By Jacob Heilbrunn
(All attempts to control the universe, to play God, to become the arbiters of life and death, have been carried out by moral idiots. Now I Am Become Death, The Destroyer Of Worlds.)
August 06, 2012 "Information Clearing House" -- A devastating strike would create an upsurge of patriotism in America and fully neutralize Mitt Romney's contention that Obama is a foreign-policy wimp. It could allow Obama to sweep to victory in November.
Will he do it?
One reason he might is that Mitt Romney is singlehandedly pushing the entire debate about Israel and Iran to the right.
The parameters have changed markedly. As TNI editor Robert Merry and others have noted, Romney's efforts to ingratiate himself with Jewish donors and voters have prompted him to suspend any notion of an independent American foreign policy in the Middle East.
Traditionally, the green or red light for military action has come from America, at least when it comes to actions that directly impinge upon American interests.
Ronald Reagan, for instance, successfully demanded that Israel halt its attacks on Lebanon in 1983.
Romney, by contrast, has effectively promised to give Israel a veto power over military action, indicating that he will do whatever Benjamin Netanyahu wants. As Romney observed in December, he would never, ever criticize Israel.
Instead, he would get on the phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu and ask, "What would you like me to do?" So it's fair to say that Romney would outsource his foreign policy to Netanyahu when it comes to Israel and its enemies.
What's more, anyone who thinks that Romney is bluffing should think again. It's no accident that his senior adviser on the Middle East is Dan Senor, a hard-line neoconservative. As the New York Times notes today, Romney relies upon him for advice and frequently cites his book Start-Up Nation. Senor wasn't dissembling when he said in Israel that Romney was prepared to endorse an attack on Iran—he simply got a little ahead of the program.
Obama has not been far behind in giving Netanyahu close to carte blanche. But he has not gone as far as Romney in endorsing the threat that Iran should be precluded from having the capability of building a nuclear weapon. But as Netanyahu champs, or tries to give the impression of champing, at the bit to bomb Iran, Obama must be weighing whether or not he should call Netanyahu out on his threats.
So far, the Obama administration has been doing everything in its power to dissuade Israel from speedy action. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta's visit to Israel was another sign that the administration is trying to reassure Israel of its commitment to its security. But his emphasis was on sanctions:
The most effective way to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon is for the international community to be united, proving to Iran that it will only make itself less secure if it continues to try to pursue a nuclear weapon.
But as Romney calls for "any and all measures" to stop Iran, Obama surely could deflate his sails by launching a strike in October. If it worked, he would be hailed as a hero.
The consequences of a strike wouldn't be felt for at least a few weeks—the nightmare scenario is that an oil shock would result in a quadrupling of oil prices, plunging the world into a new Great Depression.
Enough time for Obama to sail back into office as a tough foreign-policy president. Given Obama's congenital caution and sobriety, he seems unlikely to follow such a course.
But it should not be ruled out. The neocons may be closer to helping bring about an assault on Iran than even they realize.
They've already captured Romney. But they may also be on the verge of capturing Obama.
Their sustained campaign of pressure, in other words, may be more effective than anyone has acknowledged. For the fact is that Obama already has amply demonstrated his ruthlessness when it comes to confronting America's adversaries. If he were able to carry out regime change in Tehran, he might even start referring to himself as the new Decider.
This article was originally published at The National Interest
The Two Faces of a Police State:
Sheltering Tax Evaders, Financial Swindlers and Money Launderers while Policing the Citizens
By James Petras
“There is a degree of cynicism and greed which is really quite shocking” - Lord Turner Bank of England, Financial Service Authority, “The rotten heart of finance” The Economist
August 06, 2012 "Information Clearing House" –
Never In The History Of The United States Have We Witnessed Crimes Committed On The Scale And Scope Of The Present Day By Both Private And State Elites.
An economist of impeccable credentials, James Henry, former chief economist at the prestigious consulting firm McKinsey & Company, has researched and documented tax evasion. He found that the super-wealthy and their families have as much as $32 trillion (USD) of hidden assets in offshore tax havens, representing up to $280 billion in lost income tax revenue! This study excluded such non-financial assets as real estate, precious metals, jewels, yachts, race horses, luxury vehicles and so on. Of the $32 trillion in hidden assets, $23 trillion is held by the super-rich of North America and Europe.
