Archive for the ‘CIA TORTURE GULAG’ Tag

JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: OUR APPROACHING BRAVE NEW WORLD – OLD CLICHES ABOUT THE PRESS AS TRIBUNE FOR THE PEOPLE OR FOURTH ESTATE – THE PRESS’S EXAGGERATED IMPORTANCE TO DEMOCRACY AND WESTERN VALUES – ITS ACTUAL HISTORICAL ROLE – WHAT I FEAR THE FUTURE HOLDS FOR THE CONCEPT OF A FREE SOCIETY   Leave a comment

John Chuckman

EXPANSION OF A COMMENT POSTED TO AN ARTICLE BY NEIL MACDONALD IN CBC NEWS

 

“If newspaper health is a measure of democracy, our democracy is in decline: Neil Macdonald

“Newsrooms would mount costly, complex investigations that took teams of reporters out of play for months”

 

The costs of doing the classic newspaper journalistic operations – such investigative reporting and maintaining foreign correspondents – have risen greatly while newspapers’ sources of revenue have declined seriously.

It’s a new set of conditions created in large part by the Internet, where new kinds of businesses have taken the revenue that once belonged to newspapers – the best example being classified advertising.

And I really don’t think there’s any going back. Changing technology is always like that. It destroys old ways of doing things, forever. It’s Joseph Schumpeter’s principle of the “creative destruction of capitalism” writ large.

Technological advance always brings change to economic, social, and political conditions in any society – e.g., the original invention of the printing press itself went on to create books accessible to everyone (not a favorable development to authorities of the time), to become a force for public education, and to create newspapers plus a whole lot more.

I think it fair to say that the traditional newspaper represents now a kind of dead-end business model. It is likely to disappear as the existing generation of devoted users passes.

I do not necessarily agree with the statement about the press and its meaning for democracy. Journalists and editors have always had a somewhat exaggerated notion of their central importance. And newspapers, on the whole, for a couple of centuries, have no record of serving as genuine tribunes of the people against power.

Listening to people who are out to earn a living pat themselves on the back with distinctions such as serving as the nation’s “fourth estate” does sometimes reach vomit-inducing levels.

Newspapers have instead supported power, remembering corporations need to keep on the good side of government as well as on the good side of other powerful private establishment interests, and they have often misrepresented the reality of events to people. Just as in wartime, when we know newspapers typically become blatant propaganda outlets for the cause. It’s only somewhat less the case in peaceful times.

And who is it that has been at the very center of the explosive controversy over “fake news” in recent years, if not traditional newspapers and broadcasters? A lot of that controversy is artificially ginned up and reflects the power of the Internet to communicate even paranoia, but a lot of it is genuine and reflects the long history of the traditional press serving power while pretending to serve the people.

Of course, the same charges can be made against many, or most, of the people making charges against the traditional press. New “news” sources on the Internet are just as likely to be biased in their own fashion and to be catering to various moneyed or special interests as the old ones. There are very few heroic Assange or Manning figures out there. Almost none. Careers are not made that way.

Yes, a democracy, in theory, needs to be informed, however, first, I think it important to acknowledge that we, in fact, have no actual democracies in the West. And second, newspapers, generally have not played much of a role in trying to keep people informed.

Our “democracies” are all variations on a theme of making citizens believe they are central and important, when, in fact, we are still ruled by the power of wealth, much as France was in 1780. It’s all subtly diffused and disguised now. Realities are not so crudely obvious as they once were.

We have an entertaining Theater of Democracy with continuous-run performances in the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Canada, and other places.

Only big sources of money and special interest lobbies in the West support all significant political parties, not ordinary people, and they want and receive a return on their investment.

Second, newspapers have never really performed the pure function of keeping citizens informed. Never. Oh, yes, they have with sports scores or stock prices or travel information but not with the intimate workings of government and its agencies or in international affairs. The sports, weather, and travel stuff builds newspaper credibility in readers, but readers mostly have no way to judge what they are being given on the important topics. At least, not until many years later when the information becomes useless, being degraded almost as by entropy.

There are likely few newspapers in America today which do not agree about what a “tragedy” the Vietnam War was, but that is not what any of them said fifty-five years ago, when it counted, when three million Vietnamese faced extermination in a crusade against communism just as intense and bloody as the battle between Catholics and Protestants in the 16th and 17th centuries. In effect, newspapers are able to publish elaborate retractions of all the fraudulent stories of years ago and go on pretending they are on the side of the angels

The New York Times, for example, which enjoys a better, if truly undeserved, reputation than most, plays that game endlessly. It is a sickening exercise if you observe it over time. Indeed, the years-later stories on terrible, avoidable events, such as the Vietnam War or CIA coups, enable The Times to titillate readers with “revelations,” in effect, bolstering a reputation for investigation and truth that it never deserved. It’s called, by an earlier generation, having your cake and eating it, too.

