Wednesday, December 30, 2009
In the 1870s the German professor Eugen Dühring joined the German Social Democratic Party. He made a lot of friends and began interpreting socialism along lines that were new and different and which he thought were more in accord with modern science. Engels' German comrades asked him for clarification on some of these new views as Dühring was starting to collect a following. Engels, however, was busy doing other things. But after three years of requests he decided to write the book ANTI-DÜHRING: HERR EUGEN DÜHRING'S REVOLUTION IN SCIENCE. This book became one of the most important of the so-called Marxist "classics" and is a basic foundational document for the understanding of DIAMAT (Dialectical Materialism).
In this article I will make some comments on the prefaces to the work (there are three for the three German editions made in Engels lifetime) before going on to review the First Part of the work, that devoted to philosophy, to try and situate it in our time at the beginning of the 21st century.
Engels' tells us that Anti-Dühring is an extension of the world view first developed by Marx in his book THE POVERTY OF PHILOSOPHY, then extended by the COMMUNIST MANIFESTO and DAS KAPITAL. To make sure that this solo flight would properly represent their joint philosophy, Engels read aloud the whole manuscript to Marx and the latter even wrote a chapter for the book (chapter ten of part two). I note this because many people today try to divorce the thought of Marx from that of Engels and maintain that Anti-Dühring is a deviation from Marx's philosophical views which were more sophisticated than those of Engels.
In order to write the book, Engels first took eight years to review the math and natural sciences of his day. The reason he did this was to convince himself that the laws of the materialist dialectic of motion which he and Marx had detected at work in history and in the evolution of human consciousness, were equally at work in Nature. These laws were first developed by the German philosopher G.W.F. HEGEL but, Engels says, in a "mystic form." Once stripped of this form, Marx and Engels were able to apply the dialectical method to both the natural and historical sciences.
Engels was aware that the charge might be made that the dialectic was being forced upon Nature from the outside and that the "facts" were being forced into the straight jacket of the theory. This serious charge is still made today by the bourgeois opponents of Marxism. Engels however says that he did all he could to avoid this: "to me there could be no question of building the laws of dialectic into nature, but of discovering them in it and evolving them from it."
Engels lived in a time of rapid scientific advance towards the end of the 19th century. Only a few years before he wrote the second preface to his book, he says, the LAW OF THE CONSERVATION ENERGY was propounded ("the great basic law of motion") but it was put forth NOT qualitatively but only quantitatively as the "indestructibility and uncreatabilty of
But now (1885-- the time of the second preface) Engels sees a more dialectical approach as scientists are beginning to discuss THE TRANSFORMATION OF ENERGY which when fully understood will remove "the last vestige of an extra mundane creator." A mere ten years after Engel's death (1895) Einstein published his famous equation E=mc2.
Engels says we still see rigid barriers in Nature-- the wave vs particle theory of light had not yet bloomed into quantum physics-- but had he lived I don't think Engels would have been thrown off by such seeming contradictions. Contradiction is the essence of dialectics. He writes that: "The recognition that these antagonisms and distinctions, though to be found in nature, are only of relative validity, and that on the other hand their imagined rigidity and absolute validity have been introduced into nature only by our reflective minds-- this recognition is the kernel of the dialectical conception of nature."
So, the purpose of the book is to reaffirm the scientific nature of Diamat, to exclude the erroneous accretions of Herr Dühring, and to demonstrate that modern science, including Diamat, is the result of a long tradition of philosophical development whose two poles (as we shall see) include Aristotle and Hegel.
Engels thinks that science must "assimilate the results of the development of philosophy during the past two and half thousand years" to avoid basing itself on some bogus world view [as the Nazi movement later did] and to also get rid of its metaphysical (i.e., mechanistic and non-dialectical) baggage) which is "its inheritance from English empiricism."
In the next article I will look at the two part introduction to Anti-Dühring.
Monday, December 28, 2009
by Aaron Glantz. 254 pages. UC Press $24.95 Book Review by Luis Carlos Montalván [reposted from The Huffington Post]
In January 2009 alone, 24 veterans of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan committed suicide. The following month, the Army announced that there were 128 documented suicides in 2008, the highest number since it began keeping records in 1980.
When the subject of veterans' care is raised in most circles, people tend to think of the scandal at Walter Reed Hospital or of Soldiers and Marines returning home without limbs and/or with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Rarely, do they grasp the deeper problems facing veterans.
This ignorance, which is encouraged by Government agencies, explains why "The War Comes Home: Washington's Battle Against America's Veterans," will enflame readers' passions while enlightening their minds.
What makes this book about war different?
From the time of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and the scrolls of Homer and Herodotus, literature's most memorable dramatis personæ have been warriors. Indeed, humanity seems continually captivated by the paradox captured by Tolstoy's War and Peace. Tolstoy further reminded us:
In all history there is no war which was not hatched by the governments, the governments alone, independent of the interests of the people, to whom war is always pernicious even when successful.
The author of "The War Comes Home," Aaron Glantz, who spent parts of three years covering the war in Iraq, does what no professional journalist has done heretofore - he chronicles combat from the bloody Middle Eastern battlefields to both the hospital beds where broken body parts lie and the living rooms where relationships are torn asunder as a hidden but real collateral damage of these wars.
The effects on America's sons and daughters, their families and our society at large are meticulously detailed through Glantz's powerfully compelling yet simply rendered factual accounting. He explains how the government and its systems have created the neglect behind the Walter Reed scandal as well as the outrage that is the Veterans Administration so-called health care system. In so doing, he appeals to our collective conscience.
One result amounts to an impassioned plea to the US government to wake up and undo the bureaucratic logjam that prevents wounded heroes from recovering. Glantz makes clear that the struggle begins the moment a service member returns home from the war zone. Veterans' readjustment to family, friends and society is often complicated or even sabotaged by the symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
Glantz discusses Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), the signature wound of Mr. Bush's wars that ravages the once able-minded. Citing mind-boggling RAND Corporation data, he reminds us that more than 320,000 veterans have experienced TBI while deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.
And he reminds us that only when a returning soldier or Marine utters a cry for help does the fight really begin - against the unsympathetic and inhumane juggernauts of the Departments of Defense and Veterans' Affairs.
One of many personal stories woven into the narrative is that of Army Specialist Eric Edmondson. On October 2, 2005, while supporting a Marine Corps offensive near the Syrian border, his Stryker vehicle was struck by a terrorist-detonated Improvised Explosive Device (IED). Edmonson lost his right leg and his spleen to shrapnel. Eric's family had to put their own lives on hold in the effort to support their son by, as they put it, "trying to battle our way through the labyrinth of bureaucracy called government."
One of several trenchantly named chapters is "Homeless on the streets of America," so called because, according to records compiled by the VA and the National Council on Homeless Veterans, on any given night, nearly 200,000 veterans "sleep in a doorway, alley or box." Sad to say, most of these veterans served in Vietnam, but those of today's wars are steadily swelling the ranks of the homeless.
Full light is thrown on the growing backlog of veterans' disability claims. Since the start of the Iraq War, such claims "have grown from 325,000 to more than 600,000," Glantz writes. To the everlasting shame of the previous administration and others inside the beltway, neither the VA nor the DOD has done anything to anticipate the future increase of veterans. Six years into Iraq and Afghanistan, the VA still fails to care adequately and appropriately for these men and women.
Glantz's monograph raises the quintessential question that has been repeated throughout history:
"Why is it that, generation after generation, Americans who've risked their lives for their country return to do battle with their own government?"
The answer is elusive. But Glantz believes that when the media raise a veterans' issue, politicians are only temporarily stirred. Even then, it usually serves only to deprecate the mistreatment of those who have sacrificed for their country. Shortly after, both press and politicians tend to revert to idle talk that leaves veterans to suffer anguish and frustration in silent anonymity.
Simply put, "The War Comes Home" is transfixing. Like Rodin's famous sculpture, The Thinker, perched atop the Gates of Hell, what lies between the book's lines expresses simultaneous rage and sadness. For veterans who read the book, traumatic memories of fellow soldiers loved and lost may exacerbate physical and psychological wounds. So, be prepared to scream aloud, reach for the pills, or both.
Mr. Glantz concludes by asking what he calls "the billion-dollar question": Will the former administration's loathsome legacy mistreating millions of veterans continue, or will a new President's vision and promise bring forth the fulfillment of Abraham Lincoln's famous call
"...to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan"?
Only time and veterans will tell.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer
Reviewed in Jandy's Reading Room
Did you really need that CT scan (or surgery or drug or treatment or...) your doctor recommended the last time you visited? Was the preventative testing you took really necessary or another way to possibly find out if something was wrong? Is your new designer drug for high blood pressure as effective as an older, cheaper drug?
Shannon Brownlee tackles the American healthcare system in this book, Overtreated Why Too Much Medicine Is Making Us Sicker and Poorer. She shows how and why American healthcare has changed since the 1970's and the age of Marcus Welby, M.D.
One thing I found fascinating is that medicine is a supply driven industry rather than a demand driven industry. For example, if you live in an area with a high percentage of cardiac cath labs you are more likely to get a cardiac cath for your heart problems than if you live in an area with less labs. You are just as sick either way, but are given different treatment because of the testing and procedures that are available. Depending on what drugs your doctor prefers, you may get a more expensive drug that doesn't work any better than another one. Sometimes the newer drugs are pushed only to later have the terrible side effects come to the public's notice (remember the Vioxx fiasco a couple years ago?).
I'm a medical librarian and have been involved in the medical field most of my career. As I read about the progression of the American health system since the 1960's when Medicare was first approved, and especially since the 1970's and 80's, I kept identifying with the changes. "I remember when that happened" or "DRG's were going to be death from the hospital's point of view" or "Yeah, MRI's were really expensive and the wonder diagnostic tools when they first came out." (Imaging tools continue to be invented that are bigger, better, and more expensive.)
