Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Elmer Gantry Economics
Fleecing the Faithful on behalf of the Fed: Gary Bauer, prophet of the plunderbund.
A vast potential for infernal mischief can be found in some otherwise harmless adverbs. Let us examine the specific case of the seemingly inoffensive modifier "normally."
Incorrigible cynic that I am, I've long believed that any sentence that begins with the word "normally" is an exercise in deception, generally taking the form of special pleading. Whatever follows the word "normally" is something morally objectionable that I should summarily reject, but am being asked to countenance just this one time. Or so I'm being told to believe.
In a radio commentary for Focus on the Family broadcast yesterday before the congressional vote on the Economic Dictatorship Enabling Act, Gary Bauer quite generously vindicated my belief.
"Normally, we would not want to bail out people that made wrong decisions," Bauer began in his familiar tone of adenoidal sanctimony. In terms of making his case, Bauer lost me at "normally" -- but I listened anyway, as my enraged disgust took control of my jaw and put two very expensive dental crowns at risk.
"This crisis, if left unattended, could hurt people that made right decisions," Bauer simpered. "This [bailout] is not rewarding bad decisions. This is an attempt to prevent those bad decisions from hurting people that had no part in them."
Actually, those of us who had no part in those "bad decisions" are already being hurt. And we're in for much greater pain in the future. That much is out of our hands. The Uber-Bailout would do nothing to protect the relatively innocent and powerless. However, it would greatly palliate the deserved pain of those who are powerful and guilty. And it would end -- "temporarily," which in the lexicon of government power is a functional synonym for "forever" -- the ability of the common people to compel elected representatives to combat the schemes of the Bankster Elite.
The FED's counterfeiting press (or its digital analog) has been tirelessly churning wealth siphoned from our paychecks and savings into the butter it slathers on the bread of the corporate elite. This pilferage will continue whether or not Congress actually passes a bailout measure, as it probably will (most likely in a post-election lame duck session).
The Paulson Plan simply proposed to sever the one thin, fraying thread of accountability still connecting the economic elite to the people it is plundering. That thread is Congress's constitutional role in appropriating funds and overseeing the executive branch personnel who spend them.
Paulson, acting on behalf of the corporatist plunderbund, wanted to snip that thread decisively, albeit with a grave sense of agonized reluctance amid a unique financial crisis.
Bear in mind, of course, that this is something Paulson would not normally propose. Heh.
Bauer's moral reasoning, such as it is, dictates that while it's a sin to steal a hundred dollars to feed your family, stealing $700 billion to salve the bank accounts of wealthy criminals is an act of Christian statecraft. Both of those acts are sins and crimes, of course. And it's important to remember that the Christian Gospels --regarded as the truth, or merely an interesting collection of moral teachings -- make it clear that Jesus didn't define sin on a sliding scale favoring the rich and powerful.
The remedy for sin, in all circumstances, is repentance -- acknowledgement of the evil one has done, an attempt to make restitution, and an earnest effort fully to turn away from the sin. None of this would be accomplished by the Uber-Bailout whose purported necessity provided Gary Bauer with an opportunity to display his utter moral idiocy.
Joining Gary Bauer in offering a sermon on the supposed virtue of shaking down the poor to comfort the rich was Christian financial advisor Rob West.
"I really believe that we will see most of this money returned to the taxpayer," West began in the unctuous tone of a practiced con-man, "because as they buy up these loans at a discount the government will use their balance sheet to hold these loans and then sell them once market prices recover and stabilize.... There really is good evidence that the government can get most of this back." (Emphasis added.)
This is an exquisite example of a multi-layered lie -- a veritable Napoleon pastry of prevarication, in fact.
Let's begin with the italicized words "taxpayer" and "government." When West began this exercise in artful dishonesty, he assured the anxious listener that the money spent to provide a cushion for corrupt financial institutions would be returned to the taxpayers from whom it would be taken. By the end, we're told that the money would actually be "returned" to the government. Obviously, this not the same thing as returning it to those from whom the money would be stolen.
In the middle of this noxious confection we find a blend of two related and thoroughly toxic untruths. The first is that government, through coercive redistribution of wealth, can inject "value" into something innately worthless, such as a pile of irredeemably corrupt mortgage securities. The second is that the inflated prices that we saw during the housing bubble were normal, and that the ongoing decline is an aberration.
What West doesn't explain is this: If these feculent mortgage bonds are such a spectacular bargain, why aren't they being snapped up by contrarian investors?
Behind West's assurances we can find the tacit understanding that the purpose of the Uber-Bailout is to continue the process of inflation, the ongoing theft of the value of what we earn and save through adulteration of the currency. Yet West -- whose advice is worth at least as much as, but no more than, a Zimbabwean dollar -- maintains that the Bailout would have no inflationary impact:
"Certainly the American family has already felt increased prices at the gas pump and the grocery store. And I don't think necessarily that we'll see a marked increase in that just based on this proposal alone[.]"
Here we see West taking refuge in another mischievous adverb -- "necessarily" -- while pretending that "this [$700 billion] proposal alone" would be the sole and final act of larceny.
Like so many other sycophants in saintly guise, West couples his solicitude for the powerful with stern advice for the weak. It may be a moral duty to relieve the super-rich of their self-inflicted burdens, but the poor and struggling are owed no similar succor.
"One of the messages for the American Christian is that we have to heed the counsel of scripture," cooed West. "Take the opportunity now to make sure you live within your means. Take the opportunity to start paying off your debt and shoring up your financial foundation. Make sure you have some long-term plans."
All of this is impeccably sound advice, but it is difficult to see how any of us can reinforce our financial foundation when the FED and its accomplices can fatally undermine it through inflation. West is demanding that people support a policy that will bring their conscientious efforts to nought, and nullify any long-term plans they make.
The ever-deepening financial crisis presents us with an opportunity and necessity to do something that is no fun at all: Repent.
Blessing the Mad Bomber: Gary Bauer (the gnomish figure in the center of the assembled Republican luminaries) puts in face time at a John McCain campaign event as a representative of Dr. James Dobson. McCain is a foul-tempered, abusive serial adulterer and unabashed warmonger, so naturally he received the support of Dr. Dobson, the nation's foremost Christian family counselor.
To repent, once again, is to turn completely away from one's present course. As individuals and as a nation we cannot continue to live on debt (or on "credit," as it's commonly called). There are already plentiful indications that American households are reining in their spending, foregoing luxuries of various kinds, and "hoarding cash." Banks are engaging in the same behavior. All of this is good and necessary -- and, admittedly, painful. In other words, it is a species of repentance, one the Big Bailout (and the subsequent interventions) would be intended to discourage, if not reverse.
Economic repentence, to be effective, can't be merely the private affair of the public. The government ruling us cannot continue the imperial foreign policy that has received the conspicuous benediction of Palace Prophets like James Dobson and Gary Bauer -- the latter being Dobson's representative in the neo-"conservative" warmaking network.
Why would a Christian political spokesman such as Gary Bauer miss such an obvious opportunity to preach repentance? Why would he choose to placate the powerful at the expense of the poor?
I suspect the answer may have something to do with Bauer's other affiliations.
Bauer was a founding member of the Project for a New American Century, the Beltway camarilla that was the womb in which the Iraq war gestated for several years. He is on the board of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a group that wishes to organize the entire world around the nucleus of U.S.-Israeli military domination.
