Monday, January 3, 2011

America Needs A Serious Reality Check; Along With The Cremation Of Our Myths We Need To Deal With Ugly Truths About This Nation.

America Needs A Serious Reality Check; Along With The Cremation Of Our Myths We Need To Deal With Ugly Truths About This Nation.

As 2011 begins we might want ask ourselves: “What The Hell Is Going On”? Ralph Nader is advocating “physical defiance”; The Justice Department is clearly in a “selective investigation mode; The Bank Of America is preparing to head for their bunkers; Israel plans total war on Lebanon and Gaza while Iran can strike Israel in twelve minute; LindsEy Graham wants “PERMANENT” American bases in Afghanistan; The TSA could be policing malls and sports stadiums? I Repeat…what the hell?

And that is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg of what follows below.

Ralph Nader: 'The Left Has Nowhere to Go'

By Chris Hedges

“Either we begin to practice a fierce moral autonomy and rise up in multiple acts of physical defiance that have no discernable short-term benefit, or we accept the inevitability of corporate slavery. The choice is that grim.”

The Media Made Itself The Story In 2010
Sunday, 01/02/11 8:00am - Weekend Edition Sunday
NPR Staff
The news media have done more than their share of navel-gazing throughout the years, but 2010 was particularly rich for self-scrutiny. Among other stories, there was extensive coverage of the WikiLeaks documents dumps, the Jon Stewart/Steven Colbert rally in Washington and several dismissals of prominent journalists. And there was extensive coverage of the coverage. Liane Hansen and NPR's David Folkenflik talk about some of the major media stories of 2010.

WikiLeaks Afghanistan Special: How David Petraeus Pre-Empted Barack Obama in January 2009

    Saturday, January 1, 2011 at 2:00AM | AuthorScott Lucas
It is only one sentence from a lengthy conversation, but it says volumes about how the Obama Administration escalated US intervention in Afghanistan. And it says just as much about the man behind that escalation: not President Barack Obama but General David Petraeus.

On 20 January 2009, in the midst of a wide-ranging conversation, Petraeus tells Afghan President Hamid Karzai, "The increase of 30,000 U.S. troops next year would also increase combat, leading to the possibility of increased civilian casualties in the short term."

The significance? Barack Obama, who on the same day was being inaugurated as the 44th President, had not agreed to "the increase of 30,000 U.S. troops next year". He had not agreed to any increase at all.

At the time, we noted this exchange on 22 January 2009 between reporter Robert Dreyfuss and two senior officials, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mike Mullen:

Dreyfuss: During the campaign, President Obama said that he would, when elected, send perhaps two to three additional brigades of troops to Afghanistan. [A US brigade is 3000 to 5000 troops.] Lately, actually since the election, we've heard talk about as many as 30,000 troops -- significantly more than that -- going to Afghanistan. Have any decisions been actually made, pending this review that the president has talked about, in terms of how many American forces might go to Afghanistan this year?

Gates: No final decision has been made. Part of -- part of what the president made clear was that they intend to look at Iraq and Afghanistan holistically. And so I think part of the -- one of the things that the president will expect before making decisions is what the implications are not just for Iraq, but for Afghanistan. And I expect, as I say that, to be part of those decisions to be forthcoming pretty soon....

Mullen: I -- I really wouldn't add a lot except to say that these are the level of forces that the commander has asked for. So again, we've looked very carefully at how to do that. There have been some recommendations that have been made up the chain of command, but no decisions yet.

On 4 February 2009, we reported that the White House was claiming to hold the line against quick satisfaction of the military's demands, quoting Administration offcials in The Washington Post:

"The president...wants to hear from the uniformed leadership and civilian advisers as to what the situation is and their thoughts as to the way forward. But he has also given pretty direct guidance"....Officials described Obama's overall approach to what the administration calls "Af-Pak" as a refusal to be rushed, using words such as "rigor" and "restraint". "We know we're going to get [criticism] for taking our time," said a senior official.

But of course Obama did eventually give way, cloaking his announcement in late March as a "compromise" that gave the military most, but not all, of the additional 30,000 troops. (In fact, when you add in support units, the total was close to the full request of the commanders.)

I presume, however, that David Petraeus did not have insider knowledge --- more than two months earlier --- of the Obama decision. So on what authority was he telling President Karzai that the escalation was already in place?

O 230734Z JAN 09

S E C R E T KABUL 000165
EO 12958 DECL: 01/22/2019
Classified By: Ambassador William B. Wood, U.S. Embassy Kabul, Reasons: 1.4 (B and D)


1.(S) On January 20, CENTCOM Commander Petraeus, accompanied by Ambassador Wood and CENTCOM staff, met with President Karzai and his senior National Security staff.


2.(S) Petraeus asked Karzai to urge India not to curtail its cooperation with Pakistan. India would never have more positive Pakistani leadership than Zardari, Gailani, Kiayani, and Pasha and, in spite of the difficulties, now was the time to try to make progress in the relationship. Karzai said the U.S. should urge China to press Pakistan, over whom they had great influence, to cooperate with Afghanistan and with India. He noted that the Indians were prepared to offer Afghanistan light attack helicopters. A short discussion followed highlighting the adverse reaction in Pakistan to Indian provision of military equipment to Afghanistan.

Civilian Casualties and Afghan Participation in Special Ops

3.(S) President Karzai raised the civilian casualty issue. Petraeus assured him that the U.S. was taking every step to minimize civilian casualties for both humane and policy reasons. He noted the importance of the new tactical directive. Petraeus cited recent reports by the respected Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission that clearly put the onus on the terrorists for civilian casualties, although it also called for more thorough and transparent investigation of allegations by the coalition.

4.(S) Petraeus noted that the increase of 30,000 U.S. troops next year would also increase combat, leading to the possibility of increased civilian casualties in the short term. President Karzai asked if we really knew who we were fighting. Petraeus was categorical that we had confidence in our intelligence and believed we knew who the enemy was. Karzai said that Afghans were suspicious of the U.S. because of the situation in Helmand. &The tribes must back you,8 he said, and that does not mean recreating tribal militias.

5.(S) Petraeus noted that Karzai had not acted on our request for 100 Afghans to accompany our special operations forces on night raids. Karzai argued that 100 Afghans would not give Afghanistan meaningful control over the operation but would force them to take responsibility when a mistake was made. He promised to study the issue further and called for greater Afghan participation in both the selection of targets and the implementation of operations. Petraeus suggested that on a pilot project basis we might consider putting more Afghans with one of our special strike forces so that they could in reality conduct the operation. He emphasized the importance that the U.S. should remain in a position to conduct after-action site exploitation for intelligence purposes.

6.(S) Karzai raised the issue of the use of dogs in house raids. He said it was unacceptable in the Afghan culture and was used by Taliban propaganda to undermine support for the coalition and the government. Interior Minister Atmar, with Karzai’s support, argued that if Afghans were allowed to be “first through the door,” they we prepared to run the risk of not using dogs in order to respect cultural sensitivities.

Afghan Taliban
7.(S) Karzai raised the Quetta Shura. He said that Afghans didn’t understand why the U.S was making such an effort inside of Afghanistan, but was failing to go after the Taliban in Quetta. They thought either “the U.S. has been deceived by Pakistan” or “there was some secret deal” not to go after the Quetta Shura “because Pakistan was more important to the U.S. than Afghanistan.” He stressed the need to be able to go back to the Afghan people and make it clear that the U.S. was serious about defeating Afghanistan’s enemies.

8.(S) Petraeus assured Karzai that we considered the Afghan Taliban an important enemy which we were confronting in every way we could. He underlined our vital national interest in preventing global terrorism from ever again using Afghanistan as a launching pad. Karzai nodded affirmatively throughout the General’s presentation and said that the people of Afghanistan wanted to see more clearly that the U.S. would not allow Afghanistan to be a base for terrorism again.

Relations with New Administration

9.(S) Karzai raised recent critical statements attributed to Senator Clinton, but said he was enthusiastic about his relationship with her. Karzai stressed the need for us to address frankly our problems with each other and respond seriously to the concerns of each side. He praised the visit of Secretary Gates shortly after the Shindand incident in August and said that the visit had served to completely defuse the Shindand incident.

10.(S) Early in the discussion, Petraeus said that he would be returning to Washington for a first meeting with President Obama, and offered to convey a message from Karzai. Karzai returned to the message throughout the discussion, highlighting the need for mutual respect and cooperation, the need to resolve the civilian casualties issue and increase Afghan participation in special operations, and a tougher line on sanctuaries in Pakistan.


11.(S) In conclusion, Karzai said that 2009 would be a difficult and important year. Additional troops would make a big difference. Successful elections would be crucial.

Other Comments

12.(S) Karzai then invited other Afghan participants at the table to make comments. Minister of Defense Wardak called for increased coordination in the battle space, especially with the proliferation of the additional forces and additional players. He also argued for the eventual further increase of the National Army beyond the planned 134,000.

13.(S) Foreign Minister Spanta expressed concern about the “fragmentation” of the international community and urged the U.S. to play a more active role in making development assistance more coherent. He said that the target should not simply be to rebuild Afghanistan but to genuinely increase aid effectiveness.

14.(S) Minister of Interior Atmar said that it was important that our two constituencies -- the Afghan public and the U.S. public -- be able to see the two allies united and able to solve problems between them. He said there was still strong support for the American presence. He stressed the need: (1) to strengthen Afghan government institutions including the police, (2) to make clear that the U.S. cares for the wellbeing of Afghan citizens, and (3) to take meaningful action against the sanctuaries against the Taliban in Pakistan.

15.(S) NDS Director Saleh simply noted the need for a larger NDS and asked for U.S. support.

If the Justice Department Is Investigating Manning-Wikileaks, Why Isn’t It Investigating Lamo-Wired?

WikiLeaks says that their software allows a leaker to upload information to them with complete anonymity. WikiLeaks’ editor Julian Assange has repeatedly said that he does not know if Private Bradley Manning is, in fact, the leaker of any particular set of U.S. government documents. Contrary to the assumption made by CNN’s correspondent Jennifer Yellin, Assange would not go to jail in a Judy Miller-like fashion to protect his source, if  he never knew who his source was.