Brownlee touts the need for medical practitioners to understand and use evidence-based medicine practices to treat patients. Doctors haven't been well trained to truly evaluate the good evidence-based journal articles, research papers, and other tools available to them. They aren't taught that type of critical thinking, which is different from diagnostics.
There is also a huge lack of primary care physicians available in this country. Specialists concentrate on their area of expertise. A patient may be treated differently with a vague chest or abdomen pain depending on whether the patients sees a cardiologist (heart doctor), gastrointestinal doctor (stomach and bowel system), surgeon, or endocrinologist (hormones, thyroid, diabetes, etc). A well trained primary care doctor (family practice or internist) who has the time to talk with a patient and good diagnostic training can hear all the symptoms and hone in on the true problem with the patient. A patient who skips the primary care doctor because the doctor is a "generalist" rather than the highly trained (and much more expensive) specialist may be treated for something that appears to be the problem but really isn't.
Of course politics are heavily involved in the American medical system. the American Medical Association carries a lot of weight with law makers. The drug companies lobbies are huge. The FDA is supposed to regulate drug releases, yet much of their funding comes in subtle ways from the large drug companies. There is no independent governing medical regulation agency that is free from Congress or the press of politics, although one could be established. The majority of medical clinical trials have funding from companies who have a stake in the findings. While that shouldn't influence the outcome of the studies, it will anyway.
These are some examples of Brownlee's arguments. She also offers a workable solution to help alleviate the problems. It would mean some major overhauls to most of our current practices, but there are pockets of groups and medical systems in this country that prove it can be done.
The book is easy to understand and read. Her tone is interesting and readable, not dry. Her topic is off putting and she'll take a lot of flak from different medical groups (I mentioned a couple above). Yet this book should be a call to overhaul the current system.
If you need medical care in the United States, I recommend this book so you know the state it's currently in.
Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Theatre Review: Brief Encounter
"Brief Encounter Yields Long Term Memories"
British Kneehigh Production is Brilliant
If you've grown a little tired of the routinization of the theatre productions, even in off and off-off Broadway production, run, don't walk to St. Ann's Warehouse In Brooklyn to see: Brief Encounter.
Yes, that is the name of Noel Coward's book and the Celia Johnson-Trevor Howard acted 1938 British film. And, yes, this is the unusual theatre adaptation of the film.
Emma Rice, a long time actor-director with the Kneehigh Theatre, directs this enormously entertaining production. Kneehigh theatre is from Cornwall England, located on the extreme southwest tip of the British Isles. The ensemble has been producing for 25 years.
In the words of the Company:
"From its home in Cornwall, Kneehigh Theatre has built a reputation for creating vigorous and popular theatre for audiences throughout the UK and beyond. In Cornwall, 1980, a village schoolteacher began to run theatre workshops in his spare time. In due course a mixture of people became involved, a farmer, the sign writer from Tesco, several students, a thrash guitarist from a local band, an electrician. No actors...nobody who had been trained. The workshops took place in the spirit of cheerful anarchy and casually slipped into performance, and finally the production of shows.
"Kneehigh created theatre for families in locations within their communities, village halls, marquees, harbour sides...and less conventional places. They created theatre on cliff-tops, in preaching pits and quarries, amongst gunpowder works and arsenic wastes, up trees, down holes, where the river meets the sea and where woodland footpaths end.
"The company now finds itself celebrated as one of Britain's most exciting touring theatre companies. We create vigorous, popular theatre for a broad spectrum of audiences, using a multi-talented group of performers, Director's, designers, sculptors, engineers, musicians and writers. We use a wide range of art forms and media as our 'tool kit' to make new and accessible forms of theatre. A spontaneous sense of risk and adventure produces extraordinary dramatic results. Themes are universal and local, epic and domestic.
"The company is now acknowledged as a defining theatrical force in the UK. Cornwall is our physical and spiritual home. We draw inspiration from its landscapes, history, people and culture."
The 90-minute production, without intermission, is truly delightful and keeps all of the drama that the film brought to the screen.
St. Ann's Warehouse is located in the DUMBO section of Brooklyn; which is below the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. Up until a few years ago, it was located in Brooklyn Heights.
The story is well known. Two middle class people meet at a train station and become involved. Both have families who they love; but alas they still fall in love.
Around that simple betrayal and love theme is a musical score and dance numbers that grow throughout the evening. In fact, the actors, all of whom are musically involved and acting in the projection start and end the evening by serenading the audience before and after the production, in the St Ann's Warehouse outer areas.
There is a brilliant use of special effects that fit right into the production.
Kneehigh takes "Brief Encounter" to Minneapolis after the first of the year.
This production has been so successful that it has been extended to January 17, 2010.
NOTE: St. Ann's Warehouse is slated to fall victim of the profit-greedy development slated for this area of Brooklyn. They have two years left on this lease and then them will be seeking another performance venue.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Jonathan Benthall has an article called "Beyond Belief: In Spite of Science and Secularism, Religions are Gaining Strength -- But Are They Offering More Than a 'Storm-Shutter' or a New Global Market?" [TLS 12-11-2009]. Under the heading "Philosophy of Religion" (although there is little philosophy involved) he reviews five recent books on religion [Michael King: POSTSECULARISM, Terry Eagleton: REASON, FAITH, AND REVOLUTION, John Micklethwait & Adrian Wooldridge: GOD IS BACK, Paul Froese, THE PLOT TO KILL GOD, and Michael Jackson, THE PALM AT THE END OF THE MIND]. From what I could glean from the review none of the books seem interesting nor deep and, unless one is already predisposed to be sympathetic to superstition and its baneful grip on the human spirit, not worth the time and effort to read. However, PA is always looking for interesting book reviews and we invite anyone with a better knowledge of any of these books to contact us [firstname.lastname@example.org] and submit a review. In the meantime here are some impressions from Benthall's review.
Mike King: POSTSECULARISM: THE HIDDEN CHALLENGE TO EXTREMISM, 324pp. This is, among other things, an attack on Richard Dawkins, whose militant attack on Theism is still upsetting people. King says Dawkins wants to "arrogate to science what is the proper domain of a quite different human impulse-- the poetic and mystical." He accepts the "non-overlapping magisteria" supported by Steven Jay Gould, adding a third, as Bentall points out, of the arts. These domains are "autonomous with regard to science." He goes on to reject,the reviewer quotes him, "the monoculture of the mind" reflected by the fundamentalists of both religion and scientists-- "ultra-scientism" as Benthall puts it. Well, all I can say is that science wants to explain what is really going on in our world and what ever "poetic and mystical" views turn you on are fine but it is a delusional superstition to think that is the way to world understanding. Astrology is certainly "autonomous' with regard to Astronomy but let us not dignify it as a "non-overlapping magesterium." Religion was a pre-scientific way of looking at the world. Today it simply a tool by which the exploited are more easily controlled by their masters. Once the exploited catch on, if ever-- its doesn't look so good that they will-- it's all over.
Terry Eagleton: REASON, FAITH, AND REVOLUTION: REELECTIONS ON THE GOD DEBATE 185pp (Yale). Benthall tells us that Eagleton is turned off by the "doctrinal ferocity" of atheists such as Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens whom he lumps together as "Ditchkins." Eagleton himself rejects the version of God as a vengeful proponent of hell fire and brimstone and thinks that the message of Jesus has been betrayed by the mainstream interpretation of the Christian churches. He is sympathetic to a left Christianity based on a concept of Original Sin that results in a "tragic humanism." But how can you base anything on the fairy tale of "Original Sin?" Benthall says Eagleton finds it "scandalous" that opponents of religion such as Dawkins and Hitchens" can just dismiss the "work of religiously committed people over centuries in alleviating suffering, working for peace and standing up to dictators." Well perhaps it's not so scandalous when you reflect on the fact that compared to the religiously committed who over centuries inflicted suffering, worked for war and blindly followed dictators-- the number of people Eagleton is referring to is a drop in the bucket. As Bertrand Russell said, first religion does a great deal of harm and then a little good. I don't think we need spend much time on this type of jejune apologetic.
John Micklethwait & Adrian Wooldridge: GOD IS BACK: HOW THE GLOBAL RISE OF FAITH IS CHANGING THE WORLD. The first author is an editor (and a Catholic) the second a senior staff member (and an atheist) at THE ECONOMIST, a major organ of bourgeois propaganda and misinformation. Benthall says the thrust of this book is to oppose the "standard view" that religion in the US is "exceptionally elevated" as opposed to Europe and other developed countries "with the drift away from the churches" and that this is the trend of history. "Elevated" is a strange word to use, I think, to describe the primitive nativistic and quite ridiculous beliefs of most American Christians. Everyone who studies the philosophy of religion grants that the US is full of undereducated, unsophisticated, antiscientific, homophobic, racist Bible thumpers to a greater degree than other industrialized areas of the world. That this is "elevated religiosity" is debatable. The authors see, with the exception of Europe, the world trending in the American direction with the rapid growth of religious sects and cults (not their terminology) in the neocolonial world and in China. They are confident that China will become a Christian country. The Chinese "middle class" is better educated than its American counterpart so I doubt this will happen. As we continue to exploit and destroy the neocolonial world, religion can be expected to grow and prosper in this area as it is the sigh of the oppressed after all. Our authors understand this as Benthall writes they hold that, "People take cover from the 'hurricane of capitalism' under the canopy of religion." Since THE ECONOMIST supported Bush's imperialist oil grabbing invasion of Iraq, our authors well know what the "hurricane of capitalism" is capable of.
