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Chris Hedges: The Most Important Battle for Press Freedom in Our Time

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 31/10/2021 - 3:59am in

WASHINGTON, D.C. (Scheerpost) – For the past two days, I have been watching the extradition hearing for Julian Assange via video link from London. The United States is appealing a lower court ruling that denied the US request to extradite Assange not, unfortunately, because in the eyes of the court he is innocent of a crime, but because, as Judge Vanessa Baraitser in January concluded, Assange’s precarious psychological state would deteriorate given the “harsh conditions” of the inhumane US prison system, “causing him to commit suicide.” The United States has charged Assange with 17 counts under the Espionage Act and one count of trying to hack into a government computer, charges that could see him imprisoned for 175 years.

Assange, with long white hair, appeared on screen the first day from the video conference room in HM Prison Belmarsh. He was wearing a white shirt with an untied tie around his neck. He looked gaunt and tired. He did not appear in court, the judges explained, because he was receiving a “high dose of medication.” On the second day he was apparently not present in the prison’s video conference room.

Assange is being extradited because his organization WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs in October 2010, which documented numerous US war crimes — including video images of the gunning down of two Reuters journalists and 10 other unarmed civilians in the Collateral murder video, the routine torture of Iraqi prisoners, the covering up of thousands of civilian deaths and the killing of nearly 700 civilians that had approached too closely to US checkpoints. He is also being targeted by US authorities for other leaks, especially those that exposed  the hacking tools used by the CIA known as Vault 7, which enables the spy agency to compromise cars, smart TVs, web browsers and the operating systems of most smart phones, as well as operating systems such as Microsoft Windows, macOS and Linux.

If Assange is extradited and found guilty of publishing classified material, it will set a legal precedent that will effectively end national security reporting, allowing the government to use the Espionage Act to charge any reporter who possesses classified documents, and any whistleblower who leaks classified information.

If the appeal by the United States is accepted Assange will be retried in London. The ruling on the appeal is not expected until at least January.

Assange’s September 2020 trial painfully exposed how vulnerable he has become after 12 years of detention, including seven in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He has in the past attempted suicide by slashing his wrists. He suffers from hallucinations and depression, takes antidepressant medication and the antipsychotic quetiapine. After he was observed pacing his cell until he collapsed, punching himself in the face and banging his head against the wall he was transferred for several months to the medical wing of the Belmarsh prison. Prison authorities found “half of a razor blade” hidden under his socks. He has repeatedly called the suicide hotline run by the Samaritans because he thought about killing himself “hundreds of times a day.”

James Lewis, the lawyer for the United States, attempted to discredit the detailed and disturbing medical and psychological reports on Assange presented to the court in September 2020, painting him instead as a liar and malingerer. He excoriated the decision of Judge Baraitser to bar extradition, questioned her competence, and breezily dismissed the mountains of evidence that high-security prisoners in the United Sates, like Assange, subjected to Special Administrative Measures (SAMs), and held in virtual isolation in supermax prisons, suffer psychological distress. He charged Dr. Michael Kopelman, emeritus professor of neuropsychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King’s College London, who examined Assange and testified for the defense, with deception for “concealing” that Assange fathered two children with his fiancée Stella Morris while in refuge in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London. He said that, should the Australian government request Assange, he could serve his prison time in Australia, his home country, after his appeals had been exhausted, but stopped short of promising that Assange would not be held in isolation or subject to SAMs.

The authority repeatedly cited by Lewis to describe the conditions under which Assange will be held and tried in the United States was Gordon Kromberg, the Assistant United States attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. Kromberg is the government’s grand inquisitor in cases of terrorism and national security. He has expressed open contempt for Muslims and Islam and decried what he calls “the Islamization of the American justice system.” He oversaw the 9-year persecution of the Palestinian activist and academic Dr. Sami Al-Arian and at one point refused his request to postpone a court date during the religious holiday of Ramadan. “They can kill each other during Ramadan, they can appear before the grand jury. All they can’t do is eat before sunset,” Kromberg said in a 2006 conversation, according to an affidavit filed by one of Arian’s attorneys, Jack Fernandez.

Kromberg criticized Daniel Hale, the former Air Force analyst who recently was sentenced to 45 months in a supermax prison for leaking information about the indiscriminate killings of civilians by drones, saying Hale had not contributed to public debate, but had “endanger[ed] the people doing the fight.” He ordered Chelsea Manning jailed after she refused to testify in front of a grand jury investigating WikiLeaks. Manning attempted to commit suicide in March 2020 while being held in the Virginia jail.

Having covered the case of Syed Fahad Hashmi, who was arrested in London in 2006, I have a good idea of what waits Assange if he is extradited. Hashmi also was held in Belmarsh and extradited in 2007 to the United States where he spent three years in solitary confinement under SAMs. His “crime” was that an acquaintance who stayed in his apartment with him while he was a graduate student in London had raincoats, ponchos and waterproof socks in luggage at the apartment. The acquaintance planned to deliver the items to al-Qaida. But I doubt the government was concerned with waterproof socks being shipped to Pakistan. The reason, I suspect, Hashmi was targeted was because, like the Palestinian activist Dr. Sami Al-Arian, and like Assange, he was fearless and zealous in his defense of those being bombed, shot, terrorized and killed throughout the Muslim world while he was a student at Brooklyn College.

Hashmi was deeply religious, and some of his views, including his praise of the Afghan resistance, were controversial, but he had a right to express these sentiments. More important, he had a right to expect freedom from persecution and imprisonment because of his opinions, just as Assange should have the freedom, like any publisher, to inform the public about the inner workings of power. Facing the possibility of a 70-year sentence in prison and having already spent four years in jail, much of it in solitary confinement, Hashmi accepted a plea bargain on one count of conspiracy to provide material support to terrorism. Judge Loretta Preska, who sentenced the hacker Jeremy Hammond and human rights attorney Steven Donziger, gave him the maximum 15-year sentence. Hashmi was held for nine years in Guantanamo-like conditions in the supermax ADX [Administrative Maximum] facility in Florence, Colorado, where Assange, if found guilty in an American court, will almost certainly be imprisoned. Hashmi was released in 2019.

The pre-trial detention conditions Hashmi endured were designed to break him. He was electronically monitored 24-hours a day. He could only receive or send mail with his immediate family. He was prohibited from speaking with other prisoners through the walls. He was forbidden from taking part in group prayer. He was permitted one hour of exercise a day, in a solitary cage without fresh air. He has unable to see most of the evidence used to indict him which was classified under the Classified Information Procedures Act, enacted to prevent US intelligence officers under prosecution from threatening to reveal state secrets to manipulate the legal proceedings. The harsh conditions eroded his physical and psychological health. When he appeared in the final court proceeding to accept a guilty plea he was in a near catatonic state, clearly unable to follow the proceedings around him.

If the government will go to this length to persecute someone who was alleged to have been involved in sending waterproof socks to al-Qaida, what can we expect the government to do to Assange?

A society that prohibits the capacity to speak in truth extinguishes the capacity to live in justice. The battle for Assange’s liberty has always been much more than the persecution of a publisher. It is the most important battle for press freedom of our era. And if we lose this battle, it will be devastating, not only for Assange and his family, but for us.

Tyrannies invert the rule of law. They turn the law into an instrument of injustice. They cloak their crimes in a faux legality. They use the decorum of the courts and trials, to mask their criminality. Those, such as Assange, who expose that criminality to the public are dangerous, for without the pretext of legitimacy the tyranny loses credibility and has nothing left in its arsenal but fear, coercion and violence. The long campaign against Assange and WikiLeaks is a window into the collapse of the rule of law, the rise of what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls our system of inverted totalitarianism, a form of totalitarianism that maintains the fictions of the old capitalist democracy, including its institutions, iconography, patriotic symbols and rhetoric, but internally has surrendered total control to the dictates of global corporations and the security and surveillance state.

There is no legal basis to hold Assange in prison. There is no legal basis to try him, an Australian citizen, under the US Espionage Act. The CIA spied on Assange in the Ecuadorian embassy through a Spanish company, UC Global, contracted to provide embassy security. This spying included recording the privileged conversations between Assange and his lawyers as they discussed his defense. This fact alone invalidated the trial. Assange is being held in a high security prison so the state can, as Nils Melzer, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, has testified, continue the degrading abuse and torture it hopes will lead to his psychological if not physical disintegration.The architects of imperialism, the masters of war, the corporate-controlled legislative, judicial and executive branches of government and their obsequious courtiers in the media, are guilty of egregious crimes. Say this simple truth and you are banished, as many of us have been, to the margins of the media landscape. Prove this truth, as Assange, Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond and Edward Snowden have by allowing us to peer into the inner workings of power, and you are hunted down and persecuted.

Assange’s “crime” is that he exposed the more than 15,000 unreported deaths of Iraqi civilians. He exposed the torture and abuse of some 800 men and boys, aged between 14 and 89, at Guantánamo. He exposed that Hillary Clinton in 2009 ordered US diplomats to spy on U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and other U.N. representatives from China, France, Russia, and the UK, spying that included obtaining DNA, iris scans, fingerprints, and personal passwords, part of the long pattern of illegal surveillance that included the eavesdropping on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in the weeks before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003. He exposed that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the CIA orchestrated the June 2009 military coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically-elected president Manuel Zelaya, replacing it with a murderous and corrupt military regime. He exposed that George W. Bush, Barack Obama and General David Petraeus prosecuted a war in Iraq that under post-Nuremberg laws is defined as a criminal war of aggression, a war crime, which authorized hundreds of targeted assassinations, including those of US citizens in Yemen. He exposed that the United States secretly launched missile, bomb, and drone attacks on Yemen, killing scores of civilians. He exposed that Goldman Sachs paid Hillary Clinton $657,000 to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe, and that she privately assured corporate leaders she would do their bidding while promising the public financial regulation and reform. He exposed the internal campaign to discredit and destroy British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by members of his own party. He exposed how the hacking tools used by the CIA and the National Security Agency permits the wholesale government surveillance of our televisions, computers, smartphones and anti-virus software, allowing the government to record and store our conversations, images and private text messages, even from encrypted apps.

He exposed the truth. He exposed it over and over and over until there was no question of the endemic illegality, corruption and mendacity that defines the global ruling elite. And for these truths alone he is guilty.

Feature photo | A supporter of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange holds a placard after the first hearing in the Julian Assange extradition appeal, at the High Court in London, Aug. 11, 2021. Matt Dunham | AP

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact.

The post Chris Hedges: The Most Important Battle for Press Freedom in Our Time appeared first on MintPress News.

Chris Hedges: The Anonymous Executioners of the Corporate State

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 08/10/2021 - 4:50am in

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (ScheerpostJudge Loretta Preska, an advisor to the conservative Federalist Society, to which Chevron is a major donor, sentenced human rights attorney and Chevron nemesis Steven Donziger to six months in prison Friday for misdemeanor contempt of court after he had already spent 787 days under house arrest in New York.

Preska’s caustic outbursts — she said at the sentencing, “It seems that only the proverbial two-by-four between the eyes will instill in him any respect for the law” — capped a judicial farce worthy of the antics of Vasiliy Vasilievich, the presiding judge at the major show trials of the Great Purges in the Soviet Union, and the Nazi judge Roland Freisler who once shouted at a defendant, “You really are a lousy piece of trash!”

Donziger, a graduate of Harvard Law School, has been fighting against polluting American oil companies for nearly three decades on behalf of indigenous communities and peasant farmers in Ecuador. His only “crime” was winning a $9.5 billion judgment in 2011 against Chevron for thousands of plaintiffs. The oil giant had bought Texaco oil company holdings in Ecuador, inheriting a lawsuit alleging it deliberately discharged 16 billion gallons of toxic waste from its oil sites into rivers, groundwater, and farmland. Since the verdict, Chevron has come after him, weaponizing litigation to destroy him economically, professionally, and personally.

