commensurable threat the West is at least potentially facing. Where his analysis fails, however, is in correctly apportioning blame for these crises and in his surprising lack of informed historical context.

In the case of Russia, for instance, he makes no mention of the West’s broken promise to Gorbachev that in exchange for Russia’s consent to German reunification, Nato would not move an inch eastward. Instead it has since expanded 700 miles right up to Russia’s doorstep. This is critical. Without recognising this Nato expansion eastwards, we instantly lose all sense of Russia’s justified fear of invasion – eighty years ago under codename Operation Barbarossa the Nazis launched a massive Blitzkreig attack through the Baltic States and Ukraine: an entirely unprovoked attack that laid waste to towns and cities and was beaten back at the cost of some 25 million Russian lives. The Russian people have not forgotten this.

On December 5th, The Grayzone’s Aaron Maté spoke with Richard Sakwa, Professor of Russian and European politics at the University of Kent, and author of Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands and just released Deception: Russiagate and the New Cold War:

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Their discussion took place shortly after UN Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had ended talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and on the eve of the Biden-Putin summit.

Richard Sakwa reminds us:

“This is the second time this year that we’ve seen a war theatre emerging with Russian troop movements, Ukrainian troop movements and so on. The immediate issue clearly is concern on both sides that there’s going to be a forcible attempt to resolve the Donbass question: that is the secessionist republics in that part of Ukraine.

“But the larger context is like a Russian doll – a Matryoshka doll – in which that conflict is nested in a larger one, which in the immediate context is the model of Ukrainian state building since 1991, where a certain Russophone population was objecting to a particular vision of Ukrainian statehood – a lot of authors have pointed this out over the years – and it came to a crunch in 2014. And so then we had the counter movement in Crimea and Donbass.

“But even bigger than that is the failure since 1991 to establish what the Russians would certainly call an inclusive and equitable security order. And that of course is what was being discussed at the OSCE Security Conference just these last few days when Blinken and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister met.” [from 0:50 mins]

Regarding Russia’s true motives, Sakwa continues:

“The idea that Putin is, as an article in the New Statesman (this week’s issue) puts it, ‘the agent of chaos’ and the fomenter of instability is the complete mistake; it’s in fact the opposite. Russia constantly wants stability; it wants a framework for order. And more than that, it is committed still to that international system, and the international law established after 1945…

“Certainly the Russians would argue that it’s the West that has become revisionist; it’s the West that wants to destabilise the order by advancing a military alliance almost to Russia’s borders. And the idea that Putin needs some sort of external adventure in order to consolidate his position at home is also mistaken.

“I think that there’s a whole stack of arguments involved here, including of course the view that what’s going on in Ukraine is a Russian invasion or Russian attack, when there’s the internal domestic – let’s perhaps not call it a civil war but civil contestation about the vision of Ukrainian statehood. It’s homemade.

“And so what we see in this second Cold War is the constant projection of internal contradictions in Ukraine, and indeed in the Western Atlantic power system, onto Russia, which leads to a very mistaken view of the dynamics and motivations of the Russian leadership today, which leads of course to mistaken policies, which leads then to the intensification of the conflict and leads us to the danger of an inadvertent war. This is why the context is just so important…

Any basic realist view would suggest that Russia has national interest, it has concerns. And any power in Moscow would be concerned about a military alliance coming up to its borders. Even if Nato doesn’t expand, as Putin has been saying over the last few months, Ukraine de facto is being armed with very offensive weapons – the Javelin and other things – which of course even Barack Obama refused to give because he warned that this would only intensify and exacerbate the conflict.” [from 5:00 mins]

Moving away from Russia and the Ukrainian crisis, Evans-Pritchard also says nothing of the West’s more recent broken promise to Iran in the form of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was painstakingly negotiated between Iran and the P5+1 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the European Union) and eventually signed off in July 2015.

However, within the term of the very next US administration under Donald Trump, the US unilaterally withdrew from the agreement doubtless at the behest of Trump’s great friend Netanyahu. Thus, having struck a deal that removed crippling economic sanctions by assent to a rigorous inspection regime to ensure nuclear non-proliferation, this hard-won reward was snatched away and with it the disincentive to pursue a nuclear weapons programme was lost. Nevertheless Iran is back at the negotiating table in Vienna, even while the prospect of a revised deal looks increasingly unlikely:

On Sunday {Dec 5th], amid reports that the talks might collapse, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called on the countries in Vienna to “take a strong line” against Iran. According to Channel 12 news in Israel, Israeli officials are urging the US to take military action against Iran, either by striking Iran directly or by hitting an Iranian base in Yemen. Regardless of the outcome of the negotiations, Israel says that it reserves the right to take military action against Iran.

This is the assessment of Medea Benjamin and Ariel Gold, who are respectively cofounder and national co-director of Codepink, in an article entitled “Israel Is Hell-Bent on Sabotaging US Nuclear Negotiations With Iran”, that also reminds us:

Israeli threats aren’t just bluster. Between 2010 and 2012, four Iranian nuclear scientists were assassinated, presumably by Israel. In July 2020, a fire, attributed to an Israeli bomb, caused significant damage to Iran’s Natanz nuclear site. In November 2020, shortly after Joe Biden won the presidential election, Israeli operatives used remote control machine guns to assassinate Iran’s top nuclear scientist. Had Iran retaliated proportionately, the US might have backed up Israel, with the conflict spiraling into a full-blown US-Middle East war.

In April 2021, as diplomatic efforts were underway between the Biden administration and Iran, sabotage attributed to Israel caused a blackout at the Natanz. Iran described the action as “nuclear terrorism.”

Ironically described as Iran’s Build Back Better plan, after each of Israel’s nuclear facility sabotage actions, Iranians have quickly gotten their facilities back online and even installed newer machines to more rapidly enrich uranium. As a result, American officials recently warned their Israeli counterparts that the attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities are counterproductive. But Israel replied that it has no intention of letting up.

Obviously if the original deal had not been so rashly torn up by Trump there is every reason to presume Iran would have stayed disarmed, but instead, with so much sabre-rattling out of Israel and America, there is every incentive to follow North Korea’s lead and join the nuclear club. As the same piece points out:

Stakes are high for the talks to succeed. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed this month that Iran is now enriching uranium up to 20 percent purity at its underground facility at Fordo, a site where the JCPOA forbids enrichment. According to the IAEA, since Trump pulled the US out of the JCPOA, Iran has furthered its uranium enrichment to 60 percent purity (compared with 3.67% under the deal), steadily moving closer to the 90 percent needed for a nuclear weapon. In September, the Institute for Science and International Security issued a report that, under the “worst-case breakout estimate,” within a month Iran could produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.

Click here to read the full article by Medea Benjamin and Ariel Gold published by Jacobin magazine on December 12th.

Nor does Evans-Pritchard give proper context to the question of Taiwan, which first separated from the mainland when the governing Kuomintang (KMT) and its leader Chiang Kai-shek had fled there following their catastrophic defeat to the communists. Both sides soon after advocated a “One-China Policy” although each disputed the right of the other to rule over a future reunited China. Prior to 1971, it had actually been the Taiwanese Republic of China (ROC) that held the seat on the UN Security Council.

Then, when the great reformer Deng Xiaoping came to power in the late 1970s, he proposed an updated constitutional arrangement of “One Country Two Systems”, according to which partial autonomy would be granted, permitting Taiwan to operate an unfettered free-market economy and an independent military although under mainland sovereignty. This offer was formally rejected by Taiwan, but still a “One-China Policy” has been long-standing and officially recognised by successive American presidents – at least until now.

To quote from the current Wikipedia entry:

Today, ROC is the de facto government of Taiwan; whereas the PRC is the de facto government over Mainland China. However, each government claims to be the legitimate government of all China de jure.

In short, Taiwanese independence remains a highly contentious issue on both sides of the strait.

Stepping back therefore we should acknowledge that China has both political and strategic interest in Taiwan and the sovereignty issue remains an exceedingly complex one. Likewise, Russia has historical and cultural ties to the people of the breakaway republics of the Donetsk and Luhansk, who are still embattled and fighting for independence against Ukrainian Nationalists (including neo-Nazis) in response to oppressive measures introduced in the immediate aftermath of the Maidan coup of 2014.

So although it is easy to characterise each of these conflicts as revanchist on the part of the Russian and Chinese regimes, which then in turn validates the prevailing argument that we must not repeat the historical error of appeasement, this is actually a dangerous misrepresentation of the full picture. It denies the basic fact that all nations have interests, and that some of interests are non-negotiable.

Returning to Evans-Pritchard’s cited example of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, which involved an American response to a perceived as a Soviet threat that was in turn a Soviet retaliation after the US moved its missiles to Turkey, we see that both sides considered the danger posed by the other as a just cause for nuclear brinksmanship.

In 2016, John Pilger released his 60th documentary film The Coming War on China which is embedded below. In the notes on the official website, Pilger writes:

This film, The Coming War on China, is a warning that nuclear war is not only imaginable, but a ‘contingency’, says the Pentagon. The greatest build-up of Nato military forces since the Second World War is under way on the western borders of Russia. On the other side of the world, the rise of China as the world’s second economic power is viewed in Washington as another ‘threat’ to American dominance.

To counter this, in 2011, President Obama announced a ‘pivot to Asia’, which meant that almost two-thirds of all US naval forces would be transferred to Asia and the Pacific, their weapons aimed at China.

Today, some 400 American military bases encircle China with missiles, bombers, warships and nuclear weapons. They form an arc from Australia north through the Pacific to Japan, Korea and across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India. It is, says one US strategist, ‘the perfect noose’.

In secrecy, the biggest single American-run air-sea military exercise in recent years – known as Talisman Sabre – has rehearsed an Air-Sea Battle Plan, blocking sea lanes in the Straits of Malacca, cutting off China’s access to oil, gas and other raw materials from the Middle East and Africa.

It is largely this fear of an economic blockade that has seen China building airstrips on disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea. Last year, Chinese nuclear forces were reportedly upgraded from low to high alert.

This is not news, or it is news distorted or buried. Instead, there is a familiar drumbeat identifying a new enemy: a restoration of the psychology of fear that embedded public consciousness for most of the 20th century. The aim of The Coming War on China is to help break the silence. As the centenaries of the First World War presently remind us, horrific conflict can begin all too easily. The difference today is nuclear.

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All of today’s escalating crises have been – and continue to be – inflamed, in the most part deliberately, by Western interference. The Ukrainian Maidan was initially sparked by the actions of the European Union although the violent protests that ended in the toppling of elected President Viktor Yanokovych and installation of Western puppet Arseniy Yatsenyuk were directed by Washington as a notorious leaked phone call between Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt revealed.

Having helped to orchestrate a coup, America continues to supply arms and offer military and intelligence support to the Ukrainian nationalists in their war against the peoples of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Meanwhile Nato sails its warships provocatively on the Black Sea, while occasionally buzzing the still disputed territory of Crimea. Likewise, America and Britain now regularly send their warships to the South China Sea for large-scale exercises. Why are the British and American navies patrolling waters so far from their own shores? What other purpose than provocation?

On December 1st, the German newspaper Die Welt published an opinion piece by its Chief Foreign Policy Correspondent Clemens Wergin under the headline “The West must finally treat Moscow like the pariah regime it is acting as”, in which it boldly asserts in the language of this new Cold War era that: “Moscow is trying, as in Soviet times, to force parts of Eastern Europe under its thumb.” Yet in reality, most of the former Soviet Bloc countries including Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania, are now fully-fledged members of Nato.

Richard Sakwa says:

“Ultimately the question is ‘what is the US strategic goal’? It should be peace. It should be some sort of framework in which Russia is part of the solution, instead of which being constantly externalised as an enemy… There’s a marvellous book which I’m sure you know [by] William Hill called No Place for Russia which describes how since 1991 desperate attempts by Yeltsin and then Putin to establish an inclusive security order – and indeed Medvedev with his ideas in 2008 – so the idea is that you can’t negotiate with Moscow because it doesn’t want to deal, or that any negotiation effectively is appeasement.

“It is sort of crazy talk. That means there can be no diplomacy. There can be no engagement, no dialogue, no working on common issues, though Biden of course after the Geneva Summit has established a working party on cyber issues and on strategic security, which is very welcome, and so there is talk going on, but in an atmosphere of fundamental distrust.” [from 10:35 mins]

In fact these crises are happening because the world’s superpowers are butting heads, just as they did during the first Cold War. And throughout that first Cold War the public was constantly informed about the Soviet Union’s abysmal human rights record and their tremendous eagerness to invade the West. The first claim is provably true, of course, but the follow-up claim was false; a cheap propaganda trick that instilled fear and maximised the expansion of the military-industrial complex.

Nor do the Russians or Chinese have plans to invade us tomorrow, but threatened by western expansion up to their borders, both are now preparing to defend their national interests. The latest threats of pre-emptive strikes on Ukraine and Taiwan are reactive. Thus Evans-Pritchard’s parallels with the Cuban Missile Crisis are entirely valid. And keep in mind that in 1962 the world only narrowly escaped disaster thanks to courage of Soviet submarine commander Vasily Arkhipov, who overrode a decision to launch a nuclear strike that otherwise might have ended civilisation and annihilated much of the life on this planet.

Meanwhile, the Iranians are not, as Evans-Pritchard states in his article, on the immediate brink of testing a bomb, but instead, and unlike their Israeli adversaries, lack any nuclear capability. Nevertheless another Israeli attack on an Iranian nuclear facility – especially if it is a civilian one that causes widespread radioactive contamination – might yet be the trigger that ignites a war to end all wars.

As John Pilger describes in his notes to The Coming War on China:

When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her side as she sat waiting for a bank to open. At a quarter past eight on the morning of 6 August, 1945, she and her silhouette were burned into the granite. I stared at the shadow for an hour or more, unforgettably. When I returned many years later, it was gone: taken away, ‘disappeared’, a political embarrassment.

Another shadow now looms over all of us.

As a youth I was a member of CND and also subscribed to their in-house magazine which carried the apt title Sanity to helpfully distinguished the group’s unilateralist disarmament position from the multilateralist principle of deterrence known as ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ or MAD. Today instead of MAD we have a more frank if utterly absurd discussion that considers nuclear first-strike to be an option; crazy nonsense that mostly comes from the neo-con factions inside the US and Israel. These are the Strangeloves; not merely psychopaths, but madmen with a death wish, because adopting such a strategy is far, far madder than MAD ever was! How did our democratic systems fail so badly as to enable these certifiable lunatics ever to come to power? (That’s a question for another day.)

Writing for the Quincy Institute journal Responsible Statecraft, British policy analyst and Orwell Prize-winning journalist, Anatol Lieven, goes so far as to describe Washington’s antagonist relationship with Russia, including the tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions as “absurd and reckless”. An article published on December 1st begins:

Official U.S. behavior towards Russia is suffering from a pretty acute case of what might charitably be called obsessive-compulsive disorder. As a result of this affliction, it has often lost touch not only with basic strategic common sense, but with the overall goals and strategy of the current U.S. administration.

The latest manifestation of this has been the U.S. refusal to extend the visas of Russian diplomats in Washington, which this week naturally and inevitably led to a new round of tit for tat expulsions of U.S. diplomats from Moscow. As a result of an escalating cycle of retaliation in recent years, the U.S. embassy in Moscow is now the only U.S. diplomatic presence in that country, and the number of its staff is barely one tenth of its previous figure.