The federal conspiracy statute is Title 18 US Code 371; it provides this pertinent part:

If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.

A conspiracy requires an agreement between two people, a partnership in crime. Ianelli v. US, 420 US 770 (1975). In US v. Valigura, 99-5005 US Ct of Appeals for the Armed Forces (2000), the Court of Appeals found that “If there is no actual agreement or ‘meeting of the minds’ there is no conspiracy.”

By the same token, how could Assange ever form a meeting of the minds with someone he has never met? (By met, I mean in person, over the phone, in cyberspace, or any other way.)

On the other hand, Adrian Lamo claims that the chat logs of instant messages he allegedly had with Manning contain classified information.’s senior editor Kevin Poulsen also claims that he spoke with Lamo; Lamo agreed with Poulsen to give Poulsen a complete and unredacted set of the chat logs, presumably with all that classified information intact, if Poulsen would drive down to Lamo’s location to collect them. Poulsen not only agreed to this, but apparently made the trip thereby committing an affirmative act in furtherance of the agreement.

Now here’s what intrigues me: if the U.S. Department of Justice is looking at a conspiracy charge involving WikiLeaks, why isn’t it looking at a conspiracy charge against In the case of Wired we have: 1) two people who actually know each other, 2) an agreement to turn over classified information, and 3) an act done in furtherance of that agreement.

In the WikiLeaks case we have a website that touts do-it-yourself anonymous uploading of information which may then be published after WikiLeaks has had a chance to vet the content for authenticity. So far, there’s been no proof offered that Manning ever communicated directly with Assange — so how could they form a meeting of the minds?


Consultants and lawyers may become big fans of Julian Assange. Whatever one thinks of the threat he made to FORBES in November, the one about a major American bank having its most damaging secrets exposed on, Bank of America is taking Assange seriously.

According to the New York Times, Bank of America has hired consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton and spoken to several law firms in preparation of a potential Wikileaks disclosure. Bruce Thompson, Bank of America’s chief risk officer, is reportedly heading a team of as many as 20 bank officials who are conducting an internal investigation of thousands of the bank’s documents and hunting for missing computers.

So Bank of America is already spending time and money because of Assange even though it is not completely clear whether Assange is targeting Bank of America or some other bank. The speculation has centered on Bank of America because Assange mentioned it as a potential target to ComputerWorld in 2009. The bank’s stock appears to have suffered a bit from the recent speculation.

For the lawyers and consultants, there is nothing as sweet as an internal investigation of a major corporation. In the past, only the government could really gin up such fee-producing work, but Assange apparently also has that kind of power.

How much money can an internal investigation really cost? Don’t underestimate professionals who bill every six minutes. The U.S. government has in recent years, for example, induced corporations to conduct highly expensive internal investigation to comply with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In the biggest such investigation, law firm Debevoise & Plimpton and consulting/accounting firm Deloitte & Touche charged German engineering giant Siemens $850 million in fees and expenses. Debevoise deployed 100 lawyers and 110 support staff who billed 582,000 hours, while Deloitte put 1,300 staff members on the job, who worked 949,000 hours searching 40 million bank documents and reviewing 127 million accounting records.

The current Bank of America internal investigation will not reach that kind of magnitude, but that doesn’t mean Assange is not about to provide a rich new business for the legal and consulting businesses that will be hired to deal with his threat to spill corporate secrets.
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U.S. Embassy Turned a Blind Eye as Suspected CIA Banker Allen Stanford Bilked Investors, Secret Cables Reveal : by Tom Burghardt l Antifascist Calling...

While R. Allen Stanford was happily ensconced on the Caribbean island of Antigua, allegedly bribing officials there as he expanded his banking empire, secret cables released by the whistleblowing web site WikiLeaks revealed that U.S. Embassy officials held themselves at arm's length even as they provided the accused fraudster with political cover.

Fraudster "Sir" Allen in custody

As Antifascist Calling reported last summer, Stanford International Bank (SIB) and Stanford Financial Group (SFG), once conservatively valued at $50 billion, were no more legitimate than penny stock frauds or advance fee scams on the internet. To make matters worse, for years federal regulators turned a blind eye towards the bank's reckless practices.
As it turns out, so too did the U.S. Embassy.

Cablegate file 06BRIDGETOWN755, "Cricket Breakfast Serves Up First Encounter with Allen Stanford," dated 03 May 2006, revealed that "Ambassador Kramer met controversial Texan billionaire Allen Stanford for the first time at an April 21 'Legends of Cricket' breakfast in Barbados."
The confidential embassy cable reported that "Stanford bent the Ambassador's ear concerning his significant new tourism and property investments in Antigua and plans for his Caribbean Star and Caribbean Sun airlines."

The occasion for the meeting, an inadvertent encounter if the embassy's account is to be believed, was an April 21, 2006 breakfast at the Barbados Hilton.

Stanford, who went on to donate some $20 million to the England and Wales Cricket Board, attended the lavish affair in the company of Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur, U.S. Ambassador Mary E. Kramer, assorted sports stars and local luminaries.

The cable averred that "Allen Stanford is a controversial Texan billionaire who has made significant investments in offshore finance, aviation, and property development in Antigua and throughout the region. His companies are rumored to engage in bribery, money laundering, and political manipulation."

Rumored by whom, one might reasonably ask? An important point since this was certainly not general knowledge at the time, particularly amongst those who were being fleeced.

But rather than blowing the whistle when it could have mattered most to investors and Antiguan citizens, the Bush-appointed official took cover. "Embassy officers do not reach out to Stanford" we read, "because of the allegations of bribery and money laundering. The Ambassador managed to stay out of any one-on-one photos with Stanford during the breakfast."
Why would Kramer have done otherwise? After all, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton piously intoned last month denouncing WikiLeaks, "this is the role our diplomats play in serving America."

A "Unique Investment Strategy"

When "Sir Allen" was arrested in 2009, the federal indictment charged that the high-flying Texan had sold more than $7 billion in fraudulent certificates of deposit and some $1.2 billion in mutual funds.

The centerpiece of SIB's "unique investment strategy" were financial instruments that were claimed to be safe, liquid and redeemable at a moment's notice.

According to a blurb on the "Sir Allen Stanford" web site, the Stanford Financial Group "provides private and institutional investors with global expertise in asset allocation strategies, investment advisory services, equity research, international private banking and trust administration, commercial banking, investment banking, merchant banking, institutional sales and trading, real estate investment and insurance."

The reality was far different, however. In fact, the majority of Group "assets" were in very illiquid real estate holdings and private accounts managed by just two individuals, Allen Stanford and his college roommate, James M. Davis, the bank's chief financial officer.

According to federal prosecutors, accounts were divided into three tiers, I, II and III with Tier III accounts representing "more than 80% of the purported total value of SIBL's investments."

"STANFORD and DAVIS" the charge sheet reads, "directed, managed, and monitored ... the Tier III investments. According to internal SIBL documents, as of June 30, 2008, these Tier III investments comprised the majority of the purported value of SIBL's investment portfolio. Approximately 50% of the purported value of Tier III (approximately $3.2 billion) included investments in artificially valued real estate and approximately 30% of the purported value of Tier III (approximately $1.6 billion) included notes on personal loans to STANFORD. STANFORD, DAVIS and others did not disclose to, and actively concealed from, investors, SGC and SIBL employees, and others the fact that approximately $4.8 billion in purported Tier III investments consisted of such artificially valued real estate and notes on personal loans to STANFORD."

A sweet deal if you're in on the fix.

Lured by "high rates that exceed those available through true certificates of deposits offered by traditional banks," thousands of investors were indelicately relieved of their life savings. Of the more than $8 billion hoovered up by the banker and his cronies, only about $500 million has been recovered.

This raises the question: where did all that money go? Did it just simply vanish into thin air, secret Stanford accounts, or perhaps, was it diverted elsewhere by the banker's silent partners in a certain three-lettered agency?
When asked during a 2009 interview by CNBC's Scott Cohn whether he had been "helpful" to U.S. authorities in Latin America, Stanford replied, "Are you talking about the CIA?" Cohn: "Well, you tell me?" Stanford: "I'm just not going to talk about that."

Stanford's reticence to discuss possible Agency connections are certainly understandable.

We do know however, that like many dubious banking ventures before it, Stanford Financial Group had powerful friends in high places, in the White House, Congress, amongst regulatory agencies and, plausibly, the CIA; all of whom tripped over themselves furnishing Stanford's "family" of companies with a watertight "roof."

The More Things "Change"

According to available evidence, why would the banker have believed his shady empire was on the brink of collapse in 2009, or that well-connected friends wouldn't come to the rescue? After all, it happened before.

Last year The New York Times disclosed that Stephen J. Korotash, an associate regional director of enforcement at the Ft. Worth, Texas office of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said the regulatory agency "stood down" their investigation "at the request of another federal agency, which he declined to name."

A curious admission all the more damning for regulators considering that suspicions, and hastily-closed investigations, have dogged the bank for the better part of two decades.

Damning perhaps, but not surprising.

Nearly a quarter century before charges were laid against Allen Stanford, the late investigative reporter Penny Lernoux recounted in her still-timely book, In Banks We Trust, a fraudulent scheme by Citibank (now Citigroup) to evade paying taxes while cooking the books and dodging "legal requirements on bank reserves, liquidity, and lending limits." And, similar to the Stanford grift, the SEC did worse than nothing.

Lernoux averred that even after a whistleblower and former bank vice president proved "conclusively" that Citibank had "systematically" violated the law, "the SEC's enforcement staff refused to take any action against the bank on the ground that its pursuit of unlawful profits accorded with 'reasonable and standard business judgement'."

Here's the kicker. Lernoux wrote that the "SEC also concluded that Citibank's management had no duty to disclose improper actions since the bank had never claimed its top officers possessed 'honesty and integrity'." Sound familiar?

Fast forward to the era of the Bush crime family and we learn that in 2006, BusinessWeek revealed that the president "bestowed on his intelligence czar ... broad authority, in the name of national security" to excuse companies from "their normal accounting and securities-disclosure obligations" if they revealed "certain top-secret defense projects."

Would such "broad authority" also cover financial institutions accused of laundering drug money for select "War on Terror" allies?

