Economic and political analysis-Window on culture-Media criticism

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

American foreign policy, the tool of liars

The content below I draw from a few comments I'd written in response to other articles, then realized they were too in-depth or elaborate. You can find many of my comments at OpEdNews.com.

The first comment is an article on the Wikileaks diplomatic communications. Its author, Robert Parry, exposed Iran Contra and can summarize the events leading to the 1980 October Surprise quite well. The article is here.

The giant leak of diplomatic cables is revealing our government's propensity to lie. Increasingly, the truth about how the US behaves--revealed in the exposed communiques--reflects a level of reality known only to select few. The elite have always sought to control the flow of the information, so the leaks present a serious uppityness from below that challenges the establishment and reveals surreptitious dealings with their underlings and our allies.

While restricting information is nothing new, the functioning of an entire bureaucracy based on nothing but lies and misinformation is taking Kafka-esque ineptitude into new dimensions, channeling something on a par with the old Soviet Union. Like Orwell's 1984, the Truth is a Lie and thus whatever spits out the Truth is in fact wholly composed of lies. So in time the totality of the life as explained by the bureaucracy creates a cushion of propaganda and misinformation meant to support old lies and inconsistencies which can't be tossed into the Memory Hole.

The facts were found to fit the policy, to quote the famous Downing Street memo, means two or more layers of lies shield Fedgov from its real policies: the first, a lie that Iraq (or Iran these days) posed a threat. The second, a series of controls over the flow of information, consists of efforts to obfuscate or deny any inconvenient facts or truths, what I call propaganda-by-omission. The absence of correcting information reinforces the initial lie.

By virtue of basing our policies on lies, our diplomatic corps forged layers of misinformation meant to support previous lies or bind enemies and allies to Washington's consensus, its version of the way things were and should be. Now, with the leaked communiques we see that the entirety of our government worked on the basis of lies.

We also see a common theme in the outward rejection and criminalization of the leak. Wikileaks founder Assante has been demonized, even leading one GOP Senator to demand that he be labelled a terrorist (Orwell's fictional Emmanuel Goldstein.) This is behavior typical of authoritarian regimes not democracies. Of course various governmental bodies begging him to stop or throwing rape accusations his way is completely unrelated to the content of the leaked communications, an intended distraction like gays in the military. This is a sign that the government seeks to keep its secrets hidden, a task easily assailed in the age of thumbnail drives and near-instant dumps to remote servers through high-speed connections.

It's as if Fedgov wanted to shut down the Internet. And it has, at least for any websites the government deems as supporting the ever-widening definition of terrorist supporters, or high speed file sharers (see link below.) No warrant or Court order is required; their domain names simply disappear-- poof--and disappear into the Memory Hole. Included in these targeted sites are any that carry content derived from major media networks (read large corporations.) All their content is site specific and the corporate entities controlling those rights will allow no dissemination beyond their sites.

For victims of the corporatist agenda to privatize the Internet, see this link on the Righthaven Victims. Fedgov will capitulate on the total ownership of content issue, meaning bloggers and anyone citing Web content must get permission from the copyright owner. Apparently offering a citation back to the source IS NOT sufficient for these people.

Leaks are a valuable source of information in holding government accountable and transparent. Without them, most Americans would be dependent on corporate media to tell them them the truth.

I guess Americans' willingness to be skeptical is in question. Americans are incredibly gullible about believing what their government tells them.

See more breaking stories on the communiques at The Guardian.

Democracies do need to hide their activities--a theme repeated in Jonah Goldberg's December 1st op-ed that it's a world full of bad people doing bad things. Since 9/11, this theme was asserted under Bush, given as a reason to torture and spy on people, to break the law, lest they destroy us or so the reasoning goes.

The idea of using Hitlerian tactics to stop the rise of Hitler came from the prominent neo-con Leo Strauss, who would go on to influence budding neo-cons like Perle and Wolfowitz at the University of Chicago. In escaping the Nazis, Strauss realized how weak and vulnerable democracies had been, and believed the Holocaust and Hitler's rise could have prevented had the "good guys" been willing to break the rules. We see this rationale fueling the anti-semitic treatment of the Palestinians by Israelis. And the paranoia that Israelis have is mentioned in at least one leaked communique as well, justifying pre-emptive strikes against Iran's theoretically viable nuclear sites.