While being unwilling to seek any real compromises with Russia, President Biden and his team are clearly anxious to avoid new crises if possible; and there are the most obvious and sensible reasons for this desire. The administration has made meeting the challenge (whether real or imagined) from China the core of its entire global strategy. Any new confrontation with Russia would be a colossal distraction from this strategy, and would in fact be a magnificent strategic gift to Beijing.

In these strategic circumstances, the obvious course for America would be to carry out the “opening to China” of the 1970s in reverse, and aim for a grand strategic compromise with Russia that would neutralize U.S.-Russian tensions and split Moscow from Beijing. Even if such a move is beyond the vision and moral courage of U.S. leaders today, at the very least one would expect that U.S. policy would avoid all purely gratuitous and unnecessary gestures of hostility towards Russia, especially when these are absolutely bound to provoke an equal Russian response.

Yet since the Biden administration took office, efforts to defuse tension with Russia have been interspersed with episodes of insulting language, symbolic affronts and meaningless but deeply provocative statements. It is as if the U.S. establishment simply cannot control itself when it comes to jabbing at Russia.

Concluding:

The result is to damage or eliminate precisely those lines of communication which it is essential to keep open if minor incidents are to be prevented from escalating into major and unnecessary crises.

If these moves were part of a U.S. considered strategy, they would be deeply foolish and reckless; but at a time when the U.S. leadership actually wants to reduce tension with Moscow, they verge on the insane.

Click here to read Anatol Lieven’s full article entitled “Tit for tat diplomatic expulsions by Russia and America are absurd and reckless: At a time when Washington wants to reduce tension with Moscow, these acts verge on the insane” published in Responsible Statecraft.

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America’s long-term geostrategic repositioning through the stealth expansion of Nato directly up to the borders of Russia and China is now combined with its ever more bellicose political posturing. Repeatedly under the threat of attack, loose defensive alliances have tightened between Russia, China and Iran, so a coordinated response becomes all the more likely. Should the West or Israel (with US consent) take the decision to declare “pre-emptive” war against any one of the three sovereign powers, the realistic expectation is wider war. Given the probable magnitude of a three-pronged retaliation and the genuine potential for a thermonuclear exchange, the prospect of wars against Russia, China and Iran is therefore absolutely unthinkable.

A century ago a detached and callous ruling class led a largely innocent and unwitting generation into the bloody technological hellhole of no-man’s land to slaughter one another for the glory of king and country and, importantly, for the sake of empire. Back then and ever since, we have rightly talked of “lions led by donkeys”. Astonishingly, the donkeys are back in charge again, except that this time around besides an imbecilic and unprincipled political class, we also have an atrophied antiwar opposition, a moribund fourth estate and an endlessly diverted populous, so the worry is that we may be dealing with donkeys virtually all the way down.

So forgive me when I hammer this point: war is in the air again, and not just any old war. WAR with Russia! WAR with Iran! WAR with China! WAR with all three simultaneously!

I make no apologies for my vulgar use of capitals. We all need to shout about this. What’s the alternative?

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Under UN Resolution 2758, passed on 25 October 1971, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was recognised as “the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations, and to expel forthwith the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek from the place they unlawfully occupy at the United Nations and in all organizations related to it.” An earlier General Assembly Resolution 1668 passed in 1961 had ensured this change in recognition had required a two-thirds majority of all voting members.

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Filed under analysis & opinion, China, did you see?, Iran, Israel, John Pilger, Russia, Ukraine, Uncategorized, USA

Conspiracy and Class Power | Michael Parenti

No ruling class could survive if it wasn’t attentive to its own interest, consciously trying to anticipate, control, or initiate events at home and abroad, both overtly and secretly.

— Michael Parenti

Michael Parenti is a historian and political scientist and the author of many books, including Democracy for the Few; Power and the Powerless; Inventing Reality: The Politics of the Mass Media; Blackshirts & Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism; The Face of Imperialism, God and His Demons, The Assassination of Julius Caesar: A People’s History of Ancient Rome; and Superpatriotism.

In 1993 he delivered an outstanding speech entitled “Conspiracy and Class power” in Berkeley, California, that was recorded and preserved on audio cassette from a radio broadcast, and then, more recently, rediscovered in a collection kept by a listener:

A full and annotated transcript is provided below.

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Related thoughts for the day

Remember, remember the fifth of November, 
Gunpowder treason and plot…

Across the United Kingdom this evening, people will congregate around bonfires and go to watch firework displays. Bonfire Night, or Fireworks Night, or Guy Fawkes’ Night is a uniquely British festival and one that commemorates what has come to be known as The Gunpowder Plot, which in earlier centuries was often called the Jesuit Treason. Nowadays this is widely treated as just a fun night out although there remains a darker sectarian side to the celebrations in some Protestant parts of Northern Ireland.

But ask most people attending a bonfire party tonight and few will be unable to tell you much more than The Gunpowder Plot was a failed attempt to blow up the Houses of Parliament. They are unlikely to know more precisely that the target of the attack was the House of Lords during the State Opening of Parliament. Or even that this was an attempt to assassinate King James I with the hope of restoring a Catholic monarchy. And in spite of the annual festivities, scarcely anyone in Britain would be able to recall the year of 1605.

Of the plotters the best remembered by far is Guido or Guy Fawkes; a Catholic convert who had fought for Spain against the Dutch reformers. But again, few people in Britain pay much attention to the historical background. They remember the name of Fawkes mainly because it is a gloriously evocative one and because it is his effigy that traditionally was burned on the top of the bonfires: thankfully an increasingly forgotten tradition. In the past, there was another tradition called “penny for the Guy” where Fawkes’ effigy was propped up beside a begging bowl; the children who made him begging donations for sweets – this was Britain’s precursor to “trick or treat”.

In short, the image of Guy Fawkes is confusing. Originally the villain, he has since been almost redeemed and partially transformed into a defiant antihero: during the Occupy protests Fawkes masks were worn at protests all over the world.

Update:  Twelve people were arrested and eight police officers were injured in London’s Parliament Square at a Bonfire Night rally last night after hundreds of demonstrators turned out many wearing Fawkes masks and also burning an effigy of Boris Johnson:

And while Fawkes has become a sort of anarchist superstar, few again could recall any of the names of his fellow conspirators, nor do we give much thought to the motivations of this small band of provincial English Catholics led by (lesser known) Robert Catesby. But the official story – and today’s historical account – is certainly an illuminating one.

Had The Gunpowder Plot taken place recently, then more than likely we would all know it simply as 5/11. Indeed, it shares some features with the atrocity of September 11th that took place across the Atlantic four centuries later: a group of religious fanatics with plans to execute an audacious terrorist attack – failing only because of – if we accept the official story of 5/11 – an anonymous letter was sent to William Parker, 4th Baron Monteagle on October 26th.

With foreknowledge of an attack, the arrest of Guy Fawkes then sealed the fate of the conspirators. As luck would have it, he was discovered guarding a large pile of firewood in the cellar beneath the House of Lords that was concealing 36 barrels of gunpowder – enough to have razed the building to rubble – during a search conducted on the evening of November 4th. Shortly afterwards, Fawkes was convicted and sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered.

As with the aftermath of 9/11, the political repercussions were swift and drastic, and Parliament soon introduced a raft of anti-Catholic legislation. Many were suspicious and doubted the official story. Specifically, they wondered who had advance knowledge of the plot. According to the current Wikipedia entry:

Many at the time felt that Salisbury [i.e., Robert Cecil, 1st Earl of Salisbury] had been involved in the plot to gain favour with the King and enact more stridently anti-Catholic legislation. Such conspiracy theories alleged that Salisbury had either actually invented the plot or allowed it to continue when his agents had already infiltrated it, for the purposes of propaganda.

I have highlighted the phrase “conspiracy theories” because it is surely remarkable how more than 400 years on, Wikipedia finds it necessary to downplay contemporary concerns about the veracity of the official story and to draw our attention away from revised historical accounts with this exceedingly modern and weaponised term. And this brings me right back to Michael Parenti’s outstanding talk embedded above – with an annotated transcript below.

Parenti’s central point (and mine) is that conspiracies happen all the time. The Gunpowder Plot obviously involved a conspiracy. 9/11 involves a conspiracy. Whether you subscribe to the fully authorised narrative or not, both of these remain conspiracies. The question then is who was behind the conspiracies: was it carried out by the accused alone, or were others complicit, whether actively involved, or who had foreknowledge but stood down? To those (like Wikipedia) who feel compelled to use this weaponised term “conspiracy theory” whenever a version of the truth differs from the official narrative, I would advise great caution.

Manufacturing consent necessarily involves conspiracies and yet it happens all the time – Babies out of incubators in Kuwait lied us into the Gulf War; false allegations of WMDs in Iraq and Syria have led to more bloodshed; lies about Viagra purportedly supplied to Gaddafi’s troops enabled another war of empire – you name it, war after imperialist war was instigated on pretexts founded on carefully and deliberately crafted lies.

QAnon(sense) was very likely a psyop concocted to distract a gullible audience, exacerbate divisions between political factions and to justify clampdowns on free speech. But it wouldn’t have gained very much traction had it not contained just a germ of truth: Q plainly doesn’t exist, but child sex trafficking is horribly real. Moreover, Jeffrey Epstein ran an elite child prostitution ring that most likely operated as a honey trap for intelligence agencies. And who among us believes that Epstein committed suicide?

As I have documented extensively, Russiagate was essentially a hoax, whereas US meddling in foreign elections and its involvement in coups failed or otherwise inside Bolivia, Venezuela, Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Ukraine and elsewhere is well-established to have happened.

Covid is a real and present danger but where did it actually originate? Truth is we still don’t know. It is not a “conspiracy theory” therefore to raise the question of origins or even to point toward probable answers.

Finally, if the left doesn’t hold its ground and seek judiciously and consistently to challenge official narratives in attempts to transcend the increasingly narrow positions that are deemed respectable, ‘reputable’ and permissible (the ever-tightening Overton Window), but instead instantly dismisses alternative inquiry, whether valid or not, as “conspiracy theory”, then it serves the interests of the establishment and ruling elites by enabling them to shutdown debate and tighten controls on us.

Matt Taibbi and Katie Halper recently took the Washington Post conspiracy theory quiz only to discover that the Washington Post had failed its own test!

See the full quiz at http://usefulidiots.substack.com

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Additional:

Some years later and post-9/11 (delivered prior to 2012 and possibly 2008), Michael Parenti delivered a speech entitled “Understanding Deep Politics” which follows almost directly from his talk at Berkeley. Embedded below, Parenti’s analysis and choice of illustrative examples gets more interesting and insightful as it goes on:

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Full transcript

The transcript below is my own with links also included where relevant:

The title of the talk is conspiracy and class power and the key word in that title is the ‘and’. That is, what you’re getting on the Left lately is a debate in which people are saying: “we mustn’t look at conspiracy, we’ve got to look at the broader institutional systems”. That’s an argument being made by Alexander Cockburn, Noam Chomsky, Chip Berlet, and any number of people.

And I think it’s an incorrect argument, that it’s not conspiracy or class power; it’s conspiracy and class power. And I’m not going to talk about any specific conspiracies in any detail, I want to talk about the relationship of conspiracy to the larger political economic context of the system – I want to start off by talking about that political economic system and I think it can be approached in three basic ways:

First, you can look at the system as a conservation celebration. We’ve had twelve years of that as you know. How wonderful our free market society is and how much more wonderful it would be if it were not for meddlesome government regulations and the demands of undeserving low-income groups that feed out of the public trough. That’s the conservative celebration.

The second approach is a liberal complaint about how some of our priorities are all wrong. How there are serious problems that represent aberrant departures from what is otherwise a basically good system. That would be the Bill Clinton approach, perhaps.

And then the third approach you might call a radical analysis, and that sees ecological crises and military interventions and the national security state and homelessness and poverty and an inequitable tax system and undemocratic social institutions such as the corporate-owned media – it sees these things not as aberrant outcomes of a basically rational system, but as rational outcomes of a system whose central goal is the accumulation of wealth and power for a privileged class.

That is, they must be looked at as part of a context of power and interest that is systemic; and you could look at race, you could look at gender; and you could look at class itself undialectically – just look at it as an income bracket or whatever else – but what I’m talking about today is not class but class-power, the class-power system which is something more and something else.

If you take that third perspective of a radical analysis: if you move from a conservative celebration or a liberal complaint to a radical analysis then you cross an invisible line and you’ll be labelled in mainstream circles as a ‘conspiracy theorist’ or a Marxist or even a paranoiac: terms that some people treat as coterminous.

One theorist I will quote, J.G. Merquior, who wrote a book called The Veil and the Mask, a book which I recommend to you if you like bloated, turgid self-inflated theorising that never pauses to substantiate its pronouncements – and Merquior, he says: “Conspiratorial accounts of social dynamics are produced by vulgar Marxists.” He further asserts that “Class interest is seldom a conscious matter.”

That’s the cool position. Less cool than him was 1837, a Congress person by the name of Abraham Lincoln. And this is what Abraham Lincoln said in 1837 (quote):

These capitalists generally act harmoniously [that’s in concert/together] to fleece the people. 1

Now today Abe Lincoln would be dismissed as a ‘conspiracy theorist’! He is ascribing conscious intent to a class interest. We know that isn’t the way it works, they say.

Now for some conspiracy is by definition ridiculous and non-existent, but in fact, brothers and sisters, conspiracy is a very real thing, in fact it’s a concept in law; people go to jail for it: it means planning or acting together in secret, especially for an unlawful or harmful purpose, often with the use of illegal means. It’s come to mean, in fact, any machination, plot or concerted deception.

The State’s major mode of operation, I have maintained in my books Democracy for the Few, Power and the Powerless, The Sword and the Dollar, Inventing Reality – the major mode of operation is systemic and legalised, rather than conspiratorial – never argue that the State maintains itself conspiratorially: no ruling interest could last long if it tried to control an entire society through the manipulations of secret cabals. At the same time, no ruling class could survive if it wasn’t attentive to its own interest, consciously trying to anticipate, control, or initiate events at home and abroad, both overtly and secretly.

It’s hard to imagine a modern state in which there’d be no conspiracies, no plans, no machinations, deceptions or secrecies within the circles of power. In the United States there have been conspiracies aplenty and I’ll list a bunch of them – these are all now a matter of public record:

In recent decades, the deliberately fabricated Tonkin Gulf Incident, which served as an excuse for escalating the Vietnam War – you mean the president deliberately lied to the people to mislead the American people and are you saying he had this cold conspiracy to get them all worked up for something that never happened? Yes! We now know yes… the Pentagon Papers are out… yes, it was a total fabrication and a lie.

Operation Phoenix [aka Phoenix Program] which no-one heard about in which US forces set up assassination squads that murdered thousands, tens of thousands of dissidents in Vietnam: secretly organised, illegal, immoral, unpublicised.

The Watergate break-in was a conspiracy: an illegal, secret, unlawful act followed by another conspiracy – the second one, which was the one that brought Nixon down – the Watergate cover-up.

The FBI COINTELPRO involving dirty tricks, infiltration and harassment of left dissident groups – I remember reading in The New York Times when the story finally broke and the Church Committee and all that – The august New York Times said: for years left groups have been saying that the FBI has been harassing them and we thought it was paranoia; now it seems to turn out that there might be some truth in it. Well, welcome to reality New York Times; every so often The Times hits right on reality like that and it’s worth mentioning because it’s so rare.

