Category Archives: Book Review

Toxic Chemicals Engulf the Planet

Worldwide chemical emissions are six times global warming emissions. This hidden dilemma is fully exposed in a superbly researched new book by science writer Julian Cribb: Earth Detox, How and Why We Must Clean Up Our Planet, Cambridge University Press, scheduled for release August 2021.

The planet has become a toxic soup of tested, untested, and inadequately tested chemicals that includes deadly toxins. Within only a couple of generations, and largely unnoticed, this startling episode is unique to our generation. Far and away, it exceeds global warming emissions. Yet, it’s a pressing issue that’s not publicly recognized as such.

Earth Detox is an eye-opening exposure of unintentional toxic chemical warfare lodged against humanity virtually everywhere, all over the planet. Throughout this challenging subject matter, Cribb’s work is supported by extensive scientific data, for example: “Americans are a walking cocktail of contaminants.” That statement alone is provocative enough to demand more facts, a whole lot more. For example, why and how has American life been reduced to such a degenerative status? More on this to follow.

But most alarming of all: “More than 25,000 human lives are being lost daily to chemical poisoning.” That statistic of 25,000 deaths/day comes from UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme) in its 2019 Global Chemicals Outlook II report, which Cribb disparagingly describes:

With unassailable scientific evidence that more than 25,000 human lives are being lost daily to chemical poisoning, and in the face of a mountain of fresh evidence of chemical harm that has accumulated since its 2013 report, the 2019 report betrays a chilling lack of urgency. Its language is softer and less candid, its proposals more soothing to industry than its predecessor. Indeed, it asserts: ‘We cannot live without chemicals’. It is hard to escape an inference that UNEP has been ‘got at’. (p. 216)

It’s a compelling invisible issue. What else in the world accounts for 25,000 daily deaths?

Yet, across the globe there are no signs of concern, no long banners flapping in the breeze on Main Street, no NGOs, no marches, no petitions, no pesky fund-raisers, no signature gatherers at grocery store parking lots, no public demonstrations of concern about this hidden peril found throughout the planet from the top of Mount Everest, where researchers, to their dismay, discovered toxic compounds in-excess of EPA standards, to the bottom of the Mariana Trench, where small crustaceans that live in the pitch-black waters of the trench, captured by a robotic submarine, were contaminated with 50 times more toxic chemicals than crabs that survive in heavily polluted rivers in China.

Still, society fails to address this most pressing issue of the 21st century. According to Cribb: “A worrisome component of the poisoning of the planet is the absurd fact that modern society exists and functions as a result of these poisons. For example, industrialized food production uses five million tonnes of specialized poisons to control weeds, insects, rodents and moulds to feed the world.” Here’s the kicker, the vast majority of the chemicals used to produce food negatively impact “non-target organisms,” like honeybees, farm workers and consumers.

Cribb has produced a landmark study that demands further analysis and investigation at the highest levels. It belongs on reading lists of every educational institution and in the hands of policymakers as well as consumers worldwide. Cribb’s gifted science-oriented prose provides an ideal fundamental resource for: (1) supplemental textbooks (2) advocacy groups (3) policymakers (4) critical information for every householder in the world to better understand what’s at stake in everyday life. For example: “Never eat any food containing a substance you can’t pronounce or you don’t trust.” (p. 67) In other words, read the damn labels!

Earth Detox is truly a masterpiece of deeply researched facts exposing a very, very big story, as big as the survival and condition of Earth’s basic resources that support existence.  An opening statement in Cribb’s own words sums up the extent:

Earth and all life on it are being saturated with chemicals released by humans, in an event unlike anything that has occurred ever before, in all 4 billion years of our Planet’s story… Ours is a poisoned world… this has all happened quite quickly and has burgeoned so rapidly that most people are still unaware of the extent or scale of the peril… crept up on us unseen… in a social climate of trusting acceptance of authority, over barely the span of a single human lifetime… impacts are only now starting to emerge. (pp. 3-4)

Accordingly, a 2020 study by a team of international scientists led by Switzerland’s Institute of Environmental Engineering:

Over 350,000 chemicals and mixtures of chemicals have been registered for production and use, up to three times as many as previously estimated… identities of many chemicals remain publicly unknown because they are claimed as confidential.  (p  7)

The Swiss study is the world’s first-ever compilation of global chemical inventory and surprisingly discovered three times previous estimates, which speaks to the lax governance issue, nobody really knows for sure what’s going on, three times previous estimates is evidence of failure to observe. The study uncovered “widespread secrecy, misidentification and obfuscation,” leading to a question of who effectively monitors this darkened world that ultimately reaches into everyone’s home?

It’s the vastness and fragmentation of worldwide manufacturing that makes regulation so difficult. After all, one thousand (1,000) new chemicals are added to the mix every year. The chemical industry is the second largest manufacturer in the world, totaling 2.5 billion tonnes each year.

Yet, according to Cribb:

Regulation has so far banned fewer than one per cent (1%) of all intentionally made dangerous chemicals – and then only in certain countries… large parts of the world’s most polluting industries are relocating away from countries where high standards of regulation and compliance, and high costs, apply. (pp. 191-92)

All of which conforms to economic dicta following post-Reagan globalization schemes subsequently embraced by neoliberalism’s penchant for weakening regulations and powerfully goosed ahead via massive deregulation under the Trump administration’s “intentional collapse of scientific wherewithal,” one of America’s darkest hours.

Indeed, chemical usage is an ever-present quandary that’s a challenge to navigate if only because so much of it is necessary in today’s world, leading to one of the great paradoxes of all time, a virtual “Catch-22”:

Man-made chemicals are so widespread in the world today because they are very useful, very valuable, very profitable and help to enhance billions of lives. They are central enabling technology in the modern global economy. They are never going to be universally banned – and nor should they be. But neither should they flood the Earth uncontrolled. The magnitude of our chemical – especially toxic chemical – exposure has crept up on the human population unawares. (p. 192)

Cribb has created nomenclature for the chemical epidemic: Anthropogenic Chemical Circulation (“ACC”).

The ACC is just like our carbon emissions – only much bigger and far more noxious… For the first time in the Earth’s history, a single species – ourselves – is poisoning an entire Planet. (pp. 20-21)

ACC aptly defines the risks: Man-made chemicals are always on the move constantly in space and time, all around us, traveling on wind, in the water, attached to soil, within dust and plastic micro particles, in traded goods. Chemicals stay with us forever reforming, recycling, recombining, and reactivating as part of an unending planetary river, the Anthropogenic Chemical Circulation. Nothing escapes toxic pollution: “Even the mud on the sea floor is becoming poisonous.” (pp. 35-37)

Polluted People

It is highly likely that readers of Cribb’s exposé will have been exposed to toxic chemicals without knowing it. You only know, or suspect, after something goes wrong, like cancer or Alzheimer’s but by then forgetfulness masks the original cause/effect.

According to Cribb:

A chilling glimpse of the big picture comes from the USA, among the heaviest chemical users on the Planet. For more than two decades its Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has run a national survey of chemical pollution in the blood, serum and urine of up to 2500 Americans every year. (pg. 53)

The survey reveals:

Americans are a walking cocktail of contaminants. The CDC readily admits that the health effects of many chemicals are not yet clear. WHO says the number of chemicals is ‘very large’ and health risks ‘are not known… Ipso facto, never eat any food containing a substance you can’t pronounce or you don’t trust. (p. 67)

The modern industrial food supply chain, from A to Z, is loaded with chemicals. For starters, pesticides used to grow food and livestock end up in human bodies one way or another, and in high enough concentrations proven to influence cancers, brain, nerve, genetic and hormonal disorders, kidney and liver damage, asthma and allergies. Besides pesticides, some 3,000 chemical food ingredients are permitted by the FDA used to enhance freshness, taste, and texture. Preservatives, for example, which extend shelf life, are chemicals that poison the bacteria and moulds that cause food to rot.

Common chemical preservatives such as sodium nitrate and nitrite, sulphites, sulphur dioxide, sodium benzoate, parabens, formaldehyde and antioxidant preservatives, if over-consumed in the modern processed food diet, may also lead to cancers, heart disease, allergies, digestive, lung, kidney and other diseases and constitute a further reason for avoiding or reducing one’s intake of ‘industrial food’. (p. 70)

By all appearances, based upon Cribb’s extensive research, the Industrial Food Frankenstein, which traverses pesticide-laced farmland-to-artificial (toxic) plastic packaging-to home refrigeration, given enough time, kills or cripples wide-eyed consumers. There’s little middle ground with industrial foodstuff.

It should be noted, aside from Cribb’s book, a major Rand Corporation study shows “sixty percent (60% or almost 200 million) U.S. adults have at least one chronic condition, 42% have more than one, and 12% have five or more,” e.g., high cholesterol, high blood pressure, anxiety, arthritis, heart disease and diabetes. Whereas, European chronic conditions at 30% are one-half the U.S. on the same timeline as the Rand study. Thus, connecting the dots, it brings to mind whether adverse conditions, like excessive exposure to toxic chemicals, cause chronic conditions?

Interestingly, Europe only permits the use of 400 food additives out of 3000 permitted in the US. Essentially, Europe has banned 4/5ths of the chemicals allowed in the US food chain. Europe outlaws any chemicals that do not meet its criteria for “non-harm to humans or the environment.” (p. 73)

“It is important to remember that the universal penetration of man-made chemicals into the food chain has mainly happened in just the last half-century. No previous generations were subjected to such a wholesale chemical exposure.” (page. 76) “There could be anything up to 16,500 different chemicals in the modern food chain today that simply weren’t a part of your grandparents’ diet.” (p. 90) That one sentence says it all in less than 25 words with an underlying message: Avoid industrial food. Eat fresh food.

A major test of a family of five in San Francisco that ate industrial packaged food for a period of time followed by a diet of fresh food for a comparable period of time showed significant reduction of toxic BPA (used to make plastics) and phthalates (used to make household goods) of 67% to 90%, which is extraordinarily meaningful. (Earth Detox) (According to Mayo Clinic, research shows BPA may be directly linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Phthalates makes plastics more durable used in hundreds of household products and can damage the liver, kidneys, lungs, and reproductive system.)

Unfortunately, the full scale of the impact of toxic chemicals to humans is not yet fully understood by science, not by governments, not by industry and not by communities. However, numerous studies show mixtures of chemicals connecting dots to cancers, autism and several other diseases.

We are, every one of us, the ‘laboratory rats’ in a vast worldwide chemistry experiment involving an immense cocktail of substances, over which we have neither say nor freedom of action. It is an uncontrolled global experiment that defies the very ethics which outlaw the scientific testing of mixture toxicity in humans.  (p. 96)

While global chemical use is forecast to intensify, growing by around 3 per cent per year up to 2050, the world’s ability to regulate and restrict it is weakening… The main reason for this is that, in their efforts to evade regulators, chemical corporations are winding back their operations in the developed world and moving to more poorly regulated countries, mainly in Asia. In the first two decades of this century, chemical output in Asian countries grew three to five times faster than in North America and Europe. (p. 196)

Earth Detox offers solutions. Here’s one:

A core finding of this book is that we must build a Global Detox Alliance… Such an alliance would not engage in consumer bans or boycotts, physical confrontation, lawsuits or other direct action against industry or science; to do so will only entrench mutual mistrust and opposition, delay the move to clean production and drive industry into greater secrecy and into unregulated parts of the world. Clean up will do best if founded on principles of co- operation, consensus, openness and equality between society, industry and government. (p. 236)

Above all else, readers of Cribb’s fact-filled gem must read the Postscript: “A Cautionary Tale From Deep Time,” which is an extremely intriguing very thought-provoking detailed description of how life on Earth originated, from day one, with some surprising results along the way. Don’t miss it. After all, who doesn’t wonder about the wonders of life’s creation?

Postscript:

Ours is a poisoned world… this has all happened quite quickly and has burgeoned so rapidly that most people are still unaware of the extent or scale of the peril… crept up on us unseen… over barely the span of a single human lifetime… impacts are only now starting to emerge. (Julian Cribb)

Someday we shall look back on this dark era of agriculture and shake our heads. How could we have ever believed that it was a good idea to grow our food with poisons? (Jane Goodall, Harvest of Hope, 2005.)

Annotation: The quotes with page references in this article come from the publisher’s “Proof” and may not conform to the final book publication.

The post Toxic Chemicals Engulf the Planet first appeared on Dissident Voice.

A Few Thoughts on White Identity

I may well be among the few people here who’ve only recently come across Robin DiAngelo’s immensely popular book, White Fragility: Why White People Have Such a Hard Time Talking About Racism, but I’ll share a few of my reactions. In my opinion, this book starkly epitomizes the dangerous consequences when discussions of white identity are divorced from class analysis. After George Floyd’s death at the hands of the Minneapolis police, Di Angelo’s “antiracism” training manual ascended to the top of Amazon’s best seller list. The author is a white, liberal, female sociologist who specializes in wokesplaining about whiteness to other whites. She coined the term “white fragility” in 2011 to mean the immense strain — in her words, they suffer a “a meltdown” — produced when whites are called out on their racist attitudes and behavior.

In what has become a highly lucrative cottage industry, DiAngelo facilitates diversity training workshops and in addition to elite university administrations and government agencies, her clients include corporations like Nike, Goldman Sachs, Coca-Cola, CVS, Levi Strauss & Co, W.L. Gore (makers of Goretex) Google, Under Armour, Netflix and American Express. She was even a guest on The Tonight Show, where host Jimmy Fallon was reverential and gushing in his praise. DiAngelo has reportedly made over $2 million off her book and 60-90 minute talks reap up to $30,000, a two-hour workshop $35,000 and half day events, $40,00. Tickets to her public presentations range up to $160 and you can engage in telephone correspondence with DiAngelo for $320 per hour. In 2020, her three homes were reportedly valued at $1.6 million.

Just 10 days after Floyd’ death, Nancy Pelosi introduced DiAngelo’s Zoom address to 184 Democratic members of Congress in what was designated a “Democratic Caucus family discussion on race.” For Democratic Party leaders and corporate PR departments, consultants of DiAngelo’s ilk are a wet dream of how to address racism because, as Bhasker Sundara rightly asserts, “The more that blame can be shifted to individual ‘Karens,’ the less onus is on powerful corporations, and the politicians who defend them to make real change in our system of racialized capitalism.”

I’m reminded of Rhyd Wildemuth’s observation that “White people who identify more with their whiteness over their material conditions, protect the capitalists (most of whom have the same color of skin as them). Identifying instead with their material conditions and their history of displacement would show them they have more in common with poor black people than they ever will with the rich.”1 Of course, the ‘white race” isn’t real; it doesn’t actually exist. We know that prior to the Enlightenment, people saw themselves as members of a clan, tribe, religion or geographic region. Europeans didn’t think of themselves as “white people” until it emerged from the confluence of settler colonialism and the artificial contraction of “whiteness.” In The Price of Admission, in 1985, James Baldwin wrote: “White people are not white: Part of the price of the ticket is deluding themselves into believing they are.” And Dr. Gerald Horne adroitly depicts this transformation as follows:

All of sudden when crossing the Atlantic, in a narrow manner that would make Madison Blush, all are rebranded as ‘white’ which subsumes many of the tensions, ethnic and class among them, in a new monetized and militarized ‘identity politics’ of whiteness based on expropriation of the indigenous and enslavement of the Africans. 2

This is not to suggest that the social construct of whiteness, its sociology, does not continue to have a real impact on real lives. Indeed, one would be hard pressed to find a better, consciously conceived and malicious identity than the white race. It’s the sleight of hand deceit that conceals the underlying brutality of our capitalist economic order.

In perusing DiAngelo’s book, which lacks an index, one searches in vain for the word “capitalism.” However, in an interview with Daniel Berger, published in the New York Times (July 15, 2020), DiAngelo abruptly volunteered that “Capitalism is dependent on inequality, on an underclass.” So why isn’t that included in her diversity training workshops? Because, she replied, “Capitalism is so bound up with racism. I avoid criticizing capitalism —I don’t need to give people a reason to dismiss me.” When asked for any reasons to be optimistic, DiAngelo mentioned NASCAR’S banning of Confederate flags and the renaming of military bases.

DiAngelo asserts that “racism is the foundation of our society” and because we all grow up in America’s deeply racist culture, all white people — no exceptions — are collectively racist, including younger people. Commenting specifically on the latter, she writes: “I’m often asked if I think the younger generation is less racist. No, I don’t.” (P. 50). What to do? According to her, after acknowledging one’s racism, the quintessential question for white people to ask themselves is: “How have I been shaped by society?” This explanation is deeply suspect because, as Michael Parenti has often reminded us, cultural explanations are all too often closer to tautologies than actual explanations. That is, the culture itself is what needs to be explained. Who created it and what were their motives? Those questions and their system destabilizing answers are off the table for DiAngelo.

