Eric Margolis on the Middle Eastern Revolution Reply

Hear his interview with Scott Horton.

Eric Margolis, foreign correspondent and author of War at the Top of the World and American Raj, discusses his interview with the “eccentric” Col. Gaddafi during the Reagan administration; the Western media’s exaggeration of Libyan violence, which provides a pretext for US military intervention; how the neocons got their Middle East democratic revolution, but not in the countries they intended; the colonial history of Morocco and Algeria, and their current repressive police states; how Arab revolutions are propelled by large youth populations and bleak economic prospects; and why the Saudi monarchy will more likely be felled by internal strife than popular revolt.

MP3 here. (29:45)

Eric S. Margolis is an award-winning, internationally syndicated columnist. His articles appear in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Times of London, the Gulf Times, the Khaleej Times and Dawn. He is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. He appears as an expert on foreign affairs on CNN, BBC, France 2, France 24, Fox News, CTV and CBC.

As a war correspondent Margolis has covered conflicts in Angola, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Sinai, Afghanistan, Kashmir, India, Pakistan, El Salvador and Nicaragua. He was among the first journalists to ever interview Libya’s Muammar Khadaffi and was among the first to be allowed access to KGB headquarters in Moscow. A veteran of many conflicts in the Middle East, Margolis recently was featured in a special appearance on Britain’s Sky News TV as “the man who got it right” in his predictions about the dangerous risks and entanglements the US would face in Iraq.

Margolis is the author of War at the Top of the World: The Struggle for Afghanistan, Kashmir and Tibet and American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World.

Religion and Politics Reply

Why the Gods Are Not Winning

This article gives the raw data indicating the degree to which religious belief has declined worldwide over the past century. The authors also explain why religious conservatism is losing ground even in the most religious of industrialized nations, the United States.

These two articles explain how authoritarian leftism has escalated its statist attacks on religion as the state has grown while religion has declined.

Atheist Jihad by Dr. Robert M. Price (btw, Bob is a really interesting fellow: a former Christian fundamentalist turned liberal theologian turned Nietzschean philosopher)

How long before Christians Are Actively Persecuted in England? by Dr. Sean Gabb. Says Sean:

We are moving towards a persecution of Christianity because Christians believe in a source of authority separate from and higher than the State. Until recently, it was the custom of absolute states to make an accommodation with whatever church was largest. In return for being established, the priests would then preach obedience as a religious duty. Modern absolute states, though, are secular. Such were the Jacobin and the Bolshevik tyrannies. Such is our own, as yet, mild tyranny. In all three cases, religion was or is a problem. Though a Catholic, Aquinas speaks for most Christians when he explains the limits of obedience:

“Laws are often unjust…. They may be contrary to the good of mankind… either with regard to their end – as when a ruler imposes laws which are burdensome and are not designed for the common good, but proceed from his own rapacity or vanity; or with regard to their maker – if, for example, a ruler should go beyond his proper powers; or with regard to their form – if, though intended for the common good, their burdens should be inequitably distributed. Such laws come closer to violence than to true law…. They do not, therefore, oblige in conscience, except perhaps for the avoidance of scandal or disorder.” (Summa Theologiae, I-II, 96, 4, my translation)

Iran's Bizarro "Green Movement" Reply

Jack Ross on the Iranian opposition.

During the recent upheavals across the Greater Middle East, the various iterations of the neoconservative line—the optimistic pro-democracy, the paranoid Islamophobic, or the brazen combination of both—have all tended to share a single major fallacy: that the opposition movement in Iran, the so-called Green movement, is a movement that seeks the same goals as neoconservatives and their allies. This central premise presumes a number of unsupportable notions, including that the Green movement seeks to abolish the Islamic Republic, opposes the Iranian nuclear program, and wants to overhaul Iranian foreign policy.

Libertarian Mixed Feelings on Wisconsin Reply

Kevin Carson offers his perspective, and makes more or less the same arguments that I do.

So while I object to government employment in principle, I’m uneasy about the standard libertarian framing of the issue with rank-and-file government workers as the villains and Walker as the good guy.  If it’s a mistake to defend government workers as such,  the people who rally behind Wisconsin state employees at least do so on sound instincts.

They perceive, rightly, that Walker wants to break public sector unions not out of any principled attachment to free markets, but because they’re unions.  Unions, such as they are, one of the few remaining vestiges of a middle class way of life, in an age of stagnant real wages and skyrocketing CEO wages and corporate profits.  Walker, like other establishment Republicans, serves the interests of an unholy alliance between big government and big business.  If you want to know which master’s voice he obeys, just pay attention to who he takes calls from.

Our goal is to replace the present system with a different way of doing things — not to vilify those caught up in it.

Young Israeli Anarchists Defend Palestinians Reply

This is good stuff. Thanks to NATA-NY for digging this article up.

