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Thursday 19 November 2015

Generalissimo Hollande

French president François Hollande’s speech to the Congress at Versailles rode a wave of political solidarity, most politicians refraining from trying to make political profit off the terror attacks and “standing united against a common enemy”... with the notable exception of Hollande himself. He shamelessly used the situation to undermine the political threat from the Right and advance the implementation of an all-out police state. The satirical _Canard Enchainé_ called him “the General of [the] Division.”

 Hollande announced that France’s borders were being closed and that he would ask for an extension of the emergency powers he has put in place, which can be maintained for a maximum 12 days without a legislative vote to extend them. (Today, as I write, all but a handful of deputies voted to grant an extension of three months.) Hollande further said that he would seek an amendment to the law governing the application of emergency powers allowing the executive to keep them in place longer without consulting the legislature. He said that “administrative” (meaning executive) searches and seizures will be able to be made with no court order. He promised to hire 5,000 new police and gendarmes in the next two years. Long-planned budget cuts designed to lower the costs of France’s armed forces have been frozen through 2019. He promised that he would seek an amendment to the constitution extending the conditions under which he can declare a state of siege – equivalent to full martial law. Constitutionalization would put the measure out of the reach of challenges from European human-rights legislation and France’s own Conseil Constitutionnel, which could challenge a law.

 All of these legal and constitutional extensions of powers, Hollande suggested, are needed to cope with a “new context” which “the Republic will evolve” to face – presumably meaning a context in which young French men and women are recruited and trained as assassins and suicide bombers... by jihadist militias whom France itself and its allies have armed and trained for use as proxy armies against Assad.

 Hollande clearly relishes the opportunity to play the strongman, to talk tough while undercutting his political adversaries. At one point he even made a brief head-wagging gesture that was astonishingly reminiscent of Mussolini. Or possibly Nicolas Sarkozy. Was it calculated, or spontaneous? Is he being coached by a consultant, the way the old George Bush was after his handlers noticed that a few of his gestures were just a touch too graceful? Is he simply aping his likely future adversary Sarkozy, who parlayed his stint as Interior (police) minister into a presidential term by baiting immigrants and ghetto youth, even stooping so low as to arrest suspected undocumented parents in a pre-dawn raid as they prepared their children for the first day of elementary school? Or, inside the chubby little bookkeeper, is there a swaggering Duce bent on taking the stage? And is a full-scale police state part of a long-standing plan to further tighten the grip of the neoliberal matrix?


In any case, Hollande is now “hunting on Sarkozy’s lands” as the French say. Beyond his militaristic posturing, he deliberately drew a connection between terrorism and the young people in France’s pressure-cooker suburban housing projects: “They move from delinquency to terrorism”. He promised that he would see to it that young offenders, born in France and sometimes third-generation immigrants, have their French nationality stripped from them. Playing on the fears of working-class citizens by singling out ghetto youths as being part of a foreign population the Republic is harboring in its bosom is one of the techniques Sarkozy had used to co-opt the extreme-Right Front National on his way to the presidency. Now Hollande – whose party is a direct inheritor of the Second International – is using the horror of November 13th as cover for doing exactly the same.


And the media are falling in line, while praising Hollande’s stern posturing and hypocritical calls for unity. The term “Islamofascism” is again being bandied about. A female journalist on the France-24 news network, commenting on the reports that a woman terrorist had blown herself up during the police attack in St-Denis Wednesday morning, said that “a page has been turned” and that “no woman wearing the Islamic veil can ever be trusted again”. Are women who wear blouson-style jackets and coats now suspect too? Or only if they are of Middle-Eastern complexion? Are all pregnant women now potential suicide bombers? Or only those who don’t have blond hair and/or smoke cigarettes?


The relatively short-term gains Hollande will take to the bank may or may not keep their value on the volatile market of politics. But the harm he is doing to the liberty that is supposedly one of France’s pillar values won’t easily be undone. And he chooses to do it rather than face the hypocrisy and the contradictions of France’s – and its allies’ – policies in the world in general and the Middle East in particular.