Wikipedia explains this concept, referring to a 2003 article on pre-war intelligence, published in The New Yorker: "The journalist Seymour Hersh opined that Strauss endorsed 'noble lies': myths used by political leaders seeking to maintain a cohesive society."

Noble lies are another way of describing white lies or untruths meant to serve a broader good, like stopping a Hitler. I guess since Plato originated the term in ancient Greece, we've gone a lot farther, turning the simple and petty act of lying into an art form at the base of all our foreign policy, and how our nation interacts with the outside world, as well as how the lower layers of our government blindly follow the dictates of those above--a certain recipe for autocracy and the rationalization by the bureaucracy to simply "follow orders." Lesser lies (and government minions) are meant to serve the greater Lie, which escalated from a noble lie into a self-serving and endlessly self-perpetuating one once the organs of state and co-opted corporate media capitulate on the consensus formulated by the elite.

For evidence of this self-dealing cabal, look no farther than the press corps' sell-out on exposing the lies that led to the Iraq war. Instead Valerie Plame was exposed in retaliation for her husbands public dismantling of Bush's 19 words on uranium from Niger (a topic which I hope appears in the leaked material.) Long-time readers of this blog should also know that the consolidation of the media closed off independent voices-not coincidentally at the time FDIC ownership rules had been liberalized to allow moguls like Murdoch and GE/NBC Bush supporter Welch to own more media outlets.

Another characteristic of the leaks I've seen so far is the amount of lying. We can all assume lying is common but if you've ever known a chronic liar, you'll know they never tell the truth. If you, like me, have had the enlightening experience of having a compulsive liar for a roommate, you'll have learned the lesson that it's better to assume the chronic liar is lying about everything. That way if you're wrong and the liar is telling the truth, you'll be presently surprised rather than disappointed, not only in the lie but yourself, by the fact you trusted the liar yet again.

Judging from the cables, our diplomatic corps went from a defensible tactic (likely made in justify war on Iraq) to an obsession with obfuscation.

Since 9/11, the idea of democracies behaving badly has gone from acceptable but wrong to continually justifiable. What 9/11 justified, on a one-time basis, our government has institutionalized.

Have we become the bad guys? Is it so necessary for us to break the rules in order to save the world? I wonder if we're not destroying ourselves spiritually to save our selves. Plus, just how much of the risk of terror is synthesized by our own protectors. Clearly, any anti-terrorist agency needs to justify its existence or face funding cuts. Without plots like that recently exposed in Portland, Oregon, what results would our anti-terrorist agencies have to show? By the way, Portland is reconsidering its previous decision to not join the FBI's multi-city task force and now will be complying fully with all demands--I mean requests--from the FBI.

If you've seen the movie "Unthinkable" you were likely disgusted by all the torture used to get a terrorist to reveal the location of nuclear bombs, so much so you might have actually welcomed whatever retribution would come for it (not to mention an end to the tortured plot.) Samuel Jackson's character has the unenviable task of getting the terrorist to talk. Just how far should he go? The initial interrogations are marked by "harsh interrogation techniques" that go nowhere.

The point of Unthinkable is the necessity to strip morality from the actions of our protectors, to give them a clean moral slate for operations in whatever place, time, or way they may deem necessary to exert their authority and control and ostensibly save us (from a threat made real mostly by fear-peddling Hollywood and government patsies.) A hallmark of this fear salesmanship/power grab is the presentation of threats both near and far, the Goldstein of Orwell's 1984, the East Asia whom we are supposedly at war with.

Without an enemy, the state withers. This is because so much of the state's authority is based on the exertion of force. It seeks to maintain a monopoly over the use of force--look no farther than the rage exerted against those who dare shoot back. They are treated like terrorists simply because they don't submit to the power of the state.

Political Economy

Columnist Goldberg is a shrill for the Israel lobby who crooned for invasions of Israel's enemies, one of the crowd that held a mushroom cloud over our heads in the lead-in to Iraq. So for me to quote him, something must be horribly out of balance. Yet all too often I find myself siding with conservative critics of Obama. Or--to be clearer--I better tune into their conservative message rather than the neo-conservative one, a feat much easier if I disbelieve anything Goldberg and his neocon, Zionist friends might say about anyone or anything in the Mideast.

Obama is after all a neo-liberal. From time to time he'll espouse liberal ideologies, but his interpretation of the role of government is more typical of a laissez faire old school Republican, like a Blue Dog Senator Bayh (not Birch) or Bill Clinton. The idea, called the Chicago School, is that de-regulation will save the economy and that free trade benefits America unconditionally.