Paul Froese, THE PLOT TO KILL GOD: FINDINGS FROM THE SOVIET EXPERIMENT IN SECULARIZATION, 264pp (U 0f Ca Press). Using only English language sources, Froese sets out to test the six propositions he thinks are at the basis of the Soviet attitudes toward religion. The six are as follows, according to Benthall's review. 1) Religion is a primitive illusion. 2) Religious rites and values are more important than the gods. 3) Religious leaders are functions of state power. 4) Religious behavior is mostly based on rational choice (!?) [I really doubt the Soviets believed religion was both a primitive illusion AND involved rational choice. Froese puts this one in because he will propose a "market model" for religion later on in his book and most bourgeois thinkers believe markets are the result of "rational choice" such as spending more than you have.] 5) Religion is only concerned with the supernatural. [Another dubious Froese proposition attributed to the Soviets, who were well aware of the social, political, and economic roles that religion concerns itself with.] 6) Religion is subject to market forces the same as businesses are. Benthall says the author has "a personal leaning towards the market model" --i.e., 6) and this, in my opinion, is why he thinks the Soviets believed 4) as well. This whole scheme is cooked up out of Froese's brain. He wonders why the Soviets did not just co-op the Russian Orthodox Church, as the Tzars had, and use it to further the aims of the state. "Froese wonders, Benthall writes, "why Soviet propagandists spent so much effort in creating a substitute religion [i.e., Atheism ] when they could have co-opted an existing one [Orthodoxy] more easily." Froese thinks the Soviet leaders were all like Putin. It does not occur to him that the Bolsheviks sincerely thought religion was a mental poison that imprisons the minds of the masses and makes them slaves and stupid at the same time. The free human beings of the future would be free of the God Delusion.
Michael Jackson [no, not THAT Michael Jackson], THE PALM AT THE END OF THE MIND: RELATEDNESS, RELIGIOSITY, AND THE REAL. This book will claim a little more of our attention as, unlike the twaddle before, there is some real thinking going on here. The author is a social anthropologist influenced by phenomenology. Benthall quotes him on a need for a modern understanding of religion. Jackson writes, "We need to approach religiosity without a theological vocabulary, repudiate the notion of religion as a sui generis phenomenon, and distance ourselves from the assumption of a necessary relationship between espoused belief and subjective experience." He thinks religion is search for "what matters". Well, this would give it a broader extension than it now has. He thinks that religion develops at the extreme limits of human experience when we arrive at "those critical situations in life where we come up against the limits of language, the limits of our strength...."
"It would seem," Jackson writes, "that for all human beings, regardless of their world views, it is in border situations when they are sorely tested ... that they are most susceptible to those epiphanies, breakthroughs, conversions, and revelations that are sometimes associated with the divine [?? what is the 'divine'?- that's theological vocabulary ] and sometimes simply taken as evidence of the finitude, uncertainty, and thrownness of human existence." This is, of course, an echo of the EXISTENZ philosophy of Karl Jaspers and his notion of "limit-situations." It is also, like Jasper's philosophy, a form of anti-scientific irrationalism. Here is Benthall: "For him [i.e., Jackson], a given interpretive vocabulary is at its most disputable when it appears to privilege one way of representing reality by depreciating others." Taken literally this would mean that the scientific method, the only way so far that we have arrived at propositions that have universal applicability, would be on a par with metaphysical speculations and religious intuitions. Benthall thinks that Jackson's way of looking at the world could lead to "spiritual principles compatible with modern science" and concludes that Jackson's way of looking at religion could result in "a shared 'religious' sensibility that may be fitfully emerging to unite different peoples and traditions, in ways influenced by, but not entirely decreed by, the gods of the marketplace." Yet again with the "marketplace." This "shared 'religious' sensibility" already exists in the form secular humanism based on the scientific outlook-- a form of Deism without the deity-- and we do not need to go whoring after new gods. Secular humanism + Marxism should do the trick.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Harpers Ferry, WV
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The above headline sums up the New York Times view of the failure to strike a serious deal at the Copenhagen UN climate change talks ("Poor and Emerging States Stall Climate Negotiations" by John M.Broder, NYT 12-17-2009).Here is Broder's first sentence:"If the United Nations climate talks here[Copenhagen]are entering their final two days in virtual deadlock, it is in large measure because of delays and diversions created by a group of poor and emerging nations intent on making their dissatisfaction clear." This is the US Bush/Obama view exactly. Its not the rich imperialist nations who won't give an inch in their right to pollute and flood out the neocolonial world that is responsible for the deadlock.
The NYT may not like Hugo Chavez, but what he said was dead on: "The rich are destroying the planet. Perhaps they think they're going off to another one after they've destroyed this one."
The article doesn't even mention that the best President Obushma's climate team could come up with was a goal of, in effect, reducing US CO2 pollution to 4% of 1990 levels-- the rest of the industrial world agreed to at least 20%. The US is seen as the NUMBER ONE saboteur of these climate talks by most of the countries attending.The reason? Like every US Government, that of the Obushma administration is in the pocket of monopoly capitalism and especially serving the interests of the oil cartels.
Our friend in the White House has turned out to be the Man Who Came To Dinner. For what really is going on in Copenhagen check out online articles at Political Affairs and the People's World as well as the interviews and videos at Democracy Now.
Monday, December 14, 2009
James Petras is Binghamton University, New York Professor Emeritus of Sociology. Besides his long and distinguished academic career, he's a noted figure on the left, a well-respected Latin American expert, and a longtime chronicler of the region' popular struggles. He's also a prolific author of hundreds of articles and dozens of books, most recently his new one titled, "Global Depression and Regional Wars" addressing America, Latin America and the Middle East.
Part I - Global Depression
Variety's famous October 30, 1929 headline is again relevant: "Wall Street Lays an Egg," or as economist Rick Wolff puts it: "Capitalism hit the fan" following a familiar pattern of boom and bust cycles punctuated by bubbles that always burst. Petras explains it this way:
"All the idols of capitalism over the past three decades have crashed. The assumptions and presumptions, paradigms and prognosis of indefinite progress under liberal free market capitalism have been tested and have failed. We are living the end of an entire epoch (and bearing witness to) the collapse of the US and world financial system."
Grim prospects are ahead:
— a world depression with one-fourth of the labor force unemployed;
— global trade in free fall;
— a proliferation of bankruptcies with General Motors a metaphor for a decaying system;
— free-market capitalism in disrepute; and
— "planning, public ownership, nationalization(s and other) socialist alternatives have become almost respectable" because most sacred cow "truisms" and solutions have failed.
Today's global crisis reflects an unsustainable system - crisis-prone, unstable, anarchic, ungovernable, self-destructive, and eventually doomed to collapse. Its early death throes may now be audible - despite intense "psycho-babble" reengineering of facts to portray the current situation as a "failure of leadership....lack of understanding....willful ignorance of what markets need, (and) loss of confidence."
Samuel Boswell [SIC-- as pointed out in the COMMENTS: SAMUEL JOHNSON IS MEANT] explained that "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel." Perhaps "psycho-babble" is its equivalent for "capitalist ideologues, academics, (self-styled) experts, and financial page editorialists, all of whom use "shoddy economic arguments" to pump life into a bankrupt ideology - one based on:
— repeated boom and bust cycles;
— unsustainable growth to stay viable;
— direct foreign investment for the highest rates of return, producing a race to the bottom the result of some nations benefitting at the expense of others and all of them eventually losing out;
— technological advances for "greater social and political power;"
— pillaging countries, crushing labor, cutting wages, and limiting or ending social services;
— privatizing "public enterprises, land, resources and banks;" and
— reducing governments to servants of business with America the hub of the corporate universe.
Today's crisis is systemic - "embedded in the contradiction between impoverished labor and concentrated capital" gone wild. "The current world depression is a product of the 'over-accumulation' process of the capitalist system in which the crash of the financial system was the 'detonator' but not the structural determinant: the exploitation of labor" that sooner or later bites back. The longer capital interests pillage state resources at their expense, the less tolerant they'll be for mass unemployment, homes and savings lost, grim futures, and the end of the American dream. Then, watch out.
The World Depression: A Class Analysis
"It is a well-known truism that those who caused (today's) crisis are also (the) greatest beneficiaries of government largesse." Rulers create crises. Workers pay for them.
Since the early 1970s, capitalism went global at the expense of workers experiencing "a relative and absolute decline in (their) share of material income" and well-being. As business consolidated more power, it began "exercis(ing) near absolute control over the location and movements of capital" as well as the ability to exploit labor globally in newly industrialized countries like China, the Asian subcontinent, capitalist Russia, former Soviet republics, and undeveloped ones in Central America and elsewhere.
Huge profits came at the expense of growing inequality from wealth transfers to the rich. A race to the bottom cut wages and benefits, and lower living standards resulted from "the (permanent) conversion from high wage/high skill manufacturing jobs to lower-paid service" ones.
Financialization-caused speculative excesses were fueled by cheap credit and lax regulations. Bubbles resulted producing inevitable collapse. First felt "at the bottom of the speculative chain," they reached the biggest banks responsible for the crisis and major corporations as well - "all of which had been deeply engaged in leveraged buyouts and acquisitions" as well as other unsustainable excesses.
Depression indicators are everywhere, and the parallels to the early 1930s are ominous:
— business bankruptcies up 64% from a year earlier; household ones up 33%;
— according to the IMF, global banks must write down $4.1 trillion, two-thirds of which is yet to come; loss estimates will likely go higher given the state of world economies and enormity of their toxic asset portfolios -at yearend 2008, around $680 trillion, according to the Bank for International Settlements (BIS);
— worldwide financial assets have already plunged by over $50 trillion - the equivalent of annual global output;
— America's estimated 2009 budget deficit will be about 12.3% of GDP, a recklessly high ratio "that will ultimately ruin public finances;"
— world financial markets have plunged since peaking in mid to late 2007, and respected experts say the end of this cycle is far from over despite expected rallies they call bear traps;
— world trade has collapsed causing industrial output to plummet;
— direct foreign investment to "less developed capitalist countries....were predicted to shrink by 82% and credit flows by $30 billion USD;" and
— America's economy is experiencing its worst decline since the 1930s with GDP, exports, retail sales, construction activity, capital goods investment, and other indicators down sharply; the only one rising is unemployment - according to the Labor Department U-6 measure (including categories left out of the headlined lower U-3 figure), it's 16.5%; economist John Williams' reverse engineered data has it at nearly 21% and rising, and all other economic indicators much worse than official numbers.
