Politics and Social Justice Archive

Something is Very Wrong with the Bin Laden Kill Story

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

Bin Laden “was used in the same way that 9/11 was used to mobilize the emotions and feelings of the American people in order to go to a war that had to be justified through a narrative that Bush junior created and Cheney created about the world of terrorism.” — Dr. Steve R. Pieczenik

With the (at least second) death of Usama bin Laden now creating a tsunami of feelings and frothy nationalism, millions of people are finding a sense of emotional closure, some stitches to help seal the wound, the fear and confusion of 9-11-2001.

But something is very wrong with the administration’s slip-sliding story of midnight heroics executing the bad guy behind 9-11, then disposing of his body so no one could verify the alleged DNA match and saying “Just trust us” – as though many people do.

Surface irregularities

The photo of President Obama and a roomful of his advisers apparently watching the operation go down (recorded by helmet-cams worn by the SEALS) turns out to be a picture of them watching … something else.  Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta acknowledged that the helmet-cams were not on during the operation, and were off for 25 minutes (others say 35) after the SEALS entered the compound.

And that million-dollar mansion in which bin Laden lived?  Well, no.  Property records showed that the land was worth $48,000 when it was purchased in stages in 2004 and 2005, according to the Associated Press.[i]

Initially, the story was presented as a vicious firefight against an armed compound, where bin Laden used his wife as a human shield, firing at the invaders from behind her.  Now it seems that bin Laden was not armed, was not using anyone as a shield, and was in his pajamas when shot.[ii]

Salon’s Glenn Greenwald cut to the chase in his May 3rd column: “In bin Laden killing, media – as usual – regurgitates false Government claims”:

“Yesterday [May 2, 2011], it was widely reported that bin Laden “resisted” his capture and “engaged in a firefight” with U.S. forces….  It was also repeatedly claimed that bin Laden used a woman — his wife — as a human shield to protect himself, and that she was killed as a result. That image — of a cowardly though violent-to-the-end bin Laden — framed virtually every media narrative of the event all over the globe. And it came from many government officials, principally Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser, John Brennan.”

All major media dutifully reported this made-for-movie story.  But by the next day it was obvious that almost all of the key dramatic elements in the story were completely false: fictions for the masses, facts be damned. Greenwald:

“No matter how many times this happens — from Jessica Lynch’s heroic firefight against Iraqi captors to Pat Tillman’s death at the hands of Evil Al Qaeda fighters — it never changes: the narrative is set forever by first-day government falsehoods uncritically amplified by establishment media outlets, which endure no matter how definitively they are disproven in subsequent days.” [iii]

This is the psychology of the “Big Lie”: we tend to swallow wildly exaggerated stories more than little lies, because we assume that others would not use that degree of dishonesty.  It’s playing to car-crash journalism, and our love of a simple and pure story of vengeance by the Good Guys over The Forces of Evil.  We love good theater.

Who benefits from this Kabuki Theater story? Well, when Obama met for a chat with firefighters from Engine 54 in lower Manhattan, he assured them – and, through the media, the rest of us: “You’re always going to have a president and an administration who’s got your back.”[iv]

Deeper misdirection

If this shifting story were no more than politics as usual in a propaganda-driven world, we could swallow it – at least as well as we’ve swallowed the earlier untrue and manipulative stories about Jessica Lynch and Pat Tillman.  But there are enough stories from then-reputable sources indicating that the bin Laden kill story’s Big Lie goes much deeper: frighteningly deeper. These more disturbing stories indicate that Usama bin Laden was not even connected to the events of 9-11, let alone their “mastermind” — and that he died in 2001.

Usama bin Laden is a red herring
On November 13, 2002, just fourteen months after 9-11, a blogger contributed this to Buzzflash (www.buzzflash.com):

For your amusement and future reference, here’s what Bush has said about bin Laden at various points in time, depending on how he was trying to spin things:

“The most important thing is for us to find Usama bin Laden. It is our number one priority and we will not rest until we find him.”
- G.W. Bush, 9/13/01

“I want justice…There’s an old poster out West, as I recall, that said, ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive,’”
- G.W. Bush, 9/17/01, UPI

“…Secondly, he is not escaping us. This is a guy, who, three months ago, was in control of a county [sic]. Now he’s maybe in control of a cave. He’s on the run. Listen, a while ago I said to the American people, our objective is more than bin Laden. But one of the things for certain is we’re going to get him running and keep him running, and bring him to justice. And that’s what’s happening. He’s on the run, if he’s running at all. So we don’t know whether he’s in cave with the door shut, or a cave with the door open — we just don’t know….” – GW Bush, remarks in an open meeting with the Press Travel Pool at Bush’s “ranch” in Crawford TX, 12/28/01, as reported on the official White House site.

“I don’t know where bin Laden is. I have no idea and really don’t care. It’s not that important. It’s not our priority. I am truly not that concerned about him.”
- G.W. Bush, responding to a question about bin Laden’s whereabouts, 3/13/02 (The New American, 4/8/02) [v]

This last quote was the statement – made just two and a half months after Bush swore to find bin Laden and bring him to justice – showing that even GW Bush didn’t consider Usama bin Laden an essential part of the story for which our soldiers – and perhaps millions of citizens in Arab countries – have shed so much blood and so many life-altering injuries.

Usama bin Laden cannot be connected to 9-11

What did Usama himself say about 9-11? In a Sept. 28, 2001 interview with the Pakistani newspaper Ummat, bin Laden is reported to have said:

“I have already said that I am not involved in the 11 September attacks in the United States. As a Muslim, I try my best to avoid telling a lie. I had no knowledge of these attacks, nor do I consider the killing of innocent women, children and other humans as an appreciable act. Islam strictly forbids causing harm to innocent women, children and other people. Such a practice is forbidden even in the course of a battle.”[vi]

FBI admits they have no evidence connecting bin Laden to 9-11

According to the FBI “Wanted” page[vii]: “Usama Bin Laden is wanted in connection with the August 7, 1998, bombings of the United States Embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya. These attacks killed over 200 people. In addition, Bin Laden is a suspect in other terrorist attacks throughout the world.”[viii]
 When asked why there is no mention of 9/11 on the FBI’s web page, Rex Tomb, the FBI’s chief of investigative publicity, is reported to have said, “The reason why 9/11 is not mentioned on Usama Bin Laden’s Most Wanted page is because the FBI has no hard evidence connecting Bin Laden to 9/11.”[ix]

In fact, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Vice President Dick Cheney both admit there is no evidence linking bin Laden to 9-11.  On March 29, 2006, on The Tony Snow Show, Vice President Dick Cheney stated: “We’ve never made the case, or argued the case, that somehow Osama Bin Laden was directly involved in 9/11. That evidence has never been forthcoming.”[x]

At the end of their Top Ten list, the FBI notes that bin Laden “is left-handed and walks with a cane.”

This last comment is important because there are reports of the CIA creating fake bin Laden videos – at least one with a right-handed actor looking to be 80-100 lbs. fatter, and with a much fatter nose, than Usama bin Laden — which have been embarrassingly easy to spot as fake.

Former CIA Officials Admit To Faking Bin Laden Video

Steve Watson, PrisonPlanet,Tuesday, May 25th, 2010:

“Two former CIA officials have admitted to creating a fake video in which intelligence officers dressed up as Usama Bin Laden and his cronies in an effort to defame the terrorist leader throughout the Middle East.
“The details are outlined in a Washington Post article by investigative reporter and former Army Intelligence case officer Jeff Stein.”[xi][xii]

Could the CIA group of “dark skinned actors” have been behind the infamous December 2001 “Fat nosed” Bin Laden video, that was magically found in a house in Jalalabad after anti-Taliban forces moved in?

The tape featured a fat Usama laughing and joking about how he’d carried out 9/11. The video was also mistranslated in order to manipulate viewer opinion and featured “Bin Laden” praising two of the hijackers, only he got their names wrong. This Usama wrote with his right hand (the real Usama was, as the FBI site noted, left-handed). The actor playing Fat Usama in the December 2001 staged video, also wore gold rings: a practice totally in opposition to the Muslim faith.

Despite the fact that the man in the video looks nothing like Bin Laden and is right-handed, the CIA stood by it and declared it to be the official “9/11 confession video”.[xiii][xiv]

Bin Laden died in late 2001

– A Google search for “bin Laden died in 2001” brought up 31 pages of stories.  Here are a few representative stories from mainstream sources, including one that may – if true — be a “smoking gun” from a top government insider:

1.         “Usama bin Laden has died a peaceful death due to an untreated lung complication, the Pakistan Observer reported, citing a Taliban leader who allegedly attended the funeral of the Al Qaeda leader.
“The Coalition troops are engaged in a mad search operation but they would never be able to fulfill their cherished goal of getting Usama alive or dead,” the source said.
Bin Laden, according to the source, was suffering from a serious lung complication and succumbed to the disease in mid-December 2001, in the vicinity of the Tora Bora mountains. The source claimed that bin Laden was laid to rest honorably in his last abode and his grave was made as per his Wahabi belief.
About 30 close associates of bin Laden in Al Qaeda, including his most trusted and personal bodyguards, his family members and some “Taliban friends,” attended the funeral rites. A volley of bullets was also fired to pay final tribute to the “great leader.” December 26, 2001.[xv]

2.         Translation of Funeral Article in Egyptian Paper: al-Wafd, Wednesday, December 26, 2001 Vol. 15 No. 4633: Islamabad — A prominent official in the Afghan Taliban movement announced yesterday the death of Usama bin Laden, the chief of al-Qa’da organization, stating that bin Laden suffered serious complications in the lungs and died a natural and quiet death. The official, who asked to remain anonymous, stated to The Observer of Pakistan that he had himself attended the funeral of bin Laden and saw his face prior to burial in Tora Bora 10 days ago. He mentioned that 30 of al-Qa’da fighters attended the burial as well as members of his family and some friends from the Taliban. In the farewell ceremony to his final rest guns were fired in the air. The official stated that it is difficult to pinpoint the burial location of bin Laden because according to the Wahhabi tradition no mark is left by the grave. He stressed that it is unlikely that the American forces would ever uncover any traces of bin Laden.[xvi]

3.         “Usama bin Laden is dead. The news first came from sources in Afghanistan and Pakistan almost six months ago: the fugitive died in December [2001] and was buried in the mountains of southeast Afghanistan. Pakistan’s former president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, echoed the information. The remnants of Usama’s gang, however, have mostly stayed silent, either to keep Usama’s ghost alive or because they have no means of communication.

