Category Archives: 9-11

Bringing our Socialist Baby to Life: History of Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

Part I – Pre-History of Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

Waking Up

In 2001 Barbara had her awakening to the disasters that capitalism caused. This started as part of the 9/11 events, beginning after the response to the supposed attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It became immediately clear the US would respond to the attacks with military action against whatever country seemed most vulnerable and had access or proximity to resources, in this case oil. The attacks were supposedly coordinated by al-Qaeda, a radical Islamic group founded by Osama bin Laden and headquartered in Afghanistan. We firmly believed, with documented evidence, that the US attacked Iraq instead even though Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks. The US wanted control of Iraq because of their large reserves of oil. In fact, they were the second largest oil exporting state at that time.

As soon as the news came of the World Trade Towers being hit, Bruce said that something was fishy. From that time forward Barbara’s political life began. Watching the news was surreal and terrifying. Over and over again, images of the towers collapsing were televised. Talk of war began almost immediately, with George “W” Bush putting the blame on Iraq – with absolutely no proof. What was even more alarming was watching how people reacted to it. So many of them jumped on the bandwagon of war.

Making signs

Shortly after the attack Bruce – who had been a socialist for 30 years – talked Barbara into going to her first demonstration. Together we made signs to bring with us – “No War on Iraq”, “War is not the Answer”. Making the signs was so much fun. We got old cardboard cartons from the grocery stores along with some long lightweight sticks from lumber stores to hold them up. We brainstormed ideas for what to write. Bruce’s signs always had much more content than Barbara’s. Barbara went for the fewer words, the better.

First demonstration

The gathering, or demonstration, was held in Palo Alto, CA, just outside the Stanford University Campus. We had to park our car some distance from the crowd, and Barbara felt self-conscious carrying our signs. A radical political science faculty member, Joel Benin, who was pro-Palestinian, gave an impassioned speech. It was so sane, so true. People around us began chanting and we joined with them – NO WAR – NO WAR. This wasn’t a big demonstration, only a couple of hundred people, but everyone was in agreement that we could see where this drive to war was going, and we wanted to try to stop it. Barbara didn’t fully grasp the full implications of where the US was headed or what would be her involvement in the fight to stop it. Ultimately, that was the beginning of her journey to socialism.

Barbara has already written about much of this in My Journey to Socialism, some of which we’ve quoted here, which began after these attacks. Bruce was so happy to see her waking up.

Attending anti-war demonstrations

We went to anti-war demonstrations in San Francisco and Oakland, chanting “No Blood for Oil”. Many of the demonstrations and meetings were organized by San Francisco ANSWER, an anti-war group formed in San Francisco shortly after 9/11. On March 20, 2003, we marched with tens of thousands of people to protest the war on Iraq that Bush started that very day. We shut down the city. Aside from ANSWER, there seemed to be no large, unified movement to take action against the existing paradigm of US imperialism and capitalism. That is, there was no large movement until the Occupy Wall Street Movement in 2011 which was designed to protest income inequality and the use of influence of money in politics by occupying public spaces.

2004 – 2011 Looking for a Foothold

During this time period, we were searching for the best place for us to fit in and work towards changing the existing capitalist system. We had a book club together, just the two of us. We read and discussed The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Gregg Palast, Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins, The powers That Be, and Who Rules America, both by G. William Domhoff. We met every other week on the weekends for 2 hours. This helped to develop Barbara’s understanding of capitalism.

In 2008 the economic crash hit almost everyone.  We each lost ¼ of our savings in our IRA accounts, even though we had our money invested in socially responsible companies. Since this was money we hoped to use to supplement Social Security, this was a very personal wake-up call, not just for us, but for many. Were we witnessing the collapse of capitalism, and its effects on ordinary people?

In 2009 we attended a KPFA townhall meeting. KPFA was our local radio station, representing a mix of New Deal liberals and Social Democrats. They featured people like Amy Goodman, Sasha Lilly, C.S. Soong, and Bonnie Faulkner. At that meeting Bruce spoke about why KPFA is supporting the Democratic Party. When the meeting was over, he was approached by a labor organizer who wanted to start an organization to try to coordinate the public education unions. We stayed with this group for about a year, attending meetings about once a month, but nothing ever came of it, so we left.

Part II – 2011 – 2012 – Turning Point – Occupy

Excitement of General Assemblies:

We were happy to see Occupy San Francisco and Occupy Oakland blossom in October of 2011 which lasted until the spring of 2012. We initially attended assemblies at the amphitheater in Frank Ogawa Plaza, right on the doorstep of Oakland City Hall. In San Francisco they were near the Ferry Building and at the bottom of the financial district.

The General Assembly (GA) meetings in both San Francisco and Oakland were electrifying. There were some extremely skilled facilitators. The GAs met every day and discussed how to regulate the public space that they had occupied and integrate the homeless community, which turned out to be a very difficult task. In San Francisco there were people who rode on a ferry that would stop by and watch the meetings. This was a good way to draw people in. Some of the members of the organizing committee of Occupy led tours around the Occupy camp to combat the propaganda against it.

Shutting Down the Port of Oakland

November 2, 2011, Occupy Oakland coordinated to shut down West Coast ports to make a statement that we would not go back to “business as usual”. The shutdown was a way of protesting the treatment of longshoremen and truck drivers, who were forced to work as independent contractors. They were then fired by port owners EGT and Goldman Sachs for wearing union t-shirts. We marched with 200,000 others from Oscar Grant Plaza to the ports. While the ILWU did not openly support the blockade, the rank and file and many former labor leaders did. Clarence Thomas, secretary/treasurer of the ILWU, was fully committed to this blockade, as he had been for many past blockades. We’ll never forget the power of the first speech we heard from him which began – “I’m Clarence Thomas – the REAL Clarence Thomas”. Jack Heyman, also with the ILWU, was another powerful and persuasive speaker.

The Challenges of the Working Committees

We joined some of the committees, but we noticed there was a real gap in ages in the members. The overwhelming majority of people were in their 20s, with the exception of the Committee for Solidarity with Labor. There were virtually no people in their 30s and 40s and only a handful of people like us in our 50s and 60s. We were both working full time and tried to join committees that would work with our schedules, but the organizers kept changing the days and times of the meetings. It seemed like, at best, most of the Occupy participants worked part-time or might have been upper middle-class people whose schedules were more flexible. The committees were not very solid.

People would float in and out. Any group could start a committee – even conservative committees like those who wanted to work with merchants were allowed. Committees were dissolved without letting the Occupy leadership know so you could join a committee and discover that it no longer existed. We found many of the meetings off-track and with members who didn’t have the basic social skills like asking a person “How are you? How are things going?” They lacked skills for building solidarity with strangers like tracking things a person may have told them and following up with a question like “what’s happening with that project you were working on?” They are skills like showing up to meetings on time and remembering to tell others if a meeting is cancelled. The Occupy movement was the best and the worst of anarchism.

Monday Night Occupy Meetings in the Women’s Building

When the police drove Occupy in SF and Oakland away from Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland and the area outside the Federal Reserve building in SF the Occupy organizers decided to meet indoors. Speakers were arranged every Monday night to talk on various political and economic topics. On average, 50-75 people attended. We noticed how the cliquishness of Occupy in the public are continued into the events in the Women’s Building in SF. Bruce told Barbara that when he was meeting with the organizers of an economic forum that Barbara was standing by herself. Nobody introduced themselves or tried to introduce themselves. These folks were calling themselves socialists and yet they lacked the most elementary friendliness to others who were on the same page. We decided it was then that we felt we needed to stop trying to join other organizations and start our own.

Part III – History of Socialist PBC

2012 – 2014 Building Political Documents and Our Website

We began to develop our own organizational documents, including a manifesto, mission statement, our attitude towards politics, and developed a political practice. At first that seemed like a lot of work to Barbara, and she also wondered how we would get people to join us. We had many meetings, just the two of us, to hash out the development of our perspective. Our main purpose was to provide a forum for exposing capitalism and spread the word to the public.

In spite of this challenging work, the creation of this site was so much fun. The first area we wanted to cover included telling people who we are and what we’re about. It included our mission statement – which was to become one of many eddies for:

  • “Exposing the predatory, incompetent, and irrational practices of capitalists to direct human social life.
  • Engage in collective political actions that throw a monkey-wrench into and slow down or disrupt the profit-making mechanisms of the system.
  • Weave and expand the fabric of a growing body of workplaces under worker self-management.”

Barbara switched from full-time to part-time work, allowing her more time to work on developing our book clubs that were focused on educating people about the reality of capitalism and the havoc it’s wrecked in the world. From 2012-2014 we tried to do outreach by having in-person book groups.

