Posts Tagged ‘US Army’

Stephen Hawking and Other Celebs Urge Public to Vote Labour

June 6, 2017

Mike over at Vox Political has put up a piece reporting that Ricky Gervaise, Dr Stephen Hawking and Mark Ruffalo, the actor, who played Dr. Bruce Banner, the alter ego of the Incredible Hulk, have all urged the public to vote Labour on Thursday.

Gervaise issued a Tweet stating he wasn’t telling people which way to vote, but it was a fact that the only way to keep the Tories out was to vote for Jeremy Corbyn.

Mark Ruffalo stated that he humbly endorsed Jeremy Corbyn, as he offers people an alternative to the corporate status quo, which never ends well for people. This prompted John Prescott to Tweet ‘Hulk smash Tories’.

Indeed he would. Banner and the Hulk in the original Marvel comics were profoundly countercultural figures. The Hulk was anger incarnate, born in the radiation blast of an American nuclear test when Banner tried to save teenager Rick. And Rick was very much a ‘rebel without a cause’, a youth, who’d driven into the test zone, heedless of his own safety, because he didn’t feel society had anything for him.

While Banner was very much a square, whose girlfriend was the daughter of the commanding officer in charge of the test, the tenor of the strip was very much anti-militarist. The commanding officer hated the Hulk, and had resolved to destroy him. The Hulk, however, really only wanted to be left alone, and so one constant theme was the running battle between the Hulk and the US army. Ang Lee’s film version of the strip, which unfortunately flopped, got this part of the Hulk’s characterisation absolutely right. And in the 1970s, the anti-militarist message of the strip became stronger. In one story, for example, Banner discovered and did his best to oppose dehumanising military experiments to link soldier’s brains to battle robots, experiments that had resulted in the troopers themselves feeling robotic and mechanical.

The influence of the Vietnam War in dehumanising a generation of American young men, to turn them into ruthless monsters responsible for horrific atrocities, is shown very clearly here.

And one real-life physicist, who has also come out for the Labour party is Cosmologist Dr. Stephen Hawking. Hawking told the Independent and the Mirror that he was voting Labour, because another five years of the Tories would be a disaster for the NHS, the police and other public services.

His endorsement has been welcomed by people like Dr. Alex Gates. Hawking is best known for his book, A Brief History of Time, though his background is in Black Holes. Dr Hawking even has a variety of radiation named after him. Black Holes, or rather the Event Horizons around them, are gradually evaporating, and the radiation they give off is called ‘Hawking Radiation’.

And so Dr. Gates quipped that Hawking had spotted the Black Hole in the Tories’ NHS budget.

One space scientist, who I feel would definitely have supported Jeremy Corbyn over here and Bernie Sanders in his own country, is Dr. Carl Sagan. Older readers of this blog may remember Sagan from his TV blockbuster history of science, Cosmos, and his SF novel, Contact, which was turned into a film with Jodie Foster as the astronomer heroine, who travels through a wormhole to make contact with an alien civilisation.

I very definitely don’t share Sagan’s views on religion. He was a religious sceptic and a founding member of CSICOP. But he was also a man of the Left, who hated imperialism and militarism, and supported the burgeoning Green movement. In the 1980s he warned that a nuclear war would result in a devastating global ‘nuclear winter’ of the type created by the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs 65 million years ago.

It’s since been shown that this wouldn’t actually occur. But Sagan was right to press for nuclear disarmament, and absolutely right to oppose the new Cold War Reagan and Maggie Thatcher were trying to whip up against the Russians.

He was also critical of the design of the space shuttle. This was supposed to be the vehicle that would open space up to just about everyone, provided you were fit enough to stand the three Gs of acceleration into orbit. The Challenger disaster put an end to that.

Sagan informed the public that the original design for the Shuttle had been for a smaller vehicle, which would have been purely civilian and much safer and more effective. However, the American military had stopped this, because they wanted a larger vehicle to carry their spy satellites. The result was the over-engineered machine, which exploded at least twice, and whose launches had to be cancelled because of engineering problems.

Sagan died of prostate cancer in the 1990s. He was a brilliant scientist and visionary, who speculated about life on Mars and Venus, and, like Hawking, was a staunch advocate of the colonisation of space. And he was inspiration to a generation of young people to have an interest in space and science. One of the most obvious examples of this is Dr Brian Cox, who freely acknowledges Sagan’s influence.

One feels that Sagan would have firmly resisted everything Bush, Blair, and now Trump, Cameron and May have done to destroy the environment and spread carnage around the world through their wars in the Middle East, quite apart from the Trump’s administration hatred of mainstream science.

You don’t have to use Sagan’s ‘spaceship of the imagination’ to travel light years to see the immense harm Theresa May and her party have inflicted on the NHS, the public services and our national security.

And you don’t have to be a great scientist to realise that the Tories’ attacks on education – their spending cuts, privatisation of schools, and burdening students with tens of thousands in debts – will stop the country’s young people fulfilling their academic potential, regardless of the bilge they may spout about encouraging the STEM subjects.

And I think Hawking has spoken out about the dangers of May’s cuts to science funding and research.

The only party that is ready to undo all of this is Labour.

So please, vote for Corbyn on June 8th.

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Trump Passes Law Allowing Gene Testing by Bosses

March 14, 2017

This is another, very chilling step towards genuine Fascism by Trump, who’s surrounded himself with Fascists and White Supremacists. In this piece from the David Pakman Show, the host and his producer, Louis, reveal how Trump introduced legislation that would permit employers to demand their employees take genetic tests and hand over information about the DNA. This was slipped past Congress when the public had their attention on the colossal mess that is Trumpcare. This overturns previous legislation which prevented employers from demanding such information, not least under US privacy laws. The legislation permits US employers to do this if they are running ‘wellness’ programmes. Pakman states that this is all about employers having the ability to charge people more for their healthcare, if they find out they have certain genetic conditions.