“With an ego the size of Mount Everest, Usama bin Laden would not have, could not have, remained silent for so long if he were still alive. He always liked to take credit even for things he had nothing to do with. Would he remain silent for nine months and not trumpet his own survival?”[xvii]

4.         “The Bin Laden Scam is One of the Most Shameful Acts Ever Perpetrated…”
By Gordon Duff, Veterans Today, December 5, 2009: “Conservative commentator, former Marine Colonel Bob Pappas has been saying for years that bin Laden died at Tora Bora and that Senator Kerry’s claim that bin Laden escaped with Bush help was a lie. Now we know that Pappas was correct. The embarrassment of having Secretary of State Clinton talk about bin Laden in Pakistan was horrific. He has been dead since December 13, 2001 and now, finally, everyone, Obama, McChrystal, Cheney, everyone who isn’t nuts is finally saying what they have known for years.

“We know this: Bin Laden always denied any ties to 9/11 and, in fact, has never been charged in relation to 9/11. He not only denied involvement, but had done so, while alive, 4 times and had vigorously condemned those who were involved in the attack.

“This is on the public record, public in every free country except ours. We, instead, showed films made by paid actors, made up to look somewhat similar to bin Laden, actors who contradicted bin Laden’s very public statements, actors pretending to be bin Laden long after bin Laden’s death.”[xviii]

5.         Top Government Insider: Bin Laden Died in 2001, 9/11 A False Flag
The most recent (4 May 2011) story is – if true – perhaps the most damning and explosive, from a man who was appointed to sensitive and influential positions in the Secretary of State and Defense departments by five presidents going back to Richard Nixon. This story deserves an extended citation (link to full story at the end):

“Top US government insider Dr. Steve R. Pieczenik, a man who held numerous different influential positions under three different Presidents and still works with the Defense Department, shockingly told The Alex Jones Show yesterday that Usama Bin Laden died in 2001 and that he was prepared to testify in front of a grand jury how a top general told him directly that 9/11 was a false flag inside job.

“Pieczenik cannot be dismissed as a “conspiracy theorist”. He served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of State under three different administrations, Nixon, Ford and Carter, while also working under Reagan and Bush senior, and still works as a consultant for the Department of Defense. A former US Navy Captain, Pieczenik achieved two prestigious Harry C. Solomon Awards at the Harvard Medical School as he simultaneously completed a PhD at MIT.

“Recruited by Lawrence Eagleburger as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Management, Pieczenik went on to develop, “the basic tenets for psychological warfare, counter terrorism, strategy and tactics for transcultural negotiations for the US State Department, military and intelligence communities and other agencies of the US Government,” while also developing foundational strategies for hostage rescue that were later employed around the world.

“Pieczenik also served as a senior policy planner under Secretaries Henry Kissinger, Cyrus Vance, George Schultz and James Baker and worked on George W. Bush’s election campaign against Al Gore. His record underscores the fact that he is one of the most deeply connected men in intelligence circles over the past three decades plus.

“The character of Jack Ryan, who appears in many Tom Clancy novels and was also played by Harrison Ford in the popular 1992 movie Patriot Games, is also based on Steve Pieczenik.

“Back in April 2002, over nine years ago, Pieczenik told the Alex Jones Show that Bin Laden had already been “dead for months,” and that the government was waiting for the most politically expedient time to roll out his corpse. Pieczenik would be in a position to know, having personally met Bin Laden and worked with him during the proxy war against the Soviets in Afghanistan back in the early 80′s.

“Pieczenik said that Usama Bin Laden died in 2001, “Not because special forces had killed him, but because as a physician I had known that the CIA physicians had treated him and it was on the intelligence roster that he had marfan syndrome,” adding that the US government knew Bin Laden was dead before they invaded Afghanistan.”

Marfan syndrome is a degenerative genetic disease for which there is no permanent cure. The illness severely shortens the life span of the sufferer.

“He died of marfan syndrome, Bush junior knew about it, the intelligence community knew about it,” said Pieczenik, noting how CIA physicians had visited Bin Laden in July 2001 at the American Hospital in Dubai.

“He was already very sick from marfan syndrome and he was already dying, so nobody had to kill him,” added Pieczenik, stating that Bin Laden died shortly after 9/11 in his Tora Bora cave complex.

“Pieczenik explained that he was not a liberal, a conservative or a tea party member, merely an American who is deeply concerned about the direction in which his country is heading.”

(The website Above Top Secret is now running the story of a nearly complete media blackout relating to Dr. Pieczenik’s story.)[xix]

Most of this information is known to Fox News, The New York Times, The Washington Post and the administrations of both the GW Bush and Obama.  If the subject were less emotional and complex, hoardes of reporters would already have torn the official version to shreds.  But the way Obama’s administration packaged and released the stories was meant to – and did – plunge all of us into the fiery picture of bloody heroics in the made-for-movie saga of a continuing fight for Good against Evil.  The high temperature of the story directs us toward uncritical acceptance, along with admiration and gratitude for the courage of both our Navy SEALS and – not incidentally – President Obama.

With our leaders operating within the supercharged atmosphere inside the Beltway, they live in a setting of secrecy conducive to creating True Believers.  The danger of such closed circles was perhaps put best by Albert Speer, who was the only Nazi to confess, then to write clearly and forcefully just how the process worked.  This is not meant to compare our government with the Nazis – just to say the presence of so much secrecy easily traps the key players inside a hall of mirrors:

In normal circumstances, people who turn their backs on reality are soon set straight by the mockery and criticism of those around them, which makes them aware they have lost credibility.  In the Third Reich there were no such correctives, especially for those who belonged to the upper stratum.  On the contrary, every self-deception was multiplied as in a hall of distorting mirrors, becoming a repeatedly confirmed picture of a fantastical dream world, which no longer bore any relationship to the grim outside world.  In those mirrors I could see nothing but my own face reproduced many times over.[xx]

Our whole country is now engulfed by an incendiary story that reeks of dangerous propaganda.  It’s time we stopped shouting “Fire!” and began shouting “Theater!”


[i] http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/white-house-goes-silent-on-bin-laden-raid/2011/05/04/AF1v87rF_story.html?nl_headlines
[ii] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1383934/Usama-Bin-Laden-dead-Obama-DIDNT-Al-Qaeda-leader-killed.html#ixzz1LVoUY11h
[iii] http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2011/05/03/propaganda_bin_laden)
[iv] http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/analysis-in-aftermath-of-daring-raid-obama-reintroducing-himself-to-nation/2011/05/06/AFgmgP5F_story.html?nl_headlines
[v] http://www.buzzflash.com/contributors/2002/11/13_Laden.html
[vi] copied from the website of journalist Robert Fisk, http://www.robert-fisk.com/usama_interview_ummat.htm
[vii] fbi.gov/wanted/wanted_terrorists/usama-bin-laden
[viii] http://www.fbi.gov/wanted/topten
[ix] http://www.projectcensored.org/top-stories/articles/16-no-hard-evidence-connecting-bin-laden-to-9-11/
[x] http://www.twf.org/News/Y2006/0608-BinLaden.html
[xi] http://www.infowars.com/former-cia-officials-admit-to-faking-bin-laden-video/
[xii] http://www.ascertainthetruth.com/att/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=288:cia-admits-bin-laden-videos-are-fake&catid=58:the-911-event&Itemid=115
[xiii] http://www.prisonplanet.com/former-cia-officials-admit-to-faking-bin-laden-video.html
[xiv] http://www.forbiddenknowledgetv.com/videos/war/gordon-duff-years-of-deceitus-openly-accepts-bin-laden-long-dead.html
[xv] http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,41576,00.html
[xvi] http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,41576,00.html
[xvii] New York Times. July 11, 2002
[xviii] http://www.veteranstoday.com/2009/12/05/years-of-deceit-us-openly-accepts-bin-laden-long-dead/
[xix] The topic started on May 6, 2011 @ 12:12 PM by monkeySEEmonkeyDO:
“I have been noticing a complete media blackout with the ULIMATE 911 whistleblower, Dr. Steve R. Pieczenik, and I attempted to search through the MSM’s websites for ANY record of his name. Here is a small, yet powerful, list of major news networks who REFUSE to acknowledge this brave and honest man:
AP.org (Associated Press)
HOWEVER… I did find one major news network that did post this story. The brave and daring washingtonpost.com posted the ground breaking story but posted it under the “lifestyle” section which is right next to the home garden and travel sections… LOL.. I can NOT make this stuff up”. (http://www.abovetopsecret.com/forum/thread699847/pg1)
[xx] Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) – Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, 2007, p. 65

America's God

Friday, April 6th, 2012

As even ancient theologians could have seen, the U.S. worships at the altar of Pluto: the god of riches and death.  Our Plutocracy has become desperate in its end stages.  The gap between the rich and the rest is now bigger than it was during the Great Depression 80 years ago.

Robert Reich reports that the richest 1% of us own more than 50% of all shares of stock.  The next 9% own 40%.  Most of us own only a tiny sliver of the stock market, including the stocks included in our 401(k) plans – if we even have such plans.

The only real wealth most of us own is in our homes, but our President is helping, if not cheerleading, as the bankers foreclose on millions of our homes, hoovering what’s left of lower and middle class wealth up to the top.  Then, without any financial leverage, the political and economic significance of 90-95% of our citizens evaporates. (1)

It’s not immediately clear why riches should be lead to death. That link came from the older Greek god Hades, on whom Pluto is based.  Hades was god of the underworld, which we call Hell.  We’ve been carried to Hell in a gilded hand basket, dumped into the abyss of insignificance.

