Subject: ON WOULD-BE PUPPET MASTERS AND CONVINCED MISANTHROPES IN A VIRTUAL WORLD OF OPPORTUNITIES.
16 December 2010
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
You've probably heard the joke about the scientist walking home after a long day working at the laboratory. He looked down and saw a small frog in the grass. He bent over and picked it up and inspected it carefully. "Kiss me," it said, "I'll turn into a Princes." The scientist put the frog in his coat pocket and went on. After a few minutes, he took it out of his pocket and looked at it again. "Kiss me," it repeated, "I told you I'll turn into a Princes." "Ah," replied the scientist, "princesses, you can find them anywhere; but a talking frog !!!"
Knowing the molar forces that have captured you is not only a mark of intelligence; it is a condition of survival. Like the frog, we have a fairly clear idea of what we need in order to live a better life . . . , but there are preconditions for achieving this. The "problem" does not stem from a misunderstanding; there are, in fact, actual conflicts of interest involved (however short-term you may believe your opponent's interest to be) and speaking truth to power has limited effect.
Meanwhile, in the news :
The day-long Filibuster on 10 December by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders was an eloquent statement, "speaking truth to power" with the predictable results: Obama's bill for tax-cuts for the super rich and tax-increases for the very poor move forward toward becoming a new law.
The unexpected death of US diplomat, Richard Holbrooke, yesterday (13 December) was the disappearance of a major player in the dismantling of Yugoslavia (1995) and an actor in the strategy of encouraging civil war and eventually sending in Nato to decide the outcome of this war. Human Rights lawyer and Peace Activist Dan Kovalik writes about the deadly cost of US militarism in "The Deafening Silence about the War in the Deficit Debate."
Wikileaks founder Julien Assange is still in custody in London, awaiting possible extradition to Sweden where he is charged with the curious misdemeanor of having consentual sex with adult females, one of whom worked closely with the CIA. This bizarre distraction, however, fails to attract millions of readers away from international news. See Wikileaks at http://126.96.36.199/cablegate.html or Julien Assange at http://wikileaks.ch/.
Speaking truth to ordinary people, David Swanson's book War is a Lie recalls the experience of most of us living in the late capitalist period of perpetual war and recession, high unemployment and increasing homelessness --with its massive effect on health, life expectancy, education, and other concerns for human well-being. War is hell ! but the owners of capital find war profitable; which side are you on? is one of the questions raised in Swanson's latest book.
Speaking truth to whom? and to what effect? . . . either way, it requires paying attention to contemporary events and making rational evaluations of information as it arrives. The very capacity of the human attention span and the rational capacity of our species under attack is the subject of Michael Albert's much discussed piece on ZNet, "Facebook vs. Civilization" (1 December) which was followed up by his commentary, "Internet Worries" (13 December).
Any significant quest for Truth requires a search for reliable sources, knowing full well that sources are "reliable" only in so far as they express an authentic viewpoint (as opposed to "black propaganda" and "false flag operations" which are intentionally misleading). One attempt at getting at the Truth is what Alexander Cockburn has described as the ultimate value of the publication of the US Embassy Cables: "listening to the ruling class talking amongst itself."
Other sources for seekers of Truth must include the writings of American Grand Strategist Zbigniew Brzezinski, author of The Grand Chessboard (see also http://www.wanttoknow.info/brzezinskigrandchessboard), as well as . . .
William Kristol & Co.'s writings, which include Rebuilding America's Defenses at http://www.newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf, and Project for the New American Century (PNAC) at
And last but not least, the macro economic writings of Carnegie-Mellon University Professor James Crotty (http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=33&Itemid=74&jumival=641) offers useful background for appreciating contemporary capitalist strategies againt ordinary people today.
The 11 items below will certainly be more comprehensible if CEIMSA readers check out the above mentioned reports which provide a riche description of context necessary for understanding what is happening in the United States of America, and what it not . . . .
Item A. is an article by University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor of history by Alfred W. McCoy on "how will it end, the American Empire?"
Item B. is the Real News Network interview with David Swanson discussing "The New American Century" project which calls for the assertion of American military might around the globe.
Item C., from Ed Herman, is a little-known history of Alan Simpson (Obama's choice to head the Entitlements commission) and Saddam Hussein in 1990.
Item D. is an article from the New York Times, in which Frank Rich discusses "Obama and 'Understanding the Stockholm Syndrome'."
Item E., sent to us by Byron Morton, is US Sen. Bernie Sanders' exposé of "a real jaw dropper" at the Federal Reserve.
Item F. is a copy of Daniel Ellsberg's "goodbye letter to Amazon.com."
Item G., from Historians Against War, is a list of articles pertaining to Wikileaks and the question of freedom of the press.
Item H. is the December 3 edition of William Blum's Anti-Empire Report.
Item I., from Council for the National Interest, is a current update on US aid to Israel.
Item J., from Rabbi Michael Lerner, the editor of the humanist journal Tikkun, is a copy of his influential article that was recently published Washington Post describing an American political paradox: Save Obama's presidency by opposing him.
Item K. is an article by Glenn Greenwald on the inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning's detention at a prison in Virginia.
And finally, we invite CEIMSA readers to watch the Rap Newz, to discover more and more coming out of American civilization.
A soft landing for America 40 years from now? Don’t bet on it. The demise of the United States as the global superpower could come far more quickly than anyone imagines. If Washington is dreaming of 2040 or 2050 as the end of the American Century, a more realistic assessment of domestic and global trends suggests that in 2025, just 15 years from now, it could all be over except for the shouting.
Despite the aura of omnipotence most empires project, a look at their history should remind us that they are fragile organisms. So delicate is their ecology of power that, when things start to go truly bad, empires regularly unravel with unholy speed: just a year for Portugal, two years for the Soviet Union, eight years for France, 11 years for the Ottomans, 17 years for Great Britain, and, in all likelihood, 22 years for the United States, counting from the crucial year 2003.
Future historians are likely to identify the Bush administration’s rash invasion of Iraq in that year as the start of America's downfall. However, instead of the bloodshed that marked the end of so many past empires, with cities burning and civilians slaughtered, this twenty-first century imperial collapse could come relatively quietly through the invisible tendrils of economic collapse or cyberwarfare.
But have no doubt: when Washington's global dominion finally ends, there will be painful daily reminders of what such a loss of power means for Americans in every walk of life. As a half-dozen European nations have discovered, imperial decline tends to have a remarkably demoralizing impact on a society, regularly bringing at least a generation of economic privation. As the economy cools, political temperatures rise, often sparking serious domestic unrest.
