• All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

  • I.F. Stone

donderdag 23 februari 2017

Karel van Wolferen on Karl Rove's Prophecy

Karl Rove’s Prophecy

By Karel van Wolferen (Jan 23 2017)

In a famous exchange between a high official at the court of George W. Bush and journalist Ron Susskind, the official – later acknowledged to have been Karl Rove – takes the journalist to task for working in “the reality-based community.” He defined that as believing “that solutions emerge from your judi- cious study of discernible reality.” Rove then asserted that this was no longer the way in which the world worked. “We're an empire now, and when we act, we cre- ate our own reality. And while you're studying that reality - judiciously, as you will - we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors . . . and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do.” (Ron Suskind, NYTimes Magazine, Oct. 17, 2004).

This declaration became popular as an illustration of the hubris of the Bush-Cheney government. But we could also see it as fulfilled prophecy. Fulfilled in a manner that no journalist at that time would have deemed possible. Yes, the neoconservatives brought disrepute upon themselves be- cause of the disaster in Iraq. Sure, opposition to the reality Rove had helped create in that devastated country became a first rung on the ladder that could lead to the presidency, as it did for Barack Obama. But the neo- cons stayed put in the State Department and other positions closely linked to the Obama White House, where they became allies with the liberal hawks in continuing to ‘spread democracy’ by overthrowing regimes.
America's mainstream news and opinion purveyors, without demur- ring, accommodated the architects of reality production overseen by Dick Cheney. This did not end when Obama became president, but in fact with seemingly ever greater eagerness they gradually made the CIA/neocon- neoliberal created reality appear unshakably substantial in the minds of most newspaper readers and among TV audiences in the Atlantic basin. This was most obvious when attention moved to an imagined existential threat posed by Russia supposedly aimed at the political and ‘Enlighten- ment’ achievements of the West. Neoconservatives and liberal hawks bent America's foreign-policy entirely to their ultimate purpose of eliminating a Vladimir Putin who had decided not to dance to Washington’s tune so that he might save the Russian state, which had been disintegrating under his
predecessor and Wall Street’s robber barons. With President Obama as a mere spectator, the neocon/liberals could – without being ridiculed – pass off the coup d'état they had fomented in the Ukraine as a popular revolu- tion. And because of an unquestioned Atlanticist faith, which holds that without the policies of the United States the world cannot be safe for peo- ple of the Atlantic basin, the European elites that determine policy or com- ment on it joined their American counterparts in endorsing that reality.
As blind vassals the Europeans have adopted Washington’s enemies as their own. Hence the ease with which the European Union member states could be roped into a system of baseless economic sanctions against Rus- sia, much to the detriment of their own economic interests. Layers upon layers of anti-Russian propaganda have piled up to bamboozle a largely un- suspecting public on both sides of the Ocean. In the Netherlands, from where I have been watching all this, Putin was held personally responsible in much of the media for the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner flying over the Ukraine, which killed 298 people. No serious investigation was undertaken. The presentation of ‘almost definitive’ findings by the joint in- vestigation team under Dutch leadership has neither included clues sup- plied by jet fighter cannon holes in the wrecked fuselage nor eyewitness stories, which would make the government in Kiev the prime suspect. Moscow's challenging the integrity of the investigation, whose agreed-upon rules allowed publication of findings only if Kiev agreed with them, were met with great indignation by the Dutch Foreign and Prime Ministers.
As the fighting in Syria reached a phase when contradictions in the of- ficial Washington/NATO story demanded a stepping back for a fresh look, editors were forced into contortions to make sure that the baddies stayed bad, and that no matter how cruel and murderously they went about their occupation in Aleppo and elsewhere, the jihadi groups fighting to overthrow the secular Assad government in Damascus remained strictly la- beled as moderate dissidents worthy of Western support, and the Russians as violators of Western values.
Architects of an official reality that diverges widely from the facts you thought you knew must rely on faits accompli they achieve through military or police violence and intimidation, in combination with a fitting interpre- tation or a news blackout delivered by mainstream media. These conditions have been widely obtained in the Atlantic basin through a gradual loss of
political accountability at top levels, and through government agencies pro- tected by venerated secrecy that are allowed to live lives of their own. As a result American and European populations have been dropped into a fan- tasy world, one under constant threat from terrorists and an evil dictator in Moscow. For Americans the never ending war waged by their own govern- ment, which leaves them with no choice but to condone mass murder, is supposedly necessary to keep them safe. For Europeans, at least those in the northern half, the numerous NATO tanks rolling up to the border of the Russian Federation and the massing of troops in that area are an extra guarantee, on top of the missiles that were already there, that Vladimir Pu- tin will restrain his urges to grab a European country or two. On a smaller scale, when every May 4th the 1940-45 war dead are remembered in the Netherlands, we must now include the fallen in Afghanistan as if they were a sacrifice to defend us against the Taliban threat from behind the Hindu Kush.
Ever since the start of this millennium there has been a chain of reali- ties as prophesied by Karl Rove, enhanced by terrorist attacks, which may or may not have been the work of actual terrorists, but whose reality is not questioned without risking one’s reputation. The geopolitical picture that they have helped build in most minds appears fairly consistent if one can keep one's curiosity on a leash and one's sense of contradiction sufficiently blunt. After all, the details of the official reality are filled in and smoothed out all the time by crafty campaigns produced in the PR world, with assis- tance from think tanks and academia. But the question does reappear in one's thoughts: do the politically prominent and the well-positioned edi- tors, especially those known for having once possessed skeptical minds, ac- tually believe it all? Do those members of the cabinet or parliament, who can get hot under their collar as they decry the latest revelation about one or other outrage committed by Putin, take seriously what they're saying?
Not all of them are believers. I know this from off the record conver- sations. But there appears to be a marked difference between the elite in government, in the media, in prominent social positions, and ordinary peo- ple who in these recent times of anguish about populism are sometimes referred to as uneducated. Quite a few among the latter appear to think that something fishy is going on. This could be because in my experience the alert ones have educated themselves, something that is not generally