This is exactly what the authors Ruth Hubbard and Elijah Wald wished to expose and counter in their book, Exploding the Gene Myth (Boston: Beacon Press 1997).

The book is subtitled ‘How Genetic Information Is Produced and Manipulated by Scientists, Physicians, Employers, Insurance Companies, Educators and Law Enforcers’. It’s about the way the above have tried to link illness and criminality to heredity since the 19th century, and how this has led to eugenics legislation in which the ‘genetically unfit’ were sterilised and institutionalised in order to prevent them breeding. Or else it was used as pretext to prevent the passage of welfare legislation. The argument here was that it would be a waste of resources supporting those, who were unable to work as their illness was down to their own faulty biological heredity, not the terrible working conditions and industrial hazards of the time.

Eugenics was a favourite topic amongst the European and American chattering classes from the late 19th century until it was discredited by the horrors of the Nazi regime during World War II. But Hubbard and Wald warned that it was coming back with the drive to find a genetic basis for illnesses like schizophrenia and other traits. The book has the following chapters

1. Of Genes and People
The Role of Genetics in Our Lives
Genes for Deafness, Genes for Being Raped
A Word about Scientists
Heredity and Environment
What Are Genes?

2. Genetic Labelling and Old Eugenics
The Birth of Eugenics
Genetic Labelling
Involuntary Sterilisation
Eugenic Immigration Policies.

3. The New Eugenics: Testing, Screening and Choice
Overt and Subtle Eugenics
Parenting, Disabilities and Selective Abortion
Genetic Screening
Fallacies of Genetic Prediction.

4. A Brief Look at Genetics
Heredity and Genes
The Beginning: Gregor Mendel, “Traits” and “Factors”
From Mendel to the Double Helix
Genes and Proteins
How Chromosomes and Genes Are Duplicated
X and Y: The Sex Chromosome
From DNA to RNA to Proteins
How Genes Function
Sequencing the Human Genome
RFLPs: Linking DNA with Traits

5. Genes in Context
Definitions of Health and Disease
Individualisation of Health and Illness
Genes as Blueprints
Geneticisation
Diagnostic Labeling

6. “Inherited Tendencies”: Chronic Conditions
Some Underlying Assumptions
Conditions that Run in Families
Diabetes
High Blood Pressure, Heart Disease, and Strokes
Cancer
Oncogenes and Anti-Oncogenes
Cancer Prevention and Cancer Screening
Breast Cancer
Cancer Prevention versus Cancer Therapy

7. “Inherited Tendencies”: Behaviours
Which Behaviours?
Homosexuality
Alcoholism
Problems of Linking Genes to Behaviour
Pitfalls of Behavioural Research: The XYY Fallacy

8. Manipulating Our Genes
Conventional Treatments for Inherited Conditions
Modifying DNA: Somatic Cell Manipulations
“Germ-Line Gene Therapy”: Changing Future Generations

9. Genes for Sale
Funds for Research, Profits for Biotechnology
Commercialisation and Conflicts of Interest
Owning the Genome
What to Do?

10. Genetic Discrimination:
Education, Employment and Insurance

Genetic Testing and the Schools
Genetic Discrimination in the Workplace
Measures in Counter Employment-Related Discrimination
Genetic Discrimination in Insurance

11. DNA-Based Identification Systems, Privacy, and Civil Liberties
DNA and the Criminal Justice System
Scientific Problems with DNA Profiles
Genetic Privacy and Civil Liberties
Employment- and Health-Related Issues
Controlling Genetic Information.

There is also a preface, in which they give their reasons and aims for writing the book, a conclusion and afterword, as well as an appendix on mitochondrial DNA, notes, glossary and a bibliography and list of other resources.

There were a series of scandals regarding the enforced genetic testing of employees in the ’80s and ’90s, one of which was compulsory genetic testing of a set of recruits in the US army. They also make it very clear that the insurance companies wanted to introduce it as a way of charging those with ‘faulty’ genes higher premiums.

And from that, it’s a very short step to eugenics and then the mass slaughter of the congenitally disabled under the Third Reich’s Aktion T4.

The forcible genetic testing of US recruits is mentioned in one of the books that came out on the X-Files, as an example of how the paranoid fantasies of the show nevertheless had a factual basis in this instance. To be fair to the Christian Right in the America, they are very hostile to sterilisation and eugenics. However, it’ll be interesting to see if they oppose this noxious piece of legislation. In much of the rhetoric of the religious right, such legislation is linked to oppressive, totalitarian states, like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union. It’ll be interesting to see if they oppose it when it’s introduced by an ostensibly democratic government (yeah, I know, it ain’t really), dominated by big business and which is bitterly hostile to any kind of Socialism.

I don’t think you’ll see a word against it. As Pakman explains, when it came to voting, all the Republicans voted for it, all the Democrats against. And I doubt the right-wing Conspiracy fringe will oppose it either. Alex Jones on Infowars has been pumping out pro-Trump propaganda since the Orange Nazi’s election campaign. He wants Americans to believe that Trump is somehow ‘anti-globalist’, despite the fact that he’s stuffed his cabinet full of globalists and monopoly capitalists.

This is truly terrifying, as it does bring us once step closer to the genetic dystopia of the film Gattaca.

And it’s yet more proof of the Nazism at the core of Trump’s administration.

Canadian Journalist Exposes BBC Lies over Syria

December 18, 2016

It’s not just the BBC of course. It’s the whole corporate media. But the journalist explicitly mentions the Beeb and the New York Times as lying about the situation in the country.

In this video from The Jimmy Dore Show, the comedian and occasional guest on The Young Turks talks about the revelations about the war in Syria from an independent Canadian journalist, Eve Bartlett. Bartlett was speaking at the United Nations, and described how the situation in Syria is precisely the opposite of what we’re being told by the corporate media here in the West. She’s been to Syria, and particularly Aleppo several times. She states that the people of Syria are 100 per cent behind Assad, and want to be rid of the terrorist groups occupying their country. These are the same ‘moderate’ terrorist groups that the West is funding to overthrow Assad, some of which have connections to extremists like ISIS. Dore states that this is nothing to do with democracy. It is simply about overthrowing Assad to force a pipeline through his nation.