In April 2014 our first step was to create a website, Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism. Through our Occupy contacts we found a wonderful tech guy named Jeremy who, with our input, created the website that we still have today. Our baby was gestating. It was scary for Barbara to learn how to manage a website. While she had considerable work experience using numerous platforms, managing a website is a whole other ballgame. At a ridiculously low cost, Jeremy built our WordPress site. He patiently showed Barbara the basics and was the best tech teacher we have been able to find since then. He never spoke to her in tech-speak. Sadly, he has disappeared from our lives, even though we’ve tried hard to reach him. Since then, we have struggled to find someone to help us with our site, as well as with social media.

In November 2014 we wrote our first post – titled The Collapse of Capitalism. In it you will see that our economic situation has only gotten worse since then. In addition to all the things we listed, we’re now dealing with the economic fallout of Covid, hyper-inflation, and a rush to war with Russia.

We added a slider at the top of our page that, in addition to The Collapse of Capitalism, included the Personal Impact of Crisis. In that section we asked the question “What caused the crisis?” We gave 4 reasons for this. We then proposed “Making adjustments within the system” asking 6 questions of readers. Finally, we asked the question “Are there alternatives”?

The next section was titled Alternatives to Capitalism. We gave examples of workers’ self-management, workers’ control, and worker cooperatives – all of which currently exist and often are more successful than capitalist businesses.

The next section was titled History of Workers’ Councils so readers could see this is not just an unrealistic pipe dream. There is a 150-year history of worker self-management.

Finally, we included a section titled Local Workplace Democracy that allowed readers to learn about some of the local cooperatives in the US.

On our site we included sections on Our Manifesto, Our Process Politics, Our Mission Statement, Calendar of Radical Events, Submission Guidelines, Films, Books, Our Mythological Story, Our Allies, and Getting Involved.

2014 – 2016 Richard Wolff – Democracy at Work

Around the same time, Richard Wolff, the Marxist political economist, began to give public talks about the crisis in capitalism and workplace democracy as an alternative. In one of our book clubs, we began reading his book, Capitalism Hits the Fan. We attended one of several talks by Wolff and met our soon-to-be comrade, K.J. Noh, who was petitioning for some local cause. We asked him to join our book group and he did, adding an international perspective from his own personal experience of growing up in South Korea. We also discovered he was an extraordinary writer. We cited some of his publications on our site. One of the best was “The Economic Myths of Santa Claus“, published in CounterPunch on Christmas day, 2014.

After a year in our book clubs, which drew between 4 and 6 people, K.J. said to us that the book clubs really were not the way to go in this day and age. He said we needed an electronic presence. He recommended 3 newsletters we could write for and said our focus must be international in order to keep his interest. We followed his suggestions, and our website and FB page likes grew.

We also became involved with Richard Wolff’s Democracy at Work project in 2014. This was an organization developed by Richard Wolff that had chapters in numerous cities and states to support and teach people about the theory and viability of worker cooperatives to combat capitalism by democratizing our workplaces. People were either encouraged to study cooperatives, provide educational forums for cooperatives, or even start a cooperative.

Why We Left Democracy at Work

We discovered that Democracy at Work was very loose in its structure. People like us who were long-time socialists were mixed in with people who neither cared nor knew nothing about socialism, and simply wanted to start a small business. Many of the groups throughout the country were uneven in terms of their commitments and we were disappointed that Rick did not take a firmer stand in directing what we were doing. In fact, the management of these groups was left to someone else, and Rick had very little engagement with the groups.

2016-2022 Coming into Our Own

Social Media Ups and Downs – FB and Twitter

Since Jeremy set up our website, we have had consistent problems finding someone to help us. Jeremy was so good at explaining things clearly, teaching us how to create posts and perspectives, add to our pages and change our images. Since that time – in 2014, Barbara has mostly figured stuff out on her own and has become our house techie. WordPress is not a user-friendly platform and learning how to manage it is not obvious or intuitive. We need a professional, who we’ve only recently found, who can help us navigate that.

Someone who earlier helped us enormously was Sameer, who lived close to us in Oakland. He was also great at explaining things in non-tech speak. However, he’s moved on to bigger and more lucrative projects. We’ve since discovered that it’s very hard for technical experts to be able to communicate to non-experts in an understandable way what they’re trying to do – or trying to teach us to do.

Sameer introduced us to Susan Tenby in 2016 – who was able to help us with our social media. She taught us how to make our Facebook and Twitter pages more visible and appealing. We are so lucky to have found Susan. We were a small, community organization trying to get our message out. When we started working with Susan our visibility was very low. Susan did a comprehensive audit of where our social media stood when we started working with her and helped us track its rapid change. We were not getting a whole lot of attention on our website or through our social media. She gave us a crash course on how to turn that around and in a very short period of time our visibility skyrocketed. Each session with her was packed with techniques and ideas we never would have known about.  She’s also terrific at adapting to each individual’s learning style.

Susan also introduced us to Colleen Nagel, an SEO expert and digital marketing. These terms were completely unfamiliar to us. SEO means Search Engine Optimization and is the process used to optimize a website’s technical configuration, content relevance and link popularity so its pages can become easily searchable, more relevant, and popular, and as a consequence, search engines rank them better. In other words, it’s the process of making a website better for search engines, like Google. We began to understand how to make more sense of our analytics, although we’re still struggling to figure out WHY our followers like some of our posts and tweets better than others.

Where we needed help was in translating the analytics into verbal meaning. The deeper step, after understanding what these numbers mean, was to understand the causal dynamics which produce an increase or decrease in viewers and attention span. The next step was to develop a plan for increasing the number of followers after we were able to analyze what’s actually happened up to then. We never felt that we got that help

All of this cost money, of which we didn’t have a lot. We have never asked for donations or “supporters” for our site. Barbara’s income at that time consisted of a small retirement fund, Social Security, and a modest IRA. Bruce worked as an adjunct faculty member. As he’s written in his article “Capitalist Economic Violence Against Road Scholars: Now You’re Hired, Now You’re Not” his income was never completely stable and, of course, they paid adjuncts at a much lower rate than they paid faculty. In fact, today there are adjuncts who are living in their cars because they can’t afford to pay rent. We simply couldn’t afford to pay what Colleen was charging.

We then moved on to 2 more people whose entire focus was to install SEO optics. While we got some help from this, we found that both of them explained things in tech-speak and were not easy to communicate with.

Finally, we tried working with Liz and her sister. Liz was an editor of one of Bruce’s books and claimed to have some technical skills. But she didn’t have a Mac like we do and was not good at explaining things so that wasn’t much help. Her sister did have a Mac and was good at explaining things but worked full time, had small kids and was erratic in her response time.

Flying High

Between 2014 and 2016 we worked hard on learning how to get our message out through Facebook and Twitter. We learned how to “boost” our articles, Facebook’s language for paying them to promote it. We were able to select what type of audience we were trying to reach and where they were likely to be geographically. As we started to boost articles either we or one of our comrades had written, we began getting a lot more attention on Facebook. Our Facebook boosted posts for our articles ranged from 5,000 to 10,000 readers. A couple of them reached 20,000. Between 2016 and 2019 we were getting about 1,000 page likes a year, reaching thousands of people each week. At that point we had gained a total of 3,400 page likes.

Twitter was much slower to get off the ground. We began to understand the importance of hashtags and which hashtags were more likely to get attention. We also came to see the importance of liking, commenting on and retweeting the tweets of people who were following us. Our followers have increased steadily since we’ve been doing this. However, we still lag behind the attention we were getting on Facebook, and we would like to understand why.

Facebook Attempts to Clip Our Wings

In early 2020 Facebook stopped allowing us to boost our articles. The reason they gave was that since we are posting “political content” we must be registered as a political organization with the IRS. As you can imagine, we did not want to do that. When Facebook first started doing this, we were able to mount arguments that not all of our articles were, in fact, political. Well, of course they were, but not “political” in the way they were framing it. After a while, they simply stopped allowing us to boost them at all, no matter what our argument was. About the same time, we noticed that our typical daily reach (how many people saw the article) was shrinking dramatically. Whereas our daily reach used to be in the thousands, they are now in the hundreds. The same thing has happened with our engagements (how many people actually look at our post or click on a link we’ve provided) Our total page likes have gone from an average of 30 a month to less than 10. That’s because the only people who see our posts are the ones who have already liked our page! Our reach now is about one third of what it used to be. We have read that the same dramatic drop happened to World Socialist Website, The Greanville Post, and many other socialist sites.

Our Work Schedules for PBC

Since the very beginning, we each put in a minimum of 15 hours a week, often more, including Saturdays and Sundays. We have 2-hour weekly meetings to discuss what we’ve done during the week and what we want to do for the coming week. We give ourselves “homework”, then report in on the results of that homework at our weekly meetings. We jokingly call these meetings, our “Central Committee” meetings.

We write almost all of our own articles. After editing them and finding images for them we publish them and then also send them to other websites for publication. We have tried to find other comrades to write articles for publication for us also. We wanted to be able to include authors on our site beyond just the two of us. While we did, in fact, get a few people to write for us, it often required a lot of work on our part to help them frame their work. Of course, we did all editing the articles. We publish an average of one article every three weeks.

