Monday, December 28, 2009

Good reasons and real reasons

Dave Collins

It is generally held that George Santayana’s observation that “Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it” has merit, whether the powerful, or even the powerless, hearken to it. But, it is also true – and equally frequently ignored – that absent an some knowledge of history, the affairs of the moment cannot be accurately understood. As the world enters the second decade of the 21st century, two horrid, fetid, cesspools; reeking of death and ruin serve to illustrate this corollary to Santayana’s admonition – the war and occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq. It seems all but certain that if the citizens of the United States had a clear and sufficient understanding of the history – just contemporary history would have been more than adequate – this country would not today be responsible for the conditions of these two horribly damaged nations and people.

It is not uncommon in the history of the United States, and indeed the world, that wars are sold to the public for reasons quite apart from the real reasons. Governments, being the creatures of man, often behave as J.P. Morgan once described: “A man has two reasons for doing anything; a good reason and the real reason.” He failed to add that those “good” reasons often turn out to be lies.

Since September 12, 2001, we have heard a constant stream of reasons and rationales for the invasion and occupation of these two countries. Despite the unequivocal evidence that most of the reasons in the case of Iraq were false, and known at the time promulgated to be false, many still cling to them. Most important among these “good reasons” is “defeat of terrorists” and revenge against Osama bin Laden, whether offered as rationale for invading Iraq or Afghanistan. The fact is that the first of these justifications is ludicrous on its face. It is not possible to wage war on a tactic, as has been repeatedly noted and ignored over the past 8 years. The second rationale is open to more than a little skepticism. It is noteworthy that while, 8 years on, bin Laden remains on the FBI “Most Wanted” list, the Department of Justice has still not filed any indictment of the former CIA-paid terrorist. In any case, it has long been asserted that bin Laden is no longer in Afghanistan and US intelligence agencies estimate that only 100 of his followers remain in that country, as was even noted in the most mainstream of media.

For those with a little knowledge of contemporary history, Mr. Morgan’s real reason for these wars should stand out with crystal-like clarity. In his 1980 State of the Union Address, President Jimmy Carter established what came to be known as the “Carter Doctrine.” Carter declared that the natural resources of the region, dubbed the “arc of instability” by his National Security Advisor, to be of critical, strategic national interest to the US. He pledged the use of all US power, to include military power, in protection of those interests. This doctrine was motivated in part – at least publicly – by the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (an invasion we now also know as “Charlie Wilson’s War,” named for Representative Wilson (D. TX)). However, the 1973 Arab Oil Embargo and the 1979 Islamist revolution in Iran most certainly played key roles, as well.

Carter’s National Security Advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, described a geographic “arc” extending from the oil rich countries of the Middle East, through Central and South Asia. The concept has morphed to include the oil rich nations of Western Africa and beyond the Persian Gulf into the Pacific. If one is to examine the actions and policies of each Presidential Administration since Carter’s 1980 declaration, a consistent pattern is unmistakable. For examples, we have the Reagan Administration’s encouragement and support of the regime of Saddam Hussein in the war with Iran and of the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, George Herbert Walker Bush’s 1990 invasion of Iraq, referred to as “Operation Desert Storm,” and Clinton’s relentless pursuit of aerial bombardment of Iraq (on a near daily basis) paired with sanctions that further crippled the civilian infrastructure of that country.

It is all but certain that the death, destruction, cost and greatly aggravated regional instability that has followed in the wake of Carter’s 1980 declaration was never imagined, much less intended, by him at the time. It is also important to note that the Carter Doctrine, like its far better known early predecessor, the Monroe Doctrine, was not a one-sided policy. Monroe’s declaration during his 1823 address to Congress was balanced in terms and intent. Simply stated, he told the European colonial powers that the US would tolerate no further military meddling in the affairs of the Americas and, in exchange, pledged to refrain from meddling in the affairs of the European nations. Carter’s balance was not one of a foreign policy tit-for-tat, but rather a domestic policy. As he declared the crude oil of the “arc of instability” of strategic importance, at home he set about taking the first steps to mitigate that dependence on foreign-owned and controlled resources in the only way scientifically possible – by reducing US reliance on fossil fuels.

When Ronald Reagan came to power the next January, he famously ripped from the White House roof one of the most important symbols of that domestic policy – the solar water-heating panels. He repudiated the balancing aspect of the Carter Doctrine, while silently embracing its foreign and military component. It can be argued that creating that policy imbalance has had more to do with the tragic and ruinous results than did the original policy. That it was adhered to without acknowledgement (perhaps initially purely out of political spite in the same manner as the ridicule heaped upon Carter for his famous sweat-clad fireside chats) points to both the explanation as to why discussions of US policy in the region center on every justification except fossil fuel and marks critical difference in the evolution of the policy, as contrasted to Monroe’s.