understood by commentators who have made their way through the bu- reaucracy of standard higher education. A disadvantage of being part of the elite is that you must stick to the accepted story. If you deviate from it, and have your thoughts run rather far away from it, which is quite inevitable once you begin with your deviation, you can no longer be trusted by those around you.
If you are a journalist and depend for your income on a mainstream newspaper or are hired by a TV company, you run the risk of losing your job if you do not engage in self-censorship. Consequently, publications that used to be rightly known as quality newspapers have turned into unread- able rags. The newspaper that was my employer for a couple of decades used to be edited on the premise that its correspondents rather than au- thorities were always correct in what they were saying. Today greater loy- alty to the reality created in Washington and Langley cannot be imagined. For much of northern Europe the official story that originates in the United States is amplified by the BBC and other once reliable purveyors of news and opinion like the Guardian, the Financial Times and the (always less reliable) Economist.
Repetition lends an ever greater aura of truth to the nonsense that is re- lentlessly repeated on the pages of once serious publications. Detailed analyses of developments understood through strings of false clues give the fictions ever more weight in learned heads and debates in parliament. At the time of writing, the grave concern spread across the opinion pages on my side of the Atlantic is about how Putin’s meddling in upcoming Euro- pean elections can be prevented.
The realities Rove predicted have infantilized parliamentary debates, current affairs discussion and lecture events, and anything of a supposedly serious nature on TV. These now conform to comic book simplicities of evil, heroes and baddies. They have produced a multitude of editorials with facts upside-down. They force even those who advise against provoking Moscow to include a remark or two about Putin being a murderer or ty- rant, lest they could be mistaken for traitors to Enlightenment values or even as Russian puppets, as I have been. Layers of unreality have incapaci- tated learned and serious people to think clearly about the world and how it came to be that way.
How could Rove’s predictions so totally materialize? There's a simple
answer: ‘they’ got away with momentous lies at an early stage. The more authorities lie successfully the more they are likely to lie again in a big way to serve the purposes of earlier lies. The ‘they’ stands for those individuals and groups in the power system who operate beyond legal limits as a hy- dra-headed entity, whose coordination depends on the project, campaign, mission, or operation at hand. Those with much power got away with ex- cessive extralegal use of it since the beginning of this century because sys- tems of holding the powerful to account have crumbled on both sides of the Atlantic. Hence, potential opposition to what the reality architects were doing dwindled to almost nothing. At the same time, people whose job or personal inclination leads them to ferret out truth were made to feel guilty for pursuing it.
The best way, I think, to make sense of how this works is to study it as a type of intimidation. Sticking to the official story because you have to may not be quite as bad as forced religious conversion with a gun pointed at your head, but it belongs to the same category. It begins with the trigger- ing of odd feelings of guilt. At least that is how I remember it. Living in Tokyo, I had just read Mark Lane's Rush To Judgment, the first major demol- ishing in book form of the Warren Report on the murder of John F. Ken- nedy, when I became aware that I had begun to belong to an undesirable category of people who were taking the existence of conspiracies seriously. We all owe thanks to writers of Internet-based samizdat literature who've recently reminded us that the pejorative use of the conspiracy label stems from one of the greatest misinformation successes of the CIA begun in 1967.
So the campaign to make journalists feel guilty for their embarrassing questions dates from before Dick Cheney and Rove and Bush. But it has only reached a heavy duty phase after the moment that I see as having trig- gered the triumph of political untruth.
We have experienced massive systemic intimidation since 9/11. For the wider public we have the absurdities of airport security – initially evidenced by mountains of nail-clippers – reminding everyone of the arbitrary coer- cive potential that rests with the authorities. Every time people are made to take off their belts and shoes – to stick only to the least inane instances – they are reminded: yes, we can do this to you! Half of Boston or all of France can be placed under undeclared martial law to tell people: yes, we
have you under full control! For journalists unexamined guilt feelings still play a major role. The serious ones feel guilty for wanting to ask disturbing questions, and so they reaffirm that they still belong to ‘sane’ humanity rather than the segment with extraterrestrials in flying saucers in its belief system. But there is a confused interaction with another guilty feeling of not having pursued unanswered questions. Its remedy appears to be a dou- bling down on the official story. Why throw in fairly common lines like “I have no time for truthers” unless you feel that this is where the shoe pinches?
You will have noticed a fairly common response when the 9/11 massa- cre enters a discussion. Smart people will say that they “will not go there”, which brings to mind the “here be dragons” warning on uncharted bits of medieval maps. That response is not stupid. It hints at an understanding that there is no way back once you enter that realm. There is simply no de- nying that if you accept the essential conclusions of the official 9/11 report you must also concede that laws of nature stopped working on that par- ticular day. And, true enough, if you do go there and bear witness publicly to what you see, you may well be devoured; your career in many govern- ment positions, the media and even academia is likely to come to an end.
So, for the time being we are stuck with a considerable chunk of terra incognita relating to recognized political knowledge; which is an indispen- sable knowledge if you want to get current world affairs and the American role in it into proper perspective.
Mapping the motives of those who decide “not to go there” may be a way to begin breaking through this disastrous deadlock. Holding onto your job is an honorable motivation when you have a family to maintain. The career motivation is not something to scorn. There is also an entirely rea- sonable expectation that once you go there you lose your voice publicly to address very important social abuse and political misdeeds. I think it is not difficult to detect authors active on internet samizdat sites who have that foremost in mind. Another possible reason for not going there is the more familiar one, akin to the denial that one has a dreadful disease. Also possi- ble is an honorable position of wishing to preserve social order in the face of a prospect of very dramatic political upheaval caused by revelations about a crime so huge that hardly anything in America's history can be compared to it. Where could such a thing end - civil war? Martial law?

