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10 October 2008

Woody Allen, Standup Comic

I think we all need a laugh:

Anti-democratic nature of US capitalism is being exposed, Noam Chomsky

THE SIMULTANEOUS unfolding of the US presidential campaign and unravelling of the financial markets presents one of those occasions where the political and economic systems starkly reveal their nature.

Passion about the campaign may not be universally shared but almost everybody can feel the anxiety from the foreclosure of a million homes, and concerns about jobs, savings and healthcare at risk.

The initial Bush proposals to deal with the crisis so reeked of totalitarianism that they were quickly modified. Under intense lobbyist pressure, they were reshaped as "a clear win for the largest institutions in the system . . . a way of dumping assets without having to fail or close", as described by James Rickards, who negotiated the federal bailout for the hedge fund Long Term Capital Management in 1998, reminding us that we are treading familiar turf. The immediate origins of the current meltdown lie in the collapse of the housing bubble supervised by Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, which sustained the struggling economy through the Bush years by debt-based consumer spending along with borrowing from abroad. But the roots are deeper. In part they lie in the triumph of financial liberalisation in the past 30 years - that is, freeing the markets as much as possible from government regulation.

These steps predictably increased the frequency and depth of severe reversals, which now threaten to bring about the worst crisis since the Great Depression.

Also predictably, the narrow sectors that reaped enormous profits from liberalisation are calling for massive state intervention to rescue collapsing financial institutions.

Such interventionism is a regular feature of state capitalism, though the scale today is unusual. A study by international economists Winfried Ruigrok and Rob van Tulder 15 years ago found that at least 20 companies in the Fortune 100 would not have survived if they had not been saved by their respective governments, and that many of the rest gained substantially by demanding that governments "socialise their losses," as in today's taxpayer-financed bailout. Such government intervention "has been the rule rather than the exception over the past two centuries", they conclude.

In a functioning democratic society, a political campaign would address such fundamental issues, looking into root causes and cures, and proposing the means by which people suffering the consequences can take effective control.

The financial market "underprices risk" and is "systematically inefficient", as economists John Eatwell and Lance Taylor wrote a decade ago, warning of the extreme dangers of financial liberalisation and reviewing the substantial costs already incurred - and proposing solutions, which have been ignored. One factor is failure to calculate the costs to those who do not participate in transactions. These "externalities" can be huge. Ignoring systemic risk leads to more risk-taking than would take place in an efficient economy, even by the narrowest measures.

The task of financial institutions is to take risks and, if well-managed, to ensure that potential losses to themselves will be covered. The emphasis is on "to themselves". Under state capitalist rules, it is not their business to consider the cost to others - the "externalities" of decent survival - if their practices lead to financial crisis, as they regularly do.

Financial liberalisation has effects well beyond the economy. It has long been understood that it is a powerful weapon against democracy. Free capital movement creates what some have called a "virtual parliament" of investors and lenders, who closely monitor government programmes and "vote" against them if they are considered irrational: for the benefit of people, rather than concentrated private power.

Investors and lenders can "vote" by capital flight, attacks on currencies and other devices offered by financial liberalisation. That is one reason why the Bretton Woods system established by the United States and Britain after the second World War instituted capital controls and regulated currencies.*

The Great Depression and the war had aroused powerful radical democratic currents, ranging from the anti-fascist resistance to working class organisation. These pressures made it necessary to permit social democratic policies. The Bretton Woods system was designed in part to create a space for government action responding to public will - for some measure of democracy.

John Maynard Keynes, the British negotiator, considered the most important achievement of Bretton Woods to be the establishment of the right of governments to restrict capital movement.

In dramatic contrast, in the neoliberal phase after the breakdown of the Bretton Woods system in the 1970s, the US treasury now regards free capital mobility as a "fundamental right", unlike such alleged "rights" as those guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: health, education, decent employment, security and other rights that the Reagan and Bush administrations have dismissed as "letters to Santa Claus", "preposterous", mere "myths".

In earlier years, the public had not been much of a problem. The reasons are reviewed by Barry Eichengreen in his standard scholarly history of the international monetary system. He explains that in the 19th century, governments had not yet been "politicised by universal male suffrage and the rise of trade unionism and parliamentary labour parties". Therefore, the severe costs imposed by the virtual parliament could be transferred to the general population.