The predictable result has been a decrease in America manufacturing, long an aim of anti-unionist political forces masquerading as neoliberals. Kill American manufacturing through NAFTA and you kill the unions. Kill the unions and you increase profitability for the owners of the means of production--the wealthy--and you get to defang a political rival of the Right's.

Just how far will the American people let their government go? As I've commented, far too many are co-opted by the system and will fight change. Yet the whole nature of hyper-consumption is economically unsustainable. The government tapeworm will therefore chose other sources of sustenance as the host slowly dies. In plain English, the government will turn to monetizing the debt, printing and lending to itself the money it needs.

Already foreign creditors are limiting their dollar holdings, meaning people want more interest in exchange for holding the dollar. The recommendation would therefore mean reducing dollar holdings, and increasing non-dollar positions. With the Euro so weak right now, the dollar may be comparatively stronger.

Betting against the Deutschmark after the Wall fell in '93, I learned an important lesson in graduate school about not betting on foreign currencies. Despite the huge costs of reunification, the Deutschmark rose, nixing my prediction.

Sometimes hysteria and waves of unforeseeable strength crush and buoy foreign currencies, so I'd rely on a basket of foreign currencies rather than bet on one. Then again, I don't give financial advice. I can predict though what might well happen and that is that the unsound money policies will lead to an inevitable decrease in the purchasing power of the dollar. Farther afoot but not implausible is a downward spiral into hyperinflationary depression.


Had some reflections on economic concepts that I can't seem to let go of, so I've dumped them below. As much as I'd like to just pretend the decisions made by the Federal Reserve and our government don't affect me, sooner or later they will affect us all.

My comment below came from the New Arthurian Economics website here. The original comment there was referring to a Paul Krugman article. I wrote:

Commenting not so much on Krugman, but the statement at the site that "Anti-inflation policy reduces the quantity of money." I'd choose to say that a little differently. I'd say anti-inflation policies try to reduce inflation. The way they do this is to encourage people to save. If you're saving, you aren't spending.

As you know, raising rates will encourage saving. But what we have is a concerted effort to spend. Then there's QE2, what the blog author has called push inflation, or monetary inflation. In that case it's not so much demand that gets people spending but that abundance of dollars.

Now if you've been following the banks closely, you'll discover they CAN'T lend anymore. They've got so many bad debts that they HAVE to put new deposits in to stabilize their capital ratio (the amount of reserves expressed as a ratio of total deposits.)

Like Japan in the 90s, we know have a banking system that can't lend. It's not because they don't have the money--especially not with the Fed "pusher" making so much money available. Instead all that fresh money is going into the carry trade, at least according to one fund manager interview.

You also say "Pro-growth policy increases the level of spending."

I'd be hesitant to define "pro-growth policy." Of course, the phrase "being pro-business" is batted around in the political arena, like a race to the bottom to see which political party can pay lip service to the corporate interest.

If anything I'd say "pro-growth" is invariably pro-Middle Class. Heck, unemployment compensation is actually pro-growth yielding close to a 2x multiplier effect back into the economy. With neoliberal principles dominating the "pro-business mindset" in Congress, spending on the poor will be de-prioritized while spending on the massive defense establish--providing a far lower multiplier effect--will continue unconditionally until fiscal and economic collapse overtake the empire, a situation made far more likely and imminent by continuous spending on wars.

It's the defense trough that represents increasing inefficiency, as aircraft carriers and bombs don't bring much multiplier effect. Sure it's great if your town or job is supplying the War Machine, but the money has to come from somewhere. If the Chinese and Japanese aren't willing to send us back the dollars we send them, then we'll have nowhere to turn except printing up our money which will certainly devalue it.

If government spending is depriving the private sector of money through taxation (and not just deficits), increasing gov't spending actually SLOWS economic growth. Privately owned resources are forcibly pulled from productive use and spent by the State. Spending by tax/gov't is far less efficient than spending by private individuals. Taxes also deny the economy a source of private investment (G instead of I.) Now if the taxes are deferred we (or rather the beneficiaries of G) receive the benefit and defer the loss of gainful income to future generations, although that bill could come due sooner than expected if it leads to a monetization of debt and rapid decline in the purchasing power of the dollar.

End comment. For now. As you'd likely guess, I could post more of my thoughts on Art's blog and make poor Art read them. Instead I guess I'll have to save it for my dad, who fortunately for me is a good listener.

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