In a widely circulated critique of DiAngelo’s training manual, University of Tennessee history professor, David Barber, succinctly zeroed in on the consequences of avoiding class analysis. I sense it’s a message we should emphasize in conversations with other white folks and it merits this lengthy quotation:

White supremacy is not only white over black, it is also the small number of rich whites over the much larger number of rich whites over the much larger number of poor and working class whites. In return for a guarantee that the latter group of whites will suffer the many calamities of life afforded working people less intensely and less frequently than do people of color, the poor and the working class will not challenge the rule of the rich. [T]he contradiction of white supremacy for the poor and the working class is not that white supremacy advances us but that it ties us to our own oppression… It’s the bribe to keep the poor and working class passive in the face of their own oppression. 3

In response to my query on this topic, Michael Yates, an economist, labor educator, writer and editor at Monthly Review, put it this way:

White workers simply don’t want to fall as low as they think nonwhite workers are, not just economically but socially and politically.

That is, as bad as things are or might become, whites are not at very bottom of the pecking order where Black people are. Their fear is that their white status will be undermined by any African-American gains. Pitiful as it it, this may be as concise, revelatory and serviceable a definition we can put forward for white skin privilege.

Finally, by positing the ineluctability of white racism — the flat out futility of thinking that white attitudes can change — DiAngelo’s book uncannily dovetails with Afropessimism, an analysis most closely identified with Prof. Frank Wilderson and one that also further fragments and abandons the crucial necessity of solidarity and multi-racial struggle. I may by mistaken but by my reading, the latter neglects and negates Black agency in the present and future and also fosters the belief that white people are incapable of renouncing racism which, in turn, contributes to pervasive feelings of hopelessness. Needless to say, both schools of thought lend welcome camouflage to corporate elites and their willing enablers, in part, because racial capitalism depends on manufacturing this white ignorance.

  1. Rhyd Wildemuth, Fascism and the Deadlock of Race, Gods & Radicals Press, September 5, 2020.
  2. Gerald Horne, “Against Left-Wing White Nationalism,” Black Agenda Report, May 26, 2021.
  3. David Barber, “Renouncing White Privilege: A Left Critique of Robin DiAngelo’s ‘White Fragility,’” Counterpunch, August 3, 2020.
The post A Few Thoughts on White Identity first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How John Hersey Blew the Whistle on the Reality of Nuclear War

In this crisply written, well-researched book, Lesley Blume, a journalist and biographer, tells the fascinating story of the background to John Hersey’s pathbreaking article Hiroshima, and of its extraordinary impact upon the world.

In 1945, although only 30 years of age, Hersey was a very prominent war correspondent for Time magazine—a key part of publisher Henry Luce’s magazine empire—and living in the fast lane.  That year, he won the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, A Bell for Adano, which had already been adapted into a movie and a Broadway play.  Born the son of missionaries in China, Hersey had been educated at upper class, elite institutions, including the Hotchkiss School, Yale, and Cambridge.  During the war, Hersey’s wife, Frances Ann, a former lover of young Lieutenant John F. Kennedy, arranged for the three of them to get together over dinner.  Kennedy impressed Hersey with the story of how he saved his surviving crew members after a Japanese destroyer rammed his boat, PT-109.  This led to a dramatic article by Hersey on the subject—one rejected by the Luce publications but published by the New Yorker.  The article launched Kennedy on his political career and, as it turned out, provided Hersey with the bridge to a new employer – the one that sent him on his historic mission to Japan.

Blume reveals that, at the time of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Hersey felt a sense of despair—not for the bombing’s victims, but for the future of the world.  He was even more disturbed by the atomic bombing of Nagasaki only three days later, which he considered a “totally criminal” action that led to tens of thousands of unnecessary deaths.

Most Americans at the time did not share Hersey’s misgivings about the atomic bombings.  A Gallup poll taken on August 8, 1945 found that 85 percent of American respondents expressed their support for “using the new atomic bomb on Japanese cities.”

Blume shows very well how this approval of the atomic bombing was enhanced by U.S. government officials and the very compliant mass communications media.  Working together, they celebrated the power of the new American weapon that, supposedly, had brought the war to an end, producing articles lauding the bombing mission and pictures of destroyed buildings.  What was omitted was the human devastation, the horror of what the atomic bombing had done physically and psychologically to an almost entirely civilian population—the flesh roasted off bodies, the eyeballs melting, the terrible desperation of mothers digging with their hands through the charred rubble for their dying children.

The strange new radiation sickness produced by the bombing was either denied or explained away as of no consequence.  “Japanese reports of death from radioactive effects of atomic bombing are pure propaganda,” General Leslie Groves, the head of the Manhattan Project, told the New York Times.  Later, when, it was no longer possible to deny the existence of radiation sickness, Groves told a Congressional committee that it was actually “a very pleasant way to die.”

When it came to handling the communications media, U.S. government officials had some powerful tools at their disposal.  In Japan, General Douglas MacArthur, the supreme commander of the U.S. occupation regime, saw to it that strict U.S. military censorship was imposed on the Japanese press and other forms of publication, which were banned from discussing the atomic bombing.  As for foreign newspaper correspondents (including Americans), they needed permission from the occupation authorities to enter Japan, to travel within Japan, to remain in Japan, and even to obtain food in Japan.  American journalists were taken on carefully controlled junkets to Hiroshima, after which they were told to downplay any unpleasant details of what they had seen there.

In September 1945, U.S. newspaper and magazine editors received a letter from the U.S. War Department, on behalf of President Harry Truman, asking them to restrict information in their publications about the atomic bomb.  If they planned to do any publishing in this area of concern, they were to submit the articles to the War Department for review.

Among the recipients of this warning were Harold Ross, the founder and editor of the New Yorker, and William Shawn, the deputy editor of that publication.  The New Yorker, originally founded as a humor magazine, was designed by Ross to cater to urban sophisticates and covered the world of nightclubs and chorus girls.  But, with the advent of the Second World War, Ross decided to scrap the hi-jinks flavor of the magazine and begin to publish some serious journalism.

As a result, Hersey began to gravitate into the New Yorker’s orbit.  Hersey was frustrated with his job at Time magazine, which either rarely printed his articles or rewrote them atrociously.  At one point, he angrily told publisher Henry Luce that there was as much truthful reporting in Time magazine as in Pravda.  In July 1945, Hersey finally quit his job with Time.  Then, late that fall, he sat down with William Shawn of the New Yorker to discuss some ideas he had for articles, one of them about Hiroshima.

Hersey had concluded that the mass media had missed the real story of the Hiroshima bombing.  And the result was that the American people were becoming accustomed to the idea of a nuclear future, with the atomic bomb as an acceptable weapon of war.  Appalled by what he had seen in the Second World War—from the firebombing of cities to the Nazi concentration camps—Hersey was horrified by what he called “the depravity of man,” which, he felt, rested upon the dehumanization of others.  Against this backdrop, Hersey and Shawn concluded that he should try to enter Japan and report on what had really happened there.

Getting into Japan would not be easy.  The U.S. Occupation authorities exercised near-total control over who could enter the stricken nation, keeping close tabs on all journalists who applied to do so, including records on their whereabouts, their political views, and their attitudes toward the occupation.  Nearly every day, General MacArthur received briefings about the current press corps, with summaries of their articles.  Furthermore, once admitted, journalists needed permission to travel anywhere within the country, and were allotted only limited time for these forays.

Even so, Hersey had a number of things going for him.  During the war, he was a very patriotic reporter.  He had written glowing profiles about rank-and-file U.S. soldiers, as well as a book (Men on Bataan) that provided a flattering portrait of General MacArthur.  This fact certainly served Hersey well, for the general was a consummate egotist.  Apparently as a consequence, Hersey received authorization to visit Japan.

En route there in the spring of 1946, Hersey spent some time in China, where, on board a U.S. warship, he came down with the flu.  While convalescing, he read Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, The Bridge of San Luis Rey, which tracked the different lives of five people in Peru who were killed when a bridge upon which they stood collapsed.  Hersey and Shawn had already decided that he should tell the story of the Hiroshima bombing from the victims’ point of view.  But Hersey now realized that Wilder’s book had given him a particularly poignant, engrossing way of telling a complicated story.  Practically everyone could identify with a group of regular people going about their daily routines as catastrophe suddenly struck them.

Hersey arrived in Tokyo on May 24, 1946, and two days later, received permission to travel to Hiroshima, with his time in that city limited to 14 days.

Entering Hiroshima, Hersey was stunned by the damage he saw.  In Blume’s words, there were “miles of jagged misery and three-dimensional evidence that humans—after centuries of contriving increasingly efficient ways to exterminate masses of other humans—had finally invented the means with which to decimate their entire civilization.”  Now there existed what one reporter called “teeming jungles of dwelling places . . . in a welter of ashes and rubble.”  As residents attempted to clear the ground to build new homes, they uncovered masses of bodies and severed limbs.  A cleanup campaign in one district of the city alone at about that time unearthed a thousand corpses.  Meanwhile, the city’s surviving population was starving, with constant new deaths from burns, other dreadful wounds, and radiation poisoning.

Given the time limitations of his permit, Hersey had to work fast.  And he did, interviewing dozens of survivors, although he eventually narrowed down his cast of characters to six of them.

Departing from Hiroshima’s nightmare of destruction, Hersey returned to the United States to prepare the story that was to run in the New Yorker to commemorate the atomic bombing.  He decided that the article would have to read like a novel.  “Journalism allows its readers to witness history,” he later remarked.  “Fiction gives readers the opportunity to live it.”  His goal was “to have the reader enter into the characters, become the characters, and suffer with them.”

When Hersey produced a sprawling 30,000 word draft, the New Yorker’s editors at first planned to publish it in serialized form.  But Shawn decided that running it this way wouldn’t do, for the story would lose its pace and impact.  Rather than have Hersey reduce the article to a short report, Shawn had a daring idea.  Why not run the entire article in one issue of the magazine, with everything else—the “Talk of the Town” pieces, the fiction, the other articles and profiles, and the urbane cartoons—banished from the issue?

Ross, Shawn, and Hersey now sequestered themselves in a small room at the New Yorker’s headquarters, furiously editing Hersey’s massive article.  Ross and Shawn decided to keep the explosive forthcoming issue a top secret from the magazine’s staff.  Indeed, the staff were kept busy working on a “dummy” issue that they thought would be going to press.  Contributors to that issue were baffled when they didn’t receive proofs for their articles and accompanying artwork.  Nor were the New Yorker’s advertisers told what was about to happen.  As Blume remarks:  “The makers of Chesterfield cigarettes, Perma-Lift brassieres, Lux toilet soap, and Old Overholt rye whiskey would just have to find out along with everyone else in the world that their ads would be run alongside Hersey’s grisly story of nuclear apocalypse.”

However, things don’t always proceed as smoothly as planned.  On August 1, 1946, President Truman signed into law the Atomic Energy Act, which established a “restricted” standard for “all data concerning the manufacture or utilization of atomic weapons.”  Anyone who disseminated that data “with any reason to believe that such data” could be used to harm the United States could face substantial fines and imprisonment.  Furthermore, if it could be proved that the individual was attempting to “injure the United States,” he or she could “be punished by death or imprisonment for life.”

In these new circumstances, what should Ross, Shawn, and Hersey do?  They could kill the story, water it down, or run it and risk severe legal action against them.  After agonizing over their options, they decided to submit Hersey’s article to the War Department – and, specifically, to General Groves – for clearance.

Why did they take that approach?  Blume speculates that the New Yorker team thought that Groves might insist upon removing any technical information from the article while leaving the account of the sufferings of the Japanese intact.  After all, Groves believed that the Japanese deserved what had happened to them, and could not imagine that other Americans might disagree.  Furthermore, the article, by underscoring the effectiveness of the atomic bombing of Japan, bolstered his case that the war had come to an end because of his weapon.  Finally, Groves was keenly committed to maintaining U.S. nuclear supremacy in the world, and he believed that an article that led Americans to fear nuclear attacks by other nations would foster support for a U.S. nuclear buildup.

The gamble paid off.  Although Groves did demand changes, these were minor and did not affect the accounts by the survivors.

On August 29, 1946, copies of the Hiroshima edition of the New Yorker arrived on newsstands and in mailboxes across the United States, and it quickly created an enormous sensation, particularly in the mass media.  Editors from more than thirty states applied to excerpt portions of the article, and newspapers from across the nation ran front-page banner stories and urgent editorials about its revelations.  Correspondence from every region of the United States poured into the New Yorker’s office.  A large number of readers expressed pity for the victims of the bombing.  But an even greater number expressed deep fear about what the advent of nuclear war meant for the survival of the human race.

Of course, not all readers approved of Hersey’s report on the atomic bombing.  Some reacted by canceling their subscriptions to the New Yorker.  Others assailed the article as antipatriotic, Communist propaganda, designed to undermine the United States.  Still others dismissed it as pro-Japanese propaganda or, as one reader remarked, written “in very bad taste.”

Some newspapers denounced it.  The New York Daily News derided it as a stunt and “propaganda aimed at persuading us to stop making atom bombs . . . and to give our technical bomb secrets away . . . to Russia.”  Not surprisingly, Henry Luce was infuriated that his former star journalist had achieved such an enormous success writing for a rival publication, and had Hersey’s portrait removed from Time Inc.’s gallery of honor.

Despite the criticism, Hiroshima continued to attract enormous attention in the mass media.  The ABC Radio Network did a reading of the lengthy article over four nights, with no acting, no music, no special effects, and no commercials.  “This chronicle of suffering and destruction,” it announced, was being “broadcast as a warning that what happened to the people of Hiroshima could next happen anywhere.”  After the broadcasts, the network’s telephone switchboards were swamped by callers, and the program was judged to have received the highest rating of any public interest broadcast that had ever occurred.  The BBC also broadcast an adaptation of Hiroshima, while some 500 U.S. radio stations reported on the article in the days following its release.

In the United States, the Alfred Knopf publishing house came out with the article in book form, which was quickly promoted by the Book-of-the-Month Club as “destined to be the most widely read book of our generation.”  Ultimately, Hiroshima sold millions of copies in nations around the world.  By the late fall of 1946, the rather modest and retiring Hersey, who had gone into hiding after the article’s publication to avoid interviews, was rated as one of the “Ten Outstanding Celebrities of 1946,” along with General Dwight Eisenhower and singer Bing Crosby.

For U.S. government officials, reasonably content with past public support for the atomic bombing and a nuclear-armed future, Hersey’s success in reaching the public with his disturbing account of nuclear war confronted them with a genuine challenge.  For the most part, U.S. officials recognized that they had what Blume calls “a serious post-`Hiroshima’ image problem.”

Behind the scenes, James B. Conant, the top scientist in the Manhattan Project, joined President Truman in badgering Henry Stimson, the former U.S. Secretary of War, to produce a defense of the atomic bombing.  Provided with an advance copy of the article, to be published in Harper’s, Conant told Stimson that it was just what was needed, for they could not have allowed “the propaganda against the use of the atomic bomb . . . to go unchecked.”

Although the New Yorker’s editors sought to arrange for publication of the book version of Hiroshima in the Soviet Union, this proved impossible.  Instead, Soviet authorities banned the book in their nation.  Pravda fiercely assailed Hersey, claiming that Hiroshima was nothing more than an American scare tactic, a fiction that “relishes the torments of six people after the explosion of the atomic bomb.”  Another Soviet publication called Hersey an American spy who embodied his country’s militarism and had helped to inflict upon the world a “propaganda of aggression, strongly reminiscent of similar manifestations in Nazi Germany.”

Ironically, the Soviet attack upon Hersey didn’t make him any more acceptable to the U.S. government.  In 1950, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover assigned FBI field agents to research, monitor, and interview Hersey, on whom the Bureau had already opened a file.  During the FBI interview with Hersey, agents questioned him closely about his trip to Hiroshima.

Not surprisingly, U.S. occupation authorities did their best to ban the appearance of Hiroshima in Japan.  Hersey’s six protagonists had to wait months before they could finally read the article, which was smuggled to them.  In fact, some of Hersey’s characters were not aware that they had been included in the story or that the article had even been written until they received the contraband copies.  MacArthur managed to block publication of the book in Japan for years until, after intervention by the Authors’ League of America, he finally relented.  It appeared in April 1949, and immediately became a best-seller.

Hersey, still a young man at the time, lived on for decades thereafter, writing numerous books, mostly works of fiction, and teaching at Yale.  He continued to be deeply concerned about the fate of a nuclear-armed world—proud of his part in stirring up resistance to nuclear war and, thereby, helping to prevent it.

The conclusion drawn by Blume in this book is much like Hersey’s.  As she writes, “Graphically showing what nuclear warfare does to humans, Hiroshima has played a major role in preventing nuclear war since the end of World War II.”

A secondary theme in the book is the role of a free press.  Blume observes that “Hersey and his New Yorker editors created Hiroshima in the belief that journalists must hold accountable those in power.  They saw a free press as essential to the survival of democracy.”  She does, too.

Overall, Blume’s book would provide the basis for a very inspiring movie, for at its core is something many Americans admire:  action taken by a few people who triumph against all odds.