Sunday 15 November 2015

France: Victim and Perpetrator

Here in France the official take on the Friday the Thirteenth attacks, from the politicians and the media, is that "our values", "the values of the Republic", have been attacked again. The narrative is the same one we heard after the Charlie Hebdo masssacre: We are a beacon of civilization and They are barbarians. Fundamentally, in this country where turning an elegant phrase and finding le mot juste is so highly valued, it's no more sophisticated than Junior Bush's "They hate us because we're so free."

No one can deny that this was a terrorist attack. But nobody mentions the fact that terrorism is simply a weapon of war used by peoples/states who face an overwhelmingly strong enemy. The nascent Israel used terrorism against the British and no one would dare criticize it today. But no - "terror" is an entity, like... "Islam" or, well, "freedom". These are not people using terror as a weapon (never mind the fact that our "Western" states sytematically use terror against domestic and foreign populations), they're just "terrorists" by nature, by birth, just as we are "free and democratic" by birth. And yet we're told that this was an act of war, that France is at war, and that a state of emergency has been declared. A state of emergency is essentially martial law, though the term is studiously avoided. The executive can declare it for a period of twelve days, after which the legislature can prolong it by vote... a vote the "elected representatives of the people" would unhesitatingly take, just as the US Congress voted overwhelmingly to adopt the USAPATRIOT Act.

Indeed, France's citizens, even though they may well be familiar with Franklin's words, are probably willing to surrender a measure of freedom in order to have security. The discourse about "our values", "the values of the Republic", may be hard to swallow; but not only do we swallow it, we get on the bandwagon and organize huge demonstrations to show that we are free and unafraid. When it's a question of us against Them, who will deny that we are we, and that he or she is not one of Them? We buy into the meme and help put flesh on its bones. And it becomes part of our culture, and as such that much easier to swallow the next time around... until we end up thinking that it really is in our nature to be free and fair and enlightened, and that They really are slaves to their beliefs, submissive, and benighted. And the result is that no one ever asks a simple question like:

"Since the 'Socialist' President of France learned to admire the role of Commander in Chief and realized that since the Charlie attacks he has a line of credit for extending the military, since France decided to make its modest contribution to the West's civilizing program and help oust Assad and keep the money flowing to its own arms makers, and perhaps get back part of its former empire, how many people have been killed in Syria and Iraq due to France's bombing? How many civilians?

In any event I haven't heard it asked yet in the French media. Everyone is blinded by the light of our beloved Republic, that beacon of democracy and solidarity with the oppressed peoples. And, as a matter of fact, will the media really entertain the question of who it is we're really at war with? Of who the killers actually were? Of who We really are?

Wednesday 17 September 2014

William Blum

“Many of the citizens fall for US government propaganda justifying its military actions as often and as naively as Charlie Brown falling for Lucy’s football.

The American people are very much like the children of a Mafia boss who do not know what their father does for a living, and don’t want to know, but then wonder why someone just threw a firebomb through the living room window.”

Wednesday 13 August 2014


Monday 4 August 2014

UNRWA School Shelling

UNRWA School Shelling

Press Statement
Jen Psaki
Department Spokesperson
Washington, DC
August 3, 2014

The United States is appalled by today’s disgraceful shelling outside an UNRWA school in Rafah sheltering some 3,000 displaced persons, in which at least ten more Palestinian civilians were tragically killed. The coordinates of the school, like all UN facilities in Gaza, have been repeatedly communicated to the Israeli Defense Forces. We once again stress that Israel must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties. UN facilities, especially those sheltering civilians, must be protected, and must not be used as bases from which to launch attacks. The suspicion that militants are operating nearby does not justify strikes that put at risk the lives of so many innocent civilians. We call for a full and prompt investigation of this incident as well as the recent shelling of other UNRWA schools.

We continue to underscore that all parties must take all feasible precautions to prevent civilian casualties and protect the civilian population and comply with international humanitarian law.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

Screen shot of Google search showing original version of NBC News story on Gaza hospital strike

NBC News edited a story about strikes near a hospital in Gaza to echo the official IDF version. The story originally clearly identified Israel as the perpetrator. Also see this piece.

Continue reading...

Tuesday 22 July 2014

What Did US Spy Satellites See in Ukraine?