Interestingly enough, Bush's "intelligence czar" at the time, John D. Negroponte, was U.S. Ambassador in Honduras during the 1980s at the height of the Reagan administration's anticommunist jihad in Central America.

In addition to covering for the CIA as the Agency stood-up death squads in Honduras, Negroponte, as The Baltimore Sun revealed in 1995, turned a blind eye as America's "freedom fighters," the Nicaraguan Contras, financed their terrorist insurgency against the leftist Sandinista government by importing billions of dollars of cocaine into the United States with a major assist from their ideological soul-mates, the Medellín and Cali drug cartels.

Recall that during this period of intensified U.S. covert operations, the Reagan Justice Department signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the CIA. That 1982 memo, brokered between U.S. Attorney General William French Smith and CIA Director William Casey, absolved the Agency from reporting drug smuggling by their assets, the Nicaraguan Contras and Afghan mujahideen.

Leveraging their anticommunist bona fides to import massive quantities of drugs into the United States, and laundering the proceeds through a spider's web of U.S. and offshore banks including, as several investigative reports have alleged, a Stanford bank, one can only wonder whether similar cosy arrangements are in force today.

Recall also that illegal activities by institutions as diverse as Paul Helliwell's Castle Bank and Trust in the Bahamas, Frank Nugan and Michael Hand's Nugan Hand Bank in Sydney, Saudi Arabia and the Cayman Islands, or the far-flung, crooked empire of Agha Hasan Abedi's Bank of Credit and Commerce International, were all financial black holes where organized crime, drug-fueled intelligence operations and geopolitical intrigue freely intermixed.

Separated in time and geography, what all three banks had in common was their close proximity to international drug trafficking networks and the CIA, particularly in areas of acute interest to U.S. policy planners. Did Stanford International Bank have an analogous relationship with the Agency?

After all the Stanford bank, like Castle, Nugan Hand and BCCI before it had been focal points of unseemly financial practices for years. Indeed, nearly thirty years ago investigative journalist Nancy Grodin reported in CovertAction (Number 16, March 1982), that like SIB, Nugan Hand enticed prospective investors "with offers of private banking services, high interest rates (higher than anywhere else in the region), tax-free deposits and complete secrecy."

Across the decades, investigations revealed that leading figures in Castle, Nugan Hand and BCCI had actively conspired with drug traffickers to import narcotics into the United States.

Top bank officials Helliwell, Nugan, Hand and Abedi worked alongside organized crime figures and former intelligence and Pentagon officials, including a past director of the CIA. And when the chips were down, all managed to evade being held to account for the most serious charges: drug trafficking, money laundering, arms smuggling, murder, terrorism, even nuclear proliferation, precisely because such exposure would have revealed "sensitive intelligence operations."

While some might argue that in the broad scheme of things considering the depth of capitalism's economic meltdown, Stanford's alleged grift was mere chump change compared to the trillions of dollars plundered by even bigger fish.
From a parapolitical perspective however, the multiple obfuscations, smokescreens and outright falsehoods surrounding the scandal indicate this is no simple case of greed or another tawdry example of "elite deviance."
Rather, as researcher Peter Dale Scott has assiduously documented over the years, the vicissitudes of "L'affaire Stanford" may be emblematic of "continuous U.S. involvement in the global drug connection," a "global financial complex of hot money uniting prominent business ... and government as well as underworld figures" for purposes of "achieving and maintaining global American dominance."

Drug Links Covered-Up

While Ambassador Kramer may have avoided having her photo snapped with the accused fraudster, her rather pedestrian concerns pale in comparison to the fact that Stanford has been the subject of multiple drugs investigations over a 20-year period that have all been scrupulously covered-up.

Indeed, years before the federal government ran SIB to ground, earlier probes, including those investigating drug-money laundering during the Iran-Contra period were killed.

Stanford's Montserrat-based Guardian International Bank, a suspected conduit for Contra drug funds, short-circuited investigators when it pulled-up stakes, surrendered its banking license and left the island.

By 1986, evidence emerged that top Contra officials and the Agency enjoyed cosy ties with both Pablo Escobar and the Orejuela brothers, respective kingpins of the Medellín and Cali drug cartels.

Under pressure from the Reagan administration however, Congress and corporate media buried the drug angle to the investigation, as Consortium News journalist Robert Parry has documented in a series of groundbreaking reports.

After his departure from Montserrat under a cloud, the banker trained his sights on Antigua and Barbuda where he developed a close relationship with former prime minister Lester Bird.

The Independent reported that during the course of a joint Scotland Yard-FBI investigation, the bank "was suspected of laundering drug money from the notorious Medellin and Cali drug cartels run by Pablo Escobar and the Orejuela brothers."

"Under the Bird family leadership" The Independent disclosed, "the island was widely regarded as one of the most corrupt in the Caribbean, with well-documented links to arms and drug smuggling and money laundering."
The former FBI agent who led the Guardian probe, Ross Gaffney, told The Independent "we suspected that Stanford's bank was involved in money laundering." Gaffney said that even after Guardian closed, the FBI "continued to take an interest in Stanford and set up a second inquiry into that bank after receiving intelligence that it continued to launder money for the Medellin and Cali cartels."

The former federal agent said, "We had hard intelligence about what he was doing and we began to develop it" but that investigation died or more likely, was deep-sixed, by officials higher-up the food chain.

According to The Observer, a second FBI source "confirmed the agency was looking at links to international drug gangs as part of the huge investigation into Stanford's banking activities."

Other sources "in the US Drug Enforcement Administration" The Observer reported, "also confirmed that while the investigations into Stanford's affairs were 'with the FBI and Securities Exchange Commission, there may well have been a trail connecting his Mexican affairs to narco-trafficking interests'."
But even after the stench of Iran-Contra faded from the headlines, drug probes targeting the bank continued well into the 1990s. The Houston Chronicle reported that according to court documents "operatives of the Juarez cartel began opening accounts at Stanford's Antigua-based bank in an effort to launder money amassed under one of Mexico's most vicious drug lords, Amado Carrillo Fuentes."

"Together," the Chronicle disclosed, "they used Stanford International Bank to open 10 accounts and deposit $3 million--a small sliver of the cartel's fortunes but enough to pique authorities' interest."

Despite long-running investigations, federal sources told the Chronicle, "any alleged Stanford connection to drug cartels and their money could lie buried in the paperwork gathered for the Security and Exchange Commission's civil inquiry."

Federal officials claimed, despite probes that resulted in stiff fines for illicit practices by other U.S. banks including, most recently, Wachovia, as Bloomberg Markets magazine reported, that tracing drug profits laundered through offshore banks like Stanford's "is difficult to document."
That is, acutely "difficult" if investigators are ordered to look away, and evidence suggests they were. How else would one interpret the statement by The Observer's DEA source who told the British newspaper, "I think we'll find that any possible drug-related trail and SEC priorities are not all in the same frame."

When the scandal broke, Cablegate file 09BRIDGETOWN114, 18 February 2009, "Antigua: Upheaval on the Eve of Elections," informs us that the 17 February announcement of new parliamentary elections "was almost immediately overshadowed by an announcement by the Securities and Exchange Commission of action being taken against U.S.-Antiguan citizen Sir Allen Stanford for 'massive, on-going fraud'."

The Embassy informed the State Department that "local fears over Stanford indictment have led to a run on the Stanford Financial Group's subsidiary the Bank of Antigua, with depositors lining up for an hour or more to withdrawal their money."

As reported above, through a series of maneuvers and what were alleged to be illicit payments to former Antiguan Prime Minister Lester Bird, Stanford set up shop on the Caribbean island in 1990, and gobbled up prime real estate, acquired dual citizenship and a knighthood, and eventually took control of the Bank of Antigua in a highly-dubious "reorganization."

The ripples from the indictment spread like a rogue wave across Antigua and the Eastern Caribbean. Antiguan officials, and the U.S. Embassy, were concerned that once the depth of the fraud sank in, "unrest" would follow in its wake.

Shortly after that 2009 embassy cable, The Guardian, reported that an investigation by the Antiguan government uncovered "large payments ... in Isle of Man bank accounts controlled by Antiguan politicians."

According "to documents seen by The Guardian, HSBC bank, in the Isle of Man, accepted $3.2m (£2.3m) on behalf of Asot Michael, once chief of staff to the former Antigua prime minister Lester Bird."

"The cash under investigation" the British newspaper disclosed, "came via an Israeli businessman, Bruce Rappaport, who is alleged to have diverted Antiguan funds into his own pocket while making payments to local politicians."

HSBC denied all wrongdoing and "would publicly neither confirm nor deny information about individual Manx accounts," saying the bank "has robust anti-money laundering policies and clearly defined policies and procedures concerning politically exposed persons."

"It is unclear" the Embassy averred, "if either party will try hard to use the Stanford indictment as an election issue--Stanford amassed his fortune under an ALP [Antiguan Labor Party] government, and was knighted by a UPP [United Progressive Party] government, so all hands are likely equally dirty."

"Many worry that these issues [crime, fraud and violence] could not only spell disaster for the UPP, but for the country's economy as a whole, leading to a severe economic depression and intolerable unemployment creating more violence and a cycle of less tourism, more unemployment and more crime."
Curiously, while corporate media have focused on Stanford's lavish lifestyle, girlfriends and upscale island properties, nary a word has been whispered about the banker's alleged links to notorious drug cartels or to some of the CIA's dirtiest operations.

Even at this late date, it appears that the dodgy banker has well-connected friends who want to bury this angle of a scandal that has defrauded thousands and wrecked entire economies.

The question is, why?

Follow the Money, but Where?

Investors in the Stanford Ponzi scheme have lost their shirts, and its likely they'll never recover even a fraction of their losses.

"In the past two years" the Houston Chronicle reported, "Stanford himself has ceased to be the story. The most amazing aspect of the Stanford saga is how little money has been recovered. As the court-appointed receiver has chased assets around the globe, he's found Stanford's accounts stunningly empty."

During the investigation that led to the indictments, auditors learned that that funds were moved through Stanford-controlled accounts to offshore banks, including HSBC London; Bank Julius Baer, Zurich; Credit Suisse, United Kingdom; SG Private Banking, Geneva; Banque Franck Galland & Cie S.A., Geneva; RBS Coutts, Zurich; Coutts Bank Von Ernst, Geneva and Toronto Dominion Bank, Canada; banks which have figured in past money laundering or tax-avoidance scandals. In all, 28 numbered accounts were 
listed by prosecutors, veritable black holes that escaped regulatory scrutiny.

