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

  • I.F. Stone

zaterdag 9 maart 2013

The Empire 904




Hollywood’s Propaganda


“Movies have become a happy arm of the United States government as they advocate for violence and war crimes.”



There isn’t any part of popular culture which allows the citizens of this country to escape the glorification of American imperialism. One can’t watch a football game without seeing an honor guard present the colors, or soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, or in the worst case scenario a flyover of military jets. Commercials advertising everything from cars to dog food present endless images of soldiers returning home from the battlefield.
The movie industry has embraced the glorification of militarism and American violence practiced abroad as eagerly as professional sports or advertising. There is scarcely a big budget action movie whose plot doesn’t include a scene on an aircraft carrier and even children’s cartoons and games are brought back to life with story lines made in cooperation with the Department of Defense.
Now the propaganda has migrated from the backdrop of action movies to being the focal point of serious drama. Two recently commercially successful and award winning movies were all about the empire. They were praised by critics and popular with audiences as they spread vicious lies and or defended the worst impulses of the American government.
Osama bin Laden had barely taken his last breath when Hollywood gave the green light to dramatize the story of his assassination. The film Zero Dark Thirty filled the bill, complete with a validation of torture, which is considered a war crime nearly everywhere on earth except the United States.
The producers of Zero Dark Thirty were given access to classified documents, an action which ought to have impugned the film makers’ integrity and made it unacceptable to audiences and critics. The Obama administration forgot about its draconian whistle blower punishments in order to make sure that the president and his policies were lionized on film.
While in one instance propaganda demanded a speedy take on history, in another case an old story suddenly became interesting. Thirty years after Americans were taken hostage at their embassy in Iran, Hollywood came calling at an opportune moment politically. Argo won an Academy Award at the precise moment that the Obama administration is making its most serious case for war against Iran. The story of the six hostages who escaped to the Canadian embassy would seem to be interesting enough on its own merits, but the filmmakers added a climactic but completely fictional chase down an airport runway just in case any viewers didn’t hate Iranians enough by the end of the movie. Not to be outdone in the propaganda department, the lead role was played by a white actor when the real life and still living protagonist, Antonio Mendez, is Latino.
If there was any doubt that government propaganda was the order of the day in entertainment, first lady Michelle Obama presented the best picture award for Argo at the Oscars. She was surrounded by military personnel in uniform as she did so.
It is a little known fact that the Central Intelligence Agency has a film office. Its entertainment industry liaison office came into being in the 1990s and has been used to by movie and television producers to shape the agency’s image. Of course, that means lying about history. The producers of Argo gave passing recognition of the CIA operation which over threw a democratic government in Iran and placed a monarch in power in the early 1950s. They didn’t raise the question of why all the hostages weren’t released until Ronald Reagan’s inauguration day or delve into charges that his administration thwarted Jimmy Carter’s efforts to end the standoff.
There was a time when the entertainment industry promoted an anti-establishment counter culture, consciously creating a space for nonconformity. Movies and music were means of escaping the dictates of the status quo. Now they are part and parcel of the establishment and leave no outlet for true creativity or independent thought. Movies have become a happy arm of the United States government as they advocate for violence and war crimes to be carried out around the world.
Hollywood is after all an important part of corporate media. Like other media, it is now shaped by fewer and fewer players, with large conglomerates replacing the creative people who once made films interesting. The endless sequels and big budget action movies now comprise most of what we can expect to see at the multiplex. In a country becoming more and more imperialistic every day, it isn’t surprising to see the Pentagon’s world view on screen.
While not surprising, it shouldn’t be acceptable. If Barack Obama or any other president declares that there will be war against Iran, then most Americans will approve. Sadly, that approval will be even harder to fight against if the powerful and appealing images seen on the silver screen are perceived to be part of the call to arms.

'Deskundigen' 128



Just why is Disney such a threat? The primary reason is that his products, necessitated and facilitated by a huge industrial capitalist empire are imported together with so many other consumer objects into the dependent country, which is dependent precisely because it depends on commodities arising economically and intellectually in the power center’s totally alien (foreign) conditions. Our countries are exporters of raw materials, and importers of superstructural and cultural goods. To service our ‘monoproduct’ economies and provide urban paraphernalia, we send copper, and they send machines to extract copper, and, of course, Coca Cola. Behind the Coca Cola stands a whole structure of expectations and models of behavior, and with it, a particular kind of present and future society, and an interpretation of the past. As we import the industrial product conceived, packaged and labeled abroad, and sold to the profit of the rich foreign uncle, at the same time we also import the foreign cultural forms of that society, but without their context: the advanced capitalist social conditions upon which they are based. It is historically proven that the dependent countries have been maintained in dependency by the continued international division of labor which restricts any development capable of leading to economic independence.
Dorfman en Mattelart. How To Read Donald Duck. Imperialist Ideology in the Disney Comic. 1975