A recent report by a United Nations Special Committee on Money Laundering found that US and European banks laundered over $300 billion a year, including $30 billion just from the Mexican drug cartels.
New reports on the multi-billion dollar financial swindles involving the major banks in the US and Europe are published each week. England’s leading banks, including Barclay’s and a host of others, have been identified as having rigged the LIBOR, or inter-bank lending rate, for years in order to maximize profits.
The Bank of New York, JP Morgan, HSBC, Wachovia and Citibank are among scores of banks, which have been charged with laundering drug money and other illicit funds according to investigations from the US Senate Banking Committees. Multi-national corporations receive federal bailout funds and tax exemptions and then, in violation of publicized agreements with the government, relocate plants and jobs in Asia and Mexico.
Major investment houses, like Goldman Sachs, have conned investors for years to invest in ‘garbage’ equities while the brokers pumped and dumped the worthless stocks.
Jon Corzine, CEO of MF Global (as well as a former CEO of Goldman Sachs, former US Senator and Governor of New Jersey) claimed that he “cannot account” for $1.6 billion in lost client investors funds from the collapse of MF Global in 2011.
Despite the growth of an enormous police state apparatus, the proliferation of investigatory agencies, Congressional hearings and over 400,000 employees at the Department of Homeland Security, not a single banker has gone to jail.
In the most egregious cases, a bank like Barclay’s will pay a minor fine for having facilitated tax evasion and engaging in speculative swindles. At the same time, the principle ‘miscreant’ in the LIBOR swindle, Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Barclay’s Bank, Jerry Del Missier, will receive a severance payout of $13 million dollars.
In contrast to the ‘lax’ law enforcement practiced by the burgeoning police state with regard to the swindles of the banking, corporate and billionaire elites, it has intensified political repression of citizens and immigrants who have not committed any crime against public safety and order.
Millions of immigrants have been seized from their homes and work-places, jailed, beaten and deported. Hundreds of Hispanic and Afro-American neighborhoods have been the target of police raids, shootouts and killings.
In such neighborhoods, the local and federal police operate with impunity – as was illustrated by shocking videos of the police shootings and brutality against unarmed civilians in Anaheim, California. Muslims, South Asians, Arabs, Iranians and others are racially profiled, arbitrarily arrested and prosecuted for participating in charities and humanitarian foundations or simply for attending religious institutions.
Over 40 million Americans engaged in lawful political activity are currently under surveillance, spied upon and frequently harassed.
The Two Faces of the US Government: Impunity and Repression
Overwhelming documentation supports the notion that the US police and judicial system has totally broken down when it comes to enforcing the law of the land regarding crimes among the financial, banking, corporate elite.
Trillion-dollar tax-evaders, billionaire financial swindlers and multi-billionaire money launderers are almost never sent to jail. While some may pay a fine, none have their illicit earnings seized even though many are repeat criminals. Recidivism among financial criminals is rife because the penalties are so light, the profit are so high and the investigations are infrequent, superficial and inconsequential.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that $1.6 trillion was laundered, mostly in Western banks, in 2009, one fifth coming directly from the drug trade. The bulk of income from the cocaine trade was generated in North America ($35 billion), two-thirds of which were laundered in North American banks. The failure to prosecute bankers engaged in a critical link of the drug trade is not due to ‘lack of information’, nor is it due to the ‘laxness’ on the part of regulators and law enforcement.
The reason is that the banks are too big to prosecute and the bankers are too rich to jail. Effective law-enforcement would lead to the prosecution of all the leading banks and bankers, which would sharply reduce profits. Jailing the top bankers would close the ‘revolving door’, the golden portal through which government regulators secure their own wealth and fortune by joining private investment houses after leaving ‘public’ service.
The assets of the ten biggest banks in the US form a sizeable share of the US economy. The boards of directors of the biggest banks inter-lock with all major corporate sectors. The top and middle financial officials and their counterparts in the corporate sector, as well as their principle stockholders and bondholders, are among the country’s biggest tax evaders.