The sentencing came a day after Donziger petitioned the court to consider an opinion by the United Nations human rights council that found his house arrest a violation of international human rights law. The U.N human rights council said his house arrest counted as detention under international law and it was therefore illegal for Judge Preska to demand an additional six months in jail. Amnesty International also called for Donziger’s immediate release.

Donziger and his lawyers have two weeks to appeal the judge’s order that Donziger be sent immediately to jail. Preska denied Donziger bail claiming he is a flight risk. If the Federal Court of Appeals turns down Donziger’s appeal he will go to jail for six months. The irony, not lost on Donziger and his lawyers, is that the higher court may overturn Preska’s ruling against him, but by the time that decision is made he will potentially have already spent six months in jail.

“What Judge Preska is trying to do is force me to serve the entirety of my sentence before the appellate court can rule,” Donziger told me by phone on Monday. “If the appellate court rules in my favor, I will still have served my sentence, although I am innocent in the eyes of the law.”

Donziger, his lawyers have pointed out, is the first person under U.S. law charged with a “B” misdemeanor to be placed on home confinement, prior to trial, with an ankle monitor. He is the first person charged with any misdemeanor to be held under home confinement for over two years. He is the first attorney ever to be charged with criminal contempt over a discovery dispute in a civil case where the attorney went into voluntary contempt to pursue an appeal. He is the first person to be prosecuted under Rule 42 (criminal contempt) by a private prosecutor with financial ties to the entity and industry that was a litigant in the underlying civil dispute that gave rise to the orders. He is the first person tried by a private prosecutor who had ex parte communications with the charging judge while that judge remained (and remains) unrecused on the criminal case.

“No lawyer in New York for my level of offense ever has served more than 90 days and that was in home confinement,” Donziger told the court. “I have now been in home confinement eight times that period of time. I have been disbarred without a hearing where I have been unable to present factual evidence; thus, I am unable to earn an income in my profession. I have no passport. I can’t travel; can’t do human rights work the normal way which I believe I am reasonably good at; can’t see my clients in Ecuador; can’t visit the affected communities to hear the latest news of cancer deaths or struggles to maintain life in face of constant exposure to oil pollution. In addition, and this is little known, Judge [Lewis A.] Kaplan has imposed millions and millions of dollars of fines and courts costs on me. [Kaplan is the judge for Chevron’s lawsuit against Donziger; Preska is his handpicked judge for the contempt charges.] He has ordered me to pay millions to Chevron to cover their legal fees in attacking me, and then he let Chevron go into my bank accounts and take all my life’s savings because I did not have the funds to cover these costs. Chevron still has a pending motion to order me to pay them an additional $32 [million] in legal fees. That’s where things stand today. I ask you humbly: might that be enough punishment already for a Class B misdemeanor?”

Judge Preska was unmoved.

“Mr. Donziger has spent the last seven years thumbing his nose at the U.S. judicial system,” Preska said at his sentencing hearing. “Now it’s time to pay the piper.”

The six-month sentence was the maximum the judge was allowed to impose; she ruled that his house arrest cannot be counted as part of his detention. From start to finish, this has been a burlesque. It is emblematic of a court system that has been turned over to lackies of corporate power, who use the veneer of jurisprudence, decorum, and civility to make a mockery of the rule of law.

When the law is neutered, judges become the enforcers of injustice. These corporate judges, who epitomize what Hannah Arendt called the banality of evil, now routinely make war on workers, civil liberties, unions, and environmental regulations.

Preska sent Jeremy Hammond to prison for a decade for hacking into the computers of a private security firm that works on behalf of the government, including the Department of Homeland Security, and corporations such as Dow Chemical. In 2011, Hammond released to the website WikiLeaks and Rolling Stone and other publications some three million emails from the Texas-based company Strategic Forecasting Inc., or Stratfor. The sentence was one of the longest in U.S. history for hacking and the maximum Preska could impose under a plea agreement in the case. I sat through the Hammond trial. I watched Preska spew her bile and contempt at Hammond from the bench with the same vitriol she used to attack Donziger.

Preska is also infamous for her long judicial crusade to force New York public schools to provide tax-subsidized free space for evangelical churches based on blatantly illogical readings of the Constitution.

The persecution of Donziger fits a pattern familiar to millions of poor Americans who are coerced into accepting plea deals, many for crimes they did not commit, and sent to prison for decades. It fits the pattern of the judicial lynching and prolonged psychological torture of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning. It fits the pattern of those denied habeas corpus and due process at Guantánamo Bay or in CIA black sites. It fits the pattern of those charged under terrorism laws, many held at the federal Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in Lower Manhattan, who cannot see the evidence used to indict them. It fits the pattern of the widespread use of Special Administrative Measures, known as SAMs, imposed to prevent or severely restrict communication with other prisoners, attorneys, family, the media, and people outside the jail. It fits the pattern of the extreme sensory deprivation and prolonged isolation used on those in our black sites and prisons, a form of psychological torture, the refinement of torture as science. By the time a “terrorist” is dragged into our secretive courts the bewildered suspect no longer has the mental and psychological capability to defend themselves. If they can do this legally to the demonized they can, and one day will, do it to the rest of us. The Donziger case is an ominous warning that the American legal system is broken.

Ralph Nader, who graduated from Harvard Law School, has long decried the capture of the courts and law schools by corporate power, calling the nation’s attorneys and judges “lucrative cogs in the corporate wheel.” He notes that law school curriculums are “built around corporate law, and corporate power, and corporate perpetration, and corporate defense.”

Victor Klemperer, who was dismissed from his post as a professor of Romance languages at the University of Dresden in 1935 because of his Jewish ancestry, astutely noted how at first the Nazis “changed the values, the frequency of words, [and] made them into common property, words that had previously been used by individuals or tiny troupes. They confiscated words for the party, saturated words and phrases and sentence forms with their poison. They made language serve their terrible system. They conquered words and made them into their strongest advertising tools [Werebemittle], at once the most public and most secret.” And, Klemperer noted, as the redefinition of old concepts took place the public was oblivious.

This redefinition of words and concepts has, as Klemperer witnessed during the rise of fascism, allowed the courts to twist the law into an instrument of injustice, revoking our rights by judicial fiat. It has seen the courts permit unlimited dark money into political campaigns under Citizens United, defending our money-saturated elections as the right to petition the government and a form of free speech. The courts have revoked our right to privacy and legalized wholesale government surveillance in the name of national security. The courts grant corporations the rights of individuals, while rarely holding the individuals who run the corporations accountable for corporate crimes.

Very few of the legal rulings that benefit corporate power have popular support. The corporate disemboweling of the country, therefore, is increasingly given cover by Christian fascists, who energize their base around abortion, prayer in schools, guns and breaking down the separation of church and state. These issues are rarely addressed in cases before federal courts. But they distract the base from the slew of pro-corporate rulings that dominate most court dockets.

Corporations such as Tyson Foods, Purdue, Walmart, and Sam’s Warehouse have poured millions into institutions that indoctrinate these Christian fascists, including Liberty University and Patrick Henry Law School. They fund the Judicial Crisis Network and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which campaigned for Amy Coney Barrett’s appointment to the Supreme Court. Barrett opposes abortion and belongs to People of Praise, a far-right Catholic cult that practices “speaking in tongues.” She and the other far-right ideologues are hostile to LGBTQ rights. But this is not why she is so beloved by corporations, who are not interested in abortion, LGBTQ equality or gun rights.

Barrett and the Christian fascists embrace an ideology that believes that God will take care of the righteous. Those who are poor, those who are sick, those who go to prison, those who are unemployed, those who cannot succeed in society do so because they have failed to please God. In this worldview there is no need for unions, universal health care, a social safety net or prison reform. Barrett has ruled consistently in favor of corporations to cheat gig workers out of overtime, green-light fossil fuel extraction and pollution and strip consumers of protection from corporate fraud. The watchdog group Accountable.US found that as a circuit court judge, Barrett “faced at least 55 cases in which citizens took on corporate entities in front of her court and 76% of the time she sided with the corporations.”

The Christian fascists, allied with organizations such as the Federalist Society, under the Trump administration gave lifetime appointments to nearly 200 judges, roughly 23 percent of all federal judgeships. That included 53 to the nation’s appellate courts, the court immediately under the Supreme Court. The American Bar Association, the country’s largest nonpartisan coalition of lawyers, has rated many of these appointments as unqualified. There are currently six Federalist Society Supreme Court justices, including Amy Coney Barrett, Neil Gorsuch, and Brett Kavanaugh, who Nader calls “a corporation masquerading as a human being.” Two Federalist Society Supreme Court justices, Clarence Thomas and the late Antonin Scalia, who was an original faculty advisor to the organization founded by conservative law students in 1982, were supported in the nomination process by Joe Biden.

The stacking of the courts with corporate puppets, however, began long before Trump. It was carried out by both Republican and Democratic administrations. Preska was appointed by Republican President G.W. Bush. However, the judge who preceded Preska in the Donziger case, Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, a former lawyer for the tobacco industry who had undisclosed investments in funds with Chevron holdings, according to his public financial disclosure statement, was appointed by Democratic President Clinton.

The targeting of the courts was one of the key goals of Lewis Powell, a corporate lawyer later elevated to the Supreme Court by President Nixon. In Powell’s 1971 memo to the Chamber of Commerce, a blueprint for the slow-motion corporate coup that has taken place, he called on business interests to pack the judiciary with corporate-friendly judges.

The courts in all tyrannies are dominated by mediocrities and buffoons. They make up for their intellectual and moral vacuity with a zealous subservience to power. They turn courtroom trials into opera buffa, at least until the victim is shackled and pushed out the door to a prison cell. They fulminate in caustic tirades at the condemned, whose sentence is never in doubt and whose guilt is never in question.

“It started when Texaco went into Ecuador in the Amazon in the 1960s and cut a sweetheart deal with the military government then ruling Ecuador,” Donziger told me for a column I wrote about his case a year ago. “Over the next 25 years, Texaco was the exclusive operator of a very large area of the Amazon that had several oil fields within this area, 1500 square miles. They drilled hundreds of wells. They created thousands of open-air, unlined toxic waste pits where they dumped the heavy metals and toxins that came up from the ground when they drilled. They ran pipes from the pits into rivers and streams that local people relied on for their drinking water, their fishing, and their sustenance. They poisoned this pristine ecosystem, in which lived five indigenous peoples, as well as a lot of other nonindigenous rural communities. There was a mass industrial poisoning.”

“The verdict came down, about $18 billion in favor of the affected communities, which is what it would take at a minimum to clean up the actual damage and compensate the people for some of their injuries,” Donziger told me. “That eventually got reduced on appeal in Ecuador to $9.5 billion, but it was affirmed by three appellate courts, including the highest court of Ecuador. It was affirmed by the Canadian Supreme Court, where the Ecuadorians went to enforce their judgment in a unanimous opinion in 2015.”

Chevron promptly sold its assets and left Ecuador. It refused to pay the fees to clean up its environmental damage. It invested an estimated $2 million to destroy Danziger. Chevron sued him, using a civil courts portion of the federal law famous for breaking the New York Mafia in the 1970s, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO Act. Chevron, which has more than $260 billion in assets, hired an estimated 2,000 lawyers from 60 law firms to carry out its campaign, according to court documents. But the oil giant, which did not want a jury to hear the case, dropped its demand for financial damages, which would have allowed Donziger to request a jury trial. This allowed Judge Kaplan to decide the RICO case against Donziger alone. He found credible a witness named Alberto Guerra, an Ecuadorian judge, relocated to the US by Chevron at a cost of some $2 million, who claimed the verdict in Ecuador was the product of a bribe. Kaplan used Guerra’s testimony as primary evidence for the racketeering charge, although Guerra, a former judge, later admitted to an international tribunal that he had falsified his testimony.

John Keker of San Francisco, one of Donziger’s lawyers on that case, said he was up against 160 lawyers for Chevron and during the trial he felt “like a goat tethered to a stake.” He called the court proceedings under Kaplan “a Dickensian farce” and a “show trial.”

