The hidden origin of the fires burning in the Middle East

Summary: After our many failures in the long war that we began after 9/11, with the Middle East aflame, a few voices ask if our actions during the past few decades contributed to this disaster. They ask us to open our eyes to see our actions in this region — long a centerpiece of US geopolicy — and their bitter fruit. This note by The War Nerd goes to the heart of the matter. {2nd of 2 posts today.}

An alliance led by the US is conducting a vast experiment in the Middle East to …

"Fight the future" by  Ramaelk at DeviantArt

“Fight the future” by Ramaelk at DeviantArt

To help us better understand events in the Middle East today we have an excerpt from an article by the essential War Nerd (red emphasis added). It’s vital reading for anyone wondering how we have with such good intentions set the Middle East afire.

Excerpt from “A Brief History Of The Yemen Clusterf*ck

by Gary Brecher, Pando, 28 March 2015

… Nasser, hope of the Arab world in the 1960s, decided that a modern, Arab-nationalist regime in Yemen would be a big move for him, Egypt, and the Arabs. Arabs were getting very “modern” at that time. It’s important to remember that. You know why they stopped getting modern, and started getting interested in reactionary, Islamist repression?

Because the modernizing Arabs were all killed by the US, Britain, Israel, and the Saudis.

That was what happened in the North Yemen Civil War, from 1962-1967. After a coup, Nasser backed modernist Yemeni officers against the new Shia ruler. The Saudis might not have liked Shia, but they hated secularist, modernizing nationalists much more. At least the Northern Shia kings ruled by divine right and invoked Allah after their heretical fashion. That was much better, to the Saudi view, than a secular Yemen.

And the west agreed. To the Americans of that time, “secular” sounded a little bit commie. To the British, it sounded anti-colonial and unprofitable. To the Israelis, it raised the horrible specter of an Arab world ruled by effective 20th-century executives. States like that might become dangerous enemies, while an Arab world stuck in religious wars, dynastic feuds, and poverty sounded wonderful.

Why do you think the IDF has not attacked Islamic State or Jabhat Al Nusra even once?

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Threats come & go, leaving us in perpetual fear & forgetful of the past

Summary: Fearful and forgetful make us an easily ruled people. Easily aroused to panic, yet amnesic about it once the news media move to a new threat — so that we never learn. While a pitiful state for a once-great people, we can regain our former sense and skepticism.

“Maybe it will all work out ok, but if you catch Ebola just remember your nice article calling anyone concerned chicken little as your lungs fill with fluid, and you’re shitting and vomiting blood.”
By Sam, October 14. One of the many terrified commenters, fruit of conservatives’ fear-mongering about Ebola — immediately forgotten after the election.

Missouri: the "Show me" State

What happened to these people? We need them now.

A few months ago we quaked in fear about Ebola (see John B. Judis’ in The New Republic: “Ebola and ISIS Are Making American Voters Go Crazy. Here’s How Irrational Fears Shape Elections.“), about the horde of immigrants flooding in from Latin America, and about the campus rape epidemic (1 in 5 coeds raped!). America was a nation of wet pants. Suddenly these threats are gone, replaced by new ones about which we’re just as irrationally frightened (Yemen!).

Best of all, from our leaders’ perspective, we forget the stories about the previous threats and so eagerly believe the new ones. I watch these transitions with astonishment.

All peoples have manias, of different kinds. Today in America it’s their magnitude and frequency which makes our politics so dysfunctional. While we run screaming in terror at each new phantom, our elites quietly build a New America on the ruins of the old.

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Review of “Kill Chain: Rise of the High-tech Assassins”

Summary:  Today we have a review of an important book about America’s post-9/11 policy of mass assassination. We’ve adopted a tactic that both history and theory suggests will fail, and which has repeatedly failed since 9/11. Books like this explain what we’re doing wrong, but only political action by us together will reverse our mad geopolitical policies.  {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“Assassination is the perquisite of kings.”
— attributed to Umberto I of Italy.