But with the radicalisation of the general public during the Great Depression and the anti-fascist war, that luxury was no longer available to private power and wealth. Hence in the Bretton Woods system, "limits on capital mobility substituted for limits on democracy as a source of insulation from market pressures".

The obvious corollary is that after the dismantling of the postwar system, democracy is restricted. It has therefore become necessary to control and marginalise the public in some fashion, processes particularly evident in the more business-run societies like the United States. The management of electoral extravaganzas by the public relations industry is one illustration.

"Politics is the shadow cast on society by big business," concluded America's leading 20th century social philosopher John Dewey, and will remain so as long as power resides in "business for private profit through private control of banking, land, industry, reinforced by command of the press, press agents and other means of publicity and propaganda".

The United States effectively has a one-party system, the business party, with two factions, Republicans and Democrats. There are differences between them. In his study Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age, Larry Bartels shows that during the past six decades "real incomes of middle-class families have grown twice as fast under Democrats as they have under Republicans, while the real incomes of working-poor families have grown six times as fast under Democrats as they have under Republicans".

Differences can be detected in the current election as well. Voters should consider them, but without illusions about the political parties, and with the recognition that consistently over the centuries, progressive legislation and social welfare have been won by popular struggles, not gifts from above.

Those struggles follow a cycle of success and setback. They must be waged every day, not just once every four years, always with the goal of creating a genuinely responsive democratic society, from the voting booth to the workplace.

-------------------------

* The Bretton Woods system of global financial management was created by 730 delegates from all 44 Allied second World War nations who attended a UN-hosted Monetary and Financial Conference at the Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods in New Hampshire in 1944.

Bretton Woods, which collapsed in 1971, was the system of rules, institutions, and procedures that regulated the international monetary system, under which were set up the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) (now one of five institutions in the World Bank Group) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which came into effect in 1945.

The chief feature of Bretton Woods was an obligation for each country to adopt a monetary policy that maintained the exchange rate of its currency within a fixed value.

The system collapsed when the US suspended convertibility from dollars to gold. This created the unique situation whereby the US dollar became the "reserve currency" for the other countries within Bretton Woods.

Noam Chomsky is professor emeritus of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His writings on linguistics and politics have just been collected in The Essential Chomsky , edited by Anthony Arnove, from the New Press. This article appeared first in the New York Times

© 2008 The Irish Times

09 October 2008

Thousands of Troops Are Deployed on U.S. Streets Ready to Carry Out "Crowd Control," Naomi Wolf

Where is Saint Obama on this, do you think? The silence is deafening.

Full video, part of which is linked in Wolf's story, which was focused on the bailout bill. If you want the specifically relevant clip, see the article linked in this post's title.




Steal Back Your Vote! -- A Nearly Free Guide to Protect Your Vote

Click above to purchase this Palast-RFK, Jr. guide -- non-partisan, so you can bring it into the poll -- for as little as one cent.

If you can't afford one penny, e-mail me and I'll send you my copy. I have given Palast a ton of money, and neither he nor RFK, Jr. could give a shit, I'm sure.

Check your registration, like, right now! Go to your state's board of elections site.

More here:


Our "Election" Problems

And here's the Brennan Center report.

Moral Depravity at the New York Times, or, What the Fuck Else is New?

Click the link for the article; below is my response, followed by another commenter's, with the article's author's response, and my final one, yet to be approved.

Are Bad Times Healthy?

1936: In hard times, as in the Great Depression, laborers have more time to care for their children.

My first comment:

Yes, the Depression was a much-missed golden age of family fuzzies for "laborers." More quality time sitting around the shack and really, you know, relating to each other. Providing food, medicine, education, and clean water is nowhere near as important for health as having "more time to care for [your] children." Just imagine how close you'll get to your young ones as you try to decide which of them eats tonight! It's even better than renting a Disney movie.