But the actual history is somewhat more complicated.  Even before the publication of Hiroshima, a significant number of people were deeply disturbed by the atomic bombing of Japan.  For some, especially pacifists, the bombing was a moral atrocity.  An even larger group feared that the advent of nuclear weapons portended the destruction of the world.  Traditional pacifist organizations, newly-formed atomic scientist groups, and a rapidly-growing world government movement launched a dramatic antinuclear campaign in the late 1940s around the slogan, “One World or None.”  Curiously, this uprising against nuclear weapons is almost entirely absent from Blume’s book.

Even so, Blume has written a very illuminating, interesting, and important work—one that reminds us that daring, committed individuals can help to create a better world.

The post How John Hersey Blew the Whistle on the Reality of Nuclear War first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Time for a New Toolbox

Though his story has been widely disseminated by now, before Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong he sent a box of classified documents by snail mail from Hawaii (marked mysteriously “from B. Manning”) to a writer in New York, which made its way, unopened, from person to person until it reached journalists Laura Poitras and Glen Greenwald, who went on to meet with Snowden and tell his story of global panoptic surveillance affecting just about everybody online.

The story, Snowden’s ToolBox: Trust in the Age of Surveillance, by Jessica Bruder and Dale Maharidge, is, as the authors emphasize, a story of trust in an age of paranoia and suspicion. They’re keen to tell us, tag-team style, how the world has changed since the events of 9/11, with the militarization of the Internet, and the rise of surveillance capitalism, leading to a pervasive sense that privacy is no longer viable. We’ve succumbed to the sad notion that if we have ‘nothing to hide’ then we needn’t worry about Big Brother watching over us.

Many readers will be familiar with Jessica Bruder’s work through the adaptation of her travel memoir, Nomadland, which recently won the Oscar for best film, and for which she worked with the director Chloé Zhao to create a screenplay. Her road travels, living the life of a nomad for months, and talking Studs Terkel-like to American wanderers, travelling from job to job as a lifestyle, jibes quite nicely with co-author Dale Maharidge’s background. Maharidge won the Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for And Their Children After Them, his follow-on to the James Agee study of Alabama sharecroppers, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men. They’re People people, and so are the cadre of journalists and independent filmmakers they hook up with in telling this side story.

The first half of the book retells the now-familiar story of how and why Edward Snowden stole highly classified documents from NSA contractor Booz Allen Hamilton and handed them over to Poitras and Greenwald, who went on to make a film, Citizenfour, and detail his revelations in the Guardian. The co-authors quote Snowden judiciously; in an interview shortly after he outs himself on TV, Snowden tells us that the surveillance state he’s seen represents “an existential threat to democracy…I don’t want to live in a world where there’s no privacy and therefore no room for intellectual exploration and creativity.”

Bruder explains that Snowden had wanted to have his revelations run in the New York Times, the nation’s preeminent paper of record, but was seriously bummed out when they quashed an October 2004 article by James Risen and Eric Lichtblau that exposed Stellar Wind, the government’s illegal dragnet of American electronic communications. The Bush administration had denied such activity.

Bruder writes, “Approaching the New York Times…was out of the question. Snowden didn’t have confidence that the newspaper would have the guts to break the story… The scoop was scheduled to run right before the 2004 elections, but Executive Editor Bill Keller deferred to Bush administration officials, who claimed the revelations would damage national security.” When the story finally broke, more than a year later, it caused a political furor and popular outcry.

A more intriguing section in Snowden’s Toolbox comes when Bruder talks about how Poitras and Greenwald got together after the Snowden revelations began running in the Guardian and were invited by Ebay billionaire Pierre Omidyar to start up a new publication — The Intercept. It was meant to be a solid alternative to the corporatized MSM and a trustworthy reporting platform for whistleblowers. The publication garnered and poached some of the best journalistic talent from NYT and WaPo and elsewhere and seemed, at first, like the Travelling Wilburys of journalism.

But there was trouble from the start. The Terms of Service (TOS) made it clear that readers could be expected to have their presence at the site logged and their comments scanned by Google Adsense and Amazon’s algorithms. Such surveillance was troublesome, if for no other reason than that the Intercept’s readership were probably the types the State would want to gather details about.

It recalled the deal that Greenwald had signed with Amazon to promote his Pulitzer Prize-winning post-Snowden account of the surveillance state, No Place to Hide. Viewers of the site were offered an opportunity to receive Greenwald’s book for free, if they applied and were successfully approved for an Amazon credit card. The application details would be processed by Chase, who Greenwald had once excoriated for their corrupt practices. But more importantly, by accepting the deal from Amazon, Greenwald was effectively promoting the forwarding of private information to a corporation that would collect and store that data – from exactly the kind of readers the State would be eager to parse.

We learn that Laura Poitras, co-founder of The Intercept, was turned down when she wanted to continue working with the Snowden trove of documents, which First Look Media, owner of The Intercept, told her “the company would own all rights to any publication that resulted from our writing about the Snowden archive.” And that, she continues, “Notes we took at the archive would be confiscated for review — and possible redaction — by the Intercept.” And she added: “I laughed. The experience felt like something out of Kafka. And it gave me a sense of déjà vu, echoing how the NSA and the FBI had shut down our request to see our files.” The Intercept has since stopped writing altogether about the Snowden archive.

It gets worse when the reader learns that Laura Poitras was stiffed by The Intercept in her compensation package. Bruder writes, “Laura had been facing challenges of her own at the company, including the startling realization that her compensation was far below that of her male colleagues Greenwald and (Jeremy) Scahill.” Unbeknownst to her, Scahill and Greenwald had renegotiated their contracts, and the resulting pay disparity was “in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.”

Toward the end of the book, Bruder and Maharidge, the leit motif is repeated. Trust — at the interpersonal level, work environment and social contract with the State — is key. They write, “Trust is the basis of all cooperative action in a free society. It’s the feeling of fellowship that allows people to take risks and grow. It’s also the underpinning of democracy. And it’s fragile, easy to undermine.”

Succinct, true, and well put.

All in all, Snowden’s Toolbox is a good read, with humor, intelligence, and a welcome sense of journalistic collegiality. An Appendix offers a “toolbox” of stuff journalists and readers can do to maintain their privacy and the documents of their whistleblowing sources.

The post Time for a New Toolbox first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Dissolving the State Won’t be Easy

The State is anti-societal; some would say sociopathic. It is elitist; it is riven by affiliation with a “Core Identity Group” contraposed to the Other; in most countries, the State provides and secures the basis for capitalism to flourish, separating the population into a few haves and multitudes of have-nots. While capital flows more-or-less freely across borders, workers are at a disadvantage since they do not enjoy the same freedom of movement. Eric Laursen, in his book The Operating System: An Anarchist Theory of the Modern State, discusses the aforementioned and other intricacies of the State and why anarchists find the State abhorrent.

The Operating System identifies the starting point for understanding the State being its legal, administrative, and decision-making structure — the government. (p 60) The State is the government; its writes the laws; its police, festishized by mass media, enforce the laws while shielded from accountability for their actions by qualified immunity. Prejudice forms the underbelly to the State and, hence, its “vested interest in maintaining if not promoting sexism, gender inequity, homophobia, and transphobia.” (p 177)

That the State is regressivist, that it promotes elitism and eschews diversity, that it is anti-democratic is made clear: “Today, the State is well on its way to creating, for the first time in human history, a worldwide monoculture tied to a uniform economic model and a single pattern of governance by a self-selecting global elite.” (p 26) But the masses are inculcated to believe the State is a necessity. (p 27)

In chapter 4, Laursen points to the European origin and cultural domination of the State. (p 84) It is a big monoculture that is hegemonic. (p 111-112) Yet, it was acknowledged in chapter 3 that not all States are the same; there are different “Versions of the Operating System.”

The State is an out-of-control abomination. Laursen quotes political theorist Chandran Kukuthas who points out that while the State is a human creation, it has evolved into something ungovernable by humans. (p 11) Among the crimes of the State are warring, genocide, racism, elitism (the State is organized hierarchically, although not necessarily by meritocracy1 ), and setting up barriers to certain humans: the Others.

For example: “The State does not contain Indigenous peoples who’ve never accepted the rule of a state and never adopted a functional role within it.” (p 23)

Nineteenth century European anarchists were staunchly opposed to any type of authoritarianism, especially the State, and held the conviction that capitalism couldn’t be abolished without the simultaneous abolishment of the State. (p 15) This probably holds true for most anarchists today.

Opposition to authoritarianism forms the backdrop for Laursen to inordinately beam his criticism at the State on China. The “authoritarian, one-party China” even gets lumped together with the “absolute monarchy” in Saudi Arabia and with the theocratic Islamic State (ISIS). (p 150) The error here is that one is led to presume that all forms of authoritarianism are the same and that all are equally anathema. Moreover, authoritarianism seems to be applied, more or less, specifically to non-western States. However, which State is not by definition authoritarian?

Is The Operating System Sinophobic?

Especially in recent years, China has been under unceasing criticism by the West and western mass media. The Operating System is also relentless throughout for its criticism of China. No State should be above criticism, but such criticism must be factually accurate and substantiated by whoever generates the criticism. I find that The Operating System fails miserably to substantiate its claims against China. When it does provide endnotes or footnotes for its claims, The Operating System diminishes its verisimilitude by citing western corporate media sources for such claims.

In the second chapter, “The State and COVID-19,” Sinophobia2 becomes palpable. Laursen states, “… the virus emerged in China…” (p 31 — no substantiation) Usually, when I find myself in doubt about proffered information, I look for substantiation to support a contention. Did SARS-CoV-2 originate in China? China state media, CGTN, has challenged that depiction presenting evidence that it arose simultaneously in France and before that in the United States: “A legitimate Question: when did COVID-19 first appear in the U.S.?” The Chinese state media’s evidence can be challenged, but at least CGTN provided evidence which Laursen did not.

Viruses can arise from various locales on the planet. The Spanish flu arose in the US; the Ebola virus arose in Africa; the H1N1 swine flu pandemic arose in Mexico. Pinpointing the source of a pandemic may seem uncritical, but Laursen followed up the sourcing of COVID-19 to China by writing that “China has developed possibly the most thorough and minutely controlling state system in the world.” (p 31) Criticism of China continues in the next paragraph: “Arguably, China was slow to address the underlying conditions that allowed the virus to spread, increasing the odds of a breakout epidemic…” The peer-review medical journal The Lancet did not find China to be slow. It found, “While the world is struggling to control COVID-19, China has managed to control the pandemic rapidly and effectively.” [italics added] The words that I italicized point to uncertainty by Laursen. Laursen provides no evidence or rationale to support his contention.

Nonetheless, Laursen is equally scathing of the US response to the pandemic; the $500 billion for the newly jobless, a pittance compared to that offered to businesses.

While Washington often complains that it has no money for social spending; safety-net programs or old-age pensions, in reality this is nonsense: its power to spend and to support the economic units it values is unlimited. The difference is who the State deems worthy of support. (p 54)

Laursen tars most large countries with the same brush of a “disastrous government response” to COVID-19 (China, the US, Russia, Brazil, etc). (p 41 ) Contrariwise, the peer-review journal Science noted early on that “China’s aggressive measures have slowed the coronavirus.” The New England Journal of Medicine reported a “Rapid Response to an Outbreak in Qingdao, China.” Canadian Dimension headlined: “The difference between the US and China’s response to COVID-19 is staggering.”

The Operating System gloms on to the western bugbear accusing China of persecuting ethnicities in its autonomous provinces: “Tibetans and Uighurs suffer [empire building] as Beijing encourages Han Chinese to establish themselves in Tibet and Xinjiang…” (p 79 — no substantiation) First, Xinjiang and Tibet are regions in China where the US and its CIA have long sought to stir up ethnic revolt against Communism.3 Second, a longtime student of China, Godfree Roberts, wrote that Tibetan fear of Han Chinese vanished when they noticed that the Han were just trying to eke out a living. Most Han Chinese did not thrive and left within a few years.4 Third, China liberated Tibet from serfdom under the lamas. Some Tibetans still regard Mao Zedong as their emancipator; they say their life is better now than under the Dalai Lama; and Tibetans remain free to practice their religion.5 Fourth, the Chinese government has sent tens of thousands of anti-poverty workers to Xinjiang who identified opportunities for the people of Xinjiang, improved infrastructure for access to markets, had major corporations relocate to Xinjiang, and Beijing moved whole universities to Xinjiang.6 Is this empire building? It was building up the Xinjiang economy. Yet Laursen charges that Beijing was underwriting the “ethnic Chinese colonization of Xinjiang.” (p 106) Laursen does not substantiate this claim, but offers an explanation: “[E]conomic rationalizations, are mostly rationalizations.” (p 106) This explanation is far from compelling. The Communist Party of China (CPC) has put the people first throughout the country. It stems from the ancient Chinese philosophy of the Mandate of Heaven — something hard to dismiss as just a rationalization.

Laursen cites the Wall Street Journal to build a case for “cultural erasure” against Uyghurs by “demolishing some eighty-five hundred mosques” in Xinjiang. (p 106, 154) This erasure, contends Laursen, has been the intent since the days of chairman Mao Zedong. (p 125 — no substantiation) A comparison of respect for the sanctity of mosques in China with western states such as France and the US refutes the disinformation that The Operating System proffers. In the case of mosque and building demolitions in Xinjiang, it is about improving living and safety standards, a process into which Uyghurs have input and choices.7

Laursen charges that China uses government surveillance to manage and control population (p 148 — no substantiation). No one denies the prevalence of CCTV cameras, but what is not delineated is what is meant by “manage” and “control” of the population.

Laursen warns that China’s social-credit program collects data on individuals which can lead to blacklisting for ‘untrustworthy’ persons. (p 102) This plays into the western mass media demonization of data collection in China while ignoring that the West, as revealed by Edward Snowden (p 147), does the same. (p 138-140) That is what the CIA, NSA, Facebook, and social media do.

From first-hand experience, my impression is that most Chinese people like the social-credit program. Imagine that! Being rewarded for paying bills on time, being able to book rail tickets, tickets to attractions easily online. For those people who refuse to pay bills, child support, fines, or engage in other untrustworthy activities, the question is: should or shouldn’t they be revealed and compelled to make amends? Most Chinese seem of the opinion that they should be compelled.8

Laursen complains about the blurring of lines between State and capital in providing “nominally private” security for the Belt and Road Initiative while noting the staff are veterans of the People’s Liberation Army. (p 108) Laursen sources the discredited right-wing Rupert Murdoch-owned Wall Street Journal.

The author writes of protests against Beijing’s increasing encroachment on Hong Kong’s autonomy. (p 110) Encroachment? Hong Kong is not sovereign; it is part of China. One country-two systems remains in place. Moreover, Beijing allowed Hong Kong to deal with the protestors/rioters:

What about the protests/riots that have resumed in Hong Kong? What triggered those protests? Some citizens were opposed to extradition of alleged criminals? How has China responded to rioting, sabotage, terrorism, separatism, and even murders by the so-called protestors? Hong Kong is a territory having been a under British colonial administration from 1841 to 1997 when it reverted to mainland China as a special autonomous region; it must be noted that once the original demands [of the protestors] for rescinding the extradition bill were met, the goal posts of the NED-supported protestors transformed into a purported democracy movement.

Has China responded with military force? No. With arrests of law-abiding journalists? No. With police brutality? Most observers will acknowledge that police have been incredibly restrained, some would say too restrained in the face of protestor violence.

The protestors, largely disaffected youth, as is apparent in all or most video footage, by and large employ random violence as a tactic, which they do not condemn. This was made clear by Hong Kong protest leader Joey Siu, during an interview with Deutsche Welle, who said she “will not do any kind of public condemnation” for the use of unjustified violence by protesters against residents who do not share their political views.

The anarchist author also compares the one-party China to Nazi Germany and fascist Italy stating that China is elitist. (p 121) It is true that the CPC effectively rules China, but it is inaccurate to say China is a one-party State, as there are many political parties in China. One could rightfully argue that the US and Canada are effectively one-party States since two business parties with little to distinguish them apart alternate to form the government. The Chinese political system is different in that unlike the bickering among business parties in Canada and the US, the CPC and other parties in China pull together for the good of the country and its citizens. Laursen, however, argues that two-party democracies are preferable to a one-party system because this provides a venue for “citizens to channel their preferences into effective vehicles for competition and governance.” (p 160) Laursen does acknowledge that the “real purpose” of the two-party system is “to block anti-capitalist and anti-State movements.” (p 162)

The root of the criticism of being a one-party State is seemingly directed at the State not being democratic. Australian journalist and author Wei Ling Chua challenges the western narrative on what constitutes democracy and finds the West is sorely behind in serving the needs of its people compared to China.9 Roberts writes compellingly on what constitutes genuine democracy:

While there is an obvious tension between the ideals of democracy and the realities of power, it is fair to say that governments that consistently produce the outcomes that their citizens desire are democratic, while those that consistently fail to produce the outcomes their citizens desire … are not. By that definition, China is clearly democratic and the United States is clearly not.10

Chinese citizens clearly seem pleased with their form of government. A recent York University-led survey of 19,816 Chinese citizens post-pandemic revealed trust in the national government at 98 percent.