In the end, Kaplan ruled that the judgment in the Ecuadorean court against Chevron was the result of fraud. He also ordered Donziger to turn over decades of all client communication to Chevron, in effect eradicating attorney-client privilege, a backbone of the Anglo-American legal system with roots dating to ancient Rome. Donziger appealed what was, according to legal experts following the case, an unprecedented and illegal order. While Donziger’s appeal was pending, Kaplan charged him with misdemeanor criminal contempt for this principled stance — carrying a maximum sentence of six months — as well as his refusal to turn over his passport, his personal electronics and to refrain from seeking the collection of the original award against Chevron. When the U.S. attorney’s office declined for five years to prosecute his criminal contempt charges against the environmental lawyer, Kaplan, using an exceedingly rare judicial maneuver, appointed the private law firm of Seward & Kissel, to act in the name of the government to prosecute Donziger. Neither the judge nor the law firm disclosed that Chevron has been a client of Seward & Kissel.

Kaplan also violated the established random case assignment protocol to personally assign Preska, who had served on an advisory board of the Federalist Society, a group to which Chevron has been a lavish donor, to hear the case. Kaplan had Preska demand Donziger post an $800,000 bond on the misdemeanor charge. Preska placed him under house arrest and confiscated his passport, which he has used to meet with attorneys around the world attempting to enforce the judgment against Chevron. Kaplan managed to have Donziger disbarred. He allowed Chevron to freeze Donziger’s bank accounts, slapped Donziger with millions in fines without allowing him a jury, forced him to wear an ankle monitor 24 hours a day and effectively shut down his ability to earn a living. Kaplan allowed Chevron to impose a lien on Donziger’s apartment in Manhattan where he lives with his wife and teenage son.

None of this would surprise those targeted by the tyrannies of the past. What would be surprising, perhaps, to many Americans is how advanced our own corporate tyranny has become. Donziger never stood a chance. Neither does Julian Assange. These judges are not, in the end, focused on Donziger or Assange, but on us. The show trials they preside over are meant to be transparently biased. They are designed to send a message. All who defy corporate power and the national security state will be lynched. There will be no reprieve because there is no justice.

Feature photo | Original illustration by Mr. Fish.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact.

The post Chris Hedges: The Anonymous Executioners of the Corporate State appeared first on MintPress News.

Chris Hedges: America’s Fate: Oligarchy or Autocracy

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/09/2021 - 2:33am in

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (Scheerpost) — The competing systems of power in the United States are divided between oligarchy and autocracy. There are no other alternatives. Neither are pleasant. Each have peculiar and distasteful characteristics. Each pays lip service to the fictions of democracy and constitutional rights. And each exacerbates the widening social and political divide and the potential for violent conflict.

The oligarchs from the establishment Republican party, figures such as Liz Cheney, Mitt Romney, George and Jeb Bush and Bill Kristol, have joined forces with the oligarchs in the Democratic Party to defy the autocrats in the new Republican party who have coalesced in cult-like fashion around Donald Trump or, if he does not run again for president, his inevitable Frankensteinian doppelgänger.

The alliance of Republican and Democratic oligarchs exposes the burlesque that characterized the old two-party system, where the ruling parties fought over what Sigmund Freud called the “narcissism of minor differences” but were united on all the major structural issues including massive defense spending, free trade deals, tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations, the endless wars, government surveillance, the money-saturated election process, neoliberalism, austerity, deindustrialization, militarized police and the world’s largest prison system.

The liberal class, fearing autocracy, has thrown in its lot with the oligarchs, discrediting and rendering impotent the causes and issues it claims to champion. The bankruptcy of the liberal class is important, for it effectively turns liberal democratic values into the empty platitudes those who embrace autocracy condemn and despise. So, for example, censorship is wrong, unless the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop are censored, or Donald Trump is banished from social media. Conspiracy theories are wrong, unless those theories, such as the Steele dossier and Russiagate, can be used to damage the autocrat. The misuse of the legal system and law enforcement agencies to carry out personal vendettas are wrong, unless those vendettas are directed at the autocrat and those who support him. Giant tech monopolies and their monolithic social media platforms are wrong, unless those monopolies use their algorithms, control of information and campaign contributions to ensure the election of the oligarch’s anointed presidential candidate, Joe Biden.

The perfidy of the oligarchs, masked by the calls for civility, tolerance, and respect for human rights, often out does that of the autocracy. The Trump administration, for example, expelled 444,000 asylum seekers under Title 42, a law that permits the immediate expulsion of those who potentially pose a public health risk and denies the expelled migrants the right to make a case to stay in the U.S. before an immigration judge. The Biden administration not only embraced the Trump order in the name of fighting the pandemic, but has thrown out more than 690,000 asylum seekers since taking office in January. The Biden administration, on the heels of another monster hurricane triggered at least in part by climate change, has opened up 80 million acres for oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and boasted that the sale will produce 1.12 billion barrels of oil over the next 50 years. It has bombed Syria and Iraq, and on the way out the door in Afghanistan murdered ten civilians, including seven children, in a drone strike. It has ended three pandemic relief programs, cutting off benefits under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance that were given to 5.1 million people who worked as freelancers, in the gig economy or as caregivers. An additional 3.8 million people who received assistance from the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation for the long term unemployed have also lost access to their benefits. They join the 2.6 million people who no longer receive the $300 weekly supplement and are struggling to cope with a $1,200 drop in their monthly earnings. Biden’s campaign talk of raising the minimum wage, forgiving student debt, immigration reform, and making housing a human right has been forgotten. At the same time, the Democratic leadership, proponents of a new cold war with China and Russia, has authorized provocative military maneuvers along Russia’s borders and in the South China Sea and speeded up production of its long-range B-21 Raider stealth bomber.

Chris Hedges: The Empire Does Not Forgive

Oligarchs come from the traditional nexus of elite schools, inherited money, the military and corporations, those C. Wright Mills calls the “power elite.” “Material success,” Mills notes, “is their sole basis of authority.” The word oligarchy is derived from the Greek word “oligos” meaning “a few” and it is the oligos that sees power and wealth as its birthright, which they pass on to their family and children, as exemplified by George W. Bush or Mitt Romney. The word “autocracy” is derived from the Greek word “auto” meaning “self,” as in one who rules by himself. In decayed democracies the battle for power is always, as Aristotle points out, between these two despotic forces, although if there is a serious threat of socialism or left-wing radicalism, as was true in the Weimar Republic, the oligarchs forge an uncomfortable alliance with the autocrat and his henchmen to crush it. This is why the donor class and hierarchy of the Democratic Party sabotaged the candidacy of Bernie Sanders, although on the political spectrum Sanders is not a radical, and publicly stated, as the former CEO of Goldman Sachs Lloyd Blankfein did, that should Sanders get the nominee they would support Trump. The alliance between the oligarchs and the autocrats gives birth to fascism, in our case a Christianized fascism.

The oligarchs embrace a faux morality of woke culture and identity politics, which is anti-politics, to give themselves the veneer of liberalism, or at least the veneer of an enlightened oligarchy. The oligarchs have no genuine ideology. Their single-minded goal is the amassing of wealth, hence the obscene amounts of money accrued by oligarchs such as Bill Gates, Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos and the staggering sums of profit made by corporations that have, essentially, orchestrated a legal tax boycott, forcing the state to raise most of its revenues from massive government deficits, now totaling $3 trillion, and disproportionally taxing the working and middle classes.

Oligarchies, which spew saccharine pieties and platitudes, engage in lies that are often far more destructive to the public than the lies of a narcissist autocrat. Yet, the absence of an ideology among the oligarchs gives to oligarchic rule a flexibility lacking in autocratic forms of power. Because there is no blind loyalty to an ideology or a leader there is room in an oligarchy for limited reform, moderation and those who seek to slow or put a brake on the most egregious forms of injustice and inequality.

An autocracy, however, is not pliable. It burns out these last remnants of humanism. It is based solely on adulation of the autocrat, no matter how absurd, and the fear of offending him. This is why politicians such as Lindsey Graham and Mike Pence, at least until he refused to invalidate the election results, humiliated themselves abjectly and repeatedly at the feet of Trump. Pence’s unforgiveable sin of certifying the election results instantly turned him into a traitor. One sin against an autocrat is one sin too many. Trump supporters stormed the capital on January 6 shouting “hang Mike Pence.” As Cosimo de’ Medici remarked, “we are nowhere commanded to forgive our friends.”

The political and economic disempowerment that is the consequence of oligarchy infantilizes a population, which in desperation gravitates to a demagogue who promises prosperity and a restoration of a lost golden age, moral renewal based on “traditional” values and vengeance against those scapegoated for the nation’s decline.

The Biden’s administration’s refusal to address the deep structural inequities that plague the country is already ominous. In the latest Harvard/Harris poll Trump has overtaken Biden in approval ratings, with Biden falling to 46 percent and Trump rising to 48 percent. Add to this the report by the University of Chicago Project on Security & Threats that found that nine percent of Americans believe the “use of force is justified to restore Donald J. Trump to the presidency.”  More than a fourth of adults agree, in varying degrees, the study found, that, “the 2020 election was stolen, and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president.” The polling indicates that 8.1 percent  — 21 million Americans  — share both these beliefs. Anywhere from 15 million to 28 million adults would apparently support the violent overthrow of the Biden administration to restore Trump to the presidency.

“The insurrectionist movement is more mainstream, cross-party, and more complex than many people might like to think, which does not bode well for the 2022 mid-term elections, or for that matter, the 2024 Presidential election,” the authors of the Chicago report write.

Fear is the glue that holds an autocratic regime in place. Convictions can change. Fear does not. The more despotic an autocratic regime becomes, the more it resorts to censorship, coercion, force, and terror to cope with its endemic and often irrational paranoia. Autocracies, for this reason, inevitably embrace fanaticism. Those who serve the autocracy engage in ever more extreme acts against those the autocrat demonizes, seeking the autocrat’s approval and the advancement of their careers.

Revenge against real or perceived enemies is the autocrat’s single-minded goal. The autocrat takes sadistic pleasure in the torment and humiliation of his enemies, as Trump did when he watched the mob storm the capital on January 6, or, in a more extreme form, as Joseph Stalin did when he doubled over in laughter as his underlings acted out the desperate pleading for his life by the condemned Grigori Zinoviev, once one of the most influential figures in the Soviet leadership and the chairman of the Communist International, on the way to his execution in 1926.

Autocratic leaders, as Joachim Fest writes, are often “demonic nonentities.”

“Rather than the qualities which raised him from the masses, it was those qualities he shared with them and of which he was a representative example that laid the foundation for his success,” Fest wrote of Adolf Hitler, words that could apply to Trump. “He was the incarnation of the average, ‘the man who lent the masses his voice and through whom the masses spoke.’ In him the masses encountered themselves.”

The autocrat, who celebrates a grotesque hyper-masculinity, projects an aura of omnipotence. He demands obsequious fawning and total obedience. Loyalty is more important than competence. Lies and truth are irrelevant. The statements of the autocrat, which can in short spaces of time be contradictory, cater exclusively to the transient emotional needs of his followers. There is no attempt to be logical or consistent. There is no attempt to reach out to opponents. Rather, there is a constant stoking of antagonisms that steadily widens the social, political, and cultural divides. Reality is sacrificed for fantasy. Those who question the fantasy are branded as irredeemable enemies.

“Anyone who wants to rule men first tries to humiliate them, to trick them out of their rights and their capacity for resistance, until they are as powerless before him as animals,” wrote Elias Canetti in Crowds and Power of the autocrat. “He uses them like animals and, even if he does not tell them so, in himself he always knows quite clearly that they mean just as little to him; when he speaks to his intimates, he will call them sheep or cattle. His ultimate aim is to incorporate them into himself and to suck the substance out of them. What remains of them afterwards does not matter to him. The worse he has treated them, the more he despises them. When they are no more use at all, he disposes of them as he does excrement, simply seeing to it that they do not poison the air of his house.”