Nearly a decade ago, investigative journalist Stephen Bender wrote in Z Magazine that "an understanding of the drug trade's machinations is incomplete without an analysis of the crucial role transnational banks play in the laundering of drug proceeds."

The House Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations reported back in 2000: "Despite increasing international attention and stronger anti-money laundering controls, some current estimates are that $500 billion to $1 trillion in criminal proceeds are laundered through banks worldwide each year, with about half of that amount moved through United States banks."

Recall that at the height of capitalism's current global economic meltdown, Antonio Maria Costa, the director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime told The Observer that "drugs money worth billions of dollars kept the financial system afloat at the height of the global crisis."

Costa told the British newspaper he saw substantial evidence that that proceeds from the illicit trade were "the only liquid investment capital" available to some banks on the brink of collapse last year and that "a majority of the $352bn (£216bn) of drugs profits was absorbed into the economic system as a result."

The UN drugs chief said that in "many instances, the money from drugs was the only liquid investment capital." And with markets tanking and major bank failures a near daily occurrence, "liquidity was the banking system's main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor."

If only a tiny portion of these illegal proceeds were siphoned-off by secret state agencies, including the CIA, funds available for covert operations and other dubious purposes, such as suborning treason amongst foreign officials to spy on their own governments, as WikiLeaks diplomatic cables revealed, the amounts would be staggering.

Bender informed us that one conduit for laundering drug profits is the private banking system.

"U.S.-based private banks" Bender wrote, "operate in a regulatory twilight zone enabling the laundering of drug profits as confirmed by the GAO. Private banks are 'not subject to the Bank Secrecy Act,' thus exempting banks from complying with 'specific anti-money-laundering provisions...such as the one requiring that suspicious transactions be reported to U.S. authorities'."

And with "international private banking" a prominent selling-point of the Stanford firm's dark web, one might reasonably surmise that drug traffickers would also view this regulatory black hole in the most favourable light.

Indeed, this "twilight zone" was precisely where Allen Stanford operated. As The Miami Herald reported, state and federal regulators allowed SIB to move "vast amounts of money offshore--without reporting a penny to regulators."

SIB's arrangements with the Florida Office of Financial Regulation were so lax that the company "was allowed to sell hundreds of millions in bank notes without allowing regulators to check for fraud." Indeed, Florida regulators granted Stanford's bank "sweeping powers never given to a private company."
But what if that "private company" were handed an exemption from "their normal accounting and securities-disclosure obligations" as BusinessWeek reported, on grounds of "national security," and investigations into that firm were squashed "at the request of another federal agency," wouldn't this also suggest that Stanford's Ponzi scheme may have also been a cover for ongoing U.S. intelligence operations?

And once the scope of the fraud became too large to ignore, it wouldn't be a stretch to conclude that the Agency decided to cut their losses and "move on"?

As investigative reporters Jonathan Beaty and S.C. Gwynne uncovered in their stunning exposé, The Outlaw Bank, it wouldn't be the first time.
For years the CIA had concealed their close involvement with the crooked Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), tied to everything from drug trafficking to money laundering and from nuclear proliferation to the financing of terrorist groups, including those that morphed into Al-Qaeda.
And when they "came clean" to Treasury Department officials in a report that remains classified to this day, "suddenly, and for no apparent reason," Beaty and Gwynne wrote, Treasury "lost all interest in BCCI."

Perhaps for similar reasons too, in the years ahead we'll find that "any alleged Stanford connection to drug cartels and their money could lie buried in the paperwork gathered for the Security and Exchange Commission's civil inquiry," where its likely to stay buried.

Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly and Global Research, an independent research and media group of writers, scholars, journalists and activists based in Montreal, his articles can be read onDissident Voice, The Intelligence Daily, Pacific Free Press, Uncommon Thought Journal, and the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks. He is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military "Civil Disturbance" Planning, distributed by AK Press and has contributed to the new book from Global Research, The Global Economic Crisis: The Great Depression of the XXI Century.

A senior Republican senator has said a plan should be devised for American troops to remain permanently in war-ravaged Afghanistan.

The Republican senator from South Carolina, Lindsey Graham, told NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday that Republicans would now push for an indefinite US stay in Afghanistan.

He said: "We have had air bases all over the world and a couple of air bases in Afghanistan would allow the Afghan security forces an edge against the Taliban in perpetuity. It would be a signal to Pakistan that the Taliban are never going to come back. It would be a signal to the whole region that Afghanistan is going to be a different place."

But, he said, the Afghan people would have to earn such a relationship with the US, "so we can have an enduring relationship, economic and militarily and politically."

On the weekend, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said the US would more than triple its customs and border patrol experts in Afghanistan in 2011.

She said the experts would train Afghan police and customs officials to better manage the country's border crossings.

Recently, the commander of the US and NATO forces in Afghanistan General David Petraeus said that the Western military alliance would increase its operations along the Afghan-Pakistan border.

Analysts have suggested the US will look for a reason expand its military operations in the troubled South and central Asian regions, in order to place bases near Russia and China.

January 03, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- -- Imperial states build networks which link economic, military and political activities into a coherent mutually reinforcing system. This task is largely performed by the various institutions of the imperial state. Thus imperial action is not always directly economic, as military action in one country or region is necessary to open or protect economic zones. Nor are all military actions decided by economic interests if the leading sector of the imperial state is decidedly militarist.

Moreover, the sequence of imperial action may vary according to the particular conditions necessary for empire building. Thus state aid may buy collaborators; military intervention may secure client regimes followed later by private investors. In other circumstances, the entry of private corporations may precede state intervention.

In either private or state economic and/or military led penetration, in furtherance of empire-building, the strategic purpose is to exploit the special economic and geopolitical features of the targeted country to create empire-centered networks. In the post Euro-centric colonial world, the privileged position of the US in its empire-centered policies, treaties, trade and military agreements is disguised and justified by an ideological gloss, which varies with time and circumstances. In the war to break-up Yugoslavia and establish client regimes, as in Kosovo, imperial ideology utilized humanitarian rhetoric. In the genocidal wars in the Middle East, anti-terrorism and anti-Islamic ideology is central. Against China, democratic and human rights rhetoric predominates. In Latin America, receding imperial power relies on democratic and anti-authoritarian rhetoric aimed at the democratically elected Chavez government.

The effectiveness of imperial ideology is in direct relation to the capacity of empire to promote viable and dynamic development alternatives to their targeted countries. By that criterion imperial ideology has had little persuasive power among target populations. The Islamic phobic and anti-terrorist rhetoric has made no impact on the people of the Middle East and alienated the Islamic world. Latin America’s lucrative trade relations with the Chavist government and the decline of the US economy have undermined Washington’s ideological campaign to isolate Venezuela. The US human rights campaign against China has been totally ignored throughout the EU, Africa, Latin America, Oceana and by the 500 biggest US MNC (and even by the US Treasury busy selling treasury bonds to China to finance the ballooning US budget deficit).

The weakening influence of imperial propaganda and the declining economic leverage of Washington, means that the US imperial networks built over the past half century are being eroded or at least subject to centrifugal forces. Former fully integrated networks in Asia are now merely military bases as the economies secure greater autonomy and orient toward China and beyond. In other words the imperial networks are now being transformed into limited operations’ outposts, rather than centers for imperial economic plunder.

Imperial Networks: The Central Role of Collaborators

Empire-building is essentially a process of penetrating a country or region, establishing a privileged position and retaining control in order to secure (1) lucrative resources, markets and cheap labor (2) establish a military platform to expand into adjoining countries and regions (3) military bases to establish a chock-hold over strategic road or waterways to deny or limit access of competitors or adversaries (4) intelligence and clandestine operations against adversaries and competitors.

History has demonstrated that the lowest cost in sustaining long term, long scale imperial domination is by developing local collaborators, whether in the form of political, economic and/or military leaders operating from client regimes. Overt politico-military imperial rule results in costly wars and disruption, especially among a broad array of classes adversely affected by the imperial presence.

Formation of collaborator rulers and classes results from diverse short and long term imperial policies ranging from direct military, electoral and extra-parliamentary activities to middle to long term recruitment, training and orientation of promising young leaders via propaganda and educational programs, cultural-financial inducements, promises of political and economic backing on assuming political office and through substantial clandestine financial backing.

The most basic appeal by imperial policy-makers to the “new ruling class” in emerging client state is the opportunity to participate in an economic system tied to the imperial centers, in which local elites share economic wealth with their imperial benefactors. To secure mass support, the collaborator classes obfuscate the new forms of imperial subservience and economic exploitation by emphasizing political independence, personal freedom, economic opportunity and private consumerism.

The mechanisms for the transfer of power to an emerging client state combine imperial propaganda, financing of mass organizations and electoral parties, as well as violent coups or ‘popular uprisings’. Authoritarian bureaucratically ossified regimes relying on police controls to limit or oppose imperial expansion are “soft targets”. Selective human rights campaigns become the most effective organizational weapon to recruit activists and promote leaders for the imperial-centered new political order. Once the power transfer takes place, the former members of the political, economic and cultural elite are banned, repressed, arrested and jailed. 

A new homogenous political culture of competing parties embracing the imperial centered world order emerges. The first order of business beyond the political purge is the privatization and handover of the commanding heights of the economy to imperial enterprises. 

The client regimes proceed to provide soldiers to engage as paid mercenaries in imperial wars and to transfer military bases to imperial forces as platforms of intervention. The entire “independence charade” is accompanied by the massive dismantling of public social welfare programs (pensions, free health and education), labor codes and full employment policies. Promotion of a highly polarized class structure is the ultimate consequence of client rule. The imperial-centered economies of the client regimes, as a replica of any commonplace satrap state, is justified (or legitimated) in the name of an electoral system dubbed democratic – in fact a political system dominated by new capitalist elites and their heavily funded mass media.