Available economic, educational, and military data indicate that, when it comes to U.S. global power, negative trends will aggregate rapidly by 2020 and are likely to reach a critical mass no later than 2030. The American Century, proclaimed so triumphantly at the start of World War II, will be tattered and fading by 2025, its eighth decade, and could be history by 2030.
Significantly, in 2008, the U.S. National Intelligence Council admitted for the first time that America's global power was indeed on a declining trajectory. In one of its periodic futuristic reports, Global Trends 2025, the Council cited “the transfer of global wealth and economic power now under way, roughly from West to East" and "without precedent in modern history,” as the primary factor in the decline of the “United States' relative strength -- even in the military realm.” Like many in Washington, however, the Council’s analysts anticipated a very long, very soft landing for American global preeminence, and harbored the hope that somehow the U.S. would long “retain unique military capabilities… to project military power globally” for decades to come.
No such luck. Under current projections, the United States will find itself in second place behind China (already the world's second largest economy) in economic output around 2026, and behind India by 2050. Similarly, Chinese innovation is on a trajectory toward world leadership in applied science and military technology sometime between 2020 and 2030, just as America's current supply of brilliant scientists and engineers retires, without adequate replacement by an ill-educated younger generation.
By 2020, according to current plans, the Pentagon will throw a military Hail Mary pass for a dying empire. It will launch a lethal triple canopy of advanced aerospace robotics that represents Washington's last best hope of retaining global power despite its waning economic influence. By that year, however, China's global network of communications satellites, backed by the world's most powerful supercomputers, will also be fully operational, providing Beijing with an independent platform for the weaponization of space and a powerful communications system for missile- or cyber-strikes into every quadrant of the globe.
Wrapped in imperial hubris, like Whitehall or Quai d'Orsay before it, the White House still seems to imagine that American decline will be gradual, gentle, and partial. In his State of the Union address last January, President Obama offered the reassurance that “I do not accept second place for the United States of America.” A few days later, Vice President Biden ridiculed the very idea that “we are destined to fulfill [historian Paul] Kennedy's prophecy that we are going to be a great nation that has failed because we lost control of our economy and overextended.” Similarly, writing in the November issue of the establishment journal Foreign Affairs, neo-liberal foreign policy guru Joseph Nye waved away talk of China's economic and military rise, dismissing “misleading metaphors of organic decline” and denying that any deterioration in U.S. global power was underway.
Ordinary Americans, watching their jobs head overseas, have a more realistic view than their cosseted leaders. An opinion poll in August 2010 found that 65% of Americans believed the country was now “in a state of decline.” Already, Australia and Turkey, traditional U.S. military allies, are using their American-manufactured weapons for joint air and naval maneuvers with China. Already, America's closest economic partners are backing away from Washington's opposition to China's rigged currency rates. As the president flew back from his Asian tour last month, a gloomy New York Times headline summed the moment up this way: “Obama's Economic View Is Rejected on World Stage, China, Britain and Germany Challenge U.S., Trade Talks With Seoul Fail, Too.”
Viewed historically, the question is not whether the United States will lose its unchallenged global power, but just how precipitous and wrenching the decline will be. In place of Washington's wishful thinking, let’s use the National Intelligence Council's own futuristic methodology to suggest four realistic scenarios for how, whether with a bang or a whimper, U.S. global power could reach its end in the 2020s (along with four accompanying assessments of just where we are today). The future scenarios include: economic decline, oil shock, military misadventure, and World War III. While these are hardly the only possibilities when it comes to American decline or even collapse, they offer a window into an onrushing future.
Economic Decline: Present Situation
Today, three main threats exist to America’s dominant position in the global economy: loss of economic clout thanks to a shrinking share of world trade, the decline of American technological innovation, and the end of the dollar's privileged status as the global reserve currency.
By 2008, the United States had already fallen to number three in global merchandise exports, with just 11% of them compared to 12% for China and 16% for the European Union. There is no reason to believe that this trend will reverse itself.
Similarly, American leadership in technological innovation is on the wane. In 2008, the U.S. was still number two behind Japan in worldwide patent applications with 232,000, but China was closing fast at 195,000, thanks to a blistering 400% increase since 2000. A harbinger of further decline: in 2009 the U.S. hit rock bottom in ranking among the 40 nations surveyed by the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation when it came to “change” in “global innovation-based competitiveness” during the previous decade. Adding substance to these statistics, in October China's Defense Ministry unveiled the world's fastest supercomputer, the Tianhe-1A, so powerful, said one U.S. expert, that it “blows away the existing No. 1 machine” in America.
Add to this clear evidence that the U.S. education system, that source of future scientists and innovators, has been falling behind its competitors. After leading the world for decades in 25- to 34-year-olds with university degrees, the country sank to 12th place in 2010. The World Economic Forum ranked the United States at a mediocre 52nd among 139 nations in the quality of its university math and science instruction in 2010. Nearly half of all graduate students in the sciences in the U.S. are now foreigners, most of whom will be heading home, not staying here as once would have happened. By 2025, in other words, the United States is likely to face a critical shortage of talented scientists.
Such negative trends are encouraging increasingly sharp criticism of the dollar's role as the world’s reserve currency. “Other countries are no longer willing to buy into the idea that the U.S. knows best on economic policy,” observed Kenneth S. Rogoff, a former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund. In mid-2009, with the world's central banks holding an astronomical $4 trillion in U.S. Treasury notes, Russian president Dimitri Medvedev insisted that it was time to end “the artificially maintained unipolar system” based on “one formerly strong reserve currency.”
Simultaneously, China's central bank governor suggested that the future might lie with a global reserve currency “disconnected from individual nations” (that is, the U.S. dollar). Take these as signposts of a world to come, and of a possible attempt, as economist Michael Hudson has argued, “to hasten the bankruptcy of the U.S. financial-military world order.”
Economic Decline: Scenario 2020
After years of swelling deficits fed by incessant warfare in distant lands, in 2020, as long expected, the U.S. dollar finally loses its special status as the world's reserve currency. Suddenly, the cost of imports soars. Unable to pay for swelling deficits by selling now-devalued Treasury notes abroad, Washington is finally forced to slash its bloated military budget. Under pressure at home and abroad, Washington slowly pulls U.S. forces back from hundreds of overseas bases to a continental perimeter. By now, however, it is far too late.
