The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

October 30, 2011

”I spent 33 years….being a high-class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street, and the bankers.  I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912.  I helped make Mexico and especially Tampico safe for American oil interests in 1916.  I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City (Bank) boys to collect revenue in.  I helped in the rape of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefit of Wall Street….  In China in 1927 I helped see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.”

Marine Major General Smedley Butler

August 21, 1931 to an American Legion convention

The more things change the more they stay the same.  America has a long and illustrious history of imperialistic feats as was so eloquently portrayed by Smedley Butler in 1931.  The recent intervention of NATO led by the United States in the Libyan civil war is just the latest example of U.S./Western imperialism.

It all started with a massive deception.  Security Council Resolution 1973 was limited in scope and simply called for the imposition of a “No Fly Zone” over Libya to protect threatened civilians from tyrant Muammar Qaddafi’s wrath.  The intent was clear and mostly responsible for its passage through the Security Council as members Russia, China, India, Brazil, and Germany voted to abstain instead of against the resolution.

However, from the very beginning NATO’s intent to liberate Libya not just protect its citizens became clear.  NATO bombings went beyond aircraft, anti-aircraft batteries and the like to troop formations, oil installations, and other infrastructure.  Even though Obama said there would be no need for “boots on the ground”, reports broke that American Special Forces had been on the ground prior to the beginning of the social unrest?

Why the special interest in Libya?

There is no doubt it has nothing to do with the well-being of the Libyan people.  It is all about Libya’s oil reserves.  In 2004, after Qaddafi ended his quest for weapons of mass destruction, President George W. Bush lifted sanctions against Libya.  Since then American companies have invested heavily in Libya.  For instance, energy giants ConocoPhillips and Marathon have each invested about $700 million.

Perhaps not understanding how the system of Western corporatism functions, Qaddafi over time began demanding tougher contract terms, big bonuses up front, and most remarkably he demanded that global oil companies operating in Libya pay the $1.5 billion bill for Libya’s role in the attack on Pan Am Flight 103 and other terrorist attacks or face “serious consequences” for their oil leases.  Possibly the last straw for Western imperialists was Qaddafi’s plan to unite African and Arab states under a new currency to rival the dollar and Euro.  Under the proposal, oil and other resources would be sold only for gold dinars.  The economic implications for the West would be immense.

So when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in Tripoli last week shortly after Qaddafi’s slaying in the streets of Misrata, it was difficult for her to hold back her glee at another conquest for Western corporate interests.  Even before Qaddafi’s death on October 20, representatives from 80 French firms arrived in Tripoli to meet officials of the Transitional National Council.  And in the meantime, British defense minister, Philip Hammond strongly advised British companies to “pack their Suitcases’ for Libya.

If you look up ‘western companies returning to Libya” on Google News there are a slew of articles about American and European security, construction, infrastructure, and oil companies being ready, willing, and able to “carve-up” the spoils of war there.  Funny how those same corporations didn’t spend the billions of dollars it took to “liberate” Libya.  Of course, that was done by the taxpayers in NATO countries.

And so the more things change the more they stay the same.  In Smedley Butler’s day, the admissions in his speech rocked the country to its core.  Perhaps someday in the future another courageous American commander from the Libyan war will make a similar speech acknowledging his complicity in Western imperialism in that country.  But with the internet and the growth of the alternative media that speech is unnecessary.  Anybody has the ability to find the truth on their own.

Article first published as The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same on Blogcritics.


The Gold Standard would Prevent Economic Bubbles

October 25, 2011

By just about every measure the U.S. economy continues to be mired in a depression.  Unemployment remains high.  Housing prices are still falling. Retail sales are lackluster.  Since Barack Obama became president in 2009 the national debt has ballooned by about $4 trillion with very little to show for it – unless you consider the rebound and hearty growth of the stock market.

Yes, while Main Street continues to struggle to make ends meet, Wall Street is prospering.  After losing more than half of its value due to the financial crisis of 2008, the Dow Jones Industrial Average has bounced back brilliantly recapturing more than 75 percent of its value lost.  The numbers are enough to make even a casual observer of the markets sit up and take notice.  The big question is why the disconnect between a significantly rising stock market on the one hand and a depressed economy on the other?

When the Dow was making its precipitous decline in November 2008 Ben Bernanke and his Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) announced Quantitative Easing 1 (QE1).  From November 25, 2008 to March 31, 2010 the Federal Reserve Bank pumped about $1.5 trillion into the economy by purchasing treasury bonds from its primary dealers (banks such as Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan).  After bottoming out at 6626 in March 2009, the Dow went up a remarkable 65 percent to 10927 by the end of March 2010.

