Sunday, May 29, 2011

America’s “Deep State”

John Glaser,
May 26, 2011

Osama bin Laden was killed in a “posh Islamabad suburb” where he lived for six years and, as Eli Lake recently wrote in The New Republic, “almost certainly relied on” some elements of Pakistan’s military and intelligence apparatus to do so safely and secretly. This process was enabled by what Lake calls Pakistan’s “deep state.” That is, Pakistan’s national security bureaucracy is sufficiently muscled and autonomous to work relatively independently of Pakistani political leaders.

He describes Pakistan’s deep state like so: “a network of current and retired intelligence and military officers who are actively undermining the official policy of Pakistan’s government.” What Lake’s article astoundingly misses is that this seems a perfect description of the situation here in the U.S. Neoconservatives like Lake have found it extremely difficult to comprehend when condemning other nations for profound evils or institutional failures: for them it is a grave and reproachful wrong – even threat, while our exact behavior is either forgiven by default, or utterly imperceptible.

When it comes to a network of retired intelligence and military personnel that confer the “unwarranted influence” Eisenhower warned about, America likely outmatches Pakistan. In a Boston Globe review conducted last year, it was found that “From 2004-2008, 80 percent of retiring three- and four-star officers went to work as consultants or defense executives” in our massive military-industrial complex. Among the Globe findings:

•Dozens of retired generals employed by defense firms maintain Pentagon advisory roles, giving them unparalleled levels of influence and access to inside information on Department of Defense procurement plans.
•The generals are, in many cases, recruited for private sector roles well before they retire, raising questions about their independence and judgment while still in uniform. The Pentagon is aware and even supports this practice.
•The feeder system from some commands to certain defense firms is so powerful that successive generations of commanders have been hired by the same firms or into the same field. For example, the last seven generals and admirals who worked as Department of Defense gatekeepers for international arms sales are now helping military contractors sell weapons and defense technology overseas.

Lake’s “deep state” critique seems to center on the ability of this network of retirees to excessively influence state policy and even work to undermine the national interest for their own benefit. The U.S. defense budget is the largest piece of the budget and unceasingly increases despite a lagging economy and crippling levels of federal debt. America’s bloated, corporatist, military-industrial complex disproportionately influences policy and results in a violent and oppressive military empire of global reach which manifests in various ways that endanger the American people. The fact that U.S. policy, particularly in the Middle East, systematically fuels anti-American Islamic terrorism should make this clear enough.

But it also endangers many other people outside of the U.S., with increasing rates of civilian casualties as a result of drone attacks, or the fact that U.S. nuclear policy with regard to Israel, Pakistan, India, and Iran has been essentially proliferation. Surely this exposes a greater earthly threat to security than harboring an aging bin Laden in the center of Pakistan.

As for the intelligence community, it is well known to be, as a Washington Post investigation put it, “so large, so unwieldy and so secretive that no one knows how much money it costs, how many people it employs, how many programs exist within it, or exactly how many agencies do the same work.” “Some 1,271 government organizations and 1,931 private companies,” reported the Post, “work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence.” This is a monster, unelected intelligence world that is clearly beyond the grasp of any President or Congressman and, since it maintains its employees beyond election cycles it almost surely operates with a level of autonomy that would make most voters and policymakers cringe. In a post 9/11 world where our highest enemies are the result of blowback, these realities are not rocket science.

The U.S. national security apparatus has additionally proven strong and durable enough to pull virtually all post-war presidents into line to form a remarkably consistent foreign policy that most of the electorate is unaware of and would surely be appalled to fully understand.

Yet Pakistan’s “deep state” is the one we ought to worry about.
In trying to clarify that this is a Pakistani problem and not a U.S. problem, Lake writes:
All modern democratic societies have powerful national-security bureaucracies, but a deep state is a bureaucracy that has more power than the political leaders it ostensibly serves. One former senior U.S. counterterrorism official described Pakistan’s problem this way: “Imagine if the CIA was supporting the drug cartels of Mexico over the wishes of the Congress and the White House,” he said.

So when the CIA trained and funded the Nicaraguan Contra army who smuggled cocaine into the U.S. with CIA knowledge and protection, contributing to the crack epidemic and street gang violence in Los Angeles in the 1980s, that doesn’t qualify? And when Manuel Noriega of Panama received CIA largesse while drug trafficking, money laundering, and facilitating Contra drug deals, that also doesn’t count? And then when the CIA funded the mujahedeen in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets despite the fact that they used part of those funds to ramp up their massive heroin trade and opium refining capacity, at one point having provided up to half of all the heroin used in the U.S., that’s to be ignored as well? (See here for more on the CIA and Drugs) To a certain extent these ventures occurred with some knowledge of respective presidential administrations and congressional leadership, but were a secret to the vast majority of elected representatives and to this day mostly unknown to the American people.

But of course it goes beyond just drugs. Most of the facts and realities about the United States national security state are not generally known about, face very little oversight, and often violate U.S. law. Everything from lavish, decades-long support for Middle Eastern dictatorships to assassination programs of U.S. citizens to all that which is too classified for any of the public to know about right now is done in the dark, without the knowledge of the people and their elected officials, and in direct contradiction of the interests of the United States. The “deep state” in America seems more threatening and out of control than does Pakistan’s.

Perhaps even more menacing is the near universal predisposition of Americans to place a religious like faith in their nation. This tribal commitment to God and State, to the flag and its supposed spirit, facilitates a kind of nationalism that dissolves any ability to criticize America as they criticize other countries. It keeps alive a nation-wide devotion to the principle “wrong for them, right for us.” Pakistan’s military and intelligence communities are overly secret and engage in all kinds of overreach; unthinkable that America’s is precisely such as well.


