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

  • I.F. Stone

zaterdag 2 januari 2016

Vluchtelingenstroom 49

In de essaybundel The Short American Century. A Postmortem (2012) stelt de gezaghebbende Amerikaanse hoogleraar geschiedenis Emily S. Rosenberg in haar bijdrage 'Consuming the American Century' ondermeer het volgende: 

Consumerism was the 'ism' that 'won' the ideological battles of the twentieth  century. As in the United States itself, the mass consumerist averting complex became adept at appealing within and across lines of nationality, region, ethnicity, gender, class, and ideology. Consumerism 'won' less because it implied 'Americanization' than because its appeals proved so globally adaptive that it ceased to be seen as American at all…

The historian Charles Maier has analyzed how, in the late 1960s and 1970s, America's 'empire of production,' which had sought exports for the nation's vigorous productive capacity, became an 'empire of consumption,' accumulating larger and larger trade imbalances by consuming an ever greater percentage of goods made elsewhere.  As an 'empire of production,' the United States had run trade surpluses and was a capital lender in the world economy. As an 'empire of consumption,' the United States increasingly ran trade deficits. To feed its appetite for less expensive imported goods — and growing quantities of imported oil — it slowly but inexorably, became the world's greatest debtor.' America's citizens, for whom consumerism seemed by now almost a birthright, gradually stoked lower-cost production and oil-based energy sectors elsewhere. The market that the world had once been to America, America became to the world. 

Accompanying this trend, of course, the very largest firms became globalized and relocated operations, and even management, to widely scattered and often mobile locations. This globalization of production, accompanied by flexible manufacturing techniques, accelerated  during and after the 1970s, as business reduced costs by exporting production and jobs. On the domestic front, the globalization of production and increasing energy dependence yielded unsettling effects. During the 1970s, stagflation and deindustrialization became signatures of  how the 'shock of the global' might transform the lives of middle-class Americans: lower prices for many consumer goods would be linked to downward pressures on wages. 

Hoe is het te verklaren dat Emily Rosenberg de omslag binnen het kapitalisme al geruime tijd doorhad, terwijl Geert Mak, een Nederlandse journalist die in de polder doorgaat voor één van de grote Europese historici, nog in 2004 met grote stelligheid concludeerde dat 'Europa als vredeproces een eclatant succes' was en 'Europa als economische eenheid ook een eind op weg [is],' en dat hij dus niets zag van wat zich recht voor zijn ogen voltrok? Het antwoord is simpel: Rosenberg is een wetenschapster, geschoold in een groot en machtig land, een intellectueel die al in het begin van de jaren tachtig het uitgebreid gedocumenteerde boek SPREADING THE AMERICAN DREAM. American Economic and Cultural Expansion, 1890-1945 (1982) schreef, waarbij zij 'in examining the economic and cultural trends that expressed America's expansionist impulse during the first half of the twentieth century, shows how U.S. foreign relations evolved from a largely private system to an increasingly public one and how, soon, the American dream became global.' Daarentegen is Geert Mak een ideoloog, opgegroeid in een kleinburgerlijk milieu in een klein land waar, aldus 'onze' grootste historicus Johan Huizinga, 'Hypocrisie en farizeïsme hier individu en gemeenschap [belagen]!' en de Nederlander 'een lichte graad van knoeierij of bevoorrechting van vriendjes zonder protest verdraagt.' Sterker nog, deze corrupte houding wordt door de gevestigde orde aangeprezen als één van de verworvenheden van het poldermodel. Het onvermogen om de werkelijk te zien voor wat die is, verklaart waarom ook Henk Hofland, 'door zijn vakgenoten uitgeroepen tot "Journalist van de eeuw,"' in 2015 ongestoord kon laten weten dat hij 'nog altijd bij voorkeur onder Amerikaanse leiding,' de toekomst in wil, niet beseffend wat er op economisch en daarmee op geopolitiek gebied werkelijk aan het gebeuren is. Het ideologische filter van de mainstream dat het zicht op de werkelijkheid vertekent, is tevens de reden waarom een Atlanticus als NRC's Hubert Smeets de Russische Federatie, en indirect haar bondgenoten, onweersproken kan blijven demoniseren als het grote gevaar van Europa. Een andere onwetende is de huidige adjunct-hoofdredacteur van NRC Handelsblad, Egbert Kalse, die als economisch redacteur, begin oktober 2008, in nrc.next de financiële crisis tegenover een collega als volgt toelichtte:

Jij vraagt je natuurlijk af waarom jouw bank in Nederland in hemelsnaam in Amerikaanse hypotheken gaat beleggen? Dat komt omdat ze dachten daar meer geld mee te kunnen verdienen dan met andere beleggingen. Iedereen (dan bedoel ik voor de verandering maar weer eens echt iedereen) dacht dat de huizenprijzen in Amerika altijd zouden blijven stijgen. Dom natuurlijk, maar zo was het wel. En omdat iedereen dat dacht, dacht ook iedereen dat het wel veilig was daarin te beleggen. Niet dus.

Dat Angelsaksische economen en journalisten al in 2004 voor de onvermijdelijke kredietcrisis waarschuwden, zowel op internet als in boekvorm, was Kalse als 'deskundige' volledig ontgaan, omdat kritische beschouwingen niet sporen met zijn ideologisch mens en wereldbeeld. In het inmiddels ter ziele gegane personeelskrantje van de Hilversumse omroepmedewerkers beweerde op zijn beurt de VPRO-televisie-journalist Chris Kijne in april 2012 met grote stelligheid:

Het punt is: er is niemand die het antwoord weet. Er zijn heel veel schreeuwers  en blaters en kwakers met een mening –- ik heb er ook wel eens één — maar de kern van de zaak is dat er de afgelopen decennia een financieel systeem is ontstaan dat zo groot is, en zo ondoorgrondelijk en zo losgezongen van de werkelijke economie, dat niemand meer kan inschatten hoe het in elkaar zit.

Het opmerkelijke is dat Kijne zijn publiek laat weten dat hem volstrekt is ontgaan wat er onder zijn neus aan het gebeuren was, en tegelijkertijd met een schaamteloze brutaliteit beweert dat 'niemand meer kan inschatten hoe het in elkaar zit,' terwijl er toch talloze in het Engels geschreven publicaties waren verschenen waarin exact uiteen werd gezet 'hoe het in elkaar zit.' Een voorbeeld daarvan is het boek The Decline Of Capitalism. Can a Self-Regulated Profits System Survive? uit 2004 van de Britse econoom Harry Shutt die op het volgende wees:

Thus as the 1980s unfolded it was increasingly evident that the neoliberal ideology which was supposed to have supplanted the Keynesian model based on extensive state intervention was in fact hopelessly undermined by the private sector’s incurable addiction to public subsidy and protection. Yet the dangerous implications of this reality -- effectively concealed from the majority of the public by an establishment propaganda smokescreen, combined with extensive measures indicating that the frontiers of the state were indeed being rolled back -- were for long scarcely recognized, 

en worden nog steeds niet erkend door bijvoorbeeld het VVD-PVDA kabinet, getuige het bezuinigingsbeleid onder het motto dat ‘de verzorgingsstaat' moet veranderen in ‘een participatiesamenleving,’ en dat ‘van iedereen die dat kan, gevraagd [wordt] om verantwoordelijkheid te nemen,’ zoals dit in neoliberale Newspeak heet. ‘Van iedereen die dat kan,’ behalve dan van de banken die met miljarden aan belastinggeld overeind werden gehouden, om slechts één voorbeeld te geven van de subsidies aan de niets producerende financiële macht. Afgezien hiervan zijn er vele belastingvoordelen voor degenen met een vermogen. Dit zijn politieke keuzes die de werkloosheid niet oplossen maar juist vergroten. Shutt:

by giving private enterprise, particularly in the financial sector, increased license to create and allocate credit while yet maintaining an implicit or explicit guarantee that the state would underwrite any major losses, the authorities were giving a powerful incentive to irresponsible, or even criminal, behavior. This phenomenon, referred to by the few who have been willing to recognize its existence as ‘moral hazard,’ defines the essentially fraudulent nature of the neoliberal prospectus. For while, as noted above, the corporate, mixed-economy model of the post-war era had always implicitly assumed a trade-off between state support for the private sector and the latter’s obligation to help meet the collective economic goals of the community, the moral hazard model actually provided an incentive to anti-social conduct. Moreover, in a climate of intensifying stagnation, where corporate profitability was ever harder to sustain at minimum acceptable levels, the temptation for corporate managers not merely to allocate funds to excessively risky investment but to resort to outright fraud became increasingly irresistible. 

Omdat de werkelijkheid zelden past in de ideologische voorstelling ervan, wist de 'vrije pers' van niets, en verkocht zij haar publiek knollen voor citroenen.  De academicus  Shutt wist al een decennium geleden:

It is thus ironic to reflect that Keynesianism, long hailed as the savior of the capitalist system, may have turned into the key instrument of its ultimate ruin. For, by drawing private enterprise into such lasting dependence on public subsidy, it may well be judged to have set capitalism on a path of decline from which it may never be able to recover.

 In The Decline Of Capitalism constateerde hij:

Had either the Keynesians or their opponents been concerned to identify the true causes of the 1970’s downturn, they would surely have recognized that it was indeed the result of deficient demand; or, more precisely, that the prolonged post-war boom had been fed by a level of unsatisfied demand which was wholly exceptional and unsustainable. While there may be some dispute as to precisely what made the post-war period so unusual in this regard, it seems clear that it was primarily a function of (a) the massive need for reconstruction in war-shattered Europa and Japan and (b) the huge pent-up demand for consumer goods (and services) that had arisen during the Depression years of the 1930s and the succeeding period of war-time austerity. 

Tenzij de financiële en politieke elite van het Westen bereid is opnieuw een alles verwoestende oorlog te beginnen, zal zij zich moeten aanpassen aan de nieuwe werkelijkheid, namelijk een afnemende groei. Maar dat kan het kapitalisme niet accepteren, omdat het nu eenmaal gebaseerd is op winstmaximalisatie, en dus op de ideologie van de groei. Vandaar dat de NAVO, onder aanvoering van de VS, nu aanstuurt op een gewapend conflicten met Rusland en China. Het kapitalisme is de leer van de onverzadigbaarheid, van het alles of niets. Dat is tevens de reden van alle reclame. Zodra de consument verzadigd is, stort de consumptiemaatschappij tenslotte ineen. Toen in de jaren zeventig van de vorige eeuw het oude Keynesiaans model niet meer werkte, waarbij de staat de industriële vraag en aanbod stimuleerde, sloegen de neoliberale ideologen hun slag. Shutt:

Indeed, by the early 1980s they were eagerly proclaiming that by radically liberalizing markets and ‘rolling back the frontiers of the state’ they would be able to achieve the sustained growth that had eluded the exponents of Keynesian doctrine.

Maar voor de verregaande consequenties op langere termijn van deze ingrijpende historische omslag hadden de Nederlandse mainstream-journalisten geen oog. Ze dreven mee met de ideologische stroom, pasten zich aan en zochten wegen om er zoveel mogelijk van te kunnen profiteren, zoals ik al die tijd van nabij heb gemerkt. Zeker toen in de jaren negentig op grote schaal met niet bestaand geld werd gespeculeerd, kregen mijn collega's de indruk dat ook zij rijk konden worden door de handel in lucht. Het kon maar niet op, het geld leek op straat te liggen, de commerciële pers was euforisch, en de PVDA-voorman Wim Kok belichaamde de tijdgeest door met veel ophef zijn socialistische veren af te schudden, aangezien er volgens hem geen alternatief meer was voor de neoliberale heilsleer. Iedereen mocht en moest zelfs meedoen! Dat wil zeggen: iedereen met geld. Slechts zeer weinigen beseften dat achter alle geldtransacties, die elke seconde wereldwijd plaatsvonden (en nog steeds plaatsvinden), van alles zat... behalve geld. Degenen die te veel scrupules bezaten om aan het graaien mee te doen, werden gemarginaliseerd door de goed betaalde spreekbuizen van de nieuwe neoliberale wanorde en hun opdrachtgevers. Er was volop werk voor opportunisten en conformisten. De rest kreeg het moeilijk. Shutt:

At the same time the establishment resorted to propagating the fantasy that sustained economic growth would revive if only short-term sacrifices were made -- that is, restrictions on wage rises and welfare benefits -- and strict anti-inflationary  policies adopted. This inevitably entailed a tacit retreat from the post-war commitment of full employment and social equity in favour of the corporate agenda -- exemplified by the savage decimation of British industrial capacity brought about by the Thatcher administration in 1980-82. But progressively, as sustained recovery proved illusory -- with recession returning at the start of the 1980s -- the whole strategy became less plausible. A particularly obvious symptom of its failure was that public sector deficits began to rise as a result of continuing stagnation in output growth, resulting in increased calls on public funds -- not least because of higher welfare bills. This was reflected in the fact that the ratio of gross public debt to GDP in the industrialized countries more than doubled (on average) between 1974 and 1997 - to 77 per cent.

Niets hadden mijn collega's van de polderpers, volgens eigen zeggen, door. Ze dachten tot zelfs 2008, net als Mak, dat ook 'Europa als economische eenheid een eind op weg' was. En omdat in het kleinburgerlijke Nederland de 'intelligentsia' alleen elkaar als peergroup heeft, en nauwelijks weet wat er buiten haar blikveld gepubliceerd wordt, zijn er hier 'heel veel schreeuwers  en blaters en kwakers met een mening,' als ik even de kwalificaties van Chris Kijne mag lenen. Het is hen ontgaan dat in 2010 het onthullende boek Griftopia: Bubble Machines, Vampire Squids, and the Long Con That Is Breaking America verscheen van de Rolling Stone-journalist Matt Taibbi. In hetzelfde jaar kwam Robert Scheer’s boek The Great American Stickup uit en een jaar eerder Les Leopold's The Looting of America: How Wall Street's Game of Fantasy Finance Destroyed Our Jobs, Pensions, and Prosperity — and What We Can Do about It, terwijl al in 1992 William Greider's studie Who will tell the People. The Betrayal of the American Democracy verscheen. Op zich zou de  onwetendheid van de Nederlandse mainstream-pers niet desastreus hoeven te zijn, ware het niet dat de commerciële massamedia geen andere voorstelling van zaken duldt, en bewust censureert om, overigens vergeefs, te voorkomen dat hun invloed wordt aangetast. Terug naar de Amerikaanse historica Emily S. Rosenberg, die wist wat de Nederlandse opiniemakers niet weten. In haar beschouwing 'Consuming the American Century' stelt zij over de opkomst van het neoliberalisme: 

To keep America's empire of consumption afloat, advertising and financial industries grew rapidly. Even as jobs in manufacturing capacities in the United States declined, these industries continued to stoke mass consumer demand and to extend credit, pushing both to ever higher levels and eclipsing the core strengths once associated with the American Century.