Chris Hedges: The Age of Social Murder

It is, ironically, the oligarchs who build the institutions of oppression, the militarized police, the dysfunctional courts, the raft of anti-terrorism laws used against dissidents, ruling through executive orders rather than the legislative process, wholesale surveillance and the promulgation of laws that overturn the most basic Constitutional rights by judicial fiat. Thus, the Supreme Court rules that corporations have the right to pump unlimited amounts of money into political campaigns because it is a form of free speech, and because corporations have the constitutional right to petition the government. The oligarchs do not use these mechanisms of oppression with the same ferocity as the autocrats. They employ them fitfully and therefore often ineffectually. But they create the physical and legal systems of oppression so that an autocrat, with the flick of a switch, can establish a de facto dictatorship.

The autocrat oversees a naked kleptocracy in place of the hidden kleptocracy of the oligarchs. But it is debatable whether the more refined kleptocracy of the oligarchs is any worse than the crude and open kleptocracy of the autocrat. The autocrat’s attraction is that as he fleeces the public, he entertains the crowd. He orchestrates engaging spectacles. He gives vent, often through vulgarity, to the widespread hatred of the ruling elites. He provides a host of phantom enemies, usually the weak and the vulnerable, who are rendered nonpersons. His followers are given license to attack these enemies, including the feckless liberals and intellectuals who are a pathetic appendage to the oligarchic class. Autocracies, unlike oligarchies, make for engaging political theater.

We must defy the oligarchs as well as the autocrats. If we replicate the cowardice of the liberal class, if we sell out to the oligarchs as a way to blunt the rise of autocracy, we will discredit the core values of a civil society and fuel the very autocracy we seek to defeat. Despotism, in all its forms, is dangerous. If we achieve nothing else in the fight against the oligarchs and the autocrats, we will at least salvage our dignity and integrity.

Feature photo | Original illustration by Mr. Fish.

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact.

The post Chris Hedges: America’s Fate: Oligarchy or Autocracy appeared first on MintPress News.

Chris Hedges: The Empire Does Not Forgive

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 31/08/2021 - 1:08am in

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (ScheerpostThe Carthaginian general Hannibal, who came close to defeating the Roman Republic in the Second Punic War, committed suicide in 181 BC in exile as Roman soldiers closed in on his residence in the Bithynian village of Libyssa, now modern-day Turkey. It had been more than thirty years since he led his army across the alps and annihilated Roman legions at the Battle of Trebia, Lake Trasimene and Cannae, considered one of the most brilliant tactical victories in warfare which centuries later inspired the plans of the German Army Command in World War I when they invaded Belgium and France. Rome was only able to finally save itself from defeat by replicating Hannibal’s military tactics.

It did not matter in 181 BC that there had been over 20 Roman consuls (with quasi-imperial power) since Hannibal’s invasion. It did not matter that Hannibal had been hunted for decades and forced to perpetually flee, always just beyond the reach of Roman authorities. He had humiliated Rome. He had punctured its myth of omnipotence. And he would pay. With his life. Years after Hannibal was gone, the Romans were still not satisfied. They finished their work of apocalyptic vengeance in 146 BC by razing Carthage to the ground and selling its remaining population into slavery. Cato the Censor summed up the sentiments of empire: Carthāgō dēlenda est (Carthage must be destroyed). Nothing about empire, from then until now, has changed.

Imperial powers do not forgive those who expose their weaknesses or make public the sordid and immoral inner workings of empire. Empires are fragile constructions. Their power is as much one of perception as of military strength. The virtues they claim to uphold and defend, usually in the name of their superior civilization, are a mask for pillage, the exploitation of cheap labor, indiscriminate violence, and state terror.

The current American empire, damaged and humiliated by the troves of internal documents published by WikiLeaks, will, for this reason, persecute Julian Assange for the rest of his life. It does not matter who is president or which political party is in power. Imperialists speak with one voice. The killing of thirteen U.S. troops by a suicide bomber at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul on Thursday evoked from Joe Biden the full-throated cry of all imperialists: “To those who carried out this attack … we will not forgive, we will not forget, we will hunt you down and make you pay.” This was swiftly followed by two drone strikes in Kabul against suspected members of the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, ISKP (ISIS-K), which took credit for the suicide bombing that left some 170 dead, including 28 members of the Taliban.

The Taliban, which defeated U.S. and coalition forces in a 20-year war, is about to be confronted with the wrath of a wounded empire. The Cuban, Vietnamese, Iranian, Venezuelan and Haitian governments know what comes next. The ghosts of Toussaint Louverture, Emilio Aguinaldo, Mohammad Mossadegh, Jacobo Arbenz, Omar Torrijos, Gamal Abdul Nasser, Juan Velasco, Salvador Allende, Andreas Papandreou, Juan Bosh, Patrice Lumumba, and Hugo Chavez know what comes next. It isn’t pretty. It will be paid for by the poorest and most vulnerable Afghans.

Chris Hedges: The Price of Conscience

The faux pity for the Afghan people, which has defined the coverage of the desperate collaborators with the U.S. and coalition occupying forces and educated elites fleeing to the Kabul airport, begins and ends with the plight of the evacuees. There were few tears shed for the families routinely terrorized by coalition forces or the some 70,000 civilians who were obliterated by U.S. air strikes, drone attacks, missiles, and artillery, or gunned down by nervous occupying forces who saw every Afghan, with some justification, as the enemy during the war. And there will be few tears for the humanitarian catastrophe the empire is orchestrating on the 38 million Afghans, who live in one of the poorest and most aid-dependent countries in the world.

Since the 2001 invasion the United States deployed about 775,000 military personnel to subdue Afghanistan and poured $143 billion into the country, with 60 percent of the money going to prop up the corrupt Afghan military and the rest devoted to funding economic development projects, aid programs and anti-drug initiatives, with the bulk of those funds being siphoned off by foreign aid groups, private contractors, and outside consultants.

Grants from the United States and other countries accounted for 75 percent of the Afghan government budget. That assistance has evaporated. Afghanistan’s reserves and other financial accounts have been frozen, meaning the new government cannot access some $9.5 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan central bank. Shipments of cash to Afghanistan have been stopped. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that Afghanistan will no longer be able to access the lender’s resources.

Things are already dire. There are some 14 million Afghans, one in three, who lack sufficient food. There are two million Afghan children who are malnourished. There are 3.5 million people in Afghanistan who have been displaced from their homes. The war has wrecked infrastructure. A drought destroyed 40 percent of the nation’s crops last year. The assault on the Afghan economy is already seeing food prices skyrocket. The sanctions and severance of aid will force civil servants to go without salaries and the health service, already chronically short of medicine and equipment, will collapse. The suffering orchestrated by the empire will be of Biblical proportions. And this is what the empire wants.

UNICEF estimates that 500,000 children were killed as a direct result of sanctions on Iraq.  Expect child deaths in Afghanistan to soar above that horrifying figure. And expect the same imperial heartlessness Madeline Albright, then the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, exhibited when she told “60 Minutes” correspondent Lesley Stahl that the deaths of half a million Iraqi children because of the sanctions was “worth it.” Or the heartlessness of Hillary Clinton who joked “We came, we saw, he died,” when informed of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi’s brutal death. Or the demand by Democratic Senator Zell Miller of Georgia who after the attacks of 9/11 declared, “I say, bomb the hell out of them. If there’s collateral damage, so be it.” No matter that the empire has since turned Libya along with Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen into cauldrons of violence, chaos, and misery. The power to destroy is an intoxicating drug that is its own justification.

Like Cato the Censor, the U.S. military and intelligence agencies are, if history is any guide, at this moment planning to destabilize Afghanistan by funding, arming, and backing any militia, warlord or terrorist organization willing to strike at the Taliban. The CIA, which should exclusively gather intelligence, is a rogue paramilitary organization that oversees secret kidnappings, interrogation at black sites, torture, manhunts, and targeted assassinations across the globe. It carried out commando raids in Afghanistan that killed a large number of Afghan civilians, which repeatedly sent enraged family members and villagers into the arms of the Taliban. It is, I expect, reaching out to Amrullah Saleh, who was Ashraf Ghani’s vice president and who has declared himself “the legitimate caretaker president” of Afghanistan. Saleh is holed up in the Panjashir Valley.  He, along with warlords Afgand Massoud, Mohammad Atta Noor and Abdul Rashid Dostum, are clamoring to be armed and supported to perpetuate conflict in Afghanistan.

“I write from the Panjshir Valley today, ready to follow in my father’s footsteps, with mujahideen fighters who are prepared to once again take on the Taliban,” Ahmad Massoud wrote in an opinion piece in The Washington Post. “The United States and its allies have left the battlefield, but America can still be a ‘great arsenal of democracy,’ as Franklin D. Roosevelt said when coming to the aid of the beleaguered British before the U.S. entry into World War II,” he went on, adding that he and his fighters need “more weapons, more ammunition and more supplies.”

These warlords have done the bidding of the Americans before. They will do the bidding of the Americans again. And since the hubris of empire is unaffected by reality, the empire will continue to sow dragon’s teeth in Afghanistan as it has since it spent $9 billion—some estimates double that figure—to back the mujahedeen that fought the Soviets, leading to a bloody civil war between rival warlords once the Soviets withdrew in 1989 and the ascendancy in 1996 of the Taliban.

Chris Hedges: The Collective Suicide Machine

The cynicism of arming and funding the mujahedeen against the Soviets exposes the lie of America’s humanitarian concerns in Afghanistan. One million Afghan civilians were killed in the nine-year conflict with the Soviets, along with 90,000 mujahedeen fighters, 18,000 Afghan troops, and 14,500 Soviet soldiers.  But these deaths, along with the destruction of Afghanistan, were “worth it” to cripple the Soviets.

Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, along with the Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, oversaw the arming of the most radical Islamic mujahedeen groups fighting the Soviet occupation forces, leading to the extinguishing of the secular, democratic Afghan opposition. Brzezinski detailed the strategy, designed as he said to give the Soviet Union its Vietnam, taken by the Carter administration following the 1979 Soviet invasion to prop up the Marxist regime of Hafizullah Amin in Kabul:

We immediately launched a twofold process when we heard that the Soviets had entered Afghanistan. The first involved direct reactions and sanctions focused on the Soviet   Union, and both the State Department and the National Security Agency prepared long lists of sanctions to be adopted, of steps to be taken to increase the international costs to the Soviet Union of their actions. And the second course of action led to my going to Pakistan a month or so after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, for the purpose of coordinating with the Pakistanis a joint response, the purpose of which would be to   make the Soviets bleed for as much and as long as is possible; and we engaged in that effort in a collaborative sense with the Saudis, the Egyptians, the British, the Chinese, and we started providing weapons to the Mujaheddin, from various sources again — for example, some Soviet arms from the Egyptians and the Chinese. We even got Soviet arms from the Czechoslovak communist government, since it was obviously susceptible to material incentives; and at some point we started buying arms for the Mujahedeen from the Soviet army in Afghanistan, because that army was increasingly corrupt.

The clandestine campaign to destabilize the Soviet Union by making it “bleed for as much and as long as is possible” was carried out, like the arming of the contra forces in Nicaragua, largely off the books. It did not, as far as official Washington was concerned, exist, a way to avoid the unwelcome scrutiny of covert operations carried out by the Church Committee hearings in the 1970s that made public the three decades of CIA-backed coups, assassinations, blackmail, intimidation, dark propaganda, and torture. The Saudi government agreed to match the U.S. funding for the Afghan insurgents. The Saudi involvement gave rise to Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda, which fought with the mujahedeen. The rogue operation, led by Brzezinski, organized secret units of assassination teams and paramilitary squads that carried out lethal attacks on perceived enemies around the globe. It trained Afghan mujahedeen in Pakistan and China’s Xinjiang province. It shifted the heroin trade, used to fund the insurgency, from southeast Asia to the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This pattern of behavior, which destabilized Afghanistan and the region, is reflexive in the military and the intelligence community. It will, without doubt, be repeated now in Afghanistan, with the same catastrophic results. The chaos these intelligence agencies create becomes the chaos that justifies their existence and the chaos that sees them demand more resources and ever greater levels of violence.