Newspapers and broadcasters have always served as servants for the powerful and wealthy and as mouthpieces for various power-establishment factions, including government itself.

The entire reason we had all those newspaper empires and barons, people such as Conrad Black or Rupert Murdoch or William Randolph Hearst in the past, was because they were men who wanted to wield power without being elected, to influence opinion, both among citizens and inside government. That has been the aim of every single large news empire, without exception.

Also, the whole concept of freedom of the press has always been a bit of an illusion. It was best summed by the wag who said, “If you want a free press, you must own one.”

Not only is the old newspaper model almost dead, so is the model for our Western “free societies.” The term is starting to sound very dated and stale. The amount of repressive legislation, government spying, secrecy, false official investigations, and ignoring of what we regarded as basic rights has grown at an alarming rate, as have the number of, and resources for, secret agencies and police forces of every description.

Technology greatly assists spying and police effort, just as it’s destroying traditional newspapers. The Stasi never dreamed of such information systems as we have now in the West. Every time you order something from Amazon or do something on Facebook or look something up in Wikipedia or use Google to find something, you are automatically feeding government and huge private corporations information about yourself, quite intimate information.

Our governments, for the most part, have not prevented this with legislation, for obvious reasons.

It’s the same thing if you order your blood or your DNA analyzed for health purposes or for some information about your genetic origins or have your family history traced from a service. All the security services receive anything worth having. Do an on-line financial transaction? The same thing.

The public seems content with this form of voluntary confession to the authorities and corporations, even though it is intrusive and revealing beyond all precedents. It actually resembles the model of the Catholic Church with weekly confession, except that now the confessions are recorded and correlated by supercomputers. The Church was undoubtedly on to something important about human psychology ages ago, but then, at that time, it, in fact, represented the kind of power and privilege we are talking about.

Big Brother no longer needs Room 101 or the Thought Police in jackboots with truncheons, for the most part, although in special cases of urgency, these are very much still used, as at Guantanamo or the other CIA “black sites” in the international torture gulag.

I believe that this trend is only going to continue. The needs of a powerful world empire such as that of the United States drive us in that direction, absolutely. Remember, abroad, the United States doesn’t even pretend to the niceties of rights or basic principles like rule of law. We have CIA torture gulags, we have assassinations in wholesale numbers, we have threats and pressures against every government and international agency that even moderately opposes American policy. We have coups and wars and bombings. Why would anyone expect that such measures will not become incorporated into domestic society by the people so used to them?

The government of the United States does things weekly that it has no interest in most people ever knowing anything about. And it has become almost paranoid about opponents to its policies, seeking them out and even hunting them down.

We are, I believe, entering a kind of brave new world which few of us could have anticipated, something immensely more sophisticated and impersonal and efficient than Orwell’s 1984, a story actually intended to satirize Stalin’s Soviet Union.

All the traditional views and understandings of society, developed over the past couple of centuries, are likely going to pass. I’m sure, eventually, so are such traditional and basic things as the decision about having children. It will no longer be up to the individuals at some point in the not too distant future in Western countries.

I’m not sure what’s going to be put in place of traditional views, but it will be far cry from things like Bills or Charters of Rights, Freedom of Information, the importance of individuals (at least, ones who are not wealthy), and an informed electorate.

It is not a bright outlook, but I think there is no avoiding the direction of things, short of such cataclysms as great war or economic collapse, but even such fabric-of-society-destroying events would only put things off for a while. The forces have been set loose on the world. Pandora’s box has been opened.

 

 

 

 

Posted May 8, 2019 by JOHN CHUCKMAN in Uncategorized

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JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: 9/11: BRITISH COLUMNIST JANET DALEY OFFERS DRIVEL ABOUT ANTI-AMERICANISM AND BRITISH RESPONSE TO 9/11 – HARD TRUTHS ON AMERICA’S SENSE OF ENTITLEMENT AND EXCESSES OF GRIEF   Leave a comment

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY JANET DALEY IN THE TELEGRAPH

Just the kind of genuinely ignorant column one expects of Janet Daley.

Rather nice of her not to disappoint.

It is simply fact that America has been since WWII an arrogant and highly aggressive nation, clothing itself in the words of democratic values while invading, interfering with, or overthrowing anyone whose policies did not toe the American line, and those dark operations have included a number of democracies along the way.

America is a democracy on its own shores (sort of) which behaves every bit the bloody tyrant offshore, and where it has itself not directly acted as tyrant it has used and supported other tyrants to do its biding, right down to our time with someone like Mubarak.

Very much as it makes the same distinction with human rights: its border is where the spirit and letter of Constitutional protections stop.