What I find more difficult to stomach is the position of someone who is worshiped by what used to be the left, and who has been guiding that class of politically interested Americans as to where they can and cannot go. Noam Chomsky does not merely keep quiet about it, but mocks stu- dents who raise logical questions prompted by their curiosity, thereby dis- couraging a whole generation studying at universities and active in civil rights causes. One can only hope that this overrated analyst of the estab- lishment, who helps keep the most embarrassing questions out of the pub- lic sphere, trips over the contradictions and preposterousness of his own judgments and crumples in full view of his audience.
The triumph of political untruth has brought into being a vast system of political intimidation. Remember then that the intimidator does not really care what you believe or not, but impresses you with the fact that you have no choice. That is the essence of the exercise of brute power. With false flag events the circumstantial evidence sometimes appears quite trans- parently false and, indeed could be interpreted as having been purposeful. Consider the finding of passports or identity papers accidentally left by ter- rorists, or their almost always having been known to and suspected by the police. And their deaths through police shooting before they can be inter- rogated. Could these be taunting signals of ultimate power to a doubting public: Now you! Dare contradict us! Are the persons killed by the police the same who committed the crime? Follow-up questions once considered perfectly normal and necessary by news media editors are conspicuous by their absence.
How can anyone quarrel with Rove’s prophecy. He told Susskind that we will forever be studying newly created realities. This is what the main- stream media continue to do. His words made it very clear: you have no choice!
A question that will be in the minds of perhaps many as they consider the newly sworn in president of the United States, who like John F. Ken- nedy appears to have understood that “Intelligence” leads a dangerously uncontrolled life of its own: At what point will he give in to the powers of an invisible government, as he is made to reckon that he also has no choice? 

Tom Engelhardt 222

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, At the Altar of American Greatness

