The Anti-Empire Report #28
By William Blum – Published December 6th, 2005
The big forgotten lie
Lots of accusations going on, and counter accusations, congressional investigations, demands for more investigations … Who said what? When did they say it? How did it contribute to the buildup for war? … intelligence failures, the administration should have known, we were misled, they lied, but the Democrats believed it also, voted for it … round and round it goes, back and forth, what passes for serious parliamentary debate in the US of A, 21st century …
It’s time once again to remind ourselves of the big lie, the biggest lie of all, the lie that makes this whole current controversy rather irrelevant. For it didn’t matter if Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, it didn’t matter if the intelligence was right or wrong, or whether the Bush administration lied about the weapons, or who believed the lies and who didn’t. All that mattered was the Bush administration’s claim that Iraq was a threat to use the weapons against the United States, an imminent threat to wreak great havoc upon America. (“Increasingly we believe the United States will become the target of those [Iraqi nuclear] activities,” said Vice-President Cheney six months before the invasion, as but one example.) 1
Think about that. What possible reason could Saddam Hussein have had for attacking the United States other than an irresistible desire for mass national suicide? “Oh,” some people might argue, “he was so crazy who knew what he might have done?” But when it became obvious in late 2002 that the US was intent upon invading Iraq, Saddam opened up the country to the UN weapons inspectors much more than ever before, with virtually full cooperation. This was not the behavior of a crazy person; this was the behavior of a survivalist. He didn’t even use those weapons when he was invaded in 1991 when he certainly had some of them. Moreover, we now know that Iraq had put out peace feelers in early 2003 hoping to prevent the war. They were not crazy at all.
No, the United States didn’t invade Iraq because of any threat of an attack using WMD. Nor can it be argued that mere possession of such weapons – or the belief of same – was reason enough to take action, for then the United States would have to invade Russia, France, Israel, et al.
I wrote much of the above in the December 2003 edition of this report. I’m afraid that I and other commentators will have to be repeating this observation for years to come.
Don’t tell my mother I work at the White House. She thinks I’m a children’s pimp.
They’re still trying. Still trying to square the circle of Iraq and convince us that what the US has done in that land is a splendid historical venture. If only they can find the right angle, the right thing to compare it to. Like an advertising agency looking for a new slogan to sell an old product.
Here comes now Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a Defense Department briefing last month, after returning from South Korea, where he addressed US troops: “I noted to them that within my lifetime, the same now free and prosperous South Korea that they’re helping to defend was almost completely destroyed by a terrible conflict. In the three years of the Korean War, nearly 40,000 Americans would fall in brutal combat, and U.S. forces endured many setbacks along the way. … Back then, a great many people questioned whether young Americans should face death and injury in Korea, thousands of miles from home, for a result that seemed uncertain at best. And today the answer is the Korean peninsula.” 2
The moral of Donald’s tale was of course that Iraq is the new Korea and if we just hold the line it’ll wind up just as marvelous as South Korea did.
By now, in this the fourth year of the Bush dial-a-lie administration, you no longer need to examine the actual facts behind a particular official statement to suspect that you have not been united with the probable. But for the record, let it be known that for the forty (40) years following the Korean War South Korea had one severely repressive government after another, whether civilian or military, martial law, numerous political prisoners, routine torture, brutal suppression of dissent and other rights, fraudulent elections, grim exploitation of the labor force … the familiar scenario. In 1980, the United States helped military strongman Chun Doo Hwan suppress an uprising of students and workers in the city of Kwangju who were protesting this scenario. As many as 2,000 of them were killed by the Korean armed forces. 3
The way things are going in Iraq, the society may implode in 40 days, never mind 40 years.
Venezuela’s unforgivable sins
First there was the coup attempt against Hugo Chavez in 2002, which briefly overthrew him, with Washington’s fingerprints all over the scene; then US support for an oil-workers strike in 2003 aimed at crippling the Venezuelan economy; the next year brought American financing of a failed referendum to recall the democratically elected Chavez, followed by the assassination of the government prosecutor who was investigating those behind the coup attempt; the Venezuelan attorney general has stated that the CIA had advised in the assassination. 4
This year, in May, the United States proposed to create a committee at the Organization of American States that would “monitor the quality of democracy and the exercise of power in Latin America.” Everyone at the OAS meeting knew it was aimed at Venezuela, but the United States denied it; this despite the fact that in the previous month “[Bush] administration officials had made several statements tying the effort directly to their concern about Hugo Chavez”. 5 The proposal fell with a thud.