Exclusive: The U.S. media’s Ukraine bias has been obvious, siding with the Kiev regime and bashing ethnic Russian rebels and Russia’s President Putin. But now – with the scramble to blame Putin for the Malaysia Airlines shoot-down – the shoddy journalism has grown truly dangerous, says Robert Parry.

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Thursday 20 March 2014

EU Parliament statement of concern over Ukraine’s Svoboda Party

The EU Parliament had issued a statement of concern over the Svoboda Party - now in power in Ukraine and considered the "legitimate" government by the US - in December 2013, including the following point:
European Parliament resolution of 13 December 2012 on the situation in Ukraine 2012/2889(RSP))

The European Parliament,
8.  Is concerned about the rising nationalistic sentiment in Ukraine, expressed in support for the Svoboda Party, which, as a result, is one of the two new parties to enter the Verkhovna Rada; recalls that racist, anti-Semitic and xenophobic views go against the EU's fundamental values and principles and therefore appeals to pro-democratic parties in the Verkhovna Rada not to associate with, endorse or form coalitions with this party;


Monday 3 March 2014

Twilight of the Gods?

I've been thinking back on my youth recently, on the 60s, and on how convinced we were back then that there was such a thing as progress; on how sure we were that by the time we were old, the world would have changed. I was an American, and I had been raised on perpetual progress in all areas - technology, human rights, quality of life - and was sure that the world would be a more peaceful and prosperous place by now.

But now as I watch the news on television I see that sabers are again rattling, that the Russians are being warned by the US State department that the consequences will be severe if they attempt to keep Crimea in their sphere of influence. The TV news doesn't mention the fact that the crisis in Crimea - that is, in Ukraine - was directly caused by the US and its NATO allies through their fomenting the overthrow of the Yanukovich government.

Why? The supposed reason is that Yanukovich in Ukraine and Putin in Russia are despotic leaders and that the real majority of the people - not the "elites" whom these near-dictators serve - aspire to true democracy. The kind of democracy that exists in the US and France and the UK, for example. The real reason is that Washington and NATO have a master plan for continually extending their influence throughout the globe and that that master plan involves breaking up what was once the USSR into a number of smaller states that can be brought into the NATO fold and their resources channeled into the coffers of the elites in the NATO countries. This is of course in direct contradiction with the promises made at the time of the breakup of the former USSR and the de facto dissolution of the Warsaw pact - that NATO would not expand into the territory formerly covered by the Pact.

Back in the 60s, and for decades before then, the US and its allies were engaged in the same kind of interference in the affairs of other parts of the world - always on the pretext of "protecting democracy" or "midwifing freedom," or some similar formulation. Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954 are examples that immediately come to mind. Never was it admitted that the machinations, and when the machinations failed, the direct military interventions, were in fact intended to protect the vital interests - meaning the financial interests - of the USA - meaning the elite that was in power, and is still in power. And, of course, there is another reason for the machinations and the ever-present threat of military action that is always in the background: justifying the existence of the US/NATO military machine and the $1.67 trillion* spent on it annually. Spent... or should we say extracted from the populations of the US and the NATO countries?

As I grow old and face the world of today, where the progress of technology seems to have been accompanied by regression in human rights and quality of life, I can only wonder, watching the news, how my attempts to make sense of my own life and make peace with my own past, natural as old age approaches, can make any sense in such a context. It's as if the leaders of the world were eternally young and eternally stupid - like the gods of the mythology our culture is founded on. It's as if we - when I say "we," I mean we as Americans, as French, as German, or as British, as represented by the leaders we have duly elected through our admittedly imperfect but at least functioning democratic processes - were trying to play at being Immortals by interfering in the lives of ordinary people to satisfy our own infantile need to have our way, our childish greed, never being satisfied with the wealth we have, or our pusillanimous desire to know everything everyone everywhere is thinking and saying. Is our democratic system really such a model for the rest of the world when those we put in power behave in this way? How much longer can we remain human if we continue to allow our leaders to play at being gods?
*source: SIPRI

Wednesday 18 September 2013

UN Report on Ghouta Gas Incident Points to Evidence Tampering, not Syrian Culpability