Anyway, yes, on the slide down to malnutrition, or even starvation, many fat people lost weight. That was really good! Plus, squirrels and rats carry 57% of the RDA for most key nutrients. If the poor were truly industrious, they'd realize the protein value of lice, cockroaches, and other underutilized food resources in the commons which have yet to be enclosed by corporations. Look for Monsanto to patent "RatUp" -- a couple of genes that make rat meat more tender -- but you gotta pay if we find a Monsanto rat on your stick at the hobo camp.

This part of the article was especially worrying to me:
The economic downturn “is not good news for the health care industry,” he said. “There may be slivers of positive, but I view this as sobering.”
I see a potential revenue stream for that poor, beleaguered health care industry: cross-market with manufacturers of high-fructose corn-syrup, some of the lowest-cost food around, calorie for calorie. Encourage consumption of that poison, with the proper government subsidies of course, and you won't need to worry about your next Q with the Wall Street analysts.


Another commenter, with the author's ("TPP") response:

I believe the data show that in Nazi-occupied European countries during World War II, coronary artery disease decreased in the occupied populations. Obviously there were many other risks and causes of death in those circumstances, but presumably a simpler diet and more exercise may have contributed to the decline in coronary disease. The stress of living under Nazi occupation was apparently less of a factor.

FROM TPP — I don’t know the data you cite but I find it to be an interesting point. Obviously, nobody is saying life was better for those people or that life is better for people during an economic crisis. It dose show however, that boom times don’t always put us on a more healthful path and that when a simpler diet is imposed on us, either by difficult circumstances or an economic downturn, we see this resulting improvement in cardiovascular health, despite the added stress. If anything, it should serve as a wakeup call to the role that a poor diet plays in our overall health. thanks for writing.

And my last comment, yet to be approved:

I almost didn’t post this second comment, because the author of this post will only be rewarded for the length of the string, but it is heartening that many others have noted the complete moral bankruptcy of this article. It is a minor classic in a well-worn genre, possibly posted in order to appear “controversial” — and thus generate a long string so that the folks at NYTOnline are satisfied — but, sadly, was possibly written in earnest, which says a whole lot more not only about the author, but also about the New York Times and our intellectual culture, such as it is.

And, finally, the fact that you, Tara, couldn’t recognize satire in comment # 42 on improved cardiovascular health under the Nazis — and even found it “interesting” — speaks volumes.

I note, too, that you don’t realize that the cheapest foods are usually the most unhealthy. Or possibly you don’t care, as your audience isn’t poor people, whose ranks are about to spike, but relatively wealthy readers of the NYT.

As for folks who are feeling desperate: keep up the struggle and don’t let the bastards get you down!

Update: TPP replies:

FROM TPP — Was that in fact satire? Forgive me if it was — it’s hard to tell sometimes with readers. I try to take all my readers’ comments seriously. I have also written about the problem of food costs for the poor. There is an ongoing debate on the blog about whether it’s more expensive to eat healthfully. I believe it is. I embarked on this article believing I would find data showing hard times are hard on your health. It was surprising to me to find such a large body of research showing that economic crises do not always take a health toll as measured by heart attacks, mortality and infant mortality. But if you read the article, you will see that it shows for the very poor and uninsured, there is a powerful effect.

My response, as yet not approved:

Re: your reply to my second comment above –

FROM TPP — Was that in fact satire? Forgive me if it was — it’s hard to tell sometimes with readers. I try to take all my readers’ comments seriously. I have also written about the problem of food costs for the poor. There is an ongoing debate on the blog about whether it’s more expensive to eat healthfully. I believe it is. I embarked on this article believing I would find data showing hard times are hard on your health. It was surprising to me to find such a large body of research showing that economic crises do not always take a health toll as measured by heart attacks, mortality and infant mortality. But if you read the article, you will see that it shows for the very poor and uninsured, there is a powerful effect. –

1. I can guarantee that my initial response was satire; I’m willing to bet the one I was referring to (Nazi, etc.) was, too. At least I hope it was: it shows how your tunnel vision, at best, ignores the main point: totalitarian rule is immoral regardless of incidental health benefits. You missed that; and if it was meant seriously, the poster did, too.

2. Satire is a deadly serious form of discourse, surface humor aside.

3. Why should it come as any surprise that the diseases of relative wealth will drop as people become relatively less wealthy? Didn’t we already know that through simple common sense?