These early Puritans had a kink in their ideology; when they went wrong, they went very, very wrong. Devoted to the ideal of a corporate community guided by a strong moral sense, they developed a great talent for misinterpreting any opposition. From the outside, for example, they were prone to view the Indians as agents of the Devil waiting to test their convictions…

This propensity to place Evil outside their system not only distorted the Puritans’ own doctrine, it inclined them toward a solution which involved the extension of their own system over others. Here was a subtle convergence of religious and secular ideas, for mercantilism emphasized the necessity as well as the desirability of expansion in economic and political affairs.
William Appleman Williams. The Contours Of American History. 1961


America… Wherever the standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be unfurled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad, in search of monsters to destroy. She is the well-wisher to the freedom and independence of all. She is the champion and vindicator only of her own. She will commend the general cause by the countenance of her voice, and the benignant sympathy of her example. She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even the banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy, and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom. The fundamental maxims of her policy would insensibly change from liberty to force. The frontlet on her brows would no longer beam with the ineffable splendor of freedom and independence; but in its stead would soon be substituted an imperial diadem, flashing in false and tarnished lustre the murky radiance of dominion and power. She might become the dictatress of the world; she would be no longer the ruler of her own spirit… Her glory is not dominion, but liberty. Her march is the march of the mind. She has a spear and a shield: but the motto upon her shield is, Freedom, Independence, Peace. This has been her Declaration: this has been, as far as her necessary intercourse with the rest of mankind would permit, her practice.
President John Quincy Adams. Independence Day address. 1821

The inconstancy of American foreign policy is not an accident but an expression of two distinct sides of the American character. Both are characterized by a kind of moralism, but one is the morality of decent instincts tempered by knowledge of human imperfection and the other is the morality of absolute self-assurance fired by the crusading spirit.
Senator J. William Fulbright. The Arrogance of Power. 1966


To His Excellency, the Secretary of State of the Republic of the United States, Delegate to the Peace Conference

Excellency,

We take the liberty of submitting to you the accompanying memorandum setting forth the claims of the Annamite people on the occasion of the Allied victory. We count on your kindness to honor our appeal by your support whenever the opportunity arises. We beg your Excellency graciously to accept the expression of our profound respect.
Since the victory of the allies, all subject peoples are frantic with hope at the prospect of an era of right and justice which should begin for them by virtue of the formal and solemn engagements, made before the whole world by the various powers and the entente in the struggle of civilization against barbarism. While waiting for the principle of national self-determination to pass from ideal to reality through the effective recognition of the sacred right of all peoples to decide their own destiny, the inhabitants of the ancient Empire of Annam, at the present time French Indochina, present to the noble Governments of the entente in general and the honorable French Government the following humble claims:

1) General amnesty for all native people who have been condemned for political activity.
2) Reform of the Indochinese justice system by granting to the native population the same judicial guarantees as the Europeans have and the total suppression of the special courts which are the instruments of terrorization and oppression against the most responsible elements of the Annamite people.
3) Freedom of Press.
4) Freedom to associate freely.
5) Freedom to emigrate and to travel abroad.
6) Freedom of education, and creation in every province of technical and professional schools for the native population.
7) Replacement of the regime of arbitrary decrees by a regime of law.
For the Group of Annamite Patriots
Signed] Nguyen Ai Quoc
56, rue Monsieur le Prince-Paris
Ho Chi Minh. Memorandum aan Robert Lansing, Amerikaanse minister van Buitenlandse Zaken. 18 juni 1919



De Amerikaanse diplomaten horen tot de beste ter wereld… De Verenigde Staten hebben de hand gehad in talloze vredesonderhandelingen, niet zelden met succes. Het waren Amerikaanse presidenten, Wilson en Roosevelt, die de aanzet gaven tot een hele reeks internationale instituten die, ondanks alle problemen, een begin van orde brachten in de mondiale politiek en economie… De Amerikaanse politiek bleef sterk antikolonialistisch… Het land fungeerde… decennialang als ordebewaker en politieagent – om maar te zwijgen van alle hulp die het uitdeelde. En nog steeds zijn de Verenigde Staten het anker van het hele Atlantische deel van de wereld in de ruimste zin van het woord.
Geert Mak. Reizen zonder John. Op zoek naar Amerika. 2012