All empires die. The end is usually unpleasant. The American empire, humiliated in Afghanistan, as it was in Syria, Iraq, and Libya, as it was at the Bay of Pigs and in Vietnam, is blind to its own declining strength, ineptitude, and savagery. Its entire economy, a “military Keynesianism,” revolves around the war industry. Military spending and war are the engine behind the nation’s economic survival and identity. It does not matter that with each new debacle the United States turns larger and larger parts of the globe against it and all it claims to represent. It has no mechanism to stop itself, despite its numerous defeats, fiascos, blunders and diminishing power, from striking out irrationally like a wounded animal. The mandarins who oversee our collective suicide, despite repeated failure, doggedly insist we can reshape the world in our own image. This myopia creates the very conditions that accelerate the empire’s demise.

The Soviet Union collapsed, like all empires, because of its ossified, out-of-touch rulers, its imperial overreach, and its inability to critique and reform itself. We are not immune from these fatal diseases. We silence our most prescient critics of empire, such as Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis, Andrew Bacevich, Alfred McCoy, and Ralph Nader, and persecute those who expose the truths about empire, including Julian Assange, Edward Snowden, Daniel Hale, and John Kiriakou. At the same time a bankrupt media, whether on MSNBC, CNN or FOX, lionizes and amplifies the voices of the inept and corrupt political, military and intelligence class including John Bolton, Leon Panetta, Karl Rove, H.R. McMaster and David Petraeus, which blindly drives the nation into the morass.

Chalmers Johnson in his trilogy on the fall of the American empire – “Blowback,” “The Sorrows of Empire” and “Nemesis” – reminds readers that the Greek goddess Nemesis is “the spirit of retribution, a corrective to the greed and stupidity that sometimes governs relations among people.” She stands for “righteous anger,” a deity who “punishes human transgression of the natural, right order of things and the arrogance that causes it.” He warns that if we continue to cling to our empire, as the Roman Republic did, “we will certainly lose our democracy and grimly await the eventual blowback that imperialism generates.”

“I believe that to maintain our empire abroad requires resources and commitments that will inevitably undercut our domestic democracy and, in the end, produce a military dictatorship or its civilian equivalent,” Johnson writes. “The founders of our nation understood this well and tried to create a form of government – a republic – that would prevent this from occurring. But the combination of huge standing armies, almost continuous wars, military Keynesianism, and ruinous military expenses have destroyed our republican structure in favor of an imperial presidency. We are on the cusp of losing our democracy for the sake of keeping our empire. Once a nation is started down that path, the dynamics that apply to all empires come into play – isolation, overstretch, the uniting of forces opposed to imperialism, and bankruptcy. Nemesis stalks our life as a free nation.”

If the empire was capable of introspection and forgiveness, it could free itself from its death spiral. If the empire disbanded, much as the British empire did, and retreated to focus on the ills that beset the United States it could free itself from its death spiral. But those who manipulate the levers of empire are unaccountable. They are hidden from public view and beyond public scrutiny. They are determined to keep playing the great game, rolling the dice with lives and national treasure. They will, I expect, preside gleefully over the deaths of even more Afghans, assuring themselves it is worth it, without realizing that the gallows they erect are for themselves.

Feature photo | Original illustration by Mr. Fish

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact. 

The post Chris Hedges: The Empire Does Not Forgive appeared first on MintPress News.

Chris Hedges: The Collective Suicide Machine

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 27/07/2021 - 10:53pm in

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (Scheerpost The debacle in Afghanistan, which will unravel into chaos with lightning speed over the next few weeks and ensure the return of the Taliban to power, is one more signpost of the end of the American empire. The two decades of combat, the one trillion dollars we spent, the 100,000 troops deployed to subdue Afghanistan, the high-tech gadgets, artificial intelligence, cyberwarfare, Reaper drones armed with Hellfire missiles and GBU-30 bombs and the Global Hawk drones with high-resolution cameras, Special Operations Command composed of elite rangers, SEALs and air commandos, black sites, torture, electronic surveillance, satellites, attack aircraft, mercenary armies, infusions of millions of dollars to buy off and bribe the local elites and train an Afghan army of 350,000 that has never exhibited the will to fight, failed to defeat a guerrilla army of 60,000 that funded itself through opium production and extortion in one of the poorest countries on earth.

Like any empire in terminal decay, no one will be held accountable for the debacle or for the other debacles in Iraq, Syria, Libya, Somalia, Yemen or anywhere else. Not the generals. Not the politicians. Not the CIA and intelligence agencies. Not the diplomats. Not the obsequious courtiers in the press who serve as cheerleaders for war. Not the compliant academics and area specialists. Not the defense industry. Empires at the end are collective suicide machines. The military becomes in late empire unmanageable, unaccountable, and endlessly self-perpetuating, no matter how many fiascos, blunders and defeats it visits upon the carcass of the nation, or how much money it plunders, impoverishing the citizenry and leaving governing institutions and the physical infrastructure decayed.

The human tragedy — at least 801,000 people have been killed by direct war violence in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and Pakistan and 37 million have been displaced in and from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, the Philippines, Libya, and Syria according to The Watson Institute at Brown University — is reduced to a neglected footnote.

Nearly all the roughly 70 empires during the last four thousand years, including the Greek, Roman, Chinese, Ottoman, Hapsburg, imperial German, imperial Japanese, British, French, Dutch, Portuguese, and Soviet empires, collapsed in the same orgy of military folly. The Roman Republic, at its height, only lasted two centuries. We are set to disintegrate in roughly the same time. This is why, at the start of World War I in Germany, Karl Liebknecht called the German military, which imprisoned and later assassinated him, “the enemy from within.”

Mark Twain, who was a fierce opponent of the efforts to plant the seeds of empire in Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, Hawaii and Puerto Rico, wrote an imagined history of America in the twentieth-century where its “lust for conquest” had destroyed “the Great Republic…[because] trampling upon the helpless abroad had taught her, by a natural process, to endure with apathy the like at home; multitudes who had applauded the crushing of other people’s liberties, lived to suffer for their mistake.”

Twain knew that foreign occupations, designed to enrich the ruling elites, use occupied populations as laboratory rats to perfect techniques of control that soon migrate back to the homeland. It was the brutal colonial policing practices in the Philippines, which included a vast spy network along with routine beatings, torture, and executions, which became the model for centralized domestic policing and intelligence gathering in the United States. Israeli’s arms, surveillance and drone  industries test their products on the Palestinians.

It is one of the dark ironies that it was the American empire, led by Jimmy Carter’s national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, which spawned the mess in Afghanistan. Brzezinski oversaw a multibillion-dollar CIA covert operation to arm, train and equip the Taliban to fight the Soviets. This clandestine effort sidelined the secular, democratic opposition and assured the ascendancy of the Taliban in Afghanistan, along with the spread of its radical Islam into Soviet Central Asia, once Soviet forces withdrew. The American empire would, years later, find itself desperately trying to destroy its own creation. In April 2017, in a classic example of this kind of absurd blowback, the United States dropped the “mother of all bombs” — the most powerful conventional bomb in the American arsenal — on an Islamic State cave complex in Afghanistan that the CIA had invested millions in building and fortifying.

The attacks of September 11, 2001 were not an existential threat to the United States. They were not politically significant. They did not disrupt the balance of global power. They were not an act of war. They were acts of nihilistic terror.

The only way to fight terrorists is to isolate them within their own societies. I was in the Middle East for The New York Times after the attacks. Most of the Muslim world was appalled and revolted at the crimes against humanity that had been carried out in the name of Islam. If we had the courage to be vulnerable, to grasp that this was an intelligence war, not a conventional war, we would be far safer and secure today. These wars in the shadows, as the Israelis illustrated when they tracked down the assassins of their athletes in the 1972 Olympic games in Munich, take months, even years of work.

But the attacks gave the ruling elites, lusting for control of the Middle East, especially Iraq, which had nothing to do with the attacks, the excuse to carry out the greatest strategic blunder in American history — the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq. The architects of the war, including then Senator Joe Biden, knew little about the countries being invaded, did not grasp the limits of industrial and technocratic war or the inevitable blowback that would see the United States reviled throughout the Muslim world. They believed they could implant client regimes by force throughout the region, use the oil revenues in Iraq, since the war in Afghanistan would be over in a matter of weeks, to cover the cost of reconstruction and magically restore American global hegemony. It did the opposite.

Invading Iraq and Afghanistan, dropping iron fragmentation bombs on villages and towns, kidnapping, torturing and imprisoning tens of thousands of people, using drones to sow terror from the skies, resurrected the discredited radical jihadists and was a potent recruiting tool in the fight against U.S. and NATO forces. We were the best thing that ever happened to the Taliban and al Qaeda.

There was little objection within the power structures to these invasions. The congressional vote was 518 to one in favor of empowering President George W. Bush to launch a war, Rep. Barbara Lee being the lone dissenter. Those of us who spoke out against the idiocy of the looming bloodlust were slandered, denied media platforms, and cast into the wilderness, where most of us remain. Those who sold us the war kept their megaphones, a reward for their service to empire and the military-industrial complex. It did not matter how cynical or foolish they were.

Historians call the self-defeating military adventurism of late empires “micro-militarism.” During the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.) the Athenians invaded Sicily, suffering the loss of 200 ships and thousands of soldiers and triggering revolts throughout the empire. Britain attacked Egypt in 1956 in a dispute over the nationalization of the Suez Canal and was humiliated when it had to withdraw its forces, bolstering the status of Arab nationalists such as Egypt’s Gamal Abdel Nasser.

“While rising empires are often judicious, even rational in their application of armed force for conquest and control of overseas dominions, fading empires are inclined to ill-considered displays of power, dreaming of bold military masterstrokes that would somehow recoup lost prestige and power,” the historian Alfred McCoy writes “In the Shadows of the American Century: The Rise and Decline of US Global Power.” “Often irrational even from an imperial point of view, these micromilitary operations can yield hemorrhaging expenditures or humiliating defeats that only accelerate the process already under way.”

The death blow to the American empire will, as McCoy writes, be the loss of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. This loss will plunge the United States into a crippling, and prolonged depression. It will force a massive contraction of the global military footprint.

The ugly, squalid face of empire, with the loss of the dollar as the reserve currency, will become familiar at home. The bleak economic landscape, with its decay and hopelessness, will accelerate an array of violent and self-destructive pathologies including mass shootings, hate crimes, opioid and heroin overdoses, morbid obesity, suicides, gambling, and alcoholism. The state will increasingly dispense with the fiction of the rule of law to rely exclusively on militarized police, essentially internal armies of occupation, and the prisons and jails, which already hold 25 percent of the world’s prisoners although the United States represents less than 5 percent of global population.

Our demise will probably come more swiftly than we imagine. When revenues shrink or collapse, McCoy points out, empires become “brittle.” An economy heavily dependent on massive government subsidies to produce primarily weapons and munitions, as well as fund military adventurism, will go into a tailspin with a heavily depreciated dollar, falling to perhaps a third of its former value. Prices will dramatically rise because of the steep increase in the cost of imports. Wages in real terms will decline. The devaluation of Treasury bonds will make paying for our massive deficits onerous, perhaps impossible. The unemployment level will climb to depression era levels. Social assistance programs, because of a contracting budget, will be sharply curtailed or eliminated. This dystopian world will fuel the rage and hyper nationalism that put Donald Trump in the White House. It will spawn an authoritarian state to keep order and, I expect, a Christianized fascism.