Faced with a fading superpower incapable of paying the bills, China, India, Iran, Russia, and other powers, great and regional, provocatively challenge U.S. dominion over the oceans, space, and cyberspace. Meanwhile, amid soaring prices, ever-rising unemployment, and a continuing decline in real wages, domestic divisions widen into violent clashes and divisive debates, often over remarkably irrelevant issues. Riding a political tide of disillusionment and despair, a far-right patriot captures the presidency with thundering rhetoric, demanding respect for American authority and threatening military retaliation or economic reprisal. The world pays next to no attention as the American Century ends in silence.
Oil Shock: Present Situation
One casualty of America's waning economic power has been its lock on global oil supplies. Speeding by America's gas-guzzling economy in the passing lane, China became the world's number one energy consumer this summer, a position the U.S. had held for over a century. Energy specialist Michael Klare has argued that this change means China will “set the pace in shaping our global future.”
By 2025, Iran and Russia will control almost half of the world's natural gas supply, which will potentially give them enormous leverage over energy-starved Europe. Add petroleum reserves to the mix and, as the National Intelligence Council has warned, in just 15 years two countries, Russia and Iran, could “emerge as energy kingpins.”
Despite remarkable ingenuity, the major oil powers are now draining the big basins of petroleum reserves that are amenable to easy, cheap extraction. The real lesson of the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico was not BP's sloppy safety standards, but the simple fact everyone saw on “spillcam”: one of the corporate energy giants had little choice but to search for what Klare calls “tough oil” miles beneath the surface of the ocean to keep its profits up.
Compounding the problem, the Chinese and Indians have suddenly become far heavier energy consumers. Even if fossil fuel supplies were to remain constant (which they won’t), demand, and so costs, are almost certain to rise -- and sharply at that. Other developed nations are meeting this threat aggressively by plunging into experimental programs to develop alternative energy sources. The United States has taken a different path, doing far too little to develop alternative sources while, in the last three decades, doubling its dependence on foreign oil imports. Between 1973 and 2007, oil imports have risen from 36% of energy consumed in the U.S. to 66%.
Oil Shock: Scenario 2025
The United States remains so dependent upon foreign oil that a few adverse developments in the global energy market in 2025 spark an oil shock. By comparison, it makes the 1973 oil shock (when prices quadrupled in just months) look like the proverbial molehill. Angered at the dollar's plummeting value, OPEC oil ministers, meeting in Riyadh, demand future energy payments in a “basket” of Yen, Yuan, and Euros. That only hikes the cost of U.S. oil imports further. At the same moment, while signing a new series of long-term delivery contracts with China, the Saudis stabilize their own foreign exchange reserves by switching to the Yuan. Meanwhile, China pours countless billions into building a massive trans-Asia pipeline and funding Iran's exploitation of the world largest natural gas field at South Pars in the Persian Gulf.
Concerned that the U.S. Navy might no longer be able to protect the oil tankers traveling from the Persian Gulf to fuel East Asia, a coalition of Tehran, Riyadh, and Abu Dhabi form an unexpected new Gulf alliance and affirm that China's new fleet of swift aircraft carriers will henceforth patrol the Persian Gulf from a base on the Gulf of Oman. Under heavy economic pressure, London agrees to cancel the U.S. lease on its Indian Ocean island base of Diego Garcia, while Canberra, pressured by the Chinese, informs Washington that the Seventh Fleet is no longer welcome to use Fremantle as a homeport, effectively evicting the U.S. Navy from the Indian Ocean.
With just a few strokes of the pen and some terse announcements, the “Carter Doctrine,” by which U.S. military power was to eternally protect the Persian Gulf, is laid to rest in 2025. All the elements that long assured the United States limitless supplies of low-cost oil from that region -- logistics, exchange rates, and naval power -- evaporate. At this point, the U.S. can still cover only an insignificant 12%of its energy needs from its nascent alternative energy industry, and remains dependent on imported oil for half of its energy consumption.
The oil shock that follows hits the country like a hurricane, sending prices to startling heights, making travel a staggeringly expensive proposition, putting real wages (which had long been declining) into freefall, and rendering non-competitive whatever American exports remained. With thermostats dropping, gas prices climbing through the roof, and dollars flowing overseas in return for costly oil, the American economy is paralyzed. With long-fraying alliances at an end and fiscal pressures mounting, U.S. military forces finally begin a staged withdrawal from their overseas bases.
Within a few years, the U.S. is functionally bankrupt and the clock is ticking toward midnight on the American Century.
Military Misadventure: Present Situation
Counterintuitively, as their power wanes, empires often plunge into ill-advised military misadventures. This phenomenon is known among historians of empire as “micro-militarism” and seems to involve psychologically compensatory efforts to salve the sting of retreat or defeat by occupying new territories, however briefly and catastrophically. These operations, irrational even from an imperial point of view, often yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the loss of power.
Embattled empires through the ages suffer an arrogance that drives them to plunge ever deeper into military misadventures until defeat becomes debacle. In 413 BCE, a weakened Athens sent 200 ships to be slaughtered in Sicily. In 1921, a dying imperial Spain dispatched 20,000 soldiers to be massacred by Berber guerrillas in Morocco. In 1956, a fading British Empire destroyed its prestige by attacking Suez. And in 2001 and 2003, the U.S. occupied Afghanistan and invaded Iraq. With the hubris that marks empires over the millennia, Washington has increased its troops in Afghanistan to 100,000, expanded the war into Pakistan, and extended its commitment to 2014 and beyond, courting disasters large and small in this guerilla-infested, nuclear-armed graveyard of empires.
Military Misadventure: Scenario 2014
So irrational, so unpredictable is “micro-militarism” that seemingly fanciful scenarios are soon outdone by actual events. With the U.S. military stretched thin from Somalia to the Philippines and tensions rising in Israel, Iran, and Korea, possible combinations for a disastrous military crisis abroad are multifold.
It’s mid-summer 2014 and a drawn-down U.S. garrison in embattled Kandahar in southern Afghanistan is suddenly, unexpectedly overrun by Taliban guerrillas, while U.S. aircraft are grounded by a blinding sandstorm. Heavy loses are taken and in retaliation, an embarrassed American war commander looses B-1 bombers and F-16 fighters to demolish whole neighborhoods of the city that are believed to be under Taliban control, while AC-130U “Spooky” gunships rake the rubble with devastating cannon fire.
Soon, mullahs are preaching jihad from mosques throughout the region, and Afghan Army units, long trained by American forces to turn the tide of the war, begin to desert en masse. Taliban fighters then launch a series of remarkably sophisticated strikes aimed at U.S. garrisons across the country, sending American casualties soaring. In scenes reminiscent of Saigon in 1975, U.S. helicopters rescue American soldiers and civilians from rooftops in Kabul and Kandahar.