How did Woodrow Wilson address imperialism? Address it? He founded the rhetoric that every imperialist war has been based on in the last 80 years. He is practically the father of modern American imperialism. His act of addressing imperialism was his Fourteen Points, which were really only meant to give America economic access to the colonies of the European empires.
Open Door imperialism consisted of using U.S. political power to guarantee access to foreign markets and resources on terms favorable to American corporate interests, without relying on direct political rule. Its central goal was to obtain for U.S. merchandise, in each national market, treatment equal to that afforded any other industrial nation. Most importantly, this entailed active engagement by the U.S. government in breaking down the imperial powers' existing spheres of economic influence or preference. The result, in most cases, was to treat as hostile to U.S. security interests any large-scale attempt at autarky, or any other policy whose effect was to withdraw a major area from the disposal of U.S. corporations. When the power attempting such policies was an equal, like the British Empire, the U.S. reaction was merely one of measured coolness. When it was perceived as an inferior, like Japan, the U.S. resorted to more forceful measures, as events of the late 1930s indicate. And whatever the degree of equality between advanced nations in their access to Third World markets, it was clear that Third World nations were still to be subordinated to the industrialized West in a collective sense. Indeed, one thinks that Kautsky had the Open Door in mind in formulating his theory of ‘ultra-imperialism,’ in which the developed capitalist nations cooperated to exploit the Third World collectively.

This Open Door system was the direct ancestor of today's neoliberal system, which is falsely called ‘free trade’ in the apologetics of court intellectuals. It depended on active management of the world economy by dominant states, and continuing intervention to police the international economic order and enforce sanctions against states which did not cooperate. Woodrow Wilson, in a 1907 lecture at Columbia University, said:

Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed must be battered down.... Concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process. Colonies must be obtained or planted, in order that no useful corner of the world may be overlooked or left unused. Peace itself becomes a matter of conference and international combinations.

Wilson warned during the 1912 election that ‘Our industries have expanded to such a point that they will burst their jackets if they cannot find a free [that is, guaranteed by the state] outlet to the markets of the world.’

In a 1914 address to the National Foreign Trade Convention, Secretary of Commerce Redfield followed very nearly the same theme:

...we have learned the lesson now, that our factories are so large that their output at full time is greater than America's market can continuously absorb. We know now that if we will run full time all the time, we must do it by reason of the orders we take from lands beyond the sea. To do less than that means homes in America in which the husbands are without work; to do that means factories that are shut down part of the time.
Kevin A. Carson. ’Open Door Imperialism’ Through the 1930s. Studies in Mutualist Political Economy. 2007



On Feb. 28, 1946 -- 66 years ago today -- President Harry Truman received a telegram from an Asian leader who would come to play a major, major role in U.S. foreign policy.
Ho Chi Minh.
Ho asked Truman to help the fledgling Vietnamese nation in its battle with French colonialists.
‘I therefore most earnestly appeal to you personally and to the American people to interfere urgently in support of our independence and help making the negotiations more in keeping with the principles of the Atlantic and San Francisco charters,’
said the telegram. The request was ignored.
USA Today. When Ho Chi Minh wrote President Truman. 28 februari 2012

Het is nagenoeg onmogelijk om in de mainstream media het beeld dat westerse opiniemakers als Geert Mak geven te nuanceren, laat staan fundamenteel te bekritiseren. Het beeld moet blijven bestaan dat onder andere president Wilson ‘de aanzet’ gaf tot het ‘begin van orde… in de mondiale politiek en economie.’ Feiten spelen geen rol in deze propaganda, die worden domweg verzwegen om ervoor te zorgen dat de ‘geheime liefde’ voor het ‘droomland’ kan blijven bestaan. 

De waarschuwing van de zesde president van de VS, John Quincy Adams, zoon van de tweede president van het land, is vergeefs geweest. De VS is al meer dan een eeuwin search of monsters to destroy’ ‘to guarantee access to foreign markets and resources on terms favorable to American corporate interests.’  En ook al verklaarde een president als Woodrow Wilson zelfs dat ‘since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed must be battered down’ dan nog zullen westerse mainstream-opiniemakers volhouden dat tot het uitbreken van de Koude Oorlog de ‘Amerikaanse politiek sterk antikolonialistisch [bleef].’ Ook al wees Fulbright als langst zittende voorzitter van de Senate Foreign Relations Committee op het feit dat de Amerikaanse buitenlandse politiek gevoed wordt door the morality of absolute self-assurance fired by the crusading spirit,’ dan nog verandert dit niet de beweringen van de officiele spreekbuizen van de mach. 