While the Security and Exchange Commission, the Treasury Department and the Senate Banking Committee all make a public pretense of investigating high financial crimes, their real function is to protect these institutions from any efforts to transform their structure, operations and role in the US economy. The fines, which were recently levied, are high by previous standards but still only amount to, at most, a couple of weeks’ profits.
The lack of ‘judicial will’, the breakdown of the entire regulatory system and the flaunting of financial power is manifested in the ‘golden parachutes’ routinely awarded to criminal CEOs following their exposure and ‘resignation’. This is due to the enormous political power the financial elite exercise over the state, judiciary and the economy.
Political Power and the Demise of ‘Law and Order’
With regard to financial crimes, the doctrine guiding state policy is ‘too rich for jail, too big to fail’ , which translates into multi-trillion dollar treasury bailouts of bankrupt kleptocratic financial institutions and a high level of state tolerance for billionaire tax-evaders, swindlers and money launderers. Because of the total breakdown of law enforcement toward financial crimes, there are high levels of repeat offenders in what one British financial official describes as ‘cynical (and cyclical) greed’.
The current ‘banner’ under which the financial elite have seized total control over the state, the budget and the economy has been ‘change’. This refers to the deregulation of the financial system, the massive expansion of tax loopholes, the free flight of profits to overseas tax havens and the dramatic shift of ‘law enforcement’ from prosecuting the banks laundering the illicit earnings of drug and criminal cartels to pursuing so-called ‘terrorist states’.
The ‘State Of Law’ Has Become A Lawless State.
Financial ‘changes’ have permitted and even promoted repeated swindles, which have defrauded millions and impoverished hundreds of millions. There are 20 million mortgage holders who have lost their homes or have been unable to maintain payments; tens of millions of middle class and working class taxpayers who were forced to pay higher taxes and lose vital social services because of upper class and corporate tax evasion.
The laundering of billions of dollars in drug cartel and criminal wealth by the biggest banks has led to the deterioration of neighborhoods and rising crime, which has destabilized middle and working class family life.
The ascendancy of a criminal financial elite and its complicit, accommodating state has led to the breakdown of law and order, the degradation and discrediting of the entire regulatory network and judicial system. This has led to a national system of ‘unequal injustice’ where critical citizens are prosecuted for exercising their constitutional rights while criminal elites operate with impunity. The harshest enforcement of police state fiats are applied against hundreds of thousands of immigrants, Muslims and human rights activists, while financial swindlers are courted at Presidential campaign fund raisers.
It is not surprising today that many workers and middle class citizens consider themselves to be ‘conservative’ and ‘against change’. Indeed, the majority wants to ‘conserve’ Social Security, pubic education, pensions, job stability, and federal medical plans, such as MEDICARE and MEDICAID against ‘radical’ elite advocates of ‘change’ who want to privatize Social Security and education, end MEDICARE, and slash MEDICAID.
Workers and the middle class demand stability of jobs and neighborhoods and stable prices against run-away inflation of medical care and education. Wage and salaried citizens support law and order, especially when it means the prosecution of billionaire tax evaders, criminal money-launderering bankers and swindlers, who, at most, pay a minor fine, issue an excuse or ‘apology’ and then proceed to repeat their swindles.
The radical ‘changes’ promoted by the elite, have devastated life for millions of Americans in every region, occupation and age group. They have destabilized family life by undermining job security while undermining neighborhoods by laundering drug profits. Above all they have totally perverted the entire system of justice where the ‘criminals are made respectable and the respectable treated as criminals’.
The first defense of the majority is to resist ‘elite change’ and to conserve the remnants of the welfare state. The goal of ‘conservative’ resistance will be to transform the entire corrupt legal system of ‘functional criminality’ into a system of ‘equality before the law’. That will require a fundamental shift in political power, at the local and regional level, from the bankers’ boardrooms to neighborhood and workplace councils, from compliant elite-appointed judges and regulators to real representatives elected by the majority groaning under our current system of injustice.
James Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York.