A similar ambition animates the Jerusalem Summit, an organization on whose international advisory board sits the same Gary Bauer. The Jerusalem Summit's chief objective is to create an Israel-centered, armed "League of Democracies." That proposal that has been taken up by John McCain, the deranged, senescent, foul-mouthed adulterer who won the endorsement of James Dobson -- the country's foremost self-appointed Christian family counselor -- by convincing a mother of five children, including a newborn infant with a serious handicap, to forsake home and hearth for the vice presidential hustings.
Like too many "Christian" Right leaders, Dobson and Bauer are devout servants of the War Machine, which cannot operate without the fiat money system inflicted on our nation in 1913. They profess to worship Christ, while serving Mars and Mammon. That may explain the double-mindedness displayed by Bauer and West in their homily in support of the post-Housing Bubble Heist.
On sale now!
Dum spiro, pugno!
Monday, September 29, 2008
Rubicon in the Rear-View, Part II: Perpetual War, Here and Abroad (Updated)
Two missions that should never intersect are those of the military and of the civilian police, respectively. The logic of empire ultimately demands that which our rulers have now provided: A militarized apparatus of coercion in which military and police roles are inextricably blended.
It's much too early to tell how this welcome development will affect the trends described below, but the House of Representatives just defeated the Wall Street Swindle measure -- something I quite frankly considered impossible.
"We have entered an era of persistent conflict.... [We face] face new security challenges influenced by the effects of globalization, especially in failing states and in ungoverned areas.... Radicalism influenced by extremist ideologies and separatist movements will remain attractive to those who feel threatened and victimized by the cultural and economic impacts of globalization...."
From the 2008 Army Modernization Strategy
We are entering the age of "persistent conflict," advises the Army's 90-page official report on modernization and strategy. Dr. Tom Clonan, the international security analyst for the Irish Times, usefully peels away the thin veneer of euphemism applied to that phrase, rendering it "perpetual warfare."
The Army document is an admission that our rulers intend to divest us of what few tangible liberties we still enjoy. James Madison's warning resonates again: "No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare."
Had the Billionaire Bailout, aka the Mother of All Swindles, been consummated in the teeth of nearly uniform public opposition, the Regime ruling us would have achieved a Platonic ideal of plutocratic corruption. The Army's strategic preview still seems to anticipate this development, given its astonishing candor in expressing the ethics of the Robber State.*
In describing the mission of the military over the next generation or two, the document dutifully refers to the threat of a "radical, ideology-based, long-term terrorist threat...." Additionally, insists the report, Washington faces "a potential return to traditional security threats posed by emerging near-peers as we compete globally for depleting natural resources and overseas markets."
What proper role can the military play in "competing" for "natural resources and overseas markets"? The military embodies the refined essence of the murderous ugliness to which we've given the name "government": It is an instrument employed to kill and destroy, not to "compete." It can conquer territory, but it cannot create a market -- except in the crudest corporatist sense of reducing a country to rubble as a prelude to taxpayer-subsidized "reconstruction" efforts of the kind that have succeeded so marvelously in Iraq.
The vision expressed in the Modernization Strategy is a more elegantly phrased version of the familiar Ditto-head bumper-sticker sentiments, like "Kick their ass and take their gas," or "What is their sand doing on top of our oil?" (Another variation of that trope we may soon see: "Begin the slaughter -- seize control of their water.") Of course, that approach engenders terrorism, rather than pacifying it -- but this is an entirely suitable outcome for our rulers, since it relieves them of the trouble of dreaming up new pretexts for the wars they desire.
Seizing resources through military force is one of the best ways to destroy a market: Military control over a given resource is, after all, nationalization in its bluntest form. The truly remarkable -- and terrifying -- aspect of the Army's new strategy is the evidence it provides that our rulers have now embraced, without qualification, the socialist premise that the government's role is to administer an economy based on scarcity.
Here we collide with one of the defining ironies of our age. At a time when Washington now candidly admits its intention to acquire vital resources through military pillage, Russia and China, the "neer-peers" clumsily alluded to in the document, are acquiring resources through commerce, rather than conquest.
A case can be made that a modest, mobile military establishment is necessary in order to protect freedom of commerce abroad; at least, that was the view of those who wrote the constitutional provision requiring Congress to "maintain" a Navy. But the Framers who composed that provision were steadfastly opposed to a standing Army, quite properly fearing that an establishment of that kind would be used precisely as the new Army strategic document describes: To carry out perpetual war abroad, and regiment society here at home.
Granted, the latter half of that formulation -- domestic regimentation -- is not made explicit in the Modernization document. But it becomes very clear when key strategic considerations from that document are viewed in the light of the increasingly overt role played by the military in domestic law enforcement.
The implosion of America's financial system is now all but a moral certainty. The increasingly panicked corporatist elite have abandoned any pretense of acting on behalf of the public good, seeking to preserve their own power and plundered wealth by any means.
It is this corporatist financial elite that ultimately controls the legions deployed both here and abroad.
Recall again Madison's warning that wars beget "armies, and debts, and taxes; and armies, and debts, and taxes are the known instruments for bringing the many beneath the domination of the few." Yes, as Machiavelli noted in chapter ten of his Discourses, it is iron rather than gold that is the "sinew of war." But it is gold, or whatever prevailing substitute, that buys and bridles those who deploy iron in wartime. The creators and exploiters of public debt -- the FED and the nomenklatura it serves -- also created, and remain in control of, Washington's sprawling military establishment and rapidly catalyzing system of internal repression.
Acting through Henry Paulson -- soon to be our first economic dictator -- the oligarchy threatened, bribed, bullied, and extorted from Congress a measure permitting them to plunder the wealth of the embattled remnants of the Middle Class. According to a visibly and audibly overwrought Texas Republican Congressman Michael Burgess, this was achieved by effectively holding Congress hostage in a condition he referred to as "martial law":
Whether or not Comrade Pelosi's expression was intended metaphorically, we have to believe that extraordinary duress was required to compel congressmen to support, or at least to countenance, the Mega-Swindle in the face of ferocious public opposition just weeks before those same congressmen stand for re-election.
It is relatively easy to neutralize the rebellion of a relative handful of politicians. But the public can expect no deference or delicacy when the time comes to deal with the social upheaval that will (not "would," mind you -- will) accompany the full-orbed economic collapse our rulers have now arranged for us.
Recall the excerpt from the Modernization Strategy document that was used above as an epigram, and note the reference to "those who feel threatened and victimized by the cultural and economic impacts of globalization." The imponderably huge heist being carried out on behalf of Wall Street is a splendid example of the globalization of corporatist crony capitalism, and its impact on our standard of living will be immense.
A large and ideologically heterogeneous movement has taken shape that opposes "globalization," as the term is variously defined and understood. We can expect to see this opposition become much larger, much better organized, and much more militant. And we can also expect to see these developments over-matched by an even more dramatic escalation in the tactics used by the domestic arm of the Empire's military.
(Continues after the jump.)
Here is the caption supplied by the US Army for this photograph: "Minnesota National Guard Soldiers with the 1st Combined Arms Battalion, 194th Armor stand guard to assist police in maintaining order during an overly-aggressive demonstration Sept. 1, in St. Paul, Minn. The demonstrators were protesting during day one of the Republican National Convention."
