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May, June 2012
forces world powers to think again, Jun 27, '12] Dear Victor Kotsev, I
loved your article on Syria at Asia Times Online except for one detail: Syria
has consistently maintained that cannon fire, not a missile, brought down the
RF-4E (or QRF-4E). It say the max range of this cannon fire was 2.5 kilometers
as you note, however.
Arthur Borges (Jun 29, '12)
[Re North Korea goes
a-schmoozing, Jun 28, '12] As North Korea goes a-hunting for good
relations in Southeast Asia, South Korea is tying the knot with its former
colonial occupier Japan in a military alliance. Contrary to common belief, as
Indonesia's President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said, "our relations [with North
Korea] are good and have a long history". Cambodia also entertains excellent
ties with the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), Laos and Vietnam
entertain ideological affinities, Myanmar even now remains true to past
relations with Pyongyang, and pragmatic Singapore has long served as a venue to
facilitate contact between the two Koreas even during the darkest hours of
their stormy differences.
Yong Kwon's Notes on
starvation [June 28, 2012] forgets to mention the vagaries of Mother
Nature on North Korea's agriculture, as well as a horrible weapon the US, South
Korea, Australia, and the Europrean Union use - denying the DPRK food aid. The
US cut off aid in 2008 as did South Korea, though the latter occasionally
allows some food to trickle in to the North depending on public pressure. South
Korean President Lee Myung-bak seemingly doesn't give a fig that he is handing
Kim Jong-eun a powerful propaganda weapon by sleeping with Korea's brutal
colonial occupier. On the other hand, Pyongyang has a weapon of its own - a
youthful leader in the person of Kim. Compared to the gerontocracy ruling in
Seoul, younger voices calling for better relations with the North are stifled.
Seoul's military half encirclement of North Korea is offset by Pyongyang's
tightening traditional ties with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.
Guam (Jun 29, '12)
[Re Assad forces
world powers to think again, Jun 28, 2012] Syria's President Bashar
al-Assad is not going to go gently into that good night of fallen political
leaders. In fact, he has declared "la guerre a la guerre".
Turkey did not evoke the "an attack against one is an attack against all" when
its North Atlantic Treaty Organization allies met on Tuesday, for the
self-evident truth that none, including the US, has the stomach for war. So,
Ankara got a resolution of support, which it would have gotten without the dog
and pony show. Turkey has become the US' "Trojan horse" in a way of support for
the Syrian rebels. Military materiel slip in through its border with Syria; it
is a safe haven for refugees and disaffected military officers, and the like.
Yet, Turkey is vulnerable: open hostilities with Syria will embolden Turkey's
Kurdish guerrillas to engage Turkey's military at the same time it would be
fighting in Syria.
War against Syria would provoke a military coup, it seems, and in Syria would
arouse nationalist feeling in support of Assad against the "dreaded Turks". So
in all likelihood, Turkey, like a pesky gnat, will annoy Syria as it tries to
strengthen Assad's opponents. In the longer run, Assad's rule may end, but in
its wake Ankara's democracy will suffer.
Abraham Bin Yiju
Palmero (Jun 28, '12)
[Re China laces up the
foreign-policy gloves, Jun 27, '12] When Deng Xiaoping was quoted as
advising China to keep a "low profile" he meant China should not become a
hegemon that invades other countries at will. He did not mean for China to keep
a low profile while it is being peed on. When dangers appear, China will not
hesitate to take up arms, as in the case of Korean war and in other wars with
India and Vietnam. China cannot act like a gentleman when China is in a room of
gangsters. Even a rabbit will show off its teeth when it is pushed to a corner,
and China is certainly not a rabbit.
USA (Jun 28, '12)
Much is being made of drones used by US President Barack Obama to "carefully"
target jihadist evildoers in BadGuyaStan. These remote-controlled devices that
can rain death from the sky are truly marvels of 21st-century warfare, with
roots in the cruise missiles of the 1980s and the sophisticated electronics
boom of the 1990s. Less mentioned is the speculation among many Americans (who
choose to think instead of swallow) that drone technology was used extensively
on September 11, 2001, attacks. Indeed, in an odd case of fiction anticipating
fact, only a few months prior to that tragic day, a Fox network TV movie
posited the remote-control takeover of a passenger jet for the purpose of
colliding into a skyscraper, showing that even "back then" the developing
technology was recognized for its potential. (Needless to say, Fox got very
nervous after the "attacks.")
The use of drone-takeover technology would credibly explain how jets "piloted"
by amateurs could pull off the neat trick of guiding jets into the Twin Towers,
a feat of aviation skill that many aeronautical experts and pilots acknowledge
would be well beyond the capability of these alleged hijackers "trained" on
Drone cruise missiles would also explain why no video images have been released
of the plane that allegedly hit the Pentagon, and would go a long way to
explaining why no physical evidence, like a fuselage or even passenger seats,
remained to affirm this alleged strike of flight AA 77. All this is informed
speculation, of course. The definitive proof of exactly what happened does
exist in the black box flight recorders confiscated by the FBI from the Twin
Towers (which to this day they refuse to admit they have, despite eyewitnesses
that saw them recovered from the rubble of the towers. Indeed, none of the
black boxes of the four "hijacked" planes has ever been acknowledged as having
been recovered, despite the extraordinarily high rate of these devices being
found in previous crashes.) Of course, plenty of surveillance videos exist
showing what did hit the Pentagon, but you and I will never see these because
these would refute all the lies about 9-11, lies that the Empire requires to
survive a few more years, allowing the plutocrats to complete their pillaging
and looting before It's Lights Out Amerika.
Texas (Jun 28, '12)
[Re The phantom
war , Jun 25, '12] Dear Pepe, I've enjoyed your excellent articles for
some time now. The identification of the Saudi base for the attempt to turn the
Arab Spring into a Saudi sweep of secular regimes is very helpful, as even some
of the best media keep repeating the "democratic peaceful people vs the evil
tanks and artillery of the [Bashar al-]Assad regime" mantra, without every
questioning. Not to say much nice about the Assad regime, but it is good to be
clear on what is going on. No peaceful non-violent movement persists for even a
few days against tanks and artillery, and if tanks and artillery are being
used, it is usually a real good indication that the opposition is getting a
steady support of heavy weapons and ammunition.
One error in your article on the shoot down of the Turkish F-4. If it was a
recon version of the F-4, which seems probable, it was almost certainly not
armed. An F-4 can carry two kinds of weaponry; a built-in rotary 20mm cannon in
the nose, and underwing stores - bombs, smart and stupid, air-to-air and
air-to-ground missiles, napalm, fuel/air explosives, white phosphorous, cluster
bombs, free rocket pods, its just amazing what "human" ingenuity can dream up.
The problem is that all under-wing stores induce drag, which slows an aircraft
and also interferes with its maneuverability and range. Recon planes carry
internal sensors and cameras, and also sometimes underwing reconnaissance pods
with further sensors and cameras.
They may also carry underwing jamming pods, or these may be internal, and they
could carry chaff dispensers, strobes, and flares as defensive weapons to
distract and divert incoming surface to air and air to air missiles. The
mission of a reconnaissance flight is to get in and get out, as fast as
possible, and with the minimal parasite drag induced by underwing stores. The
flight profile can vary from high-high-high (high approach, high pass over the
target, high exit) which conserves fuel and is dependent for survival on
jamming and sometimes flak suppression escorts, or (low-low-low) to try to get
in under the radar, sometimes referred to in the USAF [United States Air Force]
as "50 feet at the speed of heat", the idea being to get in and out so fast
that by the time someone notices you are there, too fast to track with a gun
and too low to shoot with a missile, and impossible to engage unless you happen
to be pointing the right way when they appear.
This approach has been discarded in recent years by the USAF (and presumably by
most air forces) because with the current cost of aircraft, and the current
sophistication of jamming and AA defense suppression, staying high means
staying out of range of all guns, from radar directed heavy AA guns to pistols.
When you are pushing a US$100 million aircraft, it seems wasteful to fly it
where some guy with a rifle can put a "golden bb" into it. Of course the
original Phantoms went off at about $4 million apiece, which is about what one
of the wheels on a B-2 costs these days, and Turkey probably doesn't have the
sophisticated jamming and flak suppression capabilities possessed by its
wealthier patrons. So low and fast makes sense. Just no weapons.
It is clear, regime change is and has always been the objective. It is possible
that a lot of the saber rattling is just to encourage the NATO-GCC [North
Atlantic Treaty Organization-Gulf Cooperation Council] forces on the ground,
and to scare Assad's allies into running for cover. Who wants to be on the
losing side of a Libya situation. But one never knows. The knuckleheads in
Jerusalem and DC (generally not the military) may figure another cheap victory
would be just the thing. Without, of course, giving much thought to what
"victory" would mean. I think they are far better chess players in Riyadh than
in DC or Jerusalem.
Jack (Jun 27, '12)
Oleg Beliakovitch, [Letters Jun 25] commented that "Asia Times Online's Russia
coverage is so uninspiring". I would urge Oleg and similar minded people, no
matter the topic, to seriously consider contributing to the Speaking Freely
sections. I'm certain their contributions would be welcome for consideration by
the editorial staff. Start a new career!
Ian C Purdie
Australia (Jun 27, '12)
[Re The Saudi
endgame for Iran (it isn't everyone else's), Jun 22, 2012] The Barack
Obama administration is sending mine sweepers in to the Strait of Hormuz, to
delay as long as possible Israel's temptation to act against Iran; its move
should equally stay Saudi Arabia's hand, too. On the other hand, with the visit
of Russian President Valdimir Putin to Israel, the Russian influence in West
Asia has reasserted itself - in a sense, a countervailing force similar to the
Soviet Union's. American presidential politics are a restraint on the US tack
towards Iran, thus, strengthening Moscow's hand in the region.
Abraham Bin Yiju
Palermo (Jun 27, '12)
march on Russia: Do dictators always fail?, Jun 25, '12] David
Goldman's article reflects that there are lots of things that a ruler or a
president can do to inspire or lie to its people to take up arms and give up
their lives for a "glorious" goal. I totally enjoyed his article until I
reached the last sentence. He said and I quote "unless America and its allies
maintain an unchallengeable technological edge, China well may surpass us, and
the world will be a worse place". In the past decades, US has never stopped
launching wars with millions of soldiers and civilians killed including
Americans. Why will the world become a worse place when the US is no longer its
leader? Goldman must not just make a sweeping statement without plausible
United States (Jun 26, '12)
march on Russia: Do dictators always fail?, Jun 25, '12] "It (China)
has no need to invade anyone," and "China well may surpass us, and the world
will be a worse place." I can only assume the last bit was placed in this
otherwise thoughtful essay to appeal to Western sensitivity, since that
conclusion isn't an easy derivation from the stated premise - a world pervaded
by more peace and less warfare, it would seem, will only be a better place.
"To assume that China will fail because it is not a democracy is complacency
stretched to the extreme of folly," and willful ignorance, if I may add, for
common sense dictates that political governance doesn't merely consist of a
Manichean binarism of "good" vs "evil", ie, democracy vs communist
dictatorship, but comprises a spectrum of options each of which is applicable
to an individual nation/culture.
To be sure, China is gradually evolving; but at its gist, the Middle Kingdom's
(and the world's, for that matter) forward development will be driven not so
much by ideology, a human invention, but by the more fundamental/practical need
for survival, a basic human instinct.
USA (Jun 26, '12)
[Re Cultural genocide
behind self-immolation, Jun 25, '12] We often get these stories about
cultural genicide in Tibet and Xinjiang which are indupitably long on emotive
and agenda-driven rhetoric but short on statistical data or empirical evidence,
especially regarding the demise of the mother tongue.
I can't speak for Tibet, but during the past decade and more here in Xinjiang
I've yet to come across a Uyghur child or adult who cannot speak their mother
tongue and I suspect it is the same in Tibet regardless of the schooling
system. On the occasions that I've conversed with monolingual Uygurs it's
always been through their children, who translate from Mandarin to Uyghur and
All the Uyghur students I know on their way to university after years of
education in Chinese schools can speak Uyghur although some cannot read or
write it. The fact that Tibetan, Uyghur and other minority students spend their
first year at university in advanced Mandarin classes before beginning their
formal courses speaks for itself. I've only known Uygurs to speak Mandarin in
class or communicating in a Chinese environment. Elsewhere, it's all Uyghur and
again I suspect it's the same with Tibetans.
From my experience here in Xinjiang I'd bet that that you would be hard pressed
to find a Tibetan of any age in China growing up in a normal Tibetan family who
cannot speak their mother tongue and the continual absense of any evidence to
support the contrary says something. However, if anyone out there has any
statistical data or any evidence at all to support the claims that the Tibetan
language is in demise then I suggest you go to print as you will be the first.
And did I hear religion? The facts are that no student or child under 18 or
public servant be they Uygur, Tibetan, Mongolian, Kazakh or Han, Muslim,
Buddist, Daoist or Christian can engage in religious activities here in
Xinjiang or Tibet. There's no favouritism. Everyone is in the same barrel.
Aussie in China
Xinjiang (Jun 26, '12)
The Republican-Tea Party-Neocon-Evangelist-Fundamentalist cabal has made its
hostility and antipathy against all minorities well known for many years now.
But the latest assault on women and their reproductive rights was capped with a
touch of the absurd. Not that absurdity, stupidity and ignorance are unusual
terms to describe these politico-terrorists, but the recent reaction of the
Virginia legislature to one female politician's use of the word "vagina" takes
their abysmal indecency to Marianas Trench depths.
She employed this anatomical term when commenting sarcastically on this
predominantly male body's decision to impose yet more abortion-rights
deteriorating restrictions, all the better to further humiliate and intimidate
her gender. Horrified at such abuse of her constitutional right of free speech
(and, more importantly, any reference at all to sex), the testosterone-laden
reactionaries swiftly imposed a ban on her from any further speech, yet another
American privilege the GOP has nothing but contempt for.
However, what such tyrannically juvenile behavior once again demonstrates is
the average neocon's hypocrisy, misogyny and perverse sexual obsession that
regularly has some right wing Bible-thumping preacher getting caught with an
underage prostitute or a Republican congressmen in a motel dalliance with a
young male intern. I mention in passing the Republican-dominated military's
long standing tolerance if not passive acquiescence to the raping of female
soldiers, as if we needed more evidence of their determination to show "uppity
FemiNazis" who's boss.
Of course, this is all commensurate with the fundamentalist plan to turn
Amerika into a theocratic Taliban-state where women subserviently service the
stud politicians and "barefoot and pregnant" becomes part of every female
Wonderlander's Pledge of Allegiance. But don't for a second think that the
Republicans intend to only victimize women. No, sirree, their game plan will be
to return Amerika to a fin de siecle fantasy world where superior white
"Christian" men rule supreme and inferior minorities fight for scraps from
their bountiful table. If you want to learn more, just read the Republican
Party's ideological blueprint for the future; it's called Mein Kampf.