Mega-projects are intertwined with being a State. Interesting to Laursen is that these projects were carried out by “representative democracies”11 as well as by “authoritarian states.” Interestingly, he points to the “subjugation and settlement of the American West” and the spreading neoliberalism worldwide as not being carried out by an authoritarian State. (p 155)

Laursen charges, “In Hong Kong in 2019, the Chinese government threw unprecedented force at large but peaceful prodemocracy demonstrations…” (p 169) First, the Chinese government “threw” no force at the demonstrations. Mainland Chinese security forces did not police the Hong Kong riots. Second, calling the demonstrations “peaceful” is risible disinformation.12 Third, the demonstrations were not about “prodemocracy.” The goal of the demonstrations morphed following attainment of the initial goal to prevent coming into law an extradition bill with mainland China, something Hong Kong has with the US and UK. Fourth, the funding of the protestors/rioters in Hong Kong traces back to the US and its notorious National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Surely Laursen is aware of the Propaganda Model propounded by anarchist professor Noam Chomsky and lead author Edward Herman in their much praised Manufacturing Consent. So why does he cite an oft discredited corporate media publication, the Guardian, to accuse China of sterilizing Uyghur women? (p 224) This is patently false given the burgeoning Uyghur population.

There are a litany of criticisms sprinkled throughout The Operating System about China. It causes one to wonder why this preponderence given that China is a State that has lifted all its population out of extreme poverty: no homelessness, no dumpster diving, no begging!

Overcoming the State

The modern State is an instrument of violence, war, conquest, repression, and counterinsurgency. The State can repress rebellion because it is above the law, and it uses the military to drive the economy. To gain rights, benefits, and respect for human rights, the population has had to rise up or revolt against the State. (p 88-89)

Yet Laursen finds that anarchists seemingly “shy away from directly addressing the State…” (p 16) Capitalism is an adjunct to the main target, as Laursen writes, “… the fundamental problem isn’t capital or the wage system, it’s the State.” (p 20)

By emphasizing direct action, anarchism reflects a growing disillusionment with the Sate and democratic government as engines of progressive change. (p 13)

The State is an onerous construct that serves the 1%-ers. So, of course, 99% of the people who care about such matters, should want to overthrow the Westphalian system of states. To accomplish this overthrow, Laursen calls for a revolution. To start, a revolution of the mind. People need to liberate themselves from business as usual. In this context, The Operating System considers the Green New Deal, degrowth, deglobalization, food sovereignty, maintaining safety nets, and a community of mutual aid. In other words, becoming more self-sufficient.

Laursen knows that no modern state has ever been overthrown by a revolution — yet. For such a successful revolution to transpire, he says the State must have discredited itself in a large segment of the population. (p 18) According to the anarchist writer Peter Gelderloos, this already is the case.13 Indeed, this may be occurring now with the poor handling of the pandemic, an underwhelming response to climate change, and the persistence of systemic racism (look no further than the self-identifying Jewish State’s war crimes against Palestinians, supported by the US and Canada governments). Laursen notes that the State will not willingly disappear; it will have to be compelled to go away.

How? The revolution can be realized by the masses through a general strike, mutiny within armed forces, and the seizure of government facilities and key businesses. It won’t be easy. There are difficulties in bringing this about: among them are overcoming the inculcation of the “education” system (raising the question of whether critical thinking is genuinely encouraged in schools), the inability to disengage from fake news on corporate/state media and social media, and that consumers continue to shop at Walmart and big box stores.

Conclusion

Should a revolution succeed, the big question is how to defend an anarchy both domestically and from external attack. A tiny minority benefits extraordinarily to the detriment of the masses, and these morally bankrupt people have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo of the State and the capitalist system which places them at the top of the power hierarchy.

The Operating System is useful in understanding the anti-humanism of the State, why the State should be abolished, and steps toward seeking the abolishment of the State. However, I found that The Operating System derailed itself mightily when it went off track to repeatedly excoriate China, apparently without knowledge of the history of China at the hands of the West or considering the Chinese side’s rebuttals to allegations against it.

I agree with the central thesis of the State being harmful to the wider humanity, but I demur from the supposed lumping together of all big states in the basket of the bad. There are large, militarily powerful states that seek to expand their influence, exploit the wealth and resources of smaller, less militarily developed states. China is anti-imperialist. It eschews hegemony. Of course, the actions of China must be held to account with its words. Moreover, an understanding of why China does what it does is crucial. China is ringed by US military bases. The US and its allies work to destabilize China. China seeks a peaceful reunification with Taiwan that was dismembered from it by Japan, with the support of the US. In the meantime, China is caring for all its citizens, promoting the Chinese Dream, a dream that will benefit other countries. China pledges peaceful development and cooperation.14 Importantly, China promises to honor its commitments.

Mao Zedong was, arguably, an anarchist in sentiment:

Now to have states, families, and selves is to allow each individual to maintain a sphere of selfishness. This utterly violates the Universal Principle and impedes progress. Therefore, not only should states be abolished — so that there would be no more struggle between the strong and the weak — but families should also be done away with, too, to allow equality of love and affection among men.15

Current chairman Xi Jinping calls for the upholding of Mao’s thought. To this end, Xi delineates the mass line of the CPC:

Adhering to the mass line means following the fundamental tenet of serving the people wholeheartedly.16

  1. If meritocracy even exists
  2. As expressed toward the Chinese State and not toward Chinese individuals.
  3. Read Thomas Laird, Into Tibet: The CIA’s First Atomic Spy and His Secret Expedition to Lhasa (Grove Press, 2003).
  4. Godfree Roberts, Why China Leads the World: Democracy at the Top, Data in the Middle, Talent at the Top (Oriel Media, 2020): 233.
  5. Roberts, 232.
  6. Roberts, 305.
  7. Roberts, 179.
  8. Roberts, 107.
  9. Wei Ling Chua, Democracy: What the West Can Learn from China (2013). Review.
  10. Roberts, 155.
  11. The representatives in so-called representative democracies, by and large, do not represent their constituents and, hence these are not democratic.
  12. View “Another Hong Kong: Chaos in the streets.”
  13. Diagnostic of the Future: Between the Crisis of Democracy and the Crisis of Capitalism: A Forecast 2018, 2018. “… the fact that an important state [the US], followed by a growing body of others, is breaking apart an old and hallowed synthesis — turning the nation-state against universal equality — is incontrovertible evidence that the world system that has governed us up to now is falling apart.” location 131.
  14. Xi Jinping, The Governance of China (Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2014).
  15. Mao quoting from memory Confucius’ Liyun by Kang Youwei. From Roberts, 305.
  16. Xi, “Carrying on the Enduring Spirit of Mao Zedong Thought” in The Governance of China.
The post Dissolving the State Won’t be Easy first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Jakarta Method Never Ended

Prepare to read Vincent Bevins’s The Jakarta Method in one sitting because it’s impossible to put down. The book is a summation of the US government assisting the Indonesian military in killing approximately one million civilians from October 1965 through March 1966.

While the Vietnam War got most of the headlines, in Indonesia the world’s third largest communist party was winning hearts, minds and elections — much to the alarm of the United States. After years of cultivating and training the Indonesian military the US decided it was time for the Indonesian working class to put away childish things like land reform and resource nationalization. The two-million strong (but fatefully unarmed) Indonesian communist party, the PKI, had to be exterminated “down to the roots.”

The mass murder starts on October 7 on Sumatra with a fanatical anticommunist commander named Ishak Djuarsa who trained at Fort Leavenworth. The police and military arrest leftists and their sympathizers en masse. Trusting peasants and factory workers turn themselves in for what they think is routine questioning and are never heard from again. For mass murder to spread so quickly it’s necessary for ethnic and religious fault lines to be exploited and “ordinary” citizens to directly participate in the killings, often under the threat of being killed themselves.

Most of the killings were summary executions done with knives, swords, machetes, sickles and spears. The flow of small rivers and streams was disrupted by too many dead bodies. Rape, torture, gendered violence, castration and dismembering alive swept across the 17,000 island archipelago from Banda Aceh to Papua. The US provided arms, training, communication equipment and lists of thousands of real and alleged leftists to be killed. US-owned plantations furnished lists of “troublesome” employees. US officials repeatedly sent cables to the leader of the butchery, General Suharto, to kill the leftists faster.

The Indonesian military “pioneers” “disappearing” people and, before 1966 ends, this will be a tactic of state terror in Guatemala. Soon right-wingers are scrawling “Jakarta is coming!” on walls throughout Latin America. 1968 brings the Phoenix Program (50,000 killed) in Vietnam and in the 1970s Chile adds the new twist of extra-territorial assassination in Operation Condor. The 1980s bring the Nicaraguan contras (50,000 killed) and Salvadorian death squads (75,000 killed.)

The “Salvador option” migrates to Iraq in 2004 with the US creation of the Wolf Brigade death squad, overseen by some of the same villains in the Central American bloodshed: James Steele, John Negroponte and Elliott Abrams. The Obama-backed 2009 Honduran coup catapults that nation into the number spot in the world for the killing of labor leaders, land reformers and journalists. As I write this the police and paramilitaries of US client narco-state Colombia are gunning down unarmed protesters in the streets of Cali.

It was one big capitalist party as US media and nearly all politicians cheered on the deaths of “communists” (union organizers, teachers, journalists, students, land reformers) and, after the peace of the dead was established, US oil companies flocked into Indonesia. “Communism” (i.e., the working class majority helping itself) had been “turned back” in the fourth most populous nation on earth. Capitalism’s bloodthirsty media soldiers, like “liberal” New York Times columnist James Reston, called the slaughter “A Gleam of Light in Asia.”

Besides the million Indonesians murdered, another million were sent without charge or trial to prison camps for decades. Unlike truth and reconciliation commissions established in other countries following government atrocities, every Indonesian government since 1965 has been proud of the slaughter. Westerners party today on Bali beaches where 56 years ago massacres of 80,000 Balinese took place and bones and skulls still wash up. To give a flavor for the madness of the Indonesian ruling class since 1965 — which included killing 300,000 people in East Timor between 1975 and 1999 — it’s best to just quote Bevins:

Much worse things happened than this to the families of communists and accused communists. In Indonesia, being communist marks you for life as evil, and in many cases, this is seen as something that passes down to your offspring, as if it were a genetic deformity. Children of accused communists were tortured and killed. Some women were prosecuted simply for setting up an orphanage for the children of communist victims.

In January 1966 Robert F. Kennedy became the only prominent US politician to speak out against Suharto’s carnage. With the Kennedys, though, we always get a dose of historical whiplash as, earlier in the book, RFK and JFK debate sending in marines to overthrow the government of the Dominican Republic. They veto this as too obvious but Bobby helpfully suggests blowing up the US consulate themselves as a pretext to invade. (According to Ron Ridenour’s Russian Peace Threat, Robert Falseflag Kennedy also suggested a similar “Remember the Maine” incident to justify directly attacking Cuba during the missile crisis.)

Early in the book there are a couple revealing anecdotes about Chinese leaders trying to talk sense into Indonesia’s charismatic but overconfident President Sukarno.

Chinese Premier Zhou Enlai tells Sukarno that he should have his own armed working class militia apart from the military: “The militarized masses are invincible.” Che told Guatemalan leftists the same thing in 1954 but neither Sukarno nor Arbenz did this and their working classes paid dearly. (Decades later Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez creates the armed Bolivarian Militia of 3.3 million men and women, probably staving off a direct US invasion.)

Chairman Mao also warns Sukarno that he’s too complacent about the Indonesian military. Mao remains the only leader in history to overthrow his own government and Bevins posits that the bloodbath in Indonesia was a partial impetus for the 1966 Cultural Revolution to purge any bourgeois elements.

In another early chapter, Richard Nixon admits in private that communists and socialists improve people’s lives and will win elections — if the US lets elections be held. Nixon said this in 1955 about Indonesia and again in 1970 about Allende’s Chile. Over and over, it’s the “good example” of different economic systems that the insecure US ruling class fanatically seeks to crush. The US system has never been able to “compete” without bombs, bribery, brainwashing, blackmail and bullets.

And you know what? It all worked — just like the FBI exterminating the black left “worked” in the 1960s and 1970s. Today, everywhere, whether Indonesia or the United States, we see the triumph of capitalism: staggering wealth inequality, environmental devastation, endless wars, police impunity, masses ground down to subsistence, homeless people under every bridge, tens of millions afraid that an illness or injury will bankrupt them, indebted, pauperized, surveilled and censored.

In Youtube interviews Bevins, currently a reporter for the Washington Post, wonders if we’ll look back on the present and see other ignored atrocities. Considering that the Washington Post supported the US destruction of Iraq, Libya and Syria, the decades-long and ongoing hammering of Cuba, Iran and Palestine, and the scrupulous ignoring of six million people killed in the Congo by US-ally Rwanda — I’d say we don’t have to wonder.

What I’m wondering is when Bevins is going to write a story in the Washington Post about the illegal unconstitutional dirty war the US is currently waging on Syria, the illegal occupation of one third of Syria, the US theft of Syria’s oil and wheat, the US sanctions which only punish the Syrian working class, the US/UK domination and corruption of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, the US military’s care and feeding of takfiri fanatics and US Congressional complicity in war crimes. Maybe 50 years from now it will be “safe” to tell Syria truths.

The post The Jakarta Method Never Ended first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Intolerance as the New Normal

Dan Kovalik’s latest is a much-needed, laudable enterprise, courageously sounding the alarm about a tyranny being perpetrated in the name of moral and social renewal. Similar to genocide, it is cultural cleansing, a systematic destruction of what its proponents singularly deem uncomfortable, unsavory, perhaps threatening to them and their adherents. Cancel culture is militantly aggressive, unforgiving, ruthless, aimed at vilification and final extirpation of anyone who disagrees with or in any way resists its unbending, non-negotiable agenda. Its stormtroopers are the PC Police, what I prefer to call the Woke SS. They answer only to themselves, respecting no other authority. Outside opinion, body of law, history, revered traditions, honored social practices and norms are irrelevant. Attempts to introduce any of these into conversations with them results in brutal retaliation. Their chosen battlegrounds include mainstream and alternative media, social media, the boards and HR departments of both corporations and academic institutions, and more recently the production studios for both TV and cinema.

What authority the woke mob claims is based on an inversion of the mechanism which has underpinned moral imperatives in the rich philosophical traditions of both East and West. Traditionally, after rigorous and thorough dialectic, we did what we did because it was the right thing to do. By inverting this, all that is done in the name of woke activism is right because it’s what they do. The woke have dispensed with the cumbersome process of arriving at moral truths by free, open, and constructive conversations, then respectfully and judiciously soliciting consensus and compliance. By unilaterally deciding they are on the right side of history and all important issues, their actions are deemed a priori correct and unassailable. It’s remindful of the German nation being led to believe in the 1930s that they were a super race of ascendant humans, thus their actions could not be evaluated and judged by external standards. Super men and women were only capable of superior and unchallengeable action.

As Dan Kovalik illustrates eloquently and in great detail, providing excellent support and documentation throughout, the woke search-and-destroy cultural scourge has precedents and parallels in other areas of social and political life. Hypocrisy and self-sabotage are equally evident.

The U.S. has anointed itself as the exceptional, indispensable nation, chosen by history, consecrated by destiny to lead the world. Thus …

We wage war on nations to establish peace. We overthrow democratically-elected governments to promote democracy. We destroy functioning governments, kill innocent men, women and children, and create massive refugee crises, to promote and protect women’s rights, seed and nurture freedom. In our never-ending struggle against racism and ultra-nationalism, we malign China, fuel hatred of Russia, embargo and sanction Islamic countries like Syria, Iran, destroy Libya. In our embrace of multiculturalism, we suffocate the economies of Cuba and Venezuela, separate brown children from their parents and put them in cages. In our respect for and devotion to human rights, we arm and support Israeli apartheid of Palestine, the callous destruction of a whole people.

Now don’t get the wrong impression. It’s all good. You see, we’re America and everything we do is good.

This, of course, is the exact same mentality we see unfolding now in our own country. Woke is R2P on our own soil.

From its initial appearance on the American scene, the entire woke movement struck me personally as humorless, oppressive, facile, misguided, an anathema to creativity and free expression. Since those early days, it has become dangerous and frightening. Woke is turning the culture and politics of our nation into a huge snuff film.

I genuinely fear for the safety of this brilliant author. I’ve read and reviewed several of his other books. His scholarship is impeccable and his presentation highly inspiring. I especially loved the conversational tone which generously populates Cancel This Book. But all his works are powerful, accessible, readable. Author Kovalik has taken controversial positions in the past. But taking on the goon squads of cancel culture is his boldest and most admirable effort. Without free discourse from all possible sources, the dystopia of woke is exactly what you get. Maybe the members of the woke thug battalions get their thrills from turning America into a wasteland. I personally don’t see much of a future in it.