4. The article implies a general point very strongly — that the less wealthy everyone is, the more healthy. That is false a priori. If you believe it’s true, quit the Times and try living like Barbara Ehrenreich did — or as 80% (or some large percentage) of Americans do. You’ll get healthier, no? Now, clearly, you won’t do that; neither will anyone else reading this, if they can help it.

So, yes, even though I believe you didn’t “mean” your article in the way you did — and maybe didn’t even have editorial control over the photo and its caption, which was appalling — you do in fact fall into a long tradition of arguing for the moral benefits of _other people’s_ poverty.

I’m willing to believe that you’re a nice person; that’s not the point here.

07 October 2008

Presidential Candidate Ralph Nader (I) "INFORUM" Event

This week on Road to the White House, Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader held a campaign event in San Francisco at the Commonwealth Club of California. Mr. Nader answers questions about his presidential campaign and past runs for the White House. The independent candidate will be on the ballot in 45 states this Nov. 4th and is polling 5 to 6 percent nationally, according to the candidate's website.

Sunday : Washington, DC : 1 hr. 7 min.

Russia, Georgia & the U.S.: A Double Standard in Action, Ed Herman, Z Magazine


With the short Russian war on Georgia, the U.S. mainstream media rushed to the barricades in a now familiar and routine manner, as in their usual service supporting the invasion-occupation of Iraq and their portrayal of the "huge threat" posed by Iran's nuclear program. Of course, Russia's attack and occupation did differ from that of the United States in Iraq in a number of ways. For one thing, Georgia borders on Russia and has been armed and its military trained by powers not friendly to Russia (the United States and Israel). The national security threat it poses to Russia as a client of these foreign powers is not negligible. In contrast, Iraq had been effectively disarmed and was not a client of a threatening foreign power—hence its national security threat to the United States was negligible.

A second and closely related point is that the Western arming of Georgia and U.S. effort to get it into NATO has been part of a larger program that has seriously jeopardized Russian national security. In allowing East Germany to join West Germany in 1990, Soviet President Gorbachev had received an assurance from U.S. Secretary of State James Baker that NATO would not expand "one inch" eastward, let alone incorporate all former Soviet clients into a Western military alliance. Not only was this promise violated, but the United States has aggressively intervened in the political affairs of a number of ex-Soviet states on Russia's southern flank and established bases in several of them, again posing a national security threat to Russia. More recently, the United States has even negotiated for the establishment of anti-missile bases in the Czech Republic and Poland, purportedly to protect against Iranian nuclear missiles that don't exist and would not threaten the host countries even if they did exist. Again, by contrast, Iraq did not have any anti-U.S. program and was not part of an alliance that posed any national security threat to the United States.

A further point of great relevance is that the recent serious escalation of violence between Georgia and Russia began on the evening of August 7 with Georgia bombarding Tskhinvali, the capital city of South Ossetia, and sending a substantial military force into the province. Given that Georgia was a U.S. client, that the United States (along with Israel) had armed and trained Georgian forces, that only days before the Georgian attack it had participated in joint maneuvers with Georgian forces, and that U.S. and Israeli personnel were present in Georgia at the time of the attack, it is very possible—even very likely—that the Georgian attack was not a foolish mistake by the Georgian leadership, but rather a proxy action carried out on behalf of the United States. Its design is not clear, but might have been to further humiliate Russia, which had failed to act in the long series of other hostile Western moves. Or perhaps it was meant to provoke it into action to test its response capability, or to push the new Cold War to a higher level for political advantage (helping the war party and John McCain—the expected "October surprise" one month early).

In any case, Russia responded 24 hours after the opening large-scale Georgian bombardment of Tskhinvali, drove out the Georgians, and attacked and occupied part of Georgia proper in the next few days. For some years South Ossetia had been quasi-independent, though legally part of Georgia. Peace had been maintained previously by a status quo agreement that left South Ossetia independent and with a number of Russian and other peacekeepers present. The Georgian attack of August 7-8 targeted, along with the civilian population of Tskhinvali, the residences of the Russian peacekeepers who suffered a score or more deaths and many wounded. Once again, the contrast with the U.S. attack on Iraq is clear: Iraq had not attacked or threatened the United States; it was attacked on the basis of false claims about Iraq to help market an invasion-occupation. (In May 2003 Wolfowitz famously acknowledged that "weapons of mass destruction" was featured for bureaucratic and political reasons.)