The United Nations report on the alleged use of chemical weapons in the Ghouta area of Damascus on August 21 does not, as newspaper headlines have indicated, “point to Assad’s use of gas” [1]; confirm that rockets were loaded with sarin [2]; or “come closer to linking Assad to sarin attack” [3]. Nor, as US officials and some journalists have declared, does it “reinforce the case that Mr. Assad’s forces were responsible” [4]; “confirm Damascus’s responsibility” [5]; or “undercut arguments by President Bashar al-Assad of Syria that rebel forces … had been responsible.” [6]

This isn’t to say that Syrian forces didn’t use chemical weapons, only that the evidence adduced in the UN report doesn’t show, or even suggest, that they did. On the contrary, the report offers stronger evidence that attempts were made to manipulate evidence to attribute blame to the Syrian government.

Continue reading...

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Kissinger and 9/11(/1973)

by Peter Kornbluh


"I want an appraisal of what the options are," Nixon told Kissinger. When Kissinger told him that the State Department's position was to "let Allende come in and see what we can work out," Nixon immediately vetoed the idea: "Like against Castro? Like in Czechoslovakia? The same people said the same thing. Don't let them do that."

But Nixon cautioned: "We don't want a big story leaking out that we are trying to overthrow the Govt."

Secretary of State William Rogers, who Nixon and Kissinger largely excluded from deliberations over Chile, was similarly sensitive to such a story leaking out. Indeed, the transcript of his conversation with Kissinger two days later underscored just how concerned the State Department was to the possibility that Washington might get caught trying to undermine Chile's electoral democracy. In their September 14th discussion, Rogers accurately predicted that "no matter what we do it will probably end up dismal." He also cautioned Kissinger to cover up any paper trail on U.S. operations "to be sure the paper record doesn't look bad."

"My feeling--and I think it coincides with the President's--is that we ought to encourage a different result from the [censored reference]," Rogers conceded to Kissinger, "but should do so discretely so that it doesn't backfire." Their conversation continues:

Kissinger: The only question is how one defines 'backfire.'

Rogers: Getting caught doing something. After all we've said about elections, if the first time a Communist wins the U.S. tries to prevent the constitutional process from coming into play we will look very bad.

Kissinger: the President's view is to do the maximum possible to prevent an Allende takeover, but through Chilean sources and with a low posture."

The next day, during a 15 minute meeting at the White House attended by Kissinger, Nixon instructed CIA director Helms that Allende's election was "not acceptable" and ordered the agency to "make the economy scream" and "save Chile," as Helms recorded in his notes. The CIA launched a massive set of covert operations--first to block Allende's inauguration, and, when that failed, to undermine his ability to successfully govern. "Our main concern in Chile is the prospect that [Allende] can consolidate himself and the picture projected to the world will be his success," Nixon told his National Security Council on November 6, 1970, two days after Allende took office.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Uncovering Britain's secret role in protecting Chile's 1973 coup

by Grace Livingstone, Wednesday 11 September 2013 08.01 BST

Forty years on, declassified documents reveal an outpouring of
concern from the British public over Pinochet's coup – and the
Foreign Office's attempt to undermine the solidarity campaign