Thursday, May 26, 2011

The US Governor of the Israel Occupied Territories

May 26, 2011

Netanyahu on the Hill
Bibi and the Yo-Yos

It was all rather disgusting.
There they were, the members of the highest legislative bodies of the world’s only superpower, flying up and down like so many yo-yos, applauding wildly, every few minutes or seconds, the most outrageous lies and distortions of Binyamin Netanyahu.
It was worse than the Syrian parliament during a speech by Bashar Assad, where anyone not applauding could find himself in prison. Or Stalin’s Supreme Soviet, when showing less than sufficient respect could have meant death.
What the American Senators and Congressmen feared was a fate worse than death. Anyone remaining seated or not applauding wildly enough could have been caught on camera – and that amounts to political suicide. It was enough for one single congressman to rise and applaud, and all the others had to follow suit. Who would dare not to?
The sight of these hundreds of parliamentarians jumping up and clapping their hands, again and again and again and again, with the Leader graciously acknowledging with a movement of his hand, was reminiscent of other regimes. Only this time it was not the local dictator who compelled this adulation, but a foreign one.
The most depressing part of it was that there was not a single lawmaker – Republican or Democrat – who dared to resist. When I was a 9 year old boy in Germany, I dared to leave my right arm hanging by my side when all my schoolmates raised theirs in the Nazi salute and sang Hitler’s anthem. Is there no one in Washington DC who has that simple courage? Is it really Washington IOT – Israel Occupied Territory – as the anti-Semites assert?
Many years ago I visited the Senate hall and was introduced to the leading Senators of the time. I was profoundly shocked. After being brought up in deep respect for the Senate of the United States, the country of Jefferson and Lincoln, I was faced with a bunch of pompous asses, many of them nincompoops who had not the slightest idea what they were talking about. I was told that it was their assistants who really understood matters.
* * *

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Africom and China

The African Star Wars” by Pepe Escobar
April 29, 2011

Article featured in Aljazeera:
From energy wars to water wars, the 21st century will be determined by a fierce battle for the world’s remaining natural resources. The chessboard is global. The stakes are tremendous. Most battles will be invisible. All will be crucial.
In resource-rich Africa, a complex subplot of the New Great Game in Eurasia is already in effect. It’s all about three major intertwined developments:
1) The coming of age of the African Union (AU) in the early 2000s.
2) China’s investment offencive in Africa throughout the 2000s.
3) The onset of the Pentagon’s African Command (Africom) in 2007.
Beijing clearly sees that the Anglo-French-American bombing of Libya – apart from its myriad geopolitical implications – has risked billions of dollars in Chinese investments, not to mention forcing the (smooth) evacuation of more than 35,000 Chinese working across the country.
And crucially, depending on the outcome – as in renegotiated energy contracts by a pliable, pro-Western government – it may also seriously jeopardise Chinese oil imports (3 per cent of total Chinese imports in 2010).
No wonder the China Military, a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) newspaper, as well as sectors in academia, are now openly arguing that China needs to drop Deng Xiaoping’s “low-profile” policy and bet on a sprawling armed forces to defend its strategic interests worldwide (these assets already total over $1.2 trillion).
Now compare it with a close examination of Africom’s strategy, which reveals as the proverbial hidden agenda the energy angle and a determined push to isolate China from northern Africa.
One report titled “China’s New Security Strategy in Africa” actually betrays the Pentagon’s fear of the PLA eventually sending troops to Africa to protect Chinese interests.
It won’t happen in Libya. It’s not about to happen in Sudan. But further on down the road, all bets are off.
Meddle is our middle name
The Pentagon has in fact been meddling in Africa’s affairs for more than half a century. According to a 2010 US Congressional Research Service study, this happened no less than 46 times before the current Libya civil war.
Among other exploits, the Pentagon invested in a botched large-scale invasion of Somalia and backed the infamous, genocide-related Rwanda regime.
The Bill Clinton administration raised hell in Liberia, Gabon, Congo and Sierra Leone, bombed Sudan, and sent “advisers” to Ethiopia to back dodgy clients grabbing a piece of Somalia (by the way, Somalia has been at war for 20 years).
The September 2002 National Security Strategy (NSS), conceived by the Bush administration, is explicit; Africa is a “strategic priority in fighting terrorism”.
Yet, the never-say-die “war on terror” is a sideshow in the Pentagon’s vast militarisation agenda, which favours client regimes, setting up military bases, and training of mercenaries – “cooperative partnerships” in Pentagon newspeak.
Africom has some sort of military “partnership” – bilateral agreements – with most of Africa’s 53 countries, not to mention fuzzy multilateral schemes such as West African Standby Force and Africa Partnership Station.
American warships have dropped by virtually every African nation except for those bordering the Mediterranean.

The exceptions: Ivory Coast, Sudan, Eritrea and Libya. Ivory Coast is now in the bag. So is South Sudan. Libya may be next. The only ones left to be incorporated to Africom will be Eritrea and Zimbabwe.

Africom’s reputation has not been exactly sterling – as the Tunisian and Egyptian chapters of the great 2011 Arab Revolt caught it totally by surprise. These “partners”, after all, were essential for surveillance of the southern Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
for its part Libyapresented juicy possibilities: an easily demonised dictator; a pliable post-Gaddafi puppet regime; a crucial military base for Africom; loads of excellent cheap oil; and the possibility of throwing China out of Libya.

Under the Obama administration, Africom thus started its first African war. In the words of its commander, General Carter Ham, “we completed a complex, short-notice, operational mission in Libya and… transferred that mission to NATO.”

And that leads us to the next step. Africom will share all its African “assets” with NATO. Africom and NATO are in fact one – the Pentagon is a many-headed hydra after all.
Beijing for its part sees right through it; the Mediterranean as a NATO lake (neocolonialism is back especially, via France and Britain); Africa militarised by Africom; and Chinese interests at high risk.

The lure of ChinAfrica
One of the last crucial stages of globalisation – what we may call “ChinAfrica” – established itself almost in silence and invisibility, at least for Western eyes.

In the past decade, Africa became China’s new Far West.
The epic tale of masses of Chinese workers and entrepreneurs discovering big empty virgin spaces, and wild mixed emotions from exoticism to rejection, racism to outright adventure, grips anyone’s imagination.
Individual Chinese have pierced the collective unconscious of Africa, they have made Africans dream – while China the great power proved it could conjure miracles far away from its shores.
For Africa, this “opposites attract” syndrome was a great boost after the 1960s decolonisation – and the horrid mess that followed it.

China repaved roads and railroads, built dams in Congo, Sudan and Ethiopia, equipped the whole of Africa with fibre optics, opened hospitals and orphanages, and – just before Tahrir Square – was about to aid Egypt to relaunch its civilian nuclear programme.

The white man in Africa has been, most of the time, arrogant and condescending. The Chinese, humble, courageous, efficient and discreet.
China will soon become Africa’s largest trading partner – ahead of France and the UK – and its top source of foreign investment.