After QE1 ended, the markets began to drop once again.   In August 2010 Bernanke formally announced that QE2 would start in November.  On August 27, 2010 the Dow closed at 10150. When QE2 concluded at the end of June 2011 after close to $700 billion more was pumped into the economy through treasury purchases the Dow closed at 12582 – a 24 percent increase.

When QE2 ended the Dow experienced a 15 percent drop in value.  But In the last two weeks with no fan fair, the Fed has purchased $39.9 billion of treasuries from banks in the same fashion it did during QE1 and QE2.  Needless to say, stocks made an about face and have rebounded higher by about 9 percent.

So what does all this tell us?  It tells us that the boom and bust theory of the Austrian School of Economics is vindicated.  That is to say that monetary policy conducted by the Federal Reserve (low interest rates, monetizing federal debt, and asset purchases) causes artificial booms (bubbles) in the economy.  There is no economic reason for the stock market to be up in the current economy except for the aforementioned correlation between Fed asset purchases and rising stock prices.  It is clear over the long haul that the current stock market cannot maintain its price level without the Fed propping it up. Similar to the and housing bubbles before it, when the Fed pulls support from the current stock market bubble it begins to burst.  It is only a matter of time before a permanent bursting of the bubble happens.

There is only one way to prevent the Fed from inflating the dollar to benefit its member banks and therefore wreak havoc on the rest of us.  There is only one way to prevent the Fed from inflating the dollar thereby causing financial bubbles which have contributed greatly to the widening gap between rich and poor.  A gold backed dollar would restrict the Fed’s ability to manipulate the currency.  It would protect savings and purchasing power.  And in the above case it would have prevented the current stock market bubble which when it bursts will devastate millions of Americans who will then realize how phony their financial health actually was.

The Regime Should be Questioned More than Ever

October 16, 2011

The drumbeats for war with Iran are pounding fast and furious in Washington.  The Obama Administration claims that it foiled a plot financed and directed by the Iranians to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. on American soil.  According to Attorney General Eric Holder, the Iranians acting through an Iranian-American intermediary were in the process of hiring a Mexican drug cartel to make the hit when DEA agents intervened to save the day.  Obama and Holder are accusing the Quds Force, a special unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, of orchestrating the whole plot.  Those that desire war with Iran are using the allegation as a pretext for military engagement with the Islamic Republic.  For his part, Obama claims that all options are on the table for the U.S. to deal with the most recent “dangerous and reckless” behavior of the Iranian government.

But Iran specialists who have followed the operations of the Quds Force for many years say the plot just doesn’t make any sense.  They question what Iran would have to gain from assassinating the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. on American soil.  At a time when Iran has been focused on evading further sanctions against it by hiding its nuclear program and building relationships with non-Western allies why would it risk all that for bumping off the Saudi diplomat?  Why would it draw attention to itself through an act that has no conceivable benefit?

Additionally, experts say that the Quds Force is a sophisticated special operations unit.  They doubt it would utilize the likes of a former used car salesman, Mansour Arbabsiar, the Iranian-American intermediary implicated in the plot, and a Mexican drug gang infiltrated with both Mexican and U.S. intelligence carry out this sensitive operation in the U.S.  The whole scenario is beneath their modus operandi.

But, Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton press on with their story.  Secretary Clinton stated that the plot is “”a flagrant violation of international and U.S. law and a dangerous escalation of the Iranian government’s long-standing use of political violence and sponsorship of terrorism.”  The hypocrisy should not be lost on anybody who even remotely follows international news.  The Iranian regime is certainly a rogue cabal of henchmen and butchers, but the United States government is also engaged in “flagrant violations of international and U.S. law”.  What about “Fast and Furious,” the ATF’s operation which allowed Mexican drug lords to illegally purchase guns in the U.S. to be used in Mexico so the agency could “track” the weapons and facilitate arrests?

And there are far more serious violations of international law committed by the U.S. government.  Currently we have secret commandos (special hit teams) on the ground in more than 70 countries and that number is expected to rise to 120.  And let’s not forget about our undeclared drone war in Pakistan which has killed hundreds if not thousands of non-combatants.