The way in which U.S. officials and the media handled the Russian response to the Georgian assault has been a lesson in bias, misrepresentation, decontextualization, and the applied double standard. It has also often been funny.

Russian Action Threatening Start of a New Cold War

One of the most remarkable and funny of the official and media cliché responses has been the charge that Russia's attack threatens the commencement of a new Cold War. But the Cold War was re-inaugurated immediately following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, with U.S. and Western support of a program of ultra-shock therapy and mass-thievery-privatization that crushed the Russian economy, assured an oligarchic structure of economic control and non-democracy, and reduced Russia to almost Third World economic conditions and powerlessness. This was carried out under the rule of Boris Yeltsin, the "reformer," who served as a de facto U.S. agent. This was accompanied or followed by:

  • the expansion of NATO to the Russian border
  • the dismantling of Russia's ally Serbia
  • the Bush administration's cancellation of the ABM treaty
  • the building of new clients and bases in the ex-Soviet states of the south
  • ABM missiles in Eastern Europe
  • the arming of Georgia

Even Thomas Friedman acknowledges that the Clinton foreign policy team chose "to cram NATO expansion down the Russians' throats because Moscow is weak, and by the way, they'll get used to it" ("What Did We Expect?" August 20, 2008). But of course this doesn't cause Friedman to call the NATO program "expansionism" or "imperialism," or to explain that Putin deserves credit for finally resisting such a program that included open aggression. No, Putin still gets a "gold medal for brutish stupidity," while Clinton and Bush only get bronze for "short-sightedness." Friedman doesn't explain what Putin could have done to end the exploitation of Russian weakness, nor does he explain why the Russian attack—which the Georgians themselves claim resulted in only several hundred civilian deaths—was brutish while the U.S. attack on Iraq, with a million civilian deaths, was not designated beyond brutish and possibly genocidal.

In an Orwellian classic, Condoleezza Rice stated recently—and indignantly—that in its attack on Georgia, Russia has turned to a policy of force, which is a shocking and terrible thing in this enlightened age. "Russia is a state that is unfortunately using the one tool that it has always used whenever it wishes to deliver a message and that's its military power. That's not the way to deal in the 21st century." As Glen Greenwald points out, she said this "with a straight face," and it elicited no mainstream media comment, which proves that U.S. officials can say anything and get away with it. Rice speaks for a government that has used and continues to use extreme force in two major wars carried out in violation of the UN Charter and which has openly claimed the right to engage in preemptive violence outside the rule of law. Rice is also famous for her apologetics for the Israeli policy of force in Lebanon in 2006 as mere "birth pangs of a new Middle East" that she did not wish to interrupt.

There is nothing new in this ultra self-deception or hypocrisy. In 1965 James Reston, the top journalist of the New York Times, asserted that we were in Vietnam to establish the principle that force doesn't pay and that "no state shall use military force or the threat of military force to achieve its political objectives." He said this in face of the fact that all knowledgeable officials and analysts recognized that the "enemy," the National Liberation Front, had mass support in South Vietnam, that our minority clique had very little and would not survive for a month without U.S. military support, and that the entire rationale of U.S. policy rested on the idea that the enemy would surrender as we escalated and put into play our massive force. (See Gareth Porter's The Perils of Dominance for a study of the genocidal U.S. use of force in Indochina.)