The tools of control on the outer reaches of empire, already part of our existence, will become ubiquitous. The wholesale surveillance, the abolition of basic civil liberties, militarized police authorized to use indiscriminate lethal force, the use of drones and satellites to keep us monitored and fearful, along with the censorship of the press and social media, familiar to Iraqis or Afghans, will define America. We are not the first empire to suffer this fate. It is a familiar ending. Imperialism and militarism are poisons that eradicate the separation of powers, designed to prevent tyranny, and extinguish democracy. If those who orchestrated these crimes are not held accountable, and this means organizing sustained mass resistance, we will pay the price, and we may pay it soon, for their hubris and greed.

Feature photo | Original illustration by Mr. Fish

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact. 

The post Chris Hedges: The Collective Suicide Machine appeared first on MintPress News.

Chris Hedges: Bless the Traitors

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 13/07/2021 - 2:30am in

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (Scheerpost Daniel Hale, an active-duty Air Force intelligence analyst, stood in the Occupy encampment in Zuccotti Park in October 2011 in his military uniform. He held up a sign that read “Free Bradley Manning,” who had not yet announced her transition. It was a singular act of conscience few in uniform had the strength to replicate. He had taken a week off from his job to join the protestors in the park. He was present at 6:00 am on October 14 when Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his first attempt to clear the park. He stood in solidarity with thousands of protestors, including many unionized transit workers, teachers, Teamsters and communications workers, who formed a ring around the park. He watched the police back down as the crowd erupted into cheers. But this act of defiance and moral courage was only the beginning.

At the time, Hale was stationed at Fort Bragg. A few months later he deployed to Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Force Base. He would later learn that that while he was in Zuccotti Park, Barack Obama ordered a drone strike some 12,000 miles away in Yemen that killed Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki, the 16-year-old son of the radical cleric and US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who had been killed by a drone strike two weeks earlier. The Obama administration claimed it was targeting the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Ibrahim al-Banna, who it believed, incorrectly, was with the boy and his cousins, all of whom were also killed in the attack. That massacre of innocents became public, but there were thousands more such attacks that wantonly killed noncombatants that only Hale and those with top-security clearances knew about.

Starting in 2013, Hale, while working as a private contractor, leaked some 17 classified documents about the drone program to investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, although the reporter is not named in court documents. The leaked documents, published by The Intercept on October 15, 2015, exposed that between January 2012 and February 2013, US special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets. For one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets. The civilian dead, usually innocent bystanders, were routinely classified as “enemies killed in action.”

Hale was coerced by Biden’s Justice Department on March 31 to plead guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act, a law passed in 1917 designed to prosecute those who passed on state secrets to a hostile power, not those who expose to the public government lies and crimes. Hale admitted as part of the plea deal to “retention and transmission of national security information” and leaking 11 classified documents to a journalist. He is being held in the Alexandria Adult Detention Center in Virginia, awaiting sentencing on July 27. If he had refused the plea deal, he could have spent 50 years in prison. He now faces up to a decade in prison.

Tragically, his case has not garnered the attention it should. When Nick Mottern, of the Ban Killer Drones campaign, accompanied artists projecting Hale’s image on downtown walls in Washington, D.C., he found that everyone he spoke to was unaware of Hale’s plight. Prominent human rights organizations, such as the ACLU and PEN, have largely remained silent and uninvolved. The group Stand with Daniel Hale has called on President Biden to pardon Hale and end the use of the Espionage Act to punish whistleblowers, mounted a letter-writing campaign to the judge to request leniency and is collecting donations for Hale’s legal fund.

“Daniel Hale is one of the most consequential whistleblowers,” Edward Snowden said on a May Day panel held at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst on the fiftieth anniversary of the release of the Pentagon Papers.  “He sacrificed everything — an incredibly courageous person — to tell us that the drone war, that, you know, is so obviously occurring to everyone else, but the government was still officially denying in so many ways, is here, it is happening, and 90 percent of the casualties in one five-month period were innocents or bystanders or not the target of the drone strike. We could not establish that, we could not prove that, without Daniel Hale’s voice.”

Speaking on Democracy Now! with host Amy Goodman a few weeks later, Daniel Ellsberg agreed that Hale “acted very admirably, in a way that very, very few officials have ever done in showing the moral courage to separate themselves from criminal activities and wrongful activities of their own administration, and resist them, as well as exposing them.”

Because Hale was charged under the Espionage Act, he, like other whistleblowers, including Chelsea Manning, Jeffrey Sterling, Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou, who spent two-and-a-half years in prison for exposing the routine torture of suspects held in black sites, was not permitted to explain his motivations and intent to the court. Nor could he provide evidence to the court that the drone assassination program killed and wounded large numbers of noncombatants, including children. He faced trial in the Eastern District of Virginia, much of whose population has links to the military or intelligence community, and whose courts have become notorious for their harsh sentences on behalf of the government.

Daniel booking photo

Hale’s 2019 booking photo from the Nashville Police Department. Photo via AP

The 2012 “Living Under Drones” report by the Stanford International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic provides a detailed documentation of the human impact of US drone strikes in Pakistan. Drones often fire Hellfire missiles that are equipped with an explosive warhead of about 20 pounds. A Hellfire variant, known as the R9X, carries “an inert warhead,” The New York Times reported. Instead of exploding, it hurls about 100 pounds of metal through a vehicle. The missile’s other feature includes “six long blades tucked inside,” which deploy “seconds before impact to slice up anything in its path” — including, of course, people.

The numbers of civilian dead from US drone strikes run into the thousands, if not tens of thousands. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization, for example, reported that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, drone strikes killed between 2,562 and 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom an estimated 474 to 881 were civilians, including 176 children.

Drones hover 24 hours a day in the skies over Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. Without warning, the drones, operated remotely from Air Force bases as far away as Nevada, fire ordinance that obliterates homes and vehicles or kills whole groups of people in fields or attending community gatherings, funerals and weddings. The leaked banter of the young drone operators, who often treat the killings as if they are an enhanced video game, exposes the callousness of the indiscriminate killings. Drone operators refer to child victims of drone attacks as “fun-sized terrorists.”

“Ever step on ants and never give it another thought?” Michael Hass, a former drone operator for the Air Force told The Guardian.  “That’s what you are made to think of the targets — as just black blobs on a screen. You start to do these psychological gymnastics to make it easier to do what you have to do — they deserved it, they chose their side. You had to kill part of your conscience to keep doing your job every day — and ignore those voices telling you this wasn’t right.”

The ubiquitous presence of drones in the skies, and the awareness that at any moment these drones can kill you and your family, induces feelings of helplessness, anxiety and constant fear.

“Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities,” the 2012 report reads of the drone war in Pakistan. “Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. Some community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies, out of fear that they may attract the attention of drone operators. Some parents choose to keep their children home, and children injured or traumatized by strikes have dropped out of school.”

Drones have become killing machines that mete out random death and usually permanently cripple those victims who survive.

“The missiles fired from drones kill or injure in several ways, including through incineration, shrapnel, and the release of powerful blast waves capable of crushing internal organs,” the report reads.  “Those who do survive drone strikes often suffer disfiguring burns and shrapnel wounds, limb amputations, as well as vision and hearing loss.”

he 2012 “Living Under Drones” report by the Stanford International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic provides a detailed documentation of the human impact of US drone strikes in Pakistan. Drones often fire Hellfire missiles that are equipped with an explosive warhead of about 20 pounds. A Hellfire variant, known as the R9X, carries “an inert warhead,” The New York Times reported. Instead of exploding, it hurls about 100 pounds of metal through a vehicle. The missile’s other feature includes “six long blades tucked inside,” which deploy “seconds before impact to slice up anything in its path” — including, of course, people.

The numbers of civilian dead from US drone strikes run into the thousands, if not tens of thousands. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization, for example, reported that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, drone strikes killed between 2,562 and 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom an estimated 474 to 881 were civilians, including 176 children.

Drones hover 24 hours a day in the skies over Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. Without warning, the drones, operated remotely from Air Force bases as far away as Nevada, fire ordinance that obliterates homes and vehicles or kills whole groups of people in fields or attending community gatherings, funerals and weddings. The leaked banter of the young drone operators, who often treat the killings as if they are an enhanced video game, exposes the callousness of the indiscriminate killings. Drone operators refer to child victims of drone attacks as “fun-sized terrorists.”

“Ever step on ants and never give it another thought?” Michael Hass, a former drone operator for the Air Force told The Guardian.  “That’s what you are made to think of the targets — as just black blobs on a screen. You start to do these psychological gymnastics to make it easier to do what you have to do — they deserved it, they chose their side. You had to kill part of your conscience to keep doing your job every day — and ignore those voices telling you this wasn’t right.”

The ubiquitous presence of drones in the skies, and the awareness that at any moment these drones can kill you and your family, induces feelings of helplessness, anxiety and constant fear.

“Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities,” the 2012 report reads of the drone war in Pakistan. “Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. Some community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies, out of fear that they may attract the attention of drone operators. Some parents choose to keep their children home, and children injured or traumatized by strikes have dropped out of school.”

Drones have become killing machines that mete out random death and usually permanently cripple those victims who survive.

“The missiles fired from drones kill or injure in several ways, including through incineration, shrapnel, and the release of powerful blast waves capable of crushing internal organs,” the report reads.  “Those who do survive drone strikes often suffer disfiguring burns and shrapnel wounds, limb amputations, as well as vision and hearing loss.”

Hale, now 33, always had doubts about the war, but he enlisted in 2009 when Obama assumed office. He hoped that Obama would undo the excesses and lawlessness of the Bush administration. Instead, Obama, a few weeks after he took office, approved the deployment of an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan where 36,000 U.S. troops and 32,000 NATO troops were already deployed. By the end of the year, Obama increased troop levels in Afghanistan again by 30,000, doubling U.S. casualties. He also massively expanded the drone program, raising the number of drone strikes from several dozen the year before he took office to 117 by his second year in office.  By the time he left office Obama had presided over the killing of at least 3,000 suspected militants and hundreds of civilians. He authorized what are known as “signature strikes” allowing the CIA to carry out drone attacks against groups of suspected militants without getting positive identification. He spread the footprint of the drone war, establishing drone bases in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other overseas locations to expand attacks to Syria and Yemen. The Obama administration also indicted eight whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, more than all previous administrations combined. The Biden administration, like the Trump and Obama administrations, continues to launch widespread global drone strikes.

“Before I joined the military, I was well aware that what I was about to enter was something I was against, that I disagreed with,” Hale says in the 2016 documentary film “National Bird.” “I joined anyway out of desperation. I was homeless. I was desperate. I had nowhere else to go. I was on my last leg. The Air Force was ready to accept me.”

In the film, Hale alludes to a difficult and chaotic childhood.

“It’s kind of funny, a little ironic too, because so far I’m the only adult male in my entire family, immediate and external, who had not been to prison so far,” he says. “I come from a long lineage of prisoners, actually, a very proud tradition of fuck-ups who get drunk and go driving, or sell pot, or carry a gun when they shouldn’t be carrying a gun, in the wrong place at the wrong time, a lot of that where I’m from.”

He was assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg and underwent language and intelligence training. He worked for the National Security Agency (NSA) in Afghanistan as an intelligence analyst identifying targets for the drone program. His Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) security clearance gave him access to the vast, global drone war hidden from public view and Obama’s huge secret “kill lists.”

Daniel Hale | Jeremy Scahill

Jeremy Scahill, left, and Hale, discuss Scahill’s book, “Dirty Wars” at Busboys & Poets in Washington, DC, on June 8, 2013. Rhett Rebold | Vimeo

After leaving the Air Force in July 2013, Hale was employed by the private defense contractor National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency as a political geography analyst between December 2013 and August 2014. He said he took the job, which paid $80,000 a year, because he was in desperate need of money and hoped to go to college. But by then he was disgusted with the drone program and determined to make the public aware of its abuses and lawlessness. Inspired by the peace activist David Dellinger, he, like Dellinger, had decided to become a traitor to “the American way of death.” He would make amends for his complicity in the killings, even at the cost of his own security and freedom.