The conclusion is clear - all "signs point to a deep and prolonged depression," worse still by current economic policies reflecting "the most drastic curtailment in public spending in American history," according to Michel Chossudovsky. It's a "War Budget (affecting) all major federal (programs except): 1. Defense and the Middle East War(s and whatever new ones are planned); 2. the Wall Street bank bailout, (and) 3. Interest payments (of around $500 billion annually) on a staggering (growing) public debt."
The toll is enormous. "Rising business inventories, declining investment, (business and household) bankruptcies, foreclosures, insolvent banks, massive accumulative losses, restricted access to credit, falling asset values, and a 20% reduction in household wealth (amounting to trillions of dollars) are the cause and consequence of the depression" that promises to be deep and protracted.
Globalization's toxic effects have exacerbated the crisis. Linked together under WTO rules and finance capital, what affects one nation affects all, directly or indirectly, to a greater or lesser degree. "At the same time, regions" were positioned differently so "the effects on them varied substantially."
Brazil is faring poorly due to "its high velocity fall in exports and industrial production (and) All indications are that negative growth will persist and deepen during the rest of 2009." President Lula's privatization and globalization policies exacerbated Brazil's crisis. Everything is down except skyrocketing unemployment as growing hundreds of thousands lose jobs.
Growing poverty is also evident, including "5 million impoverished landless rural workers and the 10 million families living on a one-dollar-a-day food-basket handout (as well as) tens of millions of minimum wage workers living on $250 a month."
As the crisis deepens, new investments have stalled. Private credit evaporated. Foreign investment plunged, consumer spending declined, and what's true for Brazil affects other regional economies, especially in Central America and the Caribbean. Being "highly 'integrated' with the US and world economy (they're) experiencing the full force" of its collapse, including rising poverty, crime, and "a potential for popular social upheavals against the incumbent right and center-left governments....The depression demonstrates with crystal clarity the pitfalls of imperial-centered globalization and the stark absence of any remedies for its collaborators in Latin America."
It also augurs change with hard times "spurring the return of the nation-state, as 'de-globalization' accelerates." It's for Latin America to refocus, declare globalization dead, and democratically generate wealth and employment broadly, not shift it upward to the usual recipients.
Eastern Europe and the Ex-communist Countries
These nations experienced hardline shock therapy full force - a destructive cocktail of deregulation, mass-privatizations, state enterprise closings, wage cuts and loss of benefits, wealth transfers to the rich, millions thrown out of work, repressive laws to contain resulting unrest, unrestricted access for foreign corporations to pillage local economies, and arranging their need for foreign investment and credit under terms they negotiate for their own benefit.
As a result, when Western economies crashed, so did Eastern European ones, leaving them dependent on the IMF and other international lending agencies "on onerous terms" favoring capital over people. The same pattern played out globally, including in America where the Fed and Treasury direct public wealth to the top, mainly the giant Wall Street banks that plundered the country and are free to keep doing it, given that Obama facilitates the process.
Asia: The End of the Illusions of De-coupling and Autonomous Growth
"The Great Depression of 2009 (hit) every economy in Asia," including Japan, China, India, and Tiger countries showing even the mighty aren't immune, given their dependency on export, financial and commodity markets. The global crisis left them vulnerable to lost trade followed by production cuts, bankruptcies, negative growth, mass-unemployment, and millions thrown overboard into deep poverty. Large public capital injections haven't been able to turn sick economies around.
Doing it requires measures not taken - shifting "capital back from private real estate, stock markets and overseas bond purchases (like US Treasuries)....to finance universal health care, education and pensions and the restoration of land to productive use rather than (to) real estate (and other) speculation." Instead strategies are based on "the usual capitalist solution" - aiding the privileged at the expense of all others in a part of the world where many countries have no safety net and those with them made big cutbacks. The human fallout is immense, much as in other parts of the world and America.
The Middle East: Depression and Regional Wars
Its crisis is rooted in Israel's belligerency and collapse of commodity prices, namely oil that recently made a modest recovery but may soon sink again given weak demand.
Large producers like the Saudis reap huge revenues even during hard times, then (re-cyle them) into large-scale finance, real estate and military purchases." US Treasuries also that finance our militarism, public debt, corporate takeovers, and speculative excesses creating bubbles, economic crises, and resulting global fallout.
Regional collapse "began with the frenzied commodity oil boom between 2004 - 2008 (that fueled) a construction and real estate boom - and the accumulation of debt and labor importation." Crisis followed with growing deficits replacing budget and trade surpluses. With lower oil prices producing less capital, prospects for near-term recovery remain dim, much like they do worldwide.
Israeli destabilization exacerbates the problem by "projecting its power and colonial ambitions throughout the region" - greatly reinforced by Washington's enormous support.
An Unprecedented Crisis
Its depth and severity have taken a toll on rich and developing countries alike and will for many years to come. As for America, the depression "takes place in the context of a de-industrialized economy, unprecedented public debt, multi-trillion dollar foreign debt and well over $800 billion dollars committed in military expenditures for several ongoing wars and occupations." These factors exacerbate the current situation, leaving it vulnerable to hard times ahead.
No previous crisis resembles it. Solutions adopted are counterproductive, the result being "the most rapid and widespread reduction of living standards and mass impoverishment in recent US history" - perhaps ever, as never before has so much been done for so few at the expense of throwing so many overboard.
The Failure to Address the Structural Basis of the Crisis
As explained above, Obama's economic measures will exacerbate, not improve (let alone reverse) current conditions. Instead of closing, nationalizing, or breaking up insolvent banks, he's looting the nation's Treasury to reward them for the crisis they caused and should be held criminally responsible. As important, recapitalizing them won't work. They'll need continued cash infusions, and resources wasted on them aren't available for real productive use. Thus, the economy will keep weakening, and millions more Americans will lose jobs, homes, savings and futures. So far, Obama has done virtually nothing to help them beyond rhetorically saying he cares.
The General Motors bankruptcy highlights capitalism's failure. It also augurs war on working Americans, about to be downgraded to lower pay, fewer benefits, and for growing numbers opportunities only in the military or unskilled, low-paying service jobs - if they can find them. Obama's economic agenda is turning America and other developed nations into Guatamala - so far with no uproar great enough to stop him. In addition, he's destroying, not creating, jobs because no public investment is allocated for it.
Instead, he's "channel(ling) billions toward the privately owned telecommunication, construction, environmental and energy corporations, where the bulk of the government funds go to salaries and bonuses for senior management and staff and provide profits to stock holders, while" mere crumbs go to wage earners.
Economic regeneration and reversing past failures are off the table. Rewarding corporate predators takes precedence along with stepped up imperial adventurism and the enormous sums it costs. Speculative excesses will continue. Budget deficits and the national debt have soared to stratospheric and unsustainable levels. Wealth disparities will persist and increase. Human deprivation will grow. Obama promised change. Instead, he's "totally committed to saving the capitalist class and the US empire" at the expense of ignored worker needs.
His failed agenda is highlighted by:
— today's economic structure "which once generated employment, profits and growth (but) no longer exists;"
— so-called "stimulus" benefits to Wall Street and other favored industries, not people where they'll do the most good; and
— what's directed to these sectors denies help to households that comprise 70% of GDP; "the only (way to) increas(e) demand and stimulat(e) recovery is to restore the purchasing power of working Americans."
Rebalancing the economy depends on stimulating demand through "direct state ownership and long-term, large-scale investment in the production of goods and social services." It also requires "Dismantling the entire financial speculative 'superstructure' " responsible for the current crisis and will cause future ones if allowed to keep operating.
Real productive investment and growth must replace destructive financialization - a fraud-laden casino operation generating great wealth for privileged bankers but few others. Other vital change requires:
— retraining FIRE sector and other employees for productive new jobs; and
— dismantling America's military empire; downsizing the Pentagon; slashing the defense budget, closing hundreds of global bases abroad and at home, and ending alliances with belligerent foreign powers; then redirecting those funds for productive use.
"Reversing domestic decay requires the end of empire and the construction of a democratic socialist republic." Today's America is fundamentally flawed, corrupted, unsustainable, and heading for demise if not reversed in time.
The Basic Priority of Public Policy: A Better Life for All
Egalitarianism defines it, something missing in America's roots, so it's high time it got there with little time to waste. Democratic socialism "is a means to a better material life (as reflected in) higher living standards, greater political freedom, social equality of conditions, and internal and external security." Successful socialist states effectively serve the majority of workers. They use internal resources for their own needs, not licensed for foreign predators to exploit them for profit unavailable for domestic use.
"Capitalism thrives on social inequalities." Socialism strives for equality, lessening poverty, providing essential services, and helping the most needy with subsidies and other benefits. Policies must include:
— "massive investment in quality housing, household appliances, public transport, environmental concerns and infrastructure;"
— economic diversification focusing on major investments in raw material industrialization, "producing quality goods of mass consumption....and in agriculture" - to efficiently address essential needs; and
— investment in education, health care, jobs creation, and other essential areas for public well-being.
Twenty-first century socialism must achieve "solidarity at home" with the general welfare as top priority. "Above all, socialism is about social equality - in income, schools and hospitals....between (and within) classes" and achieving it by "effectively re-distribut(ing) wealth and property to all workers, white and black, Indian farmer and urban worker, men and women, and young and old."