It’s perfectly okay for the CIA to have an international torture gulag, flying illegal prisoners here and there by the thousands to dark holes around the world, just so the CIA keeps its operations outside American territory. The horrors of Guantanamo are just fine ninety miles offshore.

Is it any wonder that there are people and indeed whole peoples in the world that dislike America?

We know from the past that people love America at its best, but we’ve seen damn little of its best in a very long time.

It was Lord Acton who gave us one of the most profound truths of human nature, absolute power corrupts absolutely. Now, why would anyone who purports to think believe America is exempt from this fundamental law of human nature?

It is not, of course, and criticizing it for its many excesses, stupidities, and brutal behaviors is not anti-Americanism. It is simply honest reaction to unthinking hypocrisy and an offensive sense of entitlement which feels it can do anything it wants to the rest of humanity.

Britain heroically endured the Blitz, but does Britain commemorate the Blitz every year? Does it read a list of the victims every year?

America does this with 9/11 out of its deep sense of its own ‘specialness’ and entitlement: one American is worth God knows how many of that motley lot of humanity out there. After all, it has managed to kill perhaps a million innocent people “out there” since 9/11 as payback.

These things need saying because they are truths, not out of any sense of anti-Americanism, whatever that undefined pejorative epithet is supposed to mean anyway.

Prejudice is a form of superstition and mumbo-jumbo. Responding to facts is exactly the opposite, refusing to accept superstition.

It really is the Janet Daleys of this world who are prejudiced and steeped in unexamined superstition. And of course, there are plenty of them, else we wouldn’t be bombing the crap out of others all the time.

Readers may enjoy:
http://chuckmanwords.wordpress.com/2009/05/26/americas-strange-political-culture-of-grief-and-dying/

JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: DAVID CAMERON BRAVELY REJECTS BUSH’S USE OF TORTURE – JANET DALEY DEFENDS WHAT CANNOT BE DEFENDED – PLUS A SUMMARY OF BUSH’S SHABBY CHARACTER   Leave a comment


 

JOHN CHUCKMAN

POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY JANET DALEY IN THE TELEGRAPH

“David Cameron’s repudiation of George Bush’s policy on waterboarding is logically flawed, argues Janet Daley. “

Pure logic does not apply to such matters, rather they intimately involve democratic and human values and just plain human decency.

Western society has struggled for centuries to reach the point where we even question such acts. We endured inquisitions and terrors and the rack and countless other ingenious and malevolent engines of human cruelty to reach our enlightened state. Overcoming our nasty chimpanzee origins and creating societies of just laws have been no small feats and represent our greatest achievements.

Crude people like George Bush or sophists like Janet Daley willingly cast aside this advance of immense importance for no good reason.

I remind readers of just a few details Bush’s background. He happily sent scores of prisoners to their deaths by execution in Texas, including a woman whom he mocked in public over her plea for mercy. He said in Chicago, shortly after 9/11, that he had “won the trifecta,” knowing how polls soared for his administration which had been quite unpopular. A boyhood friend told us of one of young George’s great pleasures in life: stuffing lighted firecrackers into frogs and watching them blow up.

George Bush demonstrated in countless ways his lack of genuine regard for ethics, from his drunken abuse of family to his disappearing from his obligations in the Air National Guard, the institution which was his ticket in avoiding Vietnam, a ticket paid for through family influence.

Bush was in the driver’s seat for Abu Ghraib, and readers may not know that the worst excesses there have been suppressed. One of the world’s foremost investigative reporters, Seymour Hersh, told us that events included the raping of children and killing. Bush also gave us Guantanamo and the entire CIA international torture gulag which includes God-knows–what to this day in places like the secret facilities at Bagram Air Base and the unapproachable Diego Garcia.

Bush thought nothing of the Northern Alliance’s General Dostum taking 3,000 Taleban prisoners in the early days of the conflict in batches out to the dessert in sealed trucks to suffocate while American soldiers stood around picking their noses. He thought nothing of a child soldier of fifteen, who had been shot twice in the back by Americans, being sent to Guantanamo, contrary to all international agreements, to be tortured and kept out of contact with family or lawyers for years.

I remind readers too that George Bush gained office by vote fraud in Florida. He is a man of about as poor a set of ethics as you will find on the planet outside of some police states or prisons.

No, Janet Daley, you support what no decent person can support, an example of almost unparalleled creepiness in the leader of a modern democratic state.

Shame on you: there can never be a defense for torture.

JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: ON THE CLOSING OF GUANTANAMO AND THE CIA’S TORTURE GULAG   Leave a comment

JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE NEW YORK TIMES

It cannot come a moment too soon.

And the only people who truly deserve trials are the administrators of these facilities, Bush’s willing helpers.

The prisoners have suffered enough for a lifetime: kidnapping, illegal imprisonment, torture, and constant threat of special trials.