It’s telling that the best the West could come up with to counteract this geopolitical earthquake was to go the militarised way.
The external Chinese model of trade, aid and investment – not to mention the internal Chinese model of large-scale, state-led investments in infrastructure – made Africa forget about the West while boosting the strategic importance of Africa in the global economy.

Why would an African government rely on the ideology-based “adjustments” of IMF and the World Bank when China attaches no political conditions and respects sovereignty – for Beijing, the most important principle of international law? On top of it, China carries no colonial historical baggage in Africa.
Essentially, large swathes of Africa have rejected the West’s trademark shock therapy, and embraced China.

Western elites, predictably, were not amused. Beijing now clearly sees that in the wider context of the New Great Game in Eurasia, the Pentagon has now positioned itself to conduct a remixed Cold War with China all across Africa – using every trick in the book from obscure “partnerships” to engineered chaos.

The leadership in Beijing is silently observing the waters. For the moment, the Little Helmsman Deng’s “crossing the river while feeling the stones” holds.
The Pentagon better wise up. The best Beijing may offer is to help Africa to fulfil its destiny. In the eyes of Africans themselves, that certainly beats any Tomahawk.

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times ( His latest book is Obama Does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009). He may be reached at

Friday, May 20, 2011

My Reaction to Osama bin Laden’s Death

By Noam Chomsky

Saturday, May 07, 201

It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim, as presumably could have been done by 80 commandos facing virtually no opposition—except, they claim, from his wife, who lunged towards them.

In societies that profess some respect for law, suspects are apprehended and brought to fair trial. I stress “suspects.” In April 2002, the head of the FBI, Robert Mueller, informed the press that after the most intensive investigation in history, the FBI could say no more than that it “believed” that the plot was hatched in Afghanistan, though implemented in the UAE and Germany.

What they only believed in April 2002, they obviously didn’t know 8 months earlier, when Washington dismissed tentative offers by the Taliban (how serious, we do not know, because they were instantly dismissed) to extradite bin Laden if they were presented with evidence—which, as we soon learned, Washington didn’t have. Thus Obama was simply lying when he said, in his White House statement, that “we quickly learned that the 9/11 attacks were carried out by al Qaeda.”

Nothing serious has been provided since. There is much talk of bin Laden’s “confession,” but that is rather like my confession that I won the Boston Marathon. He boasted of what he regarded as a great achievement.

There is also much media discussion of Washington’s anger that Pakistan didn’t turn over bin Laden, though surely elements of the military and security forces were aware of his presence in Abbottabad. Less is said about Pakistani anger that the U.S. invaded their territory to carry out a political assassination. Anti-American fervor is already very high in Pakistan, and these events are likely to exacerbate it. The decision to dump the body at sea is already, predictably, provoking both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.

We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a “suspect” but uncontroversially the “decider” who gave the orders to commit the “supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole” (quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal) for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.

There’s more to say about [Cuban airline bomber Orlando] Bosch, who just died peacefully in Florida, including reference to the “Bush doctrine” that societies that harbor terrorists are as guilty as the terrorists themselves and should be treated accordingly. No one seemed to notice that Bush was calling for invasion and destruction of the U.S. and murder of its criminal president.

Same with the name, Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so profound, throughout western society, that no one can perceive that they are glorifying bin Laden by identifying him with courageous resistance against genocidal invaders. It’s like naming our murder weapons after victims of our crimes: Apache, Tomahawk… It’s as if the Luftwaffe were to call its fighter planes “Jew” and “Gypsy.”
There is much more to say, but even the most obvious and elementary facts should provide us with a good deal to think about.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Au Revoir, Monsieur Pig

Le Rapist is a Socialist? Non!

When the NY Daily News headline writers have to take a break from bashing Muslims to ravage your party's key political hope as "Le Perv" on its front page, it's time to reassess. Dominique Strauss-Kahn is accused of, let's just call it by its proper name, RAPING a Manhattan hotel maid in his $3,000-a-night room, thus traumatizing a woman in the middle of her workday, obliterating his political career and shaking up French politics.
First of all, if I read one more fucking quote about "Anglo-moralism" regarding the Strauss-Kahn assaults, I'm going to smack the nearest smirking asshole to the portals of hell. He was a serial misogynist who raped a maid in a hotel, he's not in jail for an affair. Assuming that every female subordinate he's ever come in contact with is not a liar, Strauss-Kahn is an arrogant pig with enormous power who has gotten away with the sort of crimes that can get you 25 to life in most states.
The fact that he's in jail and has been denied bail is most likely because his political opponents, who currently control the French government, have given the go-ahead to do him in.
Tant pis, as the French say; tough shit, is my rough translation.
Second of all, that one of the most powerful figures in international finance and politics has assaulted a journalist trying to interview him for a book, manipulated an IMF economist who was his subordinate into sleeping with him at a conference and now raped a maid trying to clean his room tells us another thing about him—and the people and institutions that have covered for him all these years. Strauss-Kahn, and by extension, the French Non-Socialist Party and IMF, all appear to have a curious hostility to working women.
None of the incidents we've read about so far in the press took place in social settings, but at the women's place of work, where they were earning a living and being full human beings. Not to psycho-babbleize Strauss-Kahn, but he's a caveman—no offense to Neanderthals intended.
Third of all, $3,000 a night?! That's a lot of mints on your pillow. Strauss-Khan calls himself a socialist (exceedingly small "s") and heads an organization, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which pretends to help the poor, but, pardon the parallel, rapes them. The exposure that he is a career misogynist tells us a fair amount about the two institutions Strauss-Kahn led until his arrest this past weekend. In brief, they suck.
From its birth, the French Socialist Party (FSP) brought to life the political concept that—again, pardon the parallel—you can't end prostitution by bringing virgins into brothels. In other words, all attempts at changing the French capitalist system from within the framework of a party that accepts the inevitability of class society, imperialism and competition has been a colossal failure.
From its bloody defense of French power in North Africa, particularly throughout the brutal Algerian war from 1954–62 and its extensive privatization of public services to its racist attacks on immigrants for being insufficiently "French," the FSP has proven that it is to socialism what Donald Trump is to refined discourse.
As for the IMF, ostensibly an institution made up of 182 member countries, even the New York Times admits that it is "the lapdog of the U.S. Treasury." The Economist explained that the IMF's purpose in providing loans was "to open doors for American business."
Its loans to poor and downwardly mobile countries are tied to "structural adjustment programs" that require privatization, deregulation and labor "flexibility," neocon-speak for smashing unions that exist or preventing any from organizing. As many leftists have noted, it operates as a global loan shark.
We rarely, if ever, see such a powerful man fall, and never for the rape of a Black immigrant woman. I can only assume that he's pissed off people much higher up who decided to cut the cord.
In coming weeks we'll see the institutions he represents and his former hangers-on scurry about to cover their asses, but for now we can take a bit of pleasure in the political, social and personal collapse of such a man. Let's use his fall to shine a light on the organizations that have protected him all these years.
Au revoir, Monsieur Pig! FSP and IMF, j'accuse!
Sherry Wolf is the author of Sexuality and Socialism. She blogs at Sherry Talks Back.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Osama and Obama