Imperial centered regimes run by collaborating elites spanning the Baltic States, Central and Eastern Europe to the Balkans is the most striking example of imperial expansion in the 20th century. The break-up and take-over of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc and its incorporation into the US led NATO alliance and the European Union resulted in imperial hubris. Washington made premature declarations of a unipolar world while Western Europe proceeded to plunder public resources, ranging from factories to real estate, exploiting cheap labor, overseas and via immigration, drawing on a formidable ‘reserve army’ to undermine living standards of unionized labor in the West.

The unity of purpose of European and US imperial regimes allowed for the peaceful joint takeover of the wealth of the new regions by private monopolies. The imperial states initially subsidized the new client regimes with large scale transfers and loans on condition that they allowed imperial firms to seize resources, real estate, land, factories, service sectors, media outlets etc. Heavily indebted states went from a sharp crises in the initial period to ‘spectacular’ growth to profound and chronic social crises with double digit unemployment in the 20 year period of client building. While worker protests emerged as wages deteriorated, unemployment soared and welfare provisions were cut, destitution spread. However the ‘new middle class’ embedded in the political and media apparatuses and in joint economic ventures are sufficiently funded by imperial financial institutions to protect their dominance.

The dynamic of imperial expansion in East, Central and Southern Europe however did not provide the impetus for strategic advance, because of the ascendancy of highly volatile financial capital and a powerful militarist caste in the Euro-American political centers. In important respects military and political expansion was no longer harnessed to economic conquest. The reverse was true: economic plunder and political dominance served as instruments for projecting military power.

Imperial Sequences: From War for Exploitation to Exploitation for War

The relations between imperial military policies and economic interests are complex and changing over time and historical context. In some circumstances, an imperial regime will invest heavily in military personnel and augment monetary expenditures to overthrow an anti-imperialist ruler and establish a client regime far beyond any state or private economic return. For example, US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, proxy wars in Somalia and Yemen have not resulted in greater profits for US multinational corporations’ nor has it enhanced private exploitation of raw materials, labor or markets. At best, imperial wars have provided profits for mercenary contractors, construction companies and related ‘war industries’ profiting through transfers from the US treasury and the exploitation of US taxpayers, mostly wage and salary earners.

In many cases, especially after the Second World War, the emerging US imperial state lavished a multi-billion dollar loan and aid program for Western Europe. The Marshall Plan forestalled anti-capitalist social upheavals and restored capitalist political dominance. This allowed for the emergence of NATO (a military alliance led and dominated by the US). Subsequently, US multi-national corporations invested in and traded with Western Europe reaping lucrative profits, once the imperial state created favorable political and economic conditions. 

In other words imperial state politico-military intervention preceded the rise and expansion of US multi-national capital. A myopic short term analysis of the initial post-war activity would downplay the importance of private US economic interests as the driving force of US policy. Extending the time period to the following two decades, the interplay between initial high cost state military and economic expenditures with later private high return gains provides a perfect example of how the process of imperial power operates.

The role of the imperial state as an instrument for opening, protecting and expanding private market, labor and resource exploitation corresponds to a time in which both the state and the dominant classes were primarily motivated by industrial empire building.

US directed military intervention and coups in Iran (1953), Guatemala (1954), Chile (1973), the Dominican Republic (1965) were linked to specific imperial economic interests and corporations. For example, US and English oil corporations sought to reverse the nationalization of oil in Iran. The US, United Fruit Company opposed the agrarian reform policies in Guatemala. The major US copper and telecommunication companies supported and called for the US backed coup in Chile.

In contrast, current US military interventions and wars in the Middle East, South Asia and the Horn of Africa are not promoted by US multi-nationals. The imperial policies are promoted by militarists and Zionists embedded in the state, mass media and powerful ‘civil’ organizations. The same imperial methods (coups and wars) serve different imperial rulers and interests.
Clients, Allies and Puppet Regimes

Imperial networks involve securing a variety of complementary economic, military and political ‘resource bases’ which are both part of the imperial system and retain varying degrees of political and economic autonomy.

In the dynamic earlier stages of US Empire building, from roughly the 1950’s – 1970’s, US multi-national corporations and the economy as a whole dominated the world economy. Its allies in Europe and Asia were highly dependent on US markets, financing and development. US military hegemony was reflected in a series of regional military pacts which secured almost instant support for US regional wars, military coups and the construction of military bases and naval ports on their territory. Countries were divided into ‘specializations’ which served the particular interests of the US Empire. Western Europe was a military outpost, industrial partner and ideological collaborator. Asia, primarily Japan and South Korea served as ‘frontline military outposts’, as well as industrial partners. Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines were essentially client regimes which provided raw materials as well as military bases. Singapore and Hong Kong were financial and commercial entrepots. Pakistan was a client military regime serving as a frontline pressure on China.

Saudi Arabia, Iran and the Gulf mini-states, ruled by client authoritarian regimes, provided oil and military bases. Egypt and Jordan and Israel anchored imperial interests in the Middle East. Beirut served as the financial center for US, European and Middle East bankers.

Africa and Latin America including client and nationalist-populist regimes were a source of raw materials as well as markets for finished goods and cheap labor.

The prolonged US-Vietnam war and Washington’s subsequent defeat eroded the power of the empire. Western Europe, Japan and South Korea’s industrial expansion challenged US industrial primacy. Latin America’s pursuit of nationalist, import – substitution policies forced US investment toward overseas manufacturing. In the Middle East nationalist movements toppled US clients in Iran and Iraq and undermined military outposts. Revolutions in Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, Algeria, Nicaragua and elsewhere curtailed Euro-American ‘open ended’ access to raw materials, at least temporarily.

The decline of the US Empire was temporarily arrested by the collapse of Communism in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the establishment of client regimes throughout the region. Likewise the upsurge of imperial-centered client regimes in Latin America between the mid 1970’s to the end of the 1990’s gave the appearance of an imperialist recovery. The 1990’s however was not the beginning of a repeat of the early 1950’s imperial take off: it was the “last hurrah” before a long term irreversible decline. The entire imperial political apparatus, so successful in its clandestine operations in subverting the Soviet and Eastern European regimes, played a marginal role when it came to capitalizing on the economic opportunities which ensued. 

Germany and other EU countries led the way in the takeover of lucrative privatized enterprises. Russian- Israeli oligarchs(seven of the top eight) seized and pillaged privatized strategic industries, banks and natural resources. The principal US beneficiaries were the banks and Wall Street firms which laundered billions of illicit earnings and collected lucrative fees from mergers, acquisitions, stock listings and other less than transparent activities. 

In other words, the collapse of Soviet collectivism strengthened the parasitical financial sector of the US Empire. Worse still, the assumption of a ‘unipolar world’ fostered by US ideologues, played into the hands of the militarists, who now assumed that former constraints on US military assaults on nationalists and Soviet allies had disappeared. As a result military intervention became the principle driving force in US empire building, leading to the first Iraq war, the Yugoslav and Somali invasion and the expansion of US military bases throughout the former Soviet bloc and Eastern Europe.

At the very pinnacle of US global-political and military power during the 1990’s, with all the major Latin American regimes enveloped in the empire-centered neo-liberal warp, the seeds of decay and decline set in.

The economic crises of the late 1990’s, led to major uprisings and electoral defeats of practically all US clients in Latin America, spelling the decline of US imperial domination. China’s extraordinary dynamic and cumulative growth displaced US manufacturing capital and weakened US leverage over rulers in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The vast transfer of US state resources to overseas imperial adventures, military bases and the shoring up of clients and allies led to domestic decline.

The US empire, passively facing economic competitors displacing the US in vital markets and engaged in prolonged and unending wars which drained the treasury, attracted a cohort of mediocre policymakers who lacked a coherent strategy for rectifying policies and reconstructing the state to serve productive activity capable of ‘retaking markets’. Instead the policies of open-ended and unsustainable wars played into the hands of a special sub-group (sui generis) of militarists, American Zionists. They capitalized on their infiltration of strategic positions in the state, enhanced their influence in the mass media and a vast network of organized “pressure groups” to reinforce US subordination to Israel’s drive for Middle East supremacy.

The result was the total “unbalancing” of the US imperial apparatus: military action was unhinged from economic empire building. A highly influential upper caste of Zionist-militarists harnessed US military power to an economically marginal state (Israel), in perpetual hostility toward the 1.5 billion Muslim world. Equally damaging, American Zionist ideologues and policymakers promoted repressive institutions and legislation and Islamophobic ideological propaganda designed to terrorize the US population. 

Equally important islamophobic ideology served to justify permanent war in South Asia and the Middle East and the exorbitant military budgets, at a time of sharply deteriorating domestic socio-economic conditions. Hundreds of billions of dollars were spent unproductively as “Homeland Security” which strived in every way to recruit, train, frame and arrest Afro-American Muslim men as “terrorists”. Thousands of secret agencies with hundreds of thousands of national, state and local officials spied on US citizens who at some point may have sought to speak or act to rectify or reform the militarist-financial-Zionist centered imperialist policies.

By the end of the first decade of the 21st century, the US empire could only destroy adversaries (Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan) provoke military tensions (Korean peninsula, China Sea) and undermine relations with potentially lucrative trading partners (Iran, Venezuela). Galloping authoritarianism fused with fifth column Zionist militarism to foment islamophobic ideology. The convergence of authoritarian mediocrities, upwardly mobile knaves and fifth column tribal loyalists in the Obama regime precluded any foreseeable reversal of imperial decay.

China’s growing global economic network and dynamic advance in cutting edge applied technology in everything from alternative energy to high speed trains, stands in contrast to the Zionist-militarist infested empire of the US.

The US demands on client Pakistan rulers to empty their treasury in support of US Islamic wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan, stands in contrast to the $30 billion dollar Chinese investments in infrastructure, energy and electrical power and multi-billion dollar increases in trade.

US $3 billion dollar military subsidies to Israel stand in contrast to China’s multi-billion dollar investments in Iranian oil and trade agreements. US funding of wars against Islamic countries in Central and South Asia stands in contrast to Turkey’s expanding economic trade and investment agreements in the same region. China has replaced the US as the key trading partner in leading South American countries, while the US unequal “free trade” agreement(NAFTA) impoverishes Mexico. Trade between the European Union and China exceeds that with the US.