The members of what TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich, author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East, calls “the Church of America the Redeemer” are in some disarray these days and in quite an uproar over the new Pope and his aberrant set of cardinals now ensconced in Washington. Perhaps there was no more striking -- or shocking -- evidence of that than the brief comments that hit the front page of the New York Times last week in an article on a month of “turmoil” in the Trump White House, but never became a headline story nationally. Amid the hurricane of news about the fall of national security adviser of 24 daysMichael Flynn, the reported contacts of Trump associates with Russia, and a flurry of leaks to major papers from what are assumedly significant figures in the intelligence community (talk about "feud"!), one thing should have stood out. Here’s the passage from that Times piece: "Gen. Tony Thomas, head of the military’s Special Operations Command, expressed concern about upheaval inside the White House. 'Our government continues to be in unbelievable turmoil. I hope they sort it out soon because we’re a nation at war,' he said at a military conference on Tuesday. Asked about his comments later, General Thomas said in a brief interview, 'As a commander, I’m concerned our government be as stable as possible.'”
It may not have looked like much, but it should have stunned the news media and the country. That it didn’t tells us a great deal about how the U.S. has changed since September 11, 2001.  Thomas, the head of the crème de la crème, secretive military force (all 70,000 of them) cocooned inside the U.S. military, had just broken the unwritten rules of the American political game in a major way. He fired what amounted to an implicit warning shot across the bow of the Trump administration's listing ship of state: Mr. President, we are at war and you better get your house in order fast. Really? Direct public criticism of the president from a top commander in a military once renowned for its commitment to staying above the political fray?  Consider that something new under the sun and evidence that what might once have been considered a cliché -- sooner or later wars always come home -- is now an ever more realistic description of just where we’ve ended up 15-plus years after the Bush administration launched the war on terror. Seven days in May?  Maybe not, but when the nation's top special warrior starts worrying in public about whether civilian leaders are up to the task of governing, it's no ordinary day in February.
It’s true, of course, that in many graphic ways -- including the migration of spying devicesdeveloped on this country's distant battlefields to police departments here, drone surveillance flights not in Afghanistan but over this country, and the increasing militarization of our police -- our wars in the Greater Middle East have indeed made their way back to “the homeland.”  Still, not like this, not directly into the sacrosanct heartland of democracy and of the political elite, into what Bacevich might call the precincts of the American political Vatican, where those like New York Times columnist David Brooks once happily opined about American “greatness.” It seems that we’re now plunged into the political equivalent of war in the nation’s capital, even if in the fog of battle it’s still a little hard to tell just who is who on that battlefield. Tom
Angst in the Church of America the Redeemer
David Brooks on Making America Great AgainBy Andrew J. Bacevich
Apart from being a police officer, firefighter, or soldier engaged in one of this nation’s endless wars, writing a column for a major American newspaper has got to be one of the toughest and most unforgiving jobs there is.  The pay may be decent (at least if your gig is with one of the major papers in New York or Washington), but the pressures to perform on cue are undoubtedly relentless.
Anyone who has ever tried cramming a coherent and ostensibly insightful argument into a mere 750 words knows what I’m talking about.  Writing op-eds does not perhaps qualify as high art.  Yet, like tying flies or knitting sweaters, it requires no small amount of skill.  Performing the trick week in and week out without too obviously recycling the same ideas over and over again -- or at least while disguising repetitions and concealing inconsistencies -- requires notable gifts.
David Brooks of the New York Times is a gifted columnist.  Among contemporary journalists, he is our Walter Lippmann, the closest thing we have to an establishment-approved public intellectual.  As was the case with Lippmann, Brooks works hard to suppress the temptation to rant.  He shuns raw partisanship.  In his frequent radio and television appearances, he speaks in measured tones.  Dry humor and ironic references abound.  And like Lippmann, when circumstances change, he makes at least a show of adjusting his views accordingly.