Bernard Madoff: Wall Street Swindler Strikes Powerful Blows for Social Justice
Consummate insider Madoff's clients represented a who's who of high net worth individuals and institutions, including banks, pension funds, universities, charities, insurers, other money managers, synagogues, his Palm Beach Country Club, and prominent figures like Thyssen family members, Senator Frank Lautenberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Liliane Bettencourt (called the world's wealthiest woman), and many others - over 4000 in all now poorer for the experience.
Until collapsing, he reputedly never had a losing year, a clear sign something was wrong, but as long as the good times lasted, who cared - including the SEC, advised of his Ponzi scheme but ignored it. The signals were obvious:
— "constant high returns;
— unmatched by any other broker;
— a lack of third party oversight;
— a backroom accounting firm physically incapable of auditing the multi-billion dollar operation;
— a broker-dealer operation directly under his thumb; and"
— an atmosphere of total secrecy.
Once exposed, it turned out that some of Wall Street's "biggest exploiters and smartest swindlers were completely 'taken' by one of their own....There is nothing worse for the ego of a respectable swindler than to be trumped" by an even bigger one and to have it go on for so long.
But consider the positive side, including:
— denting America's "Zionist funding of illegal Israeli colonial settlements in the Occupied Territories;"
— less for AIPAC to buy congressional influence;
— discrediting other speculative hedge fund operators;
— exposing the corrupted SEC that takes care of its own like all other so-called regulatory agencies - because they're run by officials from industries they regulate and return to them in high-paying jobs;
— Madoff having been a former Nasdaq chairman and NASD vice-chairman shows that stock exchange insiders ignore transgressions from one of their own because they have similar ones themselves to hide;
— less global inequality as mostly rich investors got taken;
— clear evidence that capital's golden rule is to produce more of it, even by fleecing other swindlers as well as close family members and friends;
— infamous slumlords, sweatshop owners, and predatory real estate moguls were had;
— anti-Semites were hurt - ones "who claim that there is a 'close-knit Jewish conspiracy to defraud Gentiles;' '
— "financial know-it-alls" also; and
— 51 major Jewish American organizations as well - receiving smaller contributions from their less well-healed supporters.
Madoff and others like him are "product(s) of a systemic imperative and (capitalism's) economic culture...." But give him credit. On his own, he "struck a bigger blow against global financial capital, Wall Street and the US Zionist Lobby/Israel First Agenda than the entire US and European Left combined over the past half century!" He "inadvertently rendered an historic service to popular justice by undermining some of the financial props of a class-ridden injustice system." Maybe he should receive a medal or at least a commemorative plaque.
The Election of the Greatest Con-Man in Recent History
On November 4, the nation exhaled. The Bush era ended and a new Obama one began. Celebratory exuberance followed this " 'historic moment,' a 'turning point' in American history," and why not. Forgetting past pledges made and broken, voters were mesmerized by promises of change, taxing the rich, ending the Iraq war and occupation, and delivering health care for all and other measures. Obama mania swept the country, but cooler heads saw other signals early on.
A "transformational presidency" wasn't to be nor was one planned. Throughout the campaign, "telltale signs of (Obama's) true orientation surfaced," including promising Zionists "more....than had ever been conceded by any previous US administration - inter alia, support for Israel's illegal annexation of greater East Jerusalem."
Once elected, Obama's transition team and key appointments included "political dregs who brought on the unending wars of the past two decades, and the economic policy makers responsible for the financial crash and the deepening recession afflicting tens of millions of Americans today and for the foreseeable future." Obama's election indeed marked a "historic moment in American history: the victory of the greatest con man and his accomplices and backers in recent history."
He promised peace but delivered war; trillions to corrupted bankers, not beneficial social change; millions of lost jobs, not new ones; handouts across the board to industry favorites, not vital help for the unemployed, homeless, impoverished, or states facing potential ruin.
"Obama, on a bigger stage, is the perfect incarnation of Melville's Confidence Man. He catches your eye while he picks your pocket. He gives thanks as he packs you off to fight wars in the Middle East...." He promises everything "while he empties your Social Security funds to bail out" Wall Street swindlers. "He appoints and praises the architects of collapsed pyramid schemes to high office while promising you that better days are ahead."
He promised change and delivered hell to tens of millions - the same agenda as George Bush and in some respects worse given the dire economy, no effort to fix it, expanded militarism, his first coup d'etat in Honduras, an attempted color revolution against Iran, destabilization mischief in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, and recently introduced outlandish pro-corporate legislation and administration proposals, all harmful to millions of Americans.
He's surrounded by "a network of confidence people. They are a well-organized gang of prominent political operatives, money raisers, mass media hustlers, real estate moguls and academic pimps....joined and abetted by the elected officials and hacks of the Democratic Party." He represents privilege and disdain for working Americans. He's an avowed militarist, empire builder, and "unabashed Wall Street Firster," placing their agenda above all others.
Behind his smooth rhetoric, his agenda is firm and irreversible - an "abiding commitment to....military-driven empire building (and his Wall Street funders) even in the midst of a collapsing domestic economy and" growing deprivation for millions. How long they'll put up with it is the question.
Lessons from the Collapse of Wall Street
The fallout from today's economic collapse has been devastating. It includes:
— "The near bankruptcy of Social Security" as Treasury funds were looted for Wall Street bailouts;
— "The insecurity of private pension funds," the result of all of them having lost from 23 - 30% or more during the crisis;
— "The loss of a real economy manufacturing base" has transformed the country into a low wage and benefit service one, in many cases requiring few skills and no future; offshoring a "diversified manufacturing economy is the root cause of the collapse of the US financial system and the emerging long-term recession;" and
— Capital flight "from productive sectors to FIRE (and a) huge surge of (it) overseas" leaving the economy even more vulnerable.
Obama's domestic and foreign policies make economic recovery impossible, but "one thing is increasingly clear: his agenda is unsustainable; none of this can continue - whether the political and financial elite like it or not...The world's future is not safe in" the hands of the ruling oligarchy, and sooner or later an aroused public will assert itself. It's just a matter of time.
Latin America: Perspectives for Socialism in a Time of World Capitalist Recession/Depression
Economist Jack Rasmus calls the economic crisis an "epic recession," heading toward a full-blown depression. Petras calls it a "recession-depression (RD) because the negative growth of capitalism is a current ongoing process that is still in its opening phase," but moving in the same direction. Its unique features include:
— nearly all world economies are integrated under a common system - so-called free-market capitalism controlling production and world markets; as a result, they all sink or swim together to a greater or lesser degree;
— "The level of integration....is deeper and more widespread than ever before in history" so that good or bad times have a global effect;
— concentrated, centralized capital, especially in finance, reached unprecedented levels, heightening trouble in periods of hard times;
— the "size and extension of wage and salaried workers is qualitatively greater than any other period" in history;
— finance capitalism's dominance contributes to destructive boom and bust cycles;
— "Latin America's 'restructured' capitalist economy (anchored its growth) in agro-mineral exports," increasing its dependency "on overseas markets and diversified trading partners in Asia" like China;
— neoliberalism was strengthened in Latin America, and state policy was structured to "favor agro-mineral exporters and accommodate the poorest section through vast clientelistic 'poverty programs,' " and
— America's dominant finance capital led to:
(1) "de-capitalization of manufacturing;
(2) the massive expansion of real estate speculation;
(3) debt-financed consumer-based growth;
(4) the stimulation of Asian manufacturing growth and exports; and
(5) the boom in commodity production, exports and prices in Latin America."
Combined, the above factors fueled growth until 2007, followed by the subsequent collapse and deepening recession. America has been especially hard hit, and few prospects promise relief. All economic indicators point down, and households are so over-indebted they've been forced to curb their spending for the first time in decades. A combination of "Unemployment, bankruptcy, credit freeze, corporate losses and debt - a general depression - has devastated the domestic US economy" and spilled over into the rest of the world. Monetary and fiscal measures have been so misdirected they've failed.
All major banks are insolvent. Industry is flat on its back. Small and larger businesses are vulnerable to collapse. As economist Rick Wolff explains, "capitalism hit the fan." The entire system broke down and "no longer performs its most basic functions....to produce, lend, employ, consume, trade and house." Like other world regions, Latin America has been greatly impacted by weakened export markets, frozen credit, capital flight, and overall economic malaise.
All regional economies have felt the full brunt of the crisis - in terms of declining "trade, domestic production, investment, employment, state revenues and income. (As a result), bankruptcies will proliferate and state spending on social services will decline." Propping up banks and key businesses takes precedence. Public and private unemployment will thus grow. Wages and benefits will be cut. Latin America's "entire socio-economic class configuration (on which its growth model is based), is headed for a long-term, large scale transformation."
Trade unionists and social movements must act or lose relevance. With dominant business sectors needing state subsidies and debt relief, "workers, employees, small farmers and (common) businesspeople" are bearing the recession's brunt on their backs - through lower wages, reduced social services and state repression ready to crush resistance.
If trade unions aren't up to the task of bargaining for worker rights, "new forms of mass organizations of the semi-employed and unemployed workers will likely emerge" to do it in their place by applying direct action tactics - "paralyzing the roadways and transport networks, and occupying closed plants and public buildings," as in Argentina from 2000 - 2003.
Popular struggles "will be directed to conserve jobs, block mass layoffs and" occupy factories and enterprises. Greater state involvement may be demanded as recessionary effects deepen. During crisis-ridden times, renewed opportunities arise to advance social movements. With imperial capital power in decline and Washington struggling to preserve it, US-Latin American strains will grow.
The 1990 - 99 "Golden Age of Imperial Pillage" has passed. "Popular urban uprisings, massive rural movements, and the emergence of Indian-based takeovers of regional and local governments" replaced it - undermining America's influence and shifting the balance of power center-left even without "enforcing any fundamental changes in property or class relations."
From 2005 - 08, Washington focused on foreign wars and occupations, the Global War on Terror, and backing Israel's serial aggression. It freed Latin America "to pursue a more autonomous political agenda, including greater regional integrations...."
