Swing Blades: Don Rumsfeld Bats Both Ways

In February 2003, I wrote a column for the Moscow Times detailing Don Rumsfeld's personal – and profitable – connection with North Korea's nuclear program. Today Greg Saunders at This Modern World notes (from a Guardian story from May 2003), that the Bush Administration continued to shove money toward Rumsfeld's corporate cronies, allowing them to help accelerated North Korea's nuke push – even as the Dear Leader (theirs, not ours) was kicking out weapons inspectors and withdrawing from the nuclear non-proliferation treaty.

What I wrote more than three years ago unfortunately still holds true today. The nuclear blast test that North Korea conducted this week is not only the result of the Bush Administration's incompetent and sinister diplomatic philosophy – which seems to consist solely of provoking unfriendly regimes into countermeasures which can then be used as excuses for war-profiteering "regime change" assaults – but also stems from the overwhelming lust for loot that lies behind the noble rhetoric of the third-rate goons of the Bush Gang.

Swing Blades
(Originally published in the Feb. 28, 2003 edition of The Moscow Times; the version here excerpted from the book, Empire Burlesque.)
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Hey there nostalgia fans and potential survivors! Don’t you miss the good old days when baby boomers were babies? I sure do. Boy, those were fine times, ain’t we lucky we had ‘em! 

Think back to all the joys of the era: Elvis Presley in Blue Hawaii, A&W root beer drive-ins, The Ed Sullivan show! Oh that Topo Gigio! And what about Bill Dana as Jose Jimenez! Talk about wrong! Then there was the music, Rock Around The Clock by Bill Haley and his Comets! Roy Orbison singing for the lonely! And who can forget our shocked parents when the Fab Four with those scandalous hairdos sang I Wanna Hold Your Hand on national TV! Oh it does take one back to an era of having an innocence worth losing.  

Well, that innocence is not all lost… yet! Yes, you, Mr. John Q. Public may have grown up, but there’s no need to leave the Wonderful World of Disney behind! Yes! You can relive the days of the Cold War when you cowered beneath your desk at school, when your Dad insisted on digging an air raid shelter and your Mom lived in fear of fluoridation. Thanks to the modern techno era, with one simple little device you can take a stroll down memory lane guided by state of the art technology. 

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Informed Comment: Juan Cole on Craig Murray

Juan Cole recently heard Craig speak at the conference of the Central Eurasian Studies Society.

Craig Murray on Manufacturing Terror
Oil, Lily Pad Bases and Torture

The Bush administration has been about "the Greater Middle East" (including Central Asia). It has been about basing rights in those areas. It says it is fighting a "war on terror" that is unlike past wars and may go on for decades. It has been about rounding up and torturing large numbers of Iraqis, Afghans and others. This region has most of the world's proven oil and gas reserves.

Why is the Bush administration so attached to torturing people that it would pressure a supine Congress into raping the US constitution by explicitly permitting some torture techniques and abolishing habeas corpus for certain categories of prisoners?
(See David Corn's "This is What Waterboarding looks like.".)

Boys and girls, it is because torture is what provides evidence for large important networks of terrorists where there aren't really any, or aren't very many, or aren't enough to justify 800 military bases and a $500 billion military budget.

I was at the conference of the Central Eurasian Studies Society the last couple of days. Saturday evening, former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray addressed us. He served in Tashkent 2002 through 2004. Murray was providing copies of his new book, "Murder in Samarkand," which unfortunately is not yet available in the United States.

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You and What Army? Bush Legions Starting to "Unravel"

Is it possible the largest and most advanced military in the history of the universe is ready to bust? According to General Barry McCaffrey (ret.) the U.S. military machine is "stumbling toward the edge of a cliff."

Not exactly your nervous Nellie type, the former head of U.S. Southern Command, McCaffrey says, given the current course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the army can't be sustained more than 24 months. Citing growing tensions in Korea, or a possible conflict between China and Taiwan, he warns, should "the other shoe drop" the military will be unable to react.
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Our Rigged Elections: The Elephant in the Polling Booth

To say that this election could go either way is not to say that the Republicans have any chance of winning it. As a civic entity responsive to the voters' will, the party's over, there being no American majority that backs it, or that ever would. Bush has left the GOP in much the same condition as Iraq, Afghanistan, the global climate, New Orleans, the Bill of Rights, our military, our economy and our national reputation. Thus the regime is reviled as hotly by conservatives as by liberals, nor do any moderates support it.

So slight is Bush's popularity that his own party's candidates for Congress are afraid to speak his name or to be seen with him (although their numbers, in the aggregate, are even lower than his). It seems the only citizens who still have any faith in him are those who think God wants us to burn witches and drive SUVs. For all their zeal, such theocratic types are not in the majority, not even close, and thus there's no chance that the GOP can get the necessary votes.

And so the Democrats are feeling good, and calling for a giant drive to get the vote out on Election Day. Such an effort is essential—and not just to the Democrats but to the very survival of this foundering Republic. However, such a drive will do the Democrats, and all the rest of us, more harm than good if it fails to note a certain fact about our current situation: i.e., that the Democrats are going to lose the contest in November, even though the people will (again) be voting for them. The Bush Republicans are likely to remain in power despite the fact that only a minority will vote to have them there. That, at any rate, is what will happen if we don't start working to pre-empt it now.