Kill Chain

Review of Andrew Cockburn’s
Kill Chain:
The Rise of the High-Tech Assassins

Reviewed by Chuck Spinney.
Posted at his website The Blaster.
Posted here with his generous permission.

Caveat emptor: the author of this book is a friend of 35 years, so I am biased, proudly so in this case.  While I know what Cockburn can do, I must admit I was literally blown away by this book. And I am no stranger to this subject, having worked as an engineer-analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense in the Pentagon for 25 years.

What makes Cockburn’s book so powerful, in my opinion, is not only his sourcing and detail (which are amazing), but the fact that he has written a book that is at once overwhelming in terms of information, yet so well written, it is accessible to the general reader.  It is a page turner.  He dissects the rise of drone warfare and examines its conduct in fascinating detail from the point of view of the targeteers in the CIA and the White House, to the controllers in front of video screens, and to the effects on the victims at the receiving end.

In so doing, he shows how the ideology of drone warfare is really old wine in a new bottle: it is a natural evolution of three interconnected mindsets:

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Can Constitutional amendments save the Republic?

Summary: We’re losing to the 1%, and articles like this show why. Reformers dream of changes to the system (like the amendments proposed here) while the 1% builds the machinery to make changes happen. They’ve invested the time, effort and money; now they reap their reward. It need not be this way.  {1st of  2 posts today.}

“The throne is never vacant.”
— Russian aphorism. If we choose not to govern, then others will.

Amendments to the Constitution

It’s Not Too Late: Save Democracy By Amending the Constitution

By John Nichols, The Nation, 6 April 2015
“Corporations are not people, money is not speech,
and votes must matter more than billionaires’ dollars.”

Nothing locks in inequality and dysfunction like a constitution so imprecise that it allows right-wing judicial activists to make buying elections easy and voting in them hard. But don’t just blame “constitutional conservatives” for turning our founding document into an outline for oligarchy. Fret about liberal constitutionalists who imagine we’re just one thrilling presidential appointment away from making our democratic vistas real. Like Democrats dreaming of another FDR, liberals waiting for another Earl Warren miss the point. Our democratic destiny is not something to wait for — it’s something we have to make happen. Dissident Americans have been bending the arc of history by rewriting the US Constitution since amendments were added with quill pens. Today’s dissenters should be about the business of doing so once more.

… The real friends of the Constitution today champion a “move to amend” that would declare that corporations are not people, that money is not speech, and that votes must matter more than billionaires’ dollars. Sixteen states and some 600 communities have recently demanded that Congress initiate a constitutional response to the judicial activism that has allowed elites to commodify our politics and corporatize our governance. At the same time, activists are taking up a proposal by Congressmen Mark Pocan and Keith Ellison to end the crude assault on voting rights with an amendment that establishes, finally and unequivocally, a right to vote and to have every vote counted. These are good starting points, but they are not an end to anything.

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Star Trek reboots to give us simple stories, the cartoons we like.

Summary:  Films show who we are, our dreams and fears. Today Locke Peterseim compares Star Trek Into Darkness to the original TV show, showing how we’ve changed during the past 5 decades. We want simpler plots, cardboard villains, more emphasis on emotional behavior and beating up bad guys. And above all, ignoring the disturbing deeper questions that made the original show so interesting.

Star Trek Into Darkness

Star Trek Into Darkness Spoilers and Geekery Ahead!

By Locke Peterseim
Posted at the film blog of Open Letters Monthly, 24 May 2013.
Reposted here with his generous permission.

This explains why I’m disappointed in Star Trek Into Darkness. Spoilers!

In my previous piece about why I felt a deeper disconnect with J.J. Abrams’ new Star Trek film, I spoke primarily about the larger problems I have with how Abrams and his Trek co-writers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Damon Lindelof approach Star Trek and their emphasis on empty escapism and popcorn thrills to the near-exclusion of any deeper ideas or meaning.

… As I said in my earlier piece, part of me enjoyed the majority of Into Darkness because of all its obvious whoosh-whoosh zip bang action adventure and character humor. I won’t deny that the Trek franchise needed a little warp boost in that area — it’s just that after the 2009 reboot, I deluded myself a bit into thinking the new series would eventually get around to doing more than just action adventure.