Bartlett states that she was personally at the Costello Road humanitarian centre when the Syrians and Russians opened up a humanitarian corridor to allow civilians to leave the areas that they’re bombing. They’ve done this eight times before in different parts of the country. Contrary to western propaganda, the Syrians and Russians actually care about not killing civilians. However, the terrorist factions opposing Assad do not want them to leave. They are keeping them hostage. When civilians have tried to leave, several times they’ve been attacked by those same terrorists. There have also been times, when the Syrian army has stepped in to protect them, firing back at their kidnappers. She talks about one old man, who expressed his gratitude to the Syrian army for saving them from the terrorists, who were holding him and others hostage.

She states that the western media concentrates on the damage to buildings in the city. This is not what concerns the Russians and Syrians. They’re actually worried about the people in the city. The terrorists occupy bunkers deep underground – about three stories – and emerge to fire on Russian and Syrian planes before retreating back underground.

She also describes the truth behind the Syrian and Russian bombing of a school. It had been taken over by the terrorists, who were using it to manufacture bombs. She states that she was saw the bomb-making equipment. She also states that several of the terrorist factions, that are supposed not to exist, are still very much around, such as the Free Syrian Army amongst a number of others, evidence for which was shown to her.

Dore and his off-camera team make the point that the western news media is deeply compromised. Our governments do not want the Russian and Syrian side to be heard. He talks about the closure of the Syrian embassy by the Canadian government. He also describes how, when CNN sends journalists to cover these war zones, they’re embedded within army units. This was done when the veteran American newsman, Ted Koppel, went to Iraq. The result was, in Dore’s words, ‘a love letter’ to the US army. This is done deliberately so that the journalist only sees the country from the army’s point of view. Dore ends by repeating his point that the media is deeply corrupt, and that this war is all about big oil. As for MSNBC, the so-called ‘liberal’ US network, all it’s executives are millionaires, making more money in a day than most Americans make in a year. It’s a club to which we’re not invited. And so they’re lying to us, with news slanted to suit their corporate agenda. This is all about western corporate profit and imperialism.

Counterpunch ran an article years ago on the way the US army uses embedded journalists to present their side of international conflicts, specifically of the Iraq War. The article is in the Counterpunch book End Times: The Death of the Fourth Estate, which is about media bias. This, and other tactics, were formulated following the lessons of the Vietnam War. The US military and political establishment realised that the Vietnamese had very astutely used the American media’s coverage of the war to undermine public support. This was particularly true of the Tet offensive. Although this was beaten off within hours, coverage by the US media showed that the American army had been unprepared for the attack, which took place during the Vietnamese New Year. This persuaded many Americans that their armed forces were incompetent and could not fight their opponents effectively. Americans’ perception of the competence and moral integrity of their own side was also disastrously affected by the footage of continuing dead and maimed soldiers returning home, and war crimes against the Vietnamese people themselves. And so the US political and military authorities devised policies to structure media coverage so that it showed only what they wanted to be shown. Coverage of the repatriation of the dead and mutilated was to be minimised. Journalists were deliberately embedded in army units, so that they became dependent on their comrades in the army, and so presented sympathetic views of their performance. Hence Ted Koppel’s ‘love letter’.

Bartlett states that what she says about the terrorists holding civilians hostage, and that they have been liberated by the Syrian army instead of massacred and fired upon, has been documented, and that footage exists elsewhere, outside of the Beeb and New York Times. These news organisations, which pride themselves as institutions ‘of record’ are blatantly lying to us. In the case of the Beeb, you may remember the adverts for itself it ran a few years ago, in which various foreign correspondents were heard talking about how people in despotic foreign regimes around the world preferred to listen to the Beeb, as unlike their own state broadcasters, it was telling the truth. This is now a lie. The BBC is pushing corporate, state propaganda as the willing accomplice of western imperialism. But I’ve no doubt that, come the summer and the festival season, BBC spokesmen, broadcasters and journalists will be speaking at literary festivals up and down the country, along with other intellectual events, making speeches about the Corporation is internationally respected and an important British institution. I agree that it is an important institution. And I don’t want it sold off. But I don’t want it to be a state, corporate propaganda mouthpiece.

And so I don’t respect it, its news service nor its executives. They are lying to promote a war, which is destroying a country simply for the enrichment of western big business and Gulf oil despotisms, like the Saudis and Qatar. They are lying when they tell us that murderous jihadis are moderates and freedom fighters.

The Beeb cannot be trusted.

Take your news from other, better, alternative sources.

Dr Cornel West on Standing with the Native Americans, Teaching Public Philosophy and Castro

December 2, 2016

This is a clip from Democracy Now, in which the anchor, Amy Goodson, talks to the very distinguished radical Black professor, Dr. Cornel West. Dr. West is a radical Christian theologian and philosopher, standing up for the poor and minorities. In his personal appearance and speaking style, he reminds me of the great, progressive evangelical preachers of the 19th century, who campaigned against slavery and the exploitation of the poor in both America and Britain. His clothing style strikes me as rather 19th century, and when he talks, he describes people as ‘brother’ and ‘sister’. He’s campaigned for Bernie Sanders, and also for Dr. Jill Stein of the Green party.

In this segment, he talks about going to Standing Rock to show his solidarity with the water protectors and the Native peoples. He states that this is the greatest coming-together of the 200 First American nations since the 19th century. He doesn’t intend to anything, except follow orders and support them. Amy Goodson asks him what he thinks about Barack Obama, as Obama visited Standing Rock in 2014. This was unusual for a president, and he has talked about supporting Native Americans. He sent in the US corps of engineers, and has tried to broker arrangements between the three parties involved. Dr West agrees, but says that Obama has managed to impress people by talking ‘pretty words’ while actually doing very little about the situation.