For our daily posts, every morning Bruce searches for an article online from a number of trusted sources, that usually focuses on the decay of capitalism. We also want very much to spread the word of the success of worker-owned cooperatives to the public. This lets them see that there is a way to work other than for “the man” and create a new society. He writes a post about the article, finds an image to go with it, and then sends it to Barbara. Barbara edits his post, puts it up on our site and shares it to FB and Twitter. We then share that article to our Facebook groups.

We have been doing all of this every day, every week, every month since we began our electronic outreach. This is a joy for us. We call Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism “our baby”. She’s now almost 10 years old and stable. She will be thriving when we can get the technical and social media support we need. When people ask us if we’re retired, we start laughing. Barbara always says she’s working harder than she ever did, she just doesn’t get paid for it! There are few things we would rather spend our time on than Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism.

Thank you for reading our history, and please consider joining us by reading and sharing our articles and posts. Together we are strong. Together we can change the world.

The post Bringing our Socialist Baby to Life: History of Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Edward Curtin: There is a Direct Link between JFK, 9/11, and Covid-19

Edward Curtin returns to discuss deep politics and what links the assassination of JFK, 9/11, and Covid-19. No president since Kennedy has dared to buck the Military-Industrial-Complex, including Trump, who is part of the same system that produced both Obama and Biden. He discusses the 1967 CIA memo which told mainstream media to use the disparaging term “conspiracy theory” to quell all deviation from the official narrative, and how this propaganda technique has continued to function from JFK to 9/11 to Covid-19. Many of the same actors involved in the MIC and 9/11 continue to be involved with the drug companies, CDC, WEF, WHO, Gates Foundation, and the Rockefeller Foundation. It’s very obvious, but the story is so frightening people don’t want to do any homework. Too many people think there is this war going on between the right and the left, in the larger frame of reference there is no difference, it’s the warfare state against the regular people, the rich versus the poor. The 4IR is an effort for total political and economic control of peoples all over the world. He believes the purpose of the vaccine mandate is for political control. Ultimately, we are in a spiritual war.

The post Edward Curtin: There is a Direct Link between JFK, 9/11, and Covid-19 first appeared on Dissident Voice.

9/11 and Afghanistan Post-Mortems: Lessons in Safe Logic

In the wake of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the 20th anniversary of the mass murders of September 11, 2001, the corporate mainstream and alternative media have been replete with articles analyzing the consequences of 9/11 that resulted in the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan and its alleged withdrawal after two decades of war.

These critiques have ranged from mild to harsh, and have covered issues from the loss of civil liberties due to The Patriot Act and government spying through all the wars “on terror” in so many countries with their disastrous consequences and killing fields.  Many of these articles have emphasized how, as a result of the Bush administration’s response to 9/11, the U.S. has lost its footing and brought on the demise of the American empire and its standing in the world.  Some writers celebrate this and others bemoan it.  Most seem to consider it inevitable.

This flood of articles has been authored by writers from across the political spectrum from the left through the center to the right.  All were outraged in their own ways, as such dramatic events typically manage to elicit much spilled ink informed by the writers’ various ideological positions in a media world where the categories of left and right have become meaningless.

These articles have included cries about phony tears for the wrong victims (those who died in the Twin Towers, Pentagon, and on the planes), how good intelligence could have prevented 9/11, how so many died in vain, how it all led to torture, how whistle blowers were not heeded, how the military was right, how the collapse of the towers led to the collapse of the American empire, how bin Laden won, how evil U.S. war making came home in the form of 9/11 evil, how the longest war was in vain, how the Pentagon received vast sums of money over decades, how the withdrawal from Afghanistan was a betrayal of the 9/11 victims, etc.

Many of the points made were valid; others were not.  This flood of opinionated outrage was very emotional and no doubt stirred deep feelings in readers.  It fed on the widespread feeling in the country that something dreadful has occurred, but what it is isn’t exactly clear. The sense of mass confusion and continual disaster permeating the air and infecting people’s daily lives.  The sense of unreality existing everywhere.

These articles have almost run their course and a new series of post mortems can be anticipated as fear and trembling attaches to new matters, particularly the ongoing Covid-19 fear porn minus the dire consequences of government policies.  Fear is the name of the game and untruth snakes through the media hidden in the grass of truth.  Many of the articles I referred to above – and you can check for yourself as I have purposely left out names and links – contain truths, but truths that disguise deeper untruths upon which the truths are allegedly based.  I will leave the logic lesson to you.

Since many of these articles have been penned by liberal writers, some of whom one might naively expect to grasp essentials, and since those further to the right are considered defenders of Pax Americana, I will quote the outspoken anti-war singer/songwriter Phil Ochs, who prefaced his trenchant 1965 song, Love Me I’m a Liberal, with these words about logic:

In every political community there are varying shades of political opinion.    One of the shadiest of these is the liberals. An outspoken group on many subjects. Ten degrees to the left of center in good times. Ten degrees to the  right of center if it affects them personally. Here, then, is a lesson in safe logic.

So here’s the rub about the logic.  Almost without exception (there are a handful of truthful writers aside from those I am here referring to, such as Kit Knightly, Michel Chossudovsky, Pepe Escobar, et al.), from the left to the right and everywhere in between, the authors of all these articles about the mass murders of September 11, 2001 and Afghanistan have based their points on a false premise.

A false premise.  This is the way minds are shaped in the era of mass propaganda and servile journalism.  Assume (or make believe) something is true despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, and build from there. Slip in this premise or background assumption as if it were truer than true. This is what has happened throughout the media in the last two weeks.  It is not new but worth pointing out.

The false premise is this: That 9/11 was a terror attack carried out by Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda as blow-back for American wars against Muslims, and this terror attack on the U.S. led to the invasion of Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.

The evidence is overwhelming that this premise is false.  In fact, the evidence makes clear that 9/11 was an inside job, a false flag attack, carried out by sinister forces within the government of the United States with a little help from certain foreign junior partners to justify its subsequent war crimes across the globe.  I will not explore here the ample evidence concerning 9/11, for it is readily available to readers who have the will to look.  Even the use of the shorthand – 9/11 for the events of September 11, 2001 – that I have used here for brevity’s sake, is a crucial part of the linguistic propaganda used to frighten and conjure up thoughts of an ongoing national emergency, as I have written elsewhere.

One is not supposed to say that the mass murders of September 11, 2001 were a false flag attack, for it touches a realty that is so disturbing in its consequences that all the hand wringing post-mortems must deny: That nearly three thousand innocent people in the U.S. had first to be murdered as a pretext for killing millions around the world.  It is a lesson in radical evil that is very difficult to swallow, and so must be hidden in a vast tapestry of lies and safe logic.  American innocence can survive the disclosures of U.S. atrocities overseas because the deaths of foreigners have never meant much to Americans, but to bring it all back home is anathema.

It is another example of the unspeakable, as the Trappist monk Thomas Merton said long ago and James W. Douglass referenced in his monumental book, JFK and the Unspeakable, to explain why John Kennedy died at the hands of the CIA and why that fact had to be suppressed.  The mass murders of September 11, 2001 recapitulate that systemic evil that defies speech.

It is the void that contradicts everything that is spoken even before the words are said; the void that gets into the language of public and official declarations at the very moment when they are pronounced, and makes    them ring dead with the hollowness of the abyss.  It is the void out of which Eichmann drew the punctilious exactitude of his obedience…

From true writers and journalists we should expect something better – that they don’t repeat official declarations, utter hollow platitudes, and build analyses on false premises – but these are not the best of times, to rephrase Ochs, and safe logic keeps one’s legitimacy intact and protects one’s brand.

It’s always personal when it comes to the unspeakable.

The post 9/11 and Afghanistan Post-Mortems: Lessons in Safe Logic first appeared on Dissident Voice.

9/11 Collapsed Towers… And Empire

AFP 2021 / Seth McAllister

The United States’ 245-year history as a political entity has been one long trail of wars and more wars. It is estimated that nearly 95 percent of that historical span has seen the nation involved in either all-out wars, proxy conflicts, or other military subterfuges.

But since the 9/11 terror attacks in 2001, the US has gone into hyper-war mode. Twenty years ago, the invasion and occupation of Afghanistan ushered in multiple other American wars and covert operations from Asia to Africa, from the Middle East to the Americas.

At one point, the former Obama administration was bombing seven countries simultaneously all in the name of “fighting terrorism”. Hundreds of US bombs rain down somewhere on the planet every day.

What is rather sickening is how the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 event this weekend is marked with solemn speeches by US president Joe Biden and his British counterpart Boris Johnson – the two countries that spearheaded the “War on Terror” era.