The post Intolerance as the New Normal first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Organizing for Revolution in East Harlem

Johanna Fernández’s The Young Lords: A Radical History could hardly have been published at a more auspicious time. The fateful year 2020 saw not only the outbreak of a global pandemic but also, in the U.S., a rejuvenation of Black Lives Matter and renewed national attention to issues of racial and economic justice. The pandemic and its economic consequences have further skewed a lopsided distribution of income, with U.S. billionaires gaining over a trillion dollars in the last nine months of 2020 even as millions of people were thrown out of work and wages continued to stagnate. Popular resistance, in part inspired by Bernie Sanders’ two presidential campaigns, seems to be gaining momentum, as the nation continues its headlong rush into an era of tumult likely reminiscent of both the 1930s and the 1960s-70s. The memory of the Young Lords resonates in our time of troubles.

Others have written about the Young Lords, including members Iris Morales (Through the Eyes of Rebel Women: The Young Lords 1969–1976) and Miguel Meléndez (We Took the Streets: Fighting for Latino Rights with the Young Lords), but Fernández’s work, which focuses on the New York organization, is an exhaustive study grounded in archival research and extensive interviews with surviving Lords. It covers every aspect of the group’s history, not least the social and political context that was able to radicalize so many young people of color from Chicago (where the group began) to New York (where it was strongest) to smaller cities around the country. Not only scholars and students but also activists would benefit from reading this book, for, aside from the fascinating history itself, one can glean lessons on how to organize from the failures and successes of the Young Lords. Indeed, Fernández concludes the book by drawing a helpful list of such lessons.

The Young Lords is, in short, the definitive history of “one of the most creative and productive expressions of the New Left” (p. 7), a group that, for its brief existence of several years, was a highly effective heir to the Black Power movement. It may have failed in its goal of sparking revolution among poor communities of color in the U.S. and in Puerto Rico, but its ambitious and militant campaigns won significant reforms that helped push New York’s postwar liberalism to its outer limits before colliding with the conservative backlash of the late 1970s and subsequent decades.

The group’s humble beginnings hardly foretold such future success. The Young Lords started out as a small Puerto Rican gang in Chicago in the early 1960s, no more “political” than any other local gang. But by early 1969 it was transforming, under the leadership of José “Cha Cha” Jiménez, into an activist organization addressing urban renewal, police brutality, and welfare rights. Very quickly they made connections with the Chicago Black Panthers, which led them to adopt the Panthers’ model of organization and its Ten-Point Program, in addition to such practices as building a free health clinic, starting breakfast and dental programs, publishing a newspaper, and even occupying a church briefly in the summer of 1969. As Fernández says, this bold move to emulate the Panthers “was precisely the example that Puerto Ricans in New York needed to propel them into motion” (p. 48).

The New York group had very different origins than the Chicago group. Its founders were not gang members but young activists and college students, particularly from SUNY Old Westbury. Mickey Melendez, a student there, had in January 1969 formed the Sociedad Albizu Campos (named after the iconic leader of Puerto Rico’s struggle for nationhood), a small organization devoted to bringing young Puerto Rican activists together. Members of the SAC traveled to Chicago in the summer of 1969 to meet Cha Cha Jiménez after reading an interview with him in the Black Panthers’ newspaper. Inspired by what Jiménez had created in Chicago, they returned to New York and set up a Young Lords affiliate in East Harlem, complete with the same Panthers-influenced structure and even similar regalia of purple berets, black military fatigues, and combat boots. The core members of the group, including Felipe Luciano (chairman), Pablo Guzmán, Juan González, Denise Oliver, David Perez, and several others, had already been radicalized by the racism and segregation they encountered in the New York school system, and in some cases had gained valuable training by subsequent work with the Community Action Programs funded by Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Fernández’s discussion of these individual backgrounds serves to situate the Young Lords in the context of New York’s explosive protests and riots of the late 1960s.

Once the Young Lords Organization (YLO)—later called the Young Lords Party—was formed in New York, it immediately launched its first campaign: the so-called Garbage Offensive, an attempt to draw public attention to the chronic crisis of poor sanitation and “epic garbage accumulation” in East Harlem (which was by far the most densely populated neighborhood in Manhattan). Conversations with local residents had revealed that they saw this problem, rather than police brutality or the independence of Puerto Rico or some other more “sensational” issue, as the most urgent matter to be dealt with. So in August 1969 the Young Lords organized a series of direct action protests: they and other residents piled huge heaps of garbage (in some cases setting them on fire) at busy intersections to block traffic, even overturning cars and casting old refrigerators and other large items into the heaps. Very soon they captured the attention of the city’s elite press and political power-players, who realized they could no longer ignore the festering sore of inadequate sanitation in the city. At length, extensive reforms were introduced that did much to alleviate the crisis and make conditions in the city’s poorer and darker neighborhoods more livable than before.

Fernández’s account of the Garbage Offensive sets the pattern for her discussion of all the other campaigns the YLO embarked on in the following years. Rather than simply giving a factual narrative of what happened, she weaves into her analysis a discussion of the Young Lords’ ideological self-understandings, as formed against the backdrop of the tumultuous global politics of that era. For instance, in accord with the group’s Maoism (and Leninism), the very name “Garbage Offensive” recalled the Tet Offensive of 1968. The young activists saw themselves as applying to the urban context the tactics of guerrilla warfare, such as “flexibility, mobility, surprise and escape” (e.g., by discarding their uniforms and blending into the crowd as soon as police showed up). They were at war, fighting for the national liberation of an internally and externally colonized people—in fact for the liberation of Blacks, Asians, and Native Americans as well. But their war would not be fought through armed struggle; it was fought through community organizing, issue-based campaigns in the neighborhood, and an effort to build a cadre organization that soon attracted hundreds of young people as volunteers, members, and staff (for the Young Lords rented out an office where they printed a newspaper and other material, manned the phones, planned press conferences, etc.).

A whirlwind of activity ensued, for years, after the Garbage Offensive. The Young Lords were quick to join the welfare rights movement, for instance, offering security at civil disobedience actions. Together with the Black Panthers, they collected clothing and distributed it to poor welfare mothers, in addition to establishing a free daily children’s breakfast program. Regular political education classes, where classic revolutionary texts (by Mao, Lenin, Ho Chi Minh, Frantz Fanon, Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and others) were read and discussed, “raised the consciousness” of members and residents. In the fall of 1969 the YLO got heavily involved in campaigns to reform the community’s health infrastructure, from protesting impending cuts to staff and health services at Metropolitan Hospital to writing and publicizing (with the assistance of doctors) a Ten-Point Health Program that envisioned such radical changes as a publicly funded healthcare system, direct democratic governance of Metropolitan by staff and residents, and “the creation of small, neighborhood-based clinics” that would facilitate “a comprehensive, ‘door-to-door’ project of medical care and social services that prioritized care for drug users, prenatal care, childcare, and care for the elderly” (p. 142). These proposals were inspired by the Cuban Revolution’s mass expansion and democratization of healthcare delivery.

Out of this campaign emerged the Young Lords’ “most enduring legacy,” the militancy they brought to “a preexisting campaign against childhood lead poisoning that pressured city hall to take action on a silent public health crisis” (p. 135). Fernández notes that in the 1960s, 43,000 old housing tenements that had been deemed “unfit for human habitation” in 1901 continued to house Black, Puerto Rican, and Chinese tenants, whose children were consequently at grave risk of lead contamination. Various groups had brought attention to the issue, but it was the Young Lords’ Lead Offensive in late 1969 that finally catalyzed change. They were able to secure 200 lead-testing kits, after which they conducted door-to-door screenings that revealed high rates of contamination. With the help of media publicity, the city government was thus shamed into action. Almost immediately, the Department of Health created the Bureau of Lead Poisoning Control, as well as launching the Emergency Repair Program to remove lead paint from tenement walls. In a campaign reminiscent of the Young Lords’ community-based healthcare plan, the city even sent teams of doctors into neighborhoods to test for illnesses and give sickle cell, rubella, and measles immunizations.

Within a few months, in short, the Young Lords had made a name for themselves in New York City. They were about to gain much more notoriety, however. While searching for a new location for their children’s breakfast program in the fall of 1969, they came across the First Spanish United Methodist Church. Since its facilities were unused every day of the week except Sunday, it seemed like an ideal candidate to host the program. Unfortunately, the Cuban pastor and the church board adamantly disagreed, and for weeks continued to reject the Young Lords’ arguments that they only wanted to help the church fulfill its Christian calling of serving the poor. At last, after an attempt one Sunday to publicly appeal to the congregation resulted in a “police riot” within the church—“nightsticks flying all over the place,” as one witness recalled, “blood all over the church” (p. 166)—the young activists decided they had no other recourse but to stage an occupation. So on a Sunday late in December they occupied the building, nailing shut all the doors but one and announcing they would leave only after they were granted space for a “liberation school,” a daycare center, and the free breakfast program that had originally provoked the conflict.

Fernández’s discussion, as usual, brilliantly contextualizes the YLO’s Church Offensive, setting it against the backdrop of liberation theology, the teachings of the philosopher of education Paulo Freire, debates between liberal and leftist Americans over the causes of poverty, and the generational conflict between young Puerto Ricans (who tended to support the Lords’ militancy) and their elders (who were more wary, though frequently sympathetic). At press conferences, leaders of the occupation calmly and persuasively explained their goals, in fact, so compellingly that clergymen, elected officials, and pop stars were driven to express their support. Inside the church, for ten days the activists worked with professionals and community residents to feed children, provide free medical services, and run a liberation school that featured lessons on U.S. imperialism and Black resistance. In the evenings, things loosened up: the strict discipline of the daytime “surrendered to creative revelry” that was audible from a block away, in which participants would perform Puerto Rican folk music, spoken word poetry, and dance. The People’s Church thereby “destabilized traditional conceptions of cultural production and one of its major assumptions: that people of color produce lower forms of art” (p. 183). This was the first public staging of the “Nuyorican” identity that was later institutionalized in sites on the Lower East Side, the Bronx, and elsewhere in the city.

The People’s Church could hardly last forever; it was impressive, indeed, that it lasted as long as it did, almost two weeks. The Young Lords’ attorneys could at best postpone the inevitable arrests. Eventually the church dropped charges and agreed to activists’ demands for a daycare center and a drug rehabilitation clinic—though it never followed through on its promises. At least Governor Nelson Rockefeller, directly influenced by the Young Lords and the Black Panthers, started a breakfast program for 35,000 poor children in the city.

By 1970 the Young Lords were expanding significantly, opening branches in the South Bronx, the Lower East Side, Philadelphia, Boston, and other cities. With this expansion it became necessary to deal with issues around race and, especially, gender. Fernández’s nuanced account shows that the latter was much more problematic than the former. While racial prejudice and conflict was hardly unknown within the Young Lords—for many Puerto Ricans had absorbed dominant racist fears of Black men—the group was effective in promoting an inclusive and solidaristic understanding of race, as shown by the fact that 25 percent of its membership consisted of Black Americans. Non-Puerto Rican Latinos were also welcome, though they constituted a small minority of about 7 percent.

Relations between men and women were more fraught. The YLO was almost entirely led by men, even though by early 1970 approximately 40 percent of its members were female. It wasn’t as if the men were oblivious to feminism: in the group’s founding political document, Point 10 read “We Want Equality for Women. Machismo Must be Revolutionary…Not Oppressive.” The problem, as Fernández notes, is that machismo by its nature entails male dominance. Sexism, both subtle and overt, was rife within the organization, as women frequently adopted female-typical (“background”) roles and were inappropriately propositioned or disrespected by men. A women’s caucus, inspired by white feminists’ consciousness-raising circles, was formed in the spring of 1970 to embolden and empower female members, and it had some success. As one young participant said later, “Getting clarity helped me fight my own tendency to sit in the background and bite my tongue and be ashamed to speak because what do I know, you know, I’m just a woman” (p. 255). The Young Lords looked askance at the mainstream of the women’s movement, which they viewed as too middle-class and inattentive to the oppression of Third World women, but it heavily influenced them nonetheless.

A men’s caucus was formed later in 1970 to continue the process of “reeducating” members, specifically to teach men—in the words of one of the Young Lords’ pamphlets—“to cook, to care for children, to be open to cry and show emotions because these are all good things—needed to build a new society” (p. 263). Point 10 of the Thirteen-Point Program was rewritten to state “Down with Machismo and Male Chauvinism.” Around the same time, in May 1970, Denise Oliver was the first woman elected to the Central Committee. Soon thereafter, the organization adopted the policy that sexist behavior would be formally denounced and those engaging in it would be charged, tried, and disciplined. The YLO even published a lucid and sophisticated Position Paper on Women that demonstrated its commitment to the goal of raising women’s status and challenging sexism, including the distinct forms of sexism in Puerto Rican culture. The Young Lords, therefore, were unusual in the growing Puerto Rican movement for their sincere attempts to address both anti-Black racism and oppression of women. As leader Iris Morales said years later, “Thinking on it now, the Lords made a real contribution. We kept saying if we’re gonna change society, we have to change ourselves. I challenge you to study any of the movement pictures of that time in terms of the other organizations and especially the organizations in Puerto Rico, and you will see a total absence of women and Afro-Puerto Ricans in leadership” (p. 265).

The history of the Young Lords was, if anything, even more dense and eventful during and after 1970 than in the organization’s first year. In addition to members’ usual daily activities of selling the newspaper, leafleting, attending speaking engagements, assisting residents with advocacy at schools or welfare offices, testing door-to-door for tuberculosis, and so forth, they launched several major campaigns and suffered several tragedies that would contribute to the group’s eventual downfall. In the summer of 1970, they began a months-long grassroots organizing effort at Lincoln Hospital in the Bronx to expose the deplorable conditions there, the climactic moment of this campaign being a highly public and effective day-long occupation of the hospital. One of the upshots of this long effort was a Patient Bill of Rights—including such demands as the right to refuse treatment, to know what medicine is being prescribed and what its side effects are, to choose your doctor, to have free daycare centers in hospitals, and to receive free healthcare—that has, in many respects, been replicated by hospitals across the country under the same name. Fernández’s chapter on this ambitious campaign is one of the richest and most riveting of the book.

Around the same time there occurred a couple of events that ultimately weakened the Young Lords Party. First, beloved chairman Felipe Luciano was demoted to low-level cadre for having been on “unauthorized leave” for one day. When, as a result, he quit the YLP entirely, the organization lost the person best positioned to lead it through the crises it was about to face. One such crisis happened very soon afterwards: the Lords again occupied the First Spanish United Methodist Church—this time, however, armed, a highly provocative move Luciano would have vehemently opposed. The decision to brandish arms was, at least, understandable: member Julio Roldán had just committed suicide (or, according to his comrades, been murdered) in the Manhattan House of Detention because of his barbarous treatment there. As Fernández relates, in these years young people of color across the city and the country were rising up, often explosively and violently, against epidemic brutality inside and outside prison walls. “We are armed,” stated a YLP flyer, “because we must defend ourselves, and we advise all Puerto Ricans in New York to begin preparing for their defense. The U.S. government is killing us, and now we must defend ourselves or die as a nation” (p. 324).

The problem with the armed church occupation was that it increased government surveillance and repression, frequently conducted under the auspices of the FBI’s COINTELPRO. The occupiers were able to escape immediate legal consequences by surreptitiously sneaking their weapons out of the church before police had had a chance to confiscate them. But in the meantime, they had intensified the state’s hostility.

A more damaging move, however, was the YLP’s decision in early 1971 to shift many of its resources to organizing in Puerto Rico for national independence. In the end, this campaign not only proved largely fruitless—organizers often didn’t even speak Spanish, and they faced fierce repression and logistical challenges—but it also contributed to a climate of demoralization, internal party squabbling, and the loss of several crucial members who disagreed with the focus on Puerto Rico. Mass membership began to decline, the YLP offices in East Harlem and the Lower East Side closed (even as the party newspaper continued publication), and the Central Committee grew more authoritarian and intolerant of dissent. COINTELPRO’s infiltration and disruption heightened trends of paranoia and factionalism, tendencies that, in fact, were common to groups on the left at this time. Fernández also faults the Young Lords’ ever-strengthening Maoism, including its belief—which motivated, for example, the Puerto Rican misadventure—that “sheer will, dedication, and hard work among small groups rather than classes form the motor force of change” (p. 375), in addition to the Lords’ hypercentralization and disconnection from the grassroots beginning in 1971. The YLP straggled on into 1974 (under a new name: the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers’ Organization), but it had drastically shrunk in size and influence.

Such, then, was the ignominious demise of what had once been “a profoundly effective, beloved, and exciting socialist organization that fueled the power of the New Left and made a lasting impression on U.S. consciousness and history” (p. 377). The Young Lords does ample justice to this history, not least in its extremely sympathetic and even-handed treatment of the vicissitudes and failures the organization experienced. One might have wished the author had said more about the Young Lords’ history in cities outside New York, but this would have increased the book’s length to a truly mammoth size.

The book’s useful Coda summarizes the Young Lords’ achievements and contributions, from helping bring about the construction of a new building at Lincoln Hospital to “anchor[ing] a renaissance in Puerto Rican art and reclaim[ing] the Afro-Taino roots of their culture” (p. 383). As mentioned earlier, Fernández also summarizes some lessons for organizers: for example, “Bold direct action that stops the normal functioning of municipal life captures the attention of media and the public, shifts the terms of political debate, and broadens the public’s understanding of social problems” (p. 384). The Lords were expert at direct action, and at communicating with the public. Activists today would do well to study their strategies, tactics, and messaging.

The U.S. is now entering an era of turbulence that in many respects parallels the 1960s. Struggles around class inequality, racism, police brutality, prison reform, urban housing, the healthcare industry, and U.S. imperialism promise to become as prominent in the years ahead as they were fifty years ago. The Young Lords will help to ensure the memory of that earlier time continues to inform the seemingly endless fight for human dignity.

The post Organizing for Revolution in East Harlem first appeared on Dissident Voice.

W’s Chickens Coming Home to Roost, yet the Media Cocks Aren’t Crowing

Censorship comes in many forms. One of [them] is a colossal moral indifference to official crimes at the highest levels of our government.

— Ralph Nader, April 17, 2021, Ralph Nader Radio Hour

Disclaimer: This is not a traditional mainstream or even left-stream book review. However, Steven C. Markoff’s book does play as the impetus and linchpin to my essay, more of an analysis/reaction to his book.  I give The Case Against George W. Bush, high marks. Read Steve’s book. Press your respective legislators to push for an investigation of W.’s crimes. Markoff sets out in the book about how those crimes were committed. I reference those. He completes his case: The evidence is there to prosecute and find guilty the 43rd President of the USA, George W. Bush.

Nader’s Raiders of the Lost Warriors

I was hitting the old Ralph Nader podcast a week ago when I stumbled upon Steven C. Markoff’s book, The Case Against George W. Bush. Nader had Markoff on his podcast, and both talked about the crimes of W Bush, and even more pertinently, the lack of a criminal case against George W. Bush, as well as the crickets in the so-called liberal media (SCLM) as well in the left press concerning Steve’s book.

I quickly emailed Steve for a copy of his book to review, and he came back at me with a PDF of this book which, as I have stated, has been iced out of mainstream media: no interviews, no reviews let alone getting Steve into a room one-on-one, or onto a Zoom call with other guests to parse his well-researched, well-quoted book on the crimes of George W. Bush.

The Case Against George W. Bush by Steven C. Markoff, Hardcover | Barnes & Noble®

Of course, those crimes are more than crimes of omission, or crimes of secret rendition and torture sites, or the crimes of Abu Ghraib “prison” and Guantanamo. The crime was more than just all the lies about WMD’s and Saddam murdering babies. The big crime was Bush and his Regime of psychotic sociopaths of the neocon variety completely derailing valid, active and clear intelligence that Osama bin Laden was about to make a huge fiery asymmetrical splash on the world stage.

Markoff lays out the daily briefs, the back and forth communiqués, the speeches Bush and others on his team made which all provides evidence of what “we” know about Osama bin Laden. The entire gambit goes back to the Soviet Union’s role in Afghanistan, then with Carter, Reagan, Bush Senior, Clinton and leading up to the ex-governor of Texas, W Bush.

Carter Doctrine 25 years before 9/11

Unfortunately, Jimmy Carter’s man  got the Soviet Union and then USA, all tangled up in Afghanistan.

The best way for us to understand Afghanistan is to look at the record of American involvement going back four decades and to look at the record requires a reexamination of President Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski. From the start, U.S. policy formation surrounding Afghanistan has lived in a realm of magical thinking that has produced nothing but a catastrophe of nightmarish proportions. Brzezinski impacted the future of American foreign policy by monopolizing the Carter administration in ways that few outside the White House understand. In his role as national security advisor he put himself in a position to control information into and out of the White House and when it came to Afghanistan – to use it for whatever purposes he saw fit.

“Brzezinski was an obsessive Russia-hater to the end. That led to the monumental failures of Carter’s term in office; the hatreds Brzezinski released had an impact which continues to be catastrophic for the rest of the world.” Helmer wrote in 2017, “To Brzezinski goes the credit for starting most of the ills – the organization, financing, and armament of the mujahedeen the Islamic fundamentalists who have metastasized – with US money and arms still – into Islamic terrorist armies operating far from Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Brzezinski started them off.”

— ‘Magical Thinking’ has Always Guided the US Role in Afghanistan by Paul Fitzgerald and Elizabeth Gould

The Clinton “team” briefed the incoming George W. Bush “team” before his January 2001 inauguration about al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. For the younger Bush, he repudiated the evidence trail from so many intelligence sources. His eyes were on Operation Iraqi Freedom, but first called, O.I.L,  which was propagated by Jay Leno incessantly after it was blurted out from the source:

On the afternoon of March 24, 2003 days after the U.S launched missiles at Baghdad to start the illegal war, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer held a press briefing. After a few minutes, a couple of sentences into the briefing, he verbally stumbled on the name of Bush’s war, stating, “Operation Iraqi, uh, Liberation.”

Calling it “Operation Iraqi Freedom” officially is just more War is Peace, Lies are Truth bullshit. And that 2001 invasion of Afghanistan ― “Operation Enduring Freedom” – is yet more of the PT Barnum spin, all catalogued in the annals of United States Central Command and U.S. Army War College.

Trail of Tears, Trails of Evidence

Markoff’s book is a straightforward record of myriad published records – taped speeches, newspaper articles/Op-Eds, sections from books, redacted memos and top secret records. As a buttress to the asymmetrical history of what happened leading up to and during the September 11, 2001 attacks and subsequently all that went wrong in the Middle East, this upcoming 20th anniversary of 9/11, Markoff’s book should be required reading.

But reading isn’t enough for just consuming Markoff’s book, and reading it is not enough for those of us who have been fighting the wars, those in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as all the others. What we need is a truth and reconciliation hearing for all those murdered in the September 11 attacks (around 3,000) as well as the countless hundreds of thousands (several million some estimates determine up to today) killed when the USA bombed and razed Iraq.

The deep links between terror attacks and Southwest Florida - News - Sarasota Herald-Tribune - Sarasota, FL

Remember that famous photo of Bush reading about a goat to kids in Florida:

On the morning of September 11, 2001, Bush was at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota County, Florida, reading “My Pet Goat.”

Oh, his dedication to inner-city first graders and listening to them recite the goat story is golden. Earlier, Bush had been on the way from his hotel to the school in his motorcade when it was reported to him a passenger jet had crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center at 8:46 a.m. Old commander in Chief Bush believed the crash was an accident caused, perhaps, by pilot error.

That old goat, man, what a story, so much so that when Andrew Card, the White House chief of staff, entered the classroom at 9:06 to tell this president a second airplane had struck the South Tower and that the nation was under attack, Bush stayed on his duff for seven more minutes, following along as the children finished reading the book.

“Class Goat”

Goat may be an old West Point term for the man/woman graduating last in his/her class, but one infamous George the Goat from the Army Academy is none other than George Armstrong Custer.

Unfortunately, the proverbial goat in America’s eyes is the million people murdered and millions more suffering because of the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq. Steve’s book lays out the three legal frameworks or cases for prosecuting Bush (and solely Bush, not Bush and Company LLC) for crimes against humanity (in Iraq and Afghanistan) and Bush’s own responsibility for those several thousand who died on that fateful day, September 11, 2001.

Mathematician Finally Solves Goat Problem: Here's the Answer

Here’s part of a blurb on the book’s web site, Rare Bird Lit:

Steven C. Markoff presents sourced evidence of three crimes committed by George W. Bush during his presidency: his failure to take warnings of coming terror attacks on our country seriously; taking the United States, by deception, into an unnecessary and disastrous 2003 war with Iraq; costing the lives of more than 4,000 Americans and 500,000 others; and breaking domestic and international laws by approving the torture as means to extract information. While Markoff lays out his case of the crimes, he leaves it up to the reader to decide the probable guilt of George W. Bush and his actions regarding the alleged crimes.

Casualties of War — Truth, Honor, Duty to Protect 

I had cut my teeth as a reporter in El Paso and elsewhere covering and following that other container ship of lies – Reagan’s crew of felons and thugs who philandered the American public with their special form of Murder Incorporated in Central America, and notably, Nicaragua. Or the illegal invasion of Panama under George H. W. Bush. Oh, those invasions, coups, clandestine bombings, proxy wars, incursions, secret operations, PsyOps.

I even ended up “down south,” in Costa Rica, Guatemala and Nicaragua running into all sorts of odd fellows in the “drugs for guns” continuing criminal enterprise involving some of this country’s more nefarious “diplomats” and “generals” and CIA/NSA scum. Oh, those yellow belly Contras, murdering civilians and bombing schools and clinics for Reagan and Company. Those freedom fighters, AKA, the biggest lying cheats in recent times in Central America, Los Contras.

And the dead horse isn’t dead, and another author, like Markoff, just couldn’t buy the bs on those Contras:

Thus, in his 2012 book, The Manufacturing of a President, Wayne Madsen claims, based upon his numerous intelligence sources, that the CIA and Mossad have both been funding these rearmed Contras, and that they have been shipping these Contras arms over both the Honduran and Costa Rican borders.  He claims also that the Honduran government which came to power through the 2009 coup – a coup which the Obama Administration actively aided and abetted to unseat a leftist government which, by the way, happened to be friendly to Daniel Ortega – has been key to helping both support the Contras as well as to provide a staging ground for the covert operations to bring down the Sandinista government.  In other words, Honduras is playing the very same role it did in the 1980s, and the US-backed coup in 2009 – a mere 2 years after Ortega was elected – was crucial to this role.

Dan Kovalik

Of course, the Bush Family Legacy was also all written over that fiasco, and again, it was easy for me to continue my penchant for understanding how rotten the United States is as I am the son of a Vietnam War regular army veteran, who put in 31 years in uniform.

Lords of War, the Racket that is General Smedley Butler’s war warnings. Or Gary Webb, killing the messenger, the same CIA-infused Washington Post, New York Times and LA Times, to just name a few of the publications that corrupted the real work of Webb uncovering that entire drugs for guns Mafiosi.

Robert Parry, deceased now, but a journalist who started Consortium News in 1994, with Webb as one of his big stories on how bad the US government is, and how bad the mainstream media has become.

Here, Parry:

So what I was seeking by the mid-1990s was some solid ground in which to plant a flag for honest journalism, rather than constantly being forced into retreat, pulled by nervous editors and producers looking over their shoulders out of fear of right-wing retaliation. From solid ground, I thought, we could produce journalism that simply assessed the facts and made independent judgments regardless of who might be offended.

In 1995, it was my oldest son, Sam, who suggested the then-novel idea of “a Web site.” I didn’t fully understand what a Web site was and Sam was no techie but he demonstrated extraordinary patience in building our original Internet presence. (Back then, there were no templates; you had to start from scratch.) We married old-fashioned investigative reporting with the new technology of the Internet and began publishing groundbreaking investigative articles.

We followed evidence where it went, even when it flew in the face of the conventional wisdom, such as our work on the 1980 October Surprise issue of whether Reagan and Bush went behind President Jimmy Carter’s back during his Iran-hostage negotiations, much the way Nixon had in sabotaging Johnson’s Vietnam peace talks in 1968.

Not only did we present our own original work but we buttressed investigations by other serious journalists, such as Gary Webb of the San Jose Mercury News when, in 1996, he revived Ronald Reagan’s Contra-cocaine scandal. When the major newspapers set out to destroy Webb and discredit his revelations, Consortiumnews was one outlet that took on the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.

Yes, we were outgunned. Despite showing that Webb was not only right but actually understated the problem of Contra-cocaine trafficking, we still could not save Webb from having his career destroyed and then watching the big newspapers essentially high-five each other for having helped cover up a serious crime of state.

The Three Crimes of the POTUS #43 (Secret Service called him Trailblazer)

I am not going astray here, kind reader. What Steven talked a lot about on the Ralph Nader podcast was how that same media, the So-called Liberal Press, has virtually gone silent on his book, a type of passive censorship that can eat at the soul of any author.

In reality, the “case against Bush” is the case against mainstream media/press and their close ties to not just the chambers of power, but within their “embeddedness,” inside the ranks, as well as their allegiance to, and participation in, the national security state’s various bureaus of hit men and hit women.

When I finished the book, I offered the book to everybody that I had quoted, which was… around ninety authors. I offered it to Condoleezza Rice, I offered it to Dick Cheney, I offered it to the [George W.] Bush [Presidential] Library. I haven’t heard from one person about the book.

— Steven Markoff stated on Nader’s show.

Interestingly, Markoff incorporates Richard Clarke’s words as a preface to this book. Clarke actually strips culpability from Rumsfeld, Cheney, and others laying the blame on Bush personally. Here, early in Markoff’s book, Clarke puts it clearly in his mind.

While I may be considered by some to be prejudiced in my judgment, there are facts that any objective observer must accept.

• First, Bush ignored warnings about the serious threat from Al Qaeda prior to 9/11.
• Second, Bush ordered the invasion of Iraq in violation of international law, when Iraq had been uninvolved in 9/11 and offered no imminent threat to the United States.
• Third, Bush authorized the use of torture and denied prisoners due process, both acts in violation of international law.

Note that in each case I say that Bush did these things, not the Bush administration. There is a revisionist school that seeks to place the blame on Bush’s vice president, Richard B. Cheney. While there can be little doubt that Cheney encouraged Bush to take many of these actions, it is not true that the president was merely a tool of a mendacious and scheming subordinate.

The evidence is now clear that Bush agreed with his vice president and knew full well what he was doing. He was an enthusiastic participant, a believer in the war on terror and the war on Iraq. It is true, however, that he did not master or manage the details of either war until the last few years of his eight-year presidency.

— Richard A. Clarke, in the Forward of Markoff’s book.

[In 1992, President George H. W. Bush appointed Richard A. Clarke to chair the Counterterrorism Security Group and to a seat on the United States National Security Council. President Bill Clinton retained Clarke and in 1998 promoted him to the National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure Protection, and Counterterrorism. Under President George W. Bush, Clarke initially continued in the same position and later became the special advisor to the president on cyber security. He left his government position prior to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.]

Markoff uses Clarke’s book, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror, as a touchstone of sorts. That was in 2007.

Importantly, Clarke had the necessary government background, involvement, and position to know about what he wrote. When I finished Clarke’s book, I was shocked. Could Bush have really disregarded threats of bin Laden and Al-Qaeda prior to 9/11? If so, was there a compelling reason that Bush spent his political capital and energy going after Hussein? Could it be that George W. Bush’s Iraq War was about oil?

It occurred to me that while Clarke seemed knowledgeable about terrorists, 9/11, and the run up to our 2003 invasion of Iraq, he was just one person, and his knowledge was limited to what he had personally seen and learned.

I thought that if I combined details from Clarke’s book with related information from other diverse sources with inside or special knowledge of those times and places, that combined information could produce new and clearer insights about 9/11 and the Iraq War. I then set out to find what additional facts and information were available on those and related topics.

— Steven Markoff, The Case Against George W. Bush

Torture, Rendition, Yellow Cake, WMD’s

I remember protesting U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales June 27, 2007, in Spokane, when he showed up to talk about his department under Bush. Many of us were there to protest publicly Gonzales and the Bush administration, for many things, including that 2002 memo written by Gonzales that said Bush had the right to waive anti-torture laws and treaties that protect prisoners of war.

Oh, the long arm of the “law” that Wednesday afternoon took a good friend down to the ground, arborist Dan Treecraft. He did nothing wrong, but Dan along with another person, was arrested for public disturbance.

I was there with students of mine from two community colleges where I taught, and alas, even those two respective presidents and chairs of the department where I taught thought they had the right to tell a faculty member what he could and couldn’t do as part of a class assignment on “what it’s like to come out and protest a representative of your/our government who states torture is okay.”

Ironically, he was in Spokane to talk about “gang enforcement,” and Gonzales  wasn’t alluding to the biggest continuing criminal enterprise Gang called the United States of America.

Steve’s book is a guide, a probable pathway for lawmakers, voters, and others, including the Press, to ratchet up the attention on George W. Bush the War Criminal, and to put to rest the fawning and ameliorating reputation of Bush as The Painter (sic) Friend of Michelle Obama and Ellen.

The kicker in Markoff’s book, says it all, quite damningly, but the reality is that the War is a Racket machine is a very fine tuned complex – Big Business Complex: Burger King, et al; Home Depot, et al; Mercenaries ‘R Us, et al; paint, air conditioning, roads, drywall, vehicles, depleted uranium, fuel, water, food suppliers, et al; all those financial products, that medical complex et al; Big Ag, Big Oil, Big Chemical, Big Prison et al, all in the manner of the for-profit system that is subsidized – welfare-ized – by the US taxpayer. Insanity we have already seen in other wars, and that War on Vietnam, not enough lessons learned there? I’ve been up close and personal with that war, in Vietnam as a civilian, and as a son of a wounded regular Army officer, social worker for wounded veterans, homeless vets and their families, instructor of college writing for Vietnam veterans.

There is no urban legend attributed to those $200 hammers and $600 toilet seats and $2000 each bolts holding the shrouding of Patriot missiles. War is graft central, and how many millionaires and billionaires were created after World War I? Read General Butler’s, War is a Racket.

Evidence of Crimes as Eight Bullet Points

This shit is personal to me, as well, since I have had friends and students coming back from Bush’s wars, full of trauma, fucked up beyond repair, walking PTSD warriors with all that resentment, anger and physical outbursts, and nowhere to go. Here is Steve’s book, again, near the end:

Could the following quote from Payback, a book by David P. Barash and Judith Eve Lipton, in part on the strategy of redirected aggression, explain Bush’s taking our country to war on his misleading and false premises?

“George W. Bush and his Administration were not stooges at all, but quite brilliant. They read the need of most Americans at the time: to hit someone, hard, so as to redirect their suffering and anger [from 9/11]. The evidence is overwhelming that for the Bush Administration’s ‘neocons,’ the September 11 attacks were not the reason for the Iraq War; rather, it was a convenient excuse for doing something upon which they had already decided. Their accomplishment—if such is the correct word—was identifying the post-9/11 mood of the American people, and manipulating this mood, brilliantly, toward war.”

It’s difficult to fathom the extent of the death and destruction caused by George W. Bush’s three crimes, but his legacy of death and destruction are of Olympic proportions.

  •  An estimated 2,977 people killed by the attacks on 9/11, and thousands more injured or incapacitated that day. In addition, hundreds if not thousands have died and will die early from the toxic air from the collapse of the Twin Towers and its aftermath.
  • By one count, there were 4,400 United States personnel killed and 30,000 wounded in the Iraq War as of August 31, 2010; tens of thousands more wounded physically and emotionally crippled by participating in that war; millions of Americans and their families destroyed, devastated, and/or traumatized by 9/11 and Bush’s 2003 Iraq War.
  •  As many as 650,000 deaths or more from Bush’s Iraq War, deaths that wouldn’t have occurred but for that war.
  •  Many of our civil rights, and the civil rights of others around the world, were curtailed due to the fear created by 9/11, a fear used by some as an opportunity to weaken our liberties.
  •  Three to seven trillion dollars in costs to our country from 9/11 and the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Those unnecessary trillions were and will be added to our national debt, a sum burdening our future, the future of our children, and perhaps of generations to come.
  •  Bush’s torture of prisoners puts American soldiers captured in future wars at greater risk of being tortured.
  •  The loss of America’s prestige and moral authority from Bush’s unnecessary Iraq War and torturing prisoners will hurt our country in the years ahead.
  •  Sixteen different US spy agencies on September 24, 2006, concluded that the American invasion and occupation of Iraq since March 2003 has helped spawn a new generation of Islamic radicals— effectively increasing the terror threat in the years after 9/11—and that the Bush administration tortured detainees and that torture wasn’t effective in securing intel otherwise unavailable.

Because America invaded a sovereign country without credible reason and tortured prisoners, how can we say without hypocrisy that other countries shouldn’t do the same to other nations or to us? What moral authority do we have to tell others it is wrong to torture?

— Steven Markoff, The Case Against George W. Bush

Pretty damning, and as I file this review/analysis/rant, that W is at it again, and his stupidity is the stunt, no, smart as a fox, or pet-painting war criminal?

George W Bush shakes hands with Condoleezza Rice in Washington DC on 5 January 2006.

In a People interview, the former president said he told his former secretary of state he had written for her. “She knows it,” said Bush, 74, “But she told me she would refuse to accept the office.”

Bush has been doing press to support the release of his book, Out of Many, One, which features his painted portraits of American immigrants and the stories of their lives.

He called current-day Republicans “isolationist, protectionist, and, to a certain extent, nativist.”

“Really what I should have said — there’s loud voices who are isolationists, protectionists and nativists, something, by the way, I talked about when I was president,” Bush said. “My concerns [are] about those -isms, but I painted with too broad a brush … because by saying what I said, it excluded a lot of Republicans who believe we can fix the problem.”

Shadow of War — Ghosts of the Dead

We’ll see if People magazine interviews Markoff, and gets a bit under the skin of his fine book, all 360 pages, with a decent bibliography and works cited section.

His conclusion:

Regardless of how I or others see what I submit are Bush’s criminal acts, some will continue to argue that while he wasn’t a perfect president, at least he rid the world of the tyrant, Hussein. Yes, he did, but for what reason, by what method, and at what cost?

In addition to the unnecessary deaths and wounding of thousands of brave Americans, hundreds of thousands of others died and were injured from Bush’s unnecessary Iraq invasion. The trillions of dollars Bush’s war has cost has and will continue to be added to our national debt. A debt saddling our future.

In conclusion, I believe the evidence in this book shows Bush’s three crimes were reckless, dishonest, and tragically unnecessary.

I rest my case.

— Steven Markoff, The Case Against George W. Bush

Of course, there are gross inaccuracies when it comes to US-induced casualties, and the first casualty of war is truth, for sure:

Of the countries where the U.S. and its allies have been waging war since 2001, Iraq is the only one where epidemiologists have actually conducted comprehensive mortality studies based on the best practices that they have developed in war zones such as Angola, Bosnia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Guatemala, Kosovo, Rwanda, Sudan and Uganda. In all these countries, as in Iraq, the results of comprehensive epidemiological studies revealed 5 to 20 times more deaths than previously published figures based on “passive” reporting by journalists, NGOs or governments.

Taking ORB’s estimate of 1.033 million killed by June 2007, then applying a variation of Just Foreign Policy’s methodology from July 2007 to the present using revised figures from Iraq Body Count, we estimate that 2.4 million Iraqis have been killed since 2003 as a result of our country’s illegal invasion, with a minimum of 1.5 million and a maximum of 3.4 million.

Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies, March 19, 2018

main article image

[Civil protection rescue teams work on the debris of a destroyed house to recover the body of people killed in an airstrike during fighting between Iraqi security forces and Islamic State militants on the western side of Mosul, Iraq. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)]

For Markoff, it’s the lives that were destroyed by Bush. That is the echo in his words, and the ghosts of those murdered are the shadows between the lines in The Case Against George W. Bush. 

Roots of Zionism and U.S. Liberty to Iraq and Now Iran

Alas, I am ending this analysis/response to Markoff’s book, The Case Against George W. Bush, by slogging through another quagmire, and then some reference to books on just who was lobbying to attack Iraq. We have Markoff trying to open up a case against W. Bush, and his book is clear, focused, not one we’d expect in the pantheon of history books or investigative research/journalistic screeds.

Some writers, thinkers, educators and journalists (such as myself), however, were already looking into the scope of this terror campaign, the implications of US Patriot Act, the entire mess that is Israel’s murderous mucking about in the Middle East with Israel-Firster American corporate heads, administration wonks, politicians and more clandestine and nefarious actors behind the scenes, supreme puppet masters and Svengali types.

All those Israeli wars led to the destruction of Lebanon, Syria and the biggest obstacle at the time, Iraq.

And, here I go again, tangentially putting more fuel into the fires that immolated Iraq and which have blazed through the Middle East before and during and since W. Bush and his Klan invaded the Middle East.

Here, I reference a recent piece by Timothy Alexander Guzman who briefly alludes to the AIPAC/Israel/Israel-firster connection to the invasion(s) of Iraq in his piece, “The Prospect of a Major False-Flag Operation in the Middle-East Grows by the Day: Remembering June 8th, 1967 the Day Israel Attacked the USS Liberty: “It’s was all part of the long-term plan and Iraq was part of that plan, in fact, the most powerful lobby in Washington is AIPAC and the Bush neoconservatives including Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Bill Kristol, Elliot Abrams and others who pushed Washington into a war with Iraq. According to John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, authors of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee)  was a major supporter for the War on Iraq”:

AIPAC usually supports what Israel wants, and Israel certainly wanted the United States to invade Iraq. Nathan Guttman made this very connection in his reporting [in Haaretz, April 2003] on AIPAC’s annual conference in the spring of 2003, shortly after the war started: “AIPAC is wont to support whatever is good for Israel, and so long as Israel supports the war, so too do the thousands of the AIPAC lobbyists who convened in the American capital.” AIPAC executive director Howard Kohr’s statement to the New York Sun in January 2003 is even more revealing, as he acknowledged “‘quietly’ lobbying Congress to approve the use of force in Iraq” was one of “AIPAC’s successes over the past year.” And in a lengthy New Yorker profile of Steven J. Rosen, who was AIPAC’s policy director during the run-up to the Iraq war, Jeffrey Goldberg reported that “AIPAC lobbied Congress in favor of the Iraq war.”

— John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, authors of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy

 

Liberty Survivors Say US Still Downplays Israel's Attack on Ship | Military.com

[Oh, that anniversary, of the attack by Israel on the Liberty, June 8th (1967)]

I suppose this entire mess that Markoff catalogues in his book, as a triumvirate of crimes by George W. Bush, could for me, personally, be summed up, in my mind, with President George W. Bush, speaking at the annual AIPAC conference in May of 2004:

You’ve always understood and warned against the evil ambition of terrorism and their networks. In a dangerous new century, your work is more vital than ever.

Steven Markoff doesn’t go there, for sure, and that is what makes Markoff’s book unique, too:  a clean record of the mess and blunder and murderous trail George W. Bush left in his wake as leader of the so-called “free world.”

The post W’s Chickens Coming Home to Roost, yet the Media Cocks Aren’t Crowing first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Shocking Omissions: Capitalism’s Conscience: 200 Years of The Guardian

Long before ‘the propaganda model’ flew off Edward Herman’s keyboard and into Manufacturing Consent, the book he co-authored with Noam Chomsky, Leo Tolstoy had captured the essence of non-conspiratorial conformity:

One man does not assert the truth which he knows, because he feels himself bound to the people with whom he is engaged; another, because the truth might deprive him of the profitable position by which he maintains his family; a third, because he desires to attain reputation and authority, and then use them in the service of mankind; a fourth, because he does not wish to destroy old sacred traditions; a fifth, because he has no desire to offend people; a sixth, because the expression of the truth would arouse persecution, and disturb the excellent social activity to which he has devoted himself.’1

There is nothing special about journalists in this regard – we are all aware, on some level, that in the land of the blind, the one-eyed truth-teller faces various kinds of crucifixion. It is tempting to affect blindness, to protect our ‘reputation and authority’, that we might use them, of course, ‘in the service of mankind’.

Academics are no different. In 2008, Terry Eagleton, formerly Professor of English Literature at Manchester University, wrote:

‘By and large, academic institutions have shifted from being the accusers of corporate capitalism to being its accomplices. They are intellectual Tescos, churning out a commodity known as graduates rather than greengroceries.’2

In 20 years of working on Media Lens, not much has left us disillusioned – we had no great illusions about journalism to begin with! – but we have often been dismayed by the response of the ‘intellectual Tescos’.

In particular, it has been a thing of wonder for us to see how academics who support us privately, and even in public, treat our work in published articles and books. Typically, our 20 years of detailed media analysis simply cease to exist. After openly supporting us for years, one academic – someone we considered a firm ally – wrote a book on our central theme, propaganda. Our work did receive a handful of mentions, all of them relegated to the footnotes. A different academic told us frankly that he had been advised to drop all mentions of Chomsky from his published articles and books – they would not be well-received.

We would be open to the possibility that our work just doesn’t pass muster, but for the fact that academics have a track record, strong as twelve acres of garlic, of filtering out dissident facts and voices. In fact, it’s the world’s worst-kept secret that they do it to ‘play the game’, to stay ‘respectable’, to remain part of ‘mainstream’ debate.

The Guardian – ‘More Than A Business’?

Which brings us to a new collection of essays, ‘Capitalism’s Conscience – 200 Years of the Guardian’, edited by Des Freedman, Professor of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, University of London, published tomorrow.

Freedman notes that Guardian editor, Kath Viner, promised that her newspaper would ‘challenge the economic assumptions of the last three decades’, ‘challenge the powerful’ and ‘use clarity and imagination to build hope’. His new book, says Freedman, ‘seeks to examine these claims’. 3

The collection of essays, mostly contributed by media academics, is published by Pluto Press, which has published all three Media Lens books; most recently, Propaganda Blitz, in 2018 (we have published several solo books with other publishers). Several good reasons for not criticising a book published by one’s own publisher can be found in Tolstoy’s list, but the academic filtering of truth is a key issue that cries out for honest discussion.

Despite our three books, 20 years of work focused heavily on the Guardian, and despite being mentioned and quoted (once) in the book, we were not told about Capitalism’s Conscience and were not invited to contribute.

The Guardian’s role is so appalling, so horrific that one is immediately surprised to see that the book contains contributions from some very ‘mainstream’ former and current Guardian journalists, given that it purports to tell the unvarnished truth about the paper.

Chapter 3 was written by Gary Younge, formerly the Guardian’s editor-at-large and still a high-profile contributor. Chapter 4 was written by Victoria Brittain, who worked at the Guardian for more than 20 years as a foreign correspondent and then Associate Foreign Editor. Younge and Brittain are the first two names under Freedman’s promoting the book’s contents on the front cover, which carries an approving comment from Guardian columnist and former Chief Foreign Correspondent, Jonathan Steele.

Freedman himself has a profile page on the Guardian’s website, last contributing in 2018. So does the author of Chapter 12, Tom Mills, who last wrote for the Guardian in January. We remember Mills from the distant past when he was a frequent poster on the Media Lens message board.

If this sounds a bit Guardian-friendly, last week, Freedman tweeted the programme for Goldsmith University’s related, April 23-24 media conference, ‘Liberalism Inc: 200 Years of the Guardian’. Highlights include a keynote speech by former Guardian editor, Alan Rusbridger, titled:

‘More than a Business: 200 years of a newspaper which put purpose before profit’

On the same day, former Guardian comment editor, Becky Gardiner, will chair a discussion on ‘The Guardian and Feminism’.

Particularly given the editor, contributors and publisher, the title of the book is troubling indeed: Capitalism’s Conscience – 200 Years of the Guardian.

Certainly we have no problem with the claim that the Guardian has been around for 200 years! At the very least, however, the title should read: Capitalism’s “Conscience”?: 200 Years of the Guardian.

Has the looming collapse of the climate, the annihilation of species, the endless and merciless resource wars and mass-murdering sanctions devastating whole countries, not by now persuaded all of us that capitalism does not, indeed cannot, have a conscience? After Assange, Corbyn, Iraq, Libya and Syria, does anyone believe the corporate Guardian even pretends to act as a ‘conscience’ for anything? Canadian law professor Joel Bakan explains the bottom-line for all corporate executives:

The law forbids any motivation for their actions, whether to assist workers, improve the environment, or help consumers save money. They can do these things with their own money, as private citizens. As corporate officials, however, stewards of other people’s money, they have no legal authority to pursue such goals as ends in themselves – only as means to serve the corporations own interests, which generally means to maximise the wealth of its shareholders.

Corporate social responsibility is thus illegal – at least when its genuine. 4

If genuine social responsibility is illegal, it makes perfect sense that conscience is a threat to be stifled at every turn. In the 1930s, political analyst Rudolf Rocker wrote:

It is certainly dangerous for a state when its citizens have a conscience; what it needs is men without conscience… men in whom the feeling of personal responsibility has been replaced by the automatic impulse to act in the interests of the state.5

This is actually a key propaganda function of the Guardian. Even the suggestion that capitalism might have a conscience is a dangerous distortion of the truth, as is the suggestion that the Guardian might be involved in protecting an ethical dimension of capitalism.

In his introduction, Freedman writes:

The Guardian is not a left-wing newspaper. It publishes left-wing columnists, is read by people on the left and has a reputation for identifying with left-wing positions. But it is not a title of the left; it is not affiliated to nor was it borne out of left-wing movements.  (p. viii)

One can debate the precise meaning of ‘left-wing’, but compare Freedman’s assertion that the Guardian ‘publishes left-wing columnists’ with John Pilger’s response (included, in full, later in this alert):

The spaces allotted to independent journalists (myself included) have vanished. The dissent that was tolerated, even celebrated when I arrived in Fleet Street in the 1960s, has regressed to a metaphoric underground as liberal capitalism sheds the last illusions of democracy.

This is a seismic shift…

It is indeed a seismic shift that many of us have witnessed in our lifetimes – forget radically left-wing journalists, even independent journalists have been disappeared from the Guardian and other media. Consider, after all, that superb, self-identifying Tory journalist, Peter Oborne, has recently described how ‘The mainstream British press and media is to all intents and purposes barred to me.’

Freedman continues:

It has never been a consistent ally of socialist or anti-imperialist voices and has failed to perform for the left what titles like the Mail and the Telegraph have done for their constituencies on the right.  (p. viii)

Never been ‘a consistent ally’? In light of the Guardian’s relentless and ongoing support for politically undead war criminal Tony Blair, its lethal propagandising for wars of aggression in Iraq, Libya and Syria, its lead role in undermining Jeremy Corbyn’s bid for power, its betrayal and demonisation of Assange, and so on… it is much more reasonable to view the Guardian as a bitter enemy of even mild left positions that has not only not performed ‘for the left’, but has most enthusiastically performed for established power.