Dr. West also talks about how he is about to take up a new post at Harvard, teaching engagement in public philosophy. He looks forward to this appointment teaching young minds about taking up the great issues that confront America and the world. He also says that it’s going to be post where he shares and learns from others from different political perspectives, such as Conservatives and Centrists.

Finally, Goodson asks him about his views on Fidel Castro. West makes it clear that he admires the Cuban dictator, and the support he gave to the struggles of Africans and the Cuban people against imperialism. He also condemns Castro as a dictator. He criticises him for the way he hung to power and oppressed his people. He himself has gone to Cuba, and was taken to the palace to be upbraided by the Cuban authorities. He was a radical, democratic Socialist, who believed in the circulation of elites. That means not letting anyone person stay in power for too long, and throwing them out after a little while to get a fresh leader in. He made that point about Castro, and so was accused of being counterrevolutionary. But he also makes the point that the Cubans were oppressed under Battista. He therefore salutes Castro for his anti-imperialism, and the Cuban medical and educational systems. He says that Castro was a great revolutionary, ‘and I’m a revolutionary Christian. I love it.’

Many Black Americans have expressed and given their support to the Native Americans at Standing Rock, and identify with their struggle. And I don’t think it takes a genius to see why. It seems to be that both peoples have a shared history as the dispossessed, exploited victims of White supremacism, a supremacism that is coming back under Trump, and which many Whites are also very firmly against. It’s excellent that Dr West is giving the Native peoples his support, and it’d be interesting to hear his experiences of standing with the Water Protectors.

Oil Police Building Razor Wire Around Native Burial Ground for DAPL Pipeline

November 26, 2016

The dispossession for the indigenous people in North Dakota, and the brutalisation of the water protectors and protesters from Americans of all ethnic groups for the profit of big oil continues. In this short video from The Young Turks, their reporter Jordan Cheriton shows how militarised police are building a razor wire fence around a Native burial ground, so that the local indigenous people cannot visit or pray at the graves of their ancestors. There was an attempt by the NODAPL protestors to reach the island earlier in canoes, but they were beaten off by the police. The abandoned canoes were left on the island’s shore, where they are shown being hauled away and broken up by the rozzers.

Cheriton intervenes one of the water protectors, Mr Akicita Tokahe, who is a former US army veteran. Mr Tokahe was one of the US squaddies sent to Panama. He describes how the saw the local people there regard him and his army buddies with a mixture of fear and joy in their eyes. Now, he says, he’s experiencing what it’s like to be on the other side of an armed force.

The video ends with a young woman’s voice chanting a song about not giving up the protest against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

This is just one disgraceful episode in a long line of instances of police brutality, official injustice, greed and intimidation. It shows the overwhelming power of the oil industry in America, the way they’ve been able to ride roughshod over laws and treaties protecting indigenous land, and the absolute contempt they have for the Native people of America.

The pipeline was due to go through, or past, the town of Bismarck. However, as this would have posed a threat to the water quality of White, suburban community, the people complained and the decision was made to send it straight through the land of the Sioux people. And this is very much treaty land. Cheriton, or one of the others from The Turks, talked to a Black protestor, who had worked as one of the environmental teams researching and presenting evidence on whether oil pipelines could be legally constructed in particular areas. America has legislation, which should prevent oil, or other potentially dangerous or polluting engineering projects, being situated in poor, Black or otherwise disadvantages neighbourhoods. The oil company deliberately falsified evidence to claim wrongly that the land through which the pipeline was going to be laid was not Native American. They did so by counting only the indigenous Americans resident on Federal land, ignoring the greater amount of reservation land which the pipeline will run through. And as Cheriton points out here, the oil company shouldn’t be on that small island either. It belongs to the American military, and by law the only people allowed on that land should be the US armed forces.

So far, we’ve seen instances where the cops have done their best to prevent peaceful protests and prayers at the state capital. They’ve used mace against the protestors, physically attacked them, including with dogs. Indigenous protectors, including women, have been hauled off to be kept in dog kennels. They have been shot with rubber bullets, and the other day a White young woman, Sophia Wilansky, had her lower arm blow off when one of these goons shot her directly with a stun grenade. This is illegal, but they did it anyway and are now lying about it. The protestors have made it very clear that they’re putting this in the perspective of the long-term dispossession of the Native people of America by Whites. I don’t think you can fairly argue against this. A desire for the wealth of natural resources and agricultural land was behind the continuing seizure of Indian land and relocation of the Amerindians themselves during the 19th century. Despite the fact that this land is protected by the Fort Laramie treaty of 1863, if I’m not mistaken, the whole affair shows that the authorities are still willing to violate treaties and seize indigenous land, just as their 19th century predecessors did, when it suits them.

There is indeed a real danger that the pipeline will foul the area’s drinking water and damage its ecology. One of the statistics cited is that there already been 300 odd oil spills across America, which aren’t reported. And the authorities in America seem to have absolutely no interest in protecting the water quality of their citizens. The people of Flint, Michigan, have had their drinking water poisoned with lead by the local water company, but so far little, if any, action seems to have been taken to clean up the mess and punish those responsible. Communities have also seen their water contaminated by fracking, again with the absolute complicity of the local politicos.

There’s a lesson for us over here. The same companies that are fouling the American environment are keen to start fracking over here, and local authorities and the Tory party are all too eager to let them do it. So we can also expect communities harmed by poisoned drinking water, what the politicos take the bucks handed to them by fossil fuel companies completely indifferent to the suffering and damage they’ve caused.