Will the “perfect” human be a dumbed down, regimented inhabitant of a cyber purgatory created by a small group of people? Will the children of tomorrow be smiling depressives of a technocratic dystopia?
On this day in 1945 the United States demonstrated that it was as morally bankrupt as the Nazi machine it had recently vanquished and the Soviet regime with which it was allied. Over Hiroshima, and three days later over Nagasaki, it exploded an atomic device that was the most efficient weapon of genocide in human history.
The blast killed tens of thousands of men, women and children. It was an act of mass annihilation that was strategically and militarily indefensible.
The Japanese had been on the verge of surrender. Hiroshima and Nagasaki had no military significance. It was a war crime for which no one was ever tried.
The explosions, which marked the culmination of three centuries of physics, signaled the ascendancy of the technician and scientist as our most potent agents of death.
"In World War II Auschwitz and Hiroshima showed that progress through technology has escalated man's destructive impulses into more precise and incredibly more devastating form," Bruno Bettelheim said. "The concentration camps with their gas chambers, the first atomic bomb ... confronted us with the stark reality of overwhelming death, not so much one's own—this each of us has to face sooner or later, and however uneasily, most of us manage not to be overpowered by our fear of it—but the unnecessary and untimely death of millions. ... Progress not only failed to preserve life but it deprived millions of their lives more effectively than had ever been possible before.
Whether we choose to recognize it or not, after the second World War Auschwitz and Hiroshima became monuments to the incredible devastation man and technology together bring about."
The atomic blasts, ignited in large part to send a message to the Soviet Union, were a reminder that science is morally neutral. Science and technology serve the ambitions of humankind. And few in the sciences look beyond the narrow tasks handed to them by corporations or government.
They employ their dark arts, often blind to the consequences, to cement into place systems of security and surveillance, as well as systems of environmental destruction, that will result in collective enslavement and mass extermination. As we veer toward environmental collapse we will have to pit ourselves against many of these experts, scientists and technicians whose loyalty is to institutions that profit from exploitation and death.
Scientists and technicians in the United States over the last five decades built 70,000 nuclear weapons at a cost of $5.5 trillion.
(The Soviet Union had a nuclear arsenal of similar capability.) By 1963, according to the Columbia University professor Seymour Melman, the United States could overkill the 140 principal cities in the Soviet Union more than 78 times.
Yet we went on manufacturing nuclear warheads. And those who publicly questioned the rationality of the massive nuclear buildup, such as J. Robert Oppenheimer, who at the government lab at Los Alamos, N.M., had overseen the building of the two bombs used on Japan, often were zealously persecuted on suspicion of being communists or communist sympathizers.
It was a war plan that called for a calculated act of enormous, criminal genocide. We built more and more bombs with the sole purpose of killing hundreds of millions of people. And those who built them, with few exceptions, never gave a thought to their suicidal creations.
"What are we to make of a civilization which has always regarded ethics as an essential part of human life [but] which has not been able to talk about the prospect of killing almost everyone except in prudential and game-theoretical terms?" Oppenheimer asked after World War II.
Max Born, the great German-British physicist and mathematician who was instrumental in the development of quantum mechanics, in his memoirs made it clear he disapproved of Oppenheimer and the other physicists who built the atomic bombs. "It is satisfying to have had such clever and efficient pupils," Born wrote, "but I wish they had shown less cleverness and more wisdom." Oppenheimer wrote his old teacher back. "Over the years, I have felt a certain disapproval on your part for much that I have done. This has always seemed to me quite natural, for it is a sentiment that I share." But of course, by then, it was too late.
It was science, industry and technology that made possible the 20th century's industrial killing. These forces magnified innate human barbarity. They served the immoral. And there are numerous scientists who continue to work in labs across the country on weapons systems that have the capacity to exterminate millions of human beings. Is this a "rational" enterprise? Is it moral? Does it advance the human species? Does it protect life?
For many of us, science has supplanted religion. We harbor a naive faith in the godlike power of science. Since scientific knowledge is cumulative, albeit morally neutral, it gives the illusion that human history and human progress also are cumulative.