There are elements of the anti-globalization movement that, either out of ignorance or (more likely) ideological malice, target private enterprise as the enemy, and act out their rage against private property. Protesters of that persuasion have made their unwelcome presence felt at every significant anti-globalist event since the much-romanticized 1999 "Battle in Seattle." When they destroy private property and imperil innocent people, such protesters are criminals, not activists, and should be dealt with accordingly.
However, in recent years the prevailing "security" model treats the act of public protest itself as an assault on public order. That model embraces the use of "non-violent" means of crowd control -- such as the use of pepper spray, tasers, clubs, bean-bag rounds, and "rubber bullets" -- and the mass arrest of anyone found in a targeted area, whether or not any particular detainee was actually involved in a protest.
An independent journalist covering a Labor Day demonstration in St. Paul that coincided with the beginning of the Republican National Convention captured a striking example of this tactic: Militarized riot police detained nearly 300 people, without probable cause of any kind, who were sitting peacefully in a public park. In carrying out these arrests, the police were provided with on-site support by the National Guard. The reporter had to bury the video record of this event in order to prevent its confiscation by the police.
As I've commented before, the recently concluded national nominating conventions by the two retail outlets for the Ruling Party served as a coming-out party for the Homeland Security State's enforcement apparatus. It was also a foretaste of what we can expect to see as the economic collapse accelerates, if public resistance solidifies.
The Strategic Modernization document makes it plain that the ground-based military will be fighting among targeted populations, with "commanders employing offensive, defensive and stability or civil support operations simultaneously." This is the kind of hybrid mission we've seen in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Bosnia, Haiti, and Somalia, in which soldiers are also required to behave as beat cops.
Boba Fett meets Halo? No -- it's one military contractor's vision of the U.S. Army's "Future Force Warrior."
In its new strategy, the Pentagon envisions the deployment of a new generation of soldier, a "Future Force Warrior" digitally interconnected not only with his command base and fellow troops, but also with a large and sophisticated array of remote, unmanned weapons, both aerial and ground-based. He would have access to intelligence provided by both aircraft and satellites.
Through the use of such "force-multiplying" technology, the military would be able to deploy small brigade combat teams (remember that term -- "brigade combat team") to carry out challenging missions within a targeted population.
Granted, the technology behind this vision isn't yet widely available. But elements of this approach have already been used domestically, this year, for the purpose of enforcing "public order."
(Continues after the jump.)
Support your local paramilitary bullies: This commemorative T-shirt, featuring a caricature of an abusive cop, was not produced by an anti-police group. It was created by the Denver police union, which gave one to each member of the Denver PD and expects to sell 2,000 more at $10 a copy. When the police -- who in this case were backed up by the military -- actually celebrate the abuse of civilians, it's time to admit that the government is at war with the American public. (Thanks to StrikeTheRoot.)
During the recent Democratic National Convention, a specialized National Guard unit of 1,700 troops, "Joint Task Force-DNC" (JTF-DNC) was deployed in Denver. Ostensibly there for the exclusive purpose of backstopping "civilian" law enforcement in the event of a terrorist event, JTF-DNC also provided "information such as satellite imagery to assist law-enforcement authorities, the Colorado Department of Transportation and the U.S. Secret Service," boasted an all-but-buried press release.
"About 40 Guard Soldiers assigned to the 1st Space Brigade's 117th Space Battallion have been preparing for the convention by monitoring computer images, uploading data and reviewing map printouts," continued the account.
These Guard troops weren't there merely to stand sentinel against terrorist attacks. JTF-DNC was sent to Denver following following several months of specialized training, including weeks of practice in riot gear at a MOUT (Military Operations in Urban Terrain) at Fort Carson.
"If there are [violent] demonstrations, these National Guard Soldiers will have to protect people and business from protests that could get out of hand," explained Lt. Col. Don Laucirica.
There were no "violent" protests in Denver. Yet the National Guard JTF-DNC was there, along with its array of cutting-edge weaponry and intelligence-gathering assets, to provide defense in depth to a contingent of militarized police.
The same configuration was on display a few weeks later at St. Paul, where the Secret Service and local law enforcement agencies liaised with the National Guard's JTF-RNC. Some 150 soldiers were deployed in St. Paul on the first day of the convention when the local police complained that protesters were becoming "increasingly aggressive."
That was the day, recall, when 284 people were arrested for the supposed crime of "aggressively" enjoying a late summer day without harming anyone.
"Our main mission is to support law enforcement," explained 1st Lt. T. Zdon, an armor officer with the Minnesota National Guard. "Soldiers in their uniform and gear provide a strong presence, or show of force, for local law enforcement, if they need us."
Spc. Ben Doran, an infantryman with the same unit, elaborated that the Guardsmen were there to use "shields and batons to keep crowds back. We want to use the minimum amount of force necessary to complete the mission."
"The mission." That's the language of a military occupier, not a peace officer in a free society.
In his video-recorded remarks to troops before the convention, Brig. Gen. Joseph Kelly, commander of JTF-RNC, pointed out that the task force was composed of members of the U.S. military from all branches of the service, including some who had been brought back to the "homeland" from overseas. "Our primary mission," he told the troops, "is to conduct military operations in support of civil authorities.... [W]e are working for the law-enforcement organizations responsible for the security of the convention."
While the Secret Service was the lead agency, and local police exercised operational control, some Soldiers would be expected to carry out routine security duties "to free up police officers for higher-level law enforcement tasks."
"As during any other operation, you must take care of yourself, each other, and your equipment. Please, be safe," intoned Kelly, as if preparing his troops for D-Day rather than an operation on their home soil in which they would confront unarmed fellow citizens.
In his post-convention message congratulating his troops, Gen. Kelly strained to extract drama and heroism from a "mission" that was little more than an exercise in adolescent posturing and gratuitous bullying.
"There were some long, hard days," Kelly warbled, as if his subject were the Siege of Stalingrad, rather than a four-day deployment in the warm, placid, and comfortable setting of St. Paul, Minnesota. "Monday, September 1 -- Labor Day -- was a day of special challenge, and you all met that demand with skill, determination, professionalism, and in some cases, personal courage."
Once again, Gen. Kelly is referring to the episode referred to previously, in which police and Guardsmen surrounded and incarcerated hundreds of people who had done nothing, and who put up no resistance. Kelly's account makes me suspect that at least some of the Soldiers who participated in that event will be receiving service commendations.
Some might contend that the role played by the Guard JTFs in Denver and St. Paul were exceptional, given that the conventions were "National Special Security Events." But this is to concede the fact that it is now routine for nominating conventions and similar events to take place amid an atmosphere of martial law.
Furthermore, the behavior of Guard JTFs at the conventions underscores the real significance of the permanent Homeland Security response unit that will begin operations this Wednesday (October 1).
The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team, which has spent three of the last five "in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle," has been "training for the same mission — with a twist — at home," reported the Army Times. Remember -- the Pentagon's new Modernization Strategy emphasizes the role of brigade combat teams (or BCTs) in deployments among targeted populations. In the case of the 3ID 1BCT, the new mission for the next year will be serving under the US Army North as an "on-call federal response force" to deal with contingencies ranging from natural disasters to terrorism to ... widescale civilian rebellion.