USA (Jun 26, '12)
It's rather disappointing to see Asia Times Online's Russia coverage be so
uninspiring. From periodic disseminating of the open propaganda of Radio
Liberty - Free Europe (which would be illegal inside the US) to publishing
unapologetically anti-Russian Jamestown Foundation's reports, to now
sacrificing valuable advertising space for another ridiculously ideological
rant by self-styled "defence analyst" Pavel Felgenhauer - ATol only contributes
to an almost comic misunderstanding of all things Russian.
Meanwhile, objective and informative coverage of Russia is readily available
elsewhere on the Internet. I would suggest that Asia Times Online dig a little
deeper and work a little harder, if it aims to maintain its hard-earned
reputation for years to come.
Seattle, WA (Jun 25, '12)
[Re Okinawa remains an
intractable thorn for US and Japan, May 25, 2012] Thank you always for
the interesting articles on Asia. I would say that this article, however,
over-emphasizes the economic aspect of the problems in Okinawa without any
Economic compensation is just one aspect of the problems in Okinawa. The most
important thing is the unfair burden of Okinawans, who had painful experiences
during the World War II which they are are forced to still bear for the sake of
peace and securityfor Japan and neighboring Asian countries. If we remember the
huge number of civilians (not soldiers) who were killed during the battle of
Okinawa, maybe we can understand the complex feelings of Okinawans towards both
the US and Japanese governments, and why they are islanders are so sensitive
about the military accidents and crimes of the US Marine Corps.
It seems to me that authors of this article think money can solve anything as a
political tool, or money is the biggest motivation for the protestors. To think
that the main reason for the people's anger is economic profit is short-sighted
and perhaps arrogant. We have to remember how rulers have behaved in past
history. Under the beautiful slogans of their rulers, ordinary citizens have
always been sacrificed, not only in Okinawa but everywhere in the world. We
must never forget this reality.
We have to find the most reasonable way in which can secure a normal life for
Okinawans, to minimize the sense of unfairness, while understanding the
historical background of the issues. This must take place without weakening the
US security presence amid the growing tensions in neighboring Asian
Tokyo (Jun 25, '12)
[Re US Marines eye Japan
as a training yard, Jun 22, '12] The US Navy and Air Force are already
stationed on Japan's main island of Honshu. During the Vietnam war, these
American bases were a staging ground for air and sea strikes in Indochina,
while providing a healthy shot in the arm of Greenbacks into the Japanese
economy. Now, according to Kosuke Takahashi, it is the Marines' turn to use
Honshu for mock attacks and search and rescue missions. A telling example of
the Barack Obama administration's new Asia-Pacific policy has been occurring in
the last few days: the inclusion of Tokyo in trilateral naval exercises off the
coast of South Korea's Jeju island, in the Yellow Sea. In an operation on the
eve of the 62nd anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War, with land
operations in Pocheon, Japan's role strikes one as an anomaly from the
historical script, on one hand, and on the other, it is Washington's way of
tying Japan firmly into a military role. It is more than odd since in concert
with South Korea, this trilateral drill forces Tokyo to defend and patrol
waters and small rock formations that Seoul claims and which Japan says is its
Guam (Jun 25, '12)
[Re Pyongyang takes
another shortcut, Jun 21, '12] It seems to me that everyone misses the
point. North Korea has been at war since 1950. It suffered terribly under
United States bombing missions during that war. The DPRK [Democratic People's
Republic of Korea] leaders fear renewed attacks against the country.
It is little wonder that Washington's use, for example, of food as a weapon
that North Korea sees such a move as a scorched earth policy to force it to
submit to conditions it rejects.
July will mark the 59th anniversary of the Armistice Agreement, it is about
time to get on with signing a peace treaty. A treaty would greatly lessen
tension, normalize relations, and get down to dealing with the hard questions
diplomatically. Short of that, for Petrov and others to criticize continuation
of a "military first" policy is besides the point.
Guam (Jun 22, '12)
[Re Crude tools
cloud US-China trade rows, Jun 22, 2012] "[We] are in a jobs and
economic crisis here in the US," wrote Michael Wessel. It's amazing how almost
no one in the US can admit it's been 60 years of constant warfare that has
destroyed the US economy and the US' reputation (not to mention destroying a
vast number of human lives).
China (Jun 22, '12)
Ecuador or Guantanamo, Jun 20, '12] I am in broad agreement with the
comments of earlier letters penned by Michael Bucci and Ian Purdie [Jun 21,
'12], though I wish to dissent slightly by adding the following observation:
As Purdie points out: Bob Carr (Australian Foreign Minister) further went on to
say he was perplexed by the whole matter because his understanding of the
situation was if the United States wanted Julian extradited, it would be far
easier to extradite him there from Britain rather than Sweden. Is this
necessarily the case? The way Escobar describes it: Swedish justice has become
hostage to the prejudices and whims of hardline 4th wave feminism (the sort
that automatically stignatises men as always the victimisers of women; thereby
permitting ruthless, manipulative women to rule the roost in all matters
pertaining to gender relations).
If that be the case Julian Assange cannot anticipate one iota of natural
justice from the Swedish judical system. By contrast Assange (who has not been
accused of breaking any UK laws) would most likely receive a fair hearing from
a British court should the US government apply to have him extradited there to
face charges in the USA. It is likely that such an attempt would fail due to
the greater impartiality of British justice: which is the likely reason why US
power elite would like to get him to Sweden where they can play upon the local
feminist establishment thirst for vengeful retribution on alleged male
wrongdoers to get the outcome they want.
The utter lack of committment shown by our (Australian) government to standing
in support of Julian Assange in his hour of need, even at the risk of inviting
American disapproval (natural justice sacrificed to political/diplomatic
expediency?) is just one of the lesser reasons why, with disgust, I have no
confidence in our government.
Australia (Jun 22, '12)
Ecuador or Guantanamo, Jun 20, '12] Though many of us prone to
distrusting all things governmental have long applauded Julian Assange's
WikiCrusade to expose hypocrisy, double dealing and lies, the
wannabe-Ecuadorian hardly deserves to be idolized, revered or enshrined. Hmm,
on second thought, yes, let us DO enshrine him in the Hall of Arrogant,
Publicity-Seeking and Alienating Cybernauts, a place where future paladins of
web exposes can learn how NOT to behave. The truth is that Messieur Assange has
a long history of drawing undue attention to himself while at the same time
pissing off his erstwhile allies, colleagues and lovers.
To a large extent his current troubles are a result of these unfortunate
proclivities, exacerbated by his tweaking of superpower noses in order to get
maximum PR notoriety. Not that I object to singeing Uncle Sam's hoary beard per
se, but if the object of these WikiLeaks revelations is to make governments
more transparent in their foreign policy dealings (a goal one can argue is
naive in the extreme), how much good does it do to paint a target on your
The cybersphere offers anonymity and unaccountability, perfect electro-guerilla
protection from the predatory instincts of national security organs. It is an
ideal environment by which hit-and-run tactics can be used to keep these
reactionary forces off balance and insecure, never sure when their intelligence
will be compromised by a hacker in Vanuatu or Hamburg.
But by making himself a convenient foil for Swedish honey traps, Assange gives
these so-called defenders of national security a body, face and personality
that they can persecute and make an example of. Julian, baby, booby, don't
misunderstand me, I am with you and your holy cause, but once you get to your
sanctuary in the Galapagos, can you just blend in with the iguanas for awhile?
Regards Hardy Campbell Texas (Jun 22, '12)
Ecuador or Guantanamo, Jun 20, '12] It is always a pleasure to read
Pepe Escobar especially by a person (like myself) who is entrenched in a
country blind to not only its own liars, thieves and manipulators (in politics,
finance, commerce, military and media), but categorically dismissive of views
presented by anyone from the "outside world" from which Escobar hails. It is no
small wonder that Americans remain hushed about their government threatening
Assange after showing little dissent over (or notice of) surrendering key
elements (or notice of) surrendering key elements of their constitution to the
endless war on terror President Barack Obama has continued, enlarged and
exploited better than John McCain ever could.
The saga of Julian Assange is not unlike Thomas Paine's in 1792. Here is a man
who revealed the underbelly of the West in the hope of changing the course of
nations away from dishonesty and crime to transparency and accountability;
whose revelations were consumed, shared and lauded by a world audience; who had
hoped, no doubt, to create "real change" and embolden others toward acts that
serve and uphold human values over corrupt ones; who now sits, like Paine did,
awaiting the guillotine - a man without a country or a friend, abandoned at
home, threatened with treason and death elsewhere, and seemingly forgotten by a
complacent and fickle world-at-large that once championed his heroism.
If Assange is the uber-whistleblower, his fate will determine that of anyone
who does likewise - and that is Washington's message to its shrunken, limp and
persecuted body of dissenters, and its message to anyone anywhere who doesn't
wish to be included on the President's Tuesday morning checklist and be visited
by an assassin or a drone.
What Tom Paine knew and Julian Assange will discover is that truth always
Truth cannot be executed.
Michael T Bucci
USA (Jun 21, '12)
Ecuador or Guantanamo, Jun 20, '12]Another fine article by Pepe
Escobar. While I could quibble over a few minor points, I must say Pepe is
refreshingly telling us how it is.
I am a supporter of Julian Assange and today in a further development, our
foreign minister, Bob Carr, in an interview took issue with Julian's claim that
Australia "had declined to protect him". While I certainly remember our prime
minister [Julia Gillard] publicly washing her hands over Julian, probably
because the WikiLeaks cables I read portrayed her as the "pin-up girl" of the
US and by inference, a sycophant.
Carr asserts that Assange has received a higher level of consular assistance
than any other Australian previously. Curiously, a poll conducted on the Sydney
Morning Herald web site has 77% of respondents disagreeing with that statement
when I last checked.
Carr further went on to say he was perplexed by the whole matter because his
understanding of the situation was if the United States wanted Julian
extradited, it would be far easier to extradite him there from Britain rather
Politically, the Australian government is between a rock and a hard place over
this ongoing saga. Should the worst scenario of Assange finishing up in
Guantanamo emerge, then the government has a ticking time bomb on its hands.
Most Australians have had a thorough gutful of successive governments kowtowing
to every American wish or whim. It would prove the straw which breaks the
camel's back with Australia - US relations as far as the man in the street is
concerned. It is with good reason, since the early Vietnam days that, excepting
for ceremonial occasions, visiting American servicemen aren't allowed to appear
in public in uniform here.
Ian C Purdie
Australia (Jun 21, '12)
The plight of Spain these days will make any celebrations of past glories
difficult. So as the anniversary of the battle of Las Navas de Tolosa
approaches in July, that blighted nation can look back at the 800 years that
have followed and wonder, What Went Wrong? Here in Wonderland, we should be
asking the same question, not of ourselves (heaven forbid a Wonderlander admit
anything is wrong with God's Chosen Country), but of the nation whose past fate
is most analogous to our own future doom. Take the battle itself, for instance.
It was won by the medieval version of the "Coalition of the Willing", an
alliance of Christian kingdoms in Spain as well as volunteers from all over
Europe, with full papal support to boot. European Christianity considered this
campaign payback for the shocking loss of Crusader Jerusalem 25 years
previously, and indeed, though it took another 280 years to be eradicated
totally, Islamic power in Iberia had been permanently crippled by this defeat.
The final liberation in 1492, witnessed personally by one Signore Columbus,
presaged the so-called Golden Age of Spain, where untold riches flooded the
once EuroBackwater and turned it into a global world power. Spain had a golden
opportunity then to capitalize on this windfall prosperity, a choice of
developing its economy to become a manufacturer of goods, or to become a
society where aristocratic "One Percenters" siphoned the wealth off seeking
meaningless titles and building glorious armies to fight heretics and freedom
fighters. The choice was preordained, of course. Spain's enemies seemed to
crawl out of the woodwork, demanding an endless flow of American gold, silver
and gems that could not keep up with the massive expenditures required for
replenishing the armies and navies and fancy palaces, so in stepped foreign
creditors, eager to drag Spain into an eternal cycle of debilitating debt. The
New Dark Age that followed ended in a horrific 20th century civil war whose
victor, Franco, realized Spain was not ready to enter the Big Leagues of
Predatory Anglo-Saxon capitalism quite yet. Alas, his death in 1975 ushered in,
prematurely as the old dictator so presciently foretold, an era of unrestrained
capitalist indulgence that has once again introduced Spain to the ruthless
world of indebtedness, diminishment and renewed EuroBackwaterness.
Wonderland, so blithely ignorant of its own recent history, let alone that of
an eclipsed superpower, will be unable to take solace in the knowledge that its
own victories over Muslim powers and its own infinite indebtedness to the rest
of the planet and its own manufacturing base collapse are not exact parallels
to Spain's sorry tale of temporary world domination and ultimate failure. Yet
as an important anniversary of our own approaches next year and with it the
expiration of the enslaving, bubble-inflating US Federal Reserve charter,
Amerikans should ponder that history is a Non-Euclidean universe where
parallels intersect all the time.
Parallel Texas (Jun 20, '12)
Today, June 18, is the "official" date when the US declared war in 1812 on His
Majesty George III's Great Britain, kicking off the unimaginatively named War
of 1812 (or the even more banal Second War for American Independence). I still
don't see why some PR dude didn't come up with a sexier name, like the War for
British Respect, or the War That Got the White House Barbecued or the War That
Everyone Claims Victory In.
It seems like our Canadian brothers are making more of a 200th anniversary big
deal about this little side-war to the larger Napoleonic struggle than us Yanks
are. Perhaps that's because, as opposed to subsequent wars against brown or red
people where we invariably killed many of the savage heathens while barely
getting our own hair mussed, this war caused more than a few bruises to newly
American pride. Getting your capital burned and having the president's
residence used to toast marshmallows will do that to you, as well as getting
your derriere handed to you when attempting to conquer Canada with a motley
crew of drunkards.
But we had our share of triumphs, capturing British warships, repulsing attacks
on Baltimore, and most famously, whipping the Duke of Wellington's finest
troops two weeks after a peace treaty was signed to end the conflict. The
reality was that things ended pretty much as they started, with all the reasons
for going to war in the first place pretty much a thing of the past. But the
Wonderland spin machine was working even back then, so being able to end the
game in stoppage time with a very very late goal was spun as the capping cherry
on an American victory pie, eventually propelling the winning coach, Andre
Jackson, to the newly rebuilt White House. The Canadians, very much British
back then and only a little less so today, cherished their few moments of glory
and still sell the war as being "their" victory. So it was really the Perfect
Little War; everyone won, nobody got conquered, there was no guerilla quagmire
war to muddy victory, everyone had a kick-butt battle they could commemorate
while heroes galore emerged on both sides. We even got a national anthem out of
Land of the Spin USA (Jun 19, '12)
crisis is about wealth, not growth, Jun 18, '12] It's doubtful that any
meaningful course of action will be undertaken to effectively address the
European mess until after the US presidential election. In the meantime,
policymakers will dawdle, print more money, waste some more time, and watch the
financial cancer metastasize.