These are Theological Issues

It’s a tough time to be a theologian, since membership and attendance at worship services has been declining for many decades. Church attendance is now around 18% and still falling.  The first words that come to mind when people hear the words “church” or “preacher” are apt to be “sex scandal” and “hypocrite”.  When asked to rate eleven groups in terms of respect, non-Christians rated evangelicals tenth.  Only prostitutes ranker lower, though some see this as an unfair attack on prostitutes. (2)

But even if religion is in wholesale decline, theology offers a unique way of framing gods, lives, integrity and fulfillment: a here-and-now – rather than elsewhere and later – “salvation,” meaning a kind of wholeness and authenticity.  This may sound like good psychology, and it is: “psyche” is the Greek word for “soul.” But understanding our gods as the psychological allegiances that show our priorities – our “ultimate concerns,” as Lutheran theologian Paul Tillich put it – isn’t a newfangled idea.  Martin Luther said we all had gods, which could be seen from our behavior.  It’s good psychology, but also good theology.  It’s most helpful to understand theology as a “grammar of faith,” whether it involves one god, or thirteen in the Greek Olympic deities. (3)

So. To say that America’s god is Pluto, the god of riches and death, is a theological – mythical – way of saying that the excessive love of money leads to the death of our full humanity and wholeness, both as individuals and as societies.  Both mythology and theology are best understood as psychological studies.
No one would say that even a significant minority of Americans act in the imitation of Jesus.  But most would agree that we are a capitalist society with a lot more emphasis on buying than praying.  After 9-11-2001, President G.W. Bush advised us to get back to normal: “Go shopping.”  Jesus may have thrown the money-changers out of the Temple, but here, some megachurches have ATM’s.

Pluto’s realm as the patron deity of Plutocracy and capitalism has family resemblances to St. Paul’s line in his letter to the Romans: “the wages of sin are death”.  The word “sin” comes from a word in the Hebrew scriptures.  The word het that’s usually translated as “sin” came from an ancient archery term that simply meant “to miss the mark.” The “mark” in this theological sense is living as God intended – which means how to live in a way that is useful to us, and worthy of the highest, most compassionate ideals we know. By tradition, the highest ideals are associated with God (or Good, in philosophical tradition).

It’s a bit clumsy to use theological concepts that we’ve been taught to associate with supernatural realms.  But once the concepts are translated into ordinary language, they can be useful.  It’s the only way they are useful.  Since our gods represent the constellations of values that determine so much of our behavior, one of the most important questions is whether or not they are worth serving.  Most gods, including Pluto, are not.  So theologically speaking, if Pluto – the god of economic riches – isn’t worth serving with our lives, then doing so would be missing the mark of becoming more fully human and living a life we can say we are glad we lived that way when we look back on it in one year or fifty.

In 23 years as a Unitarian minister, I conducted a lot of memorial services, and always encouraged family and friends to augment my eulogy by coming forward and sharing their own memories about this person.  I never once heard anyone praised for how rich they had been, how seductive, powerful, how attractive, intimidating or frightening they had been, or how rigorously they toed the line of whatever orthodoxy they had been taught to parrot.

The things we most cherish about people are so very commonplace: they cared, they touched us, they were generous with their compassion: they seemed to embody the spirit of life itself.  They were – in Gibran’s lovely phrase – inspiring examples of life’s longing for itself.

When framed this way, very few people would buy the idea that exalting the pursuit of wealth above all else could mark us as very wise, or even very fully human.
(Homo sapiens means “man the wise.”)

And what of the “death” associated with exalting the lust for wealth to the status of a god? It leads to some interesting questions. To what extent is the decline of the American Empire due to our placing profit above people?  We’re the only developed nation on earth that defines health care as a commodity, available only to those who can pay for it.  We’re spending trillions of dollars on illegal invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and four other wars of choice in Yemen, Pakistan, the Horn of Africa and Columbia – a defense budget larger than those of all other countries in the world combined!  Our society is in such a frightening state of economic and political disarray at least partly because we have been taught to worship capitalism – the creedal form of Plutocracy. Our wars are deadly examples of Pluto hiring Ares/Mars, the god of war, who is always an eager mercenary.

We are on a road toward death when our government – and our President – are rushing to serve Plutocracy’s high priests on Wall Street, off-loading the trillion dollars of debt they created through greed, deceit, and incompetence – letting them return to their old habits with the blessing of our government, while trampling the vast majority of citizens underfoot in their rush toward all that glitters? If so, the death will come from serving an inadequate deity, and pledging allegiance to a god that’s so woefully self-serving it acts like a cancer, killing both its host – the U.S. economy and culture – and itself.

These involvements absolutely contribute to our loss of respect and power in the world. Will we find that throwing trillions of dollars toward our effort to steal oil or location from others, kill them by the tens of thousands, and sacrifice the lives of thousands of our own soldiers … will we find it contributing to the death of the American Empire, as it has killed so many other dreams of empire?

There is a deadly inhumanity in this worship of Pluto, which received its classic expression in the myth of King Midas.  The ability to turn everything we touch into mere gold is missing the mark by a mile – or a lifetime.

Signs of Hope

There are a few signs that people may be coming out of the capitalist trance.
On May 29, 2009 The New York Times carried a story by Leslie Wayne titled, “A Promise to Be Ethical in an Era of Immorality”:

When a new crop of future business leaders graduates from the Harvard Business School next week, many of them will be taking a new oath that says, in effect, greed is not good.  Nearly 20 percent of the graduating class have signed “The M.B.A. Oath”–  a voluntary student-led pledge that the goal of a business manager is to “serve the greater good”.  It promises that Harvard M.B.A.’s will act responsibly, ethically and refrain from advancing their “own narrow ambitions” at the expense of others.

Bill Gates has put a third of his wealth into the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, the largest private endowment fund in the world.  In 2006, Warren Buffet announced that he would start giving away 85% of his billions to charities – over 80% of that to the Gates’ foundation.  Others with far more money than they could need are learning how to start charitable foundation as well. If the pursuit of wealth were enough to fulfill a life, there would be no urge to start charitable foundations.  Yet there seem to be growing numbers of rich people starting such foundations.  Right now, America has the feel of F. Scott Fitzgeralds’ 1925 book The Great Gatsby, saying that the (capitalist) American Dream didn’t even work for the rich.

This urge seldom goes the other way: we couldn’t imagine the Buddha, Jesus, the great saints, prophets and sages, or more contemporary spiritual giants like Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King Jr. or the Dalai Lama chucking it all and sending their resumes to land a corporate job (though their resumes would be interesting to read). Ghandi was reported to have a net worth of less than five dollars at his death. But almost no one thinks that’s any measure of his worth.

Tellingly, our citizens don’t admire the Arab leaders – and the Arab citizens don’t admire our leaders. The real strength of these movements is that they are class wars, where the great majority of citizens are rising against the self-important leaders who control the wealth, and push their people down into poverty and fear.  There will be losses, and right now it looks like Libya may be one of them.

Today, movements from inside and outside our Plutocracy are staging remarkable citizen uprisings, from the Middle East to England’s UK Uncut movement and the US Uncut movement targeting the businesses of rich corporations and individuals who pay no taxes.

Pluto’s reign is under attack.  If the citizens can replace their leaders who – in addition to whatever other charges can be made against them – have, as Amos put it 2500 years ago, sold the poor for silver (or coltan) and the needy for a pair of Nike’s, this second decade of the 21st century may become the decade when the spirit of life rose up to reclaim and reassign the power from leaders who want to rule their citizens rather than serving them.

Both individually and collectively, the narrow pursuit of wealth is the worship of a god that’s just not worth worshiping. And the “wages” of this kind of missing the mark can include the death of our empathy, compassion, humanity and empire.


(1) See Robert Reich’s blog of 2 February 2011, “The Bulls on Wall Street Not Helping Main Street.”
(2) Christine Wicker, The Fall of the Evangelical Nation, p. 143.
(3) Originally, there were twelve Olympic deities.  Six were male: Zeus, Apollo, Hermes, Poseidon, Hades, and Hephaestos.  Six were female: Hera, Athena, Demeter, Artemis, Aphrodite and Hestia.  By the time of Plato, both Hestia and Dionysus were mentioned as gods, then the legend has it that Hestia stepped down from her place among the twelve Olympic deities, letting Dionysus take her place.  Hestia was goddess of the hearth.  She was almost never drawn or sculpted.  She was the spirit of what made the difference between a house and a home, or a church service and a worship service.  The reason Hestia had to be dropped from the dozen deities is because the number twelve, in the ancient world, was a symbolic number implying that all the astrological bases were covered.  It’s also found in Israel’s twelve tribes, the twelve labors of Hercules, etc.

Who Will Bribe History for Us?

Monday, April 2nd, 2012

Two days before Christmas, the Associated Press wrote of Halliburton’s generous gift of $250 million to Nigerian officials, to bribe their government into dropping the criminal bribery charges against former Halliburton CEO and former U.S.  Vice President Dick Cheney.  Former President George G. W. Bush and former Secretary of State James Baker reportedly also made personal visits to Nigeria on Cheney’s behalf.  The charges were dropped.  The military-industrial-congressional-media complex is alive and metastasizing, still infecting legal systems at home and abroad. (1)

It’s a safe bet that Cheney would have been found guilty.  It’s also a safe bet that G. W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and others high in our political and military chains of command would be found guilty of crimes against humanity by juries in every country we can’t bribe.

As  Australian citizen Julian Assange and his Wikileaks are showing, our leaders have routinely lied to us, covering up even acts of murder – like the now-infamous Apache Helicopter machine-gun murders of those two Reuters journalists and thirteen unarmed Afghanistan civilians.  The million-plus Iraqis and Afghans we have killed or wounded, plus the half million children in Iraq  who died as a result of Bill Clinton’s sanctions in the 1990s, make us the most violent and murderous terrorists on the planet.

We continue to help our government pull the wool over our eyes, because what our leaders are doing in our name is too vulgar to own.  Through willful ignorance and denial, we claim that we are innocent.  But it isn’t that easy.  As Chris Hedges writes, “Innocence, as defined by law, makes us complicit with the crimes of the state.  To do nothing, to be judged by the state as innocent, is to be guilty.  It is to sanction, through passivity and obedience, the array of crimes carried out by the state.” (2)

We have become the dog that did not bark in the night, muzzling the better angels of our nature.  As citizens, it is our responsibility to make noise when our government crosses moral or legal lines that bring disgrace to our nation or to our humanity.

Can it really be, that our leaders still pretend “terrorists” hate us because of our freedoms, even as they work to deny freedom of speech to an Australian citizen – and then, logically, to a half dozen of the world’s leading newspapers which also published the leaked documents?  Some of our leaders and lawmakers have called for hunting Julian Assange down, imprisoning, torturing and murdering him! Our President has claimed the right of the Executive branch to arrest, imprison or execute anyone they deem a danger to our leaders’ ability to lie to anyone they choose.