I’m not going to sit here and nitpick the film to pieces over the sort of “but wait, why in the hell would this character do that?” plot-logic questions you can use these days to take apart most any big-budget Hollywood film. But there were several major points in Into Darkness where missed opportunities or plain old script laziness worked to undermine my overall enjoyment of the film.

And remember, SPOILERS! In case you missed the big ‘ol headline above, this is going to be full of Into Darkness spoilers… and Star Trek geekery…

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The GOP budget shows us the New America that lies ahead

Summary: The first budget by the new Republican majority in Congress shows what lies ahead for America. It’s another tale of the New America rising on the ruins of the old, as the 1% begins the pursuit phase of the battle against us. These tales are entertainment for the outer party, just exhilaration as they boo the other tribe unless they motivate people to political action. {2nd of 2 posts today.}

“There’s class warfare, all right. But it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
— Warren Buffet, quoted in the New York Times Magazine, 26 November 2006.Was Marx right?

 

Brick by brick the New America slowly rises on the ruins of the Second Republic. As we see in this week’s headline “Senate passes Republican budget with deep safety net cuts“. It’s a full-court press to reconfigure the US government to benefit the 1%. Excerpt:

The Senate passed a Republican-authored budget plan early on Friday that seeks $5.1 trillion in domestic spending cuts over 10 years while boosting military funding. … which is similar to one passed by House Republicans on Wednesday. … They also showcase the fiscal vision for Republicans, who now control both Houses of Congress for the first time since 2006 and are eager to demonstrate their ability to govern.

… The Senate budget seeks to eliminate U.S. deficits by 2025 without raising taxes through deep cuts to social safety net programs, investments in transportation and education and other domestic programs. At the same time, it proposes to boost defense spending by adding about $38 billion to an off-budget war funding account, and offers core Pentagon budget increases in subsequent years.

This is just the first step. We can expect more drastic measures in the future, shifting taxes from the 1% to us and cutting government benefits. The Hill explains (Note: block grants are a means to shift spending to the States, for easier slashing):

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A Tale of New America: a judge burns the Constitution

Summary: Today we have another Tale of New America, as the government exempts from legal challenge the shadowy neocon group United Against Nuclear Iran. The tale is told here not as information (clickbait), but to spark your anger and action at what’s happening to the Republic and what we have become.   {1st of 2 posts today.}

“United Against Nuclear Iran”

Let’s make it a dawn, not a sunset.

For a decade I and many others have documented the decline of the Republic and its replacement by a plutocracy. We’re now far along in this, as the 1% begins the “pursuit” phase (the endgame) in which they exploit their victory to crush their foes (preventing subsequent conflict), and begin the post-bellum restructuring of law and society to accommodate their values and appetites. The changes to date were on the gentle downward slope of an “S Curve”. Now we enter the steep section as the 1% makes large obvious changes, without fear of effective opposition. This is our daily news.

The police become both militarized and bolder in their brutality (as in yesterday’s vignette, and the other posts about police brutality). The government becomes more open about their mass domestic surveillance; Obama boasts about ordering assassination of America citizens. Public excitement about these things produces no substantial change, just a delay in their advance.

Today we have another outrageous tale, as the government displays its power over the now-impotent institutions created by the Constitution. Accounts of these provide clickbait for the news media, excitement for the outer party (We’re informed!), and boost the reputation of the Deep State. Win-win-win.

So let’s turn to Glen Greenwald at The Intercept for today’s sad story: “Court Accepts DOJ’s ‘State Secrets’ Claim to Protect Shadowy Neocons: a New Low” —

A truly stunning debasement of the U.S. justice system just occurred through the joint efforts of the Obama Justice Department and a meek and frightened Obama-appointed federal judge, Edgardo Ramos, all in order to protect an extremist neocon front group from scrutiny and accountability. The details are crucial for understanding the magnitude of the abuse here.

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