“When the president gets up in front of the nation and says they are doing everything they can to ensure there is near certainty there will be no civilians killed, he is saying that because he can’t say otherwise, because anytime an action is taken to finish a target there is a certain amount of guesswork in that action,” Hale says in the film. “It’s only in the aftermath of any kind of ordinance being dropped that you know how much actual damage was done. Oftentimes, the intelligence community is reliant, the Joint Special Operations Command, the CIA included, is reliant on intelligence coming afterwards that confirms that who they were targeting was killed in the strike, or that they weren’t killed in that strike.”

“The people who defend drones, and the way they are used, say they protect American lives by not putting them in harm’s way,” he says. “What they really do is embolden decision makers, because there is no threat, there is no immediate consequence. They can do this strike. They can potentially kill this person they are so desperate to eliminate because of how potentially dangerous they could be to the US. But if it just so happens that they don’t kill that person, or some other people involved in the strike get killed as well, there are no consequences for it. When it comes to high-value targets, every mission you go after one person at a time, but anybody else killed in that strike is blanketly assumed to be an associate of the targeted individual. So as long as they can reasonably identify that all of the people in the field view of the camera are military-aged males, meaning anybody who is believed to be age 16 or older, they are a legitimate target under the rules of engagement. If that strike occurs and kills all of them, they just say they got them all.”

Drones, he warns, make remote killing “too easy, too convenient.”

On August 8, 2014, the FBI raided his home. It was his last day of work for the private contractor. A male and female FBI agent shoved their badges in his face when he opened the door.

“Immediately behind them came about 20 agents, basically all of them with pistols drawn, some wearing body armor,” he says in the film. “At this point I was extremely scared. I did not understand what was going on. Altogether, there might have been at least 30 to 50 agents in and out of the house at different points throughout the evening taking photos of every room and everything, searching for different things.”

By the time they finished his house was stripped of all electronics, including his cell phone.

For the next five years he lived with the uncertainty of his fate. He struggled to find work, fought off depression and contemplated suicide. He was barred, by law, from speaking about his plight, even with a therapist. In 2019, the Trump administration indicted Hale on four counts of violating the Espionage Act and one count of theft of government property.

The thousands of targeted assassinations carried out by drones, often in countries that are not at war with the United States, are an egregious violation of international law. They are turning huge swathos of the planet against us. The secret kill lists, which include US citizens, have transformed the executive branch into judge, jury and executioner, obliterating the right to due process. Those that commit these killings are unaccountable. Hale sacrificed his career and his freedom to warn us. He is not a danger to the country. The danger we face comes from the secret drone program, which is spiraling out of control and ominously being adopted by domestic law enforcement agencies. If left unchecked, the terror we impose on others we will soon impose on ourselves.

Feature photo | Original illustration by Mr. Fish

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact.

The post Chris Hedges: Bless the Traitors appeared first on MintPress News.

Hedges: Kucinich Memoir Is a Moving Account of a Battle Against Corporate Power

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 09/07/2021 - 12:38am in

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (Scheerpost “The Division of Light and Power,” by Dennis Kucinich, like Robert Caro’s “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York,” is a gripping, moving and lucidly written account of the hidden mechanisms of corporate power in the United States and what happens when these corporate interests are challenged. It is essential reading, especially as we face an intensified corporate assault, done in the name of fiscal necessity following the financial wounds imposed by the pandemic, to seize total control of all public assets.

Kucinich warns that this assault is more than the seizure of public assets for private gain.  These corporate forces, which function as a shadow government in Washington and cities across the country, threaten to achieve a monolithic lock on all forms of power and extinguish our anemic democracy. As Kucinich discovered throughout his career, these corporate forces will deploy every weapon in their arsenal against those brave or foolish enough to defy them. “The Division of Light and Power”is destined to become a classic text for those who seek to understand the corporate coup d’etat that took place in the United States in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.


The new book by Dennis Kucinich recounts his battle with corporate elites to protect a public utility.

“People who say, ‘You can’t fight City Hall,’ don’t know where it is,” writes Kucinich, who battled Cleveland’s big banks and corporations as a member of the city council and as mayor. “You have to find it before you can fight it. City Hall was not only the Doric gray stone temple on East Sixth and Lakeside Avenue in downtown Cleveland. City Hall was the boardroom of Cleveland’s banks, its investor-owned utilities, its real estate combines — and the mob. In Cleveland, City Hall was in the shadows, a giant specter invisible to the people of the city. I brought the invisible City Hall to light, with great consequences for my city, my family, my friends and myself. I was the Mayor and I fought City Hall.”

Kucinich, a diminutive 23-year-old, who was often mistaken for the paperboy when he campaigned door to door, had just been elected at the opening of the book to be the new Councilman from Ward Seven. Kucinich grew up in Ward Seven in extreme poverty. His family struggled to pay rent and utility bills. They endured evictions and at one point were forced to sleep in their car. Ward Seven was, he recalls, where “I went to high school, where church spires and pipe-organ smokestacks reached to a smudged sky. A neighborhood populated by a steely league of nations who spoke Polish, Greek, Slovak, Ukrainian, Russian, Arabic, Spanish, and occasionally English. A neighborhood of narrow streets lined with old men wearing white shirts and suspenders, and old ladies wearing babushkas and carrying shopping bags that dangled just above their socks, paraded up and down the small commercial district on Professor Avenue.”

Because he would not abandon his neighborhood, his people, he was on a collision course with the monied elites who ran the city.

The seasoned politicians in city hall assumed that Kucinich, like themselves, would sell out the voters for his own political and economic advancement. No one thought he was serious about defending those who elected him. They welcomed him to the cynical club of our bought-and-paid-for political class and explained the inner workings of our system of legalized bribery. He was young. He was talented. He would go far, the political hacks assured him, if he did the bidding of the real centers of power.

“These pros knew that every one of the thirty-three Cleveland City Council seats were won with campaign contributions from banks who held city deposits, money from phone, gas, and electric interests, or downtown real estate developers who never lost an election because they always bet on both sides,” Kucinich writes.

One middle-aged Councilman, an attorney from a neighboring ward, let’s call him Richard, befriended me, confiding, “Dennis, there are a lot of legitimate ways you can make money in politics. Nothing dishonest, mind you. Opportunities come to people who hold office,” he said.

“Opportunities?” 

“You know, you do favors for people. They do favors for you.”

“Favors?” I didn’t understand. 

“Attorneys elected to Council get law business thrown their way. Insurance salesmen get policies. Travel agents book trips for people they help. Real estate guys get commissions from property deals called to their attention,” he shared. “It’s all legit.”

A “rotund, cigar-chomping and irascible” councilman named James H. Bell told Kucinich that all he wanted was a little ice cream. “He opened his mouth, lolled his tongue, and with child-like abandon licked an imaginary cone, his diamond pinky ring sparkling in the bar lights,” Kucinich writes. “‘Just a little ice cream. I’m not a pig,’ he repeated. ‘I want what’s mine. Some ice cream.’”

The rules were clear from the start. Serve the interests of big business and the city’s rich — by granting tax abatements, 99-year franchises, monopolies, and bond financing for big, often unnecessary multi-million dollar projects — and thrive. Defy those interests and face political oblivion.

“City Hall reeked of mendacity, of checking one’s spiritual beliefs at the door like a beat-up coat and entering into circumstances where unseen forces were dictating decisions, demanding consensus, and meting out punishment to those who denied the deal-making, was, after all, politics, the dominion of amorality, where personal advancement relied on pragmatism operating in shuttered light, without the imposition of conscience,” Kucinich writes.

Once it was clear the elites could not buy him off, they set out to destroy his political career, slander and intimidate him, and, after he was elected mayor in 1977, wreck the city’s finances and finally attempt to assassinate him. The ruling elites play for keeps. And this is why a politician like Kucinich, with integrity and undaunted courage, is an anathema in the deeply corrupted world of American electoral politics where nearly all who flourish, in city, state and national politics, do so because they have a price.

The battle royale, which would see the business elites force the city into default to remove Kucinich from the mayor’s office, centered around the schemes by CEI (Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co.) to crush the public utility, Municipal Light, or Muny Light, founded in 1907 by then-Cleveland Mayor Tom L. Johnson. CEI sought a monopoly so it could jack up rates for the city’s residents. CEI orchestrated blackouts by blocking Muny’s access to back-up power and exhausting the patience of Muny customers to force them into the hands of CEI. The fight to save Muny was, Kucinich knew, more than a fight to protect a public utility.

Johnson said when the founded the public utility, “I believe in public ownership of all public service monopolies for the same reason that I believe in the municipal ownership of waterworks, of parks, of schools. I believe in the municipal ownership of these monopolies because if you do not own them, they will in time own you. They will corrupt your politics, rule your institutions and finally destroy your liberties.”

Kucinich, like Johnson, realized the danger the privatization of public assets present and, unlike most politicians, was willing to sacrifice his political career to protect those, like his family, who struggled under the onslaught of predatory corporations and the rich.

But it was not only Kucinich the business elites targeted. They destroyed the careers of the handful of reporters who attempted to investigate and make public the dirty machinations of CEI and the ruling elites. Kucinich watched as one honest reporter after another was silenced by his or her employer, beholden to the money and power of advertisers. Kucinich discovered that the press was not only docile, but complicit. He realized he would have few allies in the public arena. When the war against him began in earnest, the press dutifully amplified the lies spun out by the public relations departments of the corporations against Kucinich. The city was saturated with constant news and editorials touting the benefits of privatizing the private utility, although customers with Muny Light had one of the lowest electric rates in the country.

When Steve Clark, the top radio news commentator in Cleveland on WERE radio, for example, decried CEI’s spending over $7 million for promotions and advertising, or about $11 per customer, and announced that CEI had realized a net profit of $40 million, or more than sixteen cents for each dollar of operating revenue, at the same time it was demanding a 20 percent rate increase from the Ohio Public Utilities Commission, which would generate an additional $54 million annually for the company, his career was finished. The radio station received at least $70,000 a year from CEI in advertising. The owners did not intend to lose it. Clark was fired.

“News reporters covering the Council meeting were a sketch of supine immobility, a confession of the futility of expression without independence,” Kucinich writes. “If CEI worked to influence editors, the editors in turn would place limitations on their reporters. I could not expect any help from the ‘free press.’”

“I dispensed a long time ago with the idea that my political advancement depended upon currying the favor of newspapers, or by agreeing with their editorial or news policy, which wasn’t really theirs, but that of interest groups they were fronting,” he adds.

The Muny Light wars exposed the lengths corporate power and the mob bosses, who Kucinich also fought, will go to destroy anyone who threatens their unchecked pillaging. Cleveland was known at the time as “America’s Bombing Capital” because of a war by crime syndicates for control of Cleveland rackets. The city endured 30 mob-related bombings and periodic assassinations. There were also several attempts to kill Kucinich that were narrowly thwarted by luck or timely police work. Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk were shot and killed at San Francisco City Hall while Kucinich was in office. Chapter 28 in his book is titled “City Hell.”

The business elites orchestrated a recall election, which he narrowly survived, threw the city into default, orchestrated electrical blackouts, especially during the Christmas holiday, and used a compliant press to blame Kucinich for the chaos they spawned. When Kucinich threw out the first pitch at the Cleveland Indian’s game, forced at that point to wear a bulletproof vest and travel with police snipers, the crowd booed and yelled “kill the bum.” Kucinich was defeated for reelection in 1979, the celebrated political phenom now treated as a national punchline.

(Nearly two decades later, after wandering the political wilderness — and the country — yet still supported strongly by the working class of Cleveland, Kucinich made an unexpected political comeback when he was elected to Congress in 1996. However, in 2010 the Democratic Party machine in Ohio drew up a redistricting plan which moved his Cleveland home address into the Toledo-based district of another incumbent, all but assuring his defeat in 2012.)