Ook al verklaarde president Woodrow Wilson dat ‘concessions obtained by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process,’  dan nog zal Mak in zijn mainstream-reisboek waarin hij ‘op zoek naar Amerika,’ is, staande houden dat de VS ‘decennialang als ordebewaker en politieagent [fungeerde] – om maar te zwijgen van alle hulp die het uitdeelde.’ De behoudende Amerikaanse historicus Walter A. McDougall mag dan wel concluderen dat  de VS ‘beginning in 1898… canonized a new foreign policy testament,’ hetgeen heeft geleid tot een moderne variant van het aloude Europese kolonialisme, toch zullen onze westerse opiniemakers in de commerciele massamedia dit blijven ontkennen. In de huidige virtuele wereld is het beeld overtuigender geworden dan de werkelijkheid. En omdat mainstream-opiniemakers als Mak 'niet zonder hoop' kunnen 'Stan, dat klinkt misschien wat pathetisch, maar het is toch zo,’ moet permanent de schijn van normaliteit worden opgehouden. In The Image schreef de Amerikaanse historicus Daniel J. Boorstin:

One of the deepest and least remarkable features of the Age of Contrivance is what I would call the mirror effect. Nearly everything we do to enlarge our world, to make life more interesting, more varied, more exiting, more vivid, more ‘fabulous,’ more promising, in the long run has an opposite effect. In the extravagance of our expectations and in our ever increasing power, we transform elusive dreams into graspable images within which each of us can fit. By doing so we mark our boundaries of our world with a wall of mirrors. Our strenuous and elaborate efforts to enlarge experience have the unintended result of narrowing it. In frenetic quest for the unexpected, we end by finding only the unexpectedness we have planned for ourselves. We meet ourselves coming back. A Hollywood love triangle, according to Leo Rosten (joodse humorist svh), consists of an actor, his wife, and himself. All of us are now entangled with ourselves. Everywhere we see ourselves in the mirror.

En zo overtuigt de mainstream zichzelf. Overal praten de woordvoerders van de macht elkaar na. Overal klinkt de officieel gesanctioneerde versie van de werkelijkheid. Overal worden versleten denkbeelden weerspiegeld, net zo vaak en net zolang totdat de meerderheid niets anders meer kan zien dan de oneindige weerspiegeling. Meer daarover maandag. 


Noam Chomsky 69


Article image
Published: Friday 8 March 2013
If we keep to really existing capitalist democracy—RECD for short—the question is effectively answered: They are radically incompatible.
There is “capitalism” and then there is “really existing capitalism.”
The term “capitalism” is commonly used to refer to the U.S. economic system, with substantial state intervention ranging from subsidies for^ @creative innovation to the “too-big-to-fail” government insurance policy for banks.
The system is highly monopolized, further limiting reliance on the market, and increasingly so: In the past 20 years the share of profits of the 200 largest enterprises has risen sharply, reports scholar Robert W. McChesney in his new book “Digital Disconnect.”
“Capitalism” is a term now commonly used to describe systems in which there are no capitalists: for example, the worker-owned Mondragon conglomerate in the Basque region of Spain, or the worker-owned enterprises expanding in northern Ohio, often with conservative support – both are discussed in important work by the scholar Gar Alperovitz.
Some might even use the term “capitalism” to refer to the industrial democracy advocated by John Dewey, America’s leading social philosopher, in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
Dewey called for workers to be “masters of their own industrial fate” and for all institutions to be brought under public control, including the means of production, exchange, publicity, transportation and communication. Short of this, Dewey argued, politics will remain “the shadow cast on society by big business.”
The truncated democracy that Dewey condemned has been left in tatters in recent years. Now control of government is narrowly concentrated at the peak of the income scale, while the large majority “down below” has been virtually disenfranchised. The current political-economic system is a form of plutocracy, diverging sharply from democracy, if by that concept we mean political arrangements in which policy is significantly influenced by the public will.
There have been serious debates over the years about whether capitalism is compatible with democracy. If we keep to really existing capitalist democracy – RECD for short – the question is effectively answered: They are radically incompatible.

Zionist Terror 111


The famous Egyptian journalist Mohammad Hasanein Haykal once related a conversation he had with the late Syrian President Hafez El-Assad with Assad expressing bewilderment: "How in the thousands of very able American diplomats, only Jewish diplomats (often Zionists) are the ones sent to us as intermediaries in the political negotiations for peace with the Israelis?! Dennis Ross is a case in point.