We have become the most greedy and evil force on earth; we have become the Portrait of Dorian Gray. Our American Empire is dying, as all empires do.  But it is going out with monstrous brutality, greed and deceit. The hyenas of predatory capitalism have found that for a price, nearly everything is for sale, even our consciences and our souls.

We offer excuses.  It isn’t our fault, but the fault of the evil Republicans, the gutless and unprincipled Democrats, and a President who campaigned as a Democrat but rules as a Plutocrat.  It’s the fault of our amoral corporations and greedy bankers and our mainstream media who have become corporate toadies. Then there’s that fear which has paralyzed those with jobs, those without jobs, and all of us who seem to have no power over those who kill, maim, lie and bribe in our name. Now that rude Australian and his Wikileaks are daring to show the world that our empire has no decent clothes.  We didn’t want that closet opened, but  we are, we still insist, innocent.

But what happens when the pointing fingers finally point at us? If history is a guide, we may not be judged kindly. After the end of Germany’s twelve-year empire, historians distinguished between three kinds of Germans. The Nazis were the most evil. The “Nazi sympathizers” who actively supported the Nazis came next. The rest, the vast majority of German citizens, were called the “Good Germans.”  But it was an ironic kind of “good.”  It meant they didn’t actively commit the crimes against humanity, or openly support those who did. But they knew what was happening, yet remained silent and impotent. We should consider the guilt by association carried by Germans after 1945 as a preview of what could become our own penalties from historians. The WWII Germans, their children, and their children’s children are still not over it.

When Peter Schneider emigrated from Germany to the U.S., he noticed that Americans had a good image of Germans – “good” in the ironic sense:
“Almost all the images and stories on television draw on those 12 years when Germans perpetrated a crime, the monstrous uniqueness of which only idiots question.”

Most Germans he knew here were trying to act as un-German as possible, as
“… the German struggling with his past, the German who feels guilt, the German who shuns patriotism and rejects a unified Germany. This holds true as well for many, if not the majority, of young Germans at home.”

But all these dances of denial were to no avail:
“Some German intellectuals are calling and searching for a new national identity. But I’m afraid we cannot look for any lost or new identity. We have one and Auschwitz is part of it.” (3) And will be a demon in the soul of your community and identity for as long as you live.

Like it or not, our  American Empire is lurching into the past tense with guns ablazing, lies abounding, the programmed theft of our resources and assets for pennies on the dollar.  It’s all about profit after all, not people.  As the looting becomes more sophisticated and complete, some of our presumed allies are defecting, and our trading partners are laughing off our self-serving economic dictates, since all the world knows we’re a paper tiger – or to put it in Texan, we’re all hat, no cowboy.

As it happened to the German people, historians will identify most of us as the people who seldom raised a voice or a finger while our soldiers and our political leaders invaded other nations at will, kidnapping and imprisoning their leaders (Noriega) or turning them over to the hangmen (Saddam Hussein).  If their country had resources (like oil) or strategic position we wanted (Iraq, Afghanistan and, presumably, Iran), we slaughtered their people indiscriminately – over 90% of the people we’re killing are civilians.  The rest – the Iraqi and Afghani soldiers and citizens willing to die for their country — are doing what we hope some of our own citizens would do to resist the violent armed robbery of our national resources and utilities.

The good news – and there is some — is that there are more courageous people like Bradley Manning and Julian Assange among us.  We can look forward to more photos, videos and documents showing us the embarrassing facts we would rather avoid.  It’s human nature to avoid revelations this painful, and to remain in denial about them.  But it’s also within our human nature to confront and oppose tyranny in all its forms.  This is an opportunity for some ordinary citizens to show the world they’re made of tougher stuff, and that they have within them a core, a soul, that will not be silenced, will not be bribed, and will not quit.

1.  http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/nigeria-drops-halliburton-bribery-charges-2167608.html
2.  http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/happy_as_a_hangman_20101206/
3.  Peter Schneider, “For Germans, Guilt Isn’t Enough,” published as an op-ed in the New York Times, Thursday, December 5, 1996.

Article originally appeared at FireDogLake.

Davidson Loehr is author of the book
America, Fascism, and God: Sermons from a Heretical Preacher

Truth Seeks Light; Evil Loves the Dark

Wednesday, February 15th, 2012

Reposted from Firedoglake.

It’s hard for an American to admit that we have become a country whose President now claims the power to arrest and detain indefinitely – or even order the assassination of — any American citizen that the President – without official charges, trial and conviction – sees as some sort of threat. Future leaders are not likely to give up this power.

We’re in a distinctly American form of plutocracy, where Wall Street’s short-sighted greed has interbred with car-crash journalism and political expediency to create our cultural motto, “What have you done for me lately.” It’s worth asking the sobering question of what poor and middle class people honestly think they can offer politicians and Wall Street’s metastasized profit-makers to compete with Big Money — though the answer isn’t comforting.  Sweet liberals may rattle on about a government of, by and for the people, or airy ideals of truth, justice and equality. But that country is a nostalgic dream out of touch with everything except maybe Disney World.

The signs of our times are not warnings of a potential slide into an American version of fascism — wrapped, as Sinclair Lewis said in 1935, in the American flag and waving a cross.  The signs are of a nation whose government has already passed the point of no return, from a nominal democracy or republic into a de facto tyranny.  It’s been decades since doing the right thing could trump doing the profitable thing.

The death throes of our American Empire are spastic, furious and futile. Michael Moore – but not our politicians or mainstream media — has reminded us that America is actually fighting not two wars, but six: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, the horn of Africa and Columbia – that we know of.  Wars are cash cows for the military-industrial-congressional-media complex.  Our soldiers are equipped with sophisticated weaponry that is as ill-suited to fighting a guerilla war as it was in Vietnam a half century ago.  We’re maintaining around 800 military bases in other countries, spending about $1,000,000 a year per soldier in Iraq. This is happening as we sink more deeply in debt, and have become the obvious financial target of opportunity for China, who can send us into a nearly bottomless Depression any time they decide they will no longer buy our Treasury bonds.

We live in an age of not only manufactured consent, but also manufactured terror.  The Keystone Cops x-raying, frisking and groping us at our airports has caught no “terrorists.” Its purpose isn’t to catch “terrorists,” but to regiment our citizens to a New World Order in which our government can humiliate us, give us orders, and herd us like sheep.  Evangelical humbugs may still quote St. Paul, insisting that those who govern us are our trustworthy shepherds, reciting from the trusty King James translation: “Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God (Romans 13:1).”  The “shepherd” metaphor is actually a good one, as long as we remember that the only reason shepherds take care of their sheep is so they can fleece them, and eventually convert them to lamb chops, living off of their meat.

What was to have been the Show Trial of Ahmed Ghailani is a recent reminder of the huge gap between our increasingly secretive government and the world most people recognize as reality.  On November 17th, a federal jury in Manhattan convicted Ghailani of conspiring to destroy U.S. buildings and property in the 1998 truck bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania that killed 224 people, including 12 Americans.  But Ghailani, 36, was acquitted on 284 other counts, including the top charges of murder and murder conspiracy.  The only count on which he was convicted took place in Kenya and Tanzania.  President Obama, who sought convictions rather than justice, has responded by declaring that he can hold prisoners in Guantanamo indefinitely, without trials or convictions.

If evil loves the dark, truth and justice demand the light.  So, giving justice a try, Ghailani’s case was brought before the civil law system that we have trusted to try serial murderers, rapists, traitors and crimes so far over the line between good and evil that even reading their details makes our skin crawl.  The result: just one conviction for a crime committed three years before 9-11, and on foreign soil.  It is a measure of the blanket denial of our leaders.  When examined in the light, it doesn’t look at all like “terrorism” is what’s going on.  It’s a name used to mesmerize the masses while our military-industrial-congressional-media complex escalates its wars all over the world and escalates its police state at home.

Creating True Believers

Our government’s secrecy, recently embarrassed by the Wikileaks – has done what such secrecy nearly always does: creating an inner circle of True Believers.  Will we also indict the New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegle et al, as well as all radio, television and internet servers who published the leaked documents?  Our muzzled mass media seldom mention how many people in other countries are pointing out the comical irony of a country bragging about its “freedom,” while imprisoning and pursuing whistleblowers who have used that freedom to shine an international spotlight on our government’s lies – at home, in the Middle East, and in our international diplomacy all over the world.  We’re not used to being the punchline of jokes.

Our leaders no longer want truth; they have come to demand compliance — sheep-like obedience.  Perhaps there are still some sweet liberals who will imagine that we need not worry too much because we’re all reasonable people, and once this current unpleasantness has passed, we’ll be back to normal, where NPR and PBS can continue shoveling their soothing Muzak for our intelligentsia. Here’s how an observant young lawyer has put it:

“A few of them still hold the banner high.  Even after all their defeats they still prophesy the inevitable collapse of the regime every month, or at least once a year.  Their stand has a certain magnificence, you have to admit, but also a certain eccentricity.  The funny thing is that one day, after they have stood fast through all their cruel disappointments, they will be proved right.  I can already see them strutting around … and telling everybody that they had predicted it all along.  By then, however, they will have become tragicomic figures.  There is a way of being right that is shameful and lends its opponent undeserved glory.” (1)

These words are chilling because, while they could have been written last week, they were written more than seventy years ago, as he watched his country’s democracy descend into the malignancy of the Nazis.

How could it have happened?  How could Germans possibly have morphed into Nazis without realizing what was happening to them?  And how could it happen here?  This too was described decades ago, by a man named Albert Speer.  Younger readers may not recognize the name, but Albert Speer was the only top-ranking Nazi to confess, and to describe from the inside how a democratic, artistic, creative Germany was turned into the Nazi death machine so easily:

“In normal circumstances, people who turn their backs on reality are soon set straight by the mockery and criticism of those around them, which makes them aware they have lost credibility.  In the Third Reich there were no such correctives, especially for those who belonged to the upper stratum.  On the contrary, every self-deception was multiplied as in a hall of distorting mirrors, becoming a repeatedly confirmed picture of a fantastical dream world, which no longer bore any relationship to the grim outside world.  In those mirrors I could see nothing but my own face reproduced many times over.”(2)

These insights came to light only after the Nazi machine was destroyed, along with millions who died during the World War required to cut off the ugly head of Naziism.  They could come only after the tragic slaughter of innocence because they had no equivalent of a Daniel Ellsberg, Bradley Manning (allegedly) and Julian Assange and his Wikileaks.  These men are among our age’s prophets: those putting their lives on the line to serve the kind of truth that may help set us free, if only we will muster the courage to see and to hear that we have become something ugly.