As an archaeologist, I’m also left astonished and disgusted by the desecration of the tribe’s burial grounds. The respectful treatment of human remains excavated through engineering works, archaeological investigation or preserved in museums is a serious issue. It naturally arouses concern by people that their dead ancestors should be treated with dignity. And the issue is particularly strong, when the remains are those of peoples that have suffered from persecution. For example, a few years ago human remains were uncovered during building work for a new supermarket in one of the northern English towns. It was established that these were Jewish burials, including some of the victims of one of the terrible pogroms unleashed against them during the Middle Ages. Their excavation and removal to another site was, obviously, a delicate matter involving careful negotiation between the authorities, developers, archaeologists and the Jewish community.

Similarly, I was told by a Canadian archaeologist friend that the American archaeologists conducting an investigation of Native burials had to participate and observe certain ritual requirements, including being anointed with buffalo grease, while conducting the excavation. And rightly so, as they were on indigenous territory, interfering with their ancestors’ burials and remains, and so it was only correct that they should have to observe indigenous customs governing the sanctity of the dead.

And you can probably think of other, more prosaic examples of similar concern in White communities, when the dead there have been disturbed due to redevelopment. Yet the police and the oil company there have shown no such sensitivity to the feelings of the local people, or respect for their dead.

This is an absolute disgrace. And I’m very sure we can expect the same callous attitudes and casual brutality over here in Blighty when fracking starts.

Counterpunch on NATO’s Preparations for War with Russia

July 9, 2016

Okay, I’ve already blogged about one Counterpunch article today, by Garikai Chengu tracing the history of British imperial domination in Iraq. This is another article from the same magazine that needs to be read. It’s about the NATO conference yesterday and today, and the continuing build up of NATO forces along the borders with Russia. NATO troops, including British squaddies, are being sent to reinforce Poland, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, against possible Russian aggression.

The 1980s Cold War

This was on the BBC news yesterday, which reported that there were fears about a possible Russian threat following Russian attempts to fly military aircraft over Estonian airspace. This is all extremely frightening, as it is all too much like the Cold War those of us, who are now middle aged, grew up under in the 1980s. It was a time when Thatcher and Reagan were ranting about the Soviet Union being ‘the evil empire’, and the world really was on the edge of nuclear war. It dam’ well nearly broke out too, on at least three occasions. On one of these, it was only through the very clear thinking of a Russian officer, who insisted on visual confirmation of a nuclear attack after the Soviet defence computers malfunctioned and signalled a false alarm, that we’re all here, alive today.

Reagan himself nearly started another nuclear showdown with a stupid joke. He opened a Republican rally with the quip that ‘Congress has passed legislation against the Soviet Union. Bombing begins in ten minutes’. While the Republican faithful cheered wildly, a Soviet nuclear missile base in Siberia went on red alert for half an hour. Some people should really know when to keep their gobs shut. And another nuclear incident was started by a technician dropping his spanner down a missile silo. And there no doubt have been others, too many others.

The children of my generation were left traumatised with the threat that any second we could be vaporised and our planet reduced to dead, smouldering ash, just as our parents’ had been during the Cuban missile crisis. We hoped, prayed and rejoiced that everything might be different when Communism fell. The Soviet Empire dissolved, nations threw off the yoke of tyranny, and people from the east and west could finally meet and mix, to work and set up businesses in each others’ countries. The Iron Curtain Churchill described was gone. And the spectre of nuclear holocaust was lifted from that part of the Eurasian landmass.

Now it all looks like it’s all coming back.

Cloughley on the Failure of the Campaigns in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya

Brian Cloughley, the author of the Counterpunch piece, is a former NATO soldier, whose duties included serving with an NATO atomic missile regiment. He discusses the irony of Poland hosting the NATO conference just when the Chilcot report had condemned Tony Blair for his lies and crimes in the Iraq invasion. The article describes the failures of the NATO invasions and actions in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, all of which are now in a worse state than before. And despite the overwhelming numerical and technological superiority of NATO forces in Afghanistan, we still have not subdued the Taliban, who are little more than a bunch of tribesmen with only the most basic equipment. As well as increased instability and conflict in all of these conflicts, and the growth of Islamism and massive human rights abuses, the attack on Libya has also worsened the migrant crisis, as hundreds of thousands from elsewhere in Africa flood into the country, seeking a better life across the Med in Europe.

Russia No Threat

Cloughley also talks about the bloated financial nature of NATO, as it consumes a large part of its member countries’ taxes in expenditure on American arms and support that they can often ill afford. Its lavish expenditure can be seen in the fact that it has just opened a new palace in Brussels, the cost of which has escalated to $2 billion. And now NATO is strengthening its forces on its eastern borders against a supposed Russian threat, using terms like ‘forward presence’, which, despite official denials, suggest that they are preparing for a war. However, General Petr Pavel, Chairman of NATO’s military committee, has stated that Russian “aggression is not on the agenda and no intelligence assessment suggests such a thing.”

The German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier has also warned against exacerbating the situation with further military posturing. He has said “What we should not do now is inflame the situation with saber-rattling and warmongering. Whoever believes that a symbolic tank parade on the alliance’s eastern border will bring security is mistaken. We are well-advised not to create pretexts to renew an old confrontation.” This comes from someone, whose country for over four decades was on the very front line of any possible war between NATO and the Warsaw pact.

Putin himself has told his diplomatic corps that this is all about western aggression, about NATO trying to justify itself. He said “NATO seems to be making a show of its anti-Russian stance. NATO not only seeks to find in Russia’s actions pretexts to affirm its own legitimacy and the need for its existence, but is also taking genuinely confrontational steps.”

Cloughley is convinced that there is no military threat from Russia, and this is really just the West and NATO preparing for yet another unprovoked war, selling it to its peoples on the lies that intelligence really has shown the Russians are building up their forces to invade.