Meanwhile, angry at the endless, decades-long stalemate over Palestine, OPEC’s leaders impose a new oil embargo on the U.S. to protest its backing of Israel as well as the killing of untold numbers of Muslim civilians in its ongoing wars across the Greater Middle East. With gas prices soaring and refineries running dry, Washington makes its move, sending in Special Operations forces to seize oil ports in the Persian Gulf. This, in turn, sparks a rash of suicide attacks and the sabotage of pipelines and oil wells. As black clouds billow skyward and diplomats rise at the U.N. to bitterly denounce American actions, commentators worldwide reach back into history to brand this “America's Suez,” a telling reference to the 1956 debacle that marked the end of the British Empire.
World War III: Present Situation
In the summer of 2010, military tensions between the U.S. and China began to rise in the western Pacific, once considered an American “lake.” Even a year earlier no one would have predicted such a development. As Washington played upon its alliance with London to appropriate much of Britain's global power after World War II, so China is now using the profits from its export trade with the U.S. to fund what is likely to become a military challenge to American dominion over the waterways of Asia and the Pacific.
With its growing resources, Beijing is claiming a vast maritime arc from Korea to Indonesia long dominated by the U.S. Navy. In August, after Washington expressed a “national interest” in the South China Sea and conducted naval exercises there to reinforce that claim, Beijing's official Global Times responded angrily, saying, “The U.S.-China wrestling match over the South China Sea issue has raised the stakes in deciding who the real future ruler of the planet will be.”
Amid growing tensions, the Pentagon reported that Beijing now holds “the capability to attack… [U.S.] aircraft carriers in the western Pacific Ocean” and target “nuclear forces throughout… the continental United States.” By developing “offensive nuclear, space, and cyber warfare capabilities,” China seems determined to vie for dominance of what the Pentagon calls “the information spectrum in all dimensions of the modern battlespace.” With ongoing development of the powerful Long March V booster rocket, as well as the launch of two satellites in January 2010 and another in July, for a total of five, Beijing signaled that the country was making rapid strides toward an “independent” network of 35 satellites for global positioning, communications, and reconnaissance capabilities by 2020.
To check China and extend its military position globally, Washington is intent on building a new digital network of air and space robotics, advanced cyberwarfare capabilities, and electronic surveillance. Military planners expect this integrated system to envelop the Earth in a cyber-grid capable of blinding entire armies on the battlefield or taking out a single terrorist in field or favela. By 2020, if all goes according to plan, the Pentagon will launch a three-tiered shield of space drones -- reaching from stratosphere to exosphere, armed with agile missiles, linked by a resilient modular satellite system, and operated through total telescopic surveillance.
Last April, the Pentagon made history. It extended drone operations into the exosphere by quietly launching the X-37B unmanned space shuttle into a low orbit 255 miles above the planet. The X-37B is the first in a new generation of unmanned vehicles that will mark the full weaponization of space, creating an arena for future warfare unlike anything that has gone before.
World War III: Scenario 2025
The technology of space and cyberwarfare is so new and untested that even the most outlandish scenarios may soon be superseded by a reality still hard to conceive. If we simply employ the sort of scenarios that the Air Force itself used in its 2009 Future Capabilities Game, however, we can gain “a better understanding of how air, space and cyberspace overlap in warfare,” and so begin to imagine how the next world war might actually be fought.
It’s 11:59 p.m. on Thanksgiving Thursday in 2025. While cyber-shoppers pound the portals of Best Buy for deep discounts on the latest home electronics from China, U.S. Air Force technicians at the Space Surveillance Telescope (SST) on Maui choke on their coffee as their panoramic screens suddenly blip to black. Thousands of miles away at the U.S. CyberCommand's operations center in Texas, cyberwarriors soon detect malicious binaries that, though fired anonymously, show the distinctive digital fingerprints of China's People's Liberation Army.
The first overt strike is one nobody predicted. Chinese “malware” seizes control of the robotics aboard an unmanned solar-powered U.S. “Vulture” drone as it flies at 70,000 feet over the Tsushima Strait between Korea and Japan. It suddenly fires all the rocket pods beneath its enormous 400-foot wingspan, sending dozens of lethal missiles plunging harmlessly into the Yellow Sea, effectively disarming this formidable weapon.
Determined to fight fire with fire, the White House authorizes a retaliatory strike. Confident that its F-6 “Fractionated, Free-Flying” satellite system is impenetrable, Air Force commanders in California transmit robotic codes to the flotilla of X-37B space drones orbiting 250 miles above the Earth, ordering them to launch their “Triple Terminator” missiles at China's 35 satellites. Zero response. In near panic, the Air Force launches its Falcon Hypersonic Cruise Vehicle into an arc 100 miles above the Pacific Ocean and then, just 20 minutes later, sends the computer codes to fire missiles at seven Chinese satellites in nearby orbits. The launch codes are suddenly inoperative.
As the Chinese virus spreads uncontrollably through the F-6 satellite architecture, while those second-rate U.S. supercomputers fail to crack the malware's devilishly complex code, GPS signals crucial to the navigation of U.S. ships and aircraft worldwide are compromised. Carrier fleets begin steaming in circles in the mid-Pacific. Fighter squadrons are grounded. Reaper drones fly aimlessly toward the horizon, crashing when their fuel is exhausted. Suddenly, the United States loses what the U.S. Air Force has long called “the ultimate high ground”: space. Within hours, the military power that had dominated the globe for nearly a century has been defeated in World War III without a single human casualty.
A New World Order?
Even if future events prove duller than these four scenarios suggest, every significant trend points toward a far more striking decline in American global power by 2025 than anything Washington now seems to be envisioning.
As allies worldwide begin to realign their policies to take cognizance of rising Asian powers, the cost of maintaining 800 or more overseas military bases will simply become unsustainable, finally forcing a staged withdrawal on a still-unwilling Washington. With both the U.S. and China in a race to weaponize space and cyberspace, tensions between the two powers are bound to rise, making military conflict by 2025 at least feasible, if hardly guaranteed.
Complicating matters even more, the economic, military, and technological trends outlined above will not operate in tidy isolation. As happened to European empires after World War II, such negative forces will undoubtedly prove synergistic. They will combine in thoroughly unexpected ways, create crises for which Americans are remarkably unprepared, and threaten to spin the economy into a sudden downward spiral, consigning this country to a generation or more of economic misery.