USA (Jun 19, '12)
[Re Pyongyang's crimes
go unpunished, Jun 15, '12] Thank you to Robert Park for his cogent
criticism of North Korea's serial, diabolical human-rights violations. However,
his grasp of the facts is faulty. Specifically, he jabs at Washington for not
opposing the north's many crimes. This is untrue. President George W Bush told
the Washington Post that he loathed Kim Jong-il for starving his people and he
categorized North Korea as evil. His national security advisor, Condeleeza
Rice, famously denounced the country as a "an outpost of tyranny".
Originally, the Bush team sought regime change to end the north's rights abuses
and unify the peninsula that Koreans self-divided. It manifested the moral
clarity that extended Washington's balanced, long time opposition to all Korean
dictatorships, eg president Jimmy Carter's (1976-1980) vociferous, hard line
rejection of the right wing Park Chung-hee regime in Seoul.
However - ironically - the self-styled progressives in office in South Korea
under the Kim Dae-jung (1998 - 2002) and Noh Moh-hyun adminstrations (2003 -
2008) spurned Bush and Rice. During the 1980s, when the South Korean left was
protesting for power, it claimed to champion democracy, unification, workers'
rights, anti-militarism and peace. Instead, Kim Dae-jung bribed Pyongyang with
hundreds of millions of dollars in early 2000 to set up the June summit held in
Pyongyang. It was one aspect of a larger, sordid three way package. It next saw
South Korean capitalist interests ally with the south's alleged progressives
and the north's supposed socialists to pay northern workers slave wages in the
south's investment projects meant to achieve peace and unity. But neither are
in sight. The widespread belief in Seoul is that the so called progressives
agreed to a North Korean demand that they do not raise human-rights questions
in return for the lucrative commerce; plus, the South's money men paid off the
progressives to spearhead the investments.
As the destitute North has a songun or military first policy, surely the
money it rakes in foots the bill for its nuclear gambit. It also maintains the
vast system of repression that Park justifiably indicts. In addition, the
southern progressives openly said that they would delay unification - for
generations - because it is too expensive. Clearly, Korean nationalism comes
second to money. A special raspberry goes to the Ssouth's student and left wing
civic groups. They are quick to protest against any minor - and alleged -
foreign error or crime, but feign ignorance when quizzed about the North's
abuses to justify their apathy. Korea's militant racism explains their silence.
One also wonders if they are paid off. Readers who wish to learn more should
consult the book Korea Betrayed that Asia Time Online's Seoul
correspondent, Donald Kirk, wrote - the front page of the website advertises
it. I am pleased to report that in 2006, I suggested the title to my colleague
Kirk. He documents at length the South Korean progressives' bribery and moral
sell out of their own people.
Toronto (Jun 18, '12)
[Re What China really
wants in Africa, Jun 13, '12 and
Africa: China's Promised Land, Jun 15, '12] Chinese individuals wishing
for greater economic opportunities would more likely look for developed
countries such as Canada, Australia and the US. Southeast Asia would also offer
ample economic opportunities given the large pre-established network of Chinese
diaspora there. Africa, being even more chaotic and corrupt than China, would
be the last place on their minds as far as greener pasture goes. If the "China
Safari" theory is based on some unacknowledged state sponsored "Lebensraum"
policies to ensure national or cultural survival, I'd think Siberia would be a
much more logical option than shipping a third of their population across two
oceans to a continent that is already overpopulated and politically unstable.
Getting a nationalistic Russia to give ground in Siberia, though, would be a
Melbourne, Australia (Jun 18, '12)
[Re A window into North
Korea's art world, Jun 15, '12] A slight detail is missing from Michael
Rank's review of Rudiger Frank's book. Editor Frank, good economist that he is,
has set the essays of his books, as the book's long title says, under the
umbrella of the political economy of North Korea's art world. The unifying idea
of the essays is a study of the interrelationship between the political and
economic processes as they surface in North Korean art.
Guam (Jun 18, '12)
pushes for war with Iran, Jun 14, '12] "Indeed, this resolution is not
about the national security of the United States, nor is it about the security
of Israel. It is about continuing US hegemony over the world's most oil-rich
region," writes Stephen Zunes.
Don't forget the clerical leadership in the US, eager for the Rapture,
Armeggedon, the Second Coming of Jesus, the End of the World.
China (Jun 15, '12)
pushes for war with Iran, Jun 14, '12] Before the Barack Obama
administration rushes into war with Iran, it has to clean up the political mess
it has created over Syria. Washington has to come to an understanding with
Moscow and Beijing. From the way things look today, Secretary of State Hilary
Clinton's harsh public statements are not helping to advance America's foreign
policy objectives. And then there's the question of whether the US sustain yet
another war in Asia?
Abraham Bin Yiju
Palermo (Jun 15, '12)
[Re Towards a new
Arab cultural revolution, Jun 12] Alastair Crooke joins other analysts
in boldly predicting that the Syrian crisis is fast becoming the epicentre of a
new and dangerous conflagration involving the internal and acrimonious split
within Islam between Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims. But a more primordial
classification than Crooke's, who sees this as a battle between the "Ottoman
Sunni hegemony" and an Iranian-Syrian alliance, would be to view it as part of
the ancient civilisational struggle between Arabs on the one hand, and Persians
on the other. Despite their respective doctrinal differences over the line of
succession from the Prophet Mohammed, it is at this deeper civilisational level
that linguistic, cultural and racial features play a much more significant part
in defining the conflict.
Added to this, Crooke makes no mention of the 1980-1989 Iran-Iraq war, which
was fought along similar lines. Iran was the former Soviet Union's Cold War
proxy, while Saddam Hussein's Iraq lent itself to being both a proxy of the US
and an anti-Shiite coalition of regional forces. These forces are now turning
Syria into what Crooke declares to be a "clash of religious poles." As with
Christendom's 15th and 16th century Protestant Reformation, such
intra-religious conflict can be far bloodier and more brutal than conflict
between the major faith traditions.
If the "Arab Awakening" is going to succeed in bringing democratic reform to
the region, there must be a reckoning that is hopefully not on the battlefield,
but between religious leaders on both sides of this turbulent religious divide.
Hardline religious militantism is ultimately not about the virtues of religious
observance, but about power. It is about reviving ancient civilisational
dominances. It is about the struggle for imperial dominance.
Such militantism can never be about democracy or human rights or justice. It is
about full-scale murder. And the sooner Sunni and Shi'ite Muslims reconcile
their differences at the negotiating table, and not in murdering innocent
Syrian civilians, the sooner will they bring glory to Allah (Peace Be Upon
Reverend Dr Vincent Zankin
Australia (Jun 15, '12)
In What China really
wants in Africa [Jun 12] and
Africa: China's promised land [Jun 13], Cedric Muhammad illustrates a
fantastical vision of a 300-million strong Chinese exodus to Africa. Such myths
are not at all uncommon or original. For example, since the early '90s, the
so-called "Yellow Peril" myth has been actively propagated with regards to
Russia (especially the Russian Far East) as well. If you were to believe that
story, then over 10 million Chinese have already emigrated to Siberia, and they
outnumber Russians in that region right now. But the verdict is out on that
fantasy: ethnic Chinese make up less than 3% of the population in the Russian
Far East, and out of that roughly 3%, nearly 90 out of 100 are seasonal traders
and migrants (translation: no intention of long-term/permanent settlement in
Russia). In fact, since the late 2000s, more Russians have visited China than
the other way around. Muhammad's story of 300 million "imperialist" Chinese
migrants is just another "yellow peril" myth enlarged to a whole new scale.
Seattle, WA USA (Jun 15, '12)
[Re What China really
wants in Africa, Jun 13, '12] Serge Michel and Michel Beuret were
certainly drinking something stronger than Vichy water when they envisioned 300
million Chinese pulling up roots and heading off to the "Dark Continent". Nor
did they bother to check that the population in China hit 700 million 46 years
ago in 1966.
As to the one-child policy. The one-child policy is but one measure of China's
family planning policies. When the number of women of child-bearing age (even
less considering the lower median age when Chinese women finish having
children) and the Hukou system are taken into account, less than 20% of Chinese
families are affected by the "one-child" laws and regulations
One thing though is for sure that while many Chinese are prepared to vote with
their feet, Africa would be the last place on their list if at all.
An entertaining read!
Aussie in China
China (Jun 14, '12)
The leakage of some "Free Trade" agreements being proposed by the Oblaminator
and his gang of crony capitalists is doubtless making this tanned version of
Tricky Dicky Nixon furious about leaky White House "plumbing." How dare someone
with a conscience expose more of the lies Obama has spewed?
These particular treaties pretty much allows American corporations to get away
with financial murder overseas just like they do here. Oh yes, the escape
clause buried in these is the proviso for an "independent" tribunals to settle
disputes and render decisions that supersede state sovereignty, with these
tribunals being composed of the usual suspects, lawyers and consultants who
expect to get jobs or juicy contracts with the companies they are supposedly
arbitrating "independently". Of course, the slimy ethics don't perturb this
president, who never met a virtue he couldn't corrupt with his slick rhetoric
and broken promises, but as the most secretive administration since the
Watergate years, his ire at the continued lack of security must be profound.
He's still irate at the revelations about Stuxnet and the US's extensive
involvement with his Zionist masters, so one can imagine the efforts to find
these patriotic leakers determined to show the public what a hypocrite Obama
is. Ideally, the Kenyan Who Would Be King will initiate taped conspiracy
sessions, psychiatrist office break-ins and dirty tricks campaigns that will
eventually bring his corrupt presidency down. That may be hoping for too much,
since the alternatives to a smooth talkin', snakeoil salesmen is an
inarticulate blue blood who believes he's destined to rule a distant planet as
a god. Talk about a Hobson's choice.
Texas (Jun 14, '12)
[Re China can
fiddle as Rome burns, Jun 13, '12] Francesco, Francesco!! What an
active imagination. If I didn't know better I would say you have been smoking
some really good stuff.
USA (Jun 14, '12)
[Re Taiwan circling
South China Sea bait, Jun 12, '12] How can the term energy security be
a concept that is "outright exotic" to the Taiwanese while "only 0.6% of the
petroleum, natural gas and coal Taiwan uses is actually pumped or dug up on the
island or in its surrounding waters"?
"Fuels that keep the Taiwanese economy alive are shipped from the Persian Gulf,
western Africa or mainland China, and if for whatever reasons those supplies
were to be choked off or become enormously expensive, economic activity on the
island would quickly collapse." How then can the fact that mainland China could
eventually be able to slowly "choke off" Taiwan's supply not place "energy
security" under the spotlight?
How will Taiwan respond when, in 2030, the Chinese mainland fires a few blank
shots at an oil-tanker leaving Taiwan? Won't oil become more expensive for
Taiwan? What if mainland China, in circa 2040, fires with its smallest
munitions and causes a few casualties on an oil-tanker leaving Taiwan and vows
to repeat it at any time without further warning? Won't oil be even more
expensive, even if no more firing takes place for a number of years? Will it be
available at all?
How could the US respond then? Will the US retaliate by harassing oil supplies
to the Chinese mainland thus provoking war, and then send Taiwan into the
inferno? Lacking any information that proves Taiwan prefers war over
negotiation, the US will not retaliate in kind.
Any commercial uniqueness of Taiwan to the world (such as parts necessary for
global manufacturing) will be slowly eroded in the long-term. As long as no
abrupt conclusion is sought, Taiwan's economy will slowly wither.
Nuclear energy is a way to delay reunification. But this not only "a tricky
option as Taiwan is very earthquake-prone"; there is also the threat of the
mainland attacking what would be very vulnerable structures. However, such an
attack would carry a lot of ramifications and there is a good chance that the
Chinese mainland will never have the courage to attack them. A Taiwan that is
unwilling to raise the stakes is one that has to anticipate reunification by
slow and certain coercive peace from the Chinese mainland: erosion of Taiwan's
United States (Jun 13, '12)
Dennis O'Connell [letter, June 12], do you think basic human freedoms such as a
free press, free speech and freedom of religion should be given to Iraqis,
Afghans, American Indians etc, or are you just good at talking out of both
sides of your mouth? I guess dead people don't need those freedoms.
Yun Tang (Jun 12, '12)
ATol - If you would like to continue this debate further please move
the issue to our forum.
[Re US has eyes for
North Korea, Jun 11, '12] It took Washington some time to relieve Army
Brigadier General Neil Tolley of his command. The Barack Obama administration,
so touchy on leaks, did not have to go far to find another one in the case of
Tolley. There has to be something in the military's DNA that makes them crow
about thumbing the US's nose at North Korea. Arrogance plays its part no doubt,
On the other hand, as the "Times" man in Seoul reported yesterday, Pyongyang
has issued a statement saying it will not be pushed into initiating warlike
actions. It has been more than obvious, and notably since the sinking of the Cheonan,
that both the US and its South Korean ally have been smarting for a "battle"
with the North.
When North Korea did respond to live ammo falling on its territory during joint
US-South Korean exercises along the NLL [Northern Limit Line] in November 2010,
the Obama administration had to stay Seoul's hand from opening a new front in
the Korean War. Now, both Washington and Seoul are looking for a fight once
more, but Pyongyang won't allow them to brand it the casus belli.
Guam (Jun 12, '12)
[Re The Muslim
revolution 'hiding in plain sight', Jun 11, '12] As often happens with
his demographic obsessions, Spengler is either blissfully unaware of, or
chooses to mold the facts to his own satisfaction. The truth is, the secular
Jews in both America and Israel have less children than any other ethnic or
religious group in their respective countries, while supposedly healthy overall
demographic picture is being propped up by either Orthodox Jews and Arabs in
Israel, or Hispanics from Mexico and Central America in the US. Non-Hispanic
whites in the United States have fertility rate of around 1.6 children per
woman, same as Russia and Scandinavia. And it is likely heading lower.
Educational attainment reduces birthrate across the board, irrespective of
religious background. No country is immune to that.
Seattle, WA (Jun 12, '12)
[Re The Muslim
revolution 'hiding in plain sight', Jun 11, '12] Asia Times Online can
always be counted on for insightful, well thought out and well-researched
articles with the one exception being Spengler. This author uses your respected
platform to spread his hateful, racist and bigot rants. The author paints Jews
and Americans as the Aryan Races and argues that Muslims of all races are below
them. I always ask myself why would ATol allow this to continue. Why allow ATol
to be dragged down into by bigoted opinions instead of a being well respected
asset on the web where intellectuals exchange ideas.
Aysar Odeh (Jun 12, '12)
The Pentagon is reporting 154 suicides of returning troops in the first 155
days of 2012. Less publicized but clearly connected is the exploding (sorry, my
punning governor is broken today) epidemic of the use of baths salts among
soldiers, sailors and aviators. This innocuously named drug creates bizarre
hallucinations and compulsions, which is ironically appropriate, since these
same behaviors are exhibited by our government vis-a-vis economics, foreign
policy and legislation. Of course, the Pentagon is scrambling to find ways to
stem the tide of self inflicted deaths, which will soon join Taliban sniping as
the most common cause of troop death. But despite numerous psychiatric studies,
evaluations, surveys and attempts to reduce soldier stress upon rotation back
to "The World", the soldiers that have had to implement Wonderland's murderous,
Taliban-recruiting-poster activities find themselves unable to cope. Killing
women, old men and young children will do that to you. The rampant use,
procurement, sale and trade of narcotics, hallucinogens, painkillers and
psychotropic drugs is a natural attempt to delay the day of reckoning that all
too often comes upon leaving the macho, mutual reinforcing and psychologically
cloistered universe of the occupying imperialist army. There, the daily
atrocities American troops commit in order to survive in a ruthlessly hostile
environment, are all forgiven,understood, rationalized and medicated away.