See: http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/08/nato-prepares-for-war-confrontation-and-insanity/

Russian Threat in 1980s and Now Non-Existent

This is terrifying, and, frankly, a damning indictment of the Continent’s leaders. It looked for a few decades that the spectre of nuclear war between Russia and the West had gone forever. Now it’s come back. I really am not sure how much of a military threat Russia is. The Beeb reports mention overflights of Estonia by Russian planes. But they attempt to do that to Britain, and have done since the 1980s and possibly long before. What usually happens is that we send up a few RAF planes just as they’re approaching Scotland, at which point they scarper back to Russia. It’s been going on for decades. My guess is that the Russians are trying something similar in Estonia. It is a deliberate attempt to intimidate, to prod us, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Russian spends vast amounts on its arms, but even then, it’s much less than American military expenditure. And Lobster has published more than one article taking apart the lies my generation were told about the military threat from the Warsaw Pact in the ’70s and ’80s. We were told that the Soviet forces were massive, their troops eager and well-trained, and well equipped. They were poised to invade Europe at any moment. They weren’t. Their military equipment, including tanks, were inferior to the West. And more importantly, by the 1970s, the USSR simply wasn’t interested. Rather than dedicated Cold Warriors bent on exported Communism, the Nomenklatura – Communist party functionaries and officials – at home were to busy enjoying their own privileges, and trying to get abroad to buy good quality western goods they could sell on the black market back home.

Ukrainian Government and Nazis; Persecution of Russians and Democrats

As for the Russian threat to the Ukraine, from what I’ve seen and reblogged here, everything suggests that rather than being the aggressors, the Russian minority is the victims. They are being persecuted, subject to nationalist violence, and prevented by physical force from exercising their right to vote. Rather than being genuine democrats, the Ukrainian government looks like your bog-standard set of post-Soviet oligarchs, and corporate stooges, comparable to their counterparts in Britain and the US. The government also contains genuine, unreconstructed Nazis from the ‘pravy sektor’ – the Right Sector. These are groups which wear the insignia and uniforms of the auxiliary SS units which collaborated with the Nazis in their invasion of the US, and truly horrific pogroms against Soviet Jews. They are ultra-violent thugs, who have carried out horrific attacks on genuine Ukrainian democrats and trade unionists. In the demonstrations that overthrew the pro-Soviet government a few years ago, they shot at and attacked the peaceful demonstrators on their own side, while trying to make it look like it came from the Russians.

I’ve also seen footage on YouTube in which Russian soldiers capture a masked soldier, who then announces that he’s an America. I don’t know whether this is propaganda, or footage of a genuine event. Either is possible. But I certainly don’t discount the possibility that some of the supposedly Ukrainian troops include American special ops forces.

Europe Pushed to Brink of War for Corporate Profit

Putin is a thug. His assassination of his political opponents in Russia and beating and intimidation of journos, who refused to follow his line, is ample proof of that. But I don’t believe he is planning to invade Poland or the Baltic States. I am most dreadfully afraid that this time, Europe is being pushed into war with Russia on false pretexts, for the corporate profit of international capital. And it will be us proles, from America, England, France, Germany, and right across Europe into Poland, Ukraine, the Baltic and Russia, who will pay the bloody price.

Michael Moore’s New Film against US Militarism and Imperialism

June 8, 2016

I don’t know if you’ve seen the posters already, but the Capped Crusader, Michael Moore, has a new film premiering here on Friday. It’s entitled ‘Where To Invade Next’, with slogan ‘Prepare to be Liberated’. Here’s the poster.

Moore Invade Film Pic

I don’t know anything about it, but my guess from simply looking at the poster, is that it’s about America’s wars in the Middle East, and the country’s long history of invading other countries to ‘liberate’ them, which in practice means the exact opposite: installing pliant right-wing dictators to keep the masses down and protect US corporate interests. Like the invasion of the Guatemala that overthrew President Alfredo Benz after he nationalised the banana plantations, which were owned by the US company, United Fruit. The invasion was sold to the American people as a necessary military action to free the country from Communism. Benz, however, was democratic Socialist, not a Communist, and the regime which replaced him was an extreme right-wing military dictatorship, which reduced the peasants on the plantations to virtual slavery. And that’s just one example from a long history of invasion and plunder going back to the 19th century and the war with Spain which gave the US, for a time, the Philippines and Cuba.

Everything Moore does is worth watching, and Moore has rightly won awards for films such as Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine. This one should no be no exception. I don’t go to the cinema all that often, but I’ll try and see if this is playing near me.

Malingering ISIS Forge Sick Notes So Don’t Have To Fight

April 28, 2016

This is hilarious. In this piece from The Young Turks, Ana Kasparian and Brett Erlich from Pop Trigger discuss a report from the American army’s West Point Combatting Terrorism Centre that Daesh is now having serious problems retaining staff. Coalition airstrikes have taken their toll, and the zealous ghazis for al-Baghdadi are having to make cutbacks. They’ve been told not to use so much electricity, and that they can no longer use official vehicles for personal use. They’ve also had to take a pay cut of 50%. As a result, some of the fighters are obtaining dodgy doctor’s notes saying that they’re too sick to fight in the front line.

Kasparian and Erlich note that, although there is this image of ISIS fighters as mature, ruthless men, some of them are only in their 20s, and others are just children. They’ve grown up with ISIS. Some of them may even have joined because they have no choice if they are to survive and make a living after the terrorists captured their part of Iraq or Syria. Some are alienated, but for others they probably joined it because it was the only game in town.

And now that it’s no longer paying, they’re forging sick notes to get out of it. Kasparian points out that the consequences for being obtaining such a fraudulent is probably beheading, if they get found out.

Erlich states that he a bit cautious about it, because it sounds like some of the propaganda they release about Americans being so opposed to their government, that they’re forging sick notes to get out of working for it. He also says that it’s close to an episode of Family Guy, where Osama bin Laden is shown haranguing one of his troopers, who has presented a sick note so he doesn’t have to go on a suicide bombing. Bin Laden states that this isn’t a valid reason for not going, as it’s a suicide mission, and so the bomber’s health really isn’t a factor.