For all that, Brooks remains an ideologue.  In his columns, and even more so in his weekly appearances on NPR and PBS, he plays the role of the thoughtful, non-screaming conservative, his very presence affirming the ideological balance that, until November 8th of last year, was a prized hallmark of “respectable” journalism.  Just as that balance always involved considerable posturing, so, too, with the ostensible conservatism of David Brooks: it’s an act.
Praying at the Altar of American Greatness
In terms of confessional fealty, his true allegiance is not to conservatism as such, but to the Church of America the Redeemer.  This is a virtual congregation, albeit one possessing many of the attributes of a more traditional religion.  The Church has its own Holy Scripture, authenticated on July 4, 1776, at a gathering of 56 prophets.  And it has its own saints, prominent among them the Good Thomas Jefferson, chief author of the sacred text (not the Bad Thomas Jefferson who owned and impregnated slaves); Abraham Lincoln, who freed said slaves and thereby suffered martyrdom (on Good Friday no less); and, of course, the duly canonized figures most credited with saving the world itself from evil: Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt, their status akin to that of saints Peter and Paul in Christianity.  The Church of America the Redeemer even has its own Jerusalem, located on the banks of the Potomac, and its own hierarchy, its members situated nearby in High Temples of varying architectural distinction.
This ecumenical enterprise does not prize theological rigor. When it comes to shalts and shalt nots, it tends to be flexible, if not altogether squishy. It demands of the faithful just one thing: a fervent belief in America’s mission to remake the world in its own image. Although in times of crisis Brooks has occasionally gone a bit wobbly, he remains at heart a true believer. 
In a March 1997 piece for The Weekly Standard, his then-employer, he summarized his credo.  Entitled “A Return to National Greatness,” the essay opened with a glowing tribute to the Library of Congress and, in particular, to the building completed precisely a century earlier to house its many books and artifacts.  According to Brooks, the structure itself embodied the aspirations defining America’s enduring purpose.  He called particular attention to the dome above the main reading room decorated with a dozen “monumental figures” representing the advance of civilization and culminating in a figure representing America itself.  Contemplating the imagery, Brooks rhapsodized:
“The theory of history depicted in this mural gave America impressive historical roots, a spiritual connection to the centuries. And it assigned a specific historic role to America as the latest successor to Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome. In the procession of civilization, certain nations rise up to make extraordinary contributions... At the dawn of the 20th century, America was to take its turn at global supremacy.  It was America's task to take the grandeur of past civilizations, modernize it, and democratize it.  This common destiny would unify diverse Americans and give them a great national purpose.”
This February, 20 years later, in a column with an identical title, but this time appearing in the pages of his present employer, the New York Times, Brooks revisited this theme.  Again, he began with a paean to the Library of Congress and its spectacular dome with its series of “monumental figures” that placed America “at the vanguard of the great human march of progress.”  For Brooks, those 12 allegorical figures convey a profound truth.
“America is the grateful inheritor of other people’s gifts.  It has a spiritual connection to all people in all places, but also an exceptional role.  America culminates history.  It advances a way of life and a democratic model that will provide people everywhere with dignity.  The things Americans do are not for themselves only, but for all mankind.”
In 1997, in the midst of the Clinton presidency, Brooks had written that “America’s mission was to advance civilization itself.”  In 2017, as Donald Trump gained entry into the Oval Office, he embellished and expanded that mission, describing a nation “assigned by providence to spread democracy and prosperity; to welcome the stranger; to be brother and sister to the whole human race.” 
Back in 1997, “a moment of world supremacy unlike any other,” Brooks had worried that his countrymen might not seize the opportunity that was presenting itself.  On the cusp of the twenty-first century, he worried that Americans had “discarded their pursuit of national greatness in just about every particular.”  The times called for a leader like Theodore Roosevelt, who wielded that classic “big stick” and undertook monster projects like the Panama Canal.  Yet Americans were stuck instead with Bill Clinton, a small-bore triangulator.  “We no longer look at history as a succession of golden ages,” Brooks lamented.  “And, save in the speeches of politicians who usually have no clue what they are talking about,” America was no longer fulfilling its “special role as the vanguard of civilization.”
By early 2017, with Donald Trump in the White House and Steve Bannon whispering in his ear, matters had become worse still.  Americans had seemingly abandoned their calling outright.  “The Trump and Bannon anschluss has exposed the hollowness of our patriotism,” wrote Brooks, inserting the now-obligatory reference to Nazi Germany.  The November 2016 presidential election had “exposed how attenuated our vision of national greatness has become and how easy it was for Trump and Bannon to replace a youthful vision of American greatness with a reactionary, alien one.”  That vision now threatens to leave America as “just another nation, hunkered down in a fearful world.”
What exactly happened between 1997 and 2017, you might ask?  What occurred during that “moment of world supremacy” to reduce the United States from a nation summoned to redeem humankind to one hunkered down in fear?
Trust Brooks to have at hand a brow-furrowing explanation.  The fault, he explains, lies with an “educational system that doesn’t teach civilizational history or real American history but instead a shapeless multiculturalism,” as well as with “an intellectual culture that can’t imagine providence.”  Brooks blames “people on the left who are uncomfortable with patriotism and people on the right who are uncomfortable with the federal government that is necessary to lead our project.” 
An America that no longer believes in itself -- that’s the problem. In effect, Brooks revises Norma Desmond’s famous complaint about the movies, now repurposed to diagnose an ailing nation: it’s the politics that got small.
Nowhere does he consider the possibility that his formula for “national greatness” just might be so much hooey. Between 1997 and 2017, after all, egged on by people like David Brooks, Americans took a stab at “greatness,” with the execrable Donald Trump now numbering among the eventual results.
Invading Greatness