Bereft of such protection, the guilty consciences of these soldiers will not
allow survival in the unforgiving cosmos of laws, morality and humanity. But
the solution should be obvious. Just have these soldiers run for political
office. Once elected, they would find the same lack of remorse, consideration
or empathy positively conducive to success.
Texas (Jun 12, '12)
[Re The Great Leap
Forward from myth to history, Jun 8, '12] I wonder if Peter Lee might
explain the significant difference between the 67 deaths per 1,000 (using his
figure of 45 million deaths) during the Chinese famine and the 22 deaths per
1,000 in Ethiopia at the height of the 1983-1985 famine.
Although millions died from starvation and its consequences my wife's
grandparents, parents and numerous uncles and aunts farmers from Gansu and
Shaanxi were all survivors.
Aussie in China
China (Jun 11, '12)
[Re Iran and the US
vie in Afghanistan, Jun 8, '12] Brian M Downing made the statement in
the article Iran and the US Vie in Afghanistan that "Iran arms the Taliban with
a modicum of weapons". That statement is a bald-faced lie. It is unfortunate
that the neo-con conspiracy has come to Asia Times Online. There is no proof
that Iran is arming the Taliban but Downing states that as fact. The neo-cons
rely on the Joseph Gobbles axiom of repeating lies enough in the hopes that
they convince people to believe them as truth.
Shel (Jun 11, '12)
Jean Voiret in his letter about Tiananmen [Jun 7, '12] claims that Professor
Gene Sharp helped organize and oversee the demonstrations. For proof he sites
"French scholar Thierry Meyssan". Meyssan is not a scholar he is a
self-appointed Marxist journalist, I apologize to all real journalists for
linking them to Meyssan. What are the views of Meyssan, well he believes the
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was behind the 2004 Beslan massacre to gain
control of the Caspian Sea, I'm not sure if it is Meyssan or the CIA who fail
to realize that 75% of the Caspian is not controlled by Russia. I assume the
CIA wants to corner the market on the caviar that they enjoy in their salons in
Washington while planning the overthrow of heroic leftist governments. While
covering the revolt in Libya he accused the journalists of CNN and the BBC of
being CIA agents. A little checking on the Internet will prove these charges
against Professor Sharp are lies, as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn have come to
his defense. Now Voiret as a Marxist you should genuflect at the mention of
those names. Now might I suggest you should consult Mao's red book or a copy of Das
Capital to see what is the proper Marxist penance for spreading lies
against a fellow leftist or you could try WWSD which is, what would Stalin do.
Also could you please explain how China has become more democratic in the last
23 years? Belief in basic human freedoms such as a free press, free speech and
freedom of religion are not Western concepts they are the birthright of all
people, but I guess that is Marxist heresy.
USA (Jun 11, '12)
counter to warming US-Vietnam ties, Jun 6 ] Adam Boutzan provides Viet
Tan a backhanded compliment by linking us to a purported Vietnamese government
intelligence report about US peaceful evolution plots.
While we appreciate Boutzan's belief that Viet Tan has the "capability to
manufacture and disseminate" such a document, Viet Tan is in no way connected
to the imagined disinformation campaign.
Conspiracy theories are always exciting but professional journalism
necessitates more responsible reporting.
Irrespective of the authenticity of the supposed intelligence document, I am
confident that democratic change in Vietnam does not require a "nudge" from the
United States. Real change in Vietnam - when it comes - will arise from the
efforts of the Vietnamese people themselves.
Viet Tan Spokesman (Jun 8, '12)
[Re Saenuri's rebrand a
victory of sorts, Jun 7] Saenuri, as Aidan Foster-Carter admits,
squeaked through to victory in parliamentary elections. In a way, the change in
name of the party is a repudiation of sorts of the harsh legacy of president
Lee Myung-bak. In other words, Mme Park put on a new face of change. And yet,
her party saw its majority whittled down to a handful of votes-still enough to
not relinquish the reins of power.
Judging by Western media coverage, the DUP's leader Mme Han was hardly
mentioned by name, whereas Mme Park's got full attention.
Saenuri's strength lies in the more traditional provinces, not in Seoul; that
in itself is telling as South Korea is drifting even with a Seanuri romp in
November at the polls, towards an opening to the Pyongyang.
Seoul's media's obsession with North Korea is an indication of its inability to
looks at the strains in South Korea's economy and political life. It is easier
to make fun of the young Kim Jung-eun than to refit a stagnant South Korean
Guam (Jun 8, '12)
When the autopsy of Empire is conducted by some future cockroach historian,
doubtless they will examine the finances of Wonderland, stroke their antennae
with amazement, and gasp, "Has any country ever spent so much and received so
little in return?" Take the US military. Their expenditures on weapons,
personnel and bases accounts for something like 40% of ALL countries' military
costs put together, yet for such costly dominance, they have spent to date a
total of 20 years in the Third World chasing sand shadows, with nothing to show
for it but dead and maimed soldiers and civilians and tottering,
propped-up-with-toothpicks regimes ready to collapse at the merest whisper.
Or consider the educational system, that for decades has had billions siphoned
down the black-hole maw of teachers unions, school constructions and new
technologies, only to produce an illiterate, apathetic me-first-generation
whose relative standing with even Third World countries we aren't invading this
week plummets daily.
This gross waste can be rivaled, however, by so many other things in
Wonderland. We spend billions electing politicians who create polarizing
gridlock and spend with the profligacy of a sailor in a red light district on
pork barrel projects that produce nothing but kickbacks and their next
campaign's contributions. This sort of financial excess is exceeded by the
health-care system, that has produced an aging population of scared, zombified
drug addicts whose deteriorating quality of health puts them 37th on the WHO
list (it was 24th as little as 6 years ago.)
Then there's the billions we've poured into the War on Drugs and Cancer we've
been waging for decades with nothing to show for it but rich Mexican cartels
and higher and higher rates of cancer in younger and younger children. Then
there's the Wall Street financial houses, the doyens of capitalism that has
promised Mr Joe Blow Amerika a lifetime on Easy Street if only he would invest
his life savings; alas, on the corner of Easy Street and Suckers Avenue, a
shantytown full of panhandling Joe Blows grows ever larger.
Even all that is small potatoes compared with the Federal Reserve cabal that
specializes in inflating and deflating bubbles that suck trillions out of
WonderCitizens while depositing that loot in the Swiss bank accounts of the
plutocrats. The cockroach historian will conclude that never has a country
dedicated to the idea that money is god, savior and the very reason for
existence been so little rewarded for its blind faith and devotion.
United States (Jun 8, '12)
[Re Tiananmen villain
seeks to clear his name, June 5] Kent Ewing's article is quite
interesting. However, it is partially beside the point: Today, many solid
presumptions point to the fact that the Tiananmen protest were neither a
spontaneous "democracy rebellion" nor a genuine Chinese "counter revolutionary
Two Western scholars, the first of them Professor Domenico Losurdo (Italy),
proved that the Tiananmen uprising was in reality the first color revolution
organized by Western secret services to try toppling the government of a
country not accepting the United States's "Full spectrum dominance". The
second, French scholar Thierry Meyssan, even brought proofs that the color
revolution theorist Gene Sharp and his assistant Bruce Jenkins were personally
present in Beijing during the 1989 events, most probably to help organize and
oversee the demonstrations.
The Chinese Communist Party has really no reasons to be ashamed of having
resisted this uprising, which would have brought chaos to China. And a
progressive evolution from the former authoritarian Chinese communist system to
more and more democracy along Chinese lines is in any case better than sudden
uprising and chaos.
Jean P Voiret (Jun 7, '12)
deniers on the ropes, June 5] Regardless of whether Earth's climate is
changing or not (and most currently available evidence suggests that it is), Mr
McKibben's article is an affront to the process of scientific discovery.
As scientists, we are supposed to welcome alternative opinions even if we
disagree with them, and thrive on an open discussion. Instead, Mr McKibben
suggests withdrawing funding from his opponents, reducing their support by
elected officials, preventing them from making public speeches or publishing in
scientific journals, and holding "thousands of rallies around the world" in
support of the status quo as important milestones in winning a scientific
Questioning prevalent theories is an essential part of scientific progress. To
be scientific, claims need to be falsifiable. Once upon a time, deniers of the
Sun's rotation around the Earth, or fly maggots being spontaneously generated
by rotting meat, were also a small minority marginalized by the scientific
I am not sure if the use of the term "deniers" is an intentional attempt to
equate Mr McKibben's opponents to Holocaust deniers. If it is, such a rhetoric
approach is no better than the Unabomber billboard or references to Hitler
Youth that are decried in the article. Also, Mr McKibben should probably do
some research on the state of science in South Korea. Being Korean is not a
sign of poor quality of a scientific journal.
United States (Jun 7, '12)
Wow. What good timing for Obama. Last year he "finds" Osama bin-Laden and kills
him without a messy trial that could have seen the "terrorist" walk away a free
man or a black ops interrogation in an undisclosed East European location that
could have exposed the entire network of his dreaded criminal group.
This year he knocks off via drones all but one top al-Qaeda leader, thus
allowing the government mouthpieces to (once again) write that alleged
"terrorist" organization off as a serious threat to the US, just as we prepare
to stare down China and Iran. And just before the elections too, thus enabling
Obama to polish his macho record of taking care of business that the previous
log choppin', gun-ownin' he-man from Texas couldn't.
Well, you know what they say about timing. And if you can't stand on your jobs
creation record (which you've already said will make or break your campaign) or
your watered down, half-derriered healthcare system (that the courts will
probably liquidate anyway), you can still boast that you've exchanged one
invisible bogeyman for ones that are propping up our corrupt country or ones
that don't get bluffed as easily as your Democratic Party does at the poker
game we call the United States Congress.
I wouldn't worry anyway, Obama. None of that matters anyway in Wonderland,
where no one has time or the brains to think about deficits, employment
statistics or approaching economic cliffs. The only thing people will be voting
on is the color of your skin.
United States (Jun 7, '12)
[Re Obama and the
generals, Jun 1] It is not surprising that the US military is moving
ever closer to the extreme right-wing conservatives. This is exactly what
happened in Germany as the Nazis rose to power.
Hindenberg brought the Nazis together with the military and with a group of
large industrialists. This is perhaps the greatest threat to the freedom of the
American people. The armies of other countries have little chance of destroying
our constitutional rights, but a coalition of US military, industrilists and
extreme conservatives is very likely to destroy those rights. Lou Vignates
United States (Jun 4, '12)
The latest brouhaha about Obama using the term "Polish death camps" illuminates
some fundamental truisms about our species. I can't help but chuckle when I
hear English football commentators gushing about the newest Champion's League
Cup winners being an "English" team. Of course, with stars from Cote d'Ivoire,
Spain, Brazil and the Czech Republic, that team, Chelsea, is as English as the
average UN ambassador is a New Yorker. But as with Obama's gaffe, the old maxim
about the secret of a successful business rings ever truer; Location, location,
Humans, being essentially territorial animals, identify strongly with location
as being a primary identifier of distinction, exceptionalism and uniqueness.
Therefore, many countries will grant citizenship to children born on their
soil, even if the parents have just stepped off the boat. Similarly, even in
the same nation, cities, states, provinces and regions will develop rivalries
simply because "they" are from "there," rather than the all-important "here."
However, heads of states, especially those who consider themselves Leaders of
the "Free" World, should have better informed speech writers than those
evidently schooled by cable TV made-for-the-masses history programs. This is
even more true when the country in question, Poland, has a long and bitter
history of being abused, used and defamed by its so-called "allies" and
Poland, the country the British ostensibly went to war for in 1939, was
willingly sacrificed by the Anglo-Saxons to Stalin's warm embrace (one doubts
if Winston Churchill would have been so accommodating if Poland had been an
English-speaking country.) Poland, the nation that incurs the murderous wrath
of its former masters in Russia with each new North Atlantic Treaty
Organization missile defense flirtation, can't even get the same visa waivers
for US entry for its citizens as other NATO members.
Poland, with no dog in the Afghanistan fight other than its rather pathetic
allegiance to the Anglo-Saxon-dominated NATO-stoogery, his its citizens
needlessly perish in that barren Grave of Empires. Poland, host of the upcoming
EuroNations soccer tournament, finds itself the subject of calumnious BBC
reports of racist gang threats to tourists, as yet another gentle reminder of
how much Poland is appreciated in the Anglo-Saxon Empire (the irony of this
so-called "news flash" coming from the nation that gave us the word
"hooliganism" deserves no further mention).
So when we hear a president with Obama's mixed background, who has his own
"location" birth issues seemingly perpetually hanging over his head, identify
camps conceived, constructed and employed by Germans for the purpose of killing
non-Aryans (sorry, Hebrews, the Holocaust had plenty of other victims besides
you) as being "Polish", we have yet another example of multi-partitioned Poland
getting precious little love from yet another Anglo-Saxon "friend." Ah history,
Plus ca change... Hardy Campbell
United States (Jun 4, '12)
"The United States won't attack anybody. We hate war (at least my generation
since I was born in the mid 1980s and things changed dramatically after the
Vietnam War)." [Ysais Martinez, letter May 31]
Yet, for each of my 59 years, the government of my country has been fighting a
war here, supporting a coup there, sponsoring death-squads or an insurgency
somewhere else. We are still fighting (and losing) something resembling a war
China (Jun 1, '12)
The latest exercise in showing the universe how ridiculous Wonderland is
consists of liberal leftists demanding that the state of Arizona prove United
States presidential candidate Mitt Romney is not a unicorn. This is simply a
reducto ad absurdum argument to illustrate to sane people how silly the entire
"birther" debate has become in the mad dog neo-con campaign strategy.
The underlying thesis is that unicorns are not eligible for the highest office
in the Land of the Slave, so that if the Mormon Mittmeister is not proven to be
human, ergo and ipso facto, he is not qualified to be one button push away from
global Rapture. The response from the Arizona authorities, not known for their
sense of humor or even basic common sense, remains to be seen, but one approach
may be for them to state that since unicorns are mythical creatures, ie, beings
that do not exist, and since Romney clearly exists, logically then, Romney
cannot be a unicorn.
By the same token, the unicorn-conspiracists might counter-claim that, since
Romney characterizes himself as a compassionate conservative, that is to say
another mythic being rumored to have only been seen in the Himalayas or the
lunar Sea of Tranquility, then he implies rather strongly that he is indeed a
unicorn (others more generously assert he is more akin to a gryphon or mock
turtle, but you get the point.) Others may quite correctly point out that
unicorns have single horns on their foreheads, and are otherwise quite similar
to horses, neither quality "The TerMittator" exhibits.