The emphasis on maintaining high levels of consumption at home trough lower prices shaped U.S. international economic policies and drove American politics. With robust consumerism now figuring so prominently in the commonplace understanding of the 'American Way of Life,' any proposal to put the brakes on the escalating cycle of ever cheaper imports and lower prices was politically risky. Even as incomes languished, the appetite among consumer-citizens for cheaper products and greater credit only increased. For their part, politicians shaped economic policy in ways intended to accommodate both global business and consumer desires. The ability of Americans to consume (and to borrow in order to consume) had become so connected to nationalist themes that political leaders largely ignored the deficits in national and personal savings that accompanied its sharply deteriorating terms of trade.

America's growing import imbalance, of course, had a flip side: the flourishing export sectors especially in China and in oil-producing nations. Nations that had once been net borrowers in global capital markets became lenders. This shift, reinforced by a continued penchant (neiging. svh) for savings in countries such as Germany and Japan, produced a global savings glut (oververzadiging. svh), arguably contributing to successive credit bubbles in the United States, first in equities in the 19902 and then in housing after 2000.

Yet specific U.S. policies exacerbated the problem. Financial deregulation catered to financial companies and consumer-citizens by boosting buying power through credit, even as other policies related to minimum wages rates and labor unions eroded incomes. The repeal of the Depression-era Glass-Steagall regulatory system, especially in het Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, freed commercial baks, investment banks, security firms, and insurance companies to consolidate and develop more 'innovative' forms of credit. The Commodity Futures Modernization Act of 2000 placed an increasingly inscrutable but lucrative derivatives market outside of effective government regulation. Funding the regulatory oversight of the financial sector dropped, as did the will to make it effective. During the Republican ascendency of the early twenty-first century, the pressures in the United States to maximize credit availability for its consumer-citizens became especially pronounced — even as the nation's productive capacities shrank and the costs of the off-budget wars in Iraq and Afghanistan soared.

The result was dramatic. Over little more than a decade after the deregulatory 'modernization' acts, the twenty largest U.S. financial institutions grew from controlling 35 percent of America's financial assets to 70 percent. In the 1990s the nation's six largest banks had owned assets of less than 20 percent of GNP (Bruto Nationaal Product: de waarde van alle goederen en diensten die in een jaar door een bepaald land worden geproduceerd.svh) A decade later that figure had jumped to 60 percent. The political and economic dominance of the financial industry, the biggest lobby within both political parties, powered the consumer spending-and-debt complex in the United States. A new gilded age emerged not from producing goods but from conjuring up innovative ways to lend money to consumers already deeply in hock (schuld. svh). Before the reckoning that came in the Great Recession of 2008-2009, consumption in the United States hit a record high of 71 percent of GDP (Bruto Binnenlands Product. de totale geldwaarde van alle in een land geproduceerde finale goederen en diensten gedurende een jaar. svh). Net  domestic savings had sunk into negative territory. 

Debt seemed to lose its significance during the opening decade of the twenty-first century. If middle-class wages for the broad working class had been the American system's claim to fame at the beginning of the American Century, credit cards became the central symbol of the Consumer Century. Credit funded America's deteriorating trade balances; it also funded the gap between the wages most people could earn and their continued, indeed, escalating, desires for consumer products. Facilitating while helping camouflage the ever greater accumulation of debt, politicians looked the other way, eager to please both the financial industry and consumer constituencies, while credit instruments became ever more profitable, more abstract, and less transparant. Credit-based consumer citizenship triumphed; the Consumer Century reigned unchallenged; the American Century withered. 
Ruud van Dijk, Universiteit van Amsterdam, 'Amerika is nog steeds de onmisbare natie.'

Een imperium dat door zijn financiële elite bankroet is geraakt, probeert nu zijn hegemonie te handhaven door de NAVO in te schakelen als een wereldwijde offensieve macht om met zoveel mogelijk geweld de geopolitieke belangen van de elite in Washington en op Wall Street te beschermen, overigens in toenemende mate vergeefs zoals het afgelopen decennium de door het Westen verloren oorlogen in de islamitische wereld aantonen. Maar omdat ook het academisch niveau in de polder beneden peil is, kreeg Ruud van Dijk, docent van de Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen aan de Universiteit van Amsterdam in de Volkskrant van 19 december 2015 de ruimte om te beweren dat 'Amerika nog steeds de onmisbare natie [is].' Dit soort simplistische publicaties is de reden waarom de UVA pas op de 58ste plaats staat van The Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2015-2016 list. Van Dijk's visie zou zelfs een eerstejaars student aan een ivy league universiteit niet durven inleveren, maar in Nederland kan een universitair docent er zelfs de krant mee halen. Ruud van Dijk geeft als klemmend advies dat:   

Een van de belangrijkste doelstellingen van het Europese en Nederlandse beleid moet zijn te voorkomen dat Amerika niet langer verantwoordelijk wil zijn voor het functioneren van het internationale systeem.