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Jurisprudence in the "Leader-State": Then – and Now

Washington – Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is defending President Bush's anti-terrorism tactics in multiple court battles, said Friday that federal judges should not substitute their personal views for the president's judgments in wartime. – Washington Post, Sept. 29, 2006.
History repeats itself. Welcome to Berlin, 1933.

Alberto Gonzales is a lot like Franz Gurtner, another conservative nationalist lawyer and judge – who was appointed by Hitler to head the Reich Ministry of Justice, and who got along very well with the Nazis despite not being a Nazi himself. How did the German Legal system change as a result of Nazi 'leadership'?

Fear-mongering was the main tool used to change the law, and to undermine civil liberties. So where the constitution was changed, the code of criminal procedure was also changed, extraordinary powers were vested in the Executive, including extensive police powers; and the powers of an independent judiciary were destroyed.
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Why does Thailand have all the Luck?

About 2 weeks ago, 10 Soviet-era tanks clanked-along the main thoroughfare in downtown Bangkok and stopped in front of the Presidential Palace. Once the palace had been completely surrounded it was stormed by a contingent of fully-armed Thai regulars who secured the grounds while the Thai generals looked on impassively. General Sonthi Tinsulanond took control of the country, with the tacit approval of the King, and quickly repealed the constitution, dismissed the parliament, and forbid any public demonstrations of support for the former regime. In less than an hour, the government of Prime Minister Thanskin Shinawatra was toppled in a perfectly executed, bloodless coup.

Are we there yet?

Would it really be that dreadful if a similar drama unfolded in Washington DC?

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America the Tyranny

Behold and bear witness to what has become of America, in this era of uncertainty and bewilderment, in this time of fear and intimidation, that since towers were brought down and demolished has methodically fallen into the viper pit of neocon decadence, becoming, as it stands today, an authoritarian’s heaven and a corporatist’s promised land, its people ignorant, as always, to the barrage of waves systemically eroding centuries of rights, freedoms and liberties. From sea to shining sea, despotism is what today those who pay attention see. 

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Human Hell and the Demons of War

Branch Warfare and the Evolution of Aggression

The pages of history, those monuments to humankind’s brief rule over the planet, are replete with violence, death and destruction. Indeed, it can be argued successfully that war, genocide, ethnic cleansing and human violence against each other have defined humanity’s tumultuous existence on Earth. We are inseparable from death and destruction, suffering and violence. Turning the pages of the little we know of our own past, one thing becomes quite apparent: Throughout time, in all corners of the world, mankind has lived side by side with war, destruction and death. We have defined our existence through the self-inflicted violence we unleash upon ourselves. What is it about the human condition that espouses in us a propensity to grossly annihilate ourselves, inflicting horrendous misery onto our kind?

Violence and humanity were born conjoined twins out of the thick canopy of our ancestral home in the Eastern African jungles. Even in the ape-like appearance and behavior of our primate selves could our violent genes be seen. Competition forced upon us the will to survive through the defeat of competitor groups. Wars waged high in the canopy became the first symptoms of our disease. Group versus group, competitor versus competitor, the violence ingrained in us manifested itself in the primitive battles and hollowed screams of our long-gone ancestors.

Branch to branch, foot by foot, with nail and teeth the prelude to modern warfare was born.

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This Is The Way Of Dictatorships.

If this were a dictatorship, it would be a heck of a lot easier... just so long as I'm the dictator.”

George Walker Bush, 2000


Was this a really a joke? Back in 2000 many thought so. But was George in jest? Maybe there was more to that remark than bad taste. Maybe it was a private prank on the American people.  

That was then, but this is now: It’s not a joke anymore. It’s reality.  

With the help of three posturing Senators and a spineless, corrupt Congress, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 has been imposed upon the Republic. For those still in the dark, under this law George W. Bush has the full power not only to decide who is a threat but also to order his Praetorian Guard to haul the suspect away to whatever end. Neither courts nor Congress nor citizenry have legal recourse or protection from the wrath of Emperor George. 

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War in Heaven: Woodward's Book and the Establishment Insurgency

Bob Woodward has long been the voice of the American Establishment – or of certain quadrants of it, at any rate. When Richard Nixon's criminal depredations and mental instability had gone too far and it was decided to rein him in, former military intelligence officer Woodward was there as a safe pair of hands to receive the damning revelations of "Deep Throat" and help bring down the Nixon presidency. When the Establishment decided it was best to throw in with the Bush Faction's aggressive militarism after 9/11 – lots of big money to be made out of war and fear, and those tax cuts were just too sweet to pass up -- Woodward was there again, with a series of stories and books which, as Michiko Kakutani notes in the New York Times, "depicted the president — in terms that the White House press office itself has purveyed — as a judicious, resolute leader, blessed with the 'vision thing' his father was accused of lacking and firmly in control of the ship of state."

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NATO’s Inferno

Civilised (adjective): cultured, educated, refined, enlightened, polite, elegant, sophisticated, urbane
Civilise (verb): to enlighten, educate, cultivate, improve, advance, develop, refine

Poor old Dante Alighieri, were he around today, I am sure he would find it difficult to find the words to describe the evils visited by so-called civilised nations on the defenceless of the planet, assuming that is, he was fully informed of what is going on.

I know I shouldn’t be surprised but nevertheless I am. Surprised firstly that I live in a barbaric culture that has been able to masquerade as civilised and secondly, that it has been able to persuade the world that it possesses civilised credentials in the first place. And thirdly, that it has been able to carry off this illusion for well on five hundred years.

Most of us associate the idea of being civilised with learning and with respect for culture, though the root of the word is that of the city dweller.

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