No, the third contingency is not explicitly stated. In fact, the official posture of the Army is that the "response force" would be devoted entirely to dealing with contingencies beyond the competence of local law enforcement -- natural catastrophes or unconventional weapons attacks.
Patti Bielling, Chief of Media Operations for the US Army North, informed Pro Libertate that the force would be on call to deal with "a catastrophic incident and in support of a civilian agency. Posse Comitatus applies [meaning that the military personnel would not be directly involved in law enforcement]. The role of federal DOD forces in a civil support mission is to save lives, reduce human suffering and mitigate great property damage. Likely ... missions would be air evacuation, medical response, decontamination, logistics support, and transportation."
However, the commander of the unit has a very different perception of the mission.
As noted by the Army Times, "the 1BCT's soldiers also will learn how to use `the first ever nonlethal package that the Army has fielded,' 1st BCT commander Col. Roger Cloutier said, referring to crowd and traffic control equipment and nonlethal weapons designed to subdue unruly or dangerous individuals without killing them. `It's a new modular package of nonlethal capabilities that they're fielding. They've been using pieces of it in Iraq, but this is the first time that these modules were consolidated and this package fielded, and because of this mission we're undertaking we were the first to get it.' The package includes equipment to stand up a hasty road block; spike strips for slowing, stopping or controlling traffic; shields and batons; and, beanbag bullets."
None of this has any necessary connection to post-WMD incident response. All of it would come in quite handy in dealing with civil unrest. When I pointed this out to Capt. Carla Gleason, a very earnest, helpful, and professional information officer for Northern Command's Joint Task Force-Civil Support, she noted that the training and non-lethal hardware being provided to this unit will be used in Iraq, once the 1 BCT's domestic deployment ends and they're rotated overseas once again.
Here's why no solace can be found in that explanation: The skills and hardware in question can, and most likely will, be employed both in Iraq and here at home, as the National Command Authority sees fit. They can be used to subdue unruly Iraqis who display their lack of "gratitude" for the occupation of their country, or unruly Americans who object to the destruction of their economic future in order to preserve the perquisites of the Power Elite.
It is impossible to maintain a republic at home while supporting an empire abroad. Imperial commitments abroad inevitably mean the corruption of the currency, the destruction of the rule of law, the liquidation of the middle class, and a descent into national bankruptcy, undisguised oligarchical rule, and the imposition of some variety of martial law.
We are likely to learn, very soon, in very painful ways, we enjoy no happy immunity to the consequences of the policies we have permitted our rulers to impose on us.
*This paragraph was revised from the original version, which was written before Congress rejected the Wall Street Swindle Enabling Act.
Here's how it read originally: "With the consummation of the Mother of All Swindles, achieved in the teeth of nearly uniform public opposition, the Regime ruling us has realized what may be the Platonic ideal of plutocratic corruption. The Army's strategic preview seems to have anticipated this development, given its astonishing candor in expressing the ethics of the Robber State."
On sale now!
Dum spiro, pugno!
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Rubicon in the Rear-View, Part I: Militarizing the Police
The future of law enforcement: The 193rd Military Police Battalion, Colorado National Guard, trains at Ft. Carson last July 12 in preparation for deployment as part of JTF-DNC -- the military component of security arrangements for the Democratic Convention in Denver.
There are those who still think they are holding the pass against a revolution that may be coming up the road. But they are gazing in the wrong direction. The revolution is behind them.
Garet Garrett, The Revolution Was (1938)
The seamless integration of the military and law enforcement into a single "Internal Security Force" is the defining characteristic of a fully realized police state. Once this fusion is accomplished, the question becomes not "whether" a police state exists, but rather how acute its institutional violence against the subject population will become.
That condition now exists in the country that still calls itself -- without any apparent irony -- the United States of America.
Much alarm has been raised over the admittedly alarming news that beginning October 1, the U.S. Army's Northern Command will deploy a specialized, combat-tested unit as an "on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks."
This "dwell-time" domestic deployment of the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team will permit its soldiers to "use some of the [skills] they acquired in the war zone" to deal with "civil unrest and crowd control or to deal with potentially horrific scenarios such as massive poisoning and chaos in response to a chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or high-yield explosive, or CBRNE, attack."
In the context of our descent into rank imperial corruption, this small but significant development could be seen by some as the moment our rulers crossed the Rubicon. But that metaphorical boundary has been in our rear-view mirror for quite some time. Admittedly, there is something quite ominous about the news that "homeland tours" are expected to become a routine part of the rotation of soliders tasked to carry out missions for those who command Washington's Empire.
The Homeland Security apparatus is a recombinant organism, engineered from multiple strands of institutional authoritarianism.
The process began in earnest in the late 1960s with the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration; the chimera has grown in power and malignancy because of the generation-long, trillion-dollar exercise in murderous cynicism called the "War on Drugs."
Indeed, it was in the context of this "war" that exceptions began to be carved out of the Posse Commitatus Act, which was intended to prevent the fusion of military and law enforcement functions within the United States. The cultivation of a huge population of official informants added another critical element to the metastasizing organism of official tyranny.
The Drug War likewise introduced Americans to the variety of official larceny called "civil asset forfeiture," through which police and Sheriff's departments nation-wide were turned into roving bands of officially protected highway robbers. The corruption of local law enforcement into federal welfare whores was an indispensable step toward the synthesis of a distinctly American police state.
Although we're constantly told that "everything changed" on September 11, the actual impact of The Day That (Supposedly) Changed Everything was to add a highly potent nutrient into the growth medium in which the Beast was already flourishing. This merely accelerated a process that was already well advanced.
Consider, as just one illustration, a series of Presidential Decision Directives, issued by Bill Clinton in his second term, that deal with the integration of the military with civilian law enforcement to deal with terrorist incidents involving Weapons of Mass Destruction or catastrophic natural disasters.
Apart from a few hidebound constitutionalists and easily-maligned Y2K "alarmists," nobody objected to this new intimacy between the military and civilian police. Then again, nobody had become concerned over the proliferation of military-trained SWAT and tactical teams, or the creation, in 1995, of the Pentagon's Law Enforcement Support Organization (LESO), through which police and Sheriff's departments could receive military hardware of any kind they desired at concessionary prices, "as if they were a DoD [Department of Defense] organization," in the words of the program's official pitchman.
The results of this ... well, call it a "guided evolution" of the law enforcement system, were entirely predictable.
"I served in the U.S. military and after I got out I ended up becoming a cop in 2002," recalls Bill, who was Battalion Soldier of the Year in 1999 and "Top Gun" in his police academy class. Bill shared his experiences in reaction to a podcast I recently did with Lew Rockwell examining the emergence of America's unitary, militarized Homeland Security state.
At the time he joined the force, many of the veterans "were old school, having started in law enforcement before I was born. They were tough but fair. They treated people with respect."
However, the "old school" officers "were forced out of the department [and it] took on a military feel," Bill continues. "You were expected to take [a] `just follow orders and obey the [department administration attitude], no matter what, regardless if it was constitutional or not. The amount of force used during arrests went through the roof."
"Urban Shield": A SWAT operator at UC-Berkeley play-acts in a training simulation involving a stand-off with armed, militant animal rights activists. Yeah, that's a plausible scenario.
This militarized mindset -- the notion that the job of police was to compel "civilians" to submit to state authority -- had a tangible impact in terms of the promiscuous use of the "non-lethal" Taser weapon.