Kern van dit 'internationale systeem' is het Amerikaanse geweld dat de hegemonie van de neoliberale elite in stand moet houden. Europa moet dus voorkomen dat er een eind komt aan de grootscheepse chaos-veroorzakende buitenlandse politiek van het failliete 'Amerika.'  Waarom? Van Dijk geeft als reden:

de Verenigde Staten blijven de onmisbare ordeningsmogendheid in het internationale systeem. Het heeft zelf, ondanks alles, er nog alle belang bij die rol te blijven spelen. Voor ons in Europa is een constructieve, activistische Amerikaanse rol intussen essentieel. Vanzelfsprekend is hij echter niet meer. Amerika's invloed is afgenomen, en het land ligt met zichzelf in de knoop onder invloed van de gevolgen van globalisering. Een volk dat zich per definitie als exceptioneel ziet, voelt zich door de buitenwereld belaagd.

Van Dijk's betoog is even chaotisch als de uitwerking van de buitenlandse politiek van de VS. Hij spreekt van een 'onmisbare ordeningsmogendheid,' te vergelijken met Geert Mak's kwalificatie dat de VS als 'ordebewaker en politieagent' in de wereld optreedt. Het is de 'orde' die 85 miljardairs zo rijk heeft gemaakt dat ze nu evenveel bezitten als de helft van de hele mensheid. Ik ben geen universitair docent, maar bezit daarentegen wel genoeg gezond verstand om te beseffen dat een dergelijke 'orde' een wereldwijde wanorde in stand houdt, waarin 'nearly 1/2 of the world's population — more than 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty — less than $1.25.' In Van Dijk's en Mak's 'onmisbare ordening' zal in 2016 de 'Richest 1% will own more than all the rest' van de wereldbevolking. 

Wealth: Having It All and Wanting More, a research paper published today by Oxfam, shows that the richest 1 percent have seen their share of global wealth increase from 44 percent in 2009 to 48 percent in 2014 and at this rate will be more than 50 percent in 2016. Members of this global elite had an average wealth of $2.7 million per adult in 2014.

Of the remaining 52 percent of global wealth, almost all (46 percent) is owned by the rest of the richest fifth of the world’s population. The other 80 percent share just 5.5 percent and had an average wealth of $3,851 per adult – that’s 1/700th of the average wealth of the 1 percent.

De 'orde' van Ruud van Dijk is de 'orde' van mensen die door hun neoliberale ideologie verblind zijn geraakt, en juist daarom in Nederland een baantje krijgen bij een matig scorende universiteit. In het corrupte poldermodel verloopt alles via coöptatie en dus vriendjespolitiek. Met een adembenemende kadaverdiscipline houdt de middelmaat zich aan de consensus. De 'orde' van de kleinburger in de polder  schampt niet eens aan de realiteit, zoals die door een deskundige insider als  kolonel Lawrence Wilkerson wordt beschreven. De voormalige stafchef van de Amerikaanse oud-minister van Buitenlandse Zaken Colin Powell, verklaarde publiekelijk op 13 december 2015:

Today the purpose of US foreign policy it to support the complex that we created in the national security state that is fueled, funded, and powered by interminable war, and the ramifications thereof. That’s a sad commentary on what America has become, but it’s a realistic and, I think, honest appraisal of what America has become.

Desondanks herhaalt een outsider als Van Dijk de verpolitiekte versie van de werkelijkheid:

Amerika kan minder, en omdat het zich bedreigd voelt bestaat de kans dat het meer aan het eigen belang gaat denken, en minder bereid raakt verantwoordelijkheid te nemen voor het functioneren van het internationale systeem. Dat zou een ramp betekenen, en dit voorkomen moet een van de belangrijkste doelstellingen van het Europese, en Nederlandse, beleid zijn.'

De VS '[voelt] zich bedreigd'? Het imperium dat meer dan 700 militaire bases in de wereld heeft, tot de tanden toe bewapend is, de grootste wapenexporteur in de wereld is, een grootmacht die 'carried out 32 distinct and separate bombing campaigns on 24 different countries between 1945 and 1999,' en in 2011 niet minder dan 58 procent van zijn federale budget, dat het Congres kon toewijzen, aan militaire uitgaven besteedde, dat 'spends more on defense than the next seven countries combined,' deze superpower 'voelt' zich 'bedreigd,' volgens een polder-wetenschapper die op internet meldt: 

I teach courses in the history of recent international relations, but also in German history and American Studies (in Dutch and English). I am also the coordinator of the BA and MA programs in the History of International Relations.

Ruud van Dijk van de UVA bedrijft geen waardevrije wetenschap, maar politieke propaganda. En dat terwijl hij gezien zijn functie moet weten dat in de jaren dertig de oud-commandant van de Amerikaanse Marine Corps, brigadier-generaal Smedley Butler, in het openbaar verklaarde:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism [corporatism]. I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street. I helped purify Nicaragua for the International Banking House of Brown Brothers in 1902-1912. I brought light to the Dominican Republic for the American sugar interests in 1916. I helped make Honduras right for the American fruit companies in 1903. In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went on its way unmolested. Looking back on it, I might have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

en dat Butler 

published a short book with the now-famous title War Is a Racket, for which he is best-known today. Butler opened the book with these words:

'War is a racket. It always has been.