Then, for the December 4 congressional elections, several of the main opposition parties withdrew their candidates. Chavez supporters charged Washington with having influenced those parties to do so in order to cast doubt upon the validity of the election, which the opposition knew would again show substantial support for Chavez and his program. If this charge is true, it would be reminiscent of what the US did in Nicaragua in 1984, when it bribed and pressured various parties opposed to the Sandinista government to drop out of the race. In the end, the United States ousted the Sandinistas by the use of violence, including the clearly implied threat to prolong the terrible civil war if the Nicaraguan people did not vote the Sandinistas out in the 1990 election. The war-weary Nicaraguans did just that. 6 This won’t be as easy for Washington to pull off in Venezuela since the army supports Chavez to a significant extent, whereas in Nicaragua the US was able to assist the former army to regroup as the Contras to wage civil war. Is the Bush administration crazy enough, or desperate enough, after all else has failed, to turn to a military solution to the Venezuelan “problem”? (The “problem” is that Hugo Chavez is not in love with the American empire or Washington’s neo-liberal plans for the planet, and says so unequivocally and frequently, with explicit examples of what the US has done. If the man is allowed to get away with this it can only encourage other uppity Third World leaders.)
Not your father’s kind of torture
We’ve been raised to associate torture with things like the German and Japanese practices on prisoners during World War 2, the Salem witch trials, the Spanish Inquisition, and what we’ve seen in torture museums, Hollywood films, and our comic books … bodies stretched out on racks; locked into devices which press metal points into the victim’s flesh and twist muscles and bones into agonizingly painful positions; red-hot pincers burning off flesh; the tearing out of fingernails; thumbscrews to crush fingers and toes; eyes gouged out … while the torturer’s assistant, a hunchback named Igor, looks on, salivating with sadistic glee.
To the extent that Cheney, Bush, Gonzales, and the rest of the torture apologists and denyers think about it at all, these are the kinds of images they’d like us to associate with torture, which, they hope, will show that what the US does is not torture. But who decided, and where is it written, that the historical torture methods, both real and imagined, comprise the sine qua non definition of torture? No one who’s gone through the American dungeons in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, or at any of the many secret CIA facilities, and no American who would be subjected to the same, would have any hesitation calling what they experienced “torture”. Merely reading some of the stories is enough to convince a person with any sensitivity. (Yes, to answer your question, that would exclude Cheney, Bush and Gonzales.) I’ve put together a long and graphic list of the techniques employed – from sleep deprivation, the use of dogs, drowning simulation, and lying naked on a sheet of ice, to electric shock, sodomy with various implements, being kept in highly stressful positions for hours on end, and 99 other ways to totally humiliate a human being; many of which the Nazis, Japanese, et al. could have learned from. 7
Interestingly, the United States granted immunity to a number of the German and Japanese torturers after the war in exchange for information about their torture experiments.
The moral progression of mankind
“When it comes to supporting the rights of Jews, there is no greater leader than the Third Reich, and we show that by holding people accountable when they violate the rights of our Jewish citizens. We show that by supporting the advance of religious and ethnic tolerance and supporting those Jewish people in countries where their human rights are denied or violated, like Austria.” – Joseph Goebbels, German Minister of Propaganda, March 6, 1941
“When it comes to human rights, there is no greater leader than the United States of America, and we show that by holding people accountable when they break the law or violate human rights. We show that by supporting the advance of freedom and democracy and supporting those in countries that are having their human rights denied or violated, like North Korea.” – Scott McClellan, White House spokesman, December 2, 2005
Can you guess which one of the above two statements I’ve made up?
Hunger in America
“Hunger in America up 43% in past five years” 8
“Food Stamp Cuts Are Proposed; House Plan Would Affect 300,000”, “About 40,000 children would lose eligibility for free or reduced-price school lunches” 9
“The way Americans seem to think today, about the only way to end hunger in America would be for Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird to go on national TV and say we are falling behind the Russians in feeding folks.” 10
Perhaps today, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld would have to say that we’re falling behind the Cubans or the Venezuelans or al Qaeda in feeding folks.