Chile coup 1973

Forty years ago today, when General Augusto Pinochet overthrew Salvador Allende, the elected president of Chile, democrats across the world were horrified. But not the British Foreign Office. Declassified government documents show British diplomats reserved their harshest criticism for human rights campaigners and journalists trying to alert the world to the "disappearance" and torture of thousands of Chileans. The head of the Foreign Office's Latin America department complained:
"Chileans must be wondering why on earth so much unfair attention is being paid to their change of government. The answer is that Chile is now being subjected to the full treatment by an international front organisation, the Chile Solidarity Movement. Chile has been chosen by the organised left as a new crusade."
Intelligence officers were sent to infiltrate the Chile Solidarity Campaign, a movement backed by Labour MPs, trade unions, students and church groups. The secret service reports, declassified earlier this year, can now be seen at the National Archives in Kew.
Journalists were another Foreign Office target. Complaining of "black propaganda against the Chilean armed services", British officials tried to manipulate the news.
When a team from the BBC Panorama programme visited Chile in November 1973, staff at the British embassy secured them "maximum co-operation from the junta".
The embassy was optimistic about the slant of the documentary, which included interviews with members of the Anglo-Chilean business community speaking approvingly about the coup. A British embassy official wrote: "The balance of the programme should be 60 to 75% favourable to the new regime." The embassy was not so pleased with a World in Action Granada TV team that arrived at the same time. The same official wrote: "I gathered that the WIA producer … came to cover torture and shootings … Granada's activities were certainly known to the junta whose press secretary told me that they had been seeing 'things they should not see'." An FCO official back in London scrawled on the letter: "Ominous news about the World in Action film".
But the archives also tell a more heartening story: an outpouring of concern and solidarity from the British public. In battered brown folders, sheaves of letters urge Edward Heath's government to take action against Pinochet – letters from an elderly couple in Leicester, "an appalled family" from London, from academics, students, Labour party branches and the "Bath Women's Liberation Front". There is even a telegram from a young Gordon Brown.
But most numerous are the letters from trade unionists. The shipbuilders' union urged the government not to sell warships to Pinochet, even though losing these contracts could threaten their own jobs. The government's response? To send spies to shipyards across Britain to check workers were not sabotaging vessels destined for Chile.
When Labour came to power in 1974, it cut off arms sales, aid and credit to Pinochet and, in 1977, withdrew the British ambassador. But existing arms contracts were to be honoured, so trade unionists took matters into their own hands. Employees at East Kilbride engineering yard in Scotland refused to fix bomber-plane engines destined for Chile, forcing Rolls Royce to break its contract with the Chilean air force. This forgotten history of solidarity will be celebrated across Britain today, the 40th anniversary of the coup.
Unsurprisingly, when Pinochet's most prominent defender, Margaret Thatcher came to office in 1979, diplomatic relations were soon restored and arms sales resumed.
Declassified papers reveal that, by June 1982, her government had sold the dictatorship: two warships, 60 blowpipe missiles, 10 Hunter Hawker bomber planes, naval pyrotechnics, communications equipment, gun sights, machine guns and ammunition. A unique attempt at a British "ethical foreign policy" had ended.

Wednesday 4 September 2013

Understanding the Syrian Civil War

With President Obama asking Congress to back a military strike to punish Syria for alleged chemical weapons use, the U.S. is lurching toward a new war. Beyond doubts about what happened and whether a U.S. missile attack will help, there is scant public understanding of the Syrian conflict, notes Mideast expert William R. Polk.

Continue reading...

Friday 26 April 2013

Syria: Things Move Fast

Isn't it funny that just a week after the Boston bombings and the announcement that a terrorist plot driven by Iran was foiled in Canada, the word has gone out that what we have feared for so long (or to put it another way, what we have been prepared to accept for so long) has come about: Dr. Assad has stepped over the red line - or is at least standing on it, with one foot ready to come down on the other side (the former is the Republican take, the latter the Democrat)?

In contrast, take a look at this (note the date - March 19th):
And look quick, because it might not be there much longer.

Also note how Chuck Hagel said yesterday that the reports were not to be taken seriously, while stopping short of criticizing Israeli intelligence:

"(Reuters) - Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Wednesday the U.S. effort to determine whether Syria has used chemical weapons is a "serious business" that cannot be decided in a rush just because several countries believe evidence supports that conclusion.

"Suspicions are one thing, evidence is another," Hagel told reporters as he wrapped up a visit to Egypt that included talks about Syria and other regional issues.

"I think we have to be very careful here before we make any conclusions (and) draw any conclusions based on real intelligence. That's not at all questioning other nations' intelligence. But the United States relies on its own intelligence." "

But today, 24 hours later, Mr. Hagel... stepped over the line:

"ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — U.S. intelligence has concluded "with some degree of varying confidence," that the Syrian government has used sarin gas as a weapon in its 2-year-old civil war, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Thursday.

Hagel, speaking to reporters in Abu Dhabi, said the White House has informed two senators by letter that, within the past day, "our intelligence community does assess, with varying degrees of confidence, that the Syrian regime has used chemical weapons on a small scale in Syria, specifically, the chemical agent sarin."

"It violates every convention of warfare," Hagel said. "

When you're a new defense secretary, you learn fast...