As U.S. power recedes, the past offers a spectrum of possibilities for a future world order. At one end of this spectrum, the rise of a new global superpower, however unlikely, cannot be ruled out. Yet both China and Russia evince self-referential cultures, recondite non-roman scripts, regional defense strategies, and underdeveloped legal systems, denying them key instruments for global dominion. At the moment then, no single superpower seems to be on the horizon likely to succeed the U.S.
In a dark, dystopian version of our global future, a coalition of transnational corporations, multilateral forces like NATO, and an international financial elite could conceivably forge a single, possibly unstable, supra-national nexus that would make it no longer meaningful to speak of national empires at all. While denationalized corporations and multinational elites would assumedly rule such a world from secure urban enclaves, the multitudes would be relegated to urban and rural wastelands.
In Planet of Slums, Mike Davis offers at least a partial vision of such a world from the bottom up. He argues that the billion people already packed into fetid favela-style slums worldwide (rising to two billion by 2030) will make “the 'feral, failed cities' of the Third World… the distinctive battlespace of the twenty-first century.” As darkness settles over some future super-favela, “the empire can deploy Orwellian technologies of repression” as “hornet-like helicopter gun-ships stalk enigmatic enemies in the narrow streets of the slum districts… Every morning the slums reply with suicide bombers and eloquent explosions.”
At a midpoint on the spectrum of possible futures, a new global oligopoly might emerge between 2020 and 2040, with rising powers China, Russia, India, and Brazil collaborating with receding powers like Britain, Germany, Japan, and the United States to enforce an ad hoc global dominion, akin to the loose alliance of European empires that ruled half of humanity circa 1900.
Another possibility: the rise of regional hegemons in a return to something reminiscent of the international system that operated before modern empires took shape. In this neo-Westphalian world order, with its endless vistas of micro-violence and unchecked exploitation, each hegemon would dominate its immediate region -- Brasilia in South America, Washington in North America, Pretoria in southern Africa, and so on. Space, cyberspace, and the maritime deeps, removed from the control of the former planetary “policeman,” the United States, might even become a new global commons, controlled through an expanded U.N. Security Council or some ad hoc body.
All of these scenarios extrapolate existing trends into the future on the assumption that Americans, blinded by the arrogance of decades of historically unparalleled power, cannot or will not take steps to manage the unchecked erosion of their global position.
If America's decline is in fact on a 22-year trajectory from 2003 to 2025, then we have already frittered away most of the first decade of that decline with wars that distracted us from long-term problems and, like water tossed onto desert sands, wasted trillions of desperately needed dollars.
If only 15 years remain, the odds of frittering them all away still remain high. Congress and the president are now in gridlock; the American system is flooded with corporate money meant to jam up the works; and there is little suggestion that any issues of significance, including our wars, our bloated national security state, our starved education system, and our antiquated energy supplies, will be addressed with sufficient seriousness to assure the sort of soft landing that might maximize our country's role and prosperity in a changing world.
Europe's empires are gone and America's imperium is going. It seems increasingly doubtful that the United States will have anything like Britain's success in shaping a succeeding world order that protects its interests, preserves its prosperity, and bears the imprint of its best values.
Alfred W. McCoy is professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. A TomDispatch regular, he is the author, most recently, of Policing America’s Empire: The United States, the Philippines, and the Rise of the Surveillance State (2009). He is also the convener of the “Empires in Transition” project, a global working group of 140 historians from universities on four continents. The results of their first meetings at Madison, Sydney, and Manila were published as Colonial Crucible: Empire in the Making of the Modern American State and the findings from their latest conference will appear next year as “Endless Empire: Europe’s Eclipse, America’s Ascent, and the Decline of U.S. Global Power.”
from The Real News Network :
Date: 21 November 2010
Subject: War is a lie.
David Swanson is the co-founder of the AfterDowningStreet.org coalition, and has worked as a newspaper reporter and as a communications director, with jobs including Press Secretary for Dennis Kucinich's 2004 presidential campaign. David is the author of "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union", and his latest book is called "War is a Lie", published in November 2010.
* Just before Alan Simpson commiserated with Saddam about the "spoiled and conceited" Western media, Saddam had executed a reporter for the Observer.
from The New York Times :
Date: 5 December 2010
Subject: Obama and "Understanding the Stockholm Syndrome".
by Frank Rich, The New York Times
Those desperate to decipher the baffling Obama presidency could do worse than consult an article titled "Understanding Stockholm Syndrome" in the online archive of The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. It explains that hostage takers are most successful at winning a victim's loyalty if they temper their brutality with a bogus show of kindness. Soon enough, the hostage will start concentrating on his captors' "good side" and develop psychological characteristics to please them - "dependency; lack of initiative; and an inability to act, decide or think."
This dynamic was acted out - yet again - in President Obama's latest and perhaps most humiliating attempt to placate his Republican captors in Washington. No sooner did he invite the GOP's Congressional leaders to a post-election White House summit meeting than they countered his hospitality with a slap - postponing the date for two weeks because of "scheduling conflicts." But they were kind enough to reschedule, and that was enough to get Obama to concentrate once more on his captors' "good side."
from: Byron Morton :
Date: 5 December 2010
Subject: A Real Jaw Dropper at the Federal Reserve by Bernie Sanders.
You may be interested in this article by Bernie Sanders.
A Real Jaw Dropper at the Federal Reserve
by Sen. Bernie Sanders
At a Senate Budget Committee hearing in 2009, I asked Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke to tell the American people the names of the financial institutions that received an unprecedented backdoor bailout from the Federal Reserve, how much they received, and the exact terms of this assistance. He refused. A year and a half later, as a result of an amendment that I was able to include in the Wall Street reform bill, we have begun to lift the veil of secrecy at the Fed, and the American people now have this information.
It is unfortunate that it took this long, and it is a shame that the biggest banks in America and Mr. Bernanke fought to keep this secret from the American public every step of the way. But, the details on this bailout are now on the Federal Reserve's website, and this is a major victory for the American taxpayer and for transparency in government.
Importantly, my amendment also required the Government Accountability Office to conduct a top-to-bottom audit of all of the emergency lending the Fed provided during the financial crisis to be completed on July 21, 2011, which will take a hard look at all of the potential conflicts of interest that took place with respect to this bailout. So, in many respects, details that the Fed was forced to divulge on Wednesday about the $3.3 trillion in emergency loans that until now were totally kept from public scrutiny, marked the beginning, not the end, of lifting the veil of secrecy at the Fed.
After years of stonewalling by the Fed, the American people are finally learning the incredible and jaw-dropping details of the Fed's multi-trillion-dollar bailout of Wall Street and corporate America. As a result of this disclosure, other members of Congress and I will be taking a very extensive look at all aspects of how the Federal Reserve functions and how we can make our financial institutions more responsive to the needs of ordinary Americans and small businesses.