In Africa, the US subsidizes wars in Somalia and the Horn of Africa, while China signs on to multi-billion dollar investment and trade agreements, building up African infrastructure in exchange for access to raw materials. There is no question that the economic future of Africa is increasingly linked to China.

The US Empire, in contrast, is in a deadly embrace with an insignificant colonial militarist state (Israel), failed states in Yemen and Somalia, corrupt stagnant client regimes in Jordan and Egypt and the decadent rent collecting absolutist petrol-states of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf. All form part of an unproductive atavistic coalition bent on retaining power via military supremacy. Yet Empires of the 21st century are built on the bases of productive economies with global networks linked to dynamic trading partners.

Recognizing the economic primacy and market opportunities linked to becoming part of the Chinese global network, former or existing US clients and even puppet rulers have begun to edge away from submission to US mandates. Fundamental shifts in economic relations and political alignments have occurred throughout Latin America. Brazil, Venezuela, Bolivia and other countries support Iran’s non-military nuclear program in defiance of Zionist led Washington aggression. Several countries have defied Israel-US policymakers by recognizing Palestine as a state. Trade with China surpasses trade with the US in the biggest countries in the region.

Puppet regimes in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan have signed major economic agreements with China, Iran and Turkey even while the US pours billions to bolster its military position. Turkey an erstwhile military client of the US-NATO command broadens its own quest for capitalist hegemony by expanding economic ties with Iran, Central Asia and the Arab-Muslim world, challenging US-Israeli military hegemony.

The US Empire still retains major clients and nearly a thousand military bases around the world. As client and puppet regimes decline, Washington increases the role and scope of extra-territorial death squad operations from 50 to 80 countries. The growing independence of regimes in the developing world is especially fueled by an economic calculus: China offers greater economic returns and less political-military interference than the US.

Washington’s imperial network is increasingly based on military ties with allies: Australia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan in the Far East and Oceana; the European Union in the West; and a smattering of Central and South American states in the South. Even here, the military allies are no longer economic dependencies: Australia and New Zealand’s principle export markets are in Asia (China). EU-China trade is growing exponentially. Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are increasingly tied by trade and investment with China … as is Pakistan and India.

Equally important new regional networks which exclude the US are growing in Latin America and Asia, creating the potential for new economic blocs.

In other words the US imperial economic network constructed after World War II and amplified by the collapse of the USSR is in the process of decay, even as the military bases and treaties remain as a formidable ‘platform’ for new military interventions.

What is clear is that the military, political and ideological gains in network-building by the US around the world with the collapse of the USSR and the post-Soviet wars are not sustainable. On the contrary the overdevelopment of the ideological-military-security apparatus raised economic expectations and depleted economic resources resulting in the incapacity to exploit economic opportunities or consolidate economic networks. US funded “popular uprisings” in the Ukraine led to client regimes incapable of promoting growth. In the case of Georgia, the regime engaged in an adventurous war with Russia resulting in trade and territorial losses. It is a matter of time before existing client regimes in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and Mexico will face major upheavals, due to the precarious bases of rule by corrupt, stagnant and repressive rulers.

The process of decay of the US Empire is both cause and consequence of the challenge by rising economic powers establishing alternative centers of growth and development. Changes within countries at the periphery of the empire and growing indebtedness and trade deficits at the ‘center’ of the empire are eroding the empire. The existing US governing class, in both its financial and militarist variants show neither will nor interest in confronting the causes of decay. Instead each mutually supports the other: the financial sector lowers taxes deepening the public debt and plunders the treasury. The military caste drains the treasury in pursuit of wars and military outposts and increases the trade deficit by undermining commercial and investment undertakings.

James Petras has a long history of commitment to social justice, working in particular with the Brazilian Landless Workers Movement for 11 years. In 1973-76 he was a member of the Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Repression in Latin America. He writes a monthly column for the Mexican newspaper, La Jornada, and previously, for the Spanish daily, El Mundo. He received his B.A. from Boston University and Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley.

When the likes of Marco Rubio, the new Republican senator from Florida, say this is the greatest country ever, sophisticated opinion-makers cluck and roll their eyes. What a noxious tea-party nostrum. How chauvinistic. What hubris.

Yet, what other countries deserve this designation? For the sake of convenience, start at 1648, when the Peace of Westphalia ratified the modern system of nation-states. And grade on power, prosperity and goodness.

Is Spain the greatest ever? It had a nice run a couple of hundred years ago based on plundering the New World of its gold and silver. By 1800, it was one of the poorest countries in Europe. Today, it teeters on bankruptcy.

Is France? Its model of centralizing monarchy in the 17th century was extremely influential, and admirable — if you like elaborate court ritual, religious persecution and expansionistic wars. It gave the world the template for modern ideological madness in the French Revolution and for the modern tyrant in Napoleon. After the debacle of World War II, it recovered to a power of middling rank. If there’s no doubting the greatness of the French, their history comes with the implicit admonition: “Do not try this at home.”

Germany? In the 18th and 19th centuries, it was a cultural jewel. And one of the most talented statesmen ever, Bismarck, forged a nation that became an industrial behemoth. It also had an illiberal heart. Germany today is an anchor of democratic Europe, but with a hellish black mark against it that will last for all time.

Russia? By the beginning of the 20th century, a decrepit autocracy sat atop a mass of misery. Then, things went south. The communists murdered and enslaved many millions across seven decades. Russia remains an important, if vastly diminished, power, governed by a prickly, grasping kleptocracy.

Britain? Getting warmer. It invented the rights that are the bedrock of liberal democracy. More than most European powers, it lived by Adam Smith’s formula for prosperity: “peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice.” From a tiny island, it came to govern an enormous extent of the globe in a relatively benign colonialism. It was a bulwark against the dictatorships of the Continent, from Napoleon, to the Kaiser, to Hitler. And it spawned the countries that have made the English-speaking world a synonym for good governance and liberty: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and America.

Which brings us to the U.S. We had the advantage of jumping off from the achievement of the British. We founded our nation upon self-evident truths about the rights of man, even if our conduct hasn’t always matched them. We pushed aside Spain and Mexico in muscling across the continent, but brought order and liberty in our wake. Our treatment of the Indians was appalling, but par for the course in the context of the time. It took centuries of mistreatment of blacks before we finally heeded our own ideals.

The positive side of the ledger, though, is immense: We got constitutional government to work on a scale no one had thought possible; made ourselves a haven of liberty for the world’s peoples; and created a fluid, open society. We amassed unbelievable wealth, and spread it widely. Internationally, we wielded our overwhelming military and industrial power as a benevolent hegemon. We led the coalitions against the ideological empires of the 20th century and protected the global commons. We remain the world’s sole superpower, looked to by most of the world as a leader distinctly better than any of the alternatives.

Our greatness is simply a fact. Only the churlish or malevolent can deny it, or even get irked at its assertion. When a Marco Rubio talks of the greatness of America, it’s not bumptious self-congratulation. Our greatness comes with the responsibility to preserve our traditional dynamism and status as a robust middle-class society. To paraphrase the Benjamin Franklin of lore, we have the greatest country ever — if we can keep it.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA), notorious for groping and ogling naked passengers at checkpoints, has long claimed that its “mission” is “protect[ing] the Nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement for people and commerce.” You may ask how delaying travelers in enormously long lines “ensure[s] freedom of movement”; recall that these same jokers contend as well that their sexual assaults protect us. At least their double-speak and Orwellian “logic” are consistent.

As the TSA’s attacks on travelers escalated in the weeks prior to Thanksgiving, many commentators feared that if the agency prevailed in its molestation, it would extend its abuses everywhere. “If we allow them to implement these procedures in our airports,” an unattributed article at  warned, “pretty soon they will start popping up in subway stations, courthouses, sports stadiums and even at our workplaces.”

Unfortunately, the TSA didn’t wait to see whether we “allowed” it to “implement these procedures” or any others: they’ve been “popping up in subway stations, courthouses, sports stadiums and even at our workplaces” for years now. The agency is remarkably lax about finding terrorists, so lax, in fact, that no one in its employ anywhere at any time has ever ferreted out a single one. But it busily fulfills its “mission” of controlling every mode of transportation — and much, much more. Indeed, cynics who maintain that the agency has nothing to do with security and everything to do with dictatorship would argue it far exceeds that “mission,” the better to teach us serfs who’s in charge.

Since government at one level or another outright owns or heavily subsidizes and regulates virtually all transportation in this country, the TSA encounters little resistance to its malignant growth (aside from turf wars, that is: the local cops it tries to enlist in its efforts disdain the TSA’s unarmed, unprofessional buffoons).

It has long “partnered” with Amtrak, for instance, bragging on September 23, 2008: “Amtrak Office of Security Strategy and Special Operations (OSSSO), Amtrak Police, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) personnel and officers from approximately 100 commuter rail, state, and local police agencies mobilized today for the largest joint, simultaneous Northeast rail security operation of its kind, involving 150 railway stations between Fredericksburg, Virginia, and Essex Junction, Vermont.”

The “750,000 rail passengers [who] ride along the Northeast Corridor and other rail systems integrated with [it]” would have witnessed this “highly visible police and security presence.” They may even have suffered one of its “random passenger bag inspections.” Can the sexual abuse and pornographic scanning the TSA inflicts at airports be far behind?

Undoubtedly, many “domestic terrorists” lurked among those 750,000, given the Department of Homeland Security’s generous definition of the term: Its report last year on “Rightwing Extremism” smeared militias, veterans, protestors of abortion and of the UN — basically anyone who balks at Our Rulers’ evisceration of the Constitution. “Terrorists” riding the Northeast Corridor have now tasted the Feds’ power: Wanna bet they’ll think twice before challenging it?

So cocksure is the TSA, and so complicit are the corporate media, that the agency can afford to be honest when announcing these “mobilizations.” It makes no bones about centralizing authority, quoting “Amtrak Police Chief John O’Connor” in its press release: “We are one team, with one mission.... Without question, this operation provided the longest wall of security ever mobilized along the East Coast.” Another press release a year later for a similar “mobilization” crowed, “Today’s operation illustrates the growing cooperation among police departments in States, cities, and towns throughout the northeast with their partners in Amtrak, commuter rail and mass transit systems, and TSA.”