Iran-Contra in which executive leaders conspired to circumvent the law, secretly, illegally selling arms to Iran in exchange for funds that were then used in covert actions against Nicaragua – a conspiracy which the Joint Congressional Committee investigating Iran-Contra said: we will probably never get at the bottom of this immense conspiracy 2 – that’s what they said; it wasn’t some ‘conspiracy theorists’, it was these people there: we will never get to the bottom of this… certainly not the way you guys were investigating it, you would never get at the bottom of it!

The function of the investigation is to uncover some stuff to let you know that the system is self-rectifying and self-cleansing, but not uncover too much as to destabilise the State itself. And you heard guys on the committee saying: we need a successful presidency; we must be careful what we’re doing and all that.

The assassinations of John Kennedy, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, a matter of public record: the House Select Committee on Assassinations uncovered the fact that there were all sorts of things; it was sparse uncovering, but there have been any number of independent investigators who have uncovered the fact that these conspiracies were done not by some lone crazed assassin, who just suddenly on an impulse devoted six months of his life, somehow financed himself to go kill this or that leader. 3

[Aside: A fortnight ago on October 22nd, President Joe Biden took the decision to ‘postpone’ the release of sixty-year-old assassination-related records that the CIA has steadfastly been keeping secret from the American people. As Jacob Hornberger, a former attorney and adjunct Professor of Law and Economics at the University of Dallas, wrote a few days later:

There has got to be a good reason why the CIA does not want people to see those 60-year-old secret records. That’s why they didn’t disclose them during the era of the Assassination Records Review Board in the 1990s. That’s why they demanded that President Trump continue keeping them secret in 2017. That’s why they demanded that Biden extend the secrecy. […]

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, those 60-year-old secret records obviously contain incriminating evidence — evidence that consists of more pieces to the puzzle pointing to a regime-change operation in Dallas.

After all, as I have repeatedly pointed out, the notion that the release of 60-year old records could constitute a grave threat to “national security” is nonsensical on its face. Is there anyone who really believes such nonsense?

Click here to read the full article entitled “Surprise! Biden Continues the CIA’s JFK Assaassination Cover-Up, published on October 25th by The Future of Freedom Foundation.

And here to read a follow-up piece entitled “What the CIA is Hiding in the JFK Assassination Records” published by Counterpunch on November 4th. ]

The CIA drugs-for-guns trade in Central America; covert CIA-sponsored terrorist wars in a dozen countries [most recently in Syria]; the BCCI scandal involving what some call the most crooked bank in the world, in 1990, the motherlode of all conspiracies: the Savings and Loan [crisis] which the Bush Justice Department itself called: a thousand conspiracies of bribe, theft and fraud – a thousand conspiracies – they said we don’t have enough agents to investigate it. Sure, because all the agents are checking out events like this one!

Too busy keeping tabs on people who want to keep raising medical funds for El Salvador to go look at the Savings and Loan conspiracy, which is ripping off literally billions of dollars from the American taxpayer. The greatest financial crime in the history of humanity: Savings and Loan – you’ve been living it and you’re going to pay for it, or we are going to pay for it, so you might as well know about it.

Conspiracies, I maintain, are carried out regularly by the national security state. What’s the ‘national security state’? It’s the White House executive office. It’s elements within the State Department and the Pentagon. It’s the Joint Chief of Staff. It’s the National Security Council, the National Security Agency and the CIA and other intelligence agencies. That conglomeration or operational link groups in that conglomeration are what is known as the ‘national security state’. Well, it can list the Treasury at times, it could list commerce, I feel there are people in Congress who are link to it – I think Sam Nunn’s got one foot [in it].

The national security state is involved in secretly planning operations around the globe. It resorts to low-intensity warfare, special forces, undercover agents, surveillance, infiltration and destruction of dissident groups, the bribing of state leaders, unlawful break-ins, the training of death squads and torturers, political assassination, counterinsurgency suppression, and terrorist military forces against revolutionary governments as in Angola, Mozambique and Nicaragua.

Our rulers themselves explicitly call for conspiratorial activities. They call publicly admit it, except they don’t call them conspiracies; they call them ‘covert action’, ‘clandestine operations’, ‘special operations’ and ‘national security’. Now, if for some reason you don’t want to call these undertakings ‘conspiracies’, don’t call them ‘conspiracies’, give them another name: call them ‘peekaboo operations’, ‘surprise surprise initiatives’; call them whatever you want, but recognise them for what they are – as wilfully planned actions whose real intentions are almost always denied.

If they’re not conspiring, why all the secrecy? I’m reminded of my friend Phil Agee, he was just here a few months ago, and I was sitting having coffee with him when he gave a talk here in Berkeley. When Phil left the CIA, disillusioned because he thought America was helping the world, and he found out that America was doing something quite the opposite, and he left, he wrote a book called Inside the Company.

In 1980, American filmmaker Allan Francovitch produced a documentary featuring Philip Agee and exposing the secret dirty history of the CIA entitled On Company Business which is embedded below. A discussion about the making of the film can be found at the Internet Archive. Francovitch suffered a fatal heart attack in a Customs area at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Texas, on April 17, 1997 whilst entering the United States from England. He was 56-years-old:

The book was banned from the US and I remember that and the government said ‘national security’: it’s banned. I said, wait a minute, the book has been published in Europe in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese – I said, doesn’t the KGB have anyone who reads French or German…? The book was even available in English in Canada. I said, oh but foreign agents aren’t allowed to buy books in Canada, I said to myself!

No, the reason [for] the ban was not intended to keep Agee’s exposé from foreign enemies, but from the American public. It was not national security but the political interests of the national security state in continuing to deliberately lie and mislead the American public. That’s a ‘conspiracy theory’, then you tell me what was the reason for banning a book in the USA that was available everywhere else in the world. Give me the alternative reason. That’s only one small instance of the many cases in which the government uses manipulative measures.

The existence of the national security state also demonstrates that along with issue politics, we have class rule. In academic political science and in our news media, issue politics are either ignored or they’re looked at in a kind of vacuum. I mean you can get issue politics [but] it’s in a vacuum: like this issue comes up, that issue comes up, that issue comes up… and nothing’s linked to anything else.

Some political scientists I know, and I can name two very prominent ones right here in Berkeley, have studied the American presidency for thirty years and written books on the subject and never mentioned capitalism and corporate interests. I remember turning to one – we were on a panel together – Aaron Wildavsky and I said: how could you write about the American presidency for thirty years and never once mention capitalism? And he looked at me blankly. It turned out to be a rhetorical question!

Now to be sure, class interests permeate issue politics: tax policies, subsidies to corporate investments, corporate plunder of public lands – any number of kinds of issues – but issue politics do not encompass the totality of a class system. Class rule is not achieved solely by pressure group politics – by interest group politics. Class rule is not achieved solely by big campaign donations, lobbyists, and other manifestations of interest group politics.

Interest group politics operates within a systemic totality of power and class interest. It operates within the dynamics of a capitalist state system which over and above the desires of any individual elites imposes its own necessities. These systemic imperatives are things that must be taken care of if the system is to be maintained. If value is to be extracted from the labour of the many to go into the pockets of the few, this system has to be maintained.

Conditions of hegemony must constantly be refortified. And that’s something that no one IBM or ITT or General Motors could do for itself. So there has to be central financing and subsidising. There has to be regulating and cushioning competition. There has to be a lot of new research and development that has to be carried out at public cost with the benefits of it then privatised and handed over to corporations. There has to be transferring public domain resources into private corporate hands for their exploitation and profit. There’s absorbing from the public realm riches [that] go to the private realm, and then from the private realm, you absorb the diseconomies, the poverties from the private sector into the public realm. The diseconomies are picked up by the public: you know, the pollution, the toxic waste dumps; all these things we then have to pay for them – we have to pay [for] the homeless, the helpless; whatever else, those are things we have to pay for.

That system [also] has to do something else. It has to act as the agent of class control. It has to mobilise repressive forces at home and abroad. It has to limit and repress dissent. It has to control information and manipulate opinion. This is the essence of the State. That’s what the State is about. It’s to act as an overarching conscious agent – a conscious agent – for maintaining the entire system; doing what no private interest group can do to buttress class hegemony.

To put it simply, the function of the capitalist state is to sustain the capitalist order and it must consciously be doing that. So for those who would deny conscious intent, we would ask: what is the function of the State?

It pushes for privatisation – one of the things it’s very actively doing is pushing for privatisation here at home and everywhere else – in Russia too. You see it in the papers: what are called ‘reforms’; the reformers, the media keeps talking about the ‘reformers’. Boris ‘buy me a drink’ Yeltsin has ‘reforms’. What are the ‘reforms’ about? The ‘reforms’ are to privatise, to open up the vast riches and resources of Russia and hand them over to private foreign corporations for exploitation and big, quick profits. That’s what the ‘reforms’ are. It is to push forth the system of capitalism.

If the choice is between democracy without capitalism, we don’t want it – our leaders don’t want it, that is. If it’s capitalism without democracy that’s much more preferred. Ideally, what they want is capitalism with a window-dressing of democracy. But democracy is a very dispensable component of that whole thing. Now what the media, of course, is doing is associating market economy with democracy; they keep putting the two together.

In fact, I though the presidential debates last Fall – The Three Stooges act that went on – was a very interesting thing, because at one point Ross Perot got up and said: and we’ve got to keep getting our country right, getting it straight, so that we work for building democracy and capitalism. And Bill Clinton started because the guy was saying it – you see you’re not supposed to say you serve capitalism. He’s supposed to say ‘build for democracy’. But Perot was uninitiated in these things [and] came out and said what it really was about – and not necessarily in the order of importance: he said democracy and capitalism. And I saw the moment. I saw Clinton really start that he would say ‘capitalism’ you see. They usually don’t say that.

In sustaining capitalism the State has a monopoly of the legitimate use (legal use) of force and violence. In mobilising that force and violence the State has another extraordinary resource which is control of the public treasury: that is, through a process of coercive non-voluntary taxation they extract from the public monies which are then used to carry out these services. They tell me some things are also done, you know, building roads and schools and those kinds of things, but generally [with] the federal government, that’s what it’s doing.

Well, who is this corporate class, this super-rich plutocracy, this oligarchy that you keep talking about, Parenti? Who are these guys? Well, there’s no mystery. I’m talking about the top 400 families; they’re listed in Forbes, the Social Register. Almost a third of the descendants of whom are linked by blood or marriage to the Rockefeller, du Pont, Mellon and Morgan dynasties. I’m talking about the super-rich 1%; less than 1% of the population of this country that owns 70% of the nation’s wealth. I’m talking about the top 800,000 individuals over the age of sixteen who have more wealth and income than the other 184 million individuals combined over the age of sixteen.

The economist Paul Samuelson, thirty years ago, gave a very vivid image – it still holds. He says if you want to look at the income distribution in this country; if you want to build an income pyramid, imagine taking children’s blocks and each block is a thousand dollars, and you pile them up. The highest income in this country would be vastly higher than the Eiffel Tower, while almost all of us would be not more than a yard or a yard and a half off the ground. This gives you an idea of the spread and the distribution.

Instead of ‘conspiracy theory’ what the apologists for power give us is what I call ‘innocence theory’. Now ‘innocence theory’ has several varieties:

There’s ‘somnambulist theory’ that those in power do things walking in their sleep without a thought for their vast holdings and interests. David Rockefeller wakes up in the morning and he says: what am I going to do today? Am I going to look after my immense fortunes and investments…? No, no, if I did that I would only be playing into the hands of the conspiracy theorists; I won’t do that! And I don’t like unions, David Rockefeller says, and oh, Morgans, Mellons, you don’t like unions either, well isn’t that a coincidence?  I don’t like unions I guess because they sound like ‘onions’; I don’t like onions, yeah, that’s it!

Along with ‘somnambulist theory’ we might explain away their hegemony as ‘coincidence theory’; that by sheer chance things just happen repeatedly and coincidentally to benefit their interest without any conscious connivance by them – and it is most uncanny.

A frequent mode of explanation is ‘stupidity theory’. You hear it among people all the time: they just don’t know what they’re doing! There’s a radio talk show host in this area who every time she has a guest says: aren’t they just a bunch of stupid, goofy guys who just don’t know what they’re doing? Isn’t that it?

In fact, Ronald Reagan for years we heard he was the moronic, ineffectual president; his administration was called ‘a reign of errors’. There was even a book by that title. Even as he successfully put through his conservative agenda, even as he destroyed the progressive income tax, even as he did all the other things that he did, again and again and again – the judiciary, the budget, the welfare spending, military, everything, did all these things – we kept saying: what a stupid dodo. And I felt like I was the only person in America going ‘he’s not stupid, he knows what he’s doing’.

I mean he would flub – you know he went to Uruguay and said it’s wonderful to be here in Bolivia! And at his press conferences and whatever else… But the guy had his class agenda. He was one of the few presidents who got into the White House and knew what the hell he really wanted to do and set out to do it. By the way, Reagan himself used the ‘stupidity theory’ as a defence during the Iran-Contra; he purportedly was guilty only of a lackadaisical, overly casual management style and was not sufficiently in control of his subordinates. That’s what his hand-picked Tower Commission came out and said: he should have had better control and knew what was happening; he didn’t know what was happening.

In fact, some of his subordinates including Secretary of State [George] Shultz who just published a book [Turmoil and Triumph] saying Reagan was in charge all the while and made all those decisions. In court, some of them said the same thing: that the president not only was informed, but he himself initiated most of the Iran-Contra policy decisions that led to a circumvention of the law and the Constitution. He should be in jail. 4

Those who hold to ‘innocence theory’ would have us believe that unjust social arrangements, wrongful policies, are momentary aberrations – so there’s ‘momentary aberration theory’. There’s ‘incompetence theory’. There’s ‘unintended consequences theory’. There’s ‘innocent cultural proclivities theory’. And by the way, to be sure such things exist. I mean there are unintended consequences. There are cultural influences and all that. But do they explain the reasons why the major policy decisions of political and economic leaders – the reasons for the major policy decisions of our leaders?

Evidence and common sense suggest that the rich and powerful are not oblivious to their interests and do not leave things to chance. The ‘innocence theorists’ dismiss those who see evil and evil-doers as paranoid.

A few years ago I was participating in a conference at University of Colorado in Boulder [with] some interesting people like David Dellinger was there; David Barsamian. I think Holly Sklar. I think Ward Churchill was there. And I was to give the keynote address in the evening, and there were these panels during the day, so I slipped away to do what I really like to do, and I went over to find a used bookstore to look for odd titles of books –

And I was standing in the aisle and on the other side of the bookshelf – I couldn’t see them, they couldn’t see me – were these two guys and one said to the other: hey, you see this conference was on the CIA, imperialism (he didn’t use the word ‘imperialism’, that’s what I talked about), drugs, Central America, stuff like that. And so the guy says to the other person: hey, you see who they have talking up on the campus at this conference? And he says, guess who. Well, it looks like a who’s who in paranoia. And I sort of stifled the guffaw and I said wait a minute, they’re talking about me! And I said, who are those guys and why did they follow me here! No, no, I didn’t say that… But paranoia! These things don’t really happen; we’ve imagined all this stuff about death squads in Central America.

For years the United States financed, equipped and trained a counterrevolutionary murderous army of thugs and killers that conducted a two-front invasion against Nicaragua, murdering tens of thousands of Nicaraguans, destroying farm cooperatives, power stations, clinics, schools, homes, villages, to bring ruin upon that nation’s economy – for years that happened, for years the president threatened them in every way, imposed boycotts and every other kind of aggression – Reagan even said he wanted the Sandinistas to “cry uncle”.

Secretary of State Shultz promised to cast out the Sandinistas from our hemisphere. Yet when the beleaguered Sandinista government charged that the US wanted to overthrow them, ABC News dismissed the charge as (quote): “the Sandinista paranoia”. Washington Post called it: “Nicaraguan paranoia”. In a speech at the United Nations, Jeane Kirkpatrick, noted psychiatrist [!], diagnosed the Sandinistas as paranoiac schizophrenics. Very good, Jeane Kirkpatrick – why, you’re so smart! Kirkpatrick’s comment came two weeks after Reagan and Shultz both announced at the United Nations that the United States might have to invade Nicaragua soon. So much for paranoia. I thought of what James Baldwin once said years ago: that even paranoiacs have real enemies.

Well look Parenti, really, aren’t we asking people to believe too much by suggesting there are all these conspiracies? No, not as much as when asking them to believe there are not conspiracies. Historian Frank Kofsky puts it well in his book called Harry S. Truman and the War Scare of 1948 [sic], which will be published in the Fall. I read it in manuscript and let me read a little statement he said:

What would those who are so ready to derisively exclaim conspiracy theory have us believe? That people with enormous fortunes and/or high political positions do not have greater opportunity than the ordinary citizen to get what they want? That men and women who spend most of their adult lives seeking to obtain or retain money and influence, do so only in order to abstain from employing the advantages these confer? That those with wealth and power are inhibited by some mysterious force from making use of their wealth and power to accomplish their purposes? That the rich and well-placed refuse to cooperate with each other in the pursuit of common political-economic goals? If, in fact, there is one thing that characterizes those at the top, it is their readiness to organize amongst themselves to secure their desires. No other group in society ever comes close in this regard.

And I would add, it’s ironic that the group most organised to concert and control is to be least considered as doing so by the ‘innocence theorists’.

As the capitalist state develops it also increasingly develops its class consciousness and it brings forth coteries of policymakers, who move in law, business, military and government circles; sometimes rotating from one to the other. Those who are sometimes referred to as the ‘power elite’, ‘the ruling elite’, ‘the plutocracy’ – more broadly I consider them the active agents of the ruling class.

Their existence is a matter of public record. It’s been documented excellently by such fine scholars as Lawrence Shoup, who’s here today in the audience – that’s not why I’m mentioning him, I was going to do that anyway before I knew he was here – William Domhoff, Holly Sklar; they’ve talked about the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, the Bilderberg Conference and the other coteries of consciously organised power and policymaking.

These individuals all have a loyalty to a particular class ideology. You could not get into their ranks with a different ideology – if you can give me an example. You don’t have to be rich to be brought into the ranks, although it helps; you just have to be useful.

Kissinger, Nixon, Reagan, Lyndon Johnson, Bill Clinton – Bill Clinton, who by the way is a member of the Trilateral Commission, attended the Bilderberg conference and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations – they all come from relatively modest backgrounds, but they gained entry, they proved valuable and reliable. They all become rich after a while: Kissinger, Nixon, Reagan, Johnson are rich now. [Note: we could add Tony Blair and Peter Mandelson to the list.]

William Appleman Williams, another historian: a description of the power wielded in the Woodrow Wilson administration of 1918: I think it’s very interesting, I want to quote it at length because it’s still apt, he says:

First, none of these men was naive or innocent. They very seldom blundered into success or failure. Many more times than not they won because they shrewdly picked their spots and deployed their power effectively. All of them, furthermore, had extended experience in business and politics. They were also men who had to come to terms with and practise the kind of routine deceptions and rationales; casuistry that often seemed to be inherent in the conduct of big business, big law, domestic politics and diplomacy. They were not dishonest in the usual meaning of that term, and they were not hypocrites; they were simply powerful an influential men of this world, who had concluded from hard experience and close observation that all of the truth, all of the time, was almost always dangerous, hence, they did not use all of the truth, all of the time.

Secondly, these American decision-makers viewed economics as of extremely great, if not of literally, primary importance in the dynamic operation of the American system. This does not mean that they were motivated by personal pocketbook considerations; it means that they though about…

By the way, I think they are also motivated by personal pocketbook considerations – it is not mutually exclusive of the larger issues.

It means that they thought about economics in a national sense as an absolutely crucial variable in the functioning of the system per se, and as the foundation for constitutional government and a moral society. And all of them viewed overseas economic expansion as essential to the continued successful operation of the American free enterprise system.

Finally, these men shared a central conviction that the good society and the good world were defined by the forms and substance of Western civilisation as they had manifested themselves in the United States. Some were conservatives concerned to preserve aspects of the status quo that they considered particularly valuable; others were reformers, more interested in improving the existing order; but all of them shared a fundamental belief in, and a commitment to the established system.

(End of quote.)

Now it’s understood that coalminers might consciously direct efforts to advancing their interests, and steel-workers, and small farmers, and schoolteachers, but not these elites – at least according to the ‘innocence theorists’. Now, of course, coalminers and steel-workers publicly push for their goals because they’re trying to enlist the support of other publics; broader publics.

Corporate heads, plutocrats, network owners, policy elites tend to move more quietly, less visibly through the corridors of power, preferring not to stir too much public attention. At other times, by the way, they will actually seek to mobilise public sentiment in a particular direction. For instance, in the mid-1970s we had a very interesting development: business leaders showed an increasingly class-conscious concern for the drift of things in the mid-70s. One corporate leader spoke to his concurring colleagues at a meeting of The Conference Board in 1974; I quote him:

The have-nots are gaining steadily more political power to distribute the wealth downwards. The masses have turned to a larger government.

This isn’t Lenin talking, this is a corporate elite (unquote).

Another top executive concurred; he said (quote):

If we don’t take action now, we will see our own demise. We will evolve into another social democracy…

(Like Sweden or Denmark or something like that.)

This is the research done by Leonard Silk and David Vogel. Silk, a former economics, business writer for The New York Times – quite conscious and explicit awareness of their class interests, speaking in explicit class terms here. Not to the public – they don’t say that when they come on the air – but when they talk to each other, it’s remarkable what they say.

What they wanted was outlined, by the way, very explicitly. There’s no conspiracy. They concerted, they plan, but it was right out there; out in the public. Very explicitly in major business publications from the mid-1970s onwards: a cutback in government spending, massive cutbacks to government spending and human services; they wanted an increase in military spending; they wanted generous tax write-offs and credits for upper income individuals and corporations; and they wanted a rollback of government regulations on business. That’s what they wanted.

Giant corporations like Citibank, IBM, Morgan Guranty Trust, Exxon, Ford and Genereal Motors played an increasingly active and conscious role in financing conservative think tanks like the Hoover Institute, American Enterprise Institute; and seeing that a conservative business agenda penetrated the academic circles and mass media. You saw in the 70s, a mass array of conservative pundits and columnists moving in to the media, and they still clutter up that media today.

Corporate money financed the campaigns of ideologically conservative candidates through political action committees [PAC] and the corporations devoted much more systematic effort to breaking labour unions. By 1978, some of the changes that corporate America wanted were already being instituted by the President himself: a Democrat named Jimmy Carter. He started cuts in human services. He started increasing military spending.

The Clawsons were right. The Clawsons wrote an article in which they called it “Reaganism before Reagan”. I was calling it that then too. I said Carter gave us Reaganism before Reagan. But there were problems with Carter because he was partially beholden to labour unions, the African-American vote, you know. And what corporate America wanted was an unencumbered ideological conservative, and their support went overwhelmingly to Ronald Reagan.

Now they were lobbying for issue politics, but not just issue politics, they were trying to shift the centre of political gravity of the entire policy arena in order to maintain class rule and avoid a social democracy that might cut too deeply into their privileges, wealth, and class power. And they succeeded quite well.

The ‘innocence theorists’ will sometimes acknowledge that there is fault: that some people do some bad things. But when they do they place responsibility on everyone; on an undifferentiated ‘we’. Richard Nixon saying, ‘what a strange creature man is that he fouls his own nest’. And saying, ‘we, we are all the Buddhists’. Erich Fromm once said, ‘we produce cars…’ what? ‘We produce cars with built-in obsolescence and dangers’. ‘We continue to pollute the environment’. An alternative radio commentator on a show I was on announced in 1991: ‘we are all guilty of John Kennedy’s death. We’re all guilty of the Gulf War’. I said, ‘no, we aren’t’.

The ‘innocence  theorists’ can get quite specific about conscious intent and conspiracy if it comes from the left; if it involves militant dissenters; labour unions; leftists guerrillas; peace demonstrators; or leaders of communist forces; then intent is readily subscribed. Then it’s recognised that people will actually be fighting for particular agendas to push certain things – in fact, very sinister intent.

The FBI, you remember, looking at the Nuclear Free movement that was sweeping America and charging that it was KGB directed. Now there was a bunch of ‘conspiracy theorists’ right there, but the ‘innocence theorists’ didn’t turn to them and say ‘are you kooky conspiracy theorists?’ They said, ‘could there be KGB agents or not?’ You know they treated that as a serious proposition.

It’s recognised that revolutionaries are capable of conspiracy – there are even laws against them – that revolutionaries are capable of concerted action directed toward consciously desired goals, but not counter-revolutionaries. Peace advocates, but not militarists and interventionists. Proponents of change, but not champions of the status quo. The poor but not the rich.

Nothing said here, by the way, is meant to imply that ruling class leaders are infallible or omnipotent. That’s the straw man that’s always put up in the literature and the debates we have – these people would say that there’s this cabal of people that make no mistakes, they’re infallible, they consciously know everything, or they do everything… nobody’s saying they are infallible. Nobody’s says they’re limitless in their power.

Despite the immense resources at their command they’re sometimes limited in their options by circumstances beyond their control, by pressures from within the economic system. They have divisions among themselves about tactics, about what’s going to be more effective, or what isn’t. They have pressures for the need to maintain legitimating democratic appearances. By their fear of angry and mass popular resistance, sometimes, sometimes.

But whatever the limits of their power, these ruling elites are as fervently involved in class struggle as any communist. And if they don’t always succeed, they succeed often enough. They may not be omnipotent, but they are enormously powerful. They’re far from infallible, but they have such a plenitude of resources as to do sufficient damage control and minimise their losses when mistakes are made – unlike us sometimes.

One of the characteristics of ‘innocence theory’ is that you never ask why: why are certain things done? And that even happens on the left. See the essence of political analysis is two things: when you analyse the impact of policies and situations, what happens long-range, immediate effects and outputs; the other thing is you try to determine intent.

Well, a few years ago when I was teaching a graduate seminar at Brookyn College in New York, I had Walter Karp come and talk to my class. Walter Karp wrote a very wonderful book Liberty Under Siege, and he’s written other books too, Politics of War.

I asked him, ‘have you ever been accused of being a conspiracy theorist?’ Because you’re placing intent, you’re saying that Reagan is doing these things in limiting democracy, because this, that and the other thing. And he said, ‘all the time I’m fighting against the charge that I’m a propagator of The Elders of the Protocol, you know…’ He said, ‘but the essence of political analysis is to try to define and divine intent. That’s what you have to be looking at.’

And yet there’s so many exposés written that never deal with it. We read about environmental devastation. We read about the terrible effects of US intervention in Panama or Nicaragua or Cuba or here or there. But why? Why is US policy doing this? Why are they doing these things?

We read about costly military bases. There’s a very interesting book on that, The Sun Never Sets, how the US has these global bases all over the world. Why do they have these? Not mentioned. They talk about the costliness of it, the violation of the sovereignty of the countries involved, this, that and the other thing… but why?

So we have even on the left where people don’t ask why. We learned not to ask why because once you ask why then you cross the line from a liberal complaint into a radical analysis. Then you are talking, or have to talk about something, or you have to start doing all those other ephemeral explanations: Oh Bush is doing this because he’s got a macho problem; that’s why he invaded Panama. Or, oh we’re doing this because we’d like to feel big, or we’re just kooky that way, or… these become the explanations.

It’s the same with US foreign policy. We hear again and again: US foreign policy is so foolish. So stupid! Why did we go in there? So stupid! Why are we doing that? Just because you don’t understand what they’re doing, doesn’t mean they don’t understand what they’re doing. And never is it asked, ‘what is the intent?’ Without understanding intent, indeed, US policy remains an unsettling mystery, a puzzling thing to liberal critics.

But such policy is really rational and quite successful. It consistently moves against any nation or social movement that tries to change the client state relations of US dominance and imperialism; that tries to use a greater portion of its natural resources, markets and labour for self-development; moves that would infringe upon the interests of rich investors.

Now, if taken in the larger context, US policy appears consistent and sensible and predictable and mostly successful. But most media analysts and academic analysts lack this larger context; even most alternative media analysts. Once we realise these things about US policy, we move as I say from a liberal complaint about how rational the policy is, to a radical analysis about the rational interests involved, and how a particular policy coincides with similar US policies all over the world for decades, supporting privileged interests against popular movements.

This isn’t a ‘conspiracy fantasy’; it’s a conspiracy actuality to conclude that US leaders were not interested in reaching a peaceful accord; that they were lying about their real intentions to the American public, and even to their own staffs.

Well, isn’t this just a demonisation of ruling elites? I mean you have a demon theory about them, the way they have about you. No, it’s not demon theory: they see me and people like me as a real mortal enemy to their class interest; they’re absolutely correct. It’s not a kooky theory. They’re right about me; I’m right about them!

Are they really capable of supporting death squads, assassinations, tortures, violent deeds like this, I mean, you know, you’re talking about Yale, Princeton, Harvard graduates here? I remember speaking to a former CIA – actually he’d been in the OSS and he’d gone to the CIA in the early years under Wild Bill Donovan – he was in the administration at Yale University when I was back there for postdoctoral, and I remember him saying, ‘well Michael, well you know it’s not a pretty world out there, we have to sometimes do things that aren’t very pretty, because we’re facing some very nasty individuals, so we’re compelled to do this – if the politics in the world were like politics in the US we wouldn’t have to do it.’

It’s pretty dirty in the US too. So they have it all rationalised, but the evidence does come out. Yes, they are capable of such things, even Congress, the last to know – I always think of Congress as the deceived spouse. You know, they’re always ‘the last to know’!

Do you remember during the Iran-Contra hearings, the Republican senators who got up – Senator Cohen of Maine, Senator Rudman of Vermont [sic] – they got up and said, ‘I thought we were intervening in Nicaragua because we were interdicting the arms that they were sending to El Salvador.’ I mean those guys really believe that reason when Jeane Kirkpatrick and Shultz and Reagan gave that reason. I said, ‘Boy, we have boy scouts!’ You read history – that stuff I was doing on the Spanish-American War, same thing… these senators were getting up… They really believe the reasons that are given by the White House; at least, they give every appearance of believing.

But Congress eventually – some elements in Congress – catch on. A very unusual member of Congress, Robert Torricelli, head of the Torricelli Bill against Cuba. Yes, you can hiss, but on this issue somehow – you see Torricelli sponsored that bill because somehow he actually thinks that Cuba’s a bad place, and a danger, and we’ve got to democratise it. He really thinks that’s what it is. So then he finds out what the US was doing in El Salvador, and he says (Washington Post, March 17th ’93):

The Chairman of a House subcommittee, Robert Torricelli, Democrat of New Jersey charged yesterday that the Reagan administration lied to Congress for years about the Salvadoran armed forces complicity in murder, and he said [quote]

“Every word uttered by every Reagan administration official about the observances of human rights in El Salvador should be reviewed for perjury.”

Torricelli went on: “It is now abundantly clear that Ronald Reagan made these certifications about human rights in defiance of the truth.” 5

Welcome to reality, congressman!

I just finished doing an investigation of the death of an American president. He died in 1850, Zachary Taylor. I wrote an article called “History as Mystery: The Strange Death of President Zachary Taylor”. In 1991, his tomb was opened and they investigated because some historians were saying – one historian was suspicious that he had actually been poisoned. And they came out with the report that he wasn’t poisoned, he died of natural causes.

Well, I got their reports and started looking at them more closely and found all sorts of funny things: that the arsenic level in him was fifteen times higher than the normal level in a person walking around; that the antimony level in him was vastly higher, was fifty, sixty times higher (antimony is used as a poison with even a higher toxicity than arsenic); and a bunch of other things.

And so I wrote this whole article. And one of the quotes I came across was by a historian, Eugene Genovese. He was asked by the press, ‘would any political protagonist in the United States of 1950 be capable of such a deed? Taylor, you see, was opposing the slave power. He refused to have any extension of slavery. He was holding a hard line against any extension of slavery into the Western territories, and there was a lot of hard feeling against him about this. And when he died Millard Fillmore came in and the policy immediately shifted: total change in policy; the Compromise of 1850 came in and the slave powers got all they wanted. Fugitive Slave laws were strengthened. I won’t go into any more particulars.

That’s what it was all about: there was a real political interest involved. And Genovese says: ‘I can’t imagine any Southern personalities who would have been involved in such a conspiracy.’ Now, it’s an interesting thing when you make these kind of statements because it’s a reflection of you. It’s a reflection of how moderate and decent you are, when you say, ‘I can’t imagine this kind of crazy thing happening.’

If you can imagine this kind of crazy thing happening; this sort of begins to raise some question about your credibility you see. Because I can’t imagine if there could’ve been anybody involved in such a conspiracy. He goes on, he says, ‘but there’s always the possibility that there were some nuts who had access to him and did it.’

Well, I want to say that history shows us that nuts are not the only ones capable of evil deeds. That gentlemen of principle and power, of genteel manner, can arrive at very grim decisions. If they commit crimes, it’s not because they harbour murky and perverse impulses, but because they feel compelled to deal with the dangers that are opposed to their way of life.

This doesn’t mean that they’re motivated by purely financial reasons, although that’s a very real consideration I think, but they equate their vital interests with the well-being of their society and the nation. In this case, with the well-being of the cause of Southern rights. And far from being immoral, or unscrupulous, they are individuals of principles that are so lofty as to elevate them above the restraints of ordinary morality.

They don’t act on sudden impulse. The feeling grows among them that something must be done; something that’s best for all. That the situation is becoming intolerable. They move gradually toward the position – the change is gradual and yet it’s so compelling that when they arrive at their decision, they’re no longer shocked by the extreme measures they’re willing to employ.

The execution of the unsavoury deed is made all the easier by delegating its commission to lower level operatives. Most of the evil in history is perpetrated not by lunatics or monsters or lone psychotics, but by persons of responsibility and commitment whose most unsettling aspect is the apparent normality of their deportment.

It’s like child molesters. We’re finally saying there’s danger in the stranger. It’s not the stranger we find out are the child molesters and the abusers – it’s not some guy who goes around like this with drool coming down like this – it’s the, in many case, upright, estimable gentlemen of the community, who no-one would believe could do such a thing.

I want to point out that the social order itself is not without intent. That you can think of a social order operating with immense impersonality and yet it too has intent.

I had a friend years ago who was a nurse and when she was trained as a nurse she had three patients. And she did very well with these patients, she had a real knack for it; she talked to them, and that’s a good part of the healing process you know, their feelings and all that, and she really liked her work.

And then, she went to work in a hospital, and she was the only nurse on the whole ward: she had twenty-five to thirty patients. Now nobody can take care of twenty-five to thirty patients. And what begins to happen after a while she gets irritated and angry, and she starts to get annoyed, and feeling that they are wanting to be pampered and all that and [she’s] getting very curt with the patients: acting like a nurse.

So what you see here is the patients are ascribing this behaviour to her personality, when in fact its behaviour that’s the result of a structured situation that’s beyond her control – which is too many patients to take care of. But there’s something more to that story.

The hospital is run by a bunch of rich directors and profiteers. They make the decision to maximise their profits, they cut down on staff. The more you cut down on staff, the more you increase your rate of exploitation per person you’ve employed. If I can get one person to do the work of three that increases my profits. So that board of directors which drew huge salaries and extracted large profits for the corporate shareholders at the hospital were very much involved in that paradigm between nurse and patient.

You know Marx and Freud have very little in common, but one thing they do have in common is this idea that human behaviour is often prefigured by forces that are removed from the immediate situation. For Freud, it was all-out hidden agendas and our family and our parents and all that; for Marx, it’s the social situation, the class structure, the institutions and the culture and those kinds of thing, which are operating in ways we don’t see.

It’s the nature of our culture that we don’t see it. And we immediately ascribe it to some psychological or personality component of the other person. It’s not that the directors of that hospital, by the way, took pleasure in overworking the nursing staff and seeing them hassled and irritable. I mean quite the contrary; they’d want a staff that’s pleasant to the patients. But different institutional arrangements evoke different forms of behaviour.

The fact that a dispirited workforce is unintentional does not mean there is no interested power involved. The fact that it’s unintentional, that effect, doesn’t mean there are not intentions working to get some kind of effect there. In other words, institutional arrangements may have unintended effects, but if the arrangements are serving explicit interests, how really unintended are the effects?

And you want to see, by the way, when those interests are threatened. It’s impressive how conscious intention can suddenly be mobilised in situations where conscious intention supposedly plays no role.

This applies to the debate that’s going on right now about the JFK assassination conspiracy. That there are people saying that we shouldn’t get hung up on conspiracies, we should be looking at the larger institutional forces. And what I am arguing is that those larger institutional forces are directed by conscious human agency. And those agencies use conspiracy or non-conspiracies – use conspiratorial forces or non-conspiratorial forces – and that the conspiratorial forces are important; they’re not rare exceptions – and that they are systemic in the nature; and in their output.

There are those who said that, ‘yeah, so three-fourths of the American people believe that John Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy; so what, three-fourths of the American people – Cockburn’s made this argument, Chomsky’s made this argument to me – three-fourths of the American people believe in miracles too. Well, that’s a very facile argument. It’s a confusion. They’re confusing the gullibility about miracles with the public’s refusal to be gullible about the story that the officials are handing down to them about how Kennedy was killed. It’s quite different.

So what I would say is, what I would say to our friends is that we ought not to patronise the public; we ought to educate ourselves about the actualities of that murder, and about every other conspiracy that goes on. We should not dismiss these conspiracies as distractions from the bigger picture, but see how they are an essential part of the bigger picture.

The concern with conspiracy and assassination is not a manifestation of Camelot yearnings, it’s not a search for lost messiahs, or father figures; it’s an immature, kooky idea. It is the angry realisation that state power is used in gangster ways by gentlemen gangsters who defend imperialism and the national security state. Concern about these issues is not gullibility, it’s not irrational yearnings for lost leaders, but it’s an expression of public concern about the nature of our government.

The expression of public concern about the nature of our government; the angry criticism: there’s a name for that, and that is called democracy, and let’s have more of it.

Thank you very much.

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Hat tip to Max Blumenthal for drawing my attention to Michael Parenti’s talk and also to independent journalist and environmental activist Cory Morningstar for featuring it on her blog Wrong Kind of Green, where you can also find the quote at the top of this article.

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1 Speech to Illinois legislature (January 1837); This is Lincoln’s First Reported Speech, found in the Sangamo Journal (28 January 1837) according to McClure’s Magazine (March 1896); also in Lincoln’s Complete Works (1905) ed. by Nicolay and Hay, Vol. 1, p. 24.

2 The Report of the Congressional Committees Investigating the Iran-Contra Affair was released on November 18, 1987.

Below are excerpts of the Executive Summary’s “findings and conclusions”

[T]he question whether the President knew of the diversion is not conclusive on the issue of his responsibility. The President created or at least tolerated an environment where those who did know of the diversion believed with certainty that they were carrying out the President’s policies.

This same environment enabled a secretary who shredded, smuggled, and altered documents to tell the Committees that ‘sometimes you have to go above the written law;’ and it enabled Admiral Poindexter to testify that ‘frankly, we were willing to take some risks with the law.’ It was in such an environment that former officials of the NSC staff and their private agents could lecture the Committees that a ‘rightful cause’ justifies any means, that lying to Congress and other officials in the executive branch itself is acceptable when the ends are just, and that Congress is to blame for passing laws that run counter to Administration policy. What may aptly be called the ‘cabal of the zealots’ was in charge.”

https://www.brown.edu/Research/Understanding_the_Iran_Contra_Affair/h-themajorityreport.php

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The House Assassinations Committee concluded in its final report July 17 that conspiracies probably played a role in the deaths of President John F. Kennedy and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The committee, which spent two years and $5.4 million investigating the deaths, was unable to pinpoint any specific conspiracy, and its report criticized agencies involved in earlier probes for not pursuing information that could have uncovered such plots. […]

The committee agreed with the Warren Commission’s conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald killed Kennedy Nov. 23, 1963, by firing three shots at the president from the Texas School Book Depository Building in Dallas.

However, the panel said scientific acoustical evidence indicated a fourth shot was fired and “establishes a high probability that two gunmen fired at [Kennedy].”

Kennedy “probably was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy,” the report stated, but committee members were “unable to identify the other gunman or the extent of the conspiracy.” They ruled out involvement by the Soviet or Cuban governments, the Secret Service, CIA or FBI. […]

The committee concluded that James Earl Ray killed King on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn. But the committee said there was “substantial evidence to establish the existence of a St. Louis conspiracy to finance the assassination of Dr. King.”

https://library.cqpress.com/cqalmanac/document.php?id=cqal79-1185454

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Was President Reagan aware that his agents were offering Iran a ransom of arms to buy back hostages? Was George Bush a full participant in that demeaning decision, despite his frequent protestations of being “out of the loop”?

The answer to both questions, according to the first part of former Secretary of State Shultz’s memoirs, excerpted this week in Time magazine, is a dismaying “yes.” His eyewitness evidence shows that Reagan lied to himself, sticking to a script denying reality; Bush lied only to investigators and the public.

From an article entitled “George Shultz’s Book Stirs up a Hornet’s Nest of Iran-Contra Lies”, written by William Safire, published by Chicago Tribune on February 5, 1993. https://www.chicagotribune.com/news/ct-xpm-1993-02-05-9303175679-story.html

5 Based on the original article entitled “Reagan Administration Accused of Lies on El Salvador” written by John M. Goshko, published in the Washington Post on March 17, 1993. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1993/03/17/reagan-administration-accused-of-lies-on-el-salvador/857e23c3-c709-4fc7-868b-08ff210ccad0/ 

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Filed under analysis & opinion, did you see?, Latin America, USA

20 years on: still searching for the truth about 9/11

John Pilger, who stands out as one of the few remaining independent voices, says that he began to understand how censorship works in so-called free societies when he reported from totalitarian regimes. During the 1970s, he filmed secretly from within Czechoslovakia (still, as then, a Stalinist dictatorship), interviewing members of the dissident group Charter 77. There the novelist Zdenek Urbánek explained the situation to Pilger as follows:

“In dictatorships we are more fortunate than you in the West in one respect – we believe nothing of what we read in the newspapers, and nothing of what we watch on television, because we know it’s propaganda and lies. Unlike you in the West, we’ve learnt to look behind the propaganda, and to read between the lines. Unlike you, we know that the real truth is always subversive.” 1

In challenging the official story of the 9/11 attacks, here is Gore Vidal saying something remarkably similar:

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Released in 2006, 9/11: Press for Truth is a documentary directed by the American filmmaker Ray Nowosielski. Partially based on The Terror Timeline, by Paul Thompson, the film recounts the inspiring story of the Jersey Girls (Kristen Breitweiser, Patty Casazza, Lorie Van Auken, and Mindy Kleinberg), all residents of New Jersey and the widows of individuals killed in the September 11th attacks, who tenaciously lobbied the Bush administration to open an investigation. It was their demands that culminated in the eventual formation of the 9/11 Commission.

Although the film sticks rigorously to the facts and credible claims reported and published by reputable journalists, you will almost certainly never see this documentary aired on BBC, Channel 4 or ITV. The reason for this is that mainstream outlets have consistently shunned all serious challenges to the official story. Moreover, they have dependably concealed two inconvenient facts.

Firstly, they continue to ignore how the US government delayed and then used tricks to control and suppress a full investigation. Secondly, they have cultivated a fiction that the 9/11 families and other victims fully accept the official story and just want to be left in peace. In reality it was the Jersey Girls and other members of 9/11 Family Steering Committee who were entirely instrumental in the creation of the 9/11 Commission.

Nowosielski’s documentary is outstanding in that it shows how the investigation was deliberately set up to fail and how the truth surrounding the crimes of 9/11 has been systematically covered up both prior to the Commission and since:

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Although its portrayal of the September 11th attacks is perhaps the most poignant of all memorials, another documentary that has not received a mainstream airing during this anniversary (or indeed at any other time) is Michael Moore’s evergreen Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004).

A special screening shown online yesterday with live Q+A is embedded below (and cued up to begin at the start of the film):

Moore’s mistake was to contextualise too much. The film’s pre-credits tell the story of the brazen election fraud in Florida that sealed Bush’s victory and how that led to unprecedented scenes on the day of his inauguration as the presidential motorcade was held up by thousands of protesters.

Moore then highlights the multiple warnings of threats of an imminent terrorist attack, which are interspersed with reminders of American collaboration with soon-to-be-villains Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, before he moves to consider relations with the Saudi regime. Indeed, the central focus of Moore’s investigation (although there is a great deal besides) reveals the intimate ties between the Bush family and the Bin Ladens.

Moore’s accusing figure points to the nefarious role played by the Saudis, and in fact the subsequent release of the so-called 28 pages entirely vindicates this accusation, although this too is evidently part of an ongoing limited hangout. Moore treads very carefully throughout this film and if I have a criticism it is only that he does not go far enough. That said, what he does show is damning enough and sufficient enough reason to call for a new investigation.

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In the mainstream tributes and memorials instead, we hear solely from those who don’t protest too loudly. All official tributes have been obliged therefore to ignore the plight of Bob and Helen McIlvaine, whose son, Bobby, was killed inside the World Trade Center, and who alongside other families are continuing the campaign to get justice for their loved ones and the thousands of other victims:

Nor will you hear from Matt Campbell, the brother of Geoff, a British victim who died in the North tower, and who has requested the Attorney General to open a new inquest in the UK under Section 13 of the UK Coroners Act 1988:

Nor from fire commissioner Christopher Gioia whose fire district recently passed a historic resolution supporting a new investigation and seeking justice for firefighters:

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Barry Jennings is another who was desperately looking for answers. As the Deputy Director of the Emergency Services Department for the New York City Housing Authority, Jennings inadvertently became a crucial eyewitness when, on the morning of September 11th, he was trapped together with Michael Hess, the New York City Corporation Counsel, inside Building 7 (or WTC7).

Following their rescue, Michael Hess gave a live interview with Frank Ucciardo, in which he stated:

“I was up the emergency management center on the 23rd floor and when all the power went out in the building, er, another gentleman [Barry Jennings] and I walked down to the 8th floor where there was an explosion and we were trapped on the 8th floor with smoke, thick smoke, all around us for about an hour and a half”

Barry Jennings confirmed the account of explosions in an interview shortly after his own escape from the building:

A few years later in 2007, Barry Jennings gave a lengthier account in an interview to Dylan Avery – for some reason the full interview is extremely hard to locate and in the version embedded below his testimony has been truncated, however this seems to be the best version currently uploaded:

William Rodriguez, the caretaker of the WTC, courageously went back into the main towers with his master key to help rescue others who were trapped inside. For a time Rodriguez was actually granted the status of a national hero.

However, Rodriguez is another 9/11 victim who finally became frustrated by the lack of formal investigations and although he was able to give evidence to the Commission, he was not granted permission to testify publicly and none of his testimony appears in the final report.

Like Jennings, Rodriguez has consistently maintained that explosions happened inside the buildings. Memorably he once compared the whole event to a magic trick (previously he had worked as a magician’s assistant).

Today it is remarkably difficult to find clips of William Rodriguez retelling his account or questioning the official narrative of 9/11 (although for a brief period he has made a number of TV appearances including at least one in Britain). Such is the degree of censorship across the web this is the single extended presentation I can actually find on Youtube:

Click here to listen to a radio interview with William Rodriguez.

The Jersey Girls and the other families as well as so many firefighters and first responders are still desperately seeking answers. Before he sadly passed away, Barry Jennings was one of countless victims more quietly seeking the truth. He and William Rodriguez are just two amongst many who directly witnessed the events and could not believe the official story. All want answers. All seek justice. This is why I support their cause for 9/11 truth and in a small way have tried to act on their behalf by presenting their stories and delving into the subject more deeply myself (see below and read this previous article published for the tenth anniversary).

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You may have noticed that up to this point, I have carefully steered clear of any mention of the dread word “conspiracy”. My reason for this avoidance is obvious enough: that the word “conspiracy”, though acknowledged as a valid synonym for plot, intrigue and affair in both dictionaries and, perhaps more significantly, in courts of law, has increasingly been tarnished.

More often than not conjoined with another otherwise neutral term “theory”, it nowadays functions as a compound noun of exceptionally potent force. For it is next to impossible to hear the words “conspiracy theorist” and not think “conspiracy nut”. In short, “conspiracy theory” is a weaponised term; its use is therefore tantamount to pointing the finger and saying: “are you an idiot or charlatan?”

But there is a “conspiracy theory” at work, of course, and James Corbett brilliantly elucidates the absurdity of it in his miniature Youtube masterpiece [only 4 mins long] aptly entitled “9/11: a conspiracy theory”:

As with all the best satire, its brilliance resides in its closeness to reality. This really is the official story of 9/11 and Corbett provides links to verify the many statements in his own transcript which I have reproduced in full below as an addendum.

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Gore Vidal once said “I am not a conspiracy theorist, I am a conspiracy analyst”. And Vidal, a close friend of the Kennedys and a close student of history, was one of the most high-profile figures to call for a reopening of the investigation into 9/11.

What Vidal understood from firsthand experience is that politics is replete with instances that would be labelled “conspiracy theories” except the fact that they have already been proven “conspiracy fact”.

I shall list a few that are both germane and that have been established with historical certainty:

Firstly, the coups: Guatemala (Operation PBSuccess, 1953), Iran (Operation Ajax, 1954), the various CIA attempts to kill Castro, and significantly the overthrow of democratic socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile on another day of infamy, September 11th 1973, that led to 16-year reign of terror by the Pinochet regime.

On a special edition of RT’s ‘Going Underground’ embedded below, Farhaan Ahmed spoke with Pablo Vivanco, a Chilean journalist and the former director of TeleSUR English. They marked the 48th anniversary of coup and the subsequent transformation of Chilean society into one modelled on the Chicago Boys’ neoliberalism, and also discussed the rise of a continent-wide purge of the left through the US-organised Operation Condor:

More controversially, under the codename Operation Gladio, a network of “stay-behind” anti-communist armed groups, presided over by US and British secret service agents, infiltrated extremist groups around Europe during the 1970s, and were used to assist and provoke multiple terrorist attacks (this was well-documented in an excellent three-part BBC Timewatch special by filmmaker Allan Francovich):

Other so-called ‘false flag’ provocations have included the Gulf Of Tonkin incident, a hoax that served as the pretext for the Vietnam War, and Israel’s attack and attempt to sink the unarmed USS Liberty during the Six-Day War, with the intention of attributing blame to the Egyptians in the hope of bringing America into the war.

False pretexts for war are so common in fact, that very few wars are ever started without them. Notoriously, the first Gulf War was commenced following the completely staged false claims of “babies out of incubators”. On the occasion of the subsequent Iraq War there were a variety of falsehoods including yellowcake, Colin Powell’s vial of anthrax at the United Nations Security Council and the UK’s ‘Dodgy Dossier’.

Prior to Nato’s assault on Libya, the media reported unsubstantiated claims that Gaddafi’s forces were committing mass rape with use of Viagra. More recently again, the Syrian army has been repeatedly accused of using chemical weapons to kill civilians – accusations that have since been challenged by multiple whistleblowers inside the OPCW (see here).

Beyond the coups and the false flag attacks, there have also been many other well-established secret operations. One of the better known is Project MKUltra, in which the US covertly subjected members of its military and civilian population to mind-control experiments (this included the work of Canadian psychiatrist Ewan Cameron, who subjected many patients to horrendous doses of drugs and ECT in any attempt to literally erase their minds – some of his victims later won claims for compensation).

Any attempt to provide a complete list of known conspiracies involving US intelligence services alone would require library shelves full of material, so allow me to finish with just one more historic example to illustrate the point. The Iran-Contra affair (or simply Irangate), when money from the secret sale of arms to Iran was used to fund right-wing death squads in Nicaragua, journalist Gary Webb exposed how the CIA was also covertly involved in drug-running cocaine.

In short, post-war history shows how terrible crimes of every conceivable kind have been committed for the purpose of grabbing power and perpetuating war. Secret conspiracies to these ends happen routinely.

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The events of 9/11 served as a unique opportunity both domestically and for foreign policy. It was a made-to-measure “New Pearl Harbor” that happened almost a year to the day after the neo-con faction who seized power had publicly called for it. The 9/11 attacks gave rise directly to the Patriot Acts and mass surveillance on the population that NSA whistleblower William Binney has described as “better than anything that the KGB, the Stasi, or the Gestapo and SS ever had”. 2 They also enabled the Bush administration to launch an immediate war against Afghanistan and shortly after a “shock and awe” regime change in Iraq. They have continued to shape the world two decades later.

Nine years ago, I launched a separate blog where a more detailed analysis can be found. As I wrote at the time under the heading “11 years on”:

We still have the right to know the truth…

More than a decade on and the horrific attacks of September 11th 2001 continue to cast a long shadow over all of us. The ridiculous “war on terror” that commenced after the Twin Towers had crumbled to dust is still determining the foreign and domestic policies of many governments throughout the world.

9/11, as the atrocity was quickly re-branded, has been used to legitimise not only the subsequent neo-imperialist adventuring into Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond, but also the opening of Guantanamo and with it, the approved use of torture. At the same time, the “war of terror” is still used to justify the escalating assault on personal privacy, on freedom of speech, and our right to dissent. The decade long crackdown on civil and human rights that began with 9/11 has now culminated in America with the removal of habeas corpus – under the Obama authorised NDAA 2012, the indefinite detention of US citizens being made permissible on the ill-defined grounds of having “substantially supported” terrorists or their “associated forces,” and without properly defining what any of these terms precisely mean.

For all these reasons, 9/11 remains vitally important, and yet the events of that terrible morning have still never been properly investigated. My attempt here is put forth another challenge to the commonly held opinion that the case should now be closed, and to shed a little light into the many areas of darkness that remain. In doing so I have tried to investigate the details of the case as accurately as I can, with objections to the official narrative being backed up with more detailed footnotes. If there are errors within my analysis then please feel free to send updated evidence that refutes any of my statements. On the other hand, if you are simply intent to darken the debate with lies and obfuscation then your comments will be deleted.

The survivors, the first responders, and the families of the victims of the September 11th attacks, many of whom continue their fight for a full and independent inquiry, deserve our respect and our support.

On the back of this I accepted an invitation to give a talk in London about discrepancies in the official account and specifically in relation to the physics of the building collapses. My presentation is embedded below:

In posting this article I genuinely do not expect to change anyone’s view while being fully aware that it is counterproductive to step too far into this debate – something Spike Lee found out during the release of his recent HBO documentary series. As I have written previously about dissenting voices:  it is not that one person’s actions will change the world (of course to some degree all actions do), but that you are able to find a way to stop the world adversely changing you.

There are, of course, many better sources to read that challenge the official story of 9/11 (for instance here and here), and so I have referenced my own small contribution above purely as a continuing act of solidarity with the 9/11 families and other victims seeking the truth.

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Update:

This year’s anniversary was marked by a Media Roots special in which Abby Martin and Robbie Martin spoke with independent researcher Gumby in a two-part broadcast entitled “The Return of the 9/11 Conspiracy Left, Restrategizing & Turning Over More Stones”:

After taking listeners on a brief tour of the early rise of the 9/11 Truth movement with its predominantly left-leaning origins, explaining how it reached a critical mass within anti-George W Bush liberalism, they then remind us of the prominent political figures, intellectuals and Hollywood celebrities who spoke out and questioned the official story, and how that legacy has been whitewashed today.

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Addendum: Transcript to James Corbett’s “9/11: A Conspiracy Theory”

On the morning of September 11, 2001, 19 men armed with boxcutters directed by a man on dialysis in a cave fortress halfway around the world using a satellite phone and a laptop directed the most sophisticated penetration of the most heavily-defended airspace in the world, overpowering the passengers and the military combat-trained pilots on 4 commercial aircraft before flying those planes wildly off course for over an hour without being molested by a single fighter interceptor.

These 19 hijackers, devout religious fundamentalists who liked to drink alcohol, snort cocaine, and live with pink-haired strippers, managed to knock down 3 buildings with 2 planes in New York, while in Washington a pilot who couldn’t handle a single engine Cessna was able to fly a 757 in an 8,000 foot descending 270 degree corskscrew turn to come exactly level with the ground, hitting the Pentagon in the budget analyst office where DoD staffers were working on the mystery of the 2.3 trillion dollars that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had announced “missing” from the Pentagon’s coffers in a press conference the day before, on September 10, 2001.

Luckily, the news anchors knew who did it within minutes, the pundits knew within hours, the Administration knew within the day, and the evidence literally fell into the FBI’s lap. But for some reason a bunch of crazy conspiracy theorists demanded an investigation into the greatest attack on American soil in history.

The investigation was delayed, underfunded, set up to fail, a conflict of interest and a cover up from start to finish. It was based on testimony extracted through torture, the records of which were destroyed. It failed to mention the existence of WTC7, Able Danger, Ptech, Sibel Edmonds, OBL and the CIA, and the drills of hijacked aircraft being flown into buildings that were being simulated at the precise same time that those events were actually happening. It was lied to by the Pentagon, the CIA, the Bush Administration and as for Bush and Cheney…well, no one knows what they told it because they testified in secret, off the record, not under oath and behind closed doors. It didn’t bother to look at who funded the attacks because that question is of “little practical significance“. Still, the 9/11 Commission did brilliantly, answering all of the questions the public had (except most of the victims’ family members’ questions) and pinned blame on all the people responsible (although no one so much as lost their job), determining the attacks were “a failure of imagination” because “I don’t think anyone could envision flying airplanes into buildings ” except the Pentagon and FEMA and NORAD and the NRO.

The DIA destroyed 2.5 TB of data on Able Danger, but that’s OK because it probably wasn’t important.

The SEC destroyed their records on the investigation into the insider trading before the attacks, but that’s OK because destroying the records of the largest investigation in SEC history is just part of routine record keeping.

NIST has classified the data that they used for their model of WTC7’s collapse, but that’s OK because knowing how they made their model of that collapse would “jeopardize public safety“.

The FBI has argued that all material related to their investigation of 9/11 should be kept secret from the public, but that’s OK because the FBI probably has nothing to hide.

This man never existed, nor is anything he had to say worthy of your attention, and if you say otherwise you are a paranoid conspiracy theorist and deserve to be shunned by all of humanity. Likewise him, him, him, and her. (and her and her and him).

Osama Bin Laden lived in a cave fortress in the hills of Afghanistan, but somehow got away. Then he was hiding out in Tora Bora but somehow got away. Then he lived in Abottabad for years, taunting the most comprehensive intelligence dragnet employing the most sophisticated technology in the history of the world for 10 years, releasing video after video with complete impunity (and getting younger and younger as he did so), before finally being found in a daring SEAL team raid which wasn’t recorded on video, in which he didn’t resist or use his wife as a human shield, and in which these crack special forces operatives panicked and killed this unarmed man, supposedly the best source of intelligence about those dastardly terrorists on the planet. Then they dumped his body in the ocean before telling anyone about it. Then a couple dozen of that team’s members died in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan.

This is the story of 9/11, brought to you by the media which told you the hard truths about JFK and incubator babies and mobile production facilities and the rescue of Jessica Lynch.

If you have any questions about this story…you are a batshit, paranoid, tinfoil, dog-abusing baby-hater and will be reviled by everyone. If you love your country and/or freedom, happiness, rainbows, rock and roll, puppy dogs, apple pie and your grandma, you will never ever express doubts about any part of this story to anyone. Ever.

This has been a public service announcement by: the Friends of the FBI, CIA, NSA, DIA, SEC, MSM, White House, NIST, and the 9/11 Commission. Because Ignorance is Strength.

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1  John Pilger speaking about his book “Freedom next time” at Socialism 2007: Socialism for the 21st Century, June 16th, 2007. Transcribed by the author from a film made by Paul Hubbard and broadcast as Democracy Now – the War and Peace Report, August 7th, 2007. Available on the internet.

2 From an article entitled “Obama’s Crackdown on Whistleblowers” written by Tim Shorrock, published in The Nation magazine on March 26, 2013. https://www.thenation.com/article/archive/obamas-crackdown-whistleblowers/

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Filed under al-Qaeda & DAESH / ISIS / ISIL, campaigns & events, did you see?, John Pilger, Saudi Arabia, September 11th, USA

‘Coup 53’: or how British intelligence enabled the CIA to take over the empire

Every single empire in its official discourse has said that it is not like all the others, that its circumstances are special, that it has a mission to enlighten, civilize, bring order and democracy, and that it uses force only as a last resort. And, sadder still, there always is a chorus of willing intellectuals to say calming words about benign or altruistic empires, as if one shouldn’t trust the evidence of one’s eyes watching the destruction and the misery and death brought by the latest mission civilizatrice.

One specifically American contribution to the discourse of empire is the specialized jargon of policy expertise. You don’t need Arabic or Persian or even French to pontificate about how the democracy domino effect is just what the Arab world needs. Combative and woefully ignorant policy experts, whose world experience is limited to the Beltway, grind out books on “terrorism” and liberalism, or about Islamic fundamentalism and American foreign policy, or about the end of history, all of it vying for attention and influence quite without regard for truthfulness or reflection or real knowledge. What matters is how efficient and resourceful it sounds, and who might go for it, as it were. The worst aspect of this essentializing stuff is that human suffering in all its density and pain is spirited away. Memory and with it the historical past are effaced as in the common, dismissively contemptuous American phrase, “you’re history.” — Edward Said

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When democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh, took the fateful decision to nationalise his nation’s oil reserves, thus depriving BP – known then as the Anglo-Iranian Oil Company – of its primary revenue stream, the West quickly retaliated, first with sanctions and then with a full-fledged colour revolution and coup carried out in 1953 to ouster Mosaddegh and usher in a quarter century-long brutal dictatorship and repressive police state under the Shah.