The Big Wedding

“The most important thing is for us to find Osama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him.”
- George W. Bush, 9/13/01

“I am truly not that concerned about him.”
- George W. Bush, answering a question about where bin Laden was hiding. (3/13/02)

Spring did not return at the end of April, the time poets love; nor, as T. S. Eliot hoped, did we experience rebirth from the womb of suffering. Quite the opposite occurred for more than 300 people who died when tornadoes struck their homes in southern states.
Love and poetry did find a dramatic antithesis at the royal British wedding. One wit described the ceremony as offering the real meaning of “.” The world’s most spiritually vapid family nonetheless gets millions to cheer – mostly on TV – while spending tens of millions of the public’s money to show off new dresses and hats to accentuate their weak chins.
As one cynic remarked, “So much attention to a vestigial institution whose real legacy is kinkiness. They, of course, do have occasional straight sex since they must – sigh, what a bore – reproduce their parasitic specie.” Simultaneously, the British government announced it would lay off some 1 million government workers. I wonder if any of them enjoyed the lavish display staged for the royal nuptials.
In that same week, the equally un-poetic assassination of Osama bin Laden took place. U.S. Navy Seals assassinated – they lacked training in kidnapping – bin Laden and three others, including one woman (possibly one of his wives).
Osama, the equivalent of Chair of the Muslim terrorist version of the Ford Foundation – financing worthwhile anti-Western jihad projects, backed the now-famous 9/11 proposal. He risked less than $1 million on the unlikely success of a group of suicidal men with box cutters. Osama gained the reputation of a one man terror machine able to provoke the world’s greatest empire into spending itself into deep debt.
Joseph Stiglitz estimated the response to bin Laden’s deadly caper to have cost more than $4 trillion – the Iraq War alone pushing over $3 trillion; Afghanistan – another trillion. Add the massive spending on so-called homeland security since 9/11 and you’re looking at real money.
Little debate occurred around the legality of the action, starting with sending U.S. armed forces into a foreign country without permission, or the order to murder one man, and kill others en route if needed. Illegal? Hell no! Those kinds of deeds are what made America special: we don’t have to ask permission and since we answer only to God – our God who chose us. We have different standards.

The U.S. President can order the assassination of a head of state or anyone else he thinks merits it. So what that the nutty despot Qaddafi lost a kid and some grandchildren? We had every right to try to assassinate him because we were acting under the law. As Richard Nixon said, “When the President does it, that means it is not illegal.” (Frost-Nixon CBS 1977)

Nixon was one of our Founding Fathers – wasn’t he? Anyway, George W. Bush also said it and so did Condoleezza Rice. The President, a great legal scholar, should know. But did anyone on the White House staff ask: doesn’t this set a precedent? When one leader of a country targets another for assassination, doesn’t this justify any leader targeting any other?

The U.S. public celebrated outside the White House, as people do when their team wins the World Series. Obama announced: justice had been done. Killing bad guys is justice, not vengeance, like in the movies. Legal? Who cares? The crowds chanted their clever nuanced slogan: “USA USA.”

Who recalls Osama’s CIA days? He helped the Agency get the Soviets out of Afghanistan. The Agency knew Bin Laden didn’t care about the Cold War. He hated Westernism – epitomized by the USA. But he proved useful against the infidel Soviet Communists whose man governed from Kabul.

History? Bunk!
On May 1, Obama crowed: “...tonight we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history…our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place. Let us remember that we can do these things not just because of wealth or power, but because of who we are, one nation under God, indivisible with liberty and justice for all. Thank you. May God bless you. And may God bless the United States of America.” The poetry of spring!

But how will we live without bin Laden? Will the national security casting directors soon find the appropriate national enemy before the 2012 elections, a black hat to justify spending trillions for defense that doesn’t defend us and for homeland security that makes us anxious? Our democratic trajectory has taken us from the post World War II Nuremburg trials of the Nazi war criminals to assassinating unarmed scoundrels!

Not to worry. Obama will soon quote Martin Luther King: “We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. And history is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.” (Beyond Vietnam)

But the real response from the White House with public approval is GERONIMO!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Hillary Clinton Needs a Mirror

The West is Trapped in its Own Propaganda
One of the wishes that readers often express to me came true today (May 11). I was on the mainstream media. It was a program with a worldwide reach--the BBC World Service. There were others on the program as well, and the topic was Hillary Clinton’s remarks (May 10) about the lack of democracy and human rights in China.
I startled the program’s host when I compared Hillary’s remarks to the pot calling the kettle black. I was somewhat taken aback myself by the British BBC program host’s rush to America’s defense and wondered about it as the program continued. Surely, he had heard about Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo detainees, CIA secret torture prisons sprinkled around the world, invasion and destruction of Iraq on the basis of lies and deceptions, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya. Surely, he was aware of Hillary’s hypocrisy as she demonized China but turned a blind eye to Israel, Mubarak, Bahrain and the Saudis. China’s record is not perfect, but is it this bad? Why wasn’t the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs criticizing America’s human rights abuses and rigged elections? How come China minds its own business and we don’t?
These questions didn’t go down well. None of the other interviewees or guests thought that Hilary had made a good decision, but even the Chinese guests were not free of the common mindset that frames every issue from the standpoint that the West is the standard by which the rest of the world is judged. By pointing out our own shortcomings, I was challenging that standard. The host and other guests could not escape from the restraints imposed on thought by the role of the West as world standard.
What has happened to the West is that it can see itself and others only through the eyes of its own propaganda. There was a great deal of talk about China’s lack of democracy. As the BBC program was being broadcast, the news intruded that Greeks had again taken to the streets to protest the costs of the bailout of the banks and Wall Street--the rich--being imposed on ordinary people at the expense of their lives and aspirations. The Irish government announced that it was going to confiscate with a tax part of the Irish people’s pension accumulations. It simply did not occur to the host and other guests that these are not democratic outcomes.
It is a strange form of democracy that produces political outcomes that reward the few and punish the many, despite the energetic protests of the many.
Political scientists understand that US electoral outcomes are determined by powerful moneyed interests that finance the political campaigns and that the bills Congress passes and the President signs are written by these interest groups to serve their narrow interests. Such conclusions are dismissed as cynicism and do not alter the mindset.
While the program’s host and guests were indulging in the West’s democratic and human rights superiority, the American Civil Liberties Union was sending out a bulletin urging its members to oppose legislation now before Congress that would give the current and future Presidents of the United States expanded war authority to use, on their own initiative, military force anywhere in the world independently of the restraints imposed by the US Constitution and international law.
In other words, in the great American “democracy,” the president is to become a Caesar

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Now That's Chutzpah!

Hillary Blasts China on "Human Rights"

Is there anything more irritating than listening to US officials blabber about "human rights"?
Here's Hillary Clinton bashing China for their "deplorable" human rights record, and meanwhile Bradley Manning sits naked and freezing in a 6' by 8' cinderblock cell in some far-flung American gulag waiting to get fingernails yanked out.
And that's just for starters. What about Gitmo, Abu Ghraib, Bagram and the myriad other dungeons, concentration camps and black sites the US has scattered across the planet. The United States is the biggest human rights abuser in the world today. Clinton's in no position to be giving other people lectures.

Just look at Falluja; a city of 300,000 that had about 40,000 of its people wiped out by US bombs, 80 per cent of its buildings and infrastructure reduced to rubble, and a legacy of cancers and birth defects until the end of time. Now that's how you kill people!

And then there's the drone attacks. In fact, another 5 people were killed on Tuesday when US missiles blew up their vehicle in northwest Pakistan.

What about their human rights? And what about the rights of the other 957 people who've been killed in 2010 alone? Don't they count?
And, can we please stop talking about democracy?
Everyone knows it's just shorthand for capitalism. And--not even capitalism really, but slash-and-burn, take-no-prisoners, scorched-earth predatory capitalism, the strain of the virus that's particular to America's 'oligarchy of racketeers'.

So, can we just put a sock in it for a while?

Here's a clip of Hillary moaning about the "repressive Chinese system of government."
“We have made very clear, publicly and privately, our concern about human rights. We see reports of people, including public interest lawyers, writers, artists, and others, who are detained or disappeared. And we know over the long arch of history that societies that work toward respecting human rights are going to be more prosperous, stable, and successful."

Can you believe the arrogance? The United States has a higher percentage of its population in prison than any other country in the world. And, Clinton dares to scold China about "detained or disappeared" people?
But, yes, it's true; the Chinese haven't mastered democracy like we have in the good old USA, where 5 right-wing jurists pick the president, and where the government taps your phoneline, sifts through your e mail, and gropes your scrotum before you hop on a flight to Boise.
That's capital "D" democracy; land of the free and home of the Ponzi-scamster. We might boot you out of your home, kick you out of your job, and fleece you out of your retirement, but we've got our principles, dammit!

But, let's cut to the chase. Do you know what this is really all about, all this duplicitous foot-stomping and pontificating by Ms. Clinton?

The Obama team is trying to pressure China into opening their markets to Wall Street so Big Finance can peddle their garbage paper to 1.5 billion new suckers. That's what it's all about.
Just take a look at this report from Bloomberg and decide for yourself.

Bloomberg: "Geithner will say China should relax controls on the financial system and give foreign banks and insurers more access, said David Loevinger, the Treasury Department’s senior coordinator for China. Officials from both nations are meeting in Washington today and tomorrow as part of the annual Strategic and Economic Dialogue.
“....Senators Charles Schumer of New York and Jeff Merkley of Oregon called May 6 for a ‘rebalancing’ in the U.S.-China economic relationship. The two lawmakers, who just returned from a trip to China, said the Chinese need to open their financial sector, address ‘abnormally low deposit and lending rates’ and allow broader market access to foreign firms....
The American Chamber of Commerce in China said last month that foreign banks play an “insignificant role” in China.

“Foreign lenders’ market share in China has dropped since the government first opened the industry in December 2006. Banks such as New York-based Citigroup Inc. (C) and London-based HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBA) want to tap household and corporate savings that reached $10 trillion in January as China overtook Japan to become the world’s second-biggest economy" ("U.S. Will Urge China to Boost Interest Rates as Talks Start", Bloomberg)
Repeat: "Banks.... want to tap household and corporate savings that reached $10 trillion in January."
That says it all, doesn't it? Wall Street is already licking its chops over its next victim. They can't wait to sink their teeth into all that money that Chinese workers have been scrimping and saving for the last decade or so. That's why they've ordered Clinton to castigate China's leaders in public, because they think it will help them pry the door open wide enough to set up shop in the world's fastest growing market.
So this isn't about "human rights" at all. It's about coercion; forcing China to do what we want so Wall Street can rake in even bigger profits.
Are you surprised?

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Why I Don't Feel Much About Osama's Death


My son who’s studying abroad this semester was Skyping us.

“So bin Laden’s dead,” he typed.

“Yeah, Mama and I watched Obama’s speech last night.”

“I don’t feel anything.”

“You know, I was just thinking the same thing. Thinking about writing a column about that.”


What do I feel? First of all, a kind of matter-of-fact appreciation of the report that a mass murderer is no more for this world. His death was his hubris and his karma.

But when I see crowds of Americans waving the flag, singing patriotic songs, and chanting “USA! USA!” I feel a little nauseated. How can anyone aware of what the U.S. is doing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Libya feel nationalistic pride at this moment in history?

When I watch NBC’s Brian Williams eagerly prompting CIA director Leon Panneta to affirm that “enhanced interrogation methods” facilitated bin Laden’s killing, implicitly justifying the water-boarding torture chambers of Guantanamo, I feel sickened further.

Intelligence agencies and Interpol warn of a wave of al-Qaeda revenge attacks. Having long suspected that al-Qaeda’s strength is much exaggerated, I’ll be curious to see if such attacks actually occur. If they don’t, or if they’re staged by mere sympathizers and copycat outfits, it will confirm my suspicion.

A greater concern is the response of average people around the world to the Saudi’s death. He commanded various degrees of respect among tens of millions who, whether or not they endorsed his tactics, embraced his stance against Israeli occupation of Palestine, U.S. support for Israel and dictatorial Arab regimes, and the brutal sanctions regime imposed on Iraq throughout the 90s. They’re likely to decry the manner in which he was killed. That won’t necessarily incline them to “terrorism” but will deepen their conviction that the U.S., whatever Obama says, are little concerned about Muslims and their sensibilities.

In Pakistan in particular, where in some regions the name “Osama” has become a very popular name for newborn boys, many are likely to be infuriated. First of all there is the issue of national sovereignty. The incessant drone strikes on the border area, mainly causing civilian casualties, have been repeatedly denounced by Pakistan’s legislature as well as President Zardari. Wikileaks show that the Islamabad regime actually tolerates the strikes while publicly condemning them. But that doesn’t make them any more legal or legitimate; it just gives the Pakistani people more reason to reject a regime complicit in national humiliation.

In this case, U.S. commandos in an operation carefully kept secret from putative (and untrusted) allies raided a compound near the capital of Islamabad. They meted out, cowboy style, frontier justice to U.S. Enemy Number One. Sure, they had “informed” Pakistani authorities that they would strike if they had intelligence about bin Laden’s presence. But Pakistan’s Parliament had never given them carte blanche, and now the Pakistanis quite understandably warn against any repeat of this action. Virtually all experts predict further decline in U.S.-Pakistan relations.

The initial report from White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan stated that bin Laden had been killed in a firefight. But White House spokesman Jay Carney later stated that bin Laden had been unarmed, and that there were not even any bodyguards on hand, merely two al-Qaeda couriers and a son among those killed. Brennan stated that the commandos would have taken bin Laden alive if that were possible. But Panetta explained that the unarmed bin Laden “made some threatening moves” that required shooting him in the head and chest. (Did he reach for a lamp to throw? Did he appear to reach into his tunic for a gun?) Attorney General Eric Holder gives a little different story. Hsays with a straight face that shooting unarmed bin Laden was “an act of national self-defense,” adding: “If he had surrendered, attempted to surrender, I think we should obviously have accepted that, but there was no indication that he wanted to do that and therefore his killing was appropriate.” In other words, he was just passively there, defenseless, and failing to raise his hands in surrender, had to be shot to death---so that the heavily armored commandos could defend themselves from him. How much sense does that make?

It was initially reported that bin Laden’s 29-year-old wife “lunged” at the commandos and so had to be shot to death. (Rather courageous, for an unarmed woman, confronting well-armed commandos!) Brennan alleged that bin Laden used her as a “human shield” (a charge so often directed at Muslims by Israelis and U.S. officials). Carney later corrected this, stating that the wife had not been used as a shield, and that she had merely been shot in the leg as she lunged. No explanation for the earlier lie, which will no doubt endure as part of a popular narrative.

So the current story is that commandos raided an unarmed household, met with no significant resistance, and shot bin Laden to death. This is what we call assassination.

Now, maybe assassination is good sometimes. But this operation plainly violates a host of U.S. and international laws. It reflects the general Israelification of U.S. policy. Present yourself as the victim of the world---never asking why you’re hated or what you’ve done to deserve such loathing---and wrap yourself in self-righteousness. Assert your right to lash out at any foes, regardless of international law. Engage in preemptive strikes. (Never mind that the Reagan administration joined the world in condemning Israel’s bombing of an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 in what Israel called a “preemptive” attack. In 2003, with the neocons in charge of policy, the U.S. itself launched a “preemptive” attack on Iraq, supposedly to prevent it from nuking New York City. ) Send attack squads to foreign countries to assassinate your enemies. Rest assured your people will applaud.

The only complaints I’ve seen about this assassination mission in the U.S. press involve the use of “Geronimo” as code-name for bin Laden, and the disposal of the body. Those seeing the first issue as trivial has no understanding of the heroic role of the Apache leader in the history of this country. They’ve been duped by the simplistic “us vs. them” mentality encouraged by the Bush (and Obama) administration, no doubt thinking, Geronimo was our enemy, Osama was our enemy, why not code-name the Saudi after the Apache? That should disgust thinking people.

Many question or condemn the “sea burial.” Some note that the absence of a body will encourage skeptics to deny the death, while some Muslims suggest that while the normal procedure (burial in the ground within 24 hours of death) can sometimes be adjusted due to circumstances, such circumstances didn’t pertain this time. Bin Laden didn’t die at sea. His corpse was dropped into the Arabian Sea supposedly because no country would agree to accept it within the specified time. More likely the U.S. feared that any burial site would become a site of pilgrimage. Should we not ask why such a man might be revered?

The military says the quick “burial” was in deference to Muslim sensibilities. But since when has the U.S. military deferred to those sensibilities?

The death of bin Laden leaves me cold. Some good may come of it. Already it’s caused many to urge a withdrawal from the hopeless war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Let’s now declare victory and leave, they say, and that’s better than advocating endless bombing and occupation. (It would be better still to admit that the Taliban was never the same thing as al-Qaeda and most Afghans fighting the U.S. and allies are not even aware of the 9-11 attacks. And to acknowledge that the war, which has long since ceased to have anything to do with al-Qaeda, is wrong.)

But the nature of the death---by assassination, illegally, in a foreign country---fills me with disgust. The lies that immediately accompanied it (just as the U.S. UN ambassador was falsely claiming that Gaddafi’s forces in Libya were being rationed Viagra so as to better rape members of the opposition!) repulse me too. “Fierce firefight”! Doesn’t that make the assassins seem heroic? Wife used as “human shield”! Doesn’t that make bin Laden seem all the more evil? (Recall the false stories that accompanied the capture of Panama’s Manuel Noriega, including the cocaine that turned out to be tamale flour; or that surrounded the attack on Iraq in 1991, including the lie that Iraqi forces invading Kuwait had slaughtered prematurely born babies dragged from incubators in the hospital.) It is amazing what people will believe, disgusting to observe how rulers exploit their gullibility.