This too much like all the stories about school kids forging sick notes from their mothers, so they don’t have to do school sports or PE. You can just imagine it: Dear Emir, please could you let Ahmed off the zealous murder, torture and rape of infidels, and people who just looked at you funny in the street today, as he has a cold/tummy ache/verucca (strike out which doesn’t apply). Yours faithfully, his mum/dad/Dr MadeupName.

The Young Turks: Ted Nugent Posts Anti-Semitic Rant Blaming Jews for Gun Control

February 12, 2016

The drift of the Republican Right to full-fledged Nazism continues. In this video, The Young Turks anchors Cenk Uygur and John Iadarola comment on another piece of racism by Ted Nugent, ageing rocker, pervert, draft dodger, and pillar of the N.R.A. Nugent has been severely criticised and there have been demands that he should issue an apology after he posted a piece on Facebook asking the rhetorical question who the people demanding gun control were. He called these people the enemies of freedom. And guess what? The people he chose were all Jews. He even stuck little Israeli flags next to their faces, and accused some of being Israeli agents. Uygur points out that he’s wrong about many of those, whom he identifies as Israelis. Most of the men and women he’s fingered as Mossad agents or whatever aren’t. They’re simply American citizens. And quite often they’re distinguished American citizens, whose patriotism should be unquestioned. One of them is a general and the president’s chief of staff. Another is the governor of New York state. These are foul libels.

He’s also maligned the victims of the Holocaust. There’s another post in which Nugent states that he pondered why so many Germans were taken in by Adolf, and so many Jews went quietly to their deaths. This is under the headline, ‘Soulless Sheep to the Slaughter’.

Uygur and Iadarola point out that this pretty much a natural progression. The Right has always hated the Jews. They started off attacking Mexicans and Blacks. Now they’ve moved on to Muslims when they’ve become massively unpopular. And now, inevitably, Nugent has started on the Jews after following those bandwagons.

And this is particularly rich from Nugent. Nugent was so terrified of serving in the Vietnam War that he emptied his bowels in his pants for a week or so, in order to have himself declared mentally unfit. The Turks state they don’t blame him for not wanting to fight in Vietnam. They wouldn’t have wanted to either. But he’s been trying to make up for it ever since by trying to present himself as a supermasculine advocate for hunting and gun rights.

They also point out that it’s simply not true that Jews in Nazi Germany went quietly to their deaths. Many stood up and resisted, fighting extremely hard for their lives and those of their families and communities. But they were butchered anyway, right down to the last man and woman, because the Nazis had superior fire power. So calling the victims of the Shoah ‘soulless sheep’ is a gross lie, and not just a terrible insult to the victims of one of the worst crimes against humanity of the 20th century.

There’s also a party political aspect to this. American Jews traditionally tended to vote Democrat. Many of them were also staunchly behind NAACP and the campaign for Black Civil Rights in America. As teacher, they tended to work in the Black schools, and generally lived and worked in closer contact with Blacks than other sections of the American population. And Nixon was also paranoid about them. Despite the fact that Kissinger was Jewish and there were other Jewish Americans on his staff, Nixon was obsessed with there being a Jewish plot against him, and distrusted Jews because of their traditional left-wing leanings.

This anti-Semitism had died down somewhat after the American Right decided they were going to back Israel after the victories of the Six Day War in the 1970s. In the 1990s, members of the Likud party worked for the Republicans, helping to draft plans for a future invasion of Iraq. But now with a rising tide of anxiety about immigration from Mexico, the threat of Islamist terrorism some parts of the Republicans are once again falling back into hatred of the Jews. And as The Turks themselves point out, it always ends with the Jews.

This is frightening. Nugent’s a disgrace, and should apologise immediately. And the whole drift towards racism and Fascism in America, Britain or wherever needs to be stopped. Before anyone dies in pogroms and race riots.

Chris Hedges on Erosion of Civil Liberties, Journalism, the Military-Industrial Complex and the American Empire

January 18, 2016

On Saturday I posted up a piece from The Empire Files about the long history of oppression, exploitation and brutality in Saudi Arabia. This is another video from the Files. Here the presenter, Abby Martin, talks to the veteran journalist Chris Hedges about the Empire and its machine of domination, including his experiences as a reporter in Iraq and El Salvador. Hedges is a Socialist, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and the host of Days of Revolt on TeleSur English.

The programme begins with a discussion of how the American state cracked down on anti-War agitators, such as the Socialists Eugene Debs, Emma Goldman, Berkman and others for their opposition to World War I. This conflict saw the beginnings of the military-corporatist machine and the rise of modern state propaganda, pioneered by the Creel Committee and the use of the Sedition Act to crush dissent and peace protests.

After the War, the object of hatred turned from ‘the Hun’ to Communism and what has been described as ‘the psychosis of war’. This psychosis became institutionalised as total war after World War II. After World War I, the factories, that had turned to munitions production, changed back to their peace-time produces. This did not occur after the Second World War. The factories simply carried on producing arms, supported by a government financial network. This created the modern fusion of military and corporatist power.

Hedges and Martin also explore the way the American Empire differs from other, previous imperia. Hedges states that America, unlike other empires, colonised itself. The US army, for example, acted on behalf of the mining corporations, the loggers and so on during the expansion of the American West and the genocide of the Native Americans. After the colonisation of America was complete, America expanded overseas with the annexation of the Philippines and gun boat diplomacy in the Caribbean. Previous empires, like the British, occupied the countries they conquered. American doesn’t. Instead, America trains willing indigenous elites to act on its behalf. These included dictators like Mobutu in Zaire, Samosa in El Salvador and the Shah of Iran. They also overthrow foreign rulers, who threaten American corporate interests. Allende in Chile was overthrown because he threatened to nationalise the copper industry. Arbenz was ousted in Guatemala, because he was going to nationalise the property of United Fruit. America does not directly occupy these countries, but trains their indigenous rulers troops and supplies them with arms to govern for them.