The appropriate reply to this would be that horns can be sawed off, cosmetic
surgery can wondrous things, and have you ever seen a circus horse count to
five? In any case, come what may, if Romney becomes president, the presence of
a fictional creature sitting in the Oval Office will still be a step up from
the Village Idiot and the Uncle Tom previously and currently in residence. I,
for one, can think of nothing that would be a more fitting epitaph to
Wonderland, a nation where all its wars are free, capitalism is all about
helping people and the average white trash 'merican envisions Jesus returning
in a Confederate flag-draped Hummer with a freshly killed deer mounted on the
front grill. Uh, on second thought, make that a unicorn.
Hardy Campbell (Jun 1, '12)
[Re Got war if you
want it, May 30, '12] Pepe Escobar is reading from the propaganda
script in Iran regarding the sanctions on the already crippled country. I have
to give Escobar his credit though. If a "Martian" came down to earth who knew
nothing about this world then on reading these views he would believe that
North Korea, Zimbabwe, and Congo are the most prosperous nations on earth and
Europe is an continent with mass starvation, rotten cities, and people living
in caves with one dollar or less a day. That is how twisted, distorted, and
sickening Pepe Escobar's columns are. The United States won't attack anybody.
We hate war (at least my generation since I was born in the mid 80s and things
changed dramatically after the Vietnam War). The war in Vietnam had a deeply
corrosive effect on American society. It fueled the hippie movement and the
morality of this great nation took a blow that it never recovered from.
Damn 1960s. Also, President Barack Obama and his Chicago buddies are experts at
campaigning. They will probably say one thing or two about Iran to fuel some
passions, but a strike on Iran would be so wildly unpopular that Obama would
probably lose the elections by a landslide. Unlike what Escobar wants the world
to believe, Americans do not buy the whole Iran "thing". More and more media
outlets openly discuss the sovereignty of Iran and how they have not attacked
anyone in VERY long time. In a few words, most of us understand the anti-Iran
propaganda. We do not like the Iranian system, but fact is fact, they have
complied with all International Atomic Energy Agency requirements and nothing
suspicious have been reported to the world. As long as the war is with words we
should be fine. No one wants war Escobar. Those days are over. There is too
much to lose and very little to win.
Ysais Martinez (May 31,
[Re Hard truths from a
prodigal son, May 30] "US sanctions are bound to remain forever unless
President [Barack] Obama certifies to the extremely unpopular US Congress (14%
approval rate), 'Iran has released all political prisoners and detainees;
ceased its practices of violence and abuse of Iranian citizens engaging in
peaceful political activity; conducted a transparent investigation into the
killings and abuse of peaceful political activists in Iran and prosecuted those
responsible; and made progress toward establishing an independent judiciary.' "
It would be nice if my native US would set the example and release political
prisoners, stop its violence against US citizens, etc, too!
Kunming, China (May 31, '12)
[Re Hard truths from a
prodigal son, May 30] One did not have to wait for insights from Kim
Jong-nam to learn that North Korean policy makers are "smart, rational, and
know perfectly well what they are doing".
The oldest son of Kim Jong-Il may see hope in "market oriented reforms", which,
by the by have been happening with mitigated success. Nonetheless, missing in
Dr Andrei Lankov's article is any mention of bruising sanctions imposed by the
US, the incurably hostile policy of South Korea against the North, as well as
the unrelenting harmful effects of the weather - all three or a combination
thereof would upend economic reforms or the economy in general.
So talk of reform is idle chatter without its geopolitical and economic
As for the role or China, or the rise in importance of a Chinese faction within
the Korean Workers Party does not stand the test of Lankov's own "From Stalin
to Kim Il Sung: the formation of North Korea, 1945-1960".
Guam (May 31, '12)
Of the many lies, myths and fairy tales told from the crib to the grave here in
BelieveAnythingLand, the ones about capitalism are among the most insidious,
pernicious and invidious. The ones that's my personal favorite is how "The Big
C" (my designation for capitalism that carries the appropriate double meaning)
encourages and promotes competition in order to provide consumers with the best
product at the best prices. The romantic idea espoused by The Big C-ists is
that these supposedly individual companies work independently to create this
competition, and that the more competition, the more unlikely that any kind of
collusion could successfully rig prices. That is the theory of course, sort of
like the theory of chaste priests and honest lawyers working solely for the
welfare of their clients.
But the reality in Wonderland, like so many other good ideas like democracy and
privacy and freedom, falls preposterously short of the ideal. In fact,
politicians are bribed through campaign funding and threats to unseat them by
well funded firms and Big C-ists to allow gross violations of federal
anti-trust legislation with the sole purpose of eliminating competition and
jacking up prices while quality swirls into the toilet. The few companies left
standing then get together to fix prices illegally with the politicos winking
and nodding all the way to their favorite bailed out bank. The consumer has few
advocates outside of Whoresville (AKA Washington DC) and have no choice but to
pay whatever prices or rates the new monopolists want.
The "Trust Busters" of days gone by, like Teddy Roosevelt, also had to face
duplicitous Big C-ists who prattled on and on about consumers getting better
deals with monopolies, but back then I guess only vertebrates were qualified to
run for office. These Big Cists were defeated, successfully restrained in their
insidious practices and a modicum of competition did occur for a time. But,
like the now defunct Glass-Steagall Act that would have prevented the collapse
of 2008, those old fashioned and "outdated" regulations that kept the Standard
Oils from dominating industry, didn't have the new-fangled, modern and sexy
gee-whiz financial world of the 21st century to deal with. So blessed is the
new era we live in that we now have a handful of banks that precariously
control the nation's economy, a dwindling number of media outlets to tell us
what lies to swallow (dominated by right wing Big Cists, I might add),
struggling farm producers being consumed by a cabal of predatory
mega-agribusinesses, fewer and fewer defense contractors surviving to win
no-bid deals from the Pentagon that Corruption Built, the Seven Sisters of
world oil reduced to four, and of course, Microsoft (listed in some thesauri as
the very definition of monopoly).
Prices continue to rise, the quality of products gets shoddier and shoddier,
and more companies either get shuddered by foreign competition and/or
outsourcing or are purchased at dirt cheap prices by the monopolists. And
another myth bites the dust while Karl Marx sings the blues.
H Campbell (May 31, '12)
Dallas Darling in What
made Iran's revolution any different?[May 29], engages in a screed of
anti-American nonsense. He claims the "US militarily occupied Iran" after World
War II, which is a bold-faced lie. Also it was British firms that were
exploiting Iranian oil, not US firms. He claims we used Iran as leverage
against Russia and China. He is mistaken, China had zero to do with Iran until
the 1980s after which the US had no influence in Iran. As for Russia I guess he
means the Soviet Union, they refused to leave Iran at the end of World War II
and before they left in 1946 set up two Soviet communist governments in
northern Iran. It was American power that helped Iran ensure its territorial
integrity, I guess he forgot that part.
The shah was an extremely flawed individual, however he did help modernize Iran
and when compared to the fascist mullahs that rule Iran now he could qualify
for sainthood. One of the students who overthrew the shah determined the shah
had killed around 2,500 people over 25 years in power, the mullahs have killed
that many people in a single day. Darling claims the number is 20,000 - another
lie. Also the Iran-Iraq war would never have happened had the shah stayed in
power, so chalk up another one million Iranian casualties to the mullahs. Iran
is not a theo-democracy as he claims, there is no democracy in Iran. Iran does
not allow a free press - the life blood of any democracy - and they get to
determine who can run for office, so its not a democracy any sensible person
would recognize as a legitimate fair government. Darling needs to look up the
word democracy as he appears to have no idea what it means. Regarding the Arab
Spring he writes, "alternative and different democracies, some initially much
more bloodier and deadlier than Iran's Islamic revolution turned republic will
continue to happen", well those governments he describes don't sound like
democracies to me. I guess the left is searching for a new phrase after their
old one "sovereign democracies" meaning leftist fascist states, has fallen into
disrepute as a term that made as much sense as skinny fat people.
USA (May 30, '12)
The State Department just issued their annual exercise in hypocrisy, a list of
countries that abuse human rights. Naturally, that list has to include China,
who, to their credit, did not allow Wonderland's own human-rights abuses to go
unnoticed. But for some reason the Chinese preferred to limit their discussion
to minor infractions such as jailing Occupy Wall Streeters. The reality, that
Wonderland is now and has been for quite some time one of the All-Time Greats
human rights violators, merits more publicity. The list of evidence is
impressive indeed, beginning with slavery, then the genocide of the native red
man, the slaughter of the Filipinos, the firebombing of Dresden's civilians,
the Tuskegee syphilis experiments, Agent Orange, etc. etc., ad inhumanum. Let's
see if the Chinese, Syrians or Burmese can match that history!
But let's talk of a much more timely human-rights abuse, one so callous and
hypocritical that it makes most other previous WonderCallousness/Hypocrisy
blush verdant with envy. I speak of the flagrant disregard of the US military
for the safety of their troops. And no, I am not referring to the obvious
perils of combat, i.e, IEDs, grenades, snipers, etc. I refer to the lethal
contaminations and electrocutions suffered by US soldiers in Iraqi and Afghan
facilities designed and built by the Pentagon/s sole source bid winner, KBR.
What perhaps these blatant failures in elementary engineering and safety so
galling is that KBR (yes, the KBR Darth Cheney owned) explicitly re-wrote their
contracts so that they were indemnified from legal costs resulting from their
own malfeasance. Of course, the Pentagon has gone to great lengths to first
cover-up, then hem and haw and obfuscate concerning the true causes of the
shocking (sorry) deaths due to faulty wiring in showers and the cancers and
debilitating diseases caused from exposure to hexavalent chromium (which even
KBR employees were exposed to for a while, until they were issued hazmet suits
which were NOT issued to the grunts.)
Numerous lawsuits have been filed, regardless of contract lingo (this is
Wonderland, after all) and doubtless most of the victims will fall prey to old
age or their contracted illnesses long before they see a dime. But if we want
to talk of human-rights abuse on Memorial Day honoring our "heroes," how
appropriate that we mention how the US government callously disregards the
well-being of their military charges when capitalist interests are threatened.
And if you throw in the multiple troop rotations without rest, the lack of
psychological counseling when they leave the hellholes their country created,
their unemployment plight when they return to a collapsing economy, the
shortchanging of the wounded's medical care and the drug addictions acquired
during the aggression that they have to overcome on their own, well, then this
human-rights abuse is historic, hypocritical and hideous indeed. But I have all
the confidence in the world that the good ol' USA will manage to beat that any
day now. Iran, you listenin'?
WonderTexas (May 30, '12)
Saudi Arabia can stop Iran from going nuclear without military intervention
In his column "US
hardline in Iran talks driven by Israel" [May 30], Gareth Porter seems
to have missed the central issue: Why Iran wants to develop nuclear power in
the first place? With the world's third-largest reserves of oil and
second-largest reserves of natural gas, it is prepostrous for Iran to claim it
needs nuclear power at a time when many long-time producers of nuclear power
like Japan and Germany have abandoned nuclear power after the catastrophic
nuclear accident at Fukushima. Iran sits on a faultline and is regularly hit by
earthquakes and an earthquake on the scale of Fukushima can severely damage its
nuclear reactors, leading to a catastrophic release of radio-active particles.
As such, it is clear that Iran's nuclear ambition is based on purely military
considerations. Iran thinks that acquisition of nucear weapons would give it a
strategic asset now enjoyed by Israel.
As Iran's former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani remarked: "If one day ...
the Islamic world will also be equipped with the weapons available to Israel
now, the imperial strategy will reach an impasse, because the employment of
even one atomic bomb inside Israel will wipe it off the face of the earth, but
would only do damage to the Islamic world." Iran's current President Mahmud
Ahmadinejad also repeated the same sentiment when he threatened to wipe out
Israel from the face of the earth.
Recently, I watched on the classical channel, an Oscar-winning movie Mission to
Moscow, based on the book by the American ambassador to the Soviet
Union, Joseph Davieson, before the Second World War. Ambassador Davieson was
sent by president Franklin Delano Roosevelt to find out what Russia would do if
Hitler unleashed his blitz in Europe. After completing his tenure, he met the
Dutch foreign minister on his way back in 1938. When Davieson asked the Dutch
foreign minister if it would be possible to persuade Hitler to keep peace in
Europe, the minister told him that there would be peace if Hitler gets what he
wants and he wants all of Europe and all of Russia. If he gets these two
things, there would be peace.
Similarly, Iran's ruling Shi'ite mullahs want two things: First, they want to
dismantle Israel, giving all lands to the Palestinian people. They seem to
believe that Jewish people have no place in the Islamic Middle East and Israel,
which contains Islam's third holiest shrine of Jerusalem, must be dismantled.
Secondly, they weant withdrawal of all American troops from the region,
allowing Iran to dominate the region, especially Saudi Arabia. Iran's Shia
mullahs consider themselves as the guardian of Islam and Sunni Saudi Arabia,
which contains Islam's two holiest shrines of Mecca and Medina, is an userper.
But they also realise that they don't have the military clout to achieve their
goals and acquisition of nuclear weapons would them the necessary military
A nuclear-armed Iran can deter Israel, while unleashing its surrogate Hezbollah
militias based in Lebanon. Iran has steadily built up the rocket arsenals of
Hezbollah, after they were depleted during military operations by Israel in
2006. Hezbollah militants are now believed to have tens of thousands of rockets
capable of reaching cities deep inside Israel. A nuclear-armed Iran can unleash
the Hezbollah without fearing any Israeli retaliatory strike. As such, a
nuclear-armed Iran does pose an existentialist threat to Israel.
Saudi Arabia also faces a similar threat. A nuclear-armed Iran can intimidate
Sunni Saudi Arabia into submission. Although the richest oil-producing country,
Saudi Arabia's small population of 25 million is dwarfed by Iran's huge
population of 80 million and a nuclear-armed Iran will be far more intimidating
than it is now. It can also incite Saudi Arabia's large and restless Shi'ite
minority. Iran already overshadows the Gulf region and a nuclear-armed Iran can
undermine Saudi Arabia's security in many ways.
However, Iran can be stopped from going nuclear without any military
intervention. Iran is totally dependent on oil revenues to bankroll its
expensive nuclear program. If Saudi Arabia could be persuaded to increase its
oil production dramatically, bringing down oil prices drastically, it can force
Iran to abandon its nuclear programme for lack of funds. If Saudi Arabia can
bring down oil prices from today's $100 a barrel to $30 a barrel, it can
bankrupt Iran and Iran has few other resources to replenish its coffers.
Natural gas prices are at their historical low and cheap oil will divert even
users of natural gas to oil. Iran will soon find it impossible to bankroll its
highly expensive nuclear programme and provide welfare to the poor who are
regime's biggest supporters. Cheap oil will also help the global economy.