Biden claims that 9/11 demonstrates the “unity and resilience” of the American people, while Johnson blusters with platitudes about 9/11 showing that “terrorists did not defeat Western democracy and freedoms”. This self-indulgent piffle is contemptible and nauseating.

Two decades after the US and Britain launched their criminal blitzkrieg on Afghanistan and the rest of the world, those two nations are more financially broke than ever. Internally, they are more bitterly divided than ever. More evidently, their so-called democracies are in reality oligarchies where a tiny rich elite rule over a mass of impoverished people who are spied on and treated like serfs by unaccountable secret agencies and a mass media in hock with oligarchic masters.

If there was a genuine commemoration of 9/11 it would entail a mass uprising by the people to overthrow the war-mongering class system that Biden and Johnson serve as frontmen.

Just this week – of all weeks – the American and British states are in effect admitting that their societies are collapsing from vast economic inequality and crumbling infrastructure. The Biden administration is trying to release a budget of up to $4.5 trillion to alleviate poverty and repair decrepit roads, bridges, buildings and other public utilities.

The Johnson regime in Britain is forced to admit that the National Health Service is overwhelmed by a chronic lack of funding. Taxes are being hiked that will hit low-income workers in order to pay for the £12 billion ($16bn) needed to prop up the enfeebled health service.

All of the cost for trying to repair the US and Britain to make these countries a modicum of decency for its citizens to live in could have been covered by the expenditure on wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere that the US and Britain have directly or indirectly been involved in.

A new estimate of the cost for the “war on terror” by the United States alone is put at $8 trillion. This is roughly double the infrastructure bill that Biden is trying to get passed by Congress. American politicians are objecting to the extravagance of that “rescue budget”, yet they had no qualms about spending $8 trillion on wars. It is also estimated that for Britain its military adventurism in Afghanistan alone cost a total of $30 billion. Again, just imagine how British society might be better off if that money had been spent instead on attending to the health needs of its citizens.

But 9/11 also ushered in wanton warmongering regimes in Washington and London that have bled the American and British public of finances and democratic rights. In 2001, the US national debt was about $6 trillion. This year that debt burden on future American generations has escalated to $28 trillion – a crushing, unsustainable burden largely driven by criminal wars.

The healthcare costs for American military veterans wounded and maimed from the wars on terror are projected at $2 trillion. Over 30,000 US service members and veterans are reckoned to have committed suicide over the past 20 years. That’s 10 times the number of American people who died on the day of 9/11.

Untold millions of innocent civilians were killed by the wars that the US and British launched after 9/11. Such suffering and destruction all for nothing except for the enrichment of war-profiteering corporations and the oligarchic elite.

fThe United States and Britain have been so deformed by criminal wars they have become dysfunctional and dystopian. They have inflicted failed states around the world, but none more so than on their own people. The towers that fell on 9/11 were a premonition of much bigger collapse.

The post 9/11 Collapsed Towers… And Empire first appeared on Dissident Voice.

To Counter Terror, Abolish War

On the morning of September 11, 2001, I was among a small group of U.S. citizens who sat on milk crates or stood holding signs, across from the U.S. Mission to the United Nations in Manhattan. We had been fasting from solid foods for a month, calling for an end to brutal economic warfare waged against Iraq through imposition of U.N. sanctions. Each Friday of our fast, we approached the entrance to the U.S. Mission to the United Nations carrying lentils and rice, asking the U.S. officials to break our fast with us, asking them to hear our reports, gathered after visiting destitute Iraqi hospitals and homes. On four successive Friday afternoons, New York police handcuffed us and took us to jail.

Two days after the passenger planes attacked the World Trade Center,  U.S. Mission to the UN officials called us and asked that we visit with them.

I had naively hoped this overture could signify empathy on the part of U.S. officials. Perhaps the 9/11 attack would engender sorrow over the suffering and pain endured by people of Iraq and other lands when the U.S. attacks them. The officials at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations wanted to know why we went to Iraq but we sensed they were mainly interested in filling out forms to comply with an order to gather more information about U.S. people going to Iraq.

The U.S. government and military exploited the grief and shock following 9/11 attacks to raise fears, promote Islamophobia and launch forever wars which continue to this day. Under the guise of “counter-terrorism,” the U.S. now pledges to combine drone attacks, surveillance, airstrikes, and covert operations to continue waging war in Afghanistan. Terror among Afghans persists.

I visited Kabul, Afghanistan in September 2019. While there, a young friend whom I’ve known for five years greeted me and then spoke in a hushed voice. “Kathy,” he asked, “do you know about Qazi Qadir, Bahadir, Jehanzeb and Saboor?” I nodded. I had read a news account, shortly before I arrived, about Afghan Special Operations commandos, trained by the CIA, having waged a night raid in the city of Jalalabad at the home of four brothers. They awakened the young men, then shot and killed them. Neighbors said the young men had gathered to welcome their father back from the Hajj; numerous colleagues insisted the young men were innocent.

My young friend has been deeply troubled by many other incidents in which the United States directly attacked innocent people or trained Afghan units to do so. Two decades of U.S. combat in Afghanistan have made civilians vulnerable to drone attacks, night raids, airstrikes and arrests. Over 4 million people have become internally displaced as they fled from battles or could no longer survive on scarred, drought stricken lands.

In an earlier visit to Kabul, at the height of the U.S. troop surge, another young friend earnestly asked me to tell parents in the United States not to send their sons and daughters to Afghanistan. “Here it is very dangerous for them,” he said. “And they do not really help us.”

For many years, the United States claimed its mission in Afghanistan improved the lives of Afghan women and children. But essentially, the U.S. war improved the livelihoods of those who designed, manufactured, sold and used weaponry to kill Afghans.

When the U.S. was winding down its troop surge in 2014, but not its occupation,  military officials undertook what they called “the largest retrograde mission in U.S. military history,” incurring enormous expenses. One estimate suggested the war in Afghanistan, that year, was costing $2 million per U.S. soldier. That same year, UNICEF officials calculated that the cost of adding iodized salt into the diet of an Afghan infant, a step which could prevent chronic brain damage in children suffering from acute malnourishment, would be 5 cents per child per year.

Which endeavor would the majority of U.S. people have opted to support, in their personal budgets, had they ever been given a choice? Profligate U.S. military spending in Afghanistan or vital assistance for a starving Afghan child?

One of my young Afghan friends says he is now an anarchist. He doesn’t place much trust in governments and militaries. He feels strong allegiance toward the grassroots network he has helped build, a group I would normally name and celebrate, but must now refer to as “our young friends in Afghanistan,” in hopes of protecting them from hostile groups.

The brave and passionate dedication they showed as they worked tirelessly to share resources, care for the environment, and practice nonviolence has made them quite vulnerable to potential accusers who may believe they were too connected with westerners.

In recent weeks, I’ve been part of an ad hoc team assisting 60 young people and their family members who feel alarmed about remaining in Kabul and are sorting out their options to flee the country.

It’s difficult to forecast how Taliban rule will affect them.

Already, some extraordinarily brave people have held protests in in the provinces of Herat, Nimroz, Balkh and Farah, and in the city of Kabul where dozens of women took to the streets to demand representation in the new government and to insist that their rights must be protected.

In many provinces in Afghanistan, the Taliban may find themselves ruling over increasingly resentful people. Half the population already lives in poverty and economic catastrophe looms. In damage caused by war, people have lost harvests, homes and livestock. A third wave of COVID afflicts the country and  three million Afghans face consequences of severe drought. Will the Taliban government have the resources and skills to cope with these overwhelming problems?

On the other hand, in some provinces, Taliban rule has seemed preferable to the previous government’s incompetence and corruption, particularly in regard to property or land disputes.

We should be honest. The Taliban are in power today because of a colossal mess the U.S. helped create.

Now, we U.S. citizens must insist on paying reparations for destruction caused by 20 years of war. To be meaningful, reparations must also include dismantling the warfare systems that caused so much havoc and misery. Our wars of choice were waged against people who meant us no harm. We must choose, now, to lay aside the cruel futility of our forever wars.

My young friend who whispered to me about human rights abuses in 2019 recently fled Afghanistan. He said he doesn’t want to be driven by fear, but he deeply wants to use his life to do good, to build a better world.

Ultimately, Afghanistan will need people like him and his friends if the country is ever to experience a future where basic human rights to food, shelter, health care and education are met. It will need people who have already made dedicated sacrifices for peace, believing in an Afghan adage which says “blood doesn’t wash away blood.”

Essentially, people in Afghanistan will need U.S. people to embrace this same teaching. We must express true sorrow, seek forgiveness, and show valor similar to that of the brave people insisting on human rights in Afghanistan today.

Collectively, recognizing the terrible legacy of 9/11, we must agree:  To counter terror, abolish war.