"When I first started we had a couple M26 Tasers of we needed them, but most people either left them at the PD or in their patrol cars," Bill relates. They were useful in a handful of instances involving armed, deranged people, and when used in those circumstances "they do save lives." However, once the Taser was in use, police started to use them as instruments of "pain compliance": "Anytime anyone did anything was was not compliant, out came the Taser."
"The tactics the SWAT team was using were also becoming more like the military," Bill laments. "We even got a military Humvee. We were now wearing BDUs and carrying fully automatic machine guns and wearing the same body armor as soldiers were in Iraq. All of our 870 Remington shotguns were removed from the patrol cars and replaced with full-automatic H&K-made G36 machine guns -- to the protest of all the patrol officers, mind you. If anyone spoke out they were `dealt with.' In the course of 3 years they went through over 50 patrol officers. And this is a department with only about 47 officers total."
Once the exception, now the rule: SWAT paramilitaries put on a demonstration for teenagers attending a "Citizen Police Academy."
While military hardware was being forced on recalcitrant officers, those willing to carry out their assigned roles were being used to disarm civilians as the opportunity presented itself:
"People were having their weapons confiscated for `safe keeping' during traffic stops. [My home state] is a rural state that relies heavily on hunting for income. Everyone has a gun here. Even my 88-year-old grandma carries one in her purse (yes, she has a CC permit). So to take someone's guns you had better have a damn good reason, not just because they have a gun in their car and it's after 9 PM."
After witnessing this long train of official abuses, "many of us spoke out." Those who did so "were then run through the cleaners." Bill recounts an effort by the department administration to extort perjured testimony from him against a shift Sergeant who had condemned the department's corruption. Those who spoke out against corruption -- which included prosecutors and judges -- "were either fired unlawfully or quit."
In August 2007, after five and a half years on the force, Bill finally reached his frustration threshold and quit.
The sinkhole of dictatorial abuse and Sicilian corruption described by Bill is a small community in South Dakota -- that haven of sober Midwestern rectitude whose citizens aren't afflicted with a state income tax. If it's this bad in the green wood, what's it like in the dry? Well, according to Bill, "these abuses do, sadly, happen in almost every town in America."
The process Bill describes is a peculiar type of alembic, distilling the worst elements from a recruiting pool to serve in local police forces. Rather than retaining people of character and principle, the process selects for the officious, the self-satisfied, the opportunistic, and especially for those fixated on power.
Martin, who likewise shared his experience in reaction to the Lew Rockwell podcast, is a former Marine. As he was processed out of the Corps he was pitched by a recruiter the LAPD. Although he had no interest in the job, he was interested -- and more than a bit alarmed -- by what he learned about the ease with which former military personnel can become "civilian" police, and the eagerness of the LAPD to absorb military veterans into its ranks.
Recruiters "told us how they'd worked with command elements so that a Marine couldgo through LAPD academy while still in the service -- meaning a seamless transition to police work from military life," Martin reports. Probably the "scariest" element of military recruitment, Martin says, is that "for basic officer positions a series of mental testing and psychological testing was not necessary. It is feasible for a Marine to get back to the states from a deployment to Iraq, get out of the military, and then start patrolling the streets of LA in a matter of a few months."
"Police work is the easiest and most lucrative thing for a former Marine or military person to transfer to, especially us infantry kids who received no real job training while in the military," Martin concludes. "To us police work is the closest civilian equivalent of the patrolling that we did in Iraq. I think it is safe to assume that the more `grunts' we make and give combat experience the more militarized our police departments will become."
Running through this entire story we can find a microscopically thin thread of hope in the reluctance of at least some military and police personnel to serve the Regime's apparatus of repression. But the generational trends Bill describes will only grow worse as a law enforcement assimilates veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have on the mindset of tomorrow's police recruits.
In his fascinating Iraq war account Generation Kill, Evan Wright describes his experiences as a reported embedded in one of the first Marine units to invade Iraq in 2003. One lieutenant, describing the "Gen X" and "Gen Y" youngsters fighting in Iraq, observed that during World War II, when the Marines hit the beaches in the Pacific campaign, “a surprisingly high percentage of them didn't fire their weapons, even when faced with direct enemy contact.Not these guys. Did you see what they did to that town? They f*****g destroyed it. These guys have no problem with killing."
No problem with killing.
Our sin nature notwithstanding, any typical human being has exceptionally strong inhibitions where taking another life is concerned. This internal restraint can be subverted by a process of self-seduction in the service of some illicit design; it can be undermined by severe emotional or psychological trauma. For those in the military, it is nullified through patient, deliberate indoctrination -- and even then, the psychological impediment to homicide still re-asserts itself for many in the military.
But "Generation Kill" includes more than a few young men produced by a deeply nihilistic popular culture who have exceptionally few compunctions about killing. When they are recruited into law enforcement, they will retain both the mindset and muscle-memory of trained, remorseless killers.
(Part II will examine the other half of this equation, the mutation of the military into a police force.)
On sale now!
Dum spiro, pugno!
Sunday, September 21, 2008
The Triumvirate and the Plunderbund (Major Update, September 25)
Ave, Triumvirate -- the MMVIII version, in any case.
"The risks of doing nothing far outweigh the risks of whatever it takes to disarm Saddam Hussein."
George W. Bush, February 10, 2003 (and several other occasions prior to the second Iraq war)
"The risk of doing nothing far outweighs the risk of the [$700 billion-plus mortgage bail-out] package."
George W. Bush, September 20, 2008
A foolish consistency, we are told, is the hobgoblin of little minds, and -- this side of Sean Hannity, at least -- it's difficult to find anyone more consistently foolish, or more obviously small-minded, than George W. Bush.
During the nearly eight years his presidency has blighted our country, the Bushling has been a roving epicenter of disaster. And he has greeted each crisis with an indecent, if throughly predictable, eagerness to expand his own power, and that of the embedded oligarchy that produced him.
With the embarrassing enthusiasm of a dim-witted schoolchild, he strikes resolute poses and utters the same handful of banalities that translate into one perfectly consistent demand: Shut up and submit.
The one defining idea of George W. Bush's career -- and trust me, one idea is the storage capacity of his tiny yet uncluttered mind -- is this: As creatures of privilege, he and his cronies are permitted to do whatever they please. This is what made him so useful to the Power Elite that stands poised this week to impose a system of undisguised fascism on our country.
Necessity, warned Noah Webster, is the "old stale plea" of those who seek autocratic powers. For such people, deliberation is impermissible, and dissent unthinkable. "Necessity," we are now told, demands that Congress ratify, without delay or qualification, a measure dictated by Henry Paulson, the swindler heading the Treasury Department, that would elevate him to the status of economic dictator.
Relatively brief in length and austere in language, the bailout measure could be digested even further into one pithy statement: Congress hereby abdicates its constitutional power over appropriating and spending revenue to the Secretary of the Treasury, who has the power to spend any amount in any way he sees fit without being subject to oversight or accountability of any kind.
The entire purpose of the $700 billion bailout bill is embodied in Section 8 of the text: "Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are non-reviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency."
Section 9 is likewise fraught with significance: "The authorites under this Act ... shall terminate two years from the date of enactment of this Act." Mr. Bush and his clique, including Paulson, are required by law to vacate their offices next January 20. Yet this measure appears to assume that Paulson will remain at his post for at least the next two years, since it's difficult to imagine that he would be able to "resolve" the crisis in only four months. Would the incoming president be forbidden by law to remove Paulson?