Through his besieged two years as mayor, Kucinich was acutely aware that if he capitulated to the sale of the public utility his political future would be instantly assured. He writes:

My political future would be guaranteed, with the swipe of a pen. The endless calls to sell would end. The media trumpeting the so-called deficiencies of Muny Light would stop their barrage. The equation of the sale of Muny Light with the avoidance of default would end. If I sold the electric system under these intricately-contrived circumstances, the people of Cleveland would never know I did not have to sell. They would be offered a fictional tale of a happy outcome, agreed upon by the media, the business community, CEI, the banks, and the political establishment. It would be the fairy tale of a young Mayor who finally came to his senses and did the “right thing.” 

But I knew the truth.

The people would end up paying millions of dollars in higher taxes to the city for street lighting and other services. Without competition, CEI would continually raise rates. People in the city would pay millions more in higher electric bills. Yes, the city would have credit. It could borrow money and go deeper in debt. If I agreed to sell, no one in Cleveland would ever know what happened in this boardroom. Today the world’s attention was briefly on the impending default in a major American city. If I sold, tomorrow the big story would be ‘The Escape from Default,” the bookends of a complete political soap opera. Only I would know that Muny Light was stolen. I would have to conceal that knowledge, as I rocketed to political stardom with my newfound friends. I’d wave from a high platform at “the people.” Unaware, they would think they were the ones who sent me to higher office.

His enemies did not forgive him once they removed him from office. He and those who worked in his mayoral administration were blacklisted by the city’s elite, often unable to find work. Kucinich was meant to be an example to all who thought of defying the system.

“Most of those who worked for me could not find jobs, blackballed by the Cleveland establishment,” he writes. “Several members of my team had to travel many miles out of town to find work. Most found themselves at a significant financial disadvantage. One, a brilliant city planner who had courageously challenged developers’ schemes to extract millions from the taxpayers, committed suicide. It was my decision, and I paid a price, but regrettably, others also paid.”

“After I left office, I had time to absorb what had happened to me in Cleveland, my ten-year climb to become Mayor, my collision with corrupt interests amidst the highest of hopes for the city,” He writes. “However hard I tried, I could not find a moral to the story. I was shattered, not so much from losing an election, as from the pillorying of the ethical signposts of my life: Right was wrong and wrong was right. The inversion of reality was particularly shocking. The banks, the business and political establishment had now constructed, and the Cleveland media carried forth, a new fictitious narrative. The city on its way to recovery … from me.”

Nevertheless, Kucinich, sacrificing his position as mayor, had indeed, with the support of a grassroots army, saved the city’s public utility.

Near the end of his first term in Congress he was invited to attend a meeting of the Cleveland City Council on December 14th, 1998, the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the city’s default. The council presented him with a resolution of recognition. It read:

…Today the City of Cleveland has one of the fastest-growing municipal electric systems in America. Currently, Cleveland Public Power is expanding to provide low-cost electricity to more and more people, providing power for city facilities and streetlights, thereby helping to keep taxes low and encouraging economic development. None of this would have been possible had Mayor Kucinich not refused to sell the City’s electric system on December 15, 1978 . . .  now, therefore . . . BE IT RESOLVED, that Cleveland City Council hereby extends its deep appreciation to Dennis J. Kucinich, for having the courage and foresight to refuse to sell the City’s municipal electric system, which has saved the people of Cleveland over $300 million since that time.

— Cleveland City Council

Members of the city council stood and applauded.

Feature photo | Dennis J. Kucinich flanked by his wife Sandy, left, and his father Frank Kucinich is all smiles as he claims victory in the recall election, Aug. 14, 1978 in Cleveland, Ohio. EAM | AP

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact.

The post Hedges: Kucinich Memoir Is a Moving Account of a Battle Against Corporate Power appeared first on MintPress News.

Chris Hedges: Julian Assange and the Collapse of the Rule of Law

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 12/06/2021 - 11:52am in

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (Scheerpost A society that prohibits the capacity to speak in truth extinguishes the capacity to live in justice.

This why we are here tonight.  Yes, all of us who know and admire Julian decry his prolonged suffering and the suffering of his family.  Yes, we demand that the many wrongs and injustices that have been visited upon him be ended.  Yes, we honor him up for his courage and his integrity. But the battle for Julian’s liberty has always been much more than the persecution of a publisher.  It is the most important battle for press freedom of our era.  And if we lose this battle, it will be devastating, not only for Julian and his family, but for us.

Tyrannies invert the rule of law.  They turn the law into an instrument of injustice.  They cloak their crimes in a faux legality.  They use the decorum of the courts and trials, to mask their criminality.  Those, such as Julian, who expose that criminality to the public are dangerous, for without the pretext of legitimacy the tyranny loses credibility and has nothing left in its arsenal but fear, coercion and violence.

The long campaign against Julian and WikiLeaks is a window into the collapse of the rule of law, the rise of what the political philosopher Sheldon Wolin calls our system of inverted totalitarianism, a form of totalitarianism that maintains the fictions of the old capitalist democracy, including its institutions, iconography, patriotic symbols and rhetoric, but internally has surrendered total control to the dictates of global corporations.

I was in the London courtroom when Julian was being tried by Judge Vanessa Baraitser, an updated version of the Queen of Hearts in Alice-in Wonderland demanding the sentence before pronouncing the verdict. It was judicial farce. There was no legal basis to hold Julian in prison.  There was no legal basis to try him, an Australian citizen, under the U.S. Espionage Act. The CIA spied on Julian in the embassy through a Spanish company, UC Global, contracted to provide embassy security. This spying included recording the privileged conversations between Julian and his lawyers as they discussed his defense. This fact alone invalidated the trial. Julian is being held in a high security prison so the state can, as Nils Melzer, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, has testified, continue the degrading abuse and torture it hopes will lead to his psychological if not physical disintegration.

The U.S. government directed, as Craig Murray so eloquently documented, the London prosecutor James Lewis.  Lewis presented these directives to Baraitser.  Baraitser adopted them as her legal decision.  It was judicial pantomime. Lewis and the judge insisted they were not attempting to criminalize journalists and muzzle the press while they busily set up the legal framework to criminalize journalists and muzzle the press. And that is why the court worked so hard to mask the proceedings from the public, limiting access to the courtroom to a handful of observers and making it hard and at times impossible to access the trial online.  It was a tawdry show trial, not an example of the best of English jurisprudence but the Lubyanka.

Now, I know many of us here tonight would like to think of ourselves as radicals, maybe even revolutionaries.  But what we are demanding on the political spectrum is in fact conservative, it is the restoration of the rule of law.  It is simple and basic. It should not, in a functioning democracy, be incendiary.  But living in truth in a despotic system is the supreme act of defiance.  This truth terrifies those in power.

The architects of imperialism, the masters of war, the corporate-controlled legislative, judicial and executive branches of government and their obsequious courtiers in the media, are illegitimate.  Say this simple truth and you are banished, as many of us have been, to the margins of the media landscape.  Prove this truth, as Julian, Chelsea Manning, Jeremy Hammond and Edward Snowden have by allowing us to peer into the inner workings of power, and you are hunted down and persecuted.

Shortly after WikiLeaks released the Iraq War Logs in October 2010, which documented numerous US war crimes—including video images of the gunning down of two Reuters journalists and 10 other unarmed civilians in the Collateral Murder video, the routine torture of Iraqi prisoners, the covering up of thousands of civilian deaths and the killing of nearly 700 civilians that had approached too closely to U.S. checkpoints—the towering civil rights attorneys Len Weinglass and my good friend Michael Ratner, who I would later accompany to meet Julian in the Ecuadoran Embassy, met with Julian in a studio apartment in Central London.  Julian’s personal bank cards had been blocked. Three encrypted laptops with documents detailing US war crimes had disappeared from his luggage in route to London. Swedish police were fabricating a case against him in a move, Ratner warned, that was about extraditing Julian to the United States.

“WikiLeaks and you personally are facing a battle that is both legal and political,” Weinglass told Assange. “As we learned in the Pentagon Papers case, the US government doesn’t like the truth coming out. And it doesn’t like to be humiliated. No matter if it’s Nixon or Bush or Obama, Republican or Democrat in the White House. The US government will try to stop you from publishing its ugly secrets. And if they have to destroy you and the First Amendment and the rights of publishers with you, they are willing to do it. We believe they are going to come after WikiLeaks and you, Julian, as the publisher.”

“Come after me for what?” asked Julian.

“Espionage,” Weinglass continued. “They’re going to charge Bradley Manning with treason under the Espionage Act of 1917. We don’t think it applies to him because he’s a whistleblower, not a spy. And we don’t think it applies to you either because you are a publisher. But they are going to try to force Manning into implicating you as his collaborator.”

“Come after me for what?

That is the question.

They came after Julian not for his vices, but his virtues.

They came after Julian because he exposed the more than 15,000 unreported deaths of Iraqi civilians; because he exposed the torture and abuse of some 800 men and boys, aged between 14 and 89, at Guantánamo; because he exposed that Hillary Clinton in 2009 ordered US diplomats to spy on U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and other U.N. representatives from China, France, Russia, and the UK, spying that included obtaining DNA, iris scans, fingerprints, and personal passwords, part of the long pattern of illegal surveillance that included the eavesdropping on UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in the weeks before the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003; because he exposed that Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and the CIA orchestrated the June 2009 military coup in Honduras that overthrew the democratically elected president Manuel Zelaya, replacing it with a murderous and corrupt military regime; because he exposed that George W. Bush, Barack Obama and General David Petraeus prosecuted a war in Iraq that under post-Nuremberg laws is defined as a criminal war of aggression, a war crime, that they authorized hundreds of targeted assassinations, including those of U.S. citizens in Yemen, and that they secretly launched missile, bomb, and drone attacks on Yemen, killing scores of civilians; because he exposed that Goldman Sachs paid Hillary Clinton $657,000 to give talks, a sum so large it can only be considered a bribe, and that she privately assured corporate leaders she would do their bidding while promising the public financial regulation and reform; because he exposed the internal campaign to discredit and destroy British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn by members of his own party; because he exposed how the hacking tools used by the CIA and the National Security Agency permits the wholesale government surveillance of our televisions, computers, smartphones and anti-virus software, allowing the government to record and store our conversations, images and private text messages, even from encrypted apps.

Julian exposed the truth.  He exposed it over and over and over until there was no question of the endemic illegality, corruption and mendacity that defines the global ruling elite.  And for these truths they came after Julian, as they have come after all who dared rip back the veil on power.  “Red Rosa now has vanished too. …” Bertolt Brecht wrote after the German socialist Rosa Luxemburg was murdered. “She told the poor what life is about, And so the rich have rubbed her out.”

We have undergone a corporate coup, where the poor and working men and women are reduced to joblessness and hunger, where war, financial speculation and internal surveillance are the only real business of the state, where even habeas corpus no longer exists, where we, as citizens, are nothing more than commodities to corporate systems of power, ones to be used, fleeced and discarded. To refuse to fight back, to reach out and help the weak, the oppressed and the suffering, to save the planet from ecocide, to decry the domestic and international crimes of the ruling class, to demand justice, to live in truth, is to bear the mark of Cain. Those in power must feel our wrath, and this means constant acts of mass civil disobedience, it means constant acts of social and political disruption, for this organized power from below is the only power that will save us and the only power that will free Julian.  Politics is a game of fear.  It is our moral and civic duty to make those in power very, very afraid.

The criminal ruling class has all of us locked in its death grip.  It cannot be reformed.  It has abolished the rule of law.  It obscures and falsifies the truth. It seeks the consolidation of its obscene wealth and power. And so, to quote the Queen of Hearts, metaphorically of course, I say, “Off with their heads.”

Feature photo | Original illustration by Mr. Fish

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact.

The post Chris Hedges: Julian Assange and the Collapse of the Rule of Law appeared first on MintPress News.