The American role in what was codenamed Operation Ajax is comparatively well documented and those familiar with the story will already be aware of the central role played by Kermit Roosevelt, grandson of President Theodore Roosevelt, who afterwards wrote a book entitled Countercoup: The Struggle for the Control of Iran in which he described how he and the CIA carried out their operation. By contrast, far fewer details are known about British involvement.

A Radio 4 documentary broadcast in 2005 finally revealed evidence that not only was the BBC World Service prominent in a campaign to flood Iran with anti-government propaganda, but also disclosed how the World Service is directly implicated in the coup by signalling British support to the Shah. As notes on the BBC website state:

“Even the BBC was used to spearhead Britain’s propaganda campaign. In fact, Auntie agreed to broadcast the very code word that was to spark revolution.” 1

Curiously, the BBC has since refused to comment on its own disclosure!

The pivotal role played by MI6 remains to this day a very closely-guarded secret, however in a newly released documentary Coup 53, British-Iranian filmmaker Taghi Amirani has managed to piece together fragments to tell the story of one British secret service officer called Norman Darbyshire – a man whose existence had been almost entirely erased from history:

Coup 53 is the result of years of sleuthing from Amirani, and he has been helped by the legendary editor and sound editor Walter Murch, who is co-writer. Also on board is actor Ralph Fiennes. In a dramatic reconstruction, he plays real-life MI6 agent Norman Derbyshire [sic], who in 1985 gave an interview to the Granada TV documentary End of Empire in which he rashly asserted that the whole thing was effectively being run by the British – by him, in fact. Coup 53 concludes that his appearance was cut at MI6’s insistence but the transcript survived. 2

Click here to read the full Guardian review by Peter Bradshaw.

Although centred around redacted transcripts from just a single television interview, Coup 53 is a quite brilliantly constructed and important documentary, which by the end leaves the audience to consider what might have been had the plot to remove Mosaddegh failed – as it so very nearly did. Besides a more hopeful future in a Middle East with Iran permitted to develop as an affluent, democratic and progressive power, it also seems unlikely, as the film intimates, that the CIA would have gone on so avidly to pursue future campaigns of destabilisation beginning with the toppling of democratically elected President Jacobo Árbenz in Guatemala the very next year.

Embedded below is George Monbiot’s short guide to why everything you know about the British Empire is a lie:

Instead, the imperialist success of the Iranian coup simply marked the passing of the baton from the British establishment more firmly into American hands with the major difference in the running the empire owing much to differences of national character: the British eager to hide their dirty secrets to the extent of completely erasing the historical record (and the main Wikipedia entry still makes little mention of Norman Darbyshire) while the Americans appear happier to brag.

Click here to view the official Coup 53 website and here to watch the film.

In January 2020, Codepink’s Jodie Evans spoke with Taghi Amirani shortly after the original release of the Coup 53:

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Correction:

In the original post I incorrectly wrote Norman Derbyshire rather than Darbyshire (the same mistake appears in the Guardian review) and wrote that “the main Wikipedia entry still makes no mention of Norman Derbyshire”. If you search the current Wikipedia entry you will however find the following inclusion (with all links and footnotes retained):

Robert Zaehner alone spent over a £1,500,000, smuggled in biscuit tins, to bribe Iranians, and later his colleague Norman Darbyshire admitted that the actual coup cost the British government a further £700,000.[48]They hoped to fill the Majlis with deputies who would vote to depose Mosaddegh. It would be a coup carried out by seemingly legal means.”[18]:135

Although not linked from this article, there is also a separate entry for Norman Darbyshire that read as follows (again with links retained):

Norman Darbyshire (1 October 1924 – 17 June 1993) was the British MI6 operative who led the 1953 coup d’état that overthrew Mohammed Mossadegh, the democratically-elected prime minister of Iran. Credit and blame for the coup has long been attributed solely to the United States CIA, while the dominant role of the British, and MI6 operative Darbyshire in particular, has been hidden. Among other things, he was involved in the kidnapping, torture, and assassination of General Mahmoud Afshartous, Mossadegh’s chief of police,[1] and bribed the twin sister of Shah Reza Pahlavi to play a key role in the coup and to eventually become a power behind his resulting dictatorship.[2]

Darbyshire died in 1993, aged 68.

In the 2019 documentary Coup 53 by the British-Iranian film-maker Taghi Amirani about the 1953 Iranian coup d’état – in USA, the coup was known as Operation Ajax, while in Britain it was Operation Boot – actor Ralph Fiennes plays the part of Darbyshire.[3]

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Quote taken from the 2003 Preface to the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary Edition of Orientalism by Edward Said, first published in 1978. https://www.princeton.edu/~paw/web_exclusives/plus/plus_110503orient.html

1 From BBC notes to Document: A Very British Coup broadcast on Monday August 22, 2005. Even the BBC was used to spearhead Britain’s propaganda campaign. In fact, Auntie agreed to broadcast the very code word that was to spark revolution. https://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/history/document/document_20050822.shtml

2 From an article entitled “Coup 53 review – riveting documentary on a very British coup” written by Peter Bradshaw, published in the Guardian on August 20, 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/film/2020/aug/20/coup-53-review

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John Pilger’s New Year message: “Break the silence, support Stop the War”

I often use the example of Stop the War as a movement as a reason for optimism for whatever happens in the meantime, in Parliament, Whitehall, wherever; Stop the War has gone on indefatigable and I’m really delighted to be doing this because I much admire everything that Stop the War has done, there’s no equivalent actually in any other country and so congratulations on tonight.

I wonder how many of you have been to the National War Memorial in Staffordshire. It’s fairly recent, that is it was only finished about 2007. It’s an enormous place, it has 30,000 trees, rolling hills and monuments scattered throughout it. I mean in some ways it’s quite hauntingly beautiful, it’s a very unusual place: there are 350 memorials set in manicured lawns and thousands of trees and at the centre is the armed services memorial with its list of 16,000 British servicemen who it says, and I quote: “Died in operational theatre or were targeted by terrorists”.

Now on the day I was there a stonemason was actually adding two more names. There isn’t I should point out a cenotaph here to the fallen of two World Wars, there are many of those throughout the country, but these soldiers here died in 50 operations across the world during what we call peacetime. So, the people whose names are engraved on the memorials have died since the Second World War in these special operations and fighting terrorism which I think to most of you sounds like quite a euphemism – [for instance] Ireland, Kenya, Hong Kong, Libya, Iraq and many more including secret operations.

Not a year has passed since peacetime was declared in 1945 – official peacetime – that Britain has not sent military forces to fight its wars of empire. In country after country, the British arms business has furthered these wars of empire. Empire: it’s extraordinary even using the word. What empire? The investigative journalist Phil Miller recently revealed that Britain has 145 military sites, let’s call them bases, in 42 countries. Boris Johnson has boasted that Britain is to be, and I quote the foremost naval power in Europe.

In the midst of the greatest health emergency in modern times, with more than four million surgical operations delayed indefinitely, Johnson announced a record rise of £16.5 billion in so-called defence spending – a figure that would restore the NHS many times over. But the 16 billion is not for defence. Britain has no enemies other than those who betray its ordinary people, its nurses and doctors, its carers, its elderly, its vulnerable, its youth.

Amidst the solemn landscape of the National War Memorial there’s not a single monument, not one plaque, not one rose bush, in memory of all the civilians who died as a result of many of these so-called peacetime operations. There’s not a word of remembrance of the Libyan civilians killed when their country was wilfully destroyed by Cameron, Obama and [correction: Sarkozy] in 2011. There’s not a weasel word of regret for the Serb men, women and children killed by British bombs from RAF planes flying high courtesy of Tony Blair. Or the Yemeni children now being killed by rampaging Saudi pilots with logistics supplied by British officers in the air-conditioned safety of Riyadh. There’s no monument, of course, to the Palestinian children isolated and murdered with Britain’s connivance.

Two weeks ago, Israel’s military Chief of Staff [Aviv Kohavi] and Britain’s Chief of the Defence Staff [Sir Nick Carter ] signed an agreement and I quote ‘to formalise and enhance military cooperation’. That means more and more British arms and logistical support for the lawless regime in Israel. Perhaps the most glaring omission at the national war memorial is an acknowledgement of the million Iraqi’s.

A million men, women and children whose deaths were the direct result of Britain and America’s invasion of their country – an invasion based as we well know on outright lies. How does this country’s war-making elite sustain such a lethal silence? Why are we living with not just colonial wars but the threat of nuclear war?

Russia, a nuclear power, is encircled by America and Europe right up to the border where Hitler invaded. China, a nuclear power, is the brunt of unrelenting provocation with strategic bombers and drones constantly probing its territorial space. There are 400 American bases circling China like a noose, all the way up from Australia, through the pacific to Asia, and across Eurasia. This is almost never news. Why do we allow this lethal silence?

The answer lies in one word, propaganda. Our propaganda industries both political and cultural and that includes most – if not almost all – of the media are the most powerful and refined on earth. Our big lies can be repeated over and over and in comforting BBC voices. What is the propaganda aimed at? I would think it’s aimed at ensuring that we, who live in this country, never look in the mirror. Most of us never look in the mirror and see what we do in other countries.

A few years after the invasion of Iraq I made a film called The War You Don’t See [embedded above] in which I asked leading American and British colleagues and TV news executives why and how the Bush and Blair governments were allowed to get away with an invasion based on lies. The journalists said that had they and others challenged governments and exposed their lives, instead of amplifying and echoing them, the invasion of Iraq might not have happened – and perhaps a million people would be alive today. It’s an extraordinary admission, but coming from senior journalists in the United States I think it has more than just an element of truth, it was certainly the view of the CBS anchorman Dan Rather who told me that.

An Observer journalist described in my film and I quote him – his name is David Rose – “the pack of lies fed to me by a fairly sophisticated disinformation campaign”. Rageh Omaar, then the BBC’s man in Iraq, said and I quote “we failed to press the most uncomfortable buttons hard enough”. I must say I admired these journalists who broke the silence, but they are honourable exceptions.

Some years ago, I interviewed the former head of the CIA in Latin America, Duane Clarridge. He was refreshingly honest, he said that America the superpower could do what it wanted, where it wanted. His words were, and I quote: “get used to it world”. But we don’t have to get used to it, do we?

That’s why I’m supporting Stop the War whose tireless campaigning is breaking the silence – continues to break the silence – that war dominates us even in so-called peacetime.

I’ve reported a number of wars all over the world. I’ve seen the remains of children bombed and burned to death and whole villages laid to waste, trees festooned with human parts and much else. Perhaps that’s why I reserve a special contempt for those who promote the crime of war in whatever form, having never experienced it themselves. Break the silence, support Stop the War. Thank you.

Click here to read the original transcript in full at Stop the War Coalition website.

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tackling Covid-19 the Cuban way

As of October 19th, the island of Cuba with its population of 11.2 million had reported just 6,258 cases of Covid-19 and only 127 deaths. None of these fatalities included healthcare workers.

Meanwhile, since the earliest days of outbreak in March, nearly four thousand Cuban medical specialists have assisted in the treatment of more than 350,000 Covid-19 patients in nearly 40 countries. This flood of humanitarian aid was provided by Cuba’s Nobel Peace Prize nominated Henry Reeve Brigades who were deployed in spite of the Trump administration severely tightening sanctions against Cuba, which blocked revenues and generated domestic scarcities of oil, food and medical goods.

In the same period, Cuba’s prestigious biotech industry has also been at the vanguard of treatments with clinical trials underway for thirteen separate Covid-19 related products.

On RT’s Going Underground, Afshin Rattansi spoke with Dr. Helen Yaffe, who is economic historian at the University of Glasgow and co-presenter of a new documentary entitled Cuba & Covid-19: Public Health, Science and Solidarity; a film based around interviews with leading Cuban scientists, community doctors as well as one member of the Henry Reeve International Medical Contingent who travelled to Lombardy in Italy.

In the interview Helen Yaffe explained:

“The Cuban biotech sector is quite unique – the way it was founded very early on in the development of biotechnology as a field – it was founded 1981, so that was after only the second biotech firm in the United States, and the situation [which] is consistent with their socialist planned economy is its 100% state owned. All of the different institutions in the Western Scientific Pole which is in Havana cooperate, they don’t compete. They don’t seek to make a profit on their domestic production.

“The whole industry is set up to meet public health demands of the population. There’s incredible interfacing between the public health sector and the education sector. So it’s a model that essentially undermines this mainstream discourse that says “only the free market, only in pursuit of profit through competition can we have efficient outcomes”.

“Now, I would say that the responses we’ve seen in countries around the world to the Covid-19 pandemic have kind of exposed the values and the principles under which each society is organised. And it has also invited us to question the meaning of efficiency when we have a public health need that cannot be met by this speculative race for profits, because even if there is a race now for a vaccine, there are too many questions to be asked about how poor countries will be able to access those and at what cost. Will it bankrupt nations to be able to access vaccines that they need to save lives?

“For the Cubans, because of the US blockade, it’s been vitally important that they’ve worked towards their own vaccine. I mean we saw with the announcement about the Pfizer trial, the share prices you know immediately respond and you have to wonder what’s driving this process.

“I would say that it is also true that in the Global South there’s a great deal of cooperation with the Cuban biotech sector, and these Henry Reeve Brigades have been taking some of the products that have been adapted or developed specifically for Covid-19 and using them all around the world. I would expect there would be a great deal more cooperation after this pandemic because the Cuban medicines are really showing some promise – there’s even a British joint venture that has been set up to look at the potential for preventing death in critically ill and seriously ill patients.” [from 3:50 min]

Regarding the obstacles presented by US sanctions, Yaffe says:

The issue of US sanctions is a difficult one. There is UK legislation that makes it illegal for the US blockade to be enforced against individuals and companies in Britain and the same applies in Europe. The question of why that legislation is not actively pursued (is not enforced through British courts); that’s another issue. But the collaboration that took place with UCL [University College London] essentially they made available one of their CPAP ventilators which the Cubans took themselves and were able to copy – they also then used parts that were able to create these machines that was fundraised through a group in Britain called Cubanos en UK  (Cubans in the UK). But you know even for that fundraising campaign to save lives they have to be very careful about which platforms they use and how they share the information, because money raised for humanitarian (cultural events and issues) has been confiscated from Eventbrite, Paypal and other platforms because of the US blockade. [from 6:55 min]

On why the Cuban healthcare system has coped so efficiently, she says:

“I think the documentary tried to make clear that the essential tool on the way that Cuba has been able to control contagion is the family healthcare medical practices. So these are family doctors [who] exist in every community – Cuba has the highest ratio of doctors per person. 26,000 family doctors are in the community; they live among their patients. Even the doctors and their families and the nurses and their families live in the clinics: so help is available twenty-four hours per day.

“They have a system where they catagorise the health status of all of their community. So they immediately know if a disease like Covid comes along that affects people with respiratory problems, who are the vulnerable patients. And the most incredible element of their response to Covid-19 has been to increase a process that they do anyway, which is going to visit every home in their community. And they’ve been assisted by 28,000 medical students who of course couldn’t carry on studies because their universities were closed – they joined the family doctors and they went door-to-door every day.

“So they were in teams where they knocked on a hundred doors and they asked everyone in the house, you know, how they were feeling, and they were basically tracking down symptoms. When they had a suspected case, instead of leaving them in the community, they were withdrawn and taken to a medical facility or an isolation centre where they would be tested – it was obligatory supervised quarantine in these isolation centres for two weeks. Now they’ve got the disease under control, the isolation is taking place at home.