From 2008 to the present, grim economic times have prevailed. Regional exports, growth and reserves declined, but later than in America and Europe. Currently, however, Latin America is feeling the recession's full brunt that's sparing no country anywhere. A familiar regional pattern is repeating. Its "debt trap....awaits." It can't "sustain (or even stabilize its) growth...not in an ocean of depressed advanced capitalist countries" it depends on.
Capitalism and socialism are now weak. "The question becomes which side will be able to intervene, reorganize and recompose its forces to take advantage of the other." Recent mass mobilizations were in Argentina (1999 - 2003), "the Brazilian Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST - from 1985 - 2002, but in decline under Lula since 2003), and the Bolivian workers-peasant/Indian (2000, 2003 and 2005) urban insurrections."
Between 2000 - 2005, the most successful mobilizations occurred, followed by a relative decline from that time to the present as "fragmentation, dispersion and internal conflict among Leftist parties" limited their effectiveness. With "sectoral leadership" alone, and without independent financial and material resources, they're unable to exert power for social change.
As for relations with America, they're "profoundly influenced by political-economic-military contingencies, such as: war and peace, economic booms....recessions (and) crises, revolutions, uprisings and reactionary coups." Even so, all of Latin America, "from independent (Venezuela), autonomous competitive capitalist (Brazil), autonomous and critical (Bolivia), selective collaborator (Chile) to....imperial collaborators (Colombia, Mexico and Peru) operate within a capitalist economy and class system, in which market relations and the capitalist classes are still central players."
Obama's election changed nothing. He's as imperial as George Bush, but not without constraints. Given current conditions, Latin America is relegated to a "fifth level priority" after economic issues, military adventurism elsewhere, and other matters taking precedence. As a result, large-scale investments and loans won't be forthcoming. America's overreach weakens the region's ruling class and opens opportunities for the Left. It needs to focus on:
— "The central role that the domestic ruling class plays in sustaining the imperial edifice;"
— new alliances with European and Asian nations;
— the emergence of Brazil as a regional power and what effect it has on national and class struggles; and
— unifying "fragmented economic demands and (formulating them) into a socialist political program in the face of a (systemic) economic crisis and class-wide unemployment."
No easy solutions are apparent, but the "strategic advances of the Left in Latin America are found in its heritage of recent class victories over neo-liberalism, (America's current) weakness, and, above all, the deepening world recession." It's up to "conscious socialist political formations (to engage in popular) struggles capable of linking economic conditions to political action."
Part II continues Petras' analysis of the global depression, regional wars, and the decline of America's empire.
Part II continues Petras' analysis of the global depression, regional wars, and the decline of America's empire.
Obama's Latin American Policy
At all times under all administrations, policy, not rhetoric, defines priorities, and it's no different for Obama. With regards to Latin America and its people, he's been hostile and dismissive by:
— allocating half a billion dollars "in military and related aid" to aid the right wing Calderon regime and militarizing the US - Mexican border;
— on the pretext of fighting drugs trafficking and regional security, funding to Mexico and Colombia goes for military purposes; Colombia gets the most - billions under Plan Colombia; economic aid is ignored;
— beyond the timeline of Petras' book, Hugo Chavez and other regional leaders voiced concern over Washington's intention to supply Colombia with new weapons and technology, continued billions for the hardline "Uribe doctrine," and of greatest concern the plan to access seven new military bases - three airfields, two naval installations, and two army bases besides nine others currently stationing US forces all supplemented by the reactivated Fourth Fleet in April 2008;
— continuing US trade policies that have been devastating to regional farmers and peasants; likely new protectionist measures will hurt them more;
— practicing the same Bush anti-Latino immigrant policies with talk now about new legislation to harden them and establish a new bracero policy;
— targeting regional left of center regimes, including Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Cuba; the latter's long-standing embargo remains in place despite some relaxed travel and other restrictions; and
— maintaining a three-fold regional strategy:
(1) supporting hard right Colombian, Mexican and Peruvian regimes;
(2) aiming for more influence over centrist governments in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay; and
(3) "isolating and weakening leftists and populist governments" in Cuba, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua.
Overall, Obama is continuing the same Bush policies. Latin America remains a low priority, but military aid and an imperial agenda define it along with supporting the region's most hard right, repressive regimes. He also "talk(s) free markets while practicing protectionism," very typical of how America operates - one-way to benefit its corporate interests at the expense of its trading partners.
The current economic crisis added a new wrinkle. Obama is "absorbing most of the hemisphere's credit (for his) financial bailout," so regional exporters are hard-pressed to finance their operations. Capital repatriated to America's domestic market compounds the problem by extending and deepening Latin America's recession. "All the major countries in the region are headed toward negative growth (exacerbated by) double-digit unemployment, rising levels of poverty, and mass protests." They're vulnerable because of the "production and development strategies (they) adopted" with emphasis on "privatization of all key productive sectors."
Now in the face of their deepening crisis, center-left regimes (like in Brazil and Argentina) have made no or few provisions for unemployed workers, peasants, public employees and small business. Instead, (in pursuit of new markets and investors) "bankers, export elites and multi-national corporations" are favored as in America.
However, Venezuela's center-left regime pursued an alternate strategy, including nationalizing key sectors, protecting vital social ones like food, and expanding agrarian reform to increase production. Chavez vows to maintain social services and is practicing Keynesian policies to do it - large-scale public investments combined with subsidizing the most needy. Still, Venezuela's dependence on oil revenues makes it vulnerable to declining prices, something very much in play today that threatens social stability along with high inflation and "mal-distribution of income, property and power."
Overall throughout the continent, "Mass protests, general strikes, and other forms of social unrest are beginning to manifest themselves." America will try to capitalize on them to maintain dominance over its "back yard."
Addressing Economic Needs Via Electoral Processes: The Case of Venezuela
Democratic political processes require:
— "Free and equal competition for political office;
— access to the means of communication; and
— competing ideas and freedom to speak and act without physical or psychological coercion."
In contrast, authoritarian and faux democratic regimes:
— control the mass media, access to it, and one-sidedly support free-market dominance to the exclusion of alternative systems;
— let monied interests control the process through unrestricted spending for favored candidates to the detriment of others, especially independent ones that are entirely shut out;
— exert state repression and vote-rigging to deny opposition candidates an equal chance;
— accept foreign financing for regime favorites, and
— allow other hard line tactics and embedded systems to make democratic governance impossible.
The mass media play a crucial role. Their power influences public opinion, supports favored candidates, and it's no different in Venezuela than elsewhere. Yet Hugo Chavez and his party won impressive victories in every presidential, congressional and municipal election since 1998 by promising and delivering social changes - real ones for essential needs that lifted millions of out of poverty by using the nation's resources to help them.
In recent years, other Latin American electoral systems have also been democratized as neoliberal practices receded, popular mass movements arose, and "oligarchic uprisings" for authoritarian rule were defeated. Venezuela represents the most impressive example.
Prior to Chavez' election, the country had oligarchic rule for 40 years under two parties competing (like Republicans and Democrats) "to represent the petrol-rentier oligarchy, powerful importers, and the real estate-financial speculative elite." Both parties "pillaged the public treasury" until Chavez won office in December 1998 and reformed the system. He survived the Washington-backed April 2002 coup, the later in the year-early 2003 oil management lockout, the August 2004 recall election, and remains the most popular political figure in the country.
It's prospered under his leadership, and Venezuelans have benefitted by policies delivering beneficial social change. Chavez deepened the nation's democracy through:
— elected community councils;
— encouraging, promoting and financing "a vast array of neighborhood cooperatives, peasant organizations and trade unions;
— "weakening....linkages between the oligarchic political and economic elites" and reducing authoritarian power over civil society;
— establishing publicly financed television and community radio stations to challenge the corporate media's control of information;
— supporting free expression, including by his fiercest opponents; and
— conducting free, fair, and open democratic elections that shame America's rigged ones favoring a corrupted two-party oligarchy.
Today, the pro-Chavez United Socialist Party of Venezuela ((PSUV) enjoys overwhelming support as evidenced in the November 2008 election when it won 72% of state governorships and 58% of the popular vote.
In February 2009, Venezuelans passed a constitutional amendment permitting an incumbent president and government officials to run for office without term limits. In other words, to let people vote their officials in or out, not party bosses in back rooms. Over the past decade, it shows in Venezuela:
— media choices are more diverse;
— more social classes than ever exist at state and local levels;
— the electoral process is free, fair and open as judged by independent observers;
— campaigns and procedures are less corrupt, violent and unable to be manipulated by the powerful;
— citizen participation is widespread and impressive; and
— governance under Chavez has lessened inequalities and encouraged the citizenry to participate in their democracy.
Obstacles nonetheless remain, principally "in the continuation of vast concentrations of oligarchic wealth and ownership of strategic banking, mass media, real estate, agricultural lands, distribution networks and the manufacturing sectors." As a result, "vast social inequalities" exist, though less extreme than before 1999.
Chavez's most pressing task is to "formulate a comprehensive socio-economic strategic plan to confront the global collapse of capitalism," especially in light of lower oil prices and demand. Advancing his social agenda depends on it.
Masters of Defeat: Retreating Empire and Bellicose Bluster
Despite America's imperial and diplomatic defeats, militarism under Obama continues to serve the usual constituencies that benefit, while at the same time unmet human needs are ignored and disdained. As the economic crisis deepens, reckless national resource amounts are diverted to powerful corporate interests and to maintaining America's imperial footprint globally in spite of clear failures with Iraq as Exhibit A.
Over six years of war and occupation left "enormous military casualties and over a half a trillion in economic losses, without securing any political, military or natural resource gains."
Iran is Exhibit B. Despite Israeli-Washington efforts to isolate the country, in October 2008, Shell Oil and the Austrian energy company OMV sponsored a Teheran conference promoting "gas export opportunities and potentials of the Islamic Republic of Iran." After losing out on tens of billions in potential oil revenues, Big Oil may have decided that "economic-centered empire building" is preferable to the military kind. Shell's move perhaps is an overture for what's to come if the Obama- Netanyahu axis doesn't intervene militarily to stop it.