Friday 19 April 2013

Juan and John: Obama Stumbles On Innocence

(Click to view)

1 first responders

2 Serbia

3 Countries bombed

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Control of Perception by the Military-Financial Complex: A Textbook Case

Current events have caught up with this post. It started when I bought my son, who was studying for his brevet exams – here in France the brevet is your ticket out of middle school and into high school – a review workbook for his Civics exam. The educational system being highly centralized in France, the curricula are nationwide and schoolbook publishing is a lucrative industry. Which may explain why French capitalists and their friends in politics tend to take an interest in it… But I’m getting ahead of myself.


My son began studying the book and at one point came and showed me the caption on a picture in a section entitled Les menaces pour la paix et la sécurité (“Threats to Peace and Security”). The picture is of a missile being fired, and the caption reads “Un missile à capacité nucléaire iranien” (“A nuclear-capable Iranian missile”). The picture was one of several “documents” that are supposed to serve as a basis for “reflection and discussion by students.” The strong implication is that Iran has a military nuclear program, and even nuclear warheads. This is being presented to my son and his generation of French middle-school kids as a simple fact.


Yet a little reading in the mainstream information media will demonstrate that it is anything but a fact. Iran is a signatory of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is in charge of surveillance of compliance with that treaty, has rejected “allegations” (mostly coming from the US and its allies) that Iran is pursuing development of nuclear weapons1.


The fact is that the United States and its allies, including France, have been exerting pressure on Iran to cease its program of uranium enrichment – to which it is entitled under the terms of the aforementioned treaty –, supposedly as a guarantee of Iran’s intention not to pursue development of a nuclear weapon. In the meantime, the NATO/US military machine has been stepping up its presence in the region, as if it were doing everything in its power to push Iran towards developing a weapon for purposes of deterrence.


So I looked to see who the publisher of the workbook is. The publisher turns out to be Hachette Éducation, the largest publisher of textbooks in France, with 1.052 billion euros in sales in 2007. Hachette Éducation is a division of Hachette Livre, which is part of the Lagardère group. The Lagardère group originates in the takeover of the French press-publishing giant Hachette by arms manufacturer Matra in 1980. The group today has a co-controlling share in EADS, which in 2010 ranked seventh in the list of the top ten weapons merchants, with 12.3 billion euros in sales. “Among EADS’s divisions is Matra BAe Dynamics, formed in 1996 via a merger of the missile business of BAe (BAe Dynamics) and half of the missile business of Matra Défense. (The other half remained as Aerospatiale Matra Missiles).”2


So a textbook writer working for Hachette would probably have little trouble finding stock photos of missiles to fill in a page in a Civics workbook…


According to the Reference for Business Company History Index3, in the controversial 1980 takeover of Hachette by Matra “[then French president] Giscard d’Estaing’s government supported Matra, its principal arms supplier” amid fears that “The publishing industry [was] gradually losing its financial and intellectual independence…” Were those fears justified? Well, today, 70% of the French press is controlled by arms manufacturers Lagardère and Dassault4.A 2004 article in The Economist5 expressed concern over the increasing influence of armaments makers on the French press and publishing industry. Isn’t it disturbing to see that the largest textbook publisher in France is part of an arms manufacturing group? And, given the incestuous relationship between business and government in France, that taxpayers’ money is being used to produce these textbooks?



As I said, current events have caught up with this post. The workbook dates from a couple of years ago, and so was published under the Sarkozy regime. Sarkozy, of course, is alleged to have long-standing ties to the US in general and to the CIA in particular. “Sarkozy the American” was the man who ended France’s tradition of keeping the US and NATO at arm’s length by returning France to NATO’s integrated military structure after a 43-year absence6,7. Sarkozy also demonstrated a taste for military adventurism when he spearheaded the 2011 attack on Ghaddafi’s Libya.


When a Socialist president was elected last year, the issue of France’s participation in NATO and her military adventurism was very much a part of the campaign, and current president François Hollande, playing on his pacifist political inheritance, had promised “to re-examine the NATO question.” He has been accused by his political opponents of wanting to slash France’s military budget. But today he has shown himself to be as eager as Sarkozy was to “prove his mettle as a leader” and engage his country in war – for purely “humanitarian” motives, of course. And the mainstream press, unsurprisingly, has furthered that narrative.