Subsequent to Monroe’s declaration, his Doctrine was invoked on numerous occasions and, in several instances, extended and elaborated. For example, there is The Roosevelt Corollary, pronounced by Teddy Roosevelt in 1904 that assert a US unilateral right to intervene in the affairs of sovereign nations in the Americas. However, while Reagan, G. W. H. Bush, Clinton, G. W. Bush and now Obama have each applied the Carter Doctrine and elaborated it as conditions have changed (like the collapse of the Soviet Union, the primary original justification), none have done so explicitly. Take as case in point the two recent speeches by President Obama, at West Point and then in Oslo. In each speech he reaffirms the assertion of a unilateral right to apply military force in the region but at no point does he mention the specific strategic national interests at risk – other than a vague and non-specific reference to some potential future act of terrorism. However, it is clearly the Carter Doctrine which provides the formal policy foundation.

While Reagan and subsequent Presidents’ abandonment of the domestic leg of Carter’s policy has served to increase rather than decrease the nation’s dependence on oil, it is the second departure – the reliance on, but willful silence about the policy foundation - may be the more damaging. Because in each instance very different reasons or excuses for application of military force have been, at best, nonsensical (like defeating terrorism) and at worst outright lies, the nation has been deprived of the honest debate about whether the use of military force and economic sanctions are the best and proper methods for securing the resources to power our cars, power plants and most other aspects of our lives. The lack of such a debate may well prove catastrophic.

It would be improper to close this discussion without an acknowledgement that the Carter Doctrine, itself, reflected a long standing de facto US policy in the region. Briefly recounted, that story begins with the signing of the Versailles Treaty in 1919. Soon after, a young diplomat by the name of Winston Churchill began carving up Great Britain’s allocated part of what had previously been the Ottoman Empire. That empire had long dominated most of what has come to be called the “arc of instability.” Some have argued that much of that instability sprang from a ham-fisted job of surgery by Churchill. But oil was much on his mind, as well as of his US allies. By the early 1930s, the new oil industry, particularly in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Iran was expanding and in need of capital. For the players on Wall Street the prospects of staking a claim in the region was extremely attractive as their excesses of the 1920s had eliminated most profitable investment opportunities in the US (except in the domestic oil patch).

A lead player in that game was the venerable firm of Brown Brothers-Harriman. Two of the most active in that aspect of the Brown Brothers’ business were its senior executives Herbert Walker and Prescott Bush. One notable example of this is found in the intertwined relationships between Standard Oil of California, Brown Brothers-Harriman and the fledgling ARAMCO. That oil company based in Saudi Arabia was initially a joint enterprise of the Saudi royal family and Standard Oil of California. Standard Oil of New Jersey, with an additional set of inter-relationships with the Wall Street firm, took a major stake. Through that and other relationships, like Brown & Root a multi-generational family enterprise was established, and that family, from Senator Prescott Bush through two Presidential administrations, was instrumental in shaping US foreign policy for 6 decades. As a side note, Prescott Bush handled some rather unsavory business for Brown Brothers-Harriman in the lead-up to US involvement in WW II. Most notable was the firm’s financial participation in Standard Oil of New Jersey’s “marriage” with the German firm IG Farben. IG Farben was the producer of Zklon B used in the Nazi death camps and operated the chemical manufacturing facilities at the most notorious of those camps, Auschwitz.

In spite, or more likely because, of those activities Prescott was recruited into the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in WW II. When the OSS morphed into the Central Intelligence Agency in 1947, its first Director was another key player in the Brown Brothers-Harriman-oil industry story; Allen Dulles. (For more on those complex and oily relationships, see this article) One of the CIA’s first major operations occurred some 6 years later when the people of Iran elected a man as prime minister who ran on a platform of nationalizing the oil resources of the country. It was CIA operative and cousin to Teddy Roosevelt, Kermit Roosevelt, who led the CIA plot that resulted in a successful coup against Prime Minister Mossadegh and thus forestalled the loss of the British Petroleum and other US and western corporate properties in the country until the Islamist revolution - where this discussion began.