There is no cause for joy or celebration here, just cause to reflect on a decade of lies and brute force justified on lies. This killing brings no closure to that decade. It rather augurs another of triumphal terrorism of the uniquely U.S. variety.

* * * *

“Tonight,” Obama boasted in his Sunday night speech, “we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history.”

Indeed, “we” were able to become a rich nation on the basis of slave agriculture and territorial expansion at the expense of native peoples and neighboring Mexico. “We” industrialized on the basis of waves of immigrants subject to inhuman factory conditions. “We” became a world power by twice entering world wars, emerging stronger each time due to expanding control of markets and resources. “We” slaughtered millions in the Korean, Vietnamese, and Iraqi wars to maintain and expand empire. “We’ve” bankrolled Israel through repeated wars and invasions of extraordinary cruelty condemned by virtually every other nation on earth. Yes we can!

And we the people of this country can be hated endlessly for what the U.S. government does. Do we want that?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bin Laden the Vindicator


Since September 11, 2001, Bin Laden had been mostly an absence. His few video or audio tapes were highly suspect, and speculations about his death had often surfaced. On July 11, 2002, Amir Taheri wrote in the New York Times,

“Osama bin Laden is dead. The news first came from sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan almost six months ago: the fugitive died in December and was buried in the mountains of southeast Afghanistan […] With an ego the size of Mount Everest, Osama bin Laden would not have, could not have, remained silent for so long if he were still alive. He always liked to take credit even for things he had nothing to do with. Would he remain silent for nine months and not trumpet his own survival?”

But save for one doubtful video, Bin Laden never took credit for 9/11. In fact, he repeatedly denied any responsibility for those mass murders. On September 28, 2001, he was interviewed by the Karachi Ummat, an Urdu language newspaper. The US Foreign Broadcast Information Service, a component of the CIA, translated:

[…] I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. Neither I had any knowledge of these attacks nor I consider the killing of innocent women, children, and other humans as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children, and other people. Such a practice is forbidden ever in the course of a battle. It is the United States, which is perpetrating every maltreatment on women, children, and common people of other faiths, particularly the followers of Islam. All that is going on in Palestine for the last 11 months is sufficient to call the wrath of God upon the United States and Israel. There is also a warning for those Muslim countries, which witnessed all these as a silent spectator. What had earlier been done to the innocent people of Iraq, Chechnya, and Bosnia? Only one conclusion could be derived from the indifference of the United States and the West to these acts of terror and the patronage of the tyrants by these powers that America is an anti-Islamic power and it is patronizing the anti-Islamic forces. Its friendship with the Muslim countries is just a show, rather deceit. By enticing or intimidating these countries, the United States is forcing them to play a role of its choice. Put a glance all around and you will see that the slaves of the United States are either rulers or enemies [of Muslims]. The US has no friends, nor it wants to keep one because the prerequisite of friendship is to come to the level of the friend or consider him at par with you. America does not want to see anyone equal to it. It expects slavery from others. Therefore, other countries are either its slaves or subordinates […] Whoever committed the act of 11 September are not the friends of the American people. I have already said that we are against the American system, not against its people, whereas in these attacks, the common American people have been killed […] The United States should try to trace the perpetrators of these attacks within itself; the people who are a part of the US system, but are dissenting against it. Or those who are working for some other system; persons who want to make the present century as a century of conflict between Islam and Christianity so that their own civilization, nation, country, or ideology could survive […] Then there are intelligence agencies in the US, which require billions of dollars worth of funds from the Congress and the government every year. This [funding issue] was not a big problem till the existence of the former Soviet Union but after that the budget of these agencies has been in danger. They needed an enemy. So, they first started propaganda against Usama and Taliban and then this incident happened. You see, the Bush administration approved a budget of $40 billion. Where will this huge amount go? It will be provided to the same agencies, which need huge funds and want to exert their importance. Now they will spend the money for their expansion and for increasing their importance. I will give you an example. Drug smugglers from all over the world are in contact with the US secret agencies. These agencies do not want to eradicate narcotics cultivation and trafficking because their importance will be diminished. The people in the US Drug Enforcement Department are encouraging drug trade so that they could show performance and get millions of dollars worth of budget. General Noriega was made a drug baron by the CIA and, in need, he was made a scapegoat. In the same way, whether it is President Bush or any other US President, they cannot bring Israel to justice for its human rights abuses or to hold it accountable for such crimes. What is this? Is it not that there exists a government within the government in the United Sates? That secret government must be asked as to who made the attacks […]

Judge for yourself. Does this sound like the raving of some mad man with an ego the size of Mount Everest? He sounds quite composed, actually, and far more lucid, perceptive and concise than all American politicians and most intellectuals. In any case, this interview was the last substantial utterance from Bin Laden. After this, he more or less disappeared.

Though neither seen nor heard, he was often evoked to justify the crimes America was committing against others, and even her own citizens. Bin Laden vindicated whatever our leaders chose to do. But ten years is a long time, however, to throw this shadow against our walls. This bearded man had become a bit of a joke, frankly. On a cartoon show, the folks of South Park Colorado, even asked Bin Laden to help them kill an invading horde from New Jersey.

This week, our government decided, finally, to kill off the Bin Laden apparition. Since the United States had supposedly been after him since 1998, you would think they’d hang on to their man a bit longer after they got him, if they got him, but within hours of finding her public enemy number one, America got rid of Bin Laden!

Less than six hours after news came that he had been killed, it was announced that Bin Laden had already been buried at sea. The official explanation: The US must respect the Islamic tradition that a corpse be buried within 24 hours, and since no country was willing to be his final host, not even Saudi Arabia, his homeland, Bin Laden had to be dumped where he could never be exhumed. How convenient. Case closed!

Such respect for a Muslim corpse from a country that seems to be fighting Muslims everywhere, that kills, imprisons and tortures Muslims, whose soldiers draped panties and smeared shit on Muslim heads, raped Muslim women and collected Muslim ears as trophies. America hasn’t exactly been shy about abusing Muslims, dead or alive, so why this sudden delicacy? Remember also that Uday and Qusay Hussein were killed by American troops on July 22, 2003, then buried on August 2, 11 days later.

Hey, if you can’t show me something, maybe you don’t have it, especially since you are a chronic liar and in the cloak and dagger business. For most English-language trials since the disappearance of William Harrison in 1660, there has been the principle of no corpse, no murder, but here you actually have an open admission of murder, widely broadcast, but no corpse, which is tantamount to destruction of evidence, whatever it was.