1. Sebastian Hafner, Defying Hitler, p. 202
2. Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, Mistakes Were Made (but not by me) Why we Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts, 2007, p. 65

Davidson Loehr is author of the book
America, Fascism, and God: Sermons from a Heretical Preacher

What's Truth Got to Do With It?

Wednesday, February 8th, 2012

Imagine a man who lived some time ago.*  From an early age, he was drawn to religion.  He went to the formal service every week, sometimes even taking notes.  He believed everything his church taught him, never felt a need to challenge the teachings, and tried to live as he was told he should.  He took his church’s teachings literally: God rewarded or punished us for how we had lived on earth, by assigning us to an eternal heaven or hell after we died.  He internalized these teachings until he didn’t even have to think about them; they became part of his nature.

This man took tremendous comfort in knowing that he would spend eternity with God, and kept that thought in mind when making hard ethical or moral decisions.  He made and kept friends easily: perhaps because he forgave easily, as he had been taught at church, and looked for the good in everyone he met.  The man married, was a good provider, a good and faithful husband, and helped his wife in raising two happy and healthy children, as well as a third child who was troubled and troubling almost from birth.  He gave generously of his time for what he saw as healthy civic causes, and was in all ways a good citizen who seemed to bless his world as he passed through it.  He lived to see several of his grandchildren come of age, grieved deeply over one killed in the war-du-jour. Several years later, he passed away peacefully in his sleep.  Everyone in the town came to his memorial service, and many of them spoke of the ways in which his kindness had touched them.  Some of their stories could move anyone to tears of gratitude for this man’s life.

Two weeks after he died, it was suddenly proven beyond all doubt that almost everything the church had taught him was wrong: there was no God, nor any afterlife with rewards or punishments.  So: we can say the man’s beliefs were false.  But can we say his life was false?  If not, what does truth really have to do with living a fulfilling life?  How would we judge whether someone’s beliefs are good?  If metaphorical trees are known by their fruits, then religious beliefs must be judged by our behaviors, especially toward the weaker and those who don’t share our beliefs.

It’s no coincidence that this has been the message of history’s best prophets and sages, nor the fact that it has always been – and will continue to be – the broad path: the path that Jesus and most other sages and prophets have preached against for millennia.

* Adapted and expanded from a story by Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951)

A Moral Argument for Abortion

Friday, June 10th, 2011

In the game-changing 1973 Roe v. Wade case, abortion was framed as an issue of women's rights.   The women's movement was in full swing, and it was easy to see why women would believe they should have the right to abort an unwanted fetus.   But the "rights" frame proved to be an easy target for those who say the termination of a developing human being must be supported by a persuasive moral argument.   They have won: a majority of Americans now believe abortion is wrong, perhaps because they think that even a poor moral argument about the termination of a developing human life is better than none at all.

Now, as that majority are working to give their moral views the framework of law, there may (or not) be time for those who want "reproductive choice" and access to safe abortions to reframe and expand their position into a moral argument.

What's most frustrating is that there is a moral framework for abortion that doesn't get the exposure it should because the issue is still framed simply as "a woman's right to choose."

In religion, this moral argument was given its most powerful and adaptable form 120 years ago, in one of the most persuasive essays in the history of Christianity.   The Rerum Novarum ("Of New Things"), was issued by Pope Leo XIII in 1891, and updated by the Catholic Church in 1931, 1961, and 1991.   Anyone interested in reading one of the most brilliant Christian moral arguments in the past 20 centuries should check it out. ( http://www.papalencyclicals.net/Leo13/l13rerum.htm ).

It's a "quantity of life" versus "quality of life" issue.   Mere quantity of life may be sufficient (as far as we can tell) for simpler life forms like bacteria, mosquitoes, and cockroaches.   But even by the time we get to rats, too many can destroy much chance for rats to live out their full potential.   To many of us, it seems that's just the nature of rats: to be dirty, disease-ridden and vicious.   But within decent conditions, that is not the nature of rats at all.   They are very popular pets, whose owners describe them as clean, playful, even loving.

With humans, more babies than their environment can support and cherish degrades the quality of life to the point we see in our metastasizing ghettos and for-profit prisons, and in those desperate dwellings where a single mother tries to care for her children, against odds that consign both parents and children to lives that are nasty, brutish and short.

At the birth of our nation, over 90% of our citizens were farmers, where "many hands made light work."   In that context, neither practical nor moral arguments for abortion would find a persuasive moral footing. Large families provided more hands, as well as a social safety net and retirement program for parents.

By 1900, fewer than 40% of Americans were farmers.   Today, fewer than 1% of Americans are farmers, and most of those just part-time.   Extended families within easy driving distance are nearly extinct. More and more, people must fend for themselves, without a safety net of adequate social, financial and medical services.

The whole social context of family planning, birth control, and abortion has changed in the last 235 years. Today, pregnancy is a request, not a demand. Women have many eggs, and men make sperm by the millions: the fertilization of an egg by a sperm happens many more times than we wish.   We can always breed, but should only do it when we are ready, willing and able to care and provide for our children.   While a few kids out of a hundred thousand may make it out of the ghetto, those are unfair odds to pile on a parent, child, or society.

There is an image from September 11, 2001 that was burned into the memory of everyone who saw it: people, sometimes holding hands, jumping to their death from the Twin Towers, with no safety nets to catch them.   It should be as heart-rending to see millions of children pushed out into a world that has no adequate safety nets for them either.   And to enact laws whose intent is to force the most desperate women to bring babies into a home and a world that can't care for them is, if not evil, a brutality against the most vulnerable women and children in our society — and profoundly immoral.

AUTHOR BIO: Davidson Loehr is a former musician, combat photographer and press officer in Vietnam, owner of a photography studio in Ann Arbor, and a carpenter. He holds a Ph.D. in methods of studying religion, theology, the philosophy of religion (more…)

Read original post at OpEdNews here.

Davidson Loehr is author of the book
America, Fascism, and God: Sermons from a Heretical Preacher

Politicking In The Mos Eisley Cantina

Thursday, April 21st, 2011

Our economic and political mess became more clear once I realized that most of the important political deals take place in the Mos Eisley Cantina.  You know the scene from the first “Star Wars” movie in 1976: a dark, smoky bar located somewhere in a twilight zone: a liminal and lawless hideout where the ethically reprehensible is the norm.

We know our elected officials don’t do their political work up in the daylight of our world, because none of the big ticket laws they pass have anything to do with what the majority of our citizens want.  There are differences between the two political parties, but they’re differences of degree, not kind.   How can it be that the people we elected to serve us routinely sell us out to the highest bidders?

The majority of U.S. citizens are against our illegal invasions of Iraq, Afghanistan, and our bombing of Libya to remove Gaddafi, the brutal dictator we have coddled for decades. And a majority of our citizens would also be against our other four military operations – in Yemen, Pakistan, the Horn of Africa, and Columbia – if they knew about them.  Most of us were not fooled when President Obama said he unilaterally authorized bombing Libya because his heart bled for the half million citizens Gadaffi will probably kill – though for the past week it seems we’ve stopped caring.  If our hearts really bled that easily for the slaughter of innocents, why didn’t we invade countries that had no oil?  And if we think the death of a half million innocents is repugnant enough to demand preventative action, what about President Clinton’s sanctions against Iraq, which caused the deaths of half a million Iraqi children? When asked on US television if she [Madeline Albright, US Secretary of State] thought that the death of 500,000 Iraqi children from sanctions in Iraq was a price worth paying, Albright replied: “This is a very hard choice, but we think the price is worth it.” (See: http://www.globalissues.org/article/105/effects-of-sanctions)

The majority of our citizens want our soldiers brought home now.  As John Kerry said to our House Foreign Relations Committee in 1970 about the ongoing Vietnam War: “How do you ask someone to be the last person to die for a mistake?”  Today’s answer seems to be that members of Congress do it without much genuine emotion, because wars – whether right or wrong – are immensely profitable for some of the corporations whose lobbyists woo our representatives in dark places. And few if any of their children are going to be in those wars.

Writing on April 19, Steven Thomma cited a recent  McClatchy-Marist poll that painted some very clear pictures of what American citizens want:

• On tackling the deficit, 64% of voters support raising taxes on incomes above $250,000.
• Americans clearly don't want the government to cut Medicare, the government health program for the elderly, or Medicaid, the program for the poor.
• 80% of all voters – and 68% of conservatives –oppose cuts to those programs.  (See article here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/04/18/112386/poll-best-way-to-fight-deficits.html)

A majority of us want corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes, and want the necessary cuts to come from reducing our military budget and taxing the corporations and individuals who actually have money, and spend millions a year on lawyers to find loopholes, while creating and disseminating disinformation to mislead the rest of us.

Most of us want single-payer or public option health insurance.  We’re the only developed country in the world that has no guaranteed insurance.  That lack of healthcare leads to the death of an estimated 18,000 of us every year.  While we have the most expensive health care in the world, the quality of our health care is 37th of the 190 countries included in the studies.  Why don’t our hearts bleed over the deaths of our own citizens? Why don’t we rise up against economic and political policies that remove our rights, take our homes and savings, and keep pushing us down into what is beginning to be a permanent underclass.  We would like our leaders’ hearts to bleed over the disempowering, poverty and death of our own citizens first. (See here: http://www.photius.com/rankings/healthranks.html)

We want the cuts to come from the military budget: we’re wasting trillions.  We do not want cuts in social services: Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security and the rest.  We don’t want the cuts to come from education, or from maintaining our crumbling infrastructure.  And so on.

Why don’t we the people get what we want from those we elected – not to rule us, but to serve us? Again and again, after claiming they understand the will of the people, our leaders duck out of sight, into one of those dark places that are our versions of the Mos Eisley Cantina.  They return with new bi-partisan bills that add more economic weight on the backs of those with little money.

Almost always, they hoover the money upwards, to serve what Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz calls “The government of the 1%, by the 1% and for the 1%.” Or they stuff our tax dollars into the pockets of vulture capitalists on Wall Street, or to spread our wealth among the clients for whom the horde of lobbyists are pimping – with about two dozen lobbyists per member of the House and Senate.