The Irrelevant Election
One thing is all but certain. If this measure passes, it really won't matter who wins the presidential election, or any congressional election, since Congress will have consummated the craven promise it has made on several occasions by surrendering the power over the public purse to an economic Fuhrer who embodies the interests of the Wall Street plunderbund.
All your wealth are belong to us! Someone set up us the mortgage bomb!
(Thanks to Anthony Gregory; click for detail.)
The Bush Regime (I hope that by now people would understand why that term must be used to describe the outfit ruling our nation) has made demands of this kind before, and Congress has acquiesced every time.
The post-9/11 "Authorization for Use of Military Force" was essentially an enabling act permitting the president and his handlers to wage unlimited foreign war and obliterate the Bill of Rights. A year later, Congress was panicked into ratifying the Regime's plan for war with Iraq (without issuing the constitutionally mandatory congressional declaration). In September 2006, Congress enacted the Military Commissions Act, which abolished the ancient habeas corpus guarantee and subverted the judicial system by creating a separate system to try accused terrorists. Just this spring the Democrat-controlled Congress acceded to the Bush Regime's demands for retroactive immunity to telecom companies that connived in its warrantless wiretapping program.
They've been practicing: Black-clad Homeland Security troops (the term "police" is inadequate) surround peaceful demonstrators in preparation for a mass arrest during the Democratic National Convention in Denver.
On each occasion, the Bush Regime has reiterated the "old, stale plea of necessity" while haranguing Congress and the public about the unthinkably horrible things that would ensue were the Regime denied any of the extraordinary powers it sought.
Our nation is now committed to open-ended foreign war, and burdened with a militarized homeland security state at home. Now the same disaster-drenched elite is demanding the power to seize all of our wealth -- such as it is -- and the power to redistribute it to their super-rich cronies in any way they please, without owing an accounting to anybody.
We have long since ceased to be a republic in anything other than the most wistful, aspirational sense. The system coalescing around us is built on a de facto Triumvirate: The Fed Chairman controls the currency, the Treasury Secretary supervises wealth redistribution, and the president -- whoever it is -- presides over foreign wars and internal security.
Regarding the latter, an ominous portent presents itself: On October 1, for the first time in our history, the military will assign an active-duty unit -- the 3rd Infantry Division's 1st Brigade Combat Team -- as a an "on-call federal response force" for homeland security. No good will come of this, and we'll be seeing much more of it as the crisis matures. In the emerging order, each Triumvir would exercise plenary power within his realm. And the three of them would operate not on behalf of the public weal, but for the benefit of the Robber Class.
What can we do?
First, there is a small chance that the bailout bill, aka the Mother of All Swindles, can be derailed by a focused outpouring of public opposition.
There, now -- doesn't it feel better to enjoy a good, hearty laugh, even one flavored with frustrated bitterness?
I thought so.
In all seriousness, we have to make an effort to compel our "representatives" to oppose the bailout, not only because it would reduce the middle class to abject penury and peonage but because the only way genuine recovery can occur is if the current system is permitted to collapse immediately.
We confront a choice of catastrophes. The real tragedy is that the choice really isn't ours. But we still have time to fortify our positions. As someone who has dealt with a miniature version of this crisis in the form of a catastrophic family illness coupled with sudden, unexpected unemployment, I offer the following advice as the product of experience.
1) A gathering of the clans. Home, as Robert Frost put it, is the place where, "if you have to go there, they have to take you in." The moral obligation to help family is irreducible and non-negotiable. And families are little self-contained nations, even though that proposition emphatically doesn't work in reverse.
If you can, get close to your family right now and begin immediately to pool your resources, and, if possible, to help each other with your liabilities. This is particularly true if you have parents or grandparents who (like my mother and father) have a garden and a huge reserve of stored and home-canned food, and perhaps their own well. Be prepared to give as much as you get, pitching in to do whatever is needed to sustain the extended family as one discrete community.
2) Build a cushion. How dependent are you on "just-in-time" provisions at the local grocery store? The local gas station or convenience store? Can you reduce that dependency in order to survive for, say, two weeks? Or even a month?
Last Spring, our family bought a large quantity of wheat and beans, as well as a small store of dehydrated victuals. It was expensive then. It's more expensive now. But laying in a modest store of emergency food is no longer merely a good idea; it's imperative.
3) De-couple from the dollar. I'm not an investment analyst or adviser. I'm not going to tell you what investment vehicles you should choose or abandon. I would simply point out that the dollar was already heading irreversibly in one direction, and that the bailout would dramatically accelerate its decline.
We're assured that bank deposits under 100K are insured by the FDIC. But that agency is as bankrupt as the banks it insures.
From that fact flow some logical conclusions about the rational course of action regarding our bank deposits. It will be helpful to have cash on hand, even though its value declines every day.
And it's a good idea to have physical possession of some commodity money. The prices for gold and silver, which guttered before the financial meltdown, are heading skyward once again. They're still a bargain (silver in particular) for those seeking a safe haven. "Junk" silver (pre-1964 coinage and '65-'70 Kennedy 40% silver half-dollars) is important as both a haven and as negotiable currency in the likely event of a currency crash.
Just a typical rural Sheriff's department in Amerika, MMVIII.
4) Gather intelligence on the occupation force. In the event of localized or general breakdowns in public order, the police will not protect us.
That is not their mission, and it never has been. Armed self-defense is a task we cannot delegate, and we shouldn't want to.
When riots ulcerated Los Angeles in 1992, the only property owners in the affected areas who avoided catastrophic loss were the Korean-American shopkeepers who mounted armed patrols to repel the looters. Our rulers apparently learned from that experience. Witness the fact that in post-Katrina New Orleans and similar recent disasters, an immediate priority for the forces of official "order" was to disarm the law-abiding and let the looters have free rein.
What do we know about our local police and Sheriff's departments? What are their procedures for dealing with disasters, riots, and other emergencies? How many personnel do they employ? Do they have SWAT or tactical teams? Are they manned by dutiful statist automata, or are at least a few men in the mold of Ramon Perez and other officers of conscience who would scruple to carry out manifestly corrupt and unconstitutional orders?
One way to find out is to attend a citizen police academy or similar program offered by your local affiliate of the Homeland Security State. Programs of this kind exist nation-wide, and each offers an opportunity for suitably attentive and discreet individuals to scout out the intentions and capabilities of those who would be called on to occupy and regiment our neighborhoods in the event of a fully-realized social collapse.
Much of the foregoing is grim advice. But remember that those who prepare for the worst are never disappointed.
Update: Circling the bowl....
China has finally decided to stop lending money to U.S. banks. The countdown begins to Beijing's decision to dump its Treasury notes, which have to be considered a slightly higher grade of "toxic" securities.
The Bushling insists that "the market isn't functioning properly" by punishing people who made bad decisions. Remember, this is a guy with no experience in an honest job -- so it's not surprising to learn that beneath the thin veneer of "conservatism" Bush is as red as a beet.
Now Bush is inviting both presidential candidates to "suspend" their campaigns. Any bets as to whether we'll actually have an election this November?
On sale now!
Dum spiro, pugno!