So the CIA is basically saying to us, The dog ate my cadaver. Frankly, this farce was so crudely put together, the explanation so ridiculous, that our overlords must think most of us are morons, brainwashed as we are by cradle-to-grave propaganda delivered via print or pixels. I hate to think they might be right.

Had Bin Laden been captured, and I will insist there was never any intention of catching this man alive, he would have to be tried in court, where his involvement with 9/11 must be proven, counter theories could be introduced and questions about 9/11 raised. In short, a nasty can of worms to be avoided at all cost.

Though the important questions are not being asked, the official lessons are being pounded into our heads. According to governmental bobbleheads and embedded media pundits, this virtual assassination is a vindication of America and her (evil) ways. The end justifies the means, you see, so waterboarding, extra-rendition and all the rest have been and are necessary.

Ari Fleischer, former Bush mouthpiece, attributed this week’s happy outcome to “a strong foundation of anti-terrorist efforts including the predator strikes in northern Pakistan, indefinite detention, Guantanamo where we had interrogation techniques that led to the courier […] all that is what Barack Obama continued that George Bush started. This is a day for all of us to just be proud of what our country has accomplished.”

Obama also dished up some righteousness, “Tonight, we are once again reminded that America can do whatever we set our mind to. That is the story of our history, whether it’s the pursuit of prosperity for our people, or the struggle for equality for all our citizens; our commitment to stand up for our values abroad, and our sacrifices to make the world a safer place.”

An additional lesson was provided by New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman. With Bin Laden gone, he said to CNN, it was time to eradicate Bin Ladenism, which he defined as using violence to affect political changes. An apologist for the ultra violent state Israel and America’s invasion of Iraq, Friedman did not seem to care that it is the US that leads the world in violence for political and economic ends. Even before 9/11, the Taliban made repeated overtures to hand Bin Laden over to the US, but America would have none of it. Our intention, then as now, was to bomb, bomb and bomb!

So like a great clean up batter, dead man Bin Laden brought everyone safely home. Bush could round the bases at last, could find closure and high five Obama at home plate. We’re all on the same team, see? Even Colin Powell could be defrosted long enough to gush over our Navy Seals.

To prove his U.S. birth, Obama showed us an electronic file then, jokingly, a cartoon excerpt, but to prove Bin Laden’s death, Obama’s handlers have given us nothing but a cartoon narrative suitable only for dimwitted children. The bloody crooks hustling us must be incredulous, if not laughing uproariously, at what they can get away with in this nation of suckers.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Killing Osama, Resolving Nothing


The plane I was on landed in Washington, D.C., Sunday night, and the pilot came on the intercom to tell everyone to celebrate: our government had killed Osama bin Laden. This was better than winning the Super Bowl, he said.

Set aside for a moment the morality of cheering for the killing of a human being -- which despite the pilot's prompting nobody on the plane did. In purely Realpolitik terms, killing foreign leaders whom we've previously supported has been an ongoing disaster.

Our killing of Saddam Hussein has been followed by years of war and hundreds of thousands of pointless deaths. Our attempts to kill Muammar Gadaffi have killed his children and grandchildren and will end no war if they eventually succeed. Our attempts to kill Osama bin Laden, including wars justified by that mission, have involved nearly a decade of senseless slaughter in Afghanistan and the rest of the ongoing global "generational" war that is consuming our nation.

The Taliban was willing to turn bin Laden over for trial both before and after September 11, 2001. Instead our government opted for years of bloody warfare. And in the end, it was police action (investigation, a raid, and a summary execution) and not the warfare, that reportedly tracked bin Laden down in Pakistan. After capturing him, our government's representatives did not hold him for trial. They killed him and carried away his dead body.

Killing will lead only to more killing. There will be no review of bin Laden's alleged crimes, as a trial would have provided. There will be no review of earlier U.S. support for bin Laden. There will be no review of U.S. failures to prevent the September 11th attacks. Instead, there will be bitterness, hatred, and more violence, with the message being communicated to all sides that might makes right and murder is the way in which someone is, in President Obama's words, brought to justice.

Nothing is actually resolved, nothing concluded, and nothing to be celebrated in taking away life. If we want something to celebrate here, we should celebrate the end of one of the pieces of war propaganda that has driven the past decade of brutality and death. But I'm not going to celebrate that until appropriate actions follow. Nothing makes for peace like ceasing to wage war. Now would be an ideal time to give that a try.

Our senseless wars in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Libya must be ended. Keeping bin Laden alive and threatening, assisted in keeping the war machine churning its bloody way through cities and flesh for years. No wonder President Bush was, as he said, not interested in tracking bin Laden down.

Ending the wars was our moral duty last week exactly as this week. But if the symbolism to be found in the removal of a key propaganda piece can be combined with the recent overwhelming U.S. support for ending the wars, to actually end the wars, then I'll be ready -- with clean hands and with no nasty gleam of revenge in my eye -- to pop open the champagne.

But let's return to the morality of cheering for the killing of a human being. A decade ago that would not have seemed as natural to a U.S. airline pilot. The automatic assumption would not have been that there could be no dissenters to that celebration. A decade ago torture was considered irredeemably evil. A decade ago we believed people should have fair trials before they are declared guilty or killed. A decade ago, if a president had announced his new power to assassinate Americans, at least a few people would have asked where in the world he got the power to assassinate non-Americans.

Is it too late to go back 10 years in time in some particular ways? As we put bin Laden behind us, can we put the degredation of our civil liberties and our representative government, and our honesty, accountability, and the rule of law behind us too? Can we recover the basic moral deceny that we used to at the very least pretend and aspire to?

Not while we're dancing in the street to celebrate death.

Imagine the propaganda that the U.S. media could make of video footage of a foreign country where the primitive brutes are dancing in the streets to celebrate the murder of a tribal enemy. That is the propaganda we've just handed those who will view bin Laden as a martyr. When their revenge comes, we will know exactly what we are supposed to do: exact more revenge in turn to keep the cycle going.

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind, but the blind people think that they still see. The world looks to them like a Hollywood adventure movie. In those stories, killing somone generally causes a happy ending. That misconception is responsible for piles and piles of corpses to which more will now be added.

David Swanson is a writer in Charlottesville, Va.