Aggression or Response to National Security Threat

It is amazing to watch the U.S. imperialist establishment, including the media, wax indignant about "Russian aggression," Russian "brutality," and a renewal of Russian "expansionism." This establishment can never admit its own regular, serial, and massive aggressions—the word was never used by mainstream reporters or editors to describe the attack on Vietnam, 1954-75, or Iraq in 2003 and onward. And the Iraq war has never been ascribed to a planned expansionism, although this "projection of power" in the Middle East and beyond was actually announced in advance in the Project for a New American Century's Rebuilding America's Defenses (2000) and the National Security Policy program of 2002. We may kill millions in Indochina and Iraq—including in the latter the 500,000 children's deaths from the "sanctions of mass destruction" that were "worth it" (to Madeleine Albright)—but this is not "brutal," a word used freely in the case of the hundreds killed in the Russian aggression. What this shows is that the U.S. establishment can swallow anything, no matter how outlandish, to rationalize that projection of power now built-in to the U.S. political economy. While McCain relishes it, Obama also bows down to it as he seeks electoral victory here.

We and our "defense department" are protecting U.S. "national security," according to the cliché-myth. That the electoral intervention, political capture, arming, and proposed absorption of Georgia into NATO posed a security threat to Russia was barely recognized in the West. If the Russians (or Chinese) had entered into a military alliance with Mexico, supplied it with arms and military advisors, used a Russian or Chinese version of the "National Endowment for Democracy" and other agents to bring about political change in Mexico (recall that Mexico has had a series of elections won by fraud), and perhaps put some ABMs in place to protect Mexico against a possible threat from Colombia, can you imagine the frenzy of U.S. politicos and the "free press?"

For the imperialist establishment only this country and its clients have "national security" threats. Certainly the Russians don't, even as we encircle them and arrange for ABMs on their very borders.

When it is occasionally recognized that the NATO expansion and U.S.-client status and arming of Georgia does worry Russia, this wasn't accompanied by suggestions that maybe we should lay off, withdraw, and stop trying to bully Russia (or China) into subservience. No, it was used to explain that this gave Russia an excuse to resume its expansionist ways, that is, it "gave Putin an easy excuse to exercise his iron fist" (Friedman, "What Did We Expect?", August 20).

Only Russia has bad motives. Georgia's President Saakashvili merely made a "mistake" or foolishly "baited" the Russians or the United States was careless or not very observant in failing to constrain him—but neither of them was guilty of aggression, brutality, blackmail, or expansionism.

Evasion of Georgian Initiation of the Conflict

It has been awkward for the Western establishment that Saakashvili actually began the serious conflict with a major and civilian-oriented bombardment and ground attack on Tskhinvali. The Russians didn't make the initiating move and can credibly claim to be responding to the Georgian attack. The U.S. establishment has handled this by: (1) ignoring the basic fact of Georgia's initiation; (2) ignoring the civilian-target orientation of that opening attack; (3) arguing that the Russians had provoked Georgia and deliberately sucked it into a major conflict. But none of these responses work. The first two dodge the issue completely and the third fails to explain why Saakashvili did such a seemingly self-destructive thing—and of course fails to consider the possibility that he either expected no Russian response or expected Western military support or was being used by the United States for its own ends. Whatever the answers, Georgia started the war, not Russia, and the West has had to evade and/or downplay that fact.

It is also interesting that the U.S. and EU have been completely unconcerned over Georgia's use of powerful and indiscriminate Grad missiles in the initial attack on what seems to have been strictly civilian sites in Tskinvali. In 1996 the Yugoslav Tribunal found the Croatian Serb leader Milan Martic guilty of war crimes for having used a similarly indiscriminate weapon in attacking Zagreb, a densely populated area, although he claimed to be aiming at the Ministry of Defense and Airport. But the Tribunal concluded that he was trying to terrorize the population (whereas prosecutor Carla Del Ponte found that while NATO also used cluster bombs, "There is no indication cluster bombs were used in such a fashion by NATO.") Martic was given a 35-year sentence for using cluster bombs. I think we can safely conclude that Saakashvili's use of cluster bombs will be treated like NATO's rather than Milan Martic's.

Rediscovery of the UN Charter and International Law

The UN Charter and international law come and go in the U.S. depending on whether the United States is ignoring and violating them or trying to use them for its own political ends. There could hardly be a grosser violation of both than the attack on Iraq, but there was no mention of the words "UN Charter" or "international law" in the 70 New York Times editorials on Iraq that appeared between September 11, 2001 and March 21, 2003 (Friel and Falk, Record of the Paper). The Times finally did mention international law in late March 2003 when the Iraqi government paraded several U.S. POWs on TV, assailing Iraq, but also chiding the Bush administration for neglecting that law and thereby endangering our soldiers taken prisoner abroad (ed., "Protecting Prisoners of War," March 26, 2003).