This article first appeared at Waging Nonviolence

The post To Counter Terror, Abolish War first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Messianic Failure: Pursuing the GWOT Jabberwock

Anniversaries can provide occasions for reflection and deep consideration.  Past errors and misjudgements can be considered soberly; historical distance provides perspective.  Mature reflections may be permitted.  But they can also serve the opposite purpose: to cake, cloak and mask the record.

The gooey name GWOT, otherwise known as the Global War on Terrorism, is some two decades old, and it has revealed little by way of benefit for anybody other than military industrialists, hate preachers and jingoes.  For its progenitors in the administration of President George W. Bush, motivated by the attacks of September 11, 2001 on US soil, few of its aims were achieved.

The central feature to the war, which deserves its place of failure alongside such disastrously misguided concepts as the war on drugs, was its school boy incoherence.  It remained, and to an extent remains, a war against tactics, a misguided search reminiscent of the hunt for Lewis Carroll’s nonsense beast, the Jabberwock.  As with any such wars, it demands mendacity, flimsy evidence if, in fact, it needs any evidence at all.

This perception was critical in placing the US, and its allies, upon a military footing that demanded false connections (a fictitious link of cooperation between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and al-Qaeda), false capabilities (Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction) and an exaggeration of the threat to US security (all of the above).

With such evaluations of terroristic potential, a secular, domestic murderer such as Saddam could be transformed into a global threat armed with weapons of mass destruction, neither proposition being true as the attacks on 9/11 were executed.  In this hot house fantasy, the Iraqi leader was merely another pilot willing to steer a plane into an American target.

This narrative was sold, and consumed, by a vast number of press houses and media outlets, who proved indispensable in promoting the GWOT-Jabberwock crusade.  Calculated amnesia and hand washing has taken place since then, pinning blame on the standard crew of neoconservatives, various Republicans and New York Times reporter Judith Miller.  “It’s been forgotten this was actually a business-wide consensus,” Matt Taibbi points out, “which included the enthusiastic participation of a blue-state intelligentsia.”

War sceptics such as Phil Donahue and Jesse Ventura were removed from MSNBC while war cheerleaders thickened the airwaves with ghoulish delight.  The New York Times ran sympathetic columns and reviews for the war case, praising such absurd works as Kenneth M. Pollack’s The Threatening Storm. “The only prudent and realistic course of action left to the United States,” wrote the grave Pollack, “is to mount a full-scale invasion of Iraq to smash the Iraqi armed forces, depose Saddam’s regime and rid the country of weapons of mass destruction.”

The New Yorker also joined in the pro-war festivities.  David Remnick made his case in “Making a Case” by praising Pollack and dismissing containment as “a hollow pursuit” that would be “the most dangerous option of all.”  Jeffrey Goldberg, now at The Atlantic, was even more unequivocal in a staggeringly inexpert contribution headlined, “The Great Terror.” On his own hunt for the Jabberwock, Goldberg interviewed alleged terrorist detainees in a prison operated by the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, an anti-Saddam Kurdish group in Iraq’s northern Kurdish area.  Having been permitted to interview the prisoners by the Union’s intelligence service (no conflict of interest there), Goldberg was informed that Saddam Hussein’s own spooks had “joint control, with al-Qaeda operatives, over Ansar al-Islam [a local jihadist group]”; that the Iraqi leader “hosted a senior leader of Al Qaeda in Baghdad in 1992”; that members of Al Qaeda escaping Afghanistan had “been secretly brought into the territory controlled by Ansar al-Islam” and that Iraq’s intelligence service had “smuggled conventional weapons, and possibly even chemical and biological weapons, into Afghanistan.”  And so rests the case for the prosecution.

In March 2003, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting examined 393 on-camera sources who featured in nightly news stories on Iraq across a range of programs – ABC World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, NBC Nightly News and PBS’s NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.  Of those 267 were from the United States; of the US official sources, only Democratic Senator Edward Kennedy from Massachusetts, registered his doubts.  Even then, he could hardly be said to be a firebrand contrarian, telling NBC Nightly News that he worried about exit plans, the extent of US troop losses and “how long we’re going to be stationed there”.

Many of these outlets would be the same who obsessed about President Donald Trump’s attacks upon them as peddlers of “fake news” during his time in office.  Trump, drip-fed on conspiracy theories and fictions, knew who he was talking to.

The security propagandists have not done much better.  With pious conviction, the vast security apparatus put in place to monitor threats, the warrantless surveillance regime exposed by Edward Snowden in 2013, and the persistent interventions in the Middle East, have all been seen as beneficial.  “Terrorism of many sots continues domestically and internationally,” claims Michael Leiter, former director of the National Counterterrorism Centre, “but the data is unmistakable that in most cases – and especially in the United States – it is both manageable and not nearly of the scale feared in 2001.”

A. Trevor Thrall and Erik Goepner advance a rather different proposition. “Even if one believes American efforts have made the nation marginally safer, the United States could have achieved far greater improvements in safety and security at far less cost through other means.”

The issue of what is marginal is a point of contention.  Former chiefs of the Department of Homeland Security, a monster created in direct response to the 9/11 attacks, are guarded in their assessments.  Bush’s Secretary Michael Chertoff admits to being “hesitant” in saying “we are safer, or less”.  He prefers focusing on scale.  “We haven’t had an attack of that scale since 9/11, and we’ve also been very good about keeping dangerous people out of the country.”  Alas, domestic threats had emerged, notably on the Right, while jihadi sympathisers lurk.

Janet Napolitano, who occupied the office under the Obama administration, waffles in her reading.  “Are there some things that we’re safer on now than we were on 9/11?  Absolutely.  Are there new risks that have evolved or multiplied or grown since 9/11?  Absolutely.   To put it shortly, on some things, we’re definitely safer.”  Napolitano is up with a jargon that says nothing at all: “risks are not static”; the environment is “constantly changing”. “DHS needs to continue to be agile and to adapt.”

The smorgasbord of modern terrorism, a good deal of it nourished by cataclysmic US-led interventions, is richer than ever.  “We have more terrorists today than we did on 9/11,” Elizabeth Neumann, DHS assistant secretary for counterterrorism during the Trump administration, told a Senate panel last month.  “That’s very sobering, as a counterterrorism person.”  Preparing the grounds for the imminent exit from Afghanistan, President Joe Biden reasoned that keeping US troops in the country as a permanent counter-terrorist force was no longer a tenable proposition.  Terrorism as a threat had “become more dispersed, metastasising around the globe”.  The folly of pursuing the GWOT jabberwock shows no sign of abating.

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COVID-19 and 9/11 (Never Forget?)

Collage by Mickey Z

In response to the events of September 11, 2001, the emergency use authorization (EUA) concept was created. The ostensible idea was to empower the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow the use of potentially life-saving products (e.g. medicines, etc.) after a terrorist attack. However, the EUA designation was not put into effect until late 2020 — for the COVID-19 “vaccines.”

The squashing of civil liberties in The Land of the Free™ is hardly a novel idea. For just a few (of endless) examples, one may recall Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (1996), Espionage and Sedition Act (1917), National Defense Authorization Act (2011), or the FBI Counterintelligence Program, COINTELPRO (technically 1956-1971, but probably still going). Also, the interned Japanese-Americans in the 1940s just might have something to say about FDR’s concept of “freedom.” Doling out and taking away rights is essentially a side quest for America’s power elite.

A common theme of these power grabs involves exploiting a crisis. Two decades ago, the Bush-Cheney Administration used the guise of “emergency” to reshape the country’s psyche. Steps that seemed like temporary precautions are now deemed permanent and normal. These include a wide range of changes like the Transportation Security Administration, three-ounce bottles of liquid, full-body scanners, a “No Fly” list, and the completely laughable concept of taking off your shoes before going through security (soon to be rendered fully obsolete thanks to foot scanners).

All of the above (and so much more) would’ve once seemed like details from a bad, futuristic novel. Today, they exist without comment. The powers-that-be have effectively conditioned us to accept whatever is imposed upon us. And, post-9/11, that included the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act,” a.k.a. the USA PATRIOT Act.

This totalitarian salvo includes what the ACLU called “a host of alarming and unconstitutional anti-speech provisions” and was been condemned by three state legislatures and almost 250 municipalities across the United States.

Adele Welty declared the PATRIOT Act to be “a serious threat to the exercise of our Constitutional rights.” Welty’s son Timothy lost his life in the WTC collapse — one of the 343 firefighters who died that day. She later testified before the New York City Council and said, in part: “[The USA PATRIOT Act] undermines our Fourth Amendment right to privacy and expands the ability of the government to use wiretaps and computer surveillance and to look at confidential medical, financial, business and educational records.”

Such talk of rights and overreach sounds quaint to today’s ears. Like the internet or cellphones, the USA PATRIOT Act is just something that’s passed down to new generations without examination, thought, or even conscious awareness. That’s part of what made it so easy for the elites to use the COVID-19 pandemic to garner even more control and wealth.