The suggestion that the paper has ‘never been a consistent ally of socialist or anti-imperialist voices’ is a classic fudge aiming to appease the left without overly alienating the Guardian. In fact, it reminds us strongly of the kind of apologetics that regularly appear in the Guardian – the US, we are sometimes told, has not been a ‘consistent ally’ of democracy around the world, and so on.

Freedman continues of the Guardian:

Instead it is the home of a vigorous liberalism that consistently outrages voices to its right and, equally regularly, disappoints its critics on the left. (p. viii)

There is nothing ‘vigorous’ about the fake, marketised version of ‘liberalism’ peddled by the Guardian. In a 2011 interview, Julian Assange spoke from bitter personal experience:

There is a point I want to make about perceived moral institutions, such as the Guardian and New York Times. The Guardian has good people in it. It also has a coterie of people at the top who have other interests. … What drives a paper like the Guardian or New York Times is not their inner moral values. It is simply that they have a market. In the UK, there is a market called “educated liberals”. Educated liberals want to buy a newspaper like the Guardian and therefore an institution arises to fulfil that market. … What is in the newspaper is not a reflection of the values of the people in that institution, it is a reflection of the market demand.’

Consider Freedman’s version of the truth with the Guardian’s treatment of Assange himself, of Corbyn, of ‘Jesus clown’ Russell Brand, of George Galloway, of Hugo Chavez, of Chomsky, of us, of all dissidents. Rocker nailed a truth that has not changed in 100 years:

The state welcomes only those forms of cultural activity which help it to maintain its power. It persecutes with implacable hatred any activity which oversteps the limits set by it and calls its existence into question. It is, therefore, as senseless as it is mendacious to speak of a “state culture”; for it is precisely the state which lives in constant warfare with all higher forms of intellectual culture and always tries to avoid the creative will of culture… (p. 85)

In reality, of course, the Guardian’s ruthless, market-driven propaganda ‘consistently outrages’ voices to the left exactly as it outrages voices to the right. By now, only someone living in a Guardian-inspired fantasy world finds that the Guardian ‘disappoints’ when it attacks dissent and supports even the most cynically brutal wars of aggression.

Whitewashing The Wars Of Aggression

Guardian output online and in print is vast, as is the range of issues covered. But an easy way to test for Guardian bias is to examine its performance on the US-UK’s wars of aggression. This is why we have always focused so much on the Guardian’s performance on Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Yemen.

Over the last twenty years, we have shown over and over again how the Guardian, while supposedly opposing the war on Iraq, in fact, hit readers with a propaganda blitz that sought to scare up war fever based on completely absurd, self-evidently fabricated US-UK claims on the supposed existence and threat of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Balance was not permitted – the Guardian simultaneously blanked as non-existent the crucial, highly credible testimony of UN weapons inspectors like Scott Ritter, who insisted his team had left Iraq ‘fundamentally disarmed’ of ‘90-95%’ of its WMD by December 1998, leaving only ‘harmless sludge’.6  In their 12,366 articles mentioning Iraq in 2003, the Guardian and Observer mentioned Ritter a total of 17 times. The Guardian simply ignored testimony, literally available from all good bookshops, with the power to make a complete nonsense of its own and all other media discussions of the case for war.

Even more shocking, one might think, even after the great catastrophe in Iraq, the Guardian relentlessly propagandised for war by the same US-UK alliance on Libya and Syria in 2011 and thereafter. A typical example was supplied by senior Guardian columnist, later Comment Editor, Jonathan Freedland, who wrote an article on Libya entitled:

Though the risks are very real, the case for intervention remains strong.

A Guardian leader quietly celebrated the results:

But it can now reasonably be said that in narrow military terms it worked, and that politically there was some retrospective justification for its advocates as the crowds poured into the streets of Tripoli to welcome the rebel convoys earlier this week.

A flood of similar and worse pro-‘intervention’ propaganda has issued forth from the Guardian on Syria. There has been relentless, laser-like focus on the crimes, real and imagined, of Assad and Putin. The West, we are to believe, has sinned only by its reluctance to be involved at all! An audacious reversal of the truth. Above all, lifting a page from the playbook of the great Iraq WMD scam, the focus has been on highly questionable claims of chemical weapons attacks.

Clearly anticipating and agitating for war in April 2013, a Guardian editorial observed:

Yet this week has also been marked by further claims that Syria’s Bashar al-Assad has been doing precisely the thing that Mr Bush said so confidently, but so wrongly, was at imminent risk of being done by Saddam Hussein 10 years ago.

The editorial continued:

… UN member states and security council members also have less basis today for sitting on their hands than they did over Iraq. The UN has been ineffective over Syria, because Russia and China veto UN action. Partly as a consequence, at least 70,000 people have died while the world looks on and wrings its hands. It is not clear in moral terms why those thousands of deaths are not treated as a red line while chemical weapons use is.

How has ‘Capitalism’s Conscience’ covered the Guardian’s complicity in these wars?

The answer, which is available to anyone in the age of the word-searchable e-book, is that Libya and Syria are both mentioned once, in passing. The West’s attacks on Libya and Syria, much less the Guardian’s role in them, are not mentioned at all. The Saudi-UK war on Yemen is also unmentioned.

As for Iraq, the greatest foreign policy and mass media disaster of our time gets five mentions in passing in the book’s 270 pages. Reference to the Guardian’s propaganda role in the conflict is limited to one mention of unnamed Guardian ‘columnists… who had championed the Iraq War in 2003 and even insisted that there were weapons of mass destruction’ – a total of 19 words. (p. 50)

In other words, the Guardian’s very real responsibility for promoting catastrophic crimes that have left millions of human beings dead, injured and displaced, has been completely blanked by a collection of dissident writers published by our supposedly most radical publisher reviewing the Guardian’s performance over the last 200 years. This is outrageous.

The book does find space to note that the paper ‘has led the way in innovative design and formats, was the first British title to set up a reader’s editor, established editions in the US and Australia and now champions a membership model with some one million people who have either signed up to the scheme or made a one-off contribution’ (p. x), and so on.

Freedman concludes his introduction:

The Guardian is read by many people on the left but, as with liberal democracy more generally, it does not serve them consistently or adequately in the pursuit of radical social change. This book is an expression not simply of disappointment but of the conviction that we need a very different sort of media if we are to pursue a very different sort of society. (p. xiv)

If change begins anywhere, it begins with a rejection of the assertion that the Guardian ‘does not serve’ the left or liberal democracy ‘consistently or adequately in the pursuit of radical social change’. In reality, it consistently attacks the left.

In his chapter on Corbyn and anti-semitism, Justin Schlosberg is strongly critical of the Guardian but observes:

Perhaps above all, Corbyn’s political ascendance coincided with that of Donald Trump in the US and other hard right leaders from Modi in India to Bolsonaro in Brazil. Against this backdrop – and especially in the context of Brexit – it is easy to understand how Corbyn’s Labour and those sources defending it came to be perceived by journalists as the left front of populism – tending towards the extreme and intrinsically less credible than their “moderate” political counterparts.’ (p. 200)

Guardian hostility to Corbyn was about fear of mild socialism challenging the state-corporate status quo, not fear of populism. Schlosberg concluded:

Ironically, in defence of its liberal values against the rise of populism, the Guardian appeared to disregard or undermine what has always been the very cornerstone of its liberalism: the sanctity of facts.’ (p. 201)

The idea that ‘the sanctity of facts’ ‘has always been the very cornerstone of its liberalism’ will be welcome reading to the Guardian editors, but mystifying to anyone who reads the paper with a critical mind.

In Chapter 3, Gary Younge claims on Corbyn:

A range of studies have since shown that… the Guardian contained both more diverse opinions and more supportive opinions and coverage than virtually any other mainstream outlet. (p. 52)

That isn’t saying much. Remarkably, in support of his claim, Younge cites two studies: one from November 2015, just two months after Corbyn had been elected; the other from July 2016, ten months after Corbyn had been elected. Younge presumably missed the September 2018 study cited by the late anthropologist and political commentator David Graeber when he tweeted in December 2019:

as for the Guardian, we will never forget that during the “Labour #antisemitism controversy”, they beat even the Daily Mail to include the largest percentage of false statements, pretty much every one, mysteriously, an accidental error to Labour’s disadvantage.

Quite an achievement! The book does contain two excellent chapters by Alan MacLeod on the Guardian’s coverage of Latin America, and by Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis on the paper’s coverage of the UK security state. Both are discussed further below.

John Pilger Responds

We asked former Guardian columnist John Pilger for his thoughts on Capitalism’s Conscience. He responded:

Liberal journalism, such as the Guardian’s, was always a loose extension of establishment power. But something has changed since the rise of Blairism. The spaces allotted to independent journalists (myself included) have vanished. The dissent that was tolerated, even celebrated when I arrived in Fleet Street in the 1960s, has regressed to a metaphoric underground as liberal capitalism sheds the last illusions of democracy.

This is a seismic shift, with the Guardian and the BBC –  far more influential than those on the accredited right — policing the new “groupthink”, as Robert Parry called it, ensuring its politics and hypocrisies, its omissions and fabrications while pursuing the enemies of the new national security state.

Journalism students need to study this urgently if they are to understand that the true source of the contrivance known as “fake news” is not merely social media, but a liberal “mainstream” self-anointed with a false respectability that claims to challenge corrupt and warmongering power but, in reality, courts and protects it, and colludes with it.

This is the Guardian today. Rid of those journalists it cannot control, the porous borders they once crossed long closed, the Guardian more than ever represents the world view of its hero, Blair, the “mystical” lost leader the paper promoted with evangelical fervour and has since done its best to rehabilitate, a man responsible for human carnage beyond the imagination.

To its credit, Des Freedman’s anthology includes a scattering of sharp honesty, especially the chapters by Alan McLeod, Mark Curtis and Matt Kennard. But the omissions are shocking: notably the Guardian’s “nuanced” (a favourite weasel word) support for the dismemberment of nations: from Yugoslavia to Syria, and for its immoral backing of the current MI6/CIA propaganda war against nuclear-armed powers Russia and China.

An example of this is a recent stream of US-sourced “human rights” propaganda from Taiwan, much of it publicly discredited, that beckons war with China. This has yet to match the output of the Guardian’s chief Russiaphobe, Luke Harding, who ensures that all evil leads to Vladimir Putin.

We are given scant idea how the people of these hellish places live and think, for they are the modern “other”. That the Chinese, according to Harvard, Pew and numerous other studies, are the most contented human beings on earth is irrelevant, or to quote Harold Pinter, “it didn’t matter, it was of no interest”.

It was Harding and two others who claimed in the Guardian that Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had held secret talks with Julian Assange at the Ecuadorean embassy. Discredited by the former Ecuadorean consul Fidel Narvaez as ‘fake’ (and by those like myself who were subjected to the security screening at the embassy), the story was typical of the decade-long smear campaign against Assange.

The campaign was one of the lowest points in British journalism. While collecting the kudos, circulation, profit and book and Hollywood deals for Assange’s work, the Guardian played a pivotal role. Although Mark Curtis touches on the latter years, young journalists need to know the whole disgraceful saga and its significance in crushing those who challenge power from outside the liberal fence and refuse to join the “club”.

The principal Guardian ringmaster was Alan Rusbridger, who was editor in chief for 20 years. (Rusbridger also oversaw the Observer, the Guardian’s sister paper, which during the build-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 ran a rabid pro-war campaign that included fabrications about WMD for which its reporter, David Rose, later personally apologised – unlike his editors).

Rusbridger has lately re-invented himself as a media moralist. “Only those with the highest professional and ethical standards,” he wrote in 2019, “will rise above the oceans of mediocrity and malignity and survive.”  While Rusbridger rises above the oceans to promote his new book on the ethics of “proper news”, Julian Assange, the truth telling journalist betrayed by the Guardian, remains in solitary confinement in Belmarsh prison.

Much of Freedman’s anthology is the work of media academics, whose takeover of the training of journalists is relatively recent – well, it’s within my own career. Some have done fine work, including Freedman himself. But the question begs: how have they and their colleagues changed the media for the better when so much of it has become an echo chamber of rapacious, mendacious power?  The craft of journalism deserves better. 7

Jonathan Cook Responds

We also asked former Guardian journalist Jonathan Cook to comment on the book:

With a few notable exceptions, the critical horizons of many of the contributors seem sadly limited for a book supposedly critically appraising the Guardian. Most rightly argue that the left should not trust the paper to advance its causes, and that throughout its long history the paper has hewn closely to variations of free-market liberalism. But the book makes little effort to explain why that is the case, even in its section supposedly dealing directly with this issue: on what the book refers to as “political economy”. Only one contributor refers to the corporate nature of the media, when dealing with press regulation, and even then there is the implication that the Guardian stands outside that system.

The chapter on political economy charts the Guardian’s efforts to remain profitable and competitive against billionaire-owned rivals but fails to make clear the impact that necessarily has on the paper’s ideological positions. There is no real effort to examine how the Guardian, like other corporate media, dare not regularly upset advertisers, given its economic dependency on their money. The book lacks a discussion of the inevitable conflict between the Guardian’s commercial needs and its professed commitment to the environment.

Nor does the book draw any meaningful conclusions from the fact that in the digital age the Guardian has chosen to chase after larger and wealthier liberal US audiences than can be found in the UK. It would seem relevant in considering the Guardian’s ever-greater focus on cultural issues and fashionable identity politics as an alternative to class politics and labour issues.

Similarly, the book offers no platform for whistleblowers who could have given a harsher insight into how the paper is run, or the obstacles placed in the way of reporters trying to break with the Guardian’s ideological framing of issues or its top-down editorial approach. Gary Younge provides some clues but his focus is narrow, he enjoyed an unusually independent position within the editorial team, and his continuing relationship with the paper means he is unlikely to speak as freely as he might otherwise.

Matt Kennard and Mark Curtis name some of the national security writers pushed out of the paper in recent years. Were any approached by the book’s editor to explain their experiences?

In my own specialist field, Ghada Karmi offers a fine perspective on the general failures in reporting fairly on Israel-Palestine, the role of the lobby and the tendency to prioritise Jewish and Israeli voices over Palestinian ones. But her assumption appears to be that the Guardian’s failure to offer Palestinians a proper hearing reflects a mix of the following: historical ignorance of the Palestinian case and a romanticised view of Israel; the greater weight and centrality of the Israel lobby than the Palestinian lobby in UK society; and fears of being accused of antisemitism.

What this account of the Guardian’s failure misses is Israel’s crucial place in advancing western foreign policy goals in the Middle East. The paper’s siding with the west’s major geopolitical interests in the Middle East is not a one-off, after all, as Alan MacLeod’s chapter on the Guardian’s even more woeful coverage of Latin American makes clear. There is a pattern of failure here that needs unpacking. Had it been done, it would have been much easier to explain the Guardian’s leading role in the corporate media’s campaign to put Israel – couched in terms of a supposed Labour antisemitism crisis – at the heart of assessing Jeremy Corbyn’s suitability for being prime minister.

Again, it would have helped this section to have included a whistleblower, an insider familiar with the limitations of the Guardian’s Israel-Palestine coverage. I and others – including Nafeez Ahmed, Antony Loewenstein and, more recently, Nathan Robinson – have all been at the sharp end of the Guardian’s strict policing of its Israel-Palestine coverage. Nowhere are our experiences given a voice in a book claiming to deal with the Guardian critically. 7

Conclusion

The rarely discussed truth is that academia plays a crucial role in reinforcing ‘mainstream’ journalism’s filtering of truth, ensuring that discussion extends, as Chomsky says, ‘this far and no further’. Media academics consistently exclude the most critical media activists in much the same way as corporate journalists.

It is obvious to us, for example, that John Pilger and Jonathan Cook have long been the UK’s most powerful and qualified critics of the Guardian. Who can doubt that their inclusion would have massively strengthened Capitalism’s Conscience and increased sales? Their exclusion invites a simple question: what other priorities were being served?

Did the editor and some of the contributors pull their punches, wittingly or otherwise, in order to seem less ‘extreme’, more ‘reasonable’? Were they hoping not to burn bridges, so that publication in the Guardian might remain an option? Perhaps even that the book might be reviewed favourably by the paper itself? There is a pressing need for truly critical and honest appraisals of the Guardian’s record as a guardian of power. This book, barring a couple of welcome exceptions, is not it.

  1. ‘Tolstoy. “What Then Must We Do?’, Green Classics, 1991, p. 118.
  2. Eagleton, ‘Death of the intellectual,’ Red Pepper, October 2008.
  3. Capitalism’s Conscience – 200 Years of the Guardian’, Des Freedman, ed., Pluto Press, 2021, p. x.
  4. Bakan, The Corporation, Constable, 2004, p. 37.
  5. Rudolf Rocker, ‘Culture and Nationalism’, Michael E. Coughlan, 1978, p. 197.
  6. Scott Ritter and William Rivers Pitt, ‘War On Iraq’, Profile Books, 2002, p. 23 and p. 29. 
  7. Email to Media Lens, 9 March 2021.
The post Shocking Omissions: Capitalism’s Conscience: 200 Years of The Guardian first appeared on Dissident Voice.