Taking the train into Paris yesterday, I noticed that the billboard frames that line the tracks – usually devoted to yogurt or cheese or the latest vampire movie – were mostly displaying advertisements for France’s modern army. The billboards depict fit young men and women in camouflage, training in combat techniques or young men in Robocop-like crowd-control gear standing on a railway platform holding assault rifles, “protecting the population.” The French Army is recruiting 10,000 young men and women. Meanwhile, the French auto industry plans to fire 11,000 workers between now and 2015 – with the consent of the unions and the government.


It made me realize that in fact nothing has changed. France is one of the world’s leading armaments producers. And countries whose economies depend heavily on the production of weapons of war need to remain in a constant state of war. That state of war needs to be justified to the population, and the population needs to be provided with an enemy from whom it needs to be protected. Or else the war-waging needs to be sanitized, as is now being done with Syria and Mali, and as was done with Libya and earlier with Serbia/Kosovo, by convincing the population that what is being done with its tax money is “humanitarian intervention.” And that is where the press comes in.


Examples of how the press promotes the enterprise of war can be seen every day. During the preparation for the invasion of Iraq in 2003 they were ubiquitous and egregious. The lesson of the Vietnam war was learned well. No reporter is allowed direct access to a combat area, and the information they have access to is kept under strict control.  The mainstream press now supports the official narrative of what is happening wherever the US/NATO intervenes – currently in Syria and Mali. Is that surprising, given the degree of control the warplane makers have over the press?


But it goes farther than that. The culture of war is etched in myriad ways into the official and popular culture of countries where armaments are the lifeblood of the economy. Nick Turse, in The Complex, reveals how the Pentagon provides support for the development of computer shooter games and war movies. The recent film Zero Dark Thirty is reportedly the result of direct collaboration with the Obama administration8. What passes for entertainment – some would even call it art – is in fact metaprogramming, designed to ensure that the message Obama sent to the world in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech – that it’s going to be business as usual – is not forgotten: “We will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations -- acting individually or in concert -- will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.”  


Presumably – in France, at least – violent conflict will be on the menu into our children’s lifetimes, too, and our textbooks need to condition them to accept that. Why? Is it because Obama’s words are, sadly, true? Or is it for another reason? Is it because the publisher of the textbooks is also a merchant of death?









Monday 11 February 2013

Quote from George Kennan during the Cold War

“Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial establishment would have to go on, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.” 

See more of what Kennan had to say here.

Monday 7 January 2013

Eduardo Galeano on consumer society

“Consumer society is a booby trap.  Those at the controls feign ignorance, but anybody with eyes in his head can see that the great majority of people necessarily must consume not much, very little, or nothing at all in order to save the bit of nature we have left.  Social injustice is not an error to be corrected, nor is it a defect to be overcome; it is an essential requirement of the system.  No natural world is capable of supporting a mall the size of the planet... [If] we all consumed like those who are squeezing the earth dry, we’d have no world left.”

-Eduardo Galeano, in Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking-Glass World

Thursday 6 December 2012

Greece: Surgeon/Activist and Family Face Eviction

It may be difficult for many people, and in particular Americans, to imagine a doctor being evicted from his home for non-payment of rent. But it can happen to a doctor in Greece. And Giorgos Kosmopoulos of Athens is a physician.

 And not just any physician. He is a thoracic surgeon who studied under Dr. Christiaan Barnard in South Africa at the Heart Transplant Center, Groote Schuur University Hospital, Cape Town. He has been Senior Lecturer at the Department of Cardio-thoracic Surgery at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg and head of the Department of Thoracic Surgery at Agios Savas Anticancer Hospital in Athens. He has performed 3,535 operations as a cardiothoracic surgeon.

 Giorgos Kosmopoulos is also a founder of StopCartel TV, a most beloved pioneer of the Livestream and one of the only bilingual livestreamers in Greece. Tomorrow morning, Giorgos and his family of six are facing eviction from their home of 14 years.