At the end of the day, we live in very dangerous times.  Many in and out of our government will always need an enemy to demonize.  With the economy headed for an even bigger collapse than the 2008 financial crisis, scapegoats and distractions will be needed to deflect the blame from those that deserve it.  When all else fails failed regimes turn to war to rally the masses.  Americans need to question the veracity of our leaders even more and understand that in many cases what we allege of others we also are guilty of and therefore contribute to an unsafe world.  The last thing we need is war with Iran.  If Americans become more vigilant they can silence those drumbeats.

Why was al-Awlaki Denied His Constitutional Rights as an American Citizen?

October 9, 2011

On November 25, 2001, American citizen turned Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh was captured on the battlefield in Afghanistan by Afghan Northern alliance forces.  Eleven months later after confessing to fighting with the Taliban against the U.S. and its ally in Afghanistan he was sentenced to 20 years in prison without parole.  On September 30, in Yemen, American citizen and alleged terrorist organizer Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by two Predator drones firing hellfire missiles.  Two Americans treated in two totally different ways.  What could account for the difference in treatment?

Perhaps it’s racism?  John Walker Lindh was a white man from California.  On the other hand, Anwar al-Awlaki was a person of color and worse yet of Arab descent.  Now, if I were a so-called progressive this explanation would fit right in with my world view that whenever anybody who lacks even a drop of Caucasian blood is treated differently than their white counterparts racism is to blame.  But I am not a progressive and therefore have an open mind about why the two men were treated differently.  There are many potential reasons why the two men were treated differently and I don’t believe racism was one of them.

Let’s not forget what happened when Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Administration intended to try Gitmo detainees in federal court in New York City.  There was outrage from the families of 911 victims and Americans in general.  Going into an election year with his approval rating at rock bottom anyway, Obama could ill afford to be in a position where he had to decide the fate of an American in custody accused of terrorism.  Would he grant al-Awlaki his constitutional protections as an American citizen and try him in a federal court or would he throw the Constitution out the window and try him as an enemy combatant in a military tribunal? He certainly would have alienated a portion of voters with either decision.  Maybe Obama decided that Americans have short memories and it would be politically expedient to murder al-Awlaki now more than a year before Americans cast their votes to give them time to forget?

A third explanation for the difference in treatment of Lindh and al-Awlaki could be that our leaders have just become more fascistic over time.  Way before al-Awlaki was murdered, the administration proclaimed its right to murder Americans “suspected” of plotting terror attacks against Americans.  Under this edict, John Hinckley, Jr. Tim McVeigh, and Jared Loughner would simply have been killed after committing their heinous acts.  But instead, the first two were afforded a fair trial and the third is awaiting his date with justice.  What if al-Awlaki was insane like Hinckley?  Because of Obama’s kill order we will never know.

And if anyone thinks congressional leaders or the top two Republican candidates for president were going to speak out against Obama’s homicide you had another thing coming.   Republican frontrunner for the presidential nomination Mitt Romney was quoted as saying, “The killing of Anwar al-Awlaki is a major victory in our fight against Islamist terrorism and proper justice for the numerous attacks and plots he inspired or planned against America”.  Romney went on to commend Obama for his “continued efforts to keep Americans safe”.  Not to be outdone by Romney, Republican presidential candidate, Texas governor Rick Perry called al-Awlaki’s demise “an important victory in the war on terror.  Perry also congratulated Obama for “sticking with the government’s longstanding and aggressive anti-terror policies – for getting another key international terrorist.”

Neither candidate expressed any concern whatsoever about Obama’s total disregard for the rule of law and the rights of an American citizen.  It is not like al-Awlaki was killed on the battlefield.  The hit took place in a desolate part of northern Yemen.  He was riding in a vehicle and had been tracked by intelligence sources.  The U.S. military knew exactly where he was and could have dropped commandos in to capture him like Seal Team 6 allegedly did with Osama bin Laden.

Killing al-Awlaki without regard for his constitutional rights as an American citizen is a threat to every American’s protection against tyrannical government.  In fact, more killings may be coming soon.  Reuters has reported that the White House has created a secret panel in charge of building a kill or capture list of suspected militant Americans.  The panel was established under the authority of no law and without any requirements to keep public records of its decisions or operations.  Reminiscent of what Nazi Germany did to its own citizens, Obama has fully assumed the power to unilaterally assassinate Americans he suspects are a threat to America.  Thus, the explanation for the difference in treatment between Lindh and al-Awlaki:  our leaders have become more fascistic.

Article first published as Why Was al-Awlaki Denied His Constitutional Rights as an American Citizen? on Blogcritics.

Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina