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.

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Evaluating Obama’s Record After More Than Two Years as President

April 26, 2011

Recently, President Obama kicked off his 2012 reelection campaign.  Looking past all the political jabbering of the talking heads and pundits, the most astounding prediction of all about the next race for the White House is that Obama is expected to raise $1 billion for his campaign efforts.  Given the president’s failure to fulfill his previous campaign’s promises of hope and change, a great question to ask is, who is going to donate that large amount of money to his campaign coffers?

I mean the guy has an absolutely abysmal economic record as president.  Adhering to a dogmatic Keynesian policy, in just two years he has increased the national debt by 50 percent with nothing good to show for it.  Unemployment, counting the underemployed and discouraged workers, was about 19 percent when Obama took office.  Currently that number is at about 22 percent.  After more than two years in office, Obama’s economic policies have given no hope to millions of unemployed Americans.

Of course, all of the spending and inflating of the money supply under Obama is beginning to have a huge negative effect on the economy.  Anyone who has grocery shopped or purchased gasoline lately has certainly noticed higher prices.  Now, many would blame Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke and his ridiculous easy money policy for current rising prices.  They are correct.  But, let’s not forget that Obama nominated Bernanke for a second term as chairman in 2009.  The president had the opportunity to do the right thing and nominate an individual that could have brought sanity back to our monetary policy.  But then again, Obama and his cohorts in Congress need Bernanke to monetize their lavish spending programs to ensure their reelections.

In fact, Obama won’t recognize his or the Fed’s culpability in bringing about inflation.  Instead he is resorting to the famous political technique of scapegoating.  According to Obama, speculators are potentially to blame for high gas prices and thus rising prices in general.  His Justice Department is going to investigate whether speculators are driving up the price of oil and therefore harming consumers.

Well, of course speculators are driving up the price of oil because they know more about how economics work than anybody in the Obama Administration.  They know that with the trillions of new dollars the Fed has pumped into the economy since 2007 oil prices which are priced in dollars are going to go up, probably way up.  They would not be bidding up the price of oil today if they believed that in the future they will not be able to find a buyer for their oil futures.   They are not causing harm to consumers.  Fed policy under Bernanke is the culprit, but the president seems clueless about this fact.  As general prices continue to rise because of Obama’s Keynesian policies, Americans will continue to lose hope that their lives are getting better.

Obama’s foreign policy is as abysmal as his economic policies.  During the 2008 campaign he promised “change that we can believe in”.  If by “change” Obama meant even more war than George Bush provided than he has fulfilled that campaign promise.  Since taking office Obama has not ended the U.S. occupation of Iraq.  He has increased troop levels in Afghanistan by about 30,000.  He has increased unmanned drone attacks over Pakistan killing innocent civilians and providing a recruitment tool for Al Qaeda.  He led the NATO invasion of Libya, which was supposed to be a “humanitarian” effort, but has quickly turned into a regime change operation.  Obama claimed he would not put boots on the ground in Libya and then it was reported that U.S. special operations forces had been on the ground in Benghazi for three weeks training the rebels.  Now, fighting between Qaddafi forces and the rebels is in stalemate and many analysts believe it will take a NATO invasion with ground troops to dislodge Qaddafi from power in Tripoli.  The president has put himself in a tough spot.  If his previous war-like tendencies are any indication, we can expect U.S./NATO troops to be fighting pro-Qaddafi forces in Libya soon.

Barack Obama’s first two years as president has been a catastrophe.  Unemployment and prices are up and we face a national calamity because of burgeoning debt at the state and federal levels.  He has increased not diminished our exposure to war by ramping up military attacks over Pakistan and leading the effort to overthrow Qaddafi in Libya.  These conflicts will only waste more money we don’t have and make us less safe.  Again, it should be asked, if Obama hopes to collect $1 billion in campaign contributions, where will it come from?  My best guess is Wall Street and the Military Industrial Complex.

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


Dangers are Inherent in the War with Qaddafi

March 21, 2011

To be sure Muammar Qaddafi is a devil incarnate.  For 41 years he has ruled Libya with an iron fist.  He has repeatedly participated in terroristic endeavors, even against his own people.  As recently as two weeks ago it looked like he was a goner as rebels had taken hold of much of Libya knocking at Qaddafi’s door in the capital, Tripoli.  Then, being the survivor that he is, Qaddafi rose from the dead as his mostly foreign mercenary forces fought back retaking much of the country and driving toward the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.  Apparently, his warning that he would show “no mercy” to the people opposing him in Benghazi was the last straw for the United Nations.  This remark pressured that body into passing a resolution calling for the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Qaddafi from carrying out his threat.

On the surface, who could argue with stopping a madman from butchering potentially tens of thousands of people?   But under the surface, the U.N. resolution and the Obama administration’s adherence to it is dangerous for the United States.

In the first place, unless America is under imminent danger, the president has no authority to launch a military attack against another sovereign nation.  Obama is not an emperor endowed with unlimited power to pursue military adventures wherever.  He is a president operating in a system of checks and balances, restrained by a written constitution.  Since the end of World War II American presidents have generally ignored the rule of law when it comes to conducting military campaigns and this has produced a state of almost constant war at huge costs to the nation in terms of human life, reputation, and financial resources.  These latest actions by Obama are no different and will almost certainly lead to all of the aforementioned costs.

Another danger for the U.S. is that this mission is more than just the imposition of a no-fly zone over Libya.  This is a full-fledged combat mission.  We are not just destroying anti-aircraft batteries and Libyan aircraft capable of bombing civilians.  We are fully engaged in targeting tanks and killing Qaddafi’s fighters on the ground.  With that comes the loss of civilian lives.  As a matter of fact, Arab League chief Amr Moussa, who originally called for the U.N. to impose a no-fly zone, has become critical of the military actions taken in Libya so far.  Speaking on Egypt’s official state news agency, he said, “What is happening in Libya differs from the aim of imposing a no-fly zone, and what we want is the protection of civilians and not the bombardment of more civilians.”  Thus, once again the U.S. is being portrayed in the Arab world as invaders and killers of Arab civilians.  This is certainly not the image we want to maintain in light of the fact that Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups will be more than willing to use this portrayal for recruiting purposes.

Lastly, the president’s decision to commence combat operations in Libya without congressional debate/authority is dangerous because an exit strategy has not been developed.  According to U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, how coalition forces extricate themselves from Libya is “very uncertain” and the whole affair could end in a stalemate with Qaddafi.  If the latter were to happen would we end up staying in Libya indefinitely protecting the Libyans against the brutal dictator?  Are we headed for another quagmire?

At the end of the day it seems like a no-brainer that a coalition sanctioned by the U.N. should step in and prevent the Libyan Madman from perpetuating further atrocities against his own people.  But, why is it that the U.S. must once again lead that effort?  Aren’t we already overextended in Iraq and Afghanistan?  How much war can our collective soul take?  Finally, are the dangers inherent in this operation really worth it?  Given the rotten condition of our economy, our fear of future terrorist attacks, and the broken institution which is our federal government, the answer would have to be an emphatic no.

Article first published as Dangers are Inherent in the War with Qaddafi on Blogcritics.