The 1979 victory of Sandinistas in Nicaragua provoked a strong response from America, as they showed that they were not going to protect American corporate interests. And so Reagan pumped massive resources into the resistance movement and in supporting the dictator in El Salvador. The Salvadorean regime were given a fleet of 70 Huey helicopter gunships. They also recruited ‘black’ armies, that did not officially existed, using troops from outside the country. And CIA operatives were also brought in to aid the operations against the Salvadorean rebels. Half the population of El Salvador were landless peasants, while the land was owned by only ten families. The mass of the population were kept in dire poverty Hedges describes as worse than serfdom. When they tried to protest, or resist by forming labour unions and other organisations, they were gunned down in the street. At one point the death squads were killing a thousand people a month.

When America invaded Iraq, the same people, who organised the death squads in Latin America were brought in and used in the same strategy there. One of the officers, who was part of the American forces in the Iraq, had organised and led the death squads in El Salvador. In Iraq he created the Shi’a death squads to murder and terrorise the Sunni Muslims. The result of this was the creation of ISIS.

Hedges also describes the difficulties journalists faced reporting these facts from Iraq. Those reporters, who did cover these abuses were under constant attack from the American government, and particularly the state department. They were vilified as ‘fifth columnists’ and collaborators with America’s enemies. They also faced opposition from their own Washington bureaux. They could also be targeted for execution. In El Salvador, 22 journalists were killed during the war. He also states that the press themselves were quite willing to be used to support the American state’s propaganda in El Salvador. In the First Gulf War, the press was subject to very harsh restrictions. Dick Cheney wanted to deport Hedges, but was unable to find him. Very few war reporters – only 10 – 15% – actually go anywhere near the war. Instead, they stayed away from the front to listen to Cheney and the generals give lectures. The pool system of trustworthy reporters used to control the press in Iraq was actually administered by the journalists themselves. Hedges refers to these journalists as ‘Judenraten’, the Nazi term for the councils the Nazis set up in Jewish communities to administer them, and which chose the members of the population, who were to be sent to the gas chambers. And those journalists, who did join the troops, received great rewards for producing stories about how heroic the soldiers were. For his efforts in covering the dark side of the Iraq War, Hedges was booed off the stage when he gave a speech at Rockford College. The New York Times, for which he was writing, even accused him of damaging their reputation for impartiality. Its columnists were selected by the establishment to report the war as they wanted it. He states that it destroyed his career, but he would not have been able to live with himself if he had not spoken out. He stated he knew people, who had been killed, and describes the destruction of the country. 1 million people have been killed, 4 million displaced; and it has been irreparably destroyed as a unified nation state. It had some of the most modern infrastructure in the Middle East. This has also been destroyed.

Hedges makes it clear that the war is about natural resources, despite the verbiage about bringing democracy. He also states that you can’t be a Socialist without being an anti-imperialist and anti-militarist. It’s important to break the back of the Empire, because the methods it uses to control the subject peoples are then brought back into the heartland to use against the American people. The result of this is that Americans are under greater surveillance, the police has been militarised, civil liberties eroded and removed and so on. All of which could be seen from where they talking in Baltimore. It was the classic disease of empire, which the Greek historian Thucydides had documented when he examined the way ancient Athens similarly destroyed its democracy when it began its imperialist expansion.

Hedges and Martin criticise Bernie Sanders, the left-wing Democratic candidate for the American presidency. Sanders, they state, has not tried to tackle the military-industrial complex. Part of this is that the defence industry and its contractors are able to provide jobs to workers. Hedges quotes one writer as describing the emergence of the military-industrial complex during the Second World War as ‘a coup d’état in slow motion’. At the moment defence officially accounts for 52% of American state expenditure, but this is almost certainly far too low. It doesn’t count veteran affairs, the nuclear arsenal or research and development. The real figure is probably around $1.6 trillion. He states that you can’t really talk about reform when so much is spent on the military. Martin Luther King mentioned this, and that was the moment when, as far as the news was concerned, he was obsolete. It was also the moment Lyndon B. Johnson removed FBI protection, leaving him exposed to assassination. Hedges quotes Engels to the point that it really is a case of ‘barbarism or Socialism’. The world is facing the crisis of climate change, while America is facing the severe problems all empires ultimately face of expanding beyond their ability to maintain themselves. This was the cause of the collapse of the Roman Empire.

Martin and Hedges also discuss the potential for revolution in America. Hedges states that when the system becomes so corrupt, that the elites only rule for themselves, there is always blowback. This can take malign forms, such as the Nazis in Germany. In America, blowback came in the form of FDR. He told the elites that either they gave up some of their power, there would be a revolution. This was when America still had the Communist and Progressive Parties. He states that America is now faced with the problem of challenging the dominant ideology, which has become so deeply ingrained. He describes going through the cemeteries in the American South with a civil rights lawyer. And in all of them there were row upon row of Confederate flags. The lawyer informed him that these had all gone up in the past ten years. Hedges states that what is happening in America is the same that happened in Yugoslavia just before it broke up. When people are made so desperate, they retreat into myth. Hedges finds the current rhetoric against Muslims particularly frightening, as it follows the pattern of violence he found in the wars he covered. Minority groups are first subject to verbal attack, followed by real, physical violence. He describes the American state as hostage to corporate and military power. This has become sacralised in the Christian religion, and part of the American gun cult. It will ignite into Fascism. It’s a symptom of a declining civilisation, the only solution for which is to re-integrate people into the economic system.

It’s a deep discussion, offering profound insights into the emergence of America as the modern imperial power, and the role played in this expansion by the corporate and military interests for whom the American state acts. This military-industrial complex dominates an empire abroad, and is stripping liberties and rights from its own people. The result is violent extremism abroad and at home, as alienated right-wing Americans become even more radicalised.