It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives.

For a great many years, as a soldier, I had a suspicion that war was a racket; not until I retired to civil life did I fully realize it. Now that I see the international war clouds gathering, as they are today, I must face it and speak out.


Omdat generaal Butler's woorden na de val van de Sovjet-Unie nog steeds actueel zijn, werd War Is a Racket opnieuw in 2003 uitgegeven. Butler's directe ervaringen van binnenuit zijn overigens niet uniek. Ook de beroemde vijf sterren generaal Douglas MacArthur benadrukte de doortraptheid van de buitenlandse politiek van Washington en Wall Street. In 1957 merkte hij op:

Our government has kept us in a perpetual state of fear-kept us in a continuous stampede of patriotic fervor-with the cry of grave national emergency. Always there has been some terrible evil at home or some monstrous foreign power that was going to gobble us up if we did not blindly rally behind it.

Met klem waarschuwde hij voor het volgende:

Men since the beginning of time have sought peace. Various methods through the ages have been attempted to devise an international process to prevent or settle disputes between nations. From the very start workable methods were found in so far as individual citizens were concerned, but the mechanics of an instrumentality of larger international scope have never been successful. Military alliances, balances of power, Leagues of Nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be by way of the crucible of war. The utter destructiveness of war now blocks out this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, Armageddon will be at our door.

Met betrekking tot het Amerikaanse militair-industrieel complex, dat Douglas MacArthur en zijn vader vóór hem decennialang van binnenuit kende, zei hij in een speech op 15 mei 1952: 

It is part of the general pattern of misguided policy that our country is now 
geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced 
psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear. 
While such an economy may produce a sense of seeming prosperity for the moment, it 
rests on an illusionary foundation of complete unreliability and renders among our
 political leaders almost a greater fear of peace than is their fear of war…

Talk of imminent threat to our national security through the application 
of external force is pure nonsense. Our threat is from the insidious forces 
working from within which have already so drastically altered the character of 
our free institutions — those institutions we proudly called the American way of life.

Het feit dat docent Ruud van Dijk van de Universiteit van Amsterdam dit allemaal ook dient te weten en desondanks in de Volkskrant beweert dat de VS 'zich bedreigd voelt' geeft aan dat hij geen wetenschapper is, maar een propagandist, en dat hij als docent Geschiedenis van Internationale Betrekkingen nieuwe generaties gehersenspoelde academici aflevert, demonstreert hoe gevaarlijk de lage kwaliteit van de Universiteit van Amsterdam is en waarom deze universiteit in de Angelsaksische wereld zo laag wordt ingeschat. Intellectueel gesproken speelt het kikkerlandje geen enkele rol van betekenis. Speciaal ook voor Van Dijk's studenten citeer ik opnieuw een echte wetenschapper, van wie de peergroup niet een gecorrumpeerde academische kongsi in Nederland is, maar de internationale intelligentsia. Professor Emily S. Rosenberg over het einde van de 'American Century':

Force-feeding consumer desire, initially designed to solve the problem of abundance but now increasingly a driver of debt and deficit undermined the American Century in other ways as well. The American emphasis on advertising and credit availability as the keys to sustaining economic growth ended up exacting unanticipated long term costs in the form of environmental damage and dependence on resources located outside of the United States. 

Global warming and a heightened competition for resources are only two indicators suggesting that the resource-intensive American model of mass production and mass consumption is of questionable long-term viability. This is true for both te United States and the rest of the world. More importantly, stubborn adherence to the U.S. model is significantly undermining American power by augmenting rivalries and resentments over access to distant resources and over how to tackle climate change. In sum, as the American Century gave way to the Consumer Century, it brought daunting new global challenges in the environmental, as well as the financial realm.


Volgend keer meer. 




Robert Parry on Misinformation


The Misinformation Mess




Exclusive: As Americans approach Election Year 2016, the crisis of misinformation is growing more and more dangerous. On issues from foreign policy to the economy, almost none of the candidates in the race appears to be addressing the real world, writes Robert Parry.