Like Charlie Brown, liberals/progressives keep believing that – surely this time – like Lucy, Obama will hold the football.  He won’t.  A sufficient majority of our politicians and pundits won’t either.

It’s not just us: similar actions are taking place all over the world, in the current wave of uprisings.  Nearly all of them show citizens rising to protest the unfair economic (and therefore political) disparity between the rich and the rest.

Our leaders don’t much mind our ineffectual marches, protests and speeches: they’re a good way for us to let off steam so we can once more become manageable.  Meanwhile, police force and beat protestors to teach them that we are moving into a police state where disobedience will be dealt with harshly.  These are harsh accusations.  Yet our president has issued a “fatwa” against an American citizen — the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki — and assumed the authority to have anyone assassinated, or arrested and held indefinitely without charges or any due process.  And, while he conspires with many Democrats, most Republicans, and just about everyone in the military-industrial-congressional complex to begin cutting most or all of our essential security nets, he and Congress squander trillions of dollars, send thousands of our soldiers to their death, and perhaps hundreds of thousands of citizens and “freedom fighters” in the Middle East, in “wars” (illegal invasions) we can not win. Here at home, all the Executive Branch has to do is call someone a “terrorist,” then hunt them down, capture them, and store them somewhere the sun doesn’t shine – without formal charges or any of the “due process” about which we like to brag. (See story here —http://www.disclose.tv/forum/confirmed-obama-authorizes-assassination-of-u-s-citizen-t19842.html)

It’s naïve to think our “security forces” wouldn’t use as much violence as necessary, once our president declares that protestors are “terrorists”. Absolute power absolutely corrupts those who think they have it.

Our leaders’ real priorities were decided in a dark hiding place we cannot enter.  Try to imagine what that world where the sun doesn’t shine might look and feel like.  Then take three minutes to review, or view for the first time, George Lucas’ classic scene in the Mos Eisley Cantina, and see how it compares with your own wildest imagination.  View it here:

americafascism Davidson Loehr is the author of America, Fascism and God.

Obama’s Transparency

Tuesday, March 29th, 2011

I'm looking through you, where did you go?
I thought I knew you, what did I know?
You don't look different, but you have changed;
I'm looking through you, you're not the same.
(The Beatles: McCartney and Lennon)

All in all, liberals were happier when he was opaque.  Since January 2009, we have been confused by the disconnect between Candidate Obama’s words, and President Obama’s actions.  The two Obamas often seemed as different as Dorian Gray and his portrait up in the attic.  The public Mr. Gray seemed smooth, even charming.  But he wasn’t.  Meanwhile, out of sight, that picture stored in his attic devolved into a grotesque and twisted picture of the real Dorian Gray.

The rhetoric of Candidate Obama and his speech writers was brilliant, crafted to win the Left and enough of the Center to put him in office.  We loved to think he represented hope and change we could believe in, where whistleblowers were embraced as democracy’s necessary critics.  We believed our nation could regain much of the respect it had lost over the past 30 years, and especially since G.W. Bush’s disastrous presidency. We could again become that “city on a hill” where the quality of our truth, compassion and justice could become a beacon to the rest of the world.  We would bring our soldiers home from the “dumb” war in Iraq – which Mr. Obama had voted against repeatedly as a Senator.  We would give our citizens single payer or at least public option health care. We would restore our failing schools to their earlier days of excellence.  We would respect international law and the consensus of good people everywhere.  And so on.

It seemed too good to be true, and it was.  Since taking office, Mr. Obama’s actions have – with a few significant exceptions like supporting gay marriage – showed him to be a great friend to rich corporations, a hand puppet of the military-industrial-congressional complex, and of Big Money in all its forms.  To oversee the greedy banking industry, he brought men from Wall Street who had played active parts in disabling our economy and sending an economic tsunami throughout the world.  It seemed like recruiting foxes to guard the henhouse.  Why would he do that?  He helped offload a trillion dollars lost by Wall Street’s casino capitalism – and he loaded it on the backs of taxpayers, letting the bankers return to their greedy high-stakes gambling and their self-flattering bonuses that showed the country who controlled whom.  Why?  Then he singled out Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of General Electric – America’s largest corporation — as his favorite, the CEO he appointed to head up his “Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.”

Mr. Obama didn’t mention that GE paid no income tax in 2010, and even claimed a $3.2 billion tax rebate from those of us who pay taxes.  GE’s giant department of tax lawyers has been called the world’s best tax law firm.  So Mr. Immelt is a symbol of … what? — corporate greed, combined with selfish indifference to the US, where it took $5 billion in profit last year – plus the $3.2 billion bonus we the taxpayers gave them?  Perhaps it’s unfair to pick on GE, which is just one of the 83 corporations in the top 100 that reportedly paid no tax last year.  We taxpayers pay their taxes, though of course we don’t have enough money to pay them – which leads, in a tortured kind of logic, to the government deciding to cut the social services and safety nets that keep millions more of us from sliding down into what is looking like our new permanent underclass – like India’s Untouchables.

For those of us who stayed in denial longest, it hurt like hell to see that President Obama was a Trojan Horse.  What a compelling Trojan Horse he made!  Liberals were dizzy at the sight of a brilliant black man in the White House, and his beautiful family as the new cast of Camelot.

Yet, Obama had caved in without even a fight on the single-payer or public option national health care plan.  The United States was, and still is, the only developed nation on earth that sees health care as a commodity available only to those who can afford our exorbitant health care prices – sometimes for second-rate health care.  Obama actually escalated some of G.W. Bush’s foolish wars of choice, and increased government secrecy.  Obama even put out a hit on an American citizen, and claimed the right to arrest, hold indefinitely, torture or kill anyone he chose, without charges, a trial or conviction.  It is so deeply embarrassing to have our country, at the direction of our President, hold whistleblower Bradley Manning in a style of solitary confinement that several who have seen or heard of it describe as torture.  To hear some of our elected and appointed officials speak of wanting to kill Manning now – without the unnecessary bother of a trial. These were the kind of stories a lot of us grew up hearing about the former Soviet Union, Chairman Mao’s China, Chile’s dictator Pinochet (put into office by our CIA), or the bloody Shah of Iran (ditto).  We were raised to be proud we lived in a country where this could never happen.  And so on.

Now Mr. Obama’s people are threatening to arrest, imprison and – it goes without saying – torture the Australian citizen Julian Assange, for doing what our Fourth Estate is supposed to be doing.  There is no mention of arresting the NY Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, Der Spiegel or the other leading world newspapers who, like Assange, published classified documents sent to them by others.  We have become an embarrassment to much of the civilized world.  Who would have guessed it?

For many around the world, the (current) Last Straw came last month, when Obama ordered his first use of a veto during more than two years of his presidency.  As Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab wrote on February 19:

Susan Rice, the US ambassador to the UN raised her hand vetoing a UN Security Council resolution condemning Jewish settlements. The resolution supported by 14 countries including US allies repeated the exact same language that the Obama administration has said to the Israelis, to the Palestinians and to the public. Calling Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories illegal is reflecting the reality of international law. The World Court at the Hague has said that Israel's activities in the occupied territories are illegal.

Stephen Zunes, professor of politics and chair of Middle Eastern studies at the University of San Francisco gathered sound bites from several commentators (which I have included here).

Zunes says Obama shares G.W. Bush’s contempt for international law, placing him to the right of even the conservative governments of Great Britain and France.  And “despite his distinguished legal background, Obama has demonstrated … he has even less respect for the law than Richard Nixon.”

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for Human Rights Watch said that Mr. Obama “wants to tell the Arab world in his speeches that he opposes settlements, but he won’t let the Security Council tell Israel to stop them in a legally binding way.”

Gideon Levy wrote in Haaritrz that Obama’s veto “was a veto against the chance and promise of change, a veto against hope.”  Irony just drips off that one, but no more than it drips off the spectacle of the U.S. making war against Israel’s enemies in the Middle East, bankrupting our economy – and cutting social safety nets for the regular citizens who pay taxes, rather than multi-billion dollar corporations that don’t.

Obama’s veto also puts him to the right of liberal and moderate Jews.  Israeli journalist Ami Kaufman wrote angrily in the Jerusalem Post that “The US has lost any ounce of credibility it had left with this latest move.” Others note that this veto shows that the US cannot be trusted to mediate any peace process in the Middle East.

Obama even offered the gift of $3 billion of “security incentives and fighter jets” to Israel if they would just put off building new (illegal) settlements for 90 days — money it’s probably safe to bet Israel will get anyway. Yes, AIPAC has enough connections and behind-the-scenes clout to make life miserable for Mr. Obama.  But allowing the selfish wishes of a special interest group to trump concern for the United States?  Doesn’t this land in the general ballpark of treason?

It at least lands in the lap of deception.  What’s on display before the rest of the world is not only Obama’s duplicity, but the duplicity of our nation, as he offers glib rationalizations for our invasions of countries with a lot of oil – countries that are also among Israel’s enemies.

Finally, President Obama’s talk and his walk can be brought together only by understanding that his talk is for sedating the Left and Center, while his walk serves the far right wing, both in Israel and in the U.S.

Paraphrasing the Roman Seneca of twenty centuries ago (who said it about religion): to the wise, political rhetoric is false; to the masses, it is true; and for the rulers, it is useful.

In a sad way, we’re glad to have at last the transparency, Mr. President.  But we’re looking through you – you’re not the same.

americafascism Davidson Loehr is the author of America, Fascism and God.

America's Wily Coyote Moment

Thursday, March 17th, 2011

The funniest thing about Wily Coyote is how far he has gone beyond the edge of the cliff before he gives that big-eyed “Uh-oh!” expression, realizing he’s got a long fall coming.  It isn’t funny to the coyote but it is to us.  It’s our schadenfreude: the joy we derive from the misfortune of people with whom we don’t identify.  Many world leaders are now facing Wily Coyote moments, with more to come.  As the citizen uprisings continue, we discover that we are siding with the citizens, not their leaders.  And as we’re seeing in Wisconsin, we’re not siding with our leaders either. In one of history’s ironies, Muslim Arabs have become our role models for courage and determination against governments that systematically keep their citizens poor, frightened, and easy to control.