Afghanistan and Pakistan are Exhibits C and D with US forces targeting them both in a futile effort to secure control and extend America's South Asia influence. After nearly eight years of conflict and occupation, Taliban forces are now resurgent, and stepped up efforts to defeat them will likely prove as unsuccessful as previous campaigns. Yet vast sums are wasted trying while vital domestic needs go begging.
America's one-sided Israeli support is equally futile and "has led to a sharp decline (of) US influence in the region" as well as enormous Arab street opposition that promises one day to explode. It's also been bad for business. "Zionist-Israeli usurpation of US Middle East policy has led to strategic losses of investments, markets, profits and partnerships for the entire multi-national oil and gas industry" as well as other global economic losses.
Washington is also losing out in Latin America where its influence is waning. For business, it amounts to hundreds of billions in lost trade and investments as global competitors like China have profited at America's expense. Washington's belligerency has a price, and its fallout is also felt at home.
Besides its declining competitiveness, America's economic strength has weakened. Conditions at home are in disarray, and "the financial system is disconnected from the real economy and on the verge of collapse...." It's only a matter of time before it rubs off on Obama and he's blamed for it, as well he should be, given the destructiveness of his economic policies.
In lieu of progressive alternatives, administration extremists seek confrontation with Russia, China and Iran as well as Latin American states like Venezuela. These nations and others show more resistance, and most states prefer cooperative economic growth over futile military conflict - a lesson Washington and Israel have yet to learn, and they're paying for it.
The Obama Regime, The Zionist Power Configuration and Regional Wars
Obama's Israel-Firster officials and 51 influential Zionists organizations define America's counterproductive Middle East belligerency - an agenda destined to fail, yet it persists despite urgent domestic needs left unaddressed. Edward Said once said that in a matter of hours, the Israeli Lobby could marshal the entire Senate to come together for Israel on virtually anything - even policies counterproductive to America's best interests.
In addition, outliers in both Houses of Congress are purged, appointments with dubious Israeli loyalties are blocked, and regional belligerency is the preferred option over diplomacy because Israel expects it with regards to Iraq under Saddam, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon and Gazans under Hamas - targeted by slow-motion genocide that continue with Washington's approval but couldn't persist without it, or Israel's illegal West Bank settlements either.
For decades, and especially since 9/11, Muslims and Arabs have been ferociously targeted by vicious propaganda and military aggression. Obama is following the same agenda, in Afghanistan with stepped up efforts.
America's pro-Israeli media as well as influential business, academic and other figures support open-ended militarism and all policies benefitting Israel regardless of their destructiveness. As a result, the US is in terminal decline with nothing in evidence to stop it.
Israeli Middle East Supremacy from Gaza to Tehran: Imperial Overstretch?
Iran poses no regional threat nor has it for the past 200 years. Yet Israel targets it for removal as its sole remaining rival, so perhaps Operation Cast Lead was preparatory target practice. Washington appears supportive, given Obama saying at the July G 8 meeting that "we're not going to just wait indefinitely and allow (Iran to develop a) nuclear weapon." European and Arab states may not object. Israeli influence demands it. The major media is in tow, and extremist US elements want regime change at any cost, even a devastating holocaust if nuclear weapons are used against underground Iranian sites.
For decades, Israel has been a serial aggressor and threat to the region. It's used "repeated threats and aerial and ground assaults on neighboring countries....to assert (unchallenged) regional supremacy." Washington's support under Republicans and Democrats permits it in spite of huge risks of uncontrollable fallout.
"The election of the ultra-militarist Binyamin Netanyahu promises (stepped up) Israeli plans for a massive assault on Iran," regardless of its foolhardiness. The Israeli prime minister calls the Islamic Republic the "terrorist mother base (and) that Israel cannot accept an Iranian terror base (Gaza) next to its major cities." So far, belligerency is on hold, but perhaps preparations are underway, given Obama's G 8 remark and Joe Biden's earlier one about America not intervening to stop a "preemptive" attack. The New York Times quoted him saying:
"Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do when they make a determination - if they make a determination - that they're existentially threatened and their survival is threatened by another country."
Iran plans no conflict and poses no threat to Israel or the region. An Israeli and/or American attack will openly defy international law that permits defensive measures only until the Security Council acts. Yet naked aggression is possible with the Obama administration "openly threaten(ing) war if Iran does not accept unilateral disarmament with intrusive inspection of its strategic (nuclear) installations, allowing Israel and the US a unique opportunity for pinpointing vital targets for their first wave of attack" if one comes.
Retaliation is Iran's only deterrent, including against America in Iraq. Yet "Israel's military success in Gaza (against a defenseless civilian population) has created an irrational triumphalist war fever among all of its leaders and their" American Zionist supporters. If it comes, "major military and political retaliatory action (will respond) throughout the Middle East" inflicting enormous economic losses," including disruption of regional oil operations.
Opposition efforts, however, are building to stop it, including Israeli war crimes investigations, the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement, and growing number of Jews worldwide no longer willing to tolerate a destructive Zionist ideology that violates Judaism's basic tenets. Unfortunately, Israel may have to be shocked militarily before the lesson is learned. If so, Arabs and Jews alike may pay dearly as a result.
The Politics of An Israeli Extermination Campaign: Backers, Apologists and Arms Suppliers
Well before Operation Cast Lead, Israeli historian Ilan Pappe explained that Israel has conducted state-sponsored genocide against Palestinians for decades and intensively in Gaza. In March 1998, international law expert Francis Boyle proposed that "the Provisional Government of (Palestine) and its President institute legal proceedings against Israel before the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague for violating the" Genocide Convention - an "undeniable fact to the entire world," according to Boyle.
Petras explained that "Israel's totalitarian vision is driven by the vision and practice of a permanent (Zionist-driven) purge of Arab Palestine....an ethno-racist ideology....enforced and pursued by its organized backers in the United States." Operation Cast Lead was the latest example - a pre-planned mass-murder/scortched earth campaign to turn Gaza to rubble and its population to the edge of despair, deepening further from the horrors of a medieval siege that's starving people to death. Washington lets Israel:
— "commit what leading United Nations and international human rights experts (call) 'crimes against humanity' with total impunity;"
— get "an unlimited supply of the most technologically advanced and destructive weapons (and license to) use them without limit on a civilian population" in violation of international and US laws; and
— avoid UN sanctions and condemnations because America vetoes them in the Security Council.
Israel's chokehold on policy is key - from grassroots America to the major media, business, academia, the clergy, key professions, both Houses of Congress and every administration, Republican or Democrat. Influential figures voicing opposition assures they're targeted, intimidated, blackmailed, smeared, pressured and removed from positions of authority.
The major media support and trumpet the most outrageous Israeli crimes. Presidents of the 51 Major American Jewish Organizations (PMAJO) back them with "the Big Lie" and disseminate it through their Daily Alert propaganda organ, a tactic "reminiscent of totalitarian regimes."
Major Jewish religious organizations are also involved, spewing hate instead of core Judaic principles. On January 3, 2009, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism defended Israel's Gaza reign of terror saying:
"Every congregation should issue a statement supporting Israel. Solicit statements from elected officials at the city, state or provincial, or federal levels. Solicit statements from local religious, ethnic and other prominent personalities...."
It added "talking points," propaganda, and support for the most egregious crimes of war and against humanity - justifying mass murder of civilian men, women, children and infants, Arab lives that don't matter if killing them helps Jews.
Enough is enough. Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions are essential until Israel complies with international law and the universal principles of human rights. Nothing less is tolerable in the interest of justice, a sovereign Palestinian state, and enforceable peace. Israel must be condemned, isolated, and held accountable for its grievous crimes. All support should be withheld. A battle of ideas must be waged to counter vicious dominant media lies. Israel must be denounced as a serial aggressor, a rogue state, a scourge to the region and humanity, and a violator of core Judaic dogma. America's complicity must also be outed.
And Zionism must be exposed as the enemy of Jews - extremist, corrosive, hateful, repugnant, indefensible, a dagger in the heart of its host, essential to expunge to save it.
Iranian Elections: The "Stolen Elections" Hoax
On June 12, Iran held presidential elections. Four candidates participated, but only two contended seriously. Final results showed incumbent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with a 62.63% majority with second place finisher Mir Hossein Mousavi a distant 33.75%. At once street protests erupted with claims of electoral fraud. Yet a May 11 - 20 independent poll sponsored by two US organizations (the Center for Public Opinion and the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation) showed Ahmadinejad way ahead enough to win overwhelmingly. Washington and the major media cried foul.
All elections "in which the White House has a significant stake, where" pro-US candidates are defeated, are "denounced as illegitimate by the entire political and mass media elite" with no evidence offered as proof. PMAJO demanded harsher sanctions and further isolation of the Islamic Republic.
"Western leaders rejected the results because they 'knew' that their reformist candidate could not lose." They portrayed Mousavi as a "voice of moderation" despite his hardline record as prime minister in the 1980s, and his support from Iran's ruling elite, urban middle class, as well as youths and students favoring better relations with America. In contrast, Ahmadinejad has widespread support among the urban and rural poor for providing vital social services that Mousavi disdains.
Western propaganda predicted a landslide Mousavi victory in spite of convincing evidence of Ahmadinejad's popularity. Is it surprising that he won? A Mousavi victory was clearly unexpected, especially as an independent candidate who became politically active again after a 20 year hiatus and only campaigned in Iran's major cities. Ahmadinejad, in contrast, made over 60 nationwide trips in less than three months. It paid off.