Dennis Ross is not the problem or the issue; he is merely a very visible symptom of the problem, which is the total inability of the United States to act as a truly impartial mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian and wider Arab-Israeli conflicts.
                                                                                                 Issa
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The Diplomatic Serial Failures
Rami G. Khouri

NEW YORK -- Understandably, Middle East circles in the United States these days increasingly speculate about whether President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry will explore opportunities for re-launching peace negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. Less understandable is why a leading American publication -- the New York Times’ Sunday Review section -- should turn for advice on this issue from former diplomat Dennis Ross, who wrote a full page article in the paper last Sunday offering his 14 points on how Palestinians and Israelis could move ahead towards a successful negotiation.

I say this is less understandable because Ross has almost nothing but failure to show for his 11 years of leadership on Arab-Israeli and other Middle Eastern issues in the White House and State Department, between 1993 and 2011. Only in Washington, D.C. could a serial failure in Arab-Israeli diplomacy like Ross be consulted on how to move ahead in Arab-Israeli diplomacy.

Never mind that when he left government he returned to a senior position at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, an intellectual cutting edge of the pro-Israel lobby groups in the United States. Never mind also that his many years in pivotal positions in government service, at a decisive historical era when all the stars were aligned for a breakthrough in Arab-Israeli peace-making, resulted in no practical achievement that I can see or that is visible to the public.

It is enough to read his SundayNew York Timesarticle to be reminded of why the United States government failed miserably and repeatedly in Middle East mediation. He sees the most fundamental problem between most Israelis and Palestinians as disbelief that peace is possible. He recommends that simultaneous trust-building measures by Israelis and Palestinians could prod them to “chip away at the sources of each side’s disbelief about the other’s commitment to a genuine two-state solution.”

This is quite nonsensical and totally unrealistic, as evidenced partly by the fact that this approach has been tried a hundred times in recent decades, always without success. The reasons why Ross and the United States have been such chronic diplomatic under-achievers are evident in the thrust of his 14 proposals.

He seems to see the Israeli-Palestinian conflict solely as a consequence of the 1967 war, with resolution coming through agreeing on how to apportion the Palestinian lands that Israel now occupies and colonizes. He recommends that Israel declare that it will only build new houses in land within the “security barrier,” meaning “only in about 8% of the West Bank.” He assumes that Israel can now keep the land within what he and Israelis call the “security barrier” (Palestinians call it the “Apartheid Wall,” the rest of the world mostly calls it the “separation wall,” so his using the Israeli vocabulary might be telling, or perhaps it’s just the randomness of the English language in the unique world of pro-Israeli Washington, D.C. think tanks).

His suggestions for Israelis and Palestinians focus heavily on the Israeli need to live in peace with secure and recognized borders. He asks Palestinians to make several gestures in this respect, yet simultaneously omits any mention of the two central issues for the Palestinians, which are the status of Jerusalem and resolving the Palestinian refugees issue from 1947-48. His recommendations for Israeli gestures are all within the context of Israel’s continued colonial control of the West Bank. He waves Israeli needs like a victory banner, but buries Palestinian needs like an irrelevant rag.

He wants the Palestinians to commit to the reality of two states for Israelis and Palestinians, but ignores that the Palestinian government and all other Arab states have long offered Israel a permanent peace agreement in the Arab peace plan of 2002 -- which the United States and Israel have refused to engage with.

Dennis Ross himself, of course, is not the problem or the issue; he is merely a very visible symptom of the problem, which is the total inability of the United States to act as a truly impartial mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian and wider Arab-Israeli conflicts.

I can think of three possible reasons why the United States and Ross have been such inept diplomatic interlocutors. Perhaps they are ignorant of the real issues, which is not the case. Perhaps they do not really want a comprehensive peace, which is also unlikely. Perhaps they simply do not have the leeway to address the core needs and rights of both sides, given Washington’s powerful tilt towards the Israeli position on almost all issues. Ross’ latest article clarifies that he and his government are failed mediators probably because they see the main issues mainly through the Israeli lens, rather than impartially seeking the core rights of both sides.

The U.S. government did mediate successfully when it patiently and resolutely helped to broker the Northern Ireland peace agreement. If you want to understand better why it is unable to do the same thing in the Middle East, read page 12 of the March 3, 2013New York TimesSunday Review.


Rami G. Khouri is Editor-at-large ofThe Daily Star, and Director of the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut, in Beirut, Lebanon. You can follow him @ramikhouri.

Copyright © 2013 Rami G. Khouri -- distributed by Agence Global

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Released: 06 March 2013