Then there’s this from “John Sammon, TSA assistant administrator, Transportation Sector Network Management”: “It is critical that we continue to expand and exercise our collective ability.” Really? Critical to what? “Today’s event offers the opportunity to demonstrate in dramatic fashion the force potential and security enhancement value of regional collaboration as TSA joins its professional colleagues throughout the Northeast to … provide a highly visible security presence during rush hour.” Translated from the Jargon, that means, “Hey, slaves, go ahead and resist: make our day!”

Tooting Over Troubling Trains

Just as it owns Amtrak, government owns all the trains underground, too. TSA interprets that as an open invitation to invade these systems as well. When the “new head of the Transportation Security Administration,” John Pistole, assumed office last summer, he blustered to USA Today, “Given the list of threats on subways and rails over the last six years going on seven years, we know that some terrorist groups see rail and subways as being more vulnerable because there’s not the type of screening that you find in aviation.... From my perspective, that is an equally important threat area.” And no doubt worthy of the same atrocities the TSA commits at airports.

New York City’s iconic subway, one of the largest and oldest in the world, whisks more than five million riders about the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, and Manhattan each weekday. In 2005, the NYPD decreed that it would henceforth “randomly” search passengers’ belongings. Why? Because it can, according to NYC top cop Ray Kelly.

His excuse was the bombings in London’s famous “tube” that summer. But New York’s elite had itched to search the citizens who pay their salaries for years. Indeed, Kelly told the New York Times, “You need an event such as London for people to realize this is a procedure put in place for their safety.... The issue is what the public will accept. You still need an event to get public support.” Even the Times noted Kelly’s haste in exploiting the tragedy: “It took less than two hours after the bombing attempts in London’s transit system … for … Kelly, to decide to begin random checks of passengers’ bags in [New York].”

It didn’t take much longer for these unconstitutional, warrantless searches to fell their first victim: They “netted one arrest almost immediately,” the Associated Press reported. “Authorities stopped [a man outside a train station on Long Island] after noticing something suspicious about his van. They reportedly found a machete, imitation handguns, an electronic stun gun and a martial arts weapon in the vehicle.”

Taxpayers exercising their rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment are not the only prey. “Those caught carrying drugs or other contraband could be arrested,” too. This mirrors airports, where the TSA constantly seizes passengers with pets it doesn’t approve (exotic snakes or even, in one case, dead birds preserved in brine), pornography, or immigration papers of the wrong color — but nary a terrorist.

In April 2009, TSA moved in on the NYPD’s action. Again, there was an excuse: New York’s perpetual shortfall in funds meant the NYPD couldn’t spare the cops necessary to rifle backpacks and purses. And so “Transportation Security Administration bag screeners from Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark Liberty airports will be replacing most NYPD cops in the subway that screen bags for explosives,” Fox News explained. “About 30 TSA screeners a day will be pulled from the three area airports Monday through Friday to inspect bags at various subway locations throughout the city.”

TSA instituted similar dictatorship in Los Angeles in the summer of 2008. And it would certainly violate the Fourth Amendment in every city with underground track if it had the money and personnel. Instead, it hits them with its melodramatic “VIPR teams.”

According to the TSA, “Visible Intermodal Prevention and Response (VIPR) teams” consist “of federal air marshals, surface transportation security inspectors, transportation security officers, behavior detection officers, and explosives detection canine teams.” These ninjas “work with local security and law enforcement officials to supplement existing security resources, provide deterrent presence and detection capabilities, and introduce an element of unpredictability to disrupt potential terrorist planning activities,” which is TSA-speak for, “They delay, inconvenience and are supposed to intimidate passengers so there’s no mistaking who’s boss.”

Fortunately, that directive doesn’t seem to have penetrated the boots on the ground. They practice instead the sloth and incompetence that paralyze bureaucracies while mercifully shielding us from their grand designs. When “dozens (if not more) of TSA screeners, FAMs [Federal Air Marshals], and ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] descended on the Tri-Rail commuter train [in South Florida],” one eyewitness at reported that “most … were standing around and talking, not giving a single eye to other passengers or their surroundings. It was a morning long coffee break.”

Bombarding  Buses and Ferries

Meanwhile, TSA threatens “to expand the VIPR concept beyond the rail sector to other forms of mass transit.” No telling how many potheads and pythons they’ll snag.

Taking the bus instead of trains won’t protect you from the TSA’s nonsense, as “Bryce Williams and 689 other passengers” in Orlando discovered on October 22, 2009. They “went through tougher-than-normal security procedures … as part of a random check coordinated by the U.S. 

Transportation Security Administration,” according to the Orlando Sentinel. “[Fifty] officials from agencies including TSA, Orlando police, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, and U.S. Customs and Border Protection patted down passengers.” VIPR has also pummeled Greyhound’s terminal in Memphis, as well as the city’s light rail on November 30, 2009; ditto for Charlotte, North Carolina, on May 28, 2008, Tampa, Florida, on February 16, 2010 — the list continues ad nauseam.

Frighteningly, the TSA often describes these raids as “augment[ing] normal transportation security operations.” But what’s “normal” about frisking people waiting to board a bus unless a country languishes in totalitarian misery?

When TSA isn’t hassling people on busses and trains, it’s pestering commuters on ferries. In 2007, yet another press release from its indefatigable, tax-funded scribes proclaimed, “In the past three years, TSA has conducted pilot tests on several high-volume commuter ferry systems, including the Cape May-Lewes Ferry in New Jersey, the Golden Gate Ferry in California and the Jamestown Scotland Ferry in Virginia.” Without a single warrant, its agents searched both “ferry riders” and “passenger vehicles lining up to board the boats.”

New York City’s Department of Transportation shuttles 21 million folks annually between Staten Island and Manhattan on its ferries. For three weeks in 2009, the TSA irradiated those passengers with millimeter waves: “Prior to boarding,” these criminals confessed on the bureaucracy’s website, “passengers will move through the terminal’s
turnstiles at their normal pace. The screening equipment will be angled to passively screen passengers.” (Translating once more from the TSA Jargon yields, “With any luck, the poor slobs won’t even know we’re shooting carcinogenic rays at them!”)

“Passengers will not be asked to stand in place, nor will they even need to break stride. Video images of the scanned passengers will be monitored by TSA’s Transportation Security Officers from a station set up to the side of the waiting area. The TSOs in the monitoring station will be in communication with roving TSOs and will notify them of any passengers who display an anomaly. An abbreviated pat down area will be available for resolution of those anomalies” — sans a warrant, of course — “and TSA-certified explosive detection canine teams will be available to screen passengers’ baggage.”

Naturally, the media coos its admiration for this despotism. When cops frisked Greyhound’s passengers in Florida, the Orlando Sentinel chirped, “The idea is to keep off guard terrorists and others who mean harm, thereby improving safety for passengers and workers.” Actually, the idea is to keep shredding the Constitution until there’s nowhere to hide from the State. Don’t want goons ogling and groping you at airports? Too bad: They’re ogling and groping you on trains, buses, and ferries too.

Government Gumption Grows

These spreading horrors are consistent with government’s encroaching essence in general (remember Jefferson’s observation that “The natural progress of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground”). They also dovetail specifically with the TSA’s vague and expansive “mission” of “protect[ing] the Nation’s transportation systems to ensure freedom of movement.”

More confirmation came last November, at the height of passengers’ fury over the TSA’s sexual assaults, when the agency’s über-fuhrer confessed that she lusts to irradiate and molest all travelers, not just those who take to the skies. Janet Napolitano is Secretary of the gargantuan Department of Homeland Security (circa 220,000 employees, $50 billion annual budget), among whose bureaucracies lurks the TSA. Bloviating on Charlie Rose, this two-bit tyrant announced, “I think the tighter we get on aviation, we have to also be thinking now about going on to mass transit or to trains or maritime.... So what do we need to be doing to strengthen our protections [sic for “power”] there?”

A “Homeland Security official” tried to prevent an uproar by denying to Fox News that “the use of … full-body scanners is … under consideration,” at least for mass transit, “saying they ‘would not be feasible in a system with hundreds or thousands of access points.’” But of course he lied. Airlines have “hundreds or thousands of access points,” dauntingly scattered nationwide rather than concentrated in a single city, and that didn’t thwart the TSA’s compulsory strip-tease.

Chillingly, TSA increasingly strikes places that have nothing to do with transportation. “Dozens of TSA officers” infested Super Bowl XLIII in 2009, according to the agency’s PR, while dozens more patrolled other sites around Tampa.

Perhaps scariest of all are the TSA’s forays into political spaces. The agency set up shop in the streets of Peterborough, New Hampshire, in 2008 and searched people attending John McCain’s “Town Hall Meeting.” Nor was this a fluke. On February 18, 2008, the TSA screened folks hoping to hear presidential contender Barack Obama when he spoke at Beloit College in Wisconsin; the same scenario repeated itself that October at the Arch in St. Louis. Granted, siccing the TSA on fans of McCain and Obama may seem fitting punishment, but the constitutional ramifications appall.

So far, the TSA leaves its computerized strip-searches at airports when it ventures elsewhere. But if it gets away with them there, it will surely foist them on trains, buses, ferries, stadiums, political events — and more.

And easily, too: A portable porno-scanner already exists that takes the TSA’s X-rated X-rays on the road. It ostensibly “inspects” cargo and vehicles — as if the Feds have any constitutional authority to do either. Concealed inside a van, the gizmo covertly denudes pedestrians, motorists, even citizens inside buildings; none has the slightest suspicion that a government agent is leering at their nakedness. The scanner’s manufacturer boasts, “This product is now the largest selling cargo and vehicle inspection system ever.” New York City’s police department bought some, as have an “undisclosed number of government agencies” worldwide.

Unless we abolish this vile agency, the TSA will carry its war on Americans from airports, bus stations, and political events to highways, shopping malls, even sidewalks. The Supreme Court long ago invented an “interest” for government in “safe aviation.” It has further decreed that such “interest” outweighs our petty concerns for personal privacy so that buying a ticket means we implicitly consent to any and every abuse the Feds dish out.

What court will hesitate to extend that “interest” to the streets, that forfeiture of privacy to the mere act of subsisting under D.C.’s dictatorship?