What have we learned so far from the disclosure of more than 21,000 transactions? We have learned that the $700 billion Wall Street bailout signed into law by President George W. Bush turned out to be pocket change compared to the trillions and trillions of dollars in near-zero interest loans and other financial arrangements the Federal Reserve doled out to every major financial institution in this country. Among those are Goldman Sachs, which received nearly $600 billion; Morgan Stanley, which received nearly $2 trillion; Citigroup, which received $1.8 trillion; Bear Stearns, which received nearly $1 trillion, and Merrill Lynch, which received some $1.5 trillion in short term loans from the Fed.
We also learned that the Fed's multi-trillion bailout was not limited to Wall Street and big banks, but that some of the largest corporations in this country also received a very substantial bailout. Among those are General Electric, McDonald's, Caterpillar, Harley Davidson, Toyota and Verizon.
Perhaps most surprising is the huge sum that went to bail out foreign private banks and corporations including two European megabanks -- Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse -- which were the largest beneficiaries of the Fed's purchase of mortgage-backed securities.
Deutsche Bank, a German lender, sold the Fed more than $290 billion worth of mortgage securities. Credit Suisse, a Swiss bank, sold the Fed more than $287 billion in mortgage bonds.
Has the Federal Reserve of the United States become the central bank of the world?
The Fed said that this bailout was necessary to prevent the world economy from going over a cliff. But three years after the start of the recession, millions of Americans remain unemployed and have lost their homes, life savings and ability to send their kids to college. Meanwhile, big banks and corporations have returned to making huge profits and paying their executives record-breaking compensation packages as if the financial crisis they started never happened.
What this disclosure tells us, among many other things, is that despite this huge taxpayer bailout, the Fed did not make the appropriate demands on these institutions necessary to rebuild our economy and protect the needs of ordinary Americans.
For example, at a time when big banks have nearly a trillion dollars in excess reserves parked at the Fed, the Fed did not require these institutions to increase lending to small- and medium-sized businesses as a condition of the bailout.
At a time when large corporations are more profitable than ever, the Fed did not demand that corporations that received this backdoor bailout create jobs and expand the economy once they returned to profitability.
I intend to investigate whether these secret Fed loans, in some cases, turned out to be direct corporate welfare to big banks that used these loans not to reinvest in the economy but rather to lend back to the federal government at a higher rate of interest by purchasing Treasury Securities. Instead of using this money to reinvest in the productive economy, I suspect a large portion of these near-zero interest loans were used to buy Treasury Securities at a higher interest rate providing free money to some of the largest financial institutions in this country. That is something that we have got to closely examine.
At a time when Wall Street executives are now making more money than before the financial crisis, how many big banks that paid back TARP funds in 2009 to avoid limits on executive compensation received no-strings-attached loans from the Federal Reserve?
At a time when millions of Americans are paying outrageously high credit card interest rates, why didn't the Fed require credit card issuers to lower interest rates as a condition of the bailout?
The four largest banks in this country (Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, and Citigroup) issue half of all mortgages in this country. We now know that these banks received hundreds of billions from the Fed. How many Americans could have remained in their homes, if the Fed required these bailed-out banks to reduce mortgage payments as a condition of receiving these secret loans?
We have begun to lift the veil of secrecy at one of most important agencies in our government. What we are seeing is the incredible power of a small number of people who have incredible conflicts of interest getting incredible help from the taxpayers of this country while ignoring the needs of the people.
from Daniel Ellsberg :
Date: 22 November 2010
Suject: Goodbye to Amazon.com.
Daniel Ellsberg says goodbye to Amazon with conviction. Here's just the first paragraph: "I'm disgusted by Amazon's cowardice and servility in abruptly terminating today its hosting of the Wikileaks website, in the face of threats from Senator Joe Lieberman and other Congressional right-wingers. I want no further association with any company that encourages legislative and executive officials to aspire to China's control of information and deterrence of whistle-blowing."
from Rabbi Michael Lerner :
Date: 3 December 2010
Subject : An American political paradox.
This article on an American political paradox was recently published in The Washington Post :
from Glenn Greenwald :
Date: 16 December 2010
Subject: Bradley Manning's detention.
The inhumane conditions of Bradley Manning's detention
by Glenn Greenwald
Bradley Manning, the 22-year-old U.S. Army Private accused of leaking classified documents to WikiLeaks, has never been convicted of that crime, nor of any other crime. Despite that, he has been detained at the U.S. Marine brig in Quantico, Virginia for five months -- and for two months before that in a military jail in Kuwait -- under conditions that constitute cruel and inhumane treatment and, by the standards of many nations, even torture. Interviews with several people directly familiar with the conditions of Manning's detention, ultimately including a Quantico brig official (Lt. Brian Villiard) who confirmed much of what they conveyed, establishes that the accused leaker is subjected to detention conditions likely to create long-term psychological injuries.
Since his arrest in May, Manning has been a model detainee, without any episodes of violence or disciplinary problems. He nonetheless was declared
from the start to be a "Maximum Custody Detainee," the highest and most repressive level of military detention, which then became the basis for the series
of inhumane measures imposed on him.
From the beginning of his detention, Manning has been held in intensive solitary confinement. For 23 out of 24 hours every day -- for seven straight months and counting -- he sits completely alone in his cell. Even inside his cell, his activities are heavily restricted; he's barred even from exercising and is under constant surveillance to enforce those restrictions. For reasons that appear completely punitive, he's being denied many of the most basic attributes of civilized imprisonment, including even a pillow or sheets for his bed (he is not and never has been on suicide watch). For the one hour per day when he is freed from this isolation, he is barred from accessing any news or current events programs. Lt. Villiard protested that the conditions are not "like jail movies where someone gets thrown into the hole," but confirmed that he is in solitary confinement, entirely alone in his cell except for the one hour per day he is taken out.
In sum, Manning has been subjected for many months without pause to inhumane, personality-erasing, soul- destroying, insanity-inducing conditions of isolation similar to those perfected at America's Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado: all without so much as having been convicted of anything. And as is true of many prisoners subjected to warped treatment of this sort, the brig's medical personnel now administer regular doses of anti-depressants to Manning to prevent his brain from snapping from the effects of this isolation.
Just by itself, the type of prolonged solitary confinement to which Manning has been subjected for many months is widely viewed around the world as highly
injurious, inhumane, punitive, and arguably even a form of torture. In his widely praised March, 2009 New Yorker article -- entitled "Is Long-Term Solitary
Confinement Torture?" -- the surgeon and journalist Atul Gawande assembled expert opinion and personal anecdotes to demonstrate that, as he put it, "all human beings experience isolation as torture." By itself, prolonged solitary confinement routinely destroys a person's mind and drives them into insanity. A March, 2010 article in The Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law explains that "solitary confinement is recognized as difficult to withstand; indeed, psychological stressors such as isolation can be as clinically distressing as physical torture."
For that reason, many Western nations -- and even some
non-Western nations notorious for human rights abuses
-- refuse to employ prolonged solitary confinement
except in the most extreme cases of prisoner violence."It's an awful thing, solitary," John McCain wrote of
his experience in isolated confinement in Vietnam. "It
crushes your spirit." As Gawande documented: "A U.S.
military study of almost a hundred and fifty naval
aviators returned from imprisonment in Vietnam . . .
reported that they found social isolation to be as
torturous and agonizing as any physical abuse they
suffered." Gawande explained that America's
application of this form of torture to its own citizens
is what spawned the torture regime which President
Obama vowed to end:
This past year, both the Republican and the Democratic Presidential candidates came out firmly for banning torture and closing the facility in GuantÃ¡namo Bay, where hundreds of prisoners have been held in years-long isolation. Neither Barack Obama nor John McCain, however, addressed the
question of whether prolonged solitary confinement is torture. . . .
This is the dark side of American exceptionalism. . . . Our willingness to discard these standards for American prisoners made it easy to discard the
Geneva Conventions prohibiting similar treatment of foreign prisoners of war, to the detriment of America's moral stature in the world. In much the
same way that a previous generation of Americans countenanced legalized segregation, ours has countenanced legalized torture. And there is no
clearer manifestation of this than our routine use of solitary confinement . . . .
It's one thing to impose such punitive, barbaric measures on convicts who have proven to be violent when around other prisoners; at the Supermax in Florence, inmates convicted of the most heinous crimes and who pose a threat to prison order and the safety of others are subjected to worse treatment than what Manning experiences. But it's another thing entirely to impose such conditions on individuals, like Manning, who have been convicted of nothing and have never demonstrated an iota of physical threat or disorder.
In 2006, a bipartisan National Commission on America's Prisons was created and it called for the elimination of prolonged solitary confinement. Its Report
documented that conditions whereby "prisoners end up locked in their cells 23 hours a day, every day. . . is so severe that people end up completely isolated, living in what can only be described as torturous conditions." The Report documented numerous psychiatric studies of individuals held in prolonged isolation which demonstrate "a constellation of symptoms that includes overwhelming anxiety, confusion and hallucination, and sudden violent and self- destructive outbursts." The above-referenced article from the Journal of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law states: "Psychological effects can include anxiety, depression, anger, cognitive disturbances, perceptual distortions, obsessive thoughts, paranoia, and psychosis."
When one exacerbates the harms of prolonged isolation with the other deprivations to which Manning is being subjected, long-term psychiatric and even physical impairment is likely. Gawande documents that "EEG studies going back to the nineteen-sixties have shown diffuse slowing of brain waves in prisoners after a week or more of solitary confinement." Medical tests conducted in 1992 on Yugoslavian prisoners subjected to an average of six months of isolation -- roughly the amount to which Manning has now been subjected -- "revealed brain abnormalities months afterward; the most severe were found in prisoners who had endured either head trauma sufficient to render them unconscious or, yes, solitary confinement. Without sustained social interaction, the human brain may become as impaired as one that has incurred a traumatic injury." Gawande's article is filled with horrifying stories of individuals subjected to isolation similar to or even less enduring than Manning's who have succumbed to extreme long-term psychological breakdown.
Manning is barred from communicating with any reporters, even indirectly, so nothing he has said can be quoted here. But David House, a 23-year-old MIT researcher who befriended Manning after his detention (and then had his laptops, camera and cellphone seized by Homeland Security when entering the U.S.) is one of the few people to have visited Manning several times at Quantico. He describes palpable changes in Manning's physical appearance and behavior just over the course of the several months that he's been visiting him. Like most individuals held in severe isolation, Manning sleeps much of the day, is particularly frustrated by the petty, vindictive denial of a pillow or sheets, and suffers from less and less outdoor time as part of his one-hour daily removal from his cage.
This is why the conditions under which Manning is being detained were once recognized in the U.S. -- and are still recognized in many Western nations -- as not only cruel and inhumane, but torture. More than a century ago, U.S. courts understood that solitary confinement was a barbaric punishment that severely harmed the mental and physical health of those subjected to it. The Supreme Court's 1890 decision in In re Medley noted that as a result of solitary confinement as practiced in the early days of the United States, many "prisoners fell, after even a short confinement, into a semi- fatuous condition . . . and others became violently insane; others still, committed suicide; while those who stood the ordeal better . . . [often] did not recover sufficient mental activity to be of any subsequent service to the community." And in its 1940 decision in Chambers v. Florida, the Court characterized prolonged solitary confinement as "torture" and compared it to "[t]he rack, the thumbscrew, [and] the wheel."
The inhumane treatment of Manning may have international implications as well. There are multiple proceedings now pending in the European Union Human
Rights Court, brought by "War on Terror" detainees contesting their extradition to the U.S. on the ground that the conditions under which they likely will be
held -- particularly prolonged solitary confinement -- violate the European Convention on Human Rights, which (along with the Convention Against Torture) bars EU states from extraditing anyone to any nation where there is a real risk of inhumane and degrading treatment. The European Court of Human Rights has in the past found detention conditions violative of those rights (in Bulgaria) where "the [detainee] spent 23 hours a day alone in his cell; had limited interaction with other prisoners; and was only allowed two visits per month." From the Journal article referenced above:
International treaty bodies and human rights experts, including the Human Rights Committee, the Committee against Torture, and the U.N. Special
Rapporteur on Torture, have concluded that solitary confinement may amount to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment in violation of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment or
Punishment. They have specifically criticized supermax confinement in the United States because of the mental suffering it inflicts.
Subjecting a detainee like Manning to this level of prolonged cruel and inhumane detention can thus jeopardize the ability of the U.S. to secure
extradition for other prisoners, as these conditions are viewed in much of the civilized world as barbaric. Moreover, because Manning holds dual American and U.K. citizenship (his mother is British), it is possible for British agencies and human rights organizations to assert his consular rights against these oppressive conditions. At least some preliminary efforts are underway in Britain to explore that mechanism as a means of securing more humane treatment for Manning. Whatever else is true, all of this illustrates what a profound departure from international norms is the treatment to which the U.S. Government is subjecting him.