As regards Russia and Georgia, the media haven't focused explicitly on the UN Charter, but have repeatedly charged Russia with aggression, which is a fundamental UN Charter violation, as well as disproportionate violence, and failure to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states. Russia's action was "brazen" aggression, but the U.S. invasion of Iraq or Israel's attack on Lebanon in 2006 were in a different category altogether, certainly not "brazen," "unacceptable," or calling for an international response. Georgia's territorial integrity "must be respected," but Yugoslavia's and Serbia's were a "special case," based on the rule of the double standard.

The first Washington Post editorial assailing Russia on Georgia stressed how wonderful that "victim" state Georgia is, one of its accomplishments being its support for "the mission in Iraq" (ed., "Stopping Russia," August 9, 2008). But the mission in Iraq to which the worthy Georgia contributed 2,000 troops was and remains a major act of aggression, which makes the Russian attack on Georgia puny by comparison, and arguably an act of self-defense, which the U.S. aggression was not. The editors of an ideological institution like the Washington Post are, of course, completely oblivious to the irony in their pat on the back for aggression-victim Georgia's support of the more massive aggression.

"Elected Democracy" Threatened

Along with the rediscovery of the importance of law and territorial integrity, so the "free world" has rushed to demand that the Russians exit quickly from Georgia, a primary objective of French President Sarkozy's quick visit to Moscow. The contrast here with Iraq is beyond dramatic—there the aggressor was quickly given Security Council sanction to stay on and when the aggression produced a remarkable resistance and resulted in the deaths of maybe a million (versus maybe 300 from the Russian attack on Georgia) and millions of refugees, there was still no demand for withdrawal, and the aggressor is now arranging for a permanent stay with "enduring bases" and oil company investment rights. But this was not "aggression" for the EU states, any more than Israel's dispossession of Palestinians is "ethnic cleansing."

Practically every article and editorial on the Russian-Georgian conflict refers to Georgia as an "elected democratic state," sometimes also a "market oriented" democracy, sometimes "allied with the Western democracies," and also "independent." And President Saakashvili is "Western educated." Also democratically elected, although his first electoral victory got him 96 percent of the vote, a number that would arouse suspicions if not won by a Western-educated leader. His electoral victory in 2004 was one of those Western-Soros-NED-CIA supported operations that would be wildly illegal if carried out from abroad in the United States. It is not Western "expansionism," however, and Russian hostility to this interventionism and the establishing of a hostile client on its border shows Russia's attempt to establish "hegemony" in the Caucasus.

A number of observers have pointed out that Saakashvili has displayed marked authoritarian tendencies. His popularity decline from 2004's 96 percent favorable vote to the present has been dramatic. In the election of 2007-2008 tens of thousands of protesters who assembled in the streets of Tbilisi demanding democratic reforms were dispersed on November 7, 2007 with tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannon, and truncheons, with over 600 needing medical attention. A dissident broadcasting station was raided, its equipment disabled, journalists beaten, and its operations suspended, leaving only a state-controlled TV station functioning. Two opposition leaders were accused of treason and of plotting with Russia, while two other potential contestants were eliminated from the election by legal trickery. Election observers from the OSCE raised questions about election integrity based on claims of Saakashvili's use of state money, blackmail, and vote-buying.

But none of this affects the Western media, who were enthused about the hugely corrupt Russian election of 1996 which "reformer" Yeltsin won, and even about the 1982 and 1984 elections in El Salvador, won by U.S.-approved leaders under conditions of extreme state terror. So why not enthuse about Saakashvili, a "Western-educated" and eager client and servant of a global expansionist state playing like a defender of democracy?

Z


Edward S. Herman is an economics, political columnist, and media critic.

From: Z Magazine - The Spirit Of Resistance Lives
URL: http://www.zcommunications.org/zmag/viewArticle/18994

06 October 2008

Nader On the Passage of the Bailout Bill

New, Wide-ranging Chomsky Interview

Part 1

Part 2