Science is for us what totems and spells were for our premodern ancestors. It is magical thinking. It feeds our hubris and sense of divine empowerment. And trusting in its fearsome power will mean our extinction.
The 17th century Enlightenment myth of human advancement through science, reason and rationality should have been obliterated forever by the slaughter of World War I. Europeans watched the collective suicide of a generation.
The darker visions of human nature embodied in the works of Fyodor Dostoevsky, Leo Tolstoy, Thomas Hardy, Joseph Conrad and Frederick Nietzsche before the war found modern expression in the work of Sigmund Freud, James Joyce, Marcel Proust, Franz Kafka, D.H. Lawrence, Thomas Mann and Samuel Beckett, along with atonal and dissonant composers such as Igor Stravinsky and painters such as Otto Dix, George Grosz, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso.
Human progress, these artists and writers understood, was a joke.
But there were many more who enthusiastically embraced new utopian visions of progress and glory peddled by fascists and communists.
These belief systems defied reality.
They fetishized death. They sought unattainable utopias through violence. And empowered by science and technology, they killed millions.
Human motives often are irrational and, as Freud pointed out, contain powerful yearnings for death and self-immolation. Science and technology have empowered and amplified the ancient lusts for war, violence and death. Knowledge did not free humankind from barbarism. The civilized veneer only masked the dark, inchoate longings that plague all human societies, including our own.
Freud feared the destructive power of these urges. He warned in "Civilization and Its Discontents" that if we could not regulate or contain these urges, human beings would, as the Stoics predicted, consume themselves in a vast conflagration. The future of the human race depends on naming and controlling these urges. To pretend they do not exist is to fall into self-delusion.
The breakdown of social and political control during periods of political and economic turmoil allows these urges to reign supreme. Our first inclination, Freud noted correctly, is not to love one another as brothers or sisters but to "satisfy [our] aggressiveness on [our fellow human being], to exploit his capacity for work without compensation, to use him sexually without his consent, to seize his possessions, to humiliate him, to cause him pain, to torture and to kill him." The war in Bosnia, with rampaging Serbian militias, rape camps, torture centers, concentration camps, razed villages and mass executions, was one of numerous examples of Freud's wisdom.
At best, Freud knew, we can learn to live with, regulate and control our inner tensions and conflicts. The structure of civilized societies would always be fraught with this inner tension, he wrote, because "... man's natural aggressive instinct, the hostility of each against all and of all against each, opposes this program of civilization." The burden of civilization is worth it. The alternative, as Freud knew, is self-destruction.
A rational world, a world that will protect the ecosystem and build economies that learn to distribute wealth rather than allow a rapacious elite to hoard it, will never be handed to us by the scientists and technicians. Nearly all of them work for the enemy.
Mary Shelley warned us about becoming Prometheus as we seek to defy fate and the gods in order to master life and death. Her Victor Frankenstein, when his 8-foot-tall creation made partly of body pieces from graves came to ghastly life, had the same reaction as Oppenheimer when the American scientist discovered that his bomb had incinerated Japanese schoolchildren.
The scientist Victor Frankenstein watched the "dull yellow eye" of his creature open and "breathless horror and disgust" filled his heart." Oppenheimer said after the first atomic bomb was detonated in the New Mexican desert: "I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita.
Vishnu is trying to persuade the Prince that he should do his duty and to impress him takes on his multi-armed form and says, 'Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.'
I suppose we all thought that, in one way or another." The critic Harold Bloom, in words that could be applied to Oppenheimer, called Victor Frankenstein "a moral idiot."
All attempts to control the universe, to play God, to become the arbiters of life and death, have been carried out by moral idiots.
They will relentlessly push forward, exploiting and pillaging, perfecting their terrible tools of technology and science, until their creation destroys them and us.
They make the nuclear bombs. They extract oil from the tar sands.
They turn the Appalachians into a wasteland to extract coal.
They serve the evils of globalism and finance.
They run the fossil fuel industry.
They flood the atmosphere with carbon emissions, doom the seas, melt the polar ice caps, unleash the droughts and floods, the heat waves, the freak storms and hurricanes.
NOW I AM BECOME DEATH, THE DESTROYER OF WORLDS.