New York Times columnist Paul Krugman marvels at the right-wing extremism prevalent in the Republican presidential race not just from the “outsider” candidates but from the “establishment” favorites as well, doubling down on President George W. Bush’s economic prescriptions and foreign policies despite their record of disaster.
The media’s obsession with Donald Trump’s off-the-cuff candidacy “has in one way worked to the G.O.P. establishment’s advantage: it has distracted pundits and the press from the hard right turn even conventional Republican candidates have taken, a turn whose radicalism would have seemed implausible not long ago,” Krugman wrote on Monday.
President Barack Obama returning to the White House on Jan. 17, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama returning to the White House on Jan. 17, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
From escalating U.S. military involvement in the Middle East to slashing taxes – again – for the rich, the supposedly “mainstream” Republicans, such as Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, are acting as if the catastrophes under Bush-43 never happened.
It would be fair to say that the Democrats are suffering from a similar disconnect from the lessons of the last quarter century, with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton bristling with hawkish rhetoric toward Syria and Russia while sending fawning salutations to Israel despite its contribution to the Mideast crisis by repressing the Palestinian people.
Even Clinton’s chief rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, can’t formulate a rational policy toward the Middle East, although – to his credit – he did oppose Bush’s bogus case for invading Iraq and favors prioritizing cooperation with Russia in defeating the Islamic State over demanding another “regime change” in Syria.
But Sanders simply wants to postpone the U.S. removal of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and he encourages Saudi Arabia to throw its military weight around more across the region, not noticing that the Saudis are backing many of the Sunni jihadists who have helped turn the Middle East into a killing field. Nor does Sanders explain why one would expect the Saudis to turn away from their obsession with fighting Shiites as they are currently doing in pulverizing Yemen because a Shiite rebel group, the Houthis, gained power in that impoverished nation.
In a rational world, Saudi Arabia would be viewed as a major part of the problem, not part of any solution.
On domestic policy, Sanders – like Trump – does seem to have touched a populist political nerve in their recognition that neo-liberalism (as preached since Bill Clinton’s presidency) has failed to protect America’s middle class. Though Sanders’s and Trump’s brands of populism offer sharply divergent remedies, they both speak to Main Street’s fear that it is being left behind by the high-tech globalized world that has diverted vast wealth to Wall Street and Silicon Valley.
The more traditional candidates – whether Hillary Clinton or the establishment Republicans – don’t address the heart of this problem. Instead, they choose to play it safe on the edges while embracing the “free market” orthodoxies that created the crisis.
A Propagandized People
But is it really possible to expect that the American people (as propagandized and misinformed as they are) could effect significant change through the electoral process, which is itself deeply compromised by vast sums of dark money from American oligarchs, while other super-rich Americans own the major media companies.
So, while there may be some logical responses to this combination of crises, the media/political system prevents them from being considered in any coherent way.
For instance, a rational approach to the Middle East would shift American alliances away from the reactionary Persian Gulf monarchies and Turkey and toward a more balanced approach that would invite greater involvement of Shiite-ruled Iran, which the Sunni-led monarchies view as their chief regional rival. There is little reason for the United States to take one side of a sectarian split within Islam that dates back to the Seventh Century.
By shedding its current pro-Saudi bias, the United States could finally get serious about resolving the Syrian crisis by shutting down the money and weapons going from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey to the extremists not just in the Islamic State but also in Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and its various jihadist allies.
Since summer 2014, President Barack Obama and his “coalition” have been fighting a half-hearted war that has failed to face down the U.S. “allies” aiding the Sunni jihadists in Syria. Only when shamed by Russia in fall 2015 did the U.S. coalition join in bombing trucks carrying the Islamic State’s oil from Syria through Turkey’s open borders for resale in the black market. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “A Blind Eye Toward Turkey’s Crimes.”]
As for Syria’s political future, a reasonable approach would be to leave the selection of national leaders up to the Syrian people through internationally organized democratic elections. The voters would be the ones to decide Assad’s fate, not outsiders.
Yet, Official Washington finds itself in the crazy position of extending the bloody Syrian war – and the resulting chaos across the region and into Europe – because Obama and other Important People said “Assad must go!” and don’t want to lose face by dropping that demand. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Neocons Object to Syrian Democracy.“]
A realistic approach to the Middle East also requires finally standing up to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rather than letting him dance U.S. political leaders around the world stage like puppets on a marionette’s string. A balanced approach to the Middle East would allow for collaborating with Russia and Iran to apply pressure on the parties in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to make the necessary concessions for a peace deal, imperfect though it would surely be.
The need to work with Russian President Vladimir Putin would also require rethinking the aggressive U.S. strategy regarding NATO and Ukraine. Instead of insisting that everything is “Putin’s fault,” the U.S. government could acknowledge its hand in exacerbating the political crisis in Ukraine in 2013-14 and admit that the U.S.-backed putsch on Feb. 22, 2014, was not the simple story of “our good guys vs. their bad guys” that was sold to the American public.
As part of all this reassessment, there needs to be a coming-clean with the American people regarding what U.S. intelligence knows about a variety of key events, including but not limited to the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin attack outside Damascus, Syria; the Feb. 20, 2014 sniper attack in Kiev, Ukraine, which set the stage for the coup; and the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of the Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine.