Say what you will about the shortcomings of the American educational system and the country’s intellectual culture, they had far less to do with creating Trump than did popular revulsion prompted by specific policies that Brooks, among others, enthusiastically promoted. Not that he is inclined to tally up the consequences. Only as a sort of postscript to his litany of contemporary American ailments does he refer even in passing to what he calls the “humiliations of Iraq.”
A great phrase, that. Yet much like, say, the “tragedy of Vietnam” or the “crisis of Watergate,” it conceals more than it reveals.  Here, in short, is a succinct historical reference that cries out for further explanation. It bursts at the seams with implications demanding to be unpacked, weighed, and scrutinized.  Brooks shrugs off Iraq as a minor embarrassment, the equivalent of having shown up at a dinner party wearing the wrong clothes.
Under the circumstances, it’s easy to forget that, back in 2003, he and other members of the Church of America the Redeemer devoutly supported the invasion of Iraq.  They welcomed war.  They urged it. They did so not because Saddam Hussein was uniquely evil -- although he was evil enough -- but because they saw in such a war the means for the United States to accomplish its salvific mission.  Toppling Saddam and transforming Iraq would provide the mechanism for affirming and renewing America’s “national greatness.”
Anyone daring to disagree with that proposition they denounced as craven or cowardly.  Writing at the time, Brooks disparaged those opposing the war as mere “marchers.” They were effete, pretentious, ineffective, and absurd.  “These people are always in the streets with their banners and puppets.  They march against the IMF and World Bank one day, and against whatever war happens to be going on the next... They just march against.”
Perhaps space constraints did not permit Brooks in his recent column to spell out the “humiliations” that resulted and that even today continue to accumulate.  Here in any event is a brief inventory of what that euphemism conceals: thousands of Americans needlessly killed; tens of thousands grievously wounded in body or spirit; trillions of dollars wasted; millions of Iraqis dead, injured, or displaced; this nation’s moral standing compromised by its resort to torture, kidnapping, assassination, and other perversions; a region thrown into chaos and threatened by radical terrorist entities like the Islamic State that U.S. military actions helped foster.  And now, if only as an oblique second-order bonus, we have Donald Trump’s elevation to the presidency to boot.
In refusing to reckon with the results of the war he once so ardently endorsed, Brooks is hardly alone.  Members of the Church of America the Redeemer, Democrats and Republicans alike, are demonstrably incapable of rendering an honest accounting of what their missionary efforts have yielded.
Brooks belongs, or once did, to the Church’s neoconservative branch. But liberals such as Bill Clinton, along with his secretary of state Madeleine Albright, were congregants in good standing, as were Barack Obama and his secretary of state Hillary Clinton.  So, too, are putative conservatives like Senators John McCainTed Cruz, and Marco Rubio, all of them subscribing to the belief in the singularity and indispensability of the United States as the chief engine of history, now and forever.
Back in April 2003, confident that the fall of Baghdad had ended the Iraq War, Brooks predicted that “no day will come when the enemies of this endeavor turn around and say, ‘We were wrong. Bush was right.’" Rather than admitting error, he continued, the war’s opponents “will just extend their forebodings into a more distant future.”
Yet it is the war’s proponents who, in the intervening years, have choked on admitting that they were wrong. Or when making such an admission, as did both John Kerry and Hillary Clinton while running for president, they write it off as an aberration, a momentary lapse in judgment of no particular significance, like having guessed wrong on a TV quiz show. 
Rather than requiring acts of contrition, the Church of America the Redeemer has long promulgated a doctrine of self-forgiveness, freely available to all adherents all the time. “You think our country’s so innocent?” the nation’s 45th president recently barked at a TV host who had the temerity to ask how he could have kind words for the likes of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Observers professed shock that a sitting president would openly question American innocence.
In fact, Trump’s response and the kerfuffle that ensued both missed the point. No serious person believes that the United States is “innocent.” Worshipers in the Church of America the Redeemer do firmly believe, however, that America’s transgressions, unlike those of other countries, don’t count against it. Once committed, such sins are simply to be set aside and then expunged, a process that allows American politicians and pundits to condemn a “killer” like Putin with a perfectly clear conscience while demanding that Donald Trump do the same.
What the Russian president has done in Crimea, Ukraine, and Syria qualifies as criminal. What American presidents have done in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya qualifies as incidental and, above all, beside the point.
Rather than confronting the havoc and bloodshed to which the United States has contributed, those who worship in the Church of America the Redeemer keep their eyes fixed on the far horizon and the work still to be done in aligning the world with American expectations. At least they would, were it not for the arrival at center stage of a manifestly false prophet who, in promising to “make America great again,” inverts all that “national greatness” is meant to signify.
For Brooks and his fellow believers, the call to “greatness” emanates from faraway precincts -- in the Middle East, East Asia, and Eastern Europe.  For Trump, the key to “greatness” lies in keeping faraway places and the people who live there as faraway as possible. Brooks et al. see a world that needs saving and believe that it’s America’s calling to do just that.  In Trump’s view, saving others is not a peculiarly American responsibility. Events beyond our borders matter only to the extent that they affect America’s well-being. Trump worships in the Church of America First, or at least pretends to do so in order to impress his followers.
That Donald Trump inhabits a universe of his own devising, constructed of carefully arranged alt-facts, is no doubt the case. Yet, in truth, much the same can be said of David Brooks and others sharing his view of a country providentially charged to serve as the “successor to Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome.” In fact, this conception of America’s purpose expresses not the intent of providence, which is inherently ambiguous, but their own arrogance and conceit. Out of that conceit comes much mischief. And in the wake of mischief come charlatans like Donald Trump. 
Andrew J. Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular, is the author of America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military Historynow out in paperback.
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Copyright 2017 Andrew J. Bacevich
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Donald Trump and Israel