Saturday, September 20, 2008
Entreating the Beast
They really need to find a fresher angle: Jewish activists try on an already threadbare trope in a protest against Iranian figurehead Mahmoud Ahmadenijad.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad, we are insistently told by advocates of further military adventurism in the Persian Gulf region, is the most recent version of Hitler Revisited, harboring an implacable desire to annihilate Israel.
The regime in Tehran doesn't occupy an acre of land beyond its borders, and displays no desire to acquire any through aggression or other means. Yet we are told that Iran is a threat to the entire world, and must be contained by Washington through the use of economic impediments and covert operations that are tantamount to an undeclared war.
Thus it may be considered odd that Ahmadenijad has made a point of avowing his government's "friendship" for the Israeli people, despite its irreducible antagonism toward the government ruling that country. Even if one assumes that such statements are fashioned from the purest hypocrisy, they do complicate matters for those who seek to shoehorn the Iranian leader into Hitler's jackboots.
This is not to say, of course, that such people will relent.
Next week, as the monument to human folly called the United Nations opens for business, a coalition of the militant, the mawkish, and the misguided will assemble to demand further action to provoke Iran into a war its government -- unlike that of Germany in the 1930s -- is seeking to avoid.
One key demand of that coalition is that Ahmadenijad be arrested -- that is, kidnapped -- and delivered to The Hague for trial by the UN's International Criminal Court. A petition on behalf of that demand either will be, or has been, delivered to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by David Parsons, a representative of the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem (ICEJ). An Evangelical organization that acts as a de facto lobby on behalf of the Israeli government, the ICEJ has collected 55,000 signatures from Christians in some 128 countries who earnestly believe that Ahmadenijad should be tried for violating the UN's Genocide Convention.
The logo of ICEJ's Washington Affiliate.
In anticipation of the obvious question -- "When did Ahmadenijad, an admittedly unsavory but thoroughly unremarkable chief executive, attempt to slaughter an entire ethnic group?" -- supporters of the ICEJ's proposal would reply that the Iranian president hasn't committed an act of genocide, but that his public criticisms of Israel are tantamount to inciting such acts. The assumption here is that the UN has the authority to punish genocide pre-emptively by criminalizing public utterances.
This is necessary in the case of Ahmadenijad, according to the ICEJ, in order to prevent a war. Reasonable people would believe attempting to abduct a head of state for arraignment before a foreign tribunal would precipitate a war. Cynics such as myself suspect that this is the entire point -- that the War Lobby in Washington and Israel are eagerly searching for a suitable pretext or provocation to bring about a conflict with Iran, and indicting Ahmadenijad under the UN Genocide Convention might be the right approach.
The chief allegation is that the would-be defendant abetted genocide by allegedly calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map." Wouldn't his recent professions of friendship to the Jewish people mitigate that supposed offense? Apparently not. But for those who inhabit the world of objective fact, the matter is moot, since Ahmadenijad never actually uttered the offending phrase, or used his native tongue to express a sentiment accurately translated as such.
Furthermore, even if he had given voice to such an abhorrent desire, this would not be a crime under any law worthy of respect. Nor does the UN have the legitimate authority -- much less the moral standing -- to prosecute anybody for any authentic crime, let alone a purported violation of a spurious global "law."
When the United States government ratified the Genocide Convention in the late 1980s, there were those of us who predicted that it would be used to re-define that offense -- from the attempted extermination of an entire human sub-population, to the much lesser "act" of saying things that hurt some people's feelings. Ironically, the act that (unconstitutionally) amended U.S. criminal law to permit the enforcement of the UN Genocide Convention was signed by Ronald Reagan, who under the "Ahmadenijad Standard" might well have been hauled away to The Hague for his misbegotten quip, "My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you I just signed legislation which outlaws Russia forever. The bombing begins in five minutes."
Ahmadenijad is a nasty little fellow held hostage by some exceptionally pernicious ideas, and he has said some very hostile things about the Israeli government. But as an executive figurehead in Iran's Imam-dominated regime, Ahmadenijad has neither the means to exterminate Israel, nor (as noted above) has he actually indicated any plausible desire to do so. In fact, it's not clear that Ahmadenijad has done anything to injure or harass any Jewish person anywhere in the world, including with Iran's small Jewish community.
Nonetheless, powerful public figures and devoted political activists in several countries are seriously committed to the abduction, indictment, and trial of Ahmadenijad, or they are convincingly pretending to be.
Mr. Parsons of the ICEJ, courier of the group's petititon to the UN, may be as earnest as a child's prayer. But my opinion of his sincerity suffered greatly when I learned how thoroughly Parsons has been trained in the dark arts of "victimidation" -- the tactical use of sanctimonious special pleading to rule some questions impermissible.
Contacted in Israel by telephone, Mr. Parsons took immediate offense to my first question, which, as I explained to him, could be considered obvious and perhaps formulaic: Is this a serious effort, or a species of publicity stunt? He described that question as "demeaning" and said he wouldn't take any more. I asked them anyway.
"We have worked for a year and a half on this campaign," Parsons told Pro Libertate. "This is a serious undertaking that has the full support of many international luminaries, including former UN ambassadors from the United States and Israel -- people like John Bolton, Dore Gold, and Natan Sharansky. These leaders and many others have concluded that it's an open-and-shut case that Ahmadenijad has been inciting genocide against Israel, and that one of the few options we have to avoid a war with Iran is to hold him accountable under international law."
Subtle, this isn't.
Here Parsons was referring to the December 2006 Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations in New York City. The chief purpose of that gathering was to create a movement intended to pressure the United Nations into indicting and, if possible, prosecuting Ahmadenijad for incitement to genocide.
That meeting produced a seven-point plan to achieve that objective, demanding (among other things) that the State Department add Ahmadenijad to the Terrorist Watch List and that efforts be made to secure the arrest of former Iranian President Akbar Rafsanjani and other officials supposedly implicated in a horrible 1994 terrorist bombing at a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires that killed 86 innocent people. Argentina and Interpol have both identified the Iranian regime and Hezbollah as the perpetrators of that atrocity. But the evidence supporting that conclusion is largely suppositious.
A little more than a year ago, the US House of Representatives, always eager to insert itself into matters beyond its competence and constitutional mandate, endorsed the proposal to put Ahmadenijad on trial before the UN's International Criminal Court (or ICC). The symbolic, non-binding resolution received 411 votes.
Only two members of the House voted against that measure. Not surprisingly, one of them was the body's sole constitutionalist, Texas Representative Ron Paul, who has correctly pointed out that the United States, as an imperial power presently engaged in two wars of aggression and whose rulers are plotting several others, has more pressing matters at hand than auditing the unremarkable utterances of Iran's president in search of supposedly criminal sentiments.
In our conversation, Parsons insisted that precedents set by UN prosecutions of individuals involved in mass murder in Rwanda (and, presumably, the Balkans) would justify the indictment and prosecution of Ahmadenijad on the basis of things he has reportedly said.
He also points out that the current president of Sudan, Omar Hassan an-Bashir, has been indicted by a UN tribunal and may stand trial in absentia for presiding over the slaughter of three tribal groups in Darfur.
Accordingly, Parsons concludes, "There is sufficient precedent and ample cause to begin a legal process against Ahmadenijad, although admittedly it may take a while."