The fact that such events have been exploited for propaganda reasons – to blame U.S. “adversaries” – while the detailed knowledge of the U.S. intelligence agencies is hidden from the American people has deprived the public of an ability to make rational assessments about the larger policies. U.S. positions are driven by false or faulty perceptions, not reality.
The Disappearing Middle Class
Along with bringing rationality and reason back to U.S. foreign policy, a similar process of truth-telling could take place domestically. The core problem of America’s disappearing middle class is not just technology and globalization; it is that the super-profits from those developments have gone overwhelmingly to the extremely rich, rather than equitably shared with the population.
Thus, we see the rapid shrinking of the Great American Middle Class, a development that is destructive and dangerous because a prosperous middle class serves as ballast for an economy, preventing it from suddenly capsizing.
Plus, if most people can’t afford to buy the products that technology produces, then eventually the investment in that technology becomes unprofitable, a lesson well known since the days of Henry Ford who wanted his workers to earn enough to afford to buy his cars.
There is the trick question about what is the value of all the properties and hotels in “Monopoly” once one player has won by bankrupting all the other players. The answer is zero because no one has any money to visit the properties or stay at the hotels. They thus have no monetary value. A similar reality holds true in the real-world economy. Over-concentration of wealth is a threat.
The answer to this conundrum is also clear: since it is impossible to stop technological advancement and risky to start trade wars, the alternative is to tax the super-profits of the rich and recycle the money in the form of jobs to build infrastructure, educate the young, protect the environment, research ways to improve health, etc.
There is nothing wrong with having machines do more of the drudgery and give humans more time to enjoy life. The problem comes when the benefits accrue to a tiny minority and the rest of us are forced to work harder or face declining living standards.
But what prevents us from making the sensible move – i.e., dramatically increase taxes on the rich and put that money to use putting people to work on worthy projects – is Ronald Reagan’s propaganda message that “government is the problem.” The Right has built onto that theme the idea that government promoting the common good is against the U.S. Constitution.
Thus, you have extremists such as Texas Sen. Ted Cruz posing as “constitutionalists” as they ignore the fact that the chief authors of the Constitution – the Federalists – inserted a clear mandate for the U.S. government to “provide for the … general Welfare.” That authority was cited in both the Preamble and Article I, Section 8, which enumerates the government’s powers. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Right’s Made-up Constitution.”]
In other words, the “originalist” meaning of the U.S. Constitution was in favor of a robust and activist federal government. But few Americans know and understand that history. They have been sold on a false rendition that serves the interests of the rich who understandably don’t want the government to use its taxing powers on behalf of the broader population.
The Heart of the Matter
Which get us to the heart of the matter: Why is the American political debate so ill-informed and misinformed? Why was there virtually no accountability in the mainstream U.S. news media when nearly every important foreign-policy journalist and pundit bought into the WMD lies that justified the Iraq War? Why are the same kinds of “group thinks” continuing to prevail, with U.S. government propaganda accepted rather than questioned?
The answer to that conundrum is that Official Washington is dominated – on foreign policy – by neoconservatives and their liberal-interventionist sidekicks and – on domestic policy – by neo-liberals and government-hating conservatives. The old days – when there were foreign policy “realists” who acted more from a perspective of American interests and politicians who remembered the Great Depression and the New Deal – are gone.
The neoconservatives, who emerged as pro-Vietnam War Democrats in the 1970s and switched over to Reagan Republicans in the 1980s, have proved to be a formidable and effective force for a propaganda-driven foreign policy that sees American interests as indistinguishable from Israel’s and treats the American people like cattle to be herded.
That is why real information is as dangerous to neocons as water was to the Wicked Witch of the West. It is also why they have concentrated so much on getting control of the flow of news to the American people. If all the public gets is propaganda – and if honest journalists and scholars are marginalized and silenced – then the people will either support the latest neocon/liberal-hawk cause or end up in confused disarray, not sure what to believe.
The truth is that the neocons and their liberal-hawk allies now control virtually the entire mainstream news media, from The New York Times and The Washington Post to NPR and the major networks to Fox News and most of right-wing talk radio. Even esteemed journalist Seymour Hersh now must go overseas to the London Review of Books to get his important reporting published when it challenges the “group think” on Syria and other topics.
‘Free Market’ Capitalism
A similar situation exists regarding “free market” capitalism that is embraced by both neo-liberals and right-wing economists. For decades, in the major U.S. news media, it has been hard to hear a discouraging word about “free trade” deals even though labor leaders and some populist politicians warned presciently that these deals would cost millions of middle-class factory jobs.
Today, there is more skepticism about “free trade” as the social and economic impact has become undeniable but, again, there was no accountability for the misleading advocates of these agreements nor a serious effort to rewrite the deals. Renegotiation of the trade deals has been one of Donald Trump’s major proposals and applause lines.
But most Republican candidates favor more of the same: more unrestrained capitalism and less taxation on the wealthy. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton positions herself as a centrist, promising no “middle class” tax increases on people making $250,000 or less, a redefinition of the “middle class” to include families making about five times the median income.
Despite their other shortcomings, Trump and Sanders are the only candidates seriously addressing some of these key economic issues. For his part, Sanders advocates much higher taxes – especially on the wealthy and the stock speculators – to fund a broad range of social programs, such as Medicare for all, and to finance massive infrastructure rebuilding.
Yet, the central challenge for a possible political transformation in America rests on reliable information getting to the people, especially given all the sources of misinformation and the many barriers to the truth. That battle – restoring the life-blood of democracy, an informed electorate – remains the challenge of our time.

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).