“But they were also doing contact tracing in a very serious way – not just text messages – but turning up at people’s doors, removing anyone who had been in contact out of circulation until they had been tested themselves. So they took it really seriously and this is entirely consistent with the approach of the Cuban healthcare system, which is prevention over cure, and having this network of family doctors at a grassroots level.” [from 8:55 min]

From a review of the documentary:

Based on interviews with top scientists, community doctors and medical internationalists, this documentary explores Cuba’s outstanding domestic and international response to the global pandemic. From Cuba’s extraordinary biotech sector we interview Dr Luis Herrera Martínez, who led the team that produced the Cuban anti-viral drug Interferon Alfa 2b in 1986 and is now a scientific adviser to BioCubaFarma; Dr Gerardo Guillén, Director of Biomedical Research at the world-leading Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, which has produced some of the innovative drugs on Cuba’s Covid-19 treatment protocol; and Dr Mitchell Valdes Sosa, Director General of the Cuban Neuroscience Center, which was charged with manufacturing the medical equipment required during the pandemic.

We interview a family doctor from Havana, who conducts daily door-to-door health checks to track down the virus and slow community transmission, and a medical student who was among 28,000 others to join the public health campaign as universities were shut down. We hear from Jesús Ruiz Alemán, a member of the Henry Reeve International Medical Contingent who went to Lombardy in Italy when it was the epicenter of the global pandemic.

Click here to read the same review at cubanos.org.uk.

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‘Another Hiroshima is coming… unless we stop it now’ | John Pilger

In a major essay to mark the 75th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, John Pilger describes reporting from  five ‘ground zeros’ for nuclear weapons – from Hiroshima to Bikini, Nevada to Polynesia and Australia. He warns that unless we take action now, China is next.

When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her side as she sat waiting for a bank to open.

At a quarter past eight on the morning of August 6, 1945, she and her silhouette were burned into the granite.

I stared at the shadow for an hour or more, then I walked down to the river where the survivors still lived in shanties. I met a man called Yukio, whose chest was etched with the pattern of the shirt he was wearing when the atomic bomb was dropped.

He described a huge flash over the city, “a bluish light, something like an electrical short”, after which wind blew like a tornado and black rain fell. “I was thrown on the ground and noticed only the stalks of my flowers were left. Everything was still and quiet, and when I got up, there were people naked, not saying anything. Some of them had no skin or hair. I was certain I was dead.” Nine years later, I returned to look for him and he was dead from leukaemia.

“No radioactivity in Hiroshima ruin” said The New York Times front page on 13 September, 1945, a classic of planted disinformation. “General Farrell,” reported William H. Lawrence, “denied categorically that [the atomic bomb] produced a dangerous, lingering radioactivity.”

Only one reporter, Wilfred Burchett, an Australian, had braved the perilous journey to Hiroshima in the immediate aftermath of the atomic bombing, in defiance of the Allied occupation authorities, which controlled the “press pack”.

“I write this as a warning to the world,” reported Burchett in the London Daily Express  of September 5,1945. Sitting in the rubble with his Baby Hermes typewriter, he described hospital wards filled with people with no visible injuries who were dying from what he called “an atomic plague”.

For this, his press accreditation was withdrawn, he was pilloried and smeared. His witness to the truth was never forgiven.

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki was an act of premeditated mass murder that unleashed a weapon of intrinsic criminality. It was justified by lies that form the bedrock of America’s war propaganda in the 21st century, casting a new enemy, and target – China.

During the 75 years since Hiroshima, the most enduring lie is that the atomic bomb was dropped to end the war in the Pacific and to save lives.

“Even without the atomic bombing attacks,” concluded the United States Strategic Bombing Survey of 1946, “air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion.” Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey’s opinion that … “Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war [against Japan] and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.”

The National Archives in Washington contains documented Japanese peace overtures as early as 1943. None was pursued. A cable sent on May 5, 1945 by the German ambassador in Tokyo and intercepted by the US made clear the Japanese were desperate to sue for peace, including “capitulation even if the terms were hard”. Nothing was done.

The US Secretary of War, Henry Stimson, told President Truman he was “fearful” that the US Air Force would have Japan so “bombed out” that the new weapon would not be able “to show its strength”. Stimson later admitted that “no effort was made, and none was seriously considered, to achieve surrender merely in order not to have to use the [atomic] bomb”.

Stimson’s foreign policy colleagues – looking ahead to the post-war era they were then shaping “in our image”, as Cold War planner George Kennan famously put it – made clear they were eager “to browbeat the Russians with the [atomic] bomb held rather ostentatiously on our hip”. General Leslie Groves, director of the Manhattan Project that made the atomic bomb, testified: “There was never any illusion on my part that Russia was our enemy, and that the project was conducted on that basis.”

The day after Hiroshima was obliterated, President Harry Truman voiced his satisfaction with the “overwhelming success” of “the experiment”.

The “experiment” continued long after the war was over. Between 1946 and 1958, the United States exploded 67 nuclear bombs in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific: the equivalent of more than one Hiroshima every day for 12 years.

The human and environmental consequences were catastrophic. During the filming of my documentary, The Coming War on China, I chartered a small aircraft and flew to Bikini Atoll in the Marshalls. It was here that the United States exploded the world’s first Hydrogen Bomb. It remains poisoned earth. My shoes registered “unsafe” on my Geiger counter. Palm trees stood in unworldly formations. There were no birds.

John Pilger’s 2016 documentary ‘The Coming War on China’ is embedded below:

I trekked through the jungle to the concrete bunker where, at 6.45 on the morning of March 1, 1954, the button was pushed. The sun, which had risen, rose again and vaporised an entire island in the lagoon, leaving a vast black hole, which from the air is a menacing spectacle: a deathly void in a place of beauty.

The radioactive fall-out spread quickly and “unexpectedly”. The official history claims “the wind changed suddenly”. It was the first of many lies, as declassified documents and the victims’ testimony reveal.

Gene Curbow, a meteorologist assigned to monitor the test site, said, “They knew where the radioactive fall-out was going to go. Even on the day of the shot, they still had an opportunity to evacuate people, but [people] were not evacuated; I was not evacuated… The United States needed some guinea pigs to study what the effects of radiation would do.”

Like Hiroshima, the secret of the Marshall Islands was a calculated experiment on the lives of large numbers of people. This was Project 4.1, which began as a scientific study of mice and became an experiment on “human beings exposed to the radiation of a nuclear weapon”.

The Marshall Islanders I met in 2015 – like the survivors of Hiroshima I interviewed in the 1960s and 70s – suffered from a range of cancers, commonly thyroid cancer; thousands had already died. Miscarriages and stillbirths were common; those babies who lived were often deformed horribly.

Unlike Bikini, nearby Rongelap atoll had not been evacuated during the H-Bomb test. Directly downwind of Bikini, Rongelap’s skies darkened and it rained what first appeared to be snowflakes.  Food and water were contaminated; and the population fell victim to cancers. That is still true today.

I met Nerje Joseph, who showed me a photograph of herself as a child on Rongelap. She had terrible facial burns and much of her was hair missing. “We were bathing at the well on the day the bomb exploded,” she said. “White dust started falling from the sky. I reached to catch the powder. We used it as soap to wash our hair. A few days later, my hair started falling out.”

Lemoyo Abon said, “Some of us were in agony. Others had diarrhoea. We were terrified. We thought it must be the end of the world.”

US official archive film I included in my film refers to the islanders as “amenable savages”. In the wake of the explosion, a US Atomic Energy Agency official is seen boasting that Rongelap “is by far the most contaminated place on earth”, adding, “it will be interesting to get a measure of human uptake when people live in a contaminated environment.”

American scientists, including medical doctors, built distinguished careers studying the “human uptake”. There they are in flickering film, in their white coats, attentive with their clipboards. When an islander died in his teens, his family received a sympathy card from the scientist who studied him.

I have reported from five nuclear “ground zeros” throughout the world – in Japan, the Marshall Islands, Nevada, Polynesia and Maralinga in Australia. Even more than my experience as a war correspondent, this has taught me about the ruthlessness and immorality of great power: that is, imperial power, whose cynicism is the true enemy of humanity.

This struck me forcibly when I filmed at Taranaki Ground Zero at Maralinga in the Australian desert. In a dish-like crater was an obelisk on which was inscribed: “A British atomic weapon was test exploded here on 9 October 1957”. On the rim of the crater was this sign:

WARNING: RADIATION HAZARD

Radiation levels for a few hundred metres around this point may be above those considered safe for permanent occupation.

For as far as the eye could see, and beyond, the ground was irradiated. Raw plutonium lay about, scattered like talcum powder: plutonium is so dangerous to humans that a third of a milligram gives a 50 per cent chance of cancer.

The only people who might have seen the sign were Indigenous Australians, for whom there was no warning. According to an official account, if they were lucky “they were shooed off like rabbits”.

Today, an unprecedented campaign of propaganda is shooing us all off like rabbits. We are not meant to question the daily torrent of anti-Chinese rhetoric, which is rapidly overtaking the torrent of anti-Russia rhetoric. Anything Chinese is bad, anathema, a threat: Wuhan …. Huawei. How confusing it is when “our” most reviled leader says so.

The current phase of this campaign began not with Trump but with Barack Obama, who in 2011 flew to Australia to declare the greatest build-up of US naval forces in the Asia-Pacific region since World War Two. Suddenly, China was a “threat”. This was nonsense, of course. What was threatened was America’s unchallenged psychopathic view of itself as the richest, the most successful, the most “indispensable” nation.

What was never in dispute was its prowess as a bully – with more than 30 members of the United Nations suffering American sanctions of some kind and a trail of the blood running through defenceless countries bombed, their governments overthrown, their elections interfered with, their resources plundered.

Obama’s declaration became known as the “pivot to Asia”. One of its principal advocates was his Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, who, as WikiLeaks revealed, wanted to rename the Pacific Ocean “the American Sea”.

Whereas Clinton never concealed her warmongering, Obama was a maestro of marketing.”I state clearly and with conviction,” said the new president in 2009, “that America’s commitment is to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”

Obama increased spending on nuclear warheads faster than any president since the end of the Cold War. A “usable” nuclear weapon was developed. Known as the B61 Model 12, it means, according to General James Cartwright, former vice-chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that “going smaller [makes its use] more thinkable”.

The target is China. Today, more than 400 American military bases almost encircle China with missiles, bombers, warships and nuclear weapons. From Australia north through the Pacific to South-East Asia, Japan and Korea and across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India, the bases form, as one US strategist told me, “the perfect noose”.

A study by the RAND Corporation – which, since Vietnam, has planned America’s wars – is entitled War with China: Thinking Through the Unthinkable. Commissioned by the US Army, the authors evoke the infamous catch cry of its chief Cold War strategist, Herman Kahn – “thinking the unthinkable”. Kahn’s book, On Thermonuclear War, elaborated a plan for a “winnable” nuclear war.

Kahn’s apocalyptic view is shared by Trump’s Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, an evangelical fanatic who believes in the “rapture of the End”. He is perhaps the most dangerous man alive. “I was CIA director,” he boasted, “We lied, we cheated, we stole. It was like we had entire training courses.”  Pompeo’s obsession is China.

The endgame of Pompeo’s extremism is rarely if ever discussed in the Anglo-American media, where the myths and fabrications about China are standard fare, as were the lies about Iraq. A virulent racism is the sub-text of this propaganda. Classified “yellow” even though they were white, the Chinese are the only ethnic group to have been banned by an “exclusion act” from entering the United States, because they were Chinese. Popular culture declared them sinister, untrustworthy, “sneaky”, depraved, diseased, immoral.

An Australian magazine, The Bulletin, was devoted to promoting fear of the “yellow peril” as if all of Asia was about to fall down on the whites-only colony by the force of gravity.

As the historian Martin Powers writes, acknowledging China’s  modernism, its secular morality and “contributions to liberal thought threatened European face, so it became necessary to suppress China’s role in the Enlightenment debate …. For centuries, China’s threat to the myth of Western superiority has made it an easy target for race-baiting.”

In the Sydney Morning Herald, tireless China-basher Peter Hartcher described those who spread Chinese influence in Australia as “rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows”. Hartcher, who favourably quotes the American demagogue Steve Bannon, likes to interpret the “dreams” of the current Chinese elite, to which he is apparently privy. These are inspired by yearnings for the “Mandate of Heaven” of 2,000 years ago. Ad nausea.

To combat this “mandate”, the Australian government of Scott Morrison has committed one of the most secure countries on earth, whose major trading partner is China, to hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American missiles that can be fired at China.

The trickledown is already evident. In a country historically scarred by violent racism towards Asians, Australians of Chinese descent have formed a vigilante group to protect delivery riders. Phone videos show a delivery rider punched in the face and a Chinese couple racially abused in a supermarket. Between April and June, there were almost 400 racist attacks on Asian-Australians.

“We are not your enemy,” a high-ranking strategist in China told me, “but if you [in the West] decide we are, we must prepare without delay.” China’s arsenal is small compared with America’s, but it is growing fast, especially the development of maritime missiles designed to destroy fleets of ships.

“For the first time,” wrote Gregory Kulacki of the Union of Concerned Scientists, “China is discussing putting its nuclear missiles on high alert so that they can be launched quickly on warning of an attack… This would be a significant and dangerous change in Chinese policy…”

In Washington, I met Amitai Etzioni, distinguished professor of international affairs at George Washington University, who wrote that a “blinding attack on China” was planned, “with strikes that could be mistakenly perceived [by the Chinese] as pre-emptive attempts to take out its nuclear weapons, thus cornering them into a terrible use-it-or-lose-it dilemma [that would] lead to nuclear war.”

In 2019, the US staged its biggest single military exercise since the Cold War, much of it in high secrecy. An armada of ships and long-range bombers rehearsed an “Air-Sea Battle Concept for China” – ASB – blocking sea lanes in the Straits of Malacca and cutting off China’s access to oil, gas and other raw materials from the Middle East and Africa.

It is fear of such a blockade that has seen China develop its Belt and Road Initiative along the old Silk Road to Europe and urgently build strategic airstrips on disputed reefs and islets in the Spratly Islands.

In Shanghai, I met Lijia Zhang, a Beijing journalist and novelist, typical of a new class of outspoken mavericks. Her best-selling book has the ironic title Socialism Is Great! Having grown up in the chaotic, brutal Cultural Revolution, she has travelled and lived in the US and Europe. “Many Americans imagine,” she said, “that Chinese people live a miserable, repressed life with no freedom whatsoever. The [idea of] the yellow peril has never left them… They have no idea there are some 500 million people being lifted out of poverty, and some would say it’s 600 million.”

Modern China’s epic achievements, its defeat of mass poverty, and the pride and contentment of its people (measured forensically by American pollsters such as Pew) are wilfully unknown or misunderstood in the West. This alone is a commentary on the lamentable state of Western journalism and the abandonment of honest reporting.

China’s repressive dark side and what we like to call its “authoritarianism” are the facade we are allowed to see almost exclusively. It is as if we are fed unending tales of the evil super-villain Dr. Fu Manchu. And it is time we asked why: before it is too late to stop the next Hiroshima.

Click here to read the same article on John Pilger’s official website.

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Additional:

On August 12th, John Pilger was invited on to RT’s Going Underground to give an extended interview on issues ranging from the international response to Covid-19, privatisation of the NHS, the trial of Julian Assange, and the rising tensions between the US and China:

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