‘The Left Has Nowhere to Go’

Ralph Nader in a CNN poll a few days before the 2008 presidential election had an estimated 3 percent of the electorate, or about 4 million people, behind his candidacy. But once the votes were counted, his support dwindled to a little over 700,000. Nader believes that many of his supporters entered the polling booth and could not bring themselves to challenge the Democrats and Barack Obama. I suspect Nader is right. And this retreat is another example of the lack of nerve we must overcome if we are going to battle back against the corporate state. A vote for Nader or Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney in 2008 was an act of defiance. A vote for Obama and the Democrats was an act of submission. We cannot afford to be submissive anymore.

“The more outrageous the Republicans become, the weaker the left becomes,” Nader said when I reached him at his home in Connecticut on Sunday. “The more outrageous they become, the more the left has to accept the slightly less outrageous corporate Democrats.”

Nader fears a repeat of the left’s cowardice in the next election, a cowardice that has further empowered the lunatic fringe of the Republican Party, maintained the role of the Democratic Party as a lackey for corporations, and accelerated the reconfiguration of the country into a neo-feudalist state. 

Either we begin to practice a fierce moral autonomy and rise up in multiple acts of physical defiance that have no discernable short-term benefit, or we accept the inevitability of corporate slavery. The choice is that grim. 

The age of the practical is over. It is the impractical, those who stand fast around core moral imperatives, figures like Nader or groups such as Veterans for Peace, which organized the recent anti-war rally in Lafayette Park in Washington, which give us hope. 

If you were one of the millions who backed down in the voting booth in 2008, don’t do it again. If you were one of those who thought about joining the Washington protests against the war where 131 of us were arrested and did not, don’t fail us next time. The closure of the mechanisms within the power system that once made democratic reform possible means we stand together as the last thin line of defense between a civil society and its disintegration. If we do not engage in open acts of defiance, we will empower a radical right-wing opposition that will replicate the violence and paranoia of the state. To refuse to defy in every way possible the corporate state is to be complicit in our strangulation. 

“The left has nowhere to go,” Nader said. “Obama knows it. The corporate Democrats know it. There will be criticism by the left of Obama this year and then next year they will all close ranks and say ‘Do you want Mitt Romney? Do you want Sarah Palin? Do you want Newt Gingrich?’ It’s very predictable. There will be a year of criticism and then it will all be muted. 

They don’t understand that even if they do not have any place to go, they ought to fake it. They should fake going somewhere else or staying home to increase the receptivity to their demands. But because they do not make any demands, they are complicit with corporate power.

“Corporate power makes demands all the time,” Nader went on. “It pulls on the Democrats and the Republicans in one direction. By having this nowhere-to-go mentality and without insisting on demands as the price of your vote, or energy to get out the vote, they have reduced themselves to a cipher. They vote. The vote totals up. But it means nothing.”

There is no major difference between a McCain administration, a Bush and an Obama administration. Obama, in fact, is in many ways worse. McCain, like Bush, exposes the naked face of corporate power. Obama, who professes to support core liberal values while carrying out policies that mock these values, mutes and disempowers liberals, progressives and leftists. 

Environmental and anti-war groups, who plead with Obama to address their issues, are little more than ineffectual supplicants.

Obama, like Bush and McCain, funds and backs our unending and unwinnable wars. He does nothing to halt the accumulation of the largest deficits in human history. The drones murder thousands of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan, as they did under Bush and would have done under McCain. The private military contractors, along with the predatory banks and investment houses, suck trillions out of the U.S. Treasury as efficiently under Obama. 

Civil liberties, including habeas corpus, have not been restored. The public option is dead. The continuation of the Bush tax cuts, adding some $900 billion to the deficit, along with the reduction of individual contributions to Social Security, furthers a debt peonage that will be the excuse to privatize Social Security, slash social services and break the back of public service unions. 

Obama does not intercede as tens of millions of impoverished Americans face foreclosures and bankruptcies. The Democrats provide better cover. But the corporate assault is the same.

“Obama has the formula now,” Nader said. “You give the Republicans a lot of what they want. Many of them vote for you. You get your Democrat percentage. You weave a hybrid victory. That is what he learned in the lame-duck session. He gets praised as being a statesman and a leader and getting things done. 

Think of all the rewards he can contemplate while he is in Hawaii compared to what they were saying about him on Nov. 5. All the columnists and pundits say that now he can work with John Boehner. But once you take a broader view, it is the difference in the mph of corporatism. McCain is 50 miles per hour and Obama is 40 miles per hour.

“The left has disemboweled itself,” Nader said. “It doesn’t even have a strategy every four years like a good poker player. The best example is Richard Trumka and the AFL-CIO. Obama has given them nothing. 

Therefore, they are demanding nothing. They huff and puff. They make tough speeches. But Trumka hasn’t even made Obama’s campaign pledge of a $9.50 minimum wage by this year an issue. If you want to increase consumer demand, what better way to do it than to unleash $300 billion in wages? The card check for unionization, which Obama pledged as his No. 1 sop to the labor unions, is dead. The unions do not even demand a hearing. 

And now wait till you see what they will do to the public employee unions. Part of it is their own fault. They are going to be crushed. Everybody is ganging up on them. You have new class warfare. It is non-unionized lower income and middle class taking it out on the unionized middle-income public employees. It is a classic example of oligarchic manipulation. 

It will start playing out big time in New York State with Andrew Cuomo and others. They will start saying, ‘Why are you getting this? Most workers who pay the taxes, who pay your salaries, are not getting this.’ This plays.”

The banishment from the corporate media, Nader argues, has been one of the major contributors to the demoralization and weakening of the left. Protests by the left, which get little national or local coverage, have steadily dwindled in strength across the country. The first protest gets little or no coverage and this leads to movements, as well as the voices of activists, being diminished and finally suffocated. 

“The so-called liberal media, along with Fox, is touting the tea party and publicizing Palin,” Nader said. “There was an editorial on Dec. 27 in The New York Times on the Repeal Amendment, the right-wing constitutional amendment to allow states to overturn federal law. The editorial writer at the end had the nerve to say there is no progressive champion. The editorial said that the liberals and progressives have faded out to let the tea party make history. 

And yet, for months, all The New York Times has done is promote Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck. They promote Newt Gingrich and the neocons on the Op-Ed pages. The book pages of the newspaper ignore progressive authors and pump all the right-wing authors.

“If we don’t raise hell, we won’t get any media,” Nader said. “If we don’t get any media, the perception will be that the tea party is the big deal.

“On one notorious Sunday, Oct. 10, two of The New York Times’ segments led with a big story about Ann Coulter and how she will change her strategy because she is being outflanked by others,” Nader said. “There was also a huge article on this anti-Semite against Arabs, this Islamaphobe, Pam Geller.

Do you know how many pictures they had of Geller? Twenty on this front-page segment. The number of anti-war Op-Eds in The Washington Post over nine months in 2009 was 6-to-1 pro-war. We don’t raise hell. We don’t say Terry Gross is a censor. We don’t say that Charlie Rose is a censor. We have got to blast publicly. We have got to hammer them, because they are the tribune of right-wing fascist forces.

“Three thousand people rallied to protest the invasion and massacre in Gaza two years ago,” Nader said. “It was held four blocks from The Washington Post. It did not get a single paragraph. People should march over to the Post and say ‘Fuck you! What are you doing here? You cover every little blip by the right-wing and you don’t cover us?’ 

“They are afraid of the right-wing because the right-wing bellows, and they have become right-wing,” Nader said of the commercial press. “They have become fascinated by the bias of Fox. And they publicize what Fox is biased on. The coverage of O’Reilly and Beck and their fights is insane. In the heyday of coverage in the 1960s of what we were doing, it was always less than it should have been, but now it is almost zero. Why do we take this? Why do we accept this? Why isn’t Chris Hedges three times a year in the Op-Ed? 

Why is it always Paul Wolfowitz and Elliott Abrams and all these homicidal maniacs? Why are they there? Why is John Bolton constantly published in The Washington Post and The New York Times? Where is Andrew Bacevich? Bacevich told me he has had five straight Op-Eds rejected by the Post and the Times in the last two years. And he said he is not inclined to send anymore. How many times do you hear Hoover Institution? American Enterprise Institute? Manhattan Institute. These goddamned newspapers should be picketed.”

The timidity and silencing of the left fuels the steady impoverishment of a dispossessed working class and a beleaguered middle class. 

It solidifies a corporate oligarchy that is dismantling the anemic regulatory agencies that once protected citizens from predatory corporations. 

The economic system is designed to bail out Wall Street rather than replace the trillions of dollars and millions of jobs lost by workers. And the only hope left, Nader argues, is if the conservatives in the right-wing movement break from the corporatists. If the big banks again start going to the cliff and calling for new bailouts, Nader says, this may provoke a schism between conservative groups embodied by figures such as Ron Paul, and corporate lackeys.

“Every major movement starts with field organizers, the farmers, unions, and the civil rights movement,” Nader said. “But there is nothing out there. 

We need to start learning from what was done in the past. All over the country people are pissed off. They hate Wall Street. They know they are being gouged. They know they are slipping behind. They know their kids will not be as well off as they were, and they were not that well off. 

But no one is putting it together. Who could put a thousand organizers in the field, besides George Soros? The labor unions. They have the money. They have a lot of cash. These idiots are going down. The UAW is a paradigm of a suicidal, supplicant labor union. It is disgusting. They are a puppy dog of GM, Ford and Chrysler. They have huge reserves. The labor unions could organize the country, but they are into their own emoluments and high salaries. The union leadership has so distanced itself from the rank and file that it is ashamed to do anything controversial. 

These union leaders will not go on TV on Labor Day because they do not want someone saying ‘Why are you making $500,000 a year with a pension that is six times your rank and file?’ There is corruption at the top. The only way the union leaders can continue is to be in the shadows. And you don’t build a strong movement in the shadows.

“The black swan question is whether something will erupt that is rare, extreme and unpredictable,” Nader said. “It is amazing that it hasn’t happened in any pockets of the country. How much more can the oppressed take before they revolt? And can they revolt without organizers? These are the two important questions. You have got to have organizers, and as of now we don’t.”

Chris Hedges is a senior fellow at The Nation Institute. His newest book is “Death of the Liberal Class.”

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