In every tribunal it has convened, the UN has invented its own rules of evidence and due process. The ICC's enabling statute leaves to the court itself the task of legislating global "laws" that would serve as the basis of future prosecutions. In its ad hoc tribunals for Rwanda, the UN permitted multiple-hearsay testimony, "atmosphere" witnesses whose job was, quite literally, to prejudice the court against the defendants, and "expert" witnesses who were permitted to re-interpret innocuous or ambiguous public statements into incitements to genocide.
Global "justice" at work in Tanzania: Elizaphan Ntakirutimana (left) and his son Gerrald in the dock at a UN-created international tribunal for Rwanda.
Elizaphan Ntakirutimana, an elderly Seventh-Day Adventist Pastor who came to the U.S. legally as a refugee from Rwanda, was extradited, tried, and convicted by the UN's Rwanda tribunal on the basis of completely anonymous written testimony.
U.S. Federal Judge Marcel Notzon, who denied the initial extradition request (the Clinton administration eventually found a judge willing to extradite Ntakirutimana), pointed out that only one of the twelve witnesses interviewed by the UN investigator claimed to have seen the pastor "kill or direct the killing of anyone," and that this critical detail did not emerge until the witness’ third interview with authorities.
Apart from that self-impeached witness, nobody else could testify that Ntakirutimana "committed a specific act, killed a friend or loved one, instructed others to kill or injure a friend or loved one, directed the assault, or participated in any way other than the vague reference that he was ‘among the attackers'" -- which could mean that instead of being a perpetrator he was a victim, a negotiator, an antagonist, or even a bystander.
The case against Ntakirutimana, which was expanded to include his son Gerard, would have been dismissed by any properly constituted court in the Western world. Yet both of them were convicted of genocide and crimes against humanity. The father was sentenced to ten years in a foreign prison; the son was given a sentence of twenty-five years. Ntakirutimana was released from prison in 2006 after spending a decade in pre-trial detention or prison; he died shortly thereafter.
The foundational conceit of the ICC and the UN's ad hoc tribunals, and the assumption behind the effort to put Ahmadenijad on trial, is the notion that the UN is in some sense the world's paramount ruling body, with the legitimate authority and moral stature to make and enforce global law.
Most Evangelical Christians --not to put too fine a point on the matter -- vehemently disagree with that assumption, I pointed out to Parsons. In fact, more than a few look on the UN as the Beast in embryo. Does he, or his group, have any misgivings about a proposal that would enhance the power and perceived legitimacy of the world body? "On this issue, we think the UN has a responsibility to act," Parsons replied. "We think the UN was created for this purpose -- that is, it emerged from the flames of the Holocaust with a mission to prevent genocide, aggressive war, and similar atrocities from occurring ever again. And if it can't act to prosecute and punish Ahmadenijad's incitement to genocide, then the UN will reveal itself to be a weak and deformed organization."
That the UN is a "weak and deformed organization," no informed and honest observer will dispute. It has provided spectacles of barbarous hypocrisy on many matters, not the least of which would be genocide -- both in Cambodia and Rwanda. In fact, years before Kofi Annan shared a Nobel Peace Prize with the United Nations Organization, the future Secretary General was a passive accomplice to the Rwandan genocide as head of the world body's "peacekeeping" apparatus.
The UN mission in Rwanda was to administer a peace treaty that called for the disarmament of the civilian population. The country's two chief ethnic groups, the Hutus and Tutsis, had taken turns slaughtering each other for decades or longer.
When Rwanda was a Belgian colony following World War I,* the Tutsis were in favor because their physiogomy -- tall, slender, with smaller and finer features -- made them appear more "European" and therefore, under the regnant racial dogmas of the period, superior to the Hutus. The Belgian colonial authorities recruited Tutsis to administer the government and regiment the Hutus. This had the predictable, if tragic, effect of exacerbating inter-communal conflict that led to a rotating series of bloodbaths between Hutu and Tutsi. (Interestingly, Pastor Ntakirutimana, a Hutu, was married to a Tutsi woman.)
In late 1993, the UN military occupation force (or "peacekeepers," as the world body prefers to call them) obtained advance intelligence of impending massacres of Tutsi civilians in Rwanda. The on-site commander of the UN force, Canadian officer Romeo Dallaire, shared that intelligence with his superiors, a chain of command that terminated with Kofi Annan. Annan's office instructed Dallaire, to pass along that intelligence to the same national government that was plotting genocide.
Dallaire (whom I interviewed at some length several years ago) is a genuinely tragic figure, a decent man working within a thoroughly indecent system. He knew that his orders would lead to horrific mass bloodshed. During the 100-day orgy of murder that began in April 1994, Dallaire was immersed in an incessant Grand Guignol production. He later recalled "standing knee-deep in mutilated bodies, surrounded by the guttural moans of dying people, looking into the eyes of children bleeding to death with their wounds burning in the sun and being invaded by maggots or flies."
After being evacuated and returning to Canada, Dallaire continued to suffer severe psychological after-effects, often being shocked awake in the middle of the night by dreams in which he waded "waist deep in bodies, covered in blood." He was driven to alcoholism and attempted suicide. In 2000, shortly before Kofi Annan received his Nobel Peace Prize, a news reporter found Dallaire cowering under a park bench in Hull, Quebec, a human ruin.
Dallaire was the man who attempted to stop the genocide by disarming the government-organized death squads. Annan was the individual who abetted the genocide by ordering Dallaire not to act on his intelligence, but to share it with the government planning the slaughter -- and to continue to disarm the targeted civilian population.
Between 800,000 and 1.1 million people were annihilated in the 100-day killing frenzy. Most of the victims were dismembered and eviscerated by machete. But the machete-wielding mobs were backed up by government troops carrying automatic weapons.
They trusted the UN: Victims of the Rwandan genocide (left, below right).
"They have guns and knives and machetes, the people from the Government party, so we can't fight back," explained Jeanne Niwemutesi, a Tutsi refugee. "We don't have any arms."
In 2000, an Australian attorney named Michael Hourigan conducted an inquiry into the UN's official actions during the genocide. Among his discoveries was the fact that "peacekeepers sent to protect [potential victims] ... either handed them over to the rampaging militants or ran way when fighting broke out." That is the precise nature of the allegation against Ntakirutimana. In the case of the UN military, however, the evidence was solid as granite.
Hourigan attempted to file a class-action suit against the UN. The body replied by asserting a claim of plenary immunity. "What does it tell us about the UN that not a single official thought fit to resign over the first indisputable genocide since the UN Charter was signed?" asked human rights activist Alex de Waal in despair over this spectacle.
What it tells us is that the UN is not a noble idea that was imperfectly realized. Instead, it is an abhorrent idea -- "human security" through concentration of power in a global body -- that has had predictably tragic consequences. Assuming that Mr. Parsons and his colleagues at the ICEJ are motivated by sincere concern for the well-being of Israel, it is clear that they are under the influence of a very powerful delusion.
Since its creation, the UN done more than any other human institution to facilitate war and genocide. Were it to act on the demand that Ahmadenijad be apprehended and prosecuted for something he never said, the UN would add to its unenviable record by precipitating an utterly avoidable war with Iran that would be a disaster for everyone in the region, including Israel.
*I erred in the original version by stating that Rwanda became a Belgian colony in the late 19th century. My thanks to reader Peter Lawrence for this very important correction.
On sale now!
Dum spiro, pugno!