Our nation is long, long over due for an examination and debate of the real reasons for our military policies in the nations of the “arc of instability,” if it is not already too late.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fwd: Langston Hughes - Merry Christmas

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Dave Collins <>
Date: Thu, Dec 24, 2009 at 12:40 PM
Subject: Langston Hughes - Merry Christmas
To: Dave Collins <>

Merry Christmas

"Merry Christmas": Published in New Masses (Dec. 1930), p. 4.
        Merry Christmas, China,
From the gun-boats in the river,
Ten-inch shells for Christmas gifts,
And peace on earth forever.

Merry Christmas, India,
To Gandhi in his cell,
From righteous Christian England,
Ring out, bright Christmas bell!

Ring Merry Christmas, Africa,
From Cairo to the Cape!
Ring Hallehuiah! Praise the Lord!
(For murder and for rape.)

Ring Merry Christmas, Haiti!
(And drown the voodoo drums—
We'll rob you to the Christian hymns
Until the next Christ comes.)

Ring Merry Christmas, Cuba!
(While Yankee domination
Keeps a nice fat president
In a little half-starved nation.)

And to you down-and-outers,
("Due to economic laws")
Oh, eat, drink, and be merry
With a bread-line Santa Claus—

While all the world hails Christmas,
While all the church bells sway!
While, better still, the Christian guns
Proclaim this joyous day!

While holy steel that makes us strong
Spits forth a mighty Yuletide song:
SHOOT Merry Christmas everywhere!
Let Merry Christmas GAS the air!

    The past is never dead. It's not even past." William Faulkner
Visit my blog

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Personal Worth (not the one on your financial statement)

Sure are lots of referenced to the "jobless" recovery these days. The "talking heads" of the business world bemoan the weakness of "consumer confidence" and the absence of consumer spending. This is ironic to hear after the dearth of the slightest concern in recent memory whether or nor the working class had jobs or not.

Why are the bankers and business moguls so concerned of late about "jobs" of all things? Don't they have heavier matters to fret about? The welfare of the commodity of "labor units" is not a traditional worry. They don't give a "rats ass" so to speak, if human beings have jobs or not!

Ah, as it turns out, big business(what a typically American term)needs the money of the "lowest class", the laboring class. Wow, if these common human beings don't have jobs they don't spend money and don't purchase the products of big industry...who have have done careful research and assure us that we need the 150 odd different kinds of toothpaste they have determined are absolutely essential to healthy teeth. Better get cracking and figure out how to get America back to work!

These words written in 1848 seem relevant in the 21st century. The ownership class "...has transformed personal worth into a mere exchange value, and substituted for countless dearly-bought chartered freedoms the one and only unconscionable freedom of Free Trade. It has in one word, replaced an exploitation veiled by religious and political illusions by exploitation open, unashamed, direct, and brutal." ...words of Marx and Engels, "The Communist Manifesto" Hmmmm...did they know about "free trade" in 1848?

The more things change the more they remain the same.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Rights of Conquest

The 60th anniversary of the Palestinian Refugee camps was marked a couple of days ago. The United Nations set up "temporary" camps to house the approximately 800,000 people who were driven from their land and homes by the Israelis with the success of the 1948 war of "independence" for Israel. The first two countries to recognize the new nation were The United States and England.

Turned out that the refugee camps were not so "temporary" and the numbers of people has grown to more than 3 million with several generations. These refugees have never been allowed to return to their homes nor been paid for their homes so the effect is that the land was stolen. The refugees have been foisted on the neighboring countries and upon the UN to take care of.

This is the spectacle which for more than 60 years the United States has approved and supported both militarily and financially. This is why the United States is reaping what we have sown. The "rights of conquest" are not rights listed in the US Declaration of Independence or the bill of rights.

Monday, December 21, 2009


The United States seems to be terrified of terrorism. We therefore send our troops around the world to many countries to attempt to protect us from terrorism. However the very act of militarizing the earth with our military might (not to mention our traditional sales of weapons)creates more and more people who hate us and have only terrorism as a weapon to get us to go back home.

We should stay home by the fire. ...where we could still keep watch for those who would attack us at our home.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Predicting The Future

Predicting the future is not as difficult as it may seem. No supernatural vision is required. No dreams to interpret. Since the age of enlightenment, people with even average intelligence have been doing so. Insurance companies do it for a living and make lots of money at it.

The future to be concerned about is the one inhabited by your children and grandchildren. The list of things which will endanger them is long and sounds like a passage from the biblical "book of revelations". Without listing the possibilities, we can step back taking a look at history and be forewarned that serious troubles lie ahead for the people we love...perhaps even for ourselves. It would be easy to use well worn platitudes like "nothing to fear but fear" but a serious consideration of some facts is in order.