 And where is Giorgos tonight? He is livestreaming, on location in the center of Athens. He said that despite his personal problems, he felt it was his duty to livestream and archive the clashes between the rioting Greek police and protesters who have gathered to commemorate the murder of 16-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos, who was shot dead on December 6, 2008.

 A lifelong activist, Dr. Kosmopoulos grew up in Greece during the junta and joined the resistance at age 17, when he entered university. During the decade he spent in South Africa, he was an anti-apartheid activist and survived two hunger strikes, one for 26 days and one for 30 days.

 A personal family tragedy brought him and his family back to Greece, where they currently reside. At the age of six, his son Christopher, was shot in the head, leaving him blind in one eye and with half of his vision in the other eye. Doctors said that Christopher had lost half of his brain function, as well, and would have a more successful education in his mother tongue. 

 The family moved back to Greece and enrolled Christopher in a special school. After one month, the school called and said that Christopher did not belong there. So they enrolled him in a normal grammar school and he did well. He went on to High School and then to university. Christopher is now an economist and ran for Parliament in the last election on the SYRIZA ticket.

 When Giorgos was head of Thoracic Surgery at Agios Savas in Athens, hospital workers’ wages began to be slashed. He went to Human Resources and asked if he was eligible to retire with a smaller pension. They told him he was and he resigned. He collected a pension for six months and then the payments simply stopped. The government said he was NOT eligible. Meanwhile, he only had two months to be reinstated in his old job. Since that window of opportunity closed, he started a private practice. But with the Troika’s two austerity Memoranda passing, people in Greece had no money for a private physician, and he had to close his practice. He applied to the government for a post as a doctor and after months of waiting, they assigned him a post far from Athens, in the remote Western Peloponnese. The pay was low and it would have been a hardship to move his entire family there. He asked to be reassigned to a post in the greater Athens area. He is still waiting for a post, but the wheels of the public sector have come to a grinding halt. It could take forever for him to get an assignment. Another 40% of public-sector jobs are on the chopping block.

 Meanwhile, under the new “fast-track” eviction procedures that are only one of a multitude of measures – some small, some egregious – that are slowly bleeding Greece’s people through a thousand cuts, this distinguished physician and dedicated citizen journalist has been informed that he is to be evicted from his home. In many European countries, eviction is illegal under any circumstances during the winter months. But not in the Greece of today. Not in the Greece that has become a laboratory of neoliberal doctrine. That is why Dr. Giorgos Kosmopoulos is doing everything he can to inform the world, despite the silence and complacency of the mainstream corporate media, of the plight of his country.

 He spoke about the pending eviction tonight on his livestream:

 “We will prepare for peaceful civil disobedience tomorrow. We will not tolerate being violently removed from our home of 14 years. If the eviction is imposed, we will resist and express our disobedience. We will not allow them to get inside our house. They may resort to using violence and throwing our belongings on the street. We hope some comrades will come to our house to support us. Online, it’s not wise to say what we will do. This will all be online and live. So keep in mind you who are talking from the US, it will be difficult for you to view because of the time difference. 

 The world must know of the humanitarian catastrophe in Greece. Thousands of Greek families are homeless and nobody cares about us. Please do your best to spread the word and help raise awareness.” 

 The Kosmopoulos family is requesting a January 13 postponement for the eviction which will give them time to find a new flat and move their belongings.


Wednesday 21 November 2012

Obama's early-game foreign-policy score...

Vijay Prashad, ending his article The New Obama Doctrine: From Gaza to Goma on Counterpunch:

Obama’s second term opens with the worst kind of display of US power – backing two clients who are hell-bent on creating mayhem against their neighbors. Coming to the defense of Israel in Bangkok,  Obama made himself the laughing stock of the world. He said, “There is no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” forgetting, of course, that US drones rain hellfire on Droneland – from Yemen to Pakistan, in violation of the UN’s own position on such extra-judicial assassinations, and it was Israel that began this particular episode with its own extra-judicial killing of Ahmad Jabari. There is no “reset,” no new liberalism. Drone strikes and other exaggerations of US aerial power, fanatical defense of its allies, and refusal to come to terms with the emergent multipolarity – this is the Obama Doctrine, now at work in Gaza and Goma.

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