A Tale of Two Realities: Donald Trump and Israel

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After what came out after the meeting between Netanyahu and Trump, I am not exaggerating if I say that yesterday there was a semi-official announcement of the death of the path of negotiations. Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, Feb 16, 2017
It was supremely wicked, and rapidly meandered into horse muddied waters.  US President Donald J. Trump had openly expressed what many a US politician has felt but avoided for the sake of false decency: the two-state solution regarding Israel and Palestine was “a bad idea”.  There was only one supremo in this fight, and it certainly did not entail the downtrodden in Gaza or the West Bank.
In his consistently inconsistent manner before a press corps he has come to loathe, Trump also claimed that he could, “live with two-state or one-state”: “I’m looking at two-state and one-state and I like the one both parties like. I’m very happy with the one that both parties like.”
Another comment, of the same ilk, was equally gravity defying.  “I thought for a while it looked like the two-state, looked it may be the easier of the two, but honestly if Bibi and if the Palestinians, if Israel and the Palestinians are happy, I’m happy with the one they like the best.”
Not exactly high flying wisdom, given Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s general reluctance about giving ground on the issue, or mixed Palestinian stances on the subject. The general US approach to this has been to back Israel with few qualifications and insist that both sides yield in some undefined manner.
The tone has varied at stages, be it the Clinton guidelines set out at the Camp David summit or the meaningless “road map for peace” outlined at the Annapolis conference by George W. Bush.  The Obama administration kept the circus going, with a few neat additions, and failed.  The bitter icing on these fruitless efforts came from an indignant and frustrated Secretary of State, John Kerry.
Veteran Palestinian negotiator and member of the Palestine Liberation Organisation Hanan Ashrawiwas understandably baffled by this change in the air, though the air on this subject had already thickened with Trump’s election.   “Accommodating the most extreme and irresponsible elements in Israel and in the White House is no way to make responsible foreign policy.”
A livid, ashen-looking Saeb Erekat saw even darker implications.  “Those who believe that they can undermine the two-state solution and replace it with what I call one state two systems – apartheid – I don’t think in the 21st century they will get away with it. It’s impossible.”  Fine sentiments indeed, though states continue “getting away” with atrocious conduct under the cover of law, provided they receive the relevant backing, or impotent complicity.
There was a moment when a bemused Netanyahu was faced with another observation from Trump: that Israel tread carefully on its illegal settlements, that great weapon that continues to render a two-state solution nugatory.
For Trump, the aggressive policy of continued building was perhaps not such a good idea, though there was nothing stopping the state of Israel from pushing on with it in cautious fashion.  “I would like to see you pull back on settlements a little bit.”  “The Art of the Deal!” exclaimed Netanyahu.
The Israeli Prime Minister has been pursuing his own variant of the deal, though there is very little artistic about it. In his Bar-Ilan University speech in 2009, Netanyahu accepted the two-state solution.  Before the 2015 election, he changed his mind, only to repudiate that stance after he won a fourth term.  His current approach is to render any discussion about the Jewish settlement problem irrelevant to the main discussions with the Palestinians.
Such a position is also allied to another, more invidious approach: that of assuming that the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are simply incapable of unifying on the issue of how best to pursue a two-state solution.  The comment from Abba Eben has become something of a reflex: “The Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”
Divided, the Palestinian house has effectively fallen on the sword of a perceived Realpolitik: that a true stance to negotiate over would assume that Israel also include the occupied territories, but within a secular arrangement of equal rights. (This has a certain sinister tone of being different yet equal, though it seems to have wings in some circles.)
Even Erekat noted that vision of “one single secular and democratic state with equal rights for everyone, Christians, Muslims and Jews, on all of historic Palestine.”  That would effectively ditch the notion of Israel as the supreme Jewish state, singular and exclusive, a stance that is nigh impossible to envisage.
It remains to be seen whether that fateful press conference buried the two-state idea with few funeral rites.  If so, such a process can hardy banish the militant misery and indignation that Palestinians will continue to nurse and express.  The implacable enemy within remains the most dangerous of all.
Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