After his return to Washington in 1938, Ambassador Joseph Davieson told the
press: "Russia is the only country in Europe preparing for the day when, as
every Russian believes, Germany will attack the Soviet Union to give Hitler a
bloody nose and thank God for it." Similarly, the world must thank God that
Israel is pressing for action to stop Iran from going nuclear. Like negotiating
with Germany in 1938, negotiating with Iran on the nuclear issue may be
useless. Only a firm action will stop Iran from going nuclear. And this can be
done without military intervention.
Ottawa, Canada (May 30, '12)
[Re Pyongyang's pirates
broadside Beijing and
South Korea makes waves with China pacts, May 25, '12] Yes, indeed, who
hijacked Chinese fishing boats. It comes down to speculation first, proof
positive some day in a distant future. If Beijing chose to soft peddle the
incident, as Leonid Petrov contends, it would be because China sees a greater
danger in falling in line with the US-South Korean bullying moralistic and
excessive reliance on a military aggressive policy towards North Korea.
Remember, "the timing of the incident ... coincided with the joint US South
Korean aerial exercises Thunder Max".
Although the Lee Myung-bak regime may be trying to forge military pacts with
China, as Takahashi Kosuke reports, Seoul's moves does not remove suspicions
that the South is Washington's cat's paw.
Speculation raises interesting questions, but leaves the answers dangling in
Guam (May 29, '12)
The National Geographic Society had their annual "Geography Bee" to crown the
most geographically knowledgeable American youngster the other day. That
venerable organization, dedicated to promoting greater awareness and
understanding of the planet, invited President Barack Obama to deliver a brief
message and even posed a question himself to the contestants. During Obama's
blurb, while he was extolling the virtues and advantages of knowing geography,
I immediately thought he should be adding "and it's a good idea to familiarize
yourselves with the countries you may be fighting in soon."
Of course, way back before Amerika earned the reputation for bombing first and
justifying later, Mark Twain quipped that "God invented war so that Americans
would learn geography." Of course, t'were this true, Wonderlanders would be
past masters on the subject, assuming, of course, they were educated outside
the worldphobic educational system in this country. Perhaps in a bit of spite,
Canadian Alex Trebek, the contest's host, had conducted a man-in-the-street
survey of American citizens to test their history/geography knowledge, with
lamentably predictable results (questions that shouldn't stump grade schoolers
flummoxed almost all.) The irony of this competition was that of the final 10
contestants, 8 were Asian-descended and only two were Anglo-Saxon "real
'mericans" (members of what I call the "new intellectual minority" in
Alas, one white boy was eliminated very quickly, and the second didn't survive
much longer, leaving the field to the predominantly Indian-heritage boys to
fight it out amongst themselves (eventually a Texas boy (hurray!), Rahul
Nagvekar, prevailed.) But the fact children whose parents were not native to
this country now dominate practically all American educational laurels, not to
mention professional sciences, medicine and engineering, offers both the sprig
of hope and the trunk of despair for the future. Perhaps if we get enough of
the world's countries to provide children that dominate America, the US will
stop invading and destroying countries with the thinnest of pretexts. Wow. I'm
proud of myself. I actually wrote that without laughing out loud (OK, maybe a
Hardy Campbell (May 29, '12)
Pepe Escobar in How
Osama re-elects Obama [May 24, '12] is a little light on the facts and
wrong in his conclusion. He writes, "Washington lost the Vietnam War but won it
on the screen". Evidently Escobar has watched a different set of Vietnam movies
than me. Mine include Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, Full Metal
Jacket, Platoon, Coming Home, Casualties of War and
Born on the Fourth of July. These are the most important and successful
Vietnam War movies and none of them are pro-war or make out the US won the war,
in fact the opposite is true. Kathryn Bigelow's movie is likely to be seen by
around 4-10 million people meaning 290 million Americans won't see the movie,
so it will have no effect on them. Of the small number who see the movie many
will be too young to vote and I would imagine since the majority of movie goers
tend to be 25 and younger probably 90% or more of the people who see the movie
won't vote. So if this movie is Obama's secret plan to get re-elected he should
start to write his concession speech now.
USA (May 25, '12)
Out of tragedy often wisdom may emerge. If some robed dead Greek dude had said
this it would be engraved on a marble slab in Congress, yet another
philosophical aphorism our dunder-politicos could trumpet and ignore
simultaneously. But in the case of post-tsunami Japan, this may well be a
truism. Now that it has become obvious that vast swaths of Japan, far removed
from the nuke reactor sites, have become contaminated with fallout, despite all
government denials to the contrary, many citizens have become increasingly
disdainful of what their politicians claim to be truth. Huh.
Almost makes one wish for a similar occurrence in Wonderland, where ridiculous
statements from Washington are regularly pronounced ex cathedra and swallowed
whole by its willingly-duped citizenry. What makes this contrast fascinating is
that the Japanese are considered to be a very obedient if not acquiescent
people, ever ready to kowtow to authority, whereas in the Home of the Knave
individuals are supposedly paramount, ever ready to challenge authority. And
Lord knows we have had plenty of reasons to doubt what comes out of
Washington's mouth, from lying about elections to lying about 9-11 to lying
about Iraqi nukes to lying about Wall Street; yet despite all this,
Wonderlanders casually accept the Party Line like good lemming-Bolsheviks and
proceed to their inevitable collective doom. Of course, that sort of zombified
behavior is exactly what the Amerikan educational system has intended all
But Japan may have crossed their socio-political Rubicon. Being the only
country subjected to atomic attack makes them exquisitely sensitive to the
whole radioactivity topic, and the citizens accepted their government's
assurance when they went down the nuclear energy road that everything was safe,
secure and reliable. Now that that lie has been exposed, and people are living
in buildings made out of concrete contaminated with reactor isotopes, or
drinking milk from cows fed from fodder grown in radioactive pastures, the
creeping conclusion is that government will do anything to keep their lies
intact. This fact has been demonstrated over and over in Wonderland, but the
most Wonderful thing about this country is its willingness to believe that
government's preposterous rhetoric while ignoring its irresponsible, reckless
behavior. I have no doubt that if a similar atomic disaster occurred here,
Washington's first reaction would be to build a residential neighborhood on the
site and call it "Long Life Villas". The waiting lists would be enormous.
Hardy Campbell (May 25, '12)
[Re Pakistan hoist
by its own petard, May 24, 2012] The United States refuses to apologize
for its deliberate, unprovoked attack on the Pakistani checkpost and is
increasingly making threats and generally behaving like a kindergarten bully in
the face of Pakistan's legitimate requests for an apology and an increase in
North Atlantic Treaty Orginization (NATO) transit fees to an amount that would
make up for the $70-80 billion loss Pakistani infrastructure has borne over the
last 10 years due to NATO's convoys. It was only natural that Pakistan was
going to close those routes off. Ghori's dismissive portrayals of Pakistan's
reaction are ungrounded in logic, as are his exaggeration of the esteem
Pakistanis hold their soldiers in and the writings of a military dictator whose
rule over Pakistan had ended half a century ago. Also while Ghori explained
Turkey's mediating role in this episode, he did not mention that Turkish Prime
Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has endorsed Pakistan's demand for a US apology
during what was his sixth visit to Pakistan in the last nine years.
Pakistan had already agreed "in principle" to re-open NATO's supply routes when
the Pakistani prime minister visited Britain [on May 16], which the US
misconstrued as unconditional acquiescence to its pressure, hence its
disappointment and publicly thrown tantrum when that turned out not to be the
case. Pakistani and US officials have both confirmed that particular modalities
of NATO's transit through Pakistan (along with the apology) are the only things
in the way of those routes being re-opened; bilateral negotiations are already
ongoing and an agreement is expected soon. Ghori's claim of Pakistan's absence
from Chicago being "an ultimate insult that could doom relations forever" is
not factually accurate. Yes, the Pakistanis would have very much wanted to
attend but this conference's agenda was only to formalize a plan for withdrawal
of foreign forces from Afghanistan, not work out a larger political settlement
in that country, hence non-attendance at this particular conference was not
going to hurt Pakistan's indispensability to the Afghan peace process,
especially considering that other regional powers - Russia, China, Iran, Saudi
Arabia and India - also did not attend.
The Pakistanis do resent the snubs but they know this is a meaningless gesture
that does not change the fact (which even the US acknowledges) that an Afghan
peace process is not possible without their cooperation, no matter the US'
attempts to sideline them from it in general. Also they have suffered worse
insults from the US in the last year and this was not the first time Washington
pulled off public stunts in the face of Islamabad's more measured diplomatic
postures. The real issue is not that "the Pakistani leadership has painted
itself into a helpless and unenviable situation" but that the United States is
immensely embarrassed that Pakistan managed to extract an invitation without
re-opening the supply route; it obviously anticipated the snubs, they were
really Washington's implicit admission of its own glaring diplomatic failure.
Also, American officials such as ex-Central Intelligence Agency Chief Bruce
Reidel have called the snubs counterproductive. This happened in a conference
with goals set far from what the Barack Obama administration had envisioned at
the beginning of its tenure. Its definition of victory in Afghanistan changed
over time from elimination of the insurgents (the failed troop surge) to simply
weakening them to negotiating with them and giving them a share in
Afghanistan's future political order, to simply cutting losses and leaving even
if the insurgency remains undiminished and in control of around 80% of Afghan
territory while diplomatic gestures toward them (like opening the Qatar office)
Also Ghori's belief that "it isn't such a riddle to guess which of the two will
blink first" is untrue. For years US pressure has gotten only tactical
concessions from Pakistan. People within Washington's power corridors admit to
having learned the hard way no amount of aid-cuts, pressure or threats can make
Pakistan make meaningful and strategic changes to its policies; only
accommodation of Pakistan's security needs and reasonable, negotiated
settlement of long-standing conflicts with Afghanistan and India can do that.
Besides, the Pakistanis are convinced there is nothing the US can do that it
won't go ahead and do anyway after they outlive their usefulness post-2014. In
October 2011, allegations of the Haqqani Network being a "veritable arm" of the
Inter-Services Intelligence agency sparked a public showdown between both
countries that involved US troop massing across the border from North
Waziristan readied for unilateral military action there and threats of economic
sanctions and diplomatic isolation, but which ended only with the US getting a
promise from Pakistan to broker peace negotiations between it and the Haqqanis
instead of getting Pakistan to launch a military operation on them and clamping
down on terrorist safe havens in its territory. Also in 2010 Pakistan closed
off NATO's supplies in response to a US attack that killed Pakistani soldiers,
re-opening them only after getting an apology from the US ambassador. If those
episodes are anything to go by, it is NOT a given that Pakistan will be the one
to blink first.
The real challenge for Pakistan will be clinching invitations to future
conferences on Afghanistan and avoiding losing its political investments in
that country by making too big a fuss over the drone attacks and closing NATO's
supplies even one more time. Pakistan also needs to address Western security
concerns regarding its ties to the Taliban without jeopardizing its own
security by ignoring the use of Afghan territory against it by terrorists and
other elements. These are questions of reasonable accommodations that Pakistan
would need to make over time to avoid losing its stakes in Afghanistan, not of
who buckles under whose pressure at what time over what particular tactical
issue after painting itself into a corner.
Waqar Ahmed Pasha
Multan, Pakistan (May 24, '12)
As if one needed affirmation that the land where imagination, ingenuity and
innovation once produced prosperity, jobs and the highest standard of living on
earth is now destitute of new ideas of any kind (except for ways to kill
people; GO USA!!), I present to you the WonderElection of 2012. Oh, sorry,
excuse me, I meant the re-run of the WonderElection of 2008. Because the
Republican party's game plan for winning the White House this time amounts to
no more than regurgitation of all the lies, propaganda and disinformation of
their last lost campaign. Uh, excuse me, GOP, when the game plan produces a
loss, aren't you supposed to change it? Oh, that's right; the definition of
insanity applies here (you know, you're crazy if you repeat the same mistake
and expect a different result.) So get ready for an unending torrent of new
birth certificate demands, Reverend Wright ranting re-hashes, al-Qaeda leader
Osama bin Laden/ US President Barack Obama allusions, Hitler/socialist monster
comparisons, commercials associating socialized medicine with the end of
Western civilization, ad Republicanum.
Which only goes to show you how bereft of attack ideas the average trailer
trash meth-head neo-con is these days, when Obama has put plenty of ammunition
on the table in front of them and all they have to do is use their grimy
cracker paws to put them in their attack ad guns. They could easily make the
case that Obama is every bit a flip flopper, reneging on campaign promise after
promise. But upon closer examination, the logic of avoiding that strategy is
obvious. If they delineated all those broken campaign pledges in detail, they
would be making a pretty good case that Obama is really just a clone of former
president George W Bush, toadying up to the fat cats on Wall Street,
undermining habeas corpus, spying on his countrymen, caving into the incessant
demands of a humiliated military, minimizing if not avoiding altogether
progress on minority rights and in general acting like a true blue neo-con
GOPer. In so doing, their evident hypocrisy would expose the real reason they
detest him, which is his color, pure and simple. Because the only strategy the
neo-anderthals have remaining is to incite race hatred, a hatred that stems for
the average WASP's realization that an aging white population and prolific,
fecund minority bodes ill for their fevered vision of an apartheid blue-eyed
So they must leave all those tasty anti-Obama goodies on the table and instead
revert to the unimaginative recycling of old tired negativities, probably
emphasizing the black thing even more and maybe suggesting Obama is really the
evil vanguard of an alien invasion fleet. Darn! That would mean those
Republican demands for border fences were right, sorta, kinda...
Texas (May 24, '12)
[Re US gives
green light to investment in Myanmar, May 19, 2012] While the lifting
of US sanctions has been cautioned by some on the grounds of a potential
erosion of US leverage and ongoing human-rights abuses, the greater issue is:
Myanmar's political and economic woes cannot be solved by foreign direct
investment (FDI). Indeed, they may be compounded.
The lifting of sanctions will mean political gains for Myanmar. Last year in
September, a senior Burmese official was quoted linking the strict sanctions
regime with the threat of increased Chinese influence, warning of the prospect
that Myanmar could become a satellite state of the Chinese government. First,
the easing of sanctions does tip the geostrategic balance away from China if
they are no longer the only investor in the resource sector. This also arguably
provides the government of Myanmar with greater bargaining power, with the
entrance of competitors seeking access to extractive industries. Secondly,
claims China's economic and political influence is increasing in Asia carries a
lot of political clout in Washington. Political incentives to ease sanctions
have proven to be important drivers of policy change within Burma as well.
The lifting of US sanctions will also mean economic benefits could begin to
flow into the state's coffers. The attraction for FDI is undisputable. Myanmar
is a country rich in mineral resources. Questions need to be asked about the
flow-on economic benefits to people living in Myanmar. The experience of other
countries, starting from a low economic base, is both instructive and
disturbing. In many resource-rich countries, economic development has stalled
or regressed; a trend described as the "resource curse". There is a potential
risk that unaccountable politicians will absorb resource rents, with little
benefit to national economic development.