Because of long habits of brutality by their leaders, all these societies had immense income gaps between the rich and the rest, as we also have.  Their rulers have all claimed some version of “emergency power,” enabling them to use whatever force is necessary to make their citizens compliant.  The “emergency powers” claimed by tyrants like Mubarak and Gaddafi have strong family resemblances to the U.S. “Patriot Act.”  The result of all this is machinery to keep citizens under control and ineffectual.  Noam Chomsky has offered this view of the operative principle of many governments, including ours:

“As long as the population is quiet, acquiescent—maybe fuming with rage, but doing nothing about it—everything’s fine, there’s nothing wrong, it’s all under control. That’s the operative principle.”(1)

He could be speaking about almost all countries on the planet.

If we really think our President and members of Congress are working for us, and that their polluted political channels are our only hope, then we are doomed to be settling for one compromise after another, in the perverse hope that those who rule us will instead want to serve us — especially after we have proven ourselves so easy to rule.

As the Libyan rebels are finding, it’s hard to win an armed rebellion because the government has many more weapons, and much better organization.  If the ruler is pathological enough – as Gaddafi has proven himself to be many times – armed rebellion will probably end in mass slaughter on a scale that will make the citizens unlikely to try it again for a very long time. But with the possible exception of Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, non-violent but non-compliant uprisings are showing the masses of citizens reclaiming and using their power.

A few weeks before Tunisia’s uprising began, citizens in England were already organizing their plan to dissolve England’s economic disaster by making the rich corporations and individuals pay their fair share of taxes. They called themselves UK Uncut, meaning an England that can resolve its financial disaster without cutting social services or the country’s infrastructure.  They decided to educate other citizens to the fact that if the biggest tax-dodgers in the country paid their fair share, the economy would be fine.  They reasoned that the only way to attack capitalist organizations would be to cut their money supply.  They did this by blocking entrances to stores owned by tax dodgers, and spreading the word through the social network.  Other citizens joined them, including many police, as their movement is still spreading throughout the United Kingdom.

The citizens of the Middle East and Britain have realized that, once your government has been bought or seduced by money and power – once it exists mostly to rule you rather than serving you – the official political channels will no longer work to change anything important.  They found that the citizens have immense power, if only they will claim it, and combine it with the courage to protest systems of grossly unequal income distribution that may be legal, but are not morally or ethically right.  The citizens (in every country where there are uprisings) believe this nullifies the law’s authority.

Bringing it home
Citizens can be robbed and pushed into poverty by the brute force of tyrants with armies.  Gaddafi has threatened to murder half a million of his own people  However, it’s surprising to learn that the masses can be pushed even further into poverty by democratically elected leaders in countries like England, Israel and the U.S.  Israel’s poverty rate in 2007 was about 24%, with 35.2 percent of all children in poverty – compared with 8 percent of children twenty years earlier. (1)

According to the CIA World Factbook (30 December 2010), Israel had a higher percentage of its people in poverty than Egypt (20%), the United Kingdom (14%), and the United States (12% — a figure many have challenged as too low).  But even the U.S. has a higher poverty rate than Libya (7.4%) and Tunisia (7.4%).  Even in democracies the government’s actions are not serving their people’s wishes.  They have been hijacked by leaders who take their orders from rich corporations, rather than their much poorer citizens. All these uprisings involve class wars between the rich and the rest.

Once citizens realize that power can be theirs through sheer numerical advantage if only they will organize, focus, and seize that power, Wily Coyote is ten feet past the edge of the cliff.  People in Britain and the Middle East saw this before we did in the U.S.  But citizens have seen it in Wisconsin, where over 100,000 gathered to protest the governor’s assault on worker unions, and they are now attempting the recall of sixteen Republican leaders.  If they succeed, it may well galvanize citizens all over the U.S. to “Get up, stand up”.

In the U.S., even the most committed Republicans and Democrats are realizing that we have been consistently and intentionally misled by our leaders.  All five presidents since 1980 – Ronald Reagen, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, GW Bush and Barack Obama – have used the rhetoric of their speech writers to keep their followers complacent, like the hypnotist’s trick of swinging a pocket watch back and forth to hypnotize audience members.  They have all talked the talk of serving our citizens in this great God-blessed America, but their actions have consistently helped break worker unions, and kept those with the most money from having to pay a fair share of taxes.  In their different styles and to different degrees, all of our last five presidents have been corporate lap-dogs.  In their January 21, 2011 Citizens United vs. Federals Election Commission, the Supreme Court empowered corporations to buy or rent as many lawmakers as they need to get laws that favor them at the expense of the vast majority of our citizens.  In return for the favors our politicians do for their corporate sponsors, permanent revolving doors have been installed between Congress and the corporations that sponsor it.  And how did Bill Clinton make a hundred million dollars between 2000 – 2008?

President Barack Obama, as well as a majority of our 535 elected lawmakers and a 5 to 4 majority of the Supreme Court, have been and will remain the hand puppets of our best connected corporations and special interests (like AIPAC, the NRA, health insurance companies, Big Pharma, and the ever-present military-industrial-congressional-media complex) and their courtiers on the Supreme Court.  It is the self-serving interests of the largest corporations that our politicians mean when they say “America’s interests” – not the interests of health care, education and jobs that are the interests of the vast majority of Americans.  It is time for us, then our leaders, to realize they have already gone beyond the edge of the cliff.


(1) Interview with Amy Goodman on “Democracy Now,” February 2, 2011.

(2) Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine, p. 439.

americafascism Davidson Loehr is the author of America, Fascism and God.

We don’t need no !@&%#$! budget cuts - We just need our richest tax dodgers to pay their fair share

Friday, February 25th, 2011

In this winter of worldwide discontent, a powerful moral and political spirit has arisen in the Middle East. There are already uprisings of ordinary people all over the world: nobodies dumping Somebodies off their thrones, as the world watches.  It’s happening so fast our heads are spinning.  But it’s clear that we will turn that moral spirit loose here at home: the next Egypt – or England — will be the United States.

It is maddening and insulting to hear our president and our lawmakers simply accept the idea that we must cut social services, education, Medicaid and Medicare, Social Security and other parts of our social safety nets – while the General Accounting Office has estimated that 83 of our top 100 corporations pay no taxes.  There’s no good reason we should accept that, because it isn’t fair.  It goes against the wishes of a large majority of our citizens.  Many of our laws were bought by corporations whose lobbyists seduced many of our elected officials into selling out their country for private gain.  If our government can’t or won’t see how unfair and morally reprehensible it is to use taxpayer money to bail out those who don’t even pay taxes, then it is up to us.  And the ongoing protests in Arab countries show that we can do it.

There Is No Terrorism and We Are Not at War

As a Google search for “Americans killed by terrorists” shows, terrorism is a red herring:  a bogus threat.  We’re much more likely to be killed by lightning, peanuts, handguns and a dozen more everyday dangers than by terrorists.  We’re being misled by propaganda used to take trillions of dollars of our tax money to deter a terrorist threat that isn’t there.  “Terrorism” is used to frighten us, and as a blank check to cover any military expenditures or assaults on our civil liberties that our leaders choose.

Our tax dollars go to swell the coffers of the military-industrial complex, which alienates all Arab countries and much of the rest of the world.  This is losing us both respect and allies.  It also gives our elected leaders this red herring to keep us stirred up by the untrue claim that terrorists are everywhere and the sky is falling.  They aren’t and it isn’t.

There is no terrorism and we are not at war.  We have illegally invaded Afghanistan and Iraq, stolen money and oil, and lost the lives of thousands of our soldiers in killing perhaps a million of their soldiers and civilians.  Some of their citizens have even been willing to give their lives to strike out at us.  It’s what we hope some of our own citizens would do if we were invaded by a foreign army intending to loot us, sell off our national resources, and build the largest embassy in the world (as we have done in Iraq), signaling that they intend to stay for a very long time.  But there is no terrorism, and we are not at war.

In spite of the majority of our elected officials and public servants who are a blessing to us, our entire political system has been bought. Just seeing the great distance between our politicians’ rhetoric and their actions tells us that we can not go through established political channels, which are being used against us. Luckily, we have both moral and political options.

The recent dramatic wave of uprisings began in Tunisia, and what happened there in four weeks was miraculous.  The heroes were no-name citizens: poor, hungry, systematically abused, robbed and shoved ever deeper into abject poverty and starvation, while their rulers lived in opulence.  In just one month, Tunisia’s non-violent Jasmine Revolution achieved something no one expected: the removal of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali: a rich, powerful and brutal dictator who had mis-ruled their country since 1987.

Citizens are saying they’re mad as hell and they’re not going to take it any more.  And at the speed of Twitter, other ordinary people awakened all over the Middle East.  Then Egypt, the biggest country in the Arab and Muslim world came alive, and in just seventeen days, President Mubarak left the country, as Tunisia’s President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali had.

In the United States, we have a lot in common with these uprisings, as well as those in Libya, Jordan Syria, and about one new country a week:

1.         Tunisia:  The demonstrations were precipitated by high unemployment, rising food prices, corruption, no freedom of speech and poor living conditions.

2.         Egypt:  Grievances of Egyptian protesters focused on legal and political issues including police brutality, state of emergency laws, lack of free elections and freedom of speech, and widespread corruption, high unemployment, food price inflation, and low minimum wages.  The primary demands from protest organizers are the end of the Hosni Mubarak regime, the end of Emergency Law (martial law), freedom, justice, and a fair and responsive non-military government. Labor unions apparently played an important part in the protests.

3.         Libya:  A statement released by the National Front for Salvation of Libya described the frustration of the protesters at the lack of basic services, thousands of people without homes and the corrupt local authorities are corrupt, and only delivers services with bribes.

4.         JORDAN: Jordan's economy has been hard-hit by the global economic downturn and rising commodity prices, and youth unemployment is high, as it has also been in Egypt.

5.         SYRIA:  As protests heated up around the region, the Syrian government pulled back from a plan to withdraw some subsidies that keep the cost of living down in the country.

The protestors cannot trust the established political channels and processes.  They say their country’s laws are unjust and morally bankrupt.  That’s what makes these revolutions rather than simply revolts.  They are angry because those who have been looting them for years had the laws changed while cutting the services that provide a social safety net for the vast majority of their citizens, thereby pushing them down into poverty with no way to get out, while the wealthy act like they’re entitled to the fruits of their crimes.