America has been guilty of a terrible abuse of power here. Most of the men taken were guilty of nothing more than what thousands of Americans have done in the past.

How many American idealists or soldiers of fortune have served causes in places as varied as Spain and Africa?

Is it to be the international standard that all such are to arrested, tortured, and tried by illegitimate courts?

And that poor boy, Omar Khadr.

American soldiers shot him twice in the back – a fifteen year-old – then sent him to imprisonment and torture, and lied about what it is he is supposed to have done – all in violation of the international conventions on child soldiers.

Ghastly, shameful behavior.

JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: CHINA AND THE FAILURE OF OLYMPIC BOYCOTT EFFORTS   Leave a comment

 
JOHN CHUCKMAN
 
POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN IN THE TORONTO GLOBE AND MAIL

Sorry, but human rights do mean something in China. It is simply ignorant to say otherwise.

And as China continues her climb to a place in the sun, human rights will become increasingly important. That is the story of human civilization.

The average Chinese today enjoys freedoms not known there in the modern era.

Most people going on about Tibet do not even understand what happened, and they utterly fail to have any perspective on world affairs.

Our colossal neighbor to the South is running a CIA International Torture Gulag plus disgraces like Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib. It has murdered the best part of million people in Iraq and destroyed the economy of a progressing country.

They also left three million dead in Vietnam and left a legacy of land soaked with Agent Orange and cluttered with landmines to continue killing and crippling for decades.

China has lived in relative peace for half a century. Today it is rising out of the Dark Ages of Maoism and giving the opportunity to hundreds of millions to better their lives.

All who understand human progress should applaud this.

JOHN CHUCKMAN COMMENT: OLIVER KAMM’S INSANE CLAIM THAT BUSH HAS MADE THE WORLD A SAFER PLACE   Leave a comment

TWO POSTED RESPONSES TO A COLUMN IN THE GUARDIAN BY OLIVER KAMM
 
JOHN CHUCKMAN

Safer for whom, Oliver Kamm?

For the more than 600,000 murdered by Bush in Iraq?

For the tens of thousands murdered in Afghanistan, including the 3,000 prisoners who were driven out to the desert in vans to be suffocated?

For the thousands of prisoners of the CIA’s International Torture Gulag?

For the abused and tortured of Abu Ghraib?

For the abused and tortured of Guantanamo?

For the millions of lives shattered in Iraq, a place that once was on the cusp of modernity and prosperity?

This has to be the most breathtakingly dumb piece of writing I’ve seen in years
_______________________

Apart from my question of safer for whom, citing the piles of Bush victims, the world is not a safer place for many other reasons, Oliver Kamm.

First, suppression of human rights all over the Western world is no light thing. There is nothing ‘safe’ about living in a police state or a quasi-police state the U.S. has become under Bush. The Bill of Rights has virtually been suspended.

Second, people of Arabic origin or of Muslim beliefs are now routinely abused and insulted in many Western countries, especially in the United States.

Third, a wave of hatred and injustice is rippling through the Muslim world. That isn’t just going to go away. Bush’s approach has been the approach of Israel, which today remains a garrison state with no peace and defended by walls and brutality, a long-term untenable position, besides being a shining example of ethically-hollow behavior.

Fourth, Bush’s oppression and killing abroad have been closely paralleled by an almost unprecedented grant of license to Israel to behave as brutally and ruthlessly as it wishes towards Palestinians and other neighbors.

A genuinely horrible situation has grown up, and no open-minded person can possibly look at Israel’s wretched behavior in Gaza and in Lebanon and towards Syria without some revulsion. Nothing, absolutely nothing, Apartheid South Africa did has not been repeated by Israel towards its neighbors, and, of course, that includes infamous mass killings of poor blacks by South African troops and mass imprisonments with no rights or justice.

Fifth, Bush has also set aside the Geneva Conventions and other important international treaties, including that safeguarding the rights of child soldiers. No meaningful sense of safety comes from this arrogance.

He has practiced new bizarre doctrines, giving the example to other states to do the same in future, as, for example, pre-emptive strikes on suspects and high-tech assassinations. These provide another measure of the ‘Israelization’ of American policy. Imagine a world in which every state claims this philosophy?

What has happened overall in the world under Bush is a series of steps away from democratic principles. Even if America had the most vigorous and fair democracy, something that is demonstrably not the case, when its leaders decide the fates of so many others, its tiny group of electors (maybe 1% or less of the world’s people, taking into account many Americans do not even vote) effectively acts like an aristocracy vis-à-vis the rest of the world.

You cannot claim democratic values and behave this way. After all, the Communist Party of China rules more than a billion people with almost the same percentage of representation.

The United States and Israel have given democracy a bad name in much of the emerging world. After all, in the special limited sense they claim to be democratic, so was Apartheid South Africa or the American Confederacy or the Britain of George III.