The right to exercise one’s mind
The Supreme Court recently announced it will review a Pennsylvania case concerning prisons denying dangerous prisoners access to most reading material, television and radio. These prisoners are permitted to read only religious and legal materials and paperback books from the prison library. A three-judge federal appeals court that struck the policy down did so over the dissent of Judge Samuel A. Alito Jr., President Bush’s nominee for the Supreme Court.
“‘On their face,’ Alito wrote, ‘these regulations are reasonably related to the legitimate penological goal of curbing prison misconduct’ – because prisoners would be deterred from misbehaving by the prospect of being sent to a place where they have to do without TV and magazines.” 11
Never mind Alito’s views on abortion, civil liberties, or gay rights, which have preoccupied those evaluating his fitness for the high court. Consider the deep-seated, plain, simple meanness of the man in wishing to deprive prisoners mental stimulation through their long nights and years behind bars. Why doesn’t he advocate that these prisoners be deprived of food? Surely that would be an even greater deterrent against misbehavior.
The climax of civilization, American style
Main Street is the climax of civilization.
That this Ford car might stand in front of
the Bon Ton store, Hannibal invaded Rome
and Erasmus wrote in Oxford cloisters. 12
Piles of advertising circulars clutter my lobby, some are like tabloid newspapers with many pages and flyers inserted, each pile usually containing more copies than the number of apartments in the building; they’re hardly touched, remaining there until the cleaning person decides to toss them in the trash. For this trees are torn down, incalculable amounts of energy and other resources used to print all the pages; dioxin, exceedingly toxic dioxin, entering the food chain environment, directly eliminated into water from paper mills. Imagine all the people and vehicles needed to deliver the circulars. Multiply my building by millions. Multiply again by ten thousand other ways THEY get their messages to US.
“If it takes a $200 billion advertising industry to maintain what economists quaintly call ‘demand’, then perhaps that demand isn’t as urgent as conventional theory posits. Perhaps it’s not even demand in any sane meaning of the word.” 13
Advertising is the climax of civilization.
That this circular for Target stores might
sit in the lobbies of apartment houses,
George W. Bush invaded Iraq and Paul Wolfowitz
studied at the University of Chicago.
Coping in scary times
To my dear readers in America and around the world, in the spirit of the season, I wish each of you your choice of the following:
Erotic Pagan Rite
Happy New Year
Internet Virtual Holiday
Heartwarming Satanic Sacrifice
Devout Atheist Season’s Greetings
Possessed Laying-on-of-Hands Ceremony
Really Neat Reincarnation with Auras and Crystals
And may your name never appear on a Homeland Security “No-fly list”.
May your abuses at the hands of authority be only cruel, degrading and inhuman, nothing that Mr. Cheney would call torture.
May your country never be “liberated” by the United States.
May your labor movement not be supported by the National Endowment for Democracy, nor your elections.
May the depleted uranium, cluster bombs, white phosphorous, and napalm which fall upon your land be as harmless or non-existent as the Pentagon says they are.
May you not fall sick in the United States without health insurance, nor desire to go to an American university while being not wealthy.
May you re-discover what the poor in 18th century France discovered, that rich people’s heads could be mechanically separated from their shoulders if they wouldn’t listen to reason.
- Associated Press, September 8, 2002
- Federal News Service, November 1, 2005
- William Blum, “Rogue State: A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower”, chapter 17, “South Korea, 1980”
- Associated Press, November 5, 2005, re CIA ties to the assassination
- New York Times, May 22, 2005, p.10
- William Blum, “Killing Hope: US Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II”, chapter 49, particularly pages 298-300
- Rogue State (2005 edition), p.71-76. I can email the list it to anyone who requests it.
- Headline: Sciencedaily.com, October 29, 2005
- Headline and text: Washington Post, November 3, 2005
- Dick Gregory, “No More Lies; the myth and the reality of American history” (1971)
- Washington Post, November 15, 2005, p.9
- Sinclair Lewis, “Main Street”, 1920
- Jonathan Rowe, “Dollars & Sense” magazine, July-August 1999
Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to williamblum.org is provided.