Twenty years later, we’ve come full circle to see the emergency use authorization of an experimental gene therapy being forced upon a compliant population. If you scare enough people for a long enough time, they’ll believe anything. They’ll even trust their abusers to help them. It’s trauma bonding on a macro scale.

That’s how they got us to line up in our socks for a flight. One alleged shoe bomber event happens, a frenzy is created, and Americans happily surrender rights for the illusion of safety. Today’s thugs in charge use a faulty PCR test to inflate Covid numbers, impose useless and psychologically damaging mitigation tactics like masks and distancing, and then tell us how lucky we are that they’re here to save us with a magic shot. But, if the shot doesn’t work or causes injury, you can’t sue them.

Here in New York City, we’re living under a vaccine mandate — almost 20 years to the day of 9/11. Unvaccinated adults can’t attend movies, work out at gyms, visit museums, or dine in restaurants. It’s to protect everyone, of course. Except that unjabbed children under 12 can go anywhere they want. Why? Because science, of course. To question this decree is to expose yourself as a potential domestic terrorist. But the authorities won’t have to find you. Your friends and neighbors will gladly turn you in — to protect everyone, of course. Remember: We’re all in this together! (Even the ACLU is now in favor of mandates.)

Meanwhile, the majority of black and Latino adults in the Big Apple have wisely avoided the shots. Thus, this mandate is limiting the ability of People of Color to live their lives and make a living. Sounds like “structural racism” to me. Not a peep has been heard from Black Lives Matter or any other #woke organization. Some call it coincidence.

There’s a direct line from the anti-anarchist Palmer raids to the smashing of labor unions to the Red Scare to FISA to today’s demonization of anyone who questions the patently insane Covid narrative. There’s also a direct line running through all those, um, helpful citizens who gleefully support the repressive tactics imposed by a cabal of Corporate and State actors.

Unless and until everyday people break free of the programming, there will be more experimental drugs, more invasive technologies, more surveillance, more artificial intelligence, and more transhumanism. You’ll never stop lining up to be scanned, injected, genetically modified, and “enhanced.” There is only one hope and one path away from this dystopian future vision: rediscover the subversive of thinking for yourself.

The post COVID-19 and 9/11 (Never Forget?) first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Paul Wolfowitz: Deluded and At Liberty

It was all marvellous for Paul Wolfowitz to get on Australian television (why bother?) to brusquely discuss those attacks on US soil in September 2001 and criticism of the invasion of Iraq by US-led forces.  After two decades, the former US deputy secretary of defense has not mellowed.

With each show, interview and podium performance Wolfowitz gives, there is a sense that the hole he has dug for himself has become an oasis of reassuring delusion.  Iraq’s despot Saddam Hussein, executed at the behest of authorities sponsored and propped by the US, gave Wolfowitz an ecstatic excuse to explain the rationale of American power: he was a threat, and worldly threat at that.  In 2003, there was little evidence to suggest that, but neoconservatism has always been a doctrine in search of cartoonish myths.

The fact that Weapons of Mass Destruction featured prominently as the reason for overthrowing Saddam became the necessitous outcome of bureaucratic sensibility: “for reasons that have a lot to do with the US government bureaucracy,” he told Vanity Fair in 2003, “we settled on the one issue everyone could agree on: weapons of mass destruction”.

When those elusive WMDs proved stubbornly elusive, PW shifted his emphasis from security rationales to one of liberation.  Along the way he blamed the “consensus judgment of the intelligence community” for not getting it right in the first place, an assessment verging on the mendacious.

While Saddam Hussein was a high grade butcher and villain to many of his people, it is hard to credit him with the Bond villain, pulp view Wolfowitz gives him.  Evidence chasers such as Ben Bonk at the Central Intelligence Agency were frustrated in being thrown at the fruitless effort to link Saddam to al-Qaeda.  Intelligence operatives were effectively being leaned upon to confect the record and find justifications.

In 2013, Wolfowitz was still insisting on uncertainty as a principle.  “We still don’t know how all of this is going to end.”  He accepted that the decapitation of the Iraqi leadership without an immediate substitute might have been unwise.  The “idea that we’re going to come in like [General Douglas] MacArthur in Japan and write the constitution for them” was erroneous.

That did not matter.  The threat was there and present, growing like a stimulated bacillus.  Depraved and disoriented, he takes the argument that invading Iraq at the time was appropriate because it would have had to happen in any case. Saddam was street store vendor, sponsor and patron of terrorism (he never defines the dimension of this, nor adduces evidence) and needed to be dealt with.  The sword would eventually have to be unsheathed.  “We would very likely either have had to go through this whole scenario all over but probably with higher costs for having delayed, or we’d be in a situation today where not only Iran was edging towards nuclear weapons but so was Iraq and also Libya.”

In 2003, the aptly named Jeffrey Record reflected his surname’s worth by taking a hatchet to the Wolfowitz view in a scathing assessment for the Strategic Studies Institute.  In declaring a global war on terrorism (GWOT), the Bush administration had identified a range of states, weapons of danger, terrorists and terrorism while conflating “them into a monolithic threat, and in so doing has subordinated strategic clarity to the moral clarity it strives for in foreign policy and may have set the United States on a course of open-ended gratuitous conflict with states and nonstate entities that pose no serious threat to the United States.”  Not sloppy, is Record.

He goes on to note, relevantly, the conflation premise: that al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein were seen, amateurishly, “as a single, undifferentiated terrorist threat.”  This “strategic error of the first order” ignored “critical differences between the two in character, threat level, and susceptibility to US deterrence and military action” led to “an unnecessary preventive war of choice against a deterred Iraq.  The result: “a new front in the Middle East for Islamic terrorism” and the diversion of “attention and resources away from securing the American homeland against further assault by an undeterrable al-Qaeda.”

The 9/11 Commission Report, despite noting “friendly contacts” between Osama bin Laden and Iraqi officials at various points, similarly found “no evidence that these or the earlier contacts ever developed into a collaborative personal relationship.”  Nor was there “evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.”

Critics suggest incompetence and bungling in the invasion of Iraq.  They exclude venality and calculation.  Wolfowitz, as if anticipating a prosecution in some faraway court, has been busy covering his tracks and pointing the finger at other decision makers further up the greased pole.  The top suspect: current retiree amateur painter President George W. Bush.  “I don’t think I ever met the president alone.  I didn’t meet him very often.  [Secretary of State Colin] Powell had access to him whenever he wanted it.  And if he was so sure it was a mistake why didn’t he say so?”  What a merry band they make.

Wolfowitz, for the defence, always has to play some useful (or useless) idiot card, proffered from the surrounds of the tired lecture circuit or the American Enterprise Institute.  He is ideologically inclined, evidentially challenged, and keen to accept material that confirms his prejudice rather than contradicts it.  When found wanting about his decisions on accepting, for instance, the bargain basement material of Ahmed Chalabi of the Iraqi National Congress, he returned to common cultural themes.  “I don’t think anybody in that part of the world was completely straight with us.”

Perhaps, after two decades, it is time to sort the books, order the records and call forth those architects of war who, dismally deluded and acting with criminal intent and incompetence, plunged a good part of the globe into conflict, leaving a legacy that continues to pollute with tenacious determination.  Along the way, we can mourn the dead of 9/11 and all the dead that followed.

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How Can America Wake Up From Its Post-9/11 Nightmare?

Looking back on it now, the 1990s were an age of innocence for America. The Cold War was over and our leaders promised us a “peace dividend.” There was no TSA to make us take off our shoes at airports (how many bombs have they found in those billions of shoes?). The government could not tap a U.S. phone or read private emails without a warrant from a judge. And the national debt was only $5 trillion – compared with over $28 trillion today.

We have been told that the criminal attacks of September 11, 2001 “changed everything.” But what really changed everything was the U.S. government’s disastrous response to them.

That response was not preordained or inevitable, but the result of decisions and choices made by politicians, bureaucrats and generals who fueled and exploited our fears, unleashed wars of reprehensible vengeance and built a secretive security state, all thinly disguised behind Orwellian myths of American greatness.

Most Americans believe in democracy and many regard the United States as a democratic country. But the U.S. response to 9/11 laid bare the extent to which American leaders are willing to manipulate the public into accepting illegal wars, torture, the Guantanamo gulag and sweeping civil rights abuses — activities that undermine the very meaning of democracy.

Former Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz said in a speech in 2011 that “a democracy can only work if its people are being told the truth.” But America’s leaders exploited the public’s fears in the wake of 9/11 to justify wars that have killed and maimed millions of people who had nothing to do with those crimes. Ferencz compared this to the actions of the German leaders he prosecuted at Nuremberg, who also justified their invasions of other countries as “preemptive first strikes.”