On the balance of these benefits, key risks are apparent. We cannot take for
granted that the rolling back of US sanctions in Myanmar will lead to improved
development outcomes and human-rights protection.
The reality is, FDI can and sometimes does undermine human rights when
human-rights protections are not enshrined in law, implemented and broadly
respected. Law is not the whole picture, but it can serve as a fundamental
baseline to protect communities. For example, communities access to safe
drinking water, arable land and even their rights to shelter in circumstances
where the government appropriates land for infrastructure development, and
there is an absence of formal land tenure systems in place.
Some serious questions need to be asked about who benefits from the lifting of
sanctions. It's in the US interests, and indeed all potential donors and
investors to consider the risks of enriching a political elite, in the absence
of deep institutional reform. If not, there is a risk that the people of
Myanmar will not be able to fully realize their human rights and consolidate
the gains of democratic reforms.
What we can know with some certainty is that if the end goal is development, a
genuine investment-friendly economy, and improved human rights protections, the
government of Myanmar faces a long and difficult journey towards reform. It's
not clear, however, that this is the kind of strategic vision that the
Australia (May 23, '12)
Though the new comedy The Dictator will not be to many tastes, one
cannot help but acknowledge the star's (Sacha Baron Cohen) ability to adroitly
contrast stereotypes, prejudices and myth. He masterfully accomplishes this by
portraying a Middle Eastern despot whose entire raison d'etre is top subjugate,
oppress and demoralize his "people" in the fictional state of Wadiya. At the
end of the film, his Muammar Gaddafi-like character, Aladeen, launches into a
soliloquy telling his American-world audience that the US's lack of a
dictatorship deprives them of the ability for the top 1% of its people
controlling most of the country's wealth, or their ability to rig elections, or
illegally detain citizens, or manufacture excuses for aggressive war, etc.
Indeed, a clever (albeit partial) laundry list of sins that Wonderland's
so-called "democracy" has been guilty of for many decades. Such candor about
the hypocrisy of the "Land of the Free" is refreshing, though woe to thee who
tries to talk about such things outside the safe sanitizing rubric of comedy or
But evidence is mounting that even the fresh air of truthful fiction may be a
harbinger of hope. A trailer for an upcoming TV program features a newsman's
response to an audience member's innocent inquiry about why he thought America
is the greatest country on earth. To the shock of everyone (including myself
when I first saw it), the newsman not only denied that America was the greatest
nation on earth but delivered his own laundry list describing just how short of
such an arrogant title Amerika indeed falls. Such audacity may or may not find
fertile ground in cable TV ratings, to be sure, but the idea that anyone would
question the shibboleth of assumed and divinely anointed Amerikan
exceptionalism provides some measure of hope that someday we can remove our
collective heads from our posteriors and face the ugly truths about the
infinite lies this nation has accepted without question from its onset. Belief
in these mendacities has created a disintegrating police state with the thin
liberating patina of More's Utopia but the visceral moral rot of George
Orwell's Animal Farm. But these are baby steps in beginning the painful
process of restoring the dignity we've falsely been told we had.
Hardy Campbell (May 23, '12)
[Re Chen hands Beijing a
hollow victory, May 21, '12] The article does not confirm that Beijing
views the issue as a victory or defeat, hollow or otherwise. It is merely the
author's hypothesis that Beijing views the Chen case as a victory. "If that's
regarded as a winning outcome in Beijing, then it is a Pyrrhic victory that
does nothing to address the deeply rooted and widespread problem of corruption
that Chen has spent the last several years of his life fighting against."
In fact, more essential about the Chen issue is: "On the whole, in very charged
diplomatic circumstances that could easily have led to a serious strain in
relations, both sides reacted with remarkable restraint, flexibility and
collaboration.", and, "Analysts have been quick to hail the Chen case as an
example of the new maturity and sophistication in Sino-US relations." The
author seems too eager to conclude that the Chinese central government will not
heed problems at more local levels.
United States (May 22, '12)
Pity "poor" China. They have made quite a cottage industry of harping on
multipolarity and struggling against "Big Power Hegemony." Yet by flexing their
muscles in the South China Sea, going on a spending binge in armaments and
high-tech weapons systems, hacking into certain Big Power Hegemons' data banks
and in general asserting their independence and state sovereignty, they have
given that certain Big Power Hegemon (BPH) and their erstwhile fair weather
stooge-lackies the heebie-jeebies (that's BPH-speak for "scared someone has the
cojones to stand up to our bullying.")
The added burden of being that BPH's primary creditor adds to the discomfort
both sides are feeling in this polarity-transitioning phase we now are in. Such
times on the world stage are hazardous, to be sure. When one established but
aging, creaking BPH is getting ready to stumble off the stage but hasn't quite
done it yet, when does the up and coming BPH decide it's time to walk out and
give that old top hatted, bearded uncle in the ridiculous costume a
not-too-discrete shove? Usually the old BPH stays way past his retirement time
and makes a real hash of things. History gives us numerous examples; Carthage's
misguided attempt to stop the unstoppable Roman ascendancy, enfeebled Spain
disastrously reacting to Frances' challenge in the Thirty Years War, an
embarrassed post-Suez Britain having to acknowledge its subservient status to
the US, and even Wonderland's desperate and futile flailing in the Middle East
being a last gasp effort to convince the world it could replace its previously
respected prosperity and industry with military aggression and techno-savagery.
Mind you, Uncle Sam's reluctance to go quietly into the night is
understandable. Watching China do to its neighbors what Amerika has routinely
done with its "backyard brothers" can only inspire envy, regret and the silly
meaningless gestures of the lame-and-toothless. The laughable attempts to make
Filipinos sawed-off brown Rambos ready to stop the Yellow Hordes seems like a
stand-up comedian's punchline for a bad joke, just as ineffective missile
defense systems, easily-circumvented sanctions and neo-colonial NATO invasions
amount to little more than band aids on the dying carcass of the star-spangled
hegemon. The 20th-century BPH would like to turn back the clock, to be sure, to
happier BPH days, but the 21st-century wannabe-BPH will have none of it. We can
all thank the Lord for that.
United States (May 22, '12)
[Re The 'illogic' of
China's North Korea policy, May 18, '12] From a US standpoint, China's
North Korea policy appears aberrant. From the Chinese point of view, its policy
towards the North is quite rational thank you very much. In fact, a case can be
made that Beijing has consistently followed the same policy, with some tweaking
here and there, for more than 60 years.
"China crosses the Yalu", an Alan Whiting study for the Rand Corporation, seven
years after the 1953 Armistice Agreement, documents why China entered the
Korean War. Beijing's reasoning in protecting its national security has little
changed since then. As Ralph A Cossa and Brad Glosserman readily admit, US
President Barack Obama's Asia-Pacific doctrine simply reinforces China's fears
of the US.
Rather than repeating the same old mantra about China's protection of North
Korea, which is hardly different in kind from America's policy towards South
Korea, it might be worthwhile for the two analysts to call for a less
aggressive US policy towards North Korea. The US's current policy simply keeps
raising red flags to China and North Korea.
Guam (May 21, '12)
[Re JP Morgan
not so dumb and
Tighter days ahead]. JP Morgan and other Wall Street financial
institutions are definitely not dumb when it comes to making money. Actually,
looking at the staggering cost to society, one can't help but feel that these
banks are in fact too smart for the good of the country and of the world.
With economic gloom returning, things should get mighty interesting in
President Barack Obama's re-election bid. Another round of QE simply may not be
able to save the day for him. But then again, what exactly does Republican
candidate Mitt Romney offer? Change and hope?
John Chen USA (May 18, '12)
[Re Middle East
calm in the eye of a storm, May 16, 2012] There has been much
uninformed explanation and speculation by self-proclaimed experts and
commentators as to why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to
forgo a new election and form a workable coalition government. Israel's real
threat has always been a binational state. Either a two-state solution, where
Palestinians and Israelis live side by side in security and peace. Or, a
binational state where eventually Israel loses its Jewish character and
Since he became prime minister, Netanyahu has had that choice. Pursue a peace
with the Palestinians or change the subject. The prime minister's record on
pursuing peace had been dismal at best. When he was prime minister last, his
government was known for its self-promotion and was under a cloud of corruption
charges. His record had been against a two-state solution and he had to be
dragged kicking and screaming in saying those words as prime minister now. So
far, he has changed the subject by demonizing and threatening Iran and making
it his "messianic mission". The prime minister was cheered on by his neo-con
supporters and the Israel-can-do-no-wrong crowd in the US Congress and the
media. Sensing the danger of these policies to Israel, its military and
intelligence service members decided to speak out forcefully. Their job has
always been to protect the people of Israel, whereas the prime minister,
whenever in office, had seemed to be working to protect himself politically.
Thomas Pardo, head of Israeli Mossad intelligence agency, said Iran "is not an
existential threat." In fact, Army Chief Benny Gantz has described the Iranian
leadership as very rational and the former chief of the Mossad Meir Dagan has
said that it would be "stupid" to attack Iran. Finally, former Israeli internal
security chief Yuval Diskin confirmed the fact that all the saber rattling
about Iran was because the Israeli government "has no interest in solving
anything with the Palestinians ... ".
Now that the prime minister has formed a coalition with Kadima, it will be
interesting to see if he changes his tune. The head of Kadima and a new vice
prime minister, Shaul Mofaz, is on record having said "the threat that Israel
will become a bi-national state is far more serious than the Iranian nuclear
issue." The question now is, in order to prevent the real threat to peace and
stability in the Middle East, is the prime minister willing to bring about a
settlement with the Palestinians?
Fariborz S Fatemi
Virginia, USA (May 18, '12)
Obesity is symbolically the perfect "disease" to afflict Americans. It
represents excess, consumption, lack of restraint and a willingness to ignore
deadly repercussions. What could be more Wonderish? Children are bombarded from
the crib with propaganda by the junk food manufacturers of America, who depend
heavily on government subsidies for the sugar, salt and cholesterol-soaked food
oils that poison the innocent.
Their parents, pressured by dwindling incomes and ignorance of basic
nutritional needs, cave in to the relentless misinformation disseminated by
these capitalists and allow their kids to become bloated, inactive dough-boys
with barely mobile arms and legs, ready to "blossom" into diabetic,
heart-diseased couch tubers that regularly trot (or should I say, roll) to the
doctors, pharmacies and fat farms in order to stem the tide of obesity-related
illnesses they will carry to the grave. Naturally, the insurance companies will
be glad to make this experience as easy as possible, for a rather hefty fee,
when they deem the victims insurable (lotsa luck there, fatso!). Everyone
benefits, as long as you're a corporation who controls congressional
regulations on such things as basic child nutrition, enabling food monopolists
to label their sugar-laden fruit-flavored cereals 'healthy" because, after all,
they taste like healthy fruit.
But the use of obesity to describe Amerika goes beyond the tragedies of
individuals. Just as once brilliant and massive stars that run out of solar
fuel collapse into the cosmic abyss known as black holes, so too will the once
brightest of earthly star-nations, now that it has spent its energy, will and
spirit in useless exercises of impotent power, implode its ponderous mass into
the geopolitical equivalent of an infinite sinkhole.
Like its citizens, the obesity of bureaucracy, political paralysis, debt,
bailouts, infinite wars and a citizenry expecting something for nothing has
turned Wonderland into the nation-state equivalent of a sofa spud, sitting
before a computer monitor and playing games with robot drones, surveillance
satellites, collateralized debt obligations, stock market manipulations, bogus
statistics, poll numbers and video games. Unable to rouse ourselves into
productivity or value to mankind, our increasing spiritual obesity makes us
heavier and heavier but simultaneously smaller and smaller. Ultimately, the
lights will go out once and for all, and we will become the heaviest
nothingness in history.
Texas (May 17, '12)
It's funny Dennis O'Connell [letter, May 14] mocks China when his own country
is the biggest thief in the world for the last few centuries. Does this guy
have shame? Why doesn't China go to international courts of injustice? Because
they're run by people like Dennis O'Connell.
Yun Tang (May 16, '12)
loans fail usury test, May 15, '12] Student debt in the US has crossed
the trillion dollar threshold. Students are defaulting on loans, and a
staggering debt is a bubble about to burst.
In fact, the trend to privatize American education from the ground up is a sign
of the times. The country is turning its back on its future by condemning those
who it can least afford to drop out or abandon the dream that anyone can make
it in America. The slashing by state - and education is traditionally the
purview of the 50 states - of budget allocations for education is an erosion of
democracy. The attack against teachers who are strongly unionized is an assault
again on the democratic ideal praised in Tocqueville.
America is on the road taken by Pakistan which allocates two percent of its
budget to education. Little wonder poverty and extremism go hand in hand there.
We are beginning to see the same drift in the US. By beggaring the middle
classes, the working class, and the poor, the "one percent" is fostering
extremism, ignorance, and the rise of political right wing radicalism, the
better to keep their privileges and hands on the level of government.
The formula spells disaster. One just has to look at the arrogance of JPMorgan
Chase to see how unrestricted control has led to a $2 billion dollar loss - as
far as [its chief executive] Jaimie Dimon is willing to admit, to see the
pitfalls of the ruling elite who have feathered their own bed with taxpayers
money, the bank's clients' savings, and still walk away without a slap on the
wrist. Saying this, by any standard student loans in the hands of private banks
are a bellwether for disaster.
Guam (May 16, '12)
Over the last months many writers on the Asia Times Online have been trying to
prove that the South China Sea belongs to China and
The sea rises in China [May 14, '12] by Brendan O'Reilly is the latest
attempt. Scarborough Shoal is 140 miles [225 kilometers] from the Philippines
and 600 miles from mainland China. What the Chinese call Huangyan Island is a
small rock the size of a car. An acorn is not an oak tree and a rock is not an
island. The areas that China claims in the South China Sea are insane and make
a schizophrenic kleptomaniac seem sane and honest. Portuguese fishermen fished
the grand banks hundreds of years before Columbus, but I don't believe Portugal
claims the grand banks as their territory. Brendan O'Reilly believes that the
Philippines should give up possibly billions of dollars in oil and natural gas
for the right to sell China some pineapples.
If China believes they have a good legal case they could take their case to the
International Court of Justice or the International Tribunal for the law of the
sea. However China knows its legal claims are a joke and refuse the rule of law
and seek to intimidate their smaller neighbors. I always thought that when
China was faced with a major internal crisis they would seek to start a war
with Taiwan, now its seems they will substitute the South China sea instead. If
China thinks it can sink the ships of its neighbors and not expect extreme
blow-back they are more than insane. China seems to resent that it missed out
on the age of imperialism and seems to want to have a go at it now, however
China might want to look at a calender and realize it is 2012 and not 1870. But
it appears that China wants to pull down the communist star (the last communist
died in china a long time ago, if any ever existed) and hoist up the jolly
roger, so let the party begin.
USA (May 15, '12)
the US's corps," [May 14, 2012] By Brian M Downing is quite a good
article. Readers might also look for Mikey Weinstein on the "Pentecostalgon".
Lots of Born-Again officers are no more prepared to accept the Jews or
Lutherans in their midst than they are Muslims.