* * * * *
The plight of Manning has largely been overshadowed by the intense media fixation on WikiLeaks, so it's worth underscoring what it is that he's accused of doing and what he said in his own reputed words about these acts. If one believes the authenticity of the highly edited chat logs of Manning's online conversations with Adrian Lamo that have been released by Wired (that magazine inexcusably continues to conceal large portions of those logs), Manning clearly believed that he was a whistle-blower acting with the noblest of motives, and probably was exactly that. If, for instance, he really is the leaker of the Apache helicopter attack video -- a video which sparked very rare and much-needed realization about the visceral truth of what American wars actually entail -- as well as the war and diplomatic cables revealing substantial government deceit, brutality, illegality and corruption, then he's quite similar to Daniel Ellsberg. Indeed, Ellsberg himself said the very same thing about Manning in June on Democracy Now in explaining why he considers the Army Private to be a "hero":
The fact is that what Lamo reports Manning is
saying has a very familiar and persuasive ring to
me. He reports Manning as having said that what he
had read and what he was passing on were horrible
-- evidence of horrible machinations by the US
backdoor dealings throughout the Middle East and,
in many cases, as he put it, almost crimes. And let
me guess that -- he's not a lawyer, but I'll guess
that what looked to him like crimes are crimes,
that he was putting out. We know that he put out,
or at least it's very plausible that he put out,
the videos that he claimed to Lamo. And that's
enough to go on to get them interested in pursuing
both him and the other.
And so, what it comes down, to me, is -- and I say
throwing caution to the winds here -- is that what
I've heard so far of Assange and Manning -- and I
haven't met either of them -- is that they are two
new heroes of mine.
To see why that's so, just recall some of what Manning purportedly said about why he chose to leak, at least as reflected in the edited chat logs published by Wired:
Lamo: what's your endgame plan, then?. . .
Manning: well, it was forwarded to [WikiLeaks] -
and god knows what happens now - hopefully
worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms - if
not, than [sic] we're doomed - as a species - i
will officially give up on the society we have if
nothing happens - the reaction to the video gave me
immense hope; CNN's iReport was overwhelmed;
Twitter exploded - people who saw, knew there was
something wrong . . . Washington Post sat on the
video. David Finkel acquired a copy while embedded
out here. . . . - i want people to see the truth.
regardless of who they are. because without
information, you cannot make informed decisions as
if i knew then, what i knew now - kind of thing, or
maybe im just young, naive, and stupid . . . im
hoping for the former - it cant be the latter -
because if it is. were fucking screwed (as a
society) - and i dont want to believe that we're
Manning described the incident which first made him seriously question the U.S. Government: when he was instructed to work on the case of Iraqi "insurgents" who had been detained for distributing so-called"insurgent" literature which, when Manning had it translated, turned out to be nothing more than "a scholarly critique against PM Maliki":
i had an interpreter read it for me. and when i
found out that it was a benign political critique
titled "Where did the money go?" and following the
corruption trail within the PM's cabinet. i
immediately took that information and *ran* to the
officer to explain what was going on. he didn't
want to hear any of it. he told me to shut up and
explain how we could assist the FPs in finding
i had always questioned the things worked, and
investigated to find the truth. but that was a
point where i was a *part* of something. i was
actively involved in something that i was
And Manning explained why he never considered the
thought of selling this classified information to a
foreign nation for substantial profit or even just
secretly transmitting it to foreign powers, as he
easily could have done:
Manning: i mean what if i were someone more
malicious- i could've sold to russia or china, and
Lamo: why didn't you?
Manning: because it's public data
Lamo: i mean, the cables
Manning: it belongs in the public domain -
information should be free - it belongs in the
public domain - because another state would just
take advantage of the information. try and get some
edge - if its out in the open. it should be a
That's a whistleblower in the purest and most noble form: discovering government secrets of criminal and corrupt acts and then publicizing them to the world not for profit, not to give other nations an edge, but to trigger "worldwide discussion, debates, and reforms." Given how much Manning has been demonized -- at the same time that he's been rendered silent by the ban on his communication with any media -- it's worthwhile to keep all of that in mind.
But ultimately, what one thinks of Manning's alleged acts is irrelevant to the issue here. The U.S. ought at least to abide by minimal standards of humane
treatment in how it detains him. That's true for every prisoner, at all times. But departures from such standards are particularly egregious where, as here,
the detainee has merely been accused, but never convicted, of wrongdoing. These inhumane conditions make a mockery of Barack Obama's repeated pledge to end detainee abuse and torture, as prolonged isolation -- exacerbated by these other deprivations -- is at least as damaging, as violative of international legal standards, and almost as reviled around the world, as the waterboard, hypothermia and other Bush-era tactics that caused so much controversy.
What all of this achieves is clear. Having it known that the U.S. could and would disappear people at will to "black sites," assassinate them with unseen drones, imprison them for years without a shred of due process even while knowing they were innocent, torture them mercilessly, and in general acts as a lawless and rogue imperial power created a climate of severe intimidation and fear. Who would want to challenge the U.S. Government in any way -- even in legitimate ways -- knowing that it could and would engage in such lawless, violent conduct without any restraints or repercussions?
That is plainly what is going on here. Anyone remotely affiliated with WikiLeaks, including American citizens (and plenty of other government critics), has their property seized and communications stored at the border without so much as a warrant. Julian Assange -- despite never having been charged with, let alone convicted of, any crime -- has now spent more than a week in solitary confinement with severe restrictions under what his lawyer calls "Dickensian conditions." But Bradley Manning has suffered much worse, and not for a week, but for seven months, with no end in sight. If you became aware of secret information revealing serious wrongdoing, deceit and/or criminality on the part of the U.S. Government, would you -- knowing that you could and likely would be imprisoned under these kinds of repressive, torturous conditions for months on end without so much as a trial: just locked away by yourself 23 hours a day without recourse -- be willing to expose it? That's the climate of fear and intimidation which these inhumane detention conditions are intended to create.
* * * * *
Those wishing to contribute to Bradley Manning's
defense fund can do so here. All of those means are
reputable, but everyone should carefully read the
various options presented in order to decide which one
UPDATE: I was contacted by Lt. Villiard, who claims
there is one factual inaccuracy in what I wrote:
specifically, he claims that Manning is not restricted
from accessing news or current events during the
prescribed time he is permitted to watch television.
That is squarely inconsistent with reports from those
with first-hand knowledge of Manning's detention, but
it's a fairly minor dispute in the scheme of things.