“You cannot run a country as Hitler did, feeding them a pack of lies to frighten them that they’re being threatened, so it’s justified to kill people you don’t even know,” Ferencz continued. “It’s not logical, it’s not decent, it’s not moral, and it’s not helpful. When an unmanned bomber from a secret American airfield fires rockets into a little Pakistani or Afghan village and thereby kills or maims unknown numbers of innocent people, what is the effect of that? Every victim will hate America forever and will be willing to die killing as many Americans as possible. Where there is no court of justice, wild vengeance is the alternative.”

Even the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General Stanley McChrystal, talked about “insurgent math,” conjecturing that, for every innocent person killed, the U.S. created 10 new enemies. And thus the so-called Global War on Terror fueled a global explosion of terrorism and armed resistance that will not end unless and until the United States ends the state terrorism that provokes and fuels it.

By opportunistically exploiting 9/11 to attack countries that had nothing to do with it, like Iraq, Somalia, Libya, Syria and Yemen, the United States vastly expanded the destructive strategy it used in the 1980s to destabilize Afghanistan, which spawned the Taliban and Al Qaeda in the first place.

In Libya and Syria, only ten years after 9/11, U.S. leaders betrayed every American who lost a loved one on September 11th by recruiting and arming Al Qaeda-led militants to overthrow two of the most secular governments in the Middle East, plunging both countries into years of intractable violence and fueling radicalization throughout the region.

The U.S. response to 9/11 was corrupted by a toxic soup of revenge, imperialist ambitions, war profiteering, systematic brainwashing and sheer stupidity. The only Republican Senator who voted against the war on Iraq, Lincoln Chafee, later wrote, “Helping a rogue president start an unnecessary war should be a career-ending lapse of judgment.”

But it wasn’t. Very few of the 263 Republicans or the 110 Democrats who voted for the Iraq war in 2002 paid any political price for their complicity in international aggression, which the judges at Nuremberg explicitly called “the supreme international crime.” One of them now sits at the apex of power in the White House.

Trump and Biden’s withdrawal and implicit acceptance of the U.S. defeat in Afghanistan could serve as an important step toward ending the violence and chaos their predecessors unleashed after the September 11th attack. But the current debate over next year’s military budget makes it clear that our deluded leaders are still dodging the obvious lessons of 20 years of war.

Barbara Lee, the only Member of Congress with the wisdom and courage to vote against Congress’s war resolution in 2001, has introduced a bill to cut U.S. military spending by almost half:  $350 billion per year. With the miserable failure in Afghanistan, a war that will end up costing every U.S. citizen $20,000, one would think that Rep. Lee’s proposal would be eliciting tremendous support. But the White House, the Pentagon and the Armed Services Committees in the House and Senate are instead falling over each other to shovel even more money into the bottomless pit of the military budget.

Politicians’ votes on questions of war, peace and military spending are the most reliable test of their commitment to progressive values and the well-being of their constituents. You cannot call yourself a progressive or a champion of working people if you vote to appropriate more money for weapons and war than for healthcare, education, green jobs and fighting poverty.

These 20 years of war have revealed to Americans and the world that modern weapons and formidable military forces can only accomplish two things: kill and maim people; and destroy homes, infrastructure and entire cities. American promises to rebuild bombed-out cities and “remake” countries it has destroyed have proven worthless, as Biden has acknowledged.

Both Iraq and Afghanistan are turning primarily to China for the help they need to start rebuilding and developing economically from the ruin and devastation left by America and its allies. America destroys, China builds. The contrast could not be more stark or self-evident. No amount of Western propaganda can hide what the whole world can see.

But the different paths chosen by U.S. and Chinese leaders are not predestined, and despite the intellectual and moral bankruptcy of the U.S. corporate media, the American public has always been wiser and more committed to cooperative diplomacy than America’s political and executive class. It has been well-documented that many of the endless crises in U.S. foreign policy could have been avoided if America’s leaders had just listened to the public.

The perennial handicap that has dogged America’s diplomacy since World War II is precisely our investment in weapons and military forces, including nuclear weapons that threaten our very existence. It is trite but true to say that, ”when the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.”

Other countries don’t have the option of deploying overwhelming military force to confront international problems, so they have had to be smarter and more nimble in their diplomacy, and more prudent and selective in their more limited uses of military force.

The rote declarations of U.S. leaders that “all options are on the table” are a euphemism for precisely the “threat or use of force” that the UN Charter explicitly prohibits, and they stymie the U.S. development of expertise in nonviolent forms of conflict resolution. The bumbling and bombast of America’s leaders in international arenas stand in sharp contrast to the skillful diplomacy and clear language we often hear from top Russian, Chinese and Iranian diplomats, even when they are speaking in English, their second or third language.

By contrast, U.S. leaders rely on threats, coups, sanctions and war to project power around the world. They promise Americans that these coercive methods will maintain American “leadership” or dominance indefinitely into the future, as if that is America’s rightful place in the world: sitting atop the globe like a cowboy on a bucking bronco.

A “New American Century” and “Pax Americana” are Orwellian versions of Hitler’s “Thousand-Year Reich,” but are no more realistic. No empire has lasted forever, and there is historical evidence that even the most successful empires have a lifespan of no more than 250 years, by which time their rulers have enjoyed so much wealth and power that decadence and decline inevitably set in. This describes the United States today.

America’s economic dominance is waning. Its once productive economy has been gutted and financialized, and most countries in the world now do more trade with China and/or the European Union than with the United States. Where America’s military once kicked open doors for American capital to “follow the flag” and open up new markets, today’s U.S. war machine is just a bull in the global china shop, wielding purely destructive power.

But we are not condemned to passively follow the suicidal path of militarism and hostility. Biden’s withdrawal from Afghanistan could be a down payment on a transition to a more peaceful post-imperial economy — if the American public starts to actively demand peace, diplomacy and disarmament and find ways to make our voices heard.

— We must get serious about demanding cuts in the Pentagon budget. None of our other problems will be solved as long as we keep allowing our leaders to flush the majority of federal discretionary spending down the same military toilet as the $2.26 trillion they wasted on the war in Afghanistan. We must oppose politicians who refuse to cut the Pentagon budget, regardless of which party they belong to and where they stand on other issues. CODEPINK is part of a new coalition to “Cut the Pentagon for the people, planet, peace and a future” — please join us!

— We must not let ourselves or our family members be recruited into the U.S. war machine. Instead, we must challenge our leaders’ absurd claims that the imperial forces deployed across the world to threaten other countries are somehow, by some convoluted logic, defending America. As a translator paraphrased Voltaire, “Whoever can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.”

— We must expose the ugly, destructive reality behind our country’s myths of “defending U.S. vital interests,” “humanitarian intervention,” “the war on terror” and the latest absurdity, the ill-defined “rules-based order” whose rules only apply to others — never to the United States.

— And we must oppose the corrupt power of the arms industry, including U.S. weapons sales to the world’s most repressive regimes and an unwinnable arms race that risks a potentially world-ending conflict with China and Russia.

Our only hope for the future is to abandon the futile quest for hegemony and instead commit to peace, cooperative diplomacy, international law and disarmament. After 20 years of war and militarism that has only left the world a more dangerous place and accelerated America’s decline, we must choose the path of peace.

The post How Can America Wake Up From Its Post-9/11 Nightmare? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Rise of the Security-Industrial Complex from 9/11 to COVID-19

I tell you, freedom and human rights in America are doomed. The U.S. government will lead the American people in — and the West in general — into an unbearable hell and a choking life.

— Osama bin Laden (October 2001), as reported by CNN

What a strange and harrowing road we’ve walked since September 11, 2001, littered with the debris of our once-vaunted liberties. We have gone from a nation that took great pride in being a model of a representative democracy to being a model of how to persuade a freedom-loving people to march in lockstep with a police state.

Our losses are mounting with every passing day.

What began with the post-9/11 passage of the USA Patriot Act  has snowballed into the eradication of every vital safeguard against government overreach, corruption and abuse.

The citizenry’s unquestioning acquiescence to anything the government wants to do in exchange for the phantom promise of safety and security has resulted in a society where the nation has been locked down into a militarized, mechanized, hypersensitive, legalistic, self-righteous, goose-stepping antithesis of every principle upon which this nation was founded.

Set against a backdrop of government surveillance, militarized police, SWAT team raids, asset forfeiture, eminent domain, overcriminalization, armed surveillance drones, whole body scanners, stop and frisk searches, police violence and the like—all of which have been sanctioned by Congress, the White House and the courts—our constitutional freedoms have been steadily chipped away at, undermined, eroded, whittled down, and generally discarded.

The rights embodied in the Constitution, if not already eviscerated, are on life support.

Free speech, the right to protest, the right to challenge government wrongdoing, due process, a presumption of innocence, the right to self-defense, accountability and transparency in government, privacy, press, sovereignty, assembly, bodily integrity, representative government: all of these and more have become casualties in the government’s war on the American people, a war that has grown more pronounced since 9/11.