Lester Ness (May 15, '12)
That chuckling you're hearing from above is Karl Marx having yet another guffaw
over capitalism's latest victimizing of itself, in this case, JP Morgan's two
billion dollar loss in the financial gee-whiz "risk reducing" financial device
they themselves invented, the credit derivative.
Huh. With risk reduction like that, break dancing in a mine field looks like a
guarantee for long life. Mind you, the Morganauts were feeling pretty smug in
2008 when all those speculators were up to their ying-yangs in toilet dwelling
subprime mortgage derivatives, a venture they had deemed too risky because it
was exceedingly complex by even the byzantine standards of Wall Street.
While all around them were making out like Gucci-suited Chicken Littles, JP
stood on the sidelines, relatively immune to the card castles collapsing around
them. Well, those Chicken Littles have all grown up now and are flying home to
roost in the wreckage of Morgan's risk management division, which intended to
prove Morgan's original thesis that these derivatives were too risky to touch,
by using the empirical method, the School of Expensive and Incredibly Stupid
So Wonderlanders are once again faced with a financial reality that they had
hoped had vanished in an avalanche of government propaganda, media-fed wishful
thinking, doctored statistics, federal largesse, congressional
winking-and-nodding and presidential pandering to banks, plutocrats and the
That reality demonstrates that, in the Disunited States of Incompetence
(Futureman tells me this will be the official name of the US centuries from
now), there is no level of smug confidence or arrogant hubris that the economic
gods will not punish, sooner or later. Indeed, a country that depends on
creating an unending procession of financial Frankenstein monsters in order to
sustain its mirage of superduperdom will eventually have to turn their
pitchforks on themselves. Now I just need to figure a way to turn that fact
into a credit derivative.
Hardy Campbell (May 14, '12)
[Re Pyongyang paints
history in its own image, May 10, '12] No matter in what garish colors
Andre Lankov paints North Korea, the way it imagines its own history is very
mainstream. All countries, including his own former Soviet Union, engage in
this exercise. Frances Fitzgerald in 1979 wrote America Revised, a
highly critical review of high school history textbooks, which is a good case
Guam (May 11, '12)
[Re: Hu oils cogs to
lock the US Asia 'pivot', May 8, '12]. I don't think Chinese President
Hu Jintao was expressing a wish as much as he was making a patent observation,
that the entelechy of a US-China economic marriage will be realized with or
without the two governments' willing consent - it's the capitalist way and,
quite simply, the path of least resistance. Chimerica, it's coming to a
friendly neighborhood near you.
USA (May 9, '12)
Europe can believe in?, May 7, '12] It is obvious that Pepe Escobar is
not fan of French President Nicholas Sarkozy. As usual though, Escobar takes
the path of attacking free markets and glowing over state controlled economic
activities. In his attempts to sell President-elect Francois Hollande as a pure
socialist, Escobar diminishes the Franco-German relations that Hollande
According to EurActiv, Hollande proposes a Franco-German partnership to foster
economic collaboration between the French and the German state. Such
collaboration will be in the areas of transportation, renewable energy, and
environmental initiatives. In addition, the Franco-German partnership will
create an office for research about issues of interest to both nations.
So Escobar, Germany will be a power house in Europe for years to come.
Otherwise who will clothe and feed the folks that your column constantly
defend? You may like the idea that Hollande will impose a tax on wealth that
increase state revenues by 29 billion euros, but you failed to mention that
Hollande advocates to reduce taxes to companies and small businesses to boost
economy. See Escobar, the Occupy Wall Street Protesters and the likes neither
produce a dime nor create a job. It's the opposite, they live off the sweat of
someone else. Like the millions in the European Union living off Germans'
productivity and hard work. I have to give you credit in labeling Hollande as a
pragmatic leader. He may raise the income tax for Frenchmen but will make up
for it by lowering taxes on businesses.
On social issues Hollande is on the far left. However, any leader in the
developed world that effectively tackles economic issues and reduce the deficit
(Hollande has stated during his campaign that by 2017 France's deficit will be
zero) will get a free pass on such matters. Regarding the creation of a basket
of currencies for international trade, Escobar you better slow down on that
one. Not every country that wants to impose its currency on international trade
will get its wishes. There are legal guarantees that make business in one
place, in one currency more convenient than others. Investors feel more
comfortable dealing with a currency from a country where someone like [Bolivian
President] Evo Morales won't wake up one day and say: this company is no longer
yours and will be transferred to its "legitimate owners".
The basket of currencies sound fair in a multi-polar world but it is easier
said than done. Some countries just talk, talk, and talk but they don't care in
creating strong, trustworthy institutions inside their geography. It's all
about the economy Escobar, and the economic crisis will take priority over
whatever socialist agenda that Mr. Hollande ever dreamed of. We are all
socialists, Mr Escobar, but we are all capitalists. We are all liberals and we
are all conservatives. It's all shades of gray.
USA (May 8, '12)
The latest buzz in Vunderland concerns the new president of France, who has
triumphed over the Anglophile plutocrat Nicolas Sarkozy. Amerikans are aghast
at the stupidity of the French for having anything to do with THAT WORD. Of
course, anything with THAT WORD here is equivalent to "atheist", "ACLU lawyer,"
and "baby-eating monster" in the neo-con universe (which is normally bounded by
the nearest WalMart, liquor store and trailer park meth lab.)
THAT WORD, for those who haven't divined it yet, is (shudder) SOCIALISM. Of
course, no neo-con could define that for you in economic or political terms,
other than to identify it with President Barack Obama and Hollywood
So they're convinced the French will begin mobilizing mobs of red-bereted,
wine-swilling commies determined to take back the Statue of Liberty, all
recipes for French fries and every employed mime in America. This is amusing,
because any examination of the US will expose it as socialist a society as the
French, Russians or Chinese every aspired to be. The difference is simply one
of class; here, only the rich are deserving of government intervention to
distribute wealth. But by calling ourselves "capitalists", we adorn ourselves
with the delusion of rugged individualism, government-free "job creation" and
good ol' 'merikan Free Enterprise, none of which could exist without massive
tax breaks, trade restrictions, subsidies, interest-free loans, grants,
bailouts and no-bid rigged contracts, all at the expense of the tax payer. So
please Mr New Socialist French President, hold back your hordes of godless
Francais Rouge who want the proletarian rats to feast on government cheese.
Recognize that in Wonderland, these rats are content to place the cheese on the
table and wait patiently while they dream of cheese crumbs falling from the
Texas (May 8, '12)
[Re Israel stokes
the 'Iran threat', May 7, '12] I agree with Kaveh Afrasiabi about
Germany's hypocrisy. I think it is irresponsible policy to sell nuclear weapons
technology to Israel as long as Israel refuses to join the Treaty on the
Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. Afrasiabi is as usual on the mark with
his insightful analysis and it is very refreshing to see the "three giants" of
Asia Times Online, Pepe Escobar, Afrasiabi and MK Bhadramkumar at the top of
their games. Thank you.
Toronto (May 8, '12)
[Re North Korea puts
China in harm's way, May 4, '12] Resumption of the six-party talks in
Beijing is not North Korea's decision alone. The record shows that by playing
"tough cop", the US, along with South Korea and Japan, has closed any avenue of
reopening the suspended talks.
The Barack Obama administration's military policy in the Asia-Pacific region
targets Beijing. Its inadvertent involvement in the Bo Xilai scandal and
mishandling of the Chen Guangcheng affair seem not only interference in China's
internal affairs but an existential threat to the emergence of China as a
regional and global player.
Beijing may also feel that it cannot play Washington's surrogate in dealing
with North Korea: it is a no win situation any which way you look at it. Let
Washington "do its own dirty work" is more the mood these days, it seems.
Guam (May 7, '12)
[In response to Ysais Martinez letter May 1] Egypt is an ancient country and
Egyptians are sophisiticated people. We Americans are ignorant barbarians by
comparison. We have given death and destruction to the countries we have
conquered. We cannot give anyone democracy because we do not have it at home.
We have oligarchy, instead.
China (May 7, '12)
[Re Potent portraits in
North Korea, May 2] Are portraits of the three Kims a burning topic of
interest? Hardly. I wonder how Dr Lankov would interpret portraits of popes in
the living rooms of Catholics or the wearing of religious medals?
Guam (May 3, '12)
Editor's note: Seemingly, yes. Dr Lankov's piece was one of the best-read
articles of the day.
[Re Confessions of
an angry young drone, May 2] Well, Pepe did it again. He is one special
thinker/wordsmith who has that rare capacity to stretch beyond the
investigative into the realm of almost-poetry; even with its most tragically,
diabolically-embedded on-point message?
Now I'm waiting for the sequel, the Boomerang Effect ... as we sow, so shall we
"Only a part of the
Is required when the rope
Hangs the one they have agreed to call
- "Death Song" by Thomas McGrath, the late, great, plains poet
United States (May 3, '12)
Pssst. Keep it quiet. The Cold War between East and West. It's baaaaacccckkk.
In fact, it never really went away, just dressed up in different threads and
went to a manicurist, hairdresser, etc. for a schnazzy make-over. So instead of
intimidating the world with May Day parades that feature soldiers, missiles and
tanks, Russia flexes its muscles in far more subtle, nuanced ways. Take Poland
and Ukraine, who are co-hosting the 2012 European Football Championship in
Poland, ancient enemy of Russia and member of the North Atlantic Treaty
Organization (NATO), saw a significant number of its political, military and
religious leaders killed in the Smolensk air tragedy of 2010, an "accident"
that for many Poles was as "accidental" as 9/11 was perpetrated by "foreign
terrorists" to many thinking Americans (I know, an oxymoron).
Ukraine, a former Soviet republic that always chafed under Russian domination,
has seen its Western-flirting prime ministers mysteriously poisoned or
imprisoned on trumped up charges and its political system kept in turmoil.
Recently mysterious bombs have been detonated in a Ukrainian city, with no
"terrorist" group claiming responsibility, which is not what usually happens
when terrorists blow things up to make a point.
Already some western European leaders have urged a boycott of the Ukrainian
part of the soccer tournament, as a protest against the dubious incarceration
of ex-Prime Minister, the anti-Russian Yulia Tymoshenko. This would suit Russia
just fine, with a western boycott making an understanding, brotherly Russia
seem a more logical alternative as Ukraine's "protective" partner. And neither
the European Union nor NATO should entertain any doubts that, while Russia may
have grudgingly accepted their old enemy Poland into the Western alliance,
Ukraine, with its religious, racial, economic and cultural ties with Mother
Russia, will never be allowed the same path.
Many Poles paint the Smolensk plane crash as a not-too-subtle reminder of who's
the Alpha Dog in their backyard. And it may be a coincidence that now
Washington is making noises about its proposed missile defense system for
Poland being technically inadequate, making the placement of these extremely
provocative weapons of dubious strategic value problematic, while saving
Wonderface at the same time.
Yes, the East was down at halftime to the West but has come storming out of the
locker room with renewed fire and determination, while the once-dominant NATO
team is creaking, aching and desperate for the full time whistle. Sorry, NATO,
you're all out of subs and a new player for the East is coming on, a real
sleeper with a wicked left foot by the name of China.
United States (May 3, '12)
[Re Bibi unrattled
by early election noise, May 1, '12] Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
"Bibi" Netenyahu may ignore early election noise, but he cannot refrain from
recognizing the "ghetto" Israel has become during his years in office.
A state armed to the teeth, Israel can hardly pursue a forward policy against
its Arab and Irani neighbors with impunity. Already signs in Egypt point to a
revocation of an "entente cordiale". Rising voices within Israel now condemn
Netenyahu's "messianic" revisionist Zionist designs of a Greater Israel from
the Mediterranean to the Jordan River.
It is for nothing, perhaps, that the death of Bentzion Netenyahu at the age of
102 is sign that ultimately his son's designs as the region's hegamon is also
Abraham Bin Yiju
Palermo (May 2, '12)
[Re US strikes a
military pose for Iran, May 1, 2012] The visit by Iran's President
Mahmud Ahmedinajad to the tiny island of Abu Musa has stirred up the hornet's
nest of Arab outrage and Western tut-tutting, just as was intended. To Iran's
credit, it has not backed off one iota from the pathetic posturing of the
Saudis, the Emirates and the WonderBlunderers. Instead, it has ratcheted up its
bold defiance, making the various emperors scramble for the nearest clothes
racks. While the Saudis, Bahrainis and Emirates blather on about unification
ands the dire Shi'ia/Iranian "threat", the DunderHeaders face inexorable
difficulties extricating themselves from the Afghan briar patch and the Iraqi
minefield, staying out of the deteriorating Syrian quagmire, and trying to
stabilize the unraveling Pakistani non-state while worrying about the
increasing Islamic assertiveness of Egypt and Turkey. Iran's strategic
brilliance in exploiting this Keystone WonderKops dilemma would make Henry
Kissinger proud. The dizzying panoply of multipolar combinations that Iran can
exploit is frankly leaving the Anglo-Saxons befuddled, confused and a tad
desperate, completely at sea in a universe where the once-ballyhooed levers of
Western coercion are attached to rusting gears and obsolete mechanisms. The
underlying message Iran makes with a visit to an island situated astride the
major shipping lanes through the petrocentric Strait of Hormuz is that the West
can talk all it wants about attacking secret nuke plants but Iran can easily
close that narrow stretch without breaking a sweat. Recognizing their strategic
nudity, US generals are now being allowed to confidently state that Iran is not
likely anytime soon to develop those at-one-time imminent WMDs. This shows
Iran's strategy is paying off big time. The old schoolyard adage that the best
way to deal with bullies is standing up to them and calling their bluff seems
to once again demonstrate Aesopian wisdom. In the long run, avoiding another
war is a good thing for Wonderland also. All those troops fighting Third World
"terror" will be needed to quell the coming insurrection back home.
Texas (May 2, '12)
[Re The horror
and the pita, Apr 30, '12] Whatever happens in Egypt - after the media
manufactured revolution - will be the responsibility of the United States and
the Western powers. It was pathetic to watch CNN and BBC during the so-called
revolution in Egypt glowing about events that they did not fully understand. I
loved it when these networks interviewed a couple of English-speaking,
clean-cut, educated Egyptians who talked the talk of democracy. It was
laughable when they attributed the opinion of these couple of Egyptians to 80
million people. So the United States and the naive leaders in Europe thought
that Jeffersonian secular democracy would flourish in two weeks on Egyptian
soil. President Barack Obama and his administration thought that 80 million
Egyptians would embrace a democracy that in their eyes is irreligious or - like
Michael Scheuer would say:- "perhaps even pagan". And this is where our
strategic mistake lays on with the Islamic world: we offer them democracy when
they despise democracy (not that they hate freedom, let's be clear) and prefer
1,400 years of tradition. We think that democracy is the solution to every
single problem on the planet - just like the communists thought that communism
was the only answer - and we have forgotten that fostering a democracy that is
perceived as pagan will only harvest terrorists and losers willing to die for
their cause. Let's let it slide and welcome to the new Egypt!
USA (May 1, '12)
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