Post-election, the Los Angeles Times published a photo of a huge pro-Ahmadinejad crowd cheering the re-elected president - a far larger assemblage than any demonstration opposing him. It's not hard imagining why. Most Iranians are low income workers who rely on essential social services. It's no surprise that they fear losing them under a leader saying he'll cut them.
"The scale of the opposition's electoral deficit should tell us how out of touch it is with its own people's vital concerns:" real needs like food subsidies, housing, security, jobs, and more. Ahmadinejad promised to keep addressing them. Mousavi wants closer ties to the West and the usual free-market "reforms" that include lower wages, fewer benefits, privatized state enterprises, and less attentiveness to public needs in the interest of greater corporate profits.
What's ahead now is "open to debate." On June 26, USA Today reported that:
"The Obama administration is moving forward to fund groups that support Iranian dissidents, records and interviews show, continuing a program" begun under George Bush.
Brent Scowcroft told Al Jazeera television that "of course" Washington "has agents working inside Iran," and it's well-known that Congress, for years, has directed millions of dollars for regime change, thus far without success.
Extremists in the Obama administration cite a stolen election and want "preemptive war (because) no negotiations are possible with an 'illegitimate" government...." While abhorring violence and supporting the "aspirations of the Iranian people to be achieved through peaceful means" and free expression, "no EU leader (except France's Sarkozy) has questioned the outcome of the voting."
Along with US hard-liners, Netanyahu is "the wild card," and it's up for grabs whether his bellicose stance signals conflict. If it comes, it'll be Washington's war as well, a disastrous one for the region and beyond, and further proof of America's terminal decline. Perhaps Israel's as well. Whether cooler heads can prevent it remains to be seen.
The New Agro-Industrial Neo-Colonialism: Two, Three, Many Mass Revolts
"Colonial style empire building is making a huge comeback, and most of the colonialists are latecomers" to the game - "newly emerging neo-colonial economic powers (ENEP)....seizing control of vast tracts of fertile lands from poor" African, Asian and Latin American countries.
Landless peasants and rural workers are being exploited, "repressed, assassinated or jailed (and forced) into disease-ridden urban slums." Agribusiness imperialism is to blame:
— over half of Madagascar's arable land has been leased to South Korea's Daewoo Logistics for 70 - 90 years to grow maize and palm oil for export;
— millions of fertile Cambodian hectares are being taken; and
— other seizures are happening elsewhere.
"Three blocs" are behind them:
— rich Arab oil states
— "newly-emerging imperial countries of Asia and Israel;" and
— US and European interests, including Wall Street speculators.
Key nations involved include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, China, Korea, Japan, Israel, America, and various European countries. Their modus operandi include "political and financial mechanisms," coup d'etats, destabilization, bribes and more to ally with neoliberal collaborators in an imperial land grab. Once in place, extreme exploitation occurs, including repression, impoverishment, and displacement to produce crops for export. Peasants become serfs for $1 - 2 dollars a day. Agribusiness reaps huge profits and get footholds for new investments.
The World Bank is heavily involved directing $1.4 billion for takeovers of "underutilized lands." Deep polarization is the result - between wealthy investors and speculators on one side v. "hundreds of millions of starving, landless, dispossessed peasants" in numerous countries around the world.
The process is in its early stages with what's coming to include takeovers of "transport systems, infrastructure and credit systems...." An elite few outside the country will profit hugely. Internal collaborators will get rich. Local middle class elements are shrinking, and the vast majority of poor and dispossessed workers and peasants will lose the most as they always do. Today's global economic crisis hits them hardest. Their only recourse is mass uprisings, but military crackdowns will likely follow.
Yet Petras believes new agribusiness empires "may be short-lived" - replaced by "a new wave of rural-based national liberation movements and ferocious competition between new and old imperial states fighting over increasingly scarce financial and economic resources." And it may happen "with or without change in the US or Europe."
Regional Wars and Western Progressive Opinion: Commiserate with the Victims; Condemn Those Who Resist!
In spite of signs of public restiveness over imperial wars and entrenched Israeli interests, a new American president was elected promising war, not peace, continued occupation of Iraq, threats against Iran, full support for Israeli aggression, and stepped up militarism against Afghanistan and perhaps elsewhere - besides his unconscionable amount of damage at home after seven months in office.
Nonetheless, prominent US and European progressive intellectuals (PPIs) support Obama based on rhetoric alone, not policies, given that he's not George Bush. Yet they "refuse to apply the 'lesser evil' (standard) in support of (the democratically-elected) Hamas" government or Hezbollah in Lebanon. They support them "as victims but condemn them as fighters who challenge their executioners" by acting in their own self-defense.
They support self-determination in principle, but reject mass popular movements struggling against imperial Israel and America for freedom. The "lesser evil Democrats and European Social Democrats and Center-Left politicians have a far worse record than the Taliban [IT IS HARD TO HAVE A WORSE RECORD THAN THE TALIBAN WHICH HAS A POLICY OF THROWING ACID IN THE FACES OF LITTLE GIRLS FOR GOING TO SCHOOL, among other atrocities--TR], Hezbollah, Hamas and Sadrist forces." They're also mindless about how better off Iraqis, Afghans, Lebanese and others were before US-EU imperial marauders subjugated them to wars and repressive occupations.
The historical record is clear. For over 300 years, Western imperialism "destroyed and undermined far more lives and livelihoods in far more countries over a greater time span than even the worst of the post colonial regimes." Choosing Obama as a "lesser evil," amounts to calling the worst of past sins acceptable.
Obama's Animal Farm: Bigger, Bloodier Wars Equal Peace and Justice
Afghanistan is bloodier than ever with General Stanley McChrystal in charge, a man Petras calls a "notorious psychopath" and with good reason. He's a hired gun, an assassin, a man known for committing war crime atrocities as head of the Pentagon's infamous Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) - established in 1980 and comprised of the Army's Delta Force and Navy Seals, de facto death squads assigned to commit "extrajudicial assassinations, systematic torture, bombing of civilian communities and search and destroy missions."
McChrystal represents the worst of them. "He is the very embodiment of the brutality and gore that accompanies military-driven empire building." His contempt for human life shows in not distinguishing between "civilian and military oppositions, between activists and their sympathizers, and the armed resistance."
Under Bush-Cheney, he was directly involved in torturing political prisoners and suspects as well as reigning terror over areas under his command. Obama gave him carte blanche to expand the Afghan war with more troops, funding, stepped up counterinsurgency, targeted killings, and frequent drone and other attacks against Afghan and neighboring Pakistan targets. He's charged with wiping out local social networks and community leaders, comprising support for armed resisters.
Obama's Afghan campaign is part of his military-driven empire building campaign that includes permanent occupation of Iraq, subversion and perhaps conflict with Iran, full support for Israeli belligerency, and continuing the worst of the Bush administration's torture practices.
With McChrystal his South Asian point man, military terrorism and wars without end define his strategy. Many thousands more civilians will die and be displaced as US onslaughts uproots entire communities and destroy everything in their path. Orwell might have called Obama's agenda: "Bigger and bloodier wars equal peace and justice," the more carnage the better.
Obama's Foreign Policy Failures
In order of importance, they are:
— no G-20 agreement for a joint economic stimulus - one based on "reconstituting the power of finance capital" at the expense of creating new jobs and restoring economic health;
— NATO countries refusing more troops for expanded war in Afghanistan and adjacent Pakistan heading America toward the same fate as Soviet forces in the 1980s, 19th century British ones, and other imperial nations failing to understand Afghans' determination to be free; today, Obama doesn't realize that NATO countries want no part of that caldron, nor will they alienate their people trying and jeopardize their own power in the process; further, in times of crisis, scare resources are vitally needed at home, a lesson America has yet to learn, but it will;
— Latin American countries' unwillingness to have closer political and diplomatic ties to America because of "the continued exclusion of Cuba and isolation of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador;" also the harmful effects of repatriating financial resources from the region; Obama's finance-centered agenda offers nothing so Latin American leaders reject it; the US's financial collapse has had major regional repercussions that assure long-term consequences affecting future relations; in addition, Obama's "commitment to military-centered empire building" further alienates regional states that are urgently seeking new markets, credits and investments to heal their sick economies; it's bringing Asian and Latin states closer to the detriment of America, seen as a less reliable trading partner and a very unfair one;
— continuing futile and counterproductive efforts to isolate and pressure Iran to end its legal commercial nuclear program through tightened economic sanctions; disingenuous rhetoric about "turn(ing) a new page" belies hardline tactics to destabilize its leadership for regime change, by whatever means it takes and regardless of the consequences; European and other states take strong exception resulting in America losing out economically;
— applying similar pressure to North Korea, a nation seeking rapprochement for years, only to have sitting US administrations rebuff them, choosing confrontation over stability on the peninsula and risking war, potentially with nuclear weapons much like with Iran;
— sacrificing Palestinian sovereignty in support of imperial Israel as evidenced by his Israel-Firster-ridden administration and willingness to bow to most every Israeli demand; Obama's subservience and impotence aren't "lost on the entire world, especially the Arab" one that's heard and seen it all before and expects nothing but empty rhetoric from Washington;
— Pakistan's unwillingness to undertake greater military aggression against its autonomous Northwest provinces and territories adjacent to Afghanistan; military attacks have displaced over two million people and hugely destabilized Pakistani cities and towns; the nation's commanders may have had enough because they fear a revolt in their ranks; and
— "securing a stable pro-US regime in Iraq" and pacifying the country under American control have so far been unsuccessful.
In less than seven months in office, failures have produced fiascos and disasters while economic conditions continue to decay. Sooner or later there are consequences. Pursuing imperial aggression "in a time of economic depression is self-destructive, self-isolating and doomed to failure." Using vitally needed resources for conquests and occupations, slaughtering hundreds of thousands doing it, forcing millions into permanent displacement, and ignoring essential homeland needs removes any possible doubt about America's moral credibility. It also begs the question of how much longer people will tolerate it and what next when they won't.