Indeed, since the towers fell on 9/11, the U.S. government has posed a greater threat to our freedoms than any terrorist, extremist or foreign entity ever could.

While nearly 3,000 people died in the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. government and its agents have easily killed at least ten times that number of civilians in the U.S. and abroad since 9/11 through its police shootings, SWAT team raids, drone strikes and profit-driven efforts to police the globe, sell weapons to foreign nations (which too often fall into the hands of terrorists), and foment civil unrest in order to keep the security industrial complex gainfully employed.

The American people have been treated like enemy combatants, to be spied on, tracked, scanned, frisked, searched, subjected to all manner of intrusions, intimidated, invaded, raided, manhandled, censored, silenced, shot at, locked up, denied due process, and killed.

In allowing ourselves to be distracted by terror drills, foreign wars, color-coded warnings, pandemic lockdowns and other carefully constructed exercises in propaganda, sleight of hand, and obfuscation, we failed to recognize that the U.S. government—the government that was supposed to be a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”—has become the enemy of the people.

Consider that the government’s answer to every problem has been more government—at taxpayer expense—and less individual liberty.

Every crisis—manufactured or otherwise—since the nation’s early beginnings has become a make-work opportunity for the government to expand its reach and its power at taxpayer expense while limiting our freedoms at every turn: The Great Depression. The World Wars. The 9/11 terror attacks. The COVID-19 pandemic.

Viewed in this light, the history of the United States is a testament to the old adage that liberty decreases as government (and government bureaucracy) grows. Or, to put it another way, as government expands, liberty contracts.

This is how the emergency state operates, after all, and we should know: after all, we have spent the past 20 years in a state of emergency.

From 9/11 to COVID-19, “we the people” have acted the part of the helpless, gullible victims desperately in need of the government to save us from whatever danger threatens. In turn, the government has been all too accommodating and eager while also expanding its power and authority in the so-called name of national security.

This is a government that has grown so corrupt, greedy, power-hungry and tyrannical over the course of the past 240-plus years that our constitutional republic has since given way to idiocracy, and representative government has given way to a kleptocracy (a government ruled by thieves) and a kakistocracy (a government run by unprincipled career politicians, corporations and thieves that panders to the worst vices in our nature and has little regard for the rights of American citizens).

What this really amounts to is a war on the American people, fought on American soil, funded with taxpayer dollars, and waged with a single-minded determination to use national crises, manufactured or otherwise, in order to transform the American homeland into a battlefield.

Indeed, the government’s (mis)management of various states of emergency in the past 20 years has spawned a massive security-industrial complex the likes of which have never been seen before. According to the National Priorities Project at the progressive Institute for Policy Studies, since 9/11, the United States has spent $21 trillion on “militarization, surveillance, and repression.”

Clearly, this is not a government that is a friend to freedom.

Rather, this is a government that, in conjunction with its corporate partners, views the citizenry as consumers and bits of data to be bought, sold and traded.

This is a government that spies on and treats its people as if they have no right to privacy, especially in their own homes while the freedom to be human is being erased.

This is a government that is laying the groundwork to weaponize the public’s biomedical data as a convenient means by which to penalize certain “unacceptable” social behaviors. Incredibly, a new government agency HARPA (a healthcare counterpart to the Pentagon’s research and development arm DARPA) will take the lead in identifying and targeting “signs” of mental illness or violent inclinations among the populace by using artificial intelligence to collect data from Apple Watches, Fitbits, Amazon Echo and Google Home.

This is a government that routinely engages in taxation without representation, whose elected officials lobby for our votes only to ignore us once elected.

This is a government comprised of petty bureaucrats, vigilantes masquerading as cops, and faceless technicians.

This is a government that railroads taxpayers into financing government programs whose only purpose is to increase the power and wealth of the corporate elite.

This is a government—a warring empire—that forces its taxpayers to pay for wars abroad that serve no other purpose except to expand the reach of the military industrial complex.

This is a government that subjects its people to scans, searches, pat downs and other indignities by the TSA and VIPR raids on so-called “soft” targets like shopping malls and bus depots by black-clad, Darth Vader look-alikes.

This is a government that uses fusion centers, which represent the combined surveillance efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement, to track the citizenry’s movements, record their conversations, and catalogue their transactions.

This is a government whose wall-to-wall surveillance has given rise to a suspect society in which the burden of proof has been reversed such that Americans are now assumed guilty until or unless they can prove their innocence.

This is a government that treats its people like second-class citizens who have no rights, and is working overtime to stigmatize and dehumanize any and all who do not fit with the government’s plans for this country.

This is a government that uses free speech zones, roving bubble zones and trespass laws to silence, censor and marginalize Americans and restrict their First Amendment right to speak truth to power.

This is a government that persists in renewing the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which allows the president and the military to arrest and detain American citizens indefinitely based on the say-so of the government.

This is a government that saddled us with the Patriot Act, which opened the door to all manner of government abuses and intrusions on our privacy.

This is a government that, in direct opposition to the dire warnings of those who founded our country, has allowed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to establish a standing army by way of programs that transfer surplus military hardware to local and state police.

This is a government that has militarized American’s domestic police, equipping them with military weapons such as “tens of thousands of machine guns; nearly 200,000 ammunition magazines; a million hollow-point bullets; thousands of pieces of camouflage and night-vision equipment; and hundreds of silencers, armored cars and aircraft,” in addition to armored vehicles, sound cannons and the like.

This is a government that has provided cover to police when they shoot and kill unarmed individuals just for standing a certain way, or moving a certain way, or holding something—anything—that police could misinterpret to be a gun, or igniting some trigger-centric fear in a police officer’s mind that has nothing to do with an actual threat to their safety.

This is a government that has created a Constitution-free zone within 100 miles inland of the border around the United States, paving the way for Border Patrol agents to search people’s homes, intimately probe their bodies, and rifle through their belongings, all without a warrant. Nearly 66% of Americans (2/3 of the U.S. population, 197.4 million people) now live within that 100-mile-deep, Constitution-free zone.

This is a government that treats public school students as if they were prison inmates, enforcing zero tolerance policies that criminalize childish behavior, and indoctrinating them with teaching that emphasizes rote memorization and test-taking over learning, synthesizing and critical thinking.

This is a government that is operating in the negative on every front: it’s spending far more than what it makes (and takes from the American taxpayers) and it is borrowing heavily (from foreign governments and Social Security) to keep the government operating and keep funding its endless wars abroad. Meanwhile, the nation’s sorely neglected infrastructure—railroads, water pipelines, ports, dams, bridges, airports and roads—is rapidly deteriorating.

This is a government that has empowered police departments to make a profit at the expense of those they have sworn to protect through the use of asset forfeiture laws, speed traps, and red light cameras.

This is a government whose gun violence—inflicted on unarmed individuals by battlefield-trained SWAT teams, militarized police, and bureaucratic government agents trained to shoot first and ask questions later—poses a greater threat to the safety and security of the nation than any mass shooter. There are now reportedly more bureaucratic (non-military) government agents armed with high-tech, deadly weapons than U.S. Marines.

This is a government that has allowed the presidency to become a dictatorship operating above and beyond the law, regardless of which party is in power.

This is a government that treats dissidents, whistleblowers and freedom fighters as enemies of the state.

This is a government that has in recent decades unleashed untold horrors upon the world—including its own citizenry—in the name of global conquest, the acquisition of greater wealth, scientific experimentation, and technological advances, all packaged in the guise of the greater good.

This is a government that allows its agents to break laws with immunity while average Americans get the book thrown at them.

This is a government that speaks in a language of force. What is this language of force? Militarized police. Riot squads. Camouflage gear. Black uniforms. Armored vehicles. Mass arrests. Pepper spray. Tear gas. Batons. Strip searches. Surveillance cameras. Kevlar vests. Drones. Lethal weapons. Less-than-lethal weapons unleashed with deadly force. Rubber bullets. Water cannons. Stun grenades. Arrests of journalists. Crowd control tactics. Intimidation tactics. Brutality. Contempt of cop charges.

This is a government that justifies all manner of government tyranny and power grabs in the so-called name of national security, national crises and national emergencies.

This is a government that exports violence worldwide, with one of this country’s most profitable exports being weapons. Indeed, the United States, the world’s largest exporter of arms, has been selling violence to the world in order to prop up the military industrial complex and maintain its endless wars abroad.

This is a government that is consumed with squeezing every last penny out of the population and seemingly unconcerned if essential freedoms are trampled in the process.

This is a government that routinely undermines the Constitution and rides roughshod over the rights of the citizenry, eviscerating individual freedoms so that its own powers can be expanded.

This is a government that believes it has the authority to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation, the Constitution be damned.

In other words, as I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, this is not a government that believes in, let alone upholds, freedom.

 

The post The Rise of the Security-Industrial Complex from 9/11 to COVID-19 first appeared on Dissident Voice.