In every country, the people were angry that the governments charged with serving them had systematically destroyed the social safety nets every society must have.  These were citizens with the courage to say that unfair laws must be changed, along with the dictators who had sold out their people for personal wealth and power. In many painful ways, their situation is mirrored in our own plutocracy.

In short, people in the Middle East are rising to say they’re mad as hell and won’t take it any more.  In all these countries, the huge disparity between the rich and the rest has been used to remove civil rights and social securities from their “huddled masses, yearning to breathe free.”  Our own U.S. masses – that’s most of us — have the same needs, and for the same reasons.

The Economic Game Plan

The similarities between the various countries’ protests are not coincidental.  Variations on the same economic themes lie beneath the violence and poverty of the majorities in each country. This is the economic game plan explained so well by Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine.  Its guiding economic theorist was Milton Friedman, who provided rationalization for the massive thefts we have brought to countries all over the world.  As Friedman explained:

“Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change.  When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.  That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes politically inevitable.”

Once a crisis has struck, Friedman was convinced that it was crucial to act swiftly, to impose rapid and irreversible change before the crisis-racked society slipped back into the “tyranny of the status quo.”

While Friedman’s economic model is capable of being partially imposed under democracy, violent authoritarian conditions are required for the implementation of its true vision.  Some sort of major collective trauma has always been required, one that either temporarily or permanently suspended democratic practices.  The ultimate goal is to sell off the government to the rich, who will run it for profit to serve those who can pay, and to disempower the rest, who form the vast majority, says Klein.  From Chile to Russia to Iraq, torture has been a silent partner in the global free-market crusade.  (The Shock Doctrine, p. 15)

In December 1994 at the height of Russia’s economic meltdown, Boris Yeltsin did what so many desperate leaders have done to hold on to power: he started a war with Chechnya.  Yeltsin’s privatization minister, Anatoly Chubais became one of the most outspoken proponents of the “Pinochet option” of brutal violence, torture and murder.  “In order to have a democracy in society there must be a dictatorship in power,” he said, channeling George Orwell.  The violence was not an unfortunate but accidental accompaniment of the wholesale looting.  The process was better seen as an extraordinarily violent armed robbery.

As a means of extracting information during interrogations, torture is notoriously unreliable, but as a means of terrorizing and controlling populations, nothing is quite as effective.

The reason the majority of Americans can identify with the issues and conditions driving citizens of so many other countries to protest is because all have had variations on the same themes of a fundamentalist and cannibalistic form of capitalism.  But while Friedman was the guru behind the economic robberies of the past forty years, the plan is much older.  In his 2007 book Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, Stephen Kinzer shows another three-step we’ve used:

1.         Well-connected corporations tell their legislators that a certain country’s policies are forbidding or restricting their ability to exploit the country’s natural resources (fruit, sugar, oil, etc.).
2.         Their legislators translate this into a threat that is inimical to “America’s interests.”
3.         The public is ramped up for the planned invasion by our military by defining it as a war of good against evil.

Sound familiar?  Feel duped?

Can It Happen Here?

What could we possibly do against a government as large as ours, that is, in spite of the vast majority of honest and trustworthy elected officials, shot through at every level with corruption?  Is there any chance that US citizens might find the sustained courage to revolt?  I think so.  In Illinois, Gov. Patrick J. Quinn, a Democrat, pledged after renewing his oath of office simply to “stabilize our budget.” Three days later, he did the reverse of what so many governors are urging, and signed a 66 percent increase in the state’s income tax rate. In Minnesota, Gov. Mark Dayton, another Democrat, has advocated for a tax increase on the wealthy, and spoke from a depth of common sense that has become rare among our leaders:

“To those who sincerely believe the state budget can be balanced with no tax increase — including no forced property tax increase — I say, if you can do so without destroying our schools, hospitals and public safety, please send me your bill, so I can sign it immediately.”

Otherwise, Mr. Dayton said, he hoped his colleagues would work with him on “this challenging, complicated and essential” budget process. (Monica Davey, “Budget worries push governors to same mind-set,” NY Times, January 17, 2011)

Having more money doesn’t mean you owe less.  It should be a point of shame for us to realize that the cab driver, security guard, school teacher, policeman and grocery clerk pay more tax – both in percentage of income and in actual dollars – than some of our multi-billion-dollar corporations.  The laws that allow such tax dodging are moral insults that serve only those who can afford to buy the worst lawmakers, at the expense of everyone else.  Greedy and immoral laws can’t be made respectable by a vote.  They offend the very soul of all but our sociopaths.  This is another thing we have in common with the Middle East protestors: we need to protest and demand change in unfair and immoral laws made to serve the rich at the expense of the rest.

The current state of affairs should embarrass corporations and those who’ve sold America and its people off to them (including the once-but-no-longer-Supreme Court).  It should embolden us all to seek out the spirit of life, of justice and of freedom that has lifted our brothers and sisters in the Arab world.  Like them, we deserve no less.

UK Uncut

As these protests begin to spread through our states, it’s interesting and timely that there is a new group in England that has refined the Arab uprisings and focused them on the tax dodgers in ways we can use.  It feels like synchronicity, the tipping point, or the “hundredth monkey,” for those who remember the 1970s.  The group is UK Uncut — as in, “We don’t need no !@&%#$! budget cuts — we just need our richest tax dodgers to pay their fair share.”  It is the latest evolution of the protests taking place all over the world at Twitter speed.

England’s UK Uncut movement has spread via many thousands of Twitters.  In small and large cities through England, some citizens were suddenly angry enough at the structural injustice that they organized local movements to target the tax dodgers by blocking entrances to their stores, asking if they knew that the corporation that owned this chain of stores paid less in taxes than they did.  They also named some of the proposed budget cuts that could remain uncut if this tax dodger just paid its fair share.

Their protests have drawn many citizens – including police – into their cause.  In one case the police got there first, standing to block the entrances: doing the protestors’ work for them.  UK Uncut has now planned a country-wide series of protests on February 26.  So far, none of them has been murdered by their government, though that scale of violence and murder would now just strengthen their resolve and their solidarity with protestors all over the globe, because the world is watching.

The United States has the same three crucial factors that created UK Uncut:

1.         At the state level, Americans are facing severe budget cuts, causing the recession to worsen.

2.         Most of these cuts could be prevented simply by requiring the richest individuals and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) calculated in 2008 that eighty-three of the 100 biggest US corporations hide fortunes in tax havens. Even without these shelters, the rich have been virtually exempted from taxes across America. Billionaire Warren Buffet recently conducted a straw poll in his office and found he paid a lower proportion of his income in taxes than anybody else there—and considerably less than his secretary. Indeed, tax expert Nicholas Shaxson says that in many ways “America itself is a tax haven for many rich people.” WikiLeaks is poised to release the details of a whole raft of corporations and banks using tax havens in the Cayman Islands, laying out the dodging for all to see.  It could be a game-changer.

3.         Public opinion is firmly behind going after the rich and corporations.

So Americans are facing the same cuts as the Brits. They are being ripped off by corporations and rich people just like the Brits. They are as angry as the Brits. And there is now a group called US Uncut, bringing this energy and spirit home to the United States, where the recent collapse of the world’s economies began.

US Uncut

What should US Uncut target? “It’s important to go after brand names that exist in every city in America,” says Tom Purley, a UK Uncut participant. “The key to our success was that it was so easily replicated. People could do it anywhere. It took something that seems like a remote issue and connected it to a place they see every day.” Most of the companies that engage in the worst tax avoidance in the United States are Big Pharma and financial companies, which don’t have stores. But the GAO also named a number of major brands that are exploiting tax havens. They include Apple, Bank of America, Best Buy, ExxonMobil, FedEx (whose president, Frederick Smith, was named by Obama as the businessman he most admires), Kraft Foods, McDonald’s, Safeway and Target. That’s a wealth of potential targets.

American citizens should ask themselves: I work hard and pay my taxes, so why don’t the richest people and the corporations? Why should I pick up the entire tab for keeping the nation running? Why should the people who can afford the most pay the least?

Yes, it will be a hard fight, because those like the infamous Koch brothers will buy or rent all the judges, lawmakers and unprincipled PR firms they can to mislead the public.  There will be police state tactics like those of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who has threatened to call out the National Guard.  Perhaps other governors – or our President – will use bloody force to crush our protests.  But the world will be watching.  We have seen the world react with scorn, distancing themselves from Middle East leaders who kill their own citizens.  If our government murders protestors, or even makes them disappear, we may lose the respect – and allies — we have left, hastening the decline of America’s Empire.

Until now, polls have been one of the few places where anger at government policies that favor the rich while cutting service to the middle-class has been visible. But the crowds gathering in more and more states tell us that may be about to change.

As a statement on the US Uncut website puts it:

“We demand that before the hard-working, tax-paying families of this country are once again forced to sacrifice, the corporations who have so richly profited from our labor, our patronage, and our bailouts be compelled to pay their taxes and contribute their fair share to the continued prosperity of our nation. We will organize, we will mobilize, and we will NOT be quiet!”

We have more than just hope.  We have the moral imperative our Arab brothers and sisters have courageously shown – and what historical irony it is to find that Arabs have become our role models of protest and courage, on a scale seldom if ever seen in our lifetimes.  We have some courageous and principled state governors and other who have reminded us that education, health care and other social support systems are not commodities, but rights.  Those rights are included in the social contract between citizens and leaders whose first priority – whether they like it or not – is to serve us, not rule us….

We have citizen uprisings in several states now, which will be strengthened by citizens in other states….

Our brothers and sisters in Arab countries, in England, and here in the U.S. are saying what their government should have been saying: that all must be required to pay their fair share, and that those who gain the most must pay the most – not the least – to support the society where they do business.  Wikileaks will soon release thousands of documents showing the corruption and tax dodging of our largest banks and corporations.  Since they are followed by the whole planet, they may be game-changers.

In our country, the subtheme of every non-violent protest is saying things we have forgotten: that our own huddled masses yearning to breathe free can do it in this nation which was once — and can again become — a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.

Show up on February 26th

US Uncut is holding their first national protest on February 26th, to coincide with UK Uncut’s. Learn more on the US Uncut website:  http://www.usuncut.org/

The world is watching.

Read the original article on INewp.

americafascism Davidson Loehr is the author of America, Fascism and God.