Analyzing the Emerging World Order

Analyzing the Emerging World Order: The Future of Globalism

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GLOBAL-ECONOMY
The global community today is clearly in a state of flux. This is not an aberration – we are in the midst of a normal and periodic global reordering. We shall briefly take a “big picture” look at this phenomenon and attempt to glean an understanding as to the direction that we are heading as citizens of a global society. It is my hope that these observations can foster a more in depth discussion between reasonable people; leading to the development of ideas which can then be implemented to improve the human condition.
Current Paradigm:
We live in a world subdivided by societies: nations and their respective subdivisions. As a matter of fact, there are over 200 nations recognized by the United Nations (UN). We are taught that a society must conform to a binary label such as “free” or “unfree”, “democratic” or “non-democratic” and so on. This is done principally for two reasons – to provide a tautological definition, also for easier control of the masses via manipulation.
The current overarching narrative provides that we are divided between the “western” and “eastern” worlds. What does this really mean? We can distill this down to one principal root: economics. What do we mean by economics? We can say that in it’s purest form, it is simply the structured allocation of finite resources.
Today we are observing the transition from a so called unipolar world, one in which a single nation (or group of allied nations) dictates the terms of life for all global citizens, to a more balanced and natural multipolar world.
The current dominating group, the “western” bloc of nations, is led by the United States along with numerous vassal states; this order has persisted since the end of the Second World War. This construct is held together using a combination of supranational organizations (UN,WTO,World Bank, IMF, et cetera), propaganda (mainstream media complex), armed might (MIC,NATO, private mercenary forces) and chiefly economics (central banks, corporations).
The true “rulers” of this bloc are a cabal of very wealthy and powerful oligarchs that work in the background (shadow banking, dark pool finance, shadow governments, think tanks, NGO’s) to subvert the various sovereignties to their advantage. These oligarchs are the principal owners of, not just the industries and corporations that front for them, but the governments that rule over the masses. Most importantly this cabal owns the means by which real wealth extraction is carried out: fiat currency, chiefly the “worlds reserve currency”- the United States dollar and it’s derivatives. These currencies are backed not by equitable assets; such as natural resources, precious metals or productive capacities; instead they are backed by the creation of debt. Debt that represents a claim on real assets that virtually all participants in global commerce must pay.
How did this cabal come into power? This is a complex question that is subject to many possible answers and interpretations. Briefly, we know from historical fact that a global empire is a central part of this construct, today the United States empire holds that role (previously British, French so on…). This provides the controlling force behind such a cabal. The privately owned quasi-governmental western central banks are at the heart of this operation. They form the crucial nexus between sovereign governments and the financial world in which they derive their revenue stream, and by extension, their power. The current seat of this construct (United States) was founded as a Constitutional Republic. Unfortunately, the United States Constitution is quite amorphous. Using many acts of legislative, executive and even judicial fiat, this cabal has been able to effectively take over the reigns of the nation. With that feat accomplished, near world domination was made possible. A complex web of regulations, laws, and rules; coupled with a financial system few fully comprehend has been put into place across the west. This became the mechanism by which this “new world order” has been enforced.
The unsolvable problem here is that this debt based system is really just an elaborate pyramid scheme predicated on ever increasing amounts of debt in a world where sources of real wealth are finite. At present, the growth rate and the total amount of debt issuance, is outpacing the extraction rate and amount of available reserves of resources on the planet.
A Path Forward?…..
A new bloc of nations has been pushed toward an alliance. This bloc of nations consists of principally China, Russia and Iran (“eastern bloc”). These nations are led by various actors who seem to comprehend the likely nature of the end game inherent to the current financial construction. They are out of necessity seeking a path toward a different and more balanced and hopefully sustainable economic and global governance paradigm.
Not individually formidable, these nations collectively are quite powerful. Lets take a look at the derivation of that power. Firstly we examine a crucial metric: energy, it is well documented that these nations collectively possess enough energy resources to adequately power their economies for a long time. They also possess much of the worlds’ known stores of natural commercial use resources (metals, minerals, rare earth elements).
Additionally, owing in part to technological advances and also to long term changes in the earth’s climate, they possess the means to adequately feed their populations. They are also taking advantage of the fact that scientific knowledge and technological innovation (the key to a sustainable and competitive economy) are geographical location independent, as scientific axioms are immutable and provable anywhere on the planet. Lastly, the differences between these nations is paradoxically what makes them a powerful bloc. As example: China has become the world’s workshop and an innovation leader whilst Russia proper contains large deposits of natural resources, carries very low external debt levels and possesses a very technologically advanced war machine.
Initiatives led by China such as the OBOR (One Belt One Road) infrastructure project, the AIIB (Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank) and the SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization) are aimed at providing distinct alternatives to western backed organizations such as the World Bank, IMF, UN, et cetera. The key piece of this strategy seems to be the use of the fiat system itself to fund the accumulation of tangible assets (businesses, technologies, resources, PM’s).
These assets can be then be utilized as a hedge against probable future turbulence with the current western based fiat regime. Why are these nations not publicly clamoring for this system to be dismantled sooner rather then later? First of all, this is a dangerous proposition, as they would likely be economically punished (Greece, Brazil) or worse, suffer an armed attack/invasion (Iraq, Libya). One just needs to observe the large amount of vitriol directed toward these nations in the western mainstream press to connect theses dots – these nations surely get the message. Secondly, they are slowly dissolving this system on their own terms (direct bilateral trade agreements via own currencies, accumulation of PM’s as a potential partial backing to their respective currencies). As of now, these nations are taking advantage of the current system to build up their economies and national infrastructures for the long term. As an example, Russia and China have begun co-developing a wide body passenger aircraft using their respective indigenous technologies and knowledge bases. These activities are made possible by their embedment into the current monetary system.
Conclusion:
For the human condition to improve, the following possible actions should be taken under serious consideration.
The western fiat currency regime should be dissolved, most outstanding debts should be extinguished (debt jubilee, massive write offs, large scale revaluations), and national sovereignty must regain prominence across the entire globe.
A balanced financial system based principally on equitable assets must take the place of the current debt based system. Sovereign governments should look to take on the crucial role as their own primary issuer of currency; this of course would require much more honest and transparent governments’ than we currently have in place.
A new system of loose decentralized global governance should be constructed to act as an impartial arbiter in geopolitical and economic affairs. These are but a few of the possible reforms that could be made to affect a more intelligent paradigm of globalism. Whether the alternative system(s) being pursued by the emergent eastern bloc will fulfill these objectives still remains to be seen, as big challenges remain, e.g. environmental degradation.
The best outcome for the world at large is a general reset of sorts. A new paradigm in which malinvestments are discouraged and cleared away, success and effort are rewarded, and opportunity for all is sought as a societal virtue, should be pursued. Worse case is a long term continuation of the current system. This outcome is likely to lead to increasing levels of civil and political unrest, and possible widespread conflict as the planet’s capacity to support the growth rates demanded by a debt based system is diminished by a declining real ROI.
L. Duran,  Originally trained in STEM field, seeking to gain a deeper understanding and foster further knowledge of the world at large beyond the mainstream media narrative. This article is an academic oriented overview of the current and possible future paradigm vis a vis the balance of power on the planet, includes some possible reforms to improve the human condition for all citizens.