A rodent virus in the 13th century in central Asia moved west, as did progress, during the time of Marco Polo to become the "black death" killing 50 million human beings world wide in about 5 years. The same occurred with the world flu pandemic in 1918. Only that time about the same number perished in only 2 years because of the progress in transportation. Its a long story but born out of the black plague came three centuries of the Spanish Inquisition, Estimates of death tolls range from less than 10,000 to 125,000. The attitudes of the Inquisition were brought with European explorers to the new world. There disease and religious brutality killed 20 million aboriginal inhabitants in 10 years. The following era of colonialism enslaved, killed, and brutalized untold millions around the world for four centuries. It is estimated that colonialism killed 20 million in the African Congo alone in less than 20 years. Colonialism created the onset of the First World War which killed 40 million in 4 years. Get the picture? Natural calamities are joined with human ones for the self destruction of mankind.

What could be worse?

Answering that question requires a focus on world population which has steadily increased century after century since the black death in the 13th and 14th century. Now standing at 6.6 billion, by 2050 world population is expected to reach 9.1 billion. Our grandchildren will be in their 40s, 50s, and 60s. In 2008 a combination of government policy and natural disaster caused a world wide shortage of corn and wheat. Food riots occurred in seven nations. Hoarding and panic ensued in China and elsewhere. In 2005 the combination of lack of funding, malfeasance, and natural calamity caused the levies of New Orleans to break during hurricane Katrina with great loss of life and property. These are portents of thing to come.

The United Kingdom's chief scientist John Beddington, recently warned that the world is headed for major upheavals in 2030 which he callled "the perfect storm" due to food shortages, scarce water, and insufficient energy resources. These conditions will produce public unrest, wars, and mass migrations. He states,"our food reserves are at a 50 year low but by 2030 we will need to produce 50% more food". It is claimed that the world wide AIDS epidemic has killed 25 million persons in 25 years. As early as 1976 Australian historian and economist Hugh Stretton stated,"...let us for once be honest about the environmental problem. It consists of too many people resources. We must therefore reduce the number of people or...the allowance of resources to each...if we don't, nature will."

World history shows that our ancestors have been through some brutal times but the present issue may be whether worse things could happen. The English philosopher Thomas Hobbes, who lived during the English Civil War of the 17th century, described a "state of nature" where humans unchecked could produce a "war of all against all" and lives would become "...solitary, poor, brutish, and short."

Don't expect workable solutions from government. In the future we should expect the loss of democratic forms of government as panic and desperation create the willingness for autocratic responses to energy shortages, food shortages, crime, hoarding and rationing. Those who live in the hope of the revival of classic liberal principles, securing individual liberties, and with the hatred of the evils of an arbitrary autocratic state, will be devastated. The dream of our children and grandchildren knowing "the blessings of liberty" will evaporate. For once the "super conservatives" will too late understand the meaning of liberalism vs. tyranny and the high water mark of the "glorious cause" of liberty, will be marked about the time of the first nineteen amendments to the Constitution.

Thursday, December 3, 2009




   We live in a time of official corruption. The list is a long litany of shame: Loss of representative government; replaced by representation sold to the highest bidders; Loss, not of the right to vote but the right for elections to be verified and honestly counted; Abrogation of Congress’ Constitutional responsibilities, given as gifts to the ever ascending “Unitary Executive”; “Personhood” of the corporation, whose “right of free speech” issues a "gag order" for the common citizen; United States patents of living matter, owned and controlled by big business; Violation of US law by government executive order; Courts and justice whose outcome is dependant on how much money the accused is able to spend; The loss of Habeas Corpus; Official torture of the accused; Wanton pollution of the air, rivers, streams, oceans, and land for profit; Exploitation of indentured slaves in sweat shops on US soil; Vast sums of untold wealth robbed from the people and spent on endless senseless wars and military hardware; Endless political bickering, venom, and ignoble blather; Sensational and vile “entertainment” of the populace accompanied by a moral stupor.

   This crescendo of rottenness … this corruption of the “Great Experiment” is not unlike the loss of the Roman Republic in ancient times when Julius Caesar, while mouthing all the platitudes of democracy, made himself the Emperor and forever changed the course of Roman and world History.

   To change all this seems virtually impossible, but it could happen with changes in attitude. Lessons in Civics should be required at all levels of American education. The religions institutions of all faiths could reduce their emphasis on “deciphering” the future and concentrate on this rule: “…do unto others as you would have them do unto you…”, Concentrate on the “weightier matters…”  


Judson Malone