Established in 2003, the anarchists are young Israelis, mostly in their 20s, who work closely with the Palestinian popular village committees to resist Israel’s occupation. They have no official leaders, no office and no paid staff, and yet they have managed to accomplish more than many well-oiled non-governmental organizations and social movements. They are perhaps best known for their efforts in the small village of Bil’in, where for more than two years weekly demonstrations have been staged against the wall that Israel is building on Palestinian land.

The Real U.S. "National Security" Budget Reply

by Chris Hellman

http://www.amconmag.com/blog/the-real-u-s-national-security-budget/

What if you went to a restaurant and found it rather pricey? Still, you ordered your meal and, when done, picked up the check only to discover that it was almost twice the menu price.

Welcome to the world of the real U.S. national security budget. Normally, in media accounts, you hear about the Pentagon budget and the war-fighting supplementary funds passed by Congress for our conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. That already gets you into a startling price range—close to $700 billion for 2012—but that’s barely more than half of it. If Americans were ever presented with the real bill for the total U.S. national security budget, it would actually add up to more than $1.2 trillion a year.

Take that in for a moment. It’s true; you won’t find that figure in your daily newspaper or on your nightly newscast, but it’s no misprint. It may even be an underestimate.  In any case, it’s the real thing when it comes to your tax dollars. The simplest way to grasp just how Americans could pay such a staggering amount annually for “security” is to go through what we know about the U.S. national security budget, step by step, and add it all up.

So, here we go. Buckle your seat belt: it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

Fortunately for us, on February 14th the Obama administration officially released its Fiscal Year (FY) 2012 budget request. Of course, it hasn’t been passed by Congress—even the 2011 budget hasn’t made it through that august body yet—but at least we have the most recent figures available for our calculations.

For 2012, the White House has requested $558 billion for the Pentagon’s annual “base” budget, plus an additional $118 billion to fund military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.  At $676 billion, that’s already nothing to sneeze at, but it’s just the barest of beginnings when it comes to what American taxpayers will actually spend on national security.  Think of it as the gigantic tip of a humongous iceberg.

To get closer to a real figure, it’s necessary to start peeking at other parts of the federal budget where so many other pots of security spending are squirreled away.

Missing from the Pentagon’s budget request, for example, is an additional $19.3 billion for nuclear-weapons-related activities like making sure our current stockpile of warheads will work as expected and cleaning up the waste created by seven decades of developing and producing them. That money, however, officially falls in the province of the Department of Energy.  And then, don’t forget an additional $7.8 billion that the Pentagon lumps into a “miscellaneous” category—a kind of department of chump change—that is included in neither its base budget nor those war-fighting funds.

So, even though we’re barely started, we’ve already hit a total official FY 2012 Pentagon budget request of:

$703.1 billion dollars.

Not usually included in national security spending are hundreds of billions of dollars that American taxpayers are asked to spend to pay for past wars, and to support our current and future national security strategy.

For starters, that $117.8 billion war-funding request for the Department of Defense doesn’t include certain actual “war-related fighting” costs. Take, for instance, the counterterrorism activities of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development. For the first time, just as with the Pentagon budget, the FY 2012 request divides what’s called “International Affairs” in two: that is, into an annual “base” budget as well as funding for “Overseas Contingency Operations” related to Iraq and Afghanistan. (In the Bush years, these used to be called the Global War on Terror.) The State Department’s contribution? $8.7 billion. That brings the grand but very partial total so far to:

$711.8 billion.

The White House has also requested $71.6 billion for a post-2001 category called “homeland security”—of which $18.1 billion is funded through the Department of Defense. The remaining $53.5 billion goes through various other federal accounts, including the Department of Homeland Security ($37 billion), the Department of Health and Human Services ($4.6 billion), and the Department of Justice ($4.6 billion). All of it is, however, national security funding which brings our total to:

$765.3 billion.

The U.S. intelligence budget was technically classified prior to 2007, although at roughly $40 billion annually, it was considered one of the worst-kept secrets in Washington. Since then, as a result of recommendations by the 9/11 Commission, Congress has required that the government reveal the total amount spent on intelligence work related to the National Intelligence Program (NIP).

This work done by federal agencies like the CIA and the National Security Agency consists of keeping an eye on and trying to understand what other nations are doing and thinking, as well as a broad range of “covert operations” such as those being conducted in Pakistan. In this area, we won’t have figures until FY 2012 ends. The latest NIP funding figure we do have is $53.1 billion for FY 2010. There’s little question that the FY 2012 figure will be higher, but let’s be safe and stick with what we know.  (Keep in mind that the government spends plenty more on “intelligence.” Additional funds for the Military Intelligence Program (MIP), however, are already included in the Pentagon’s 2012 base budget and war-fighting supplemental, though we don’t know what they are. The FY 2010 funding for MIP, again the latest figure available, was $27 billion.)  In any case, add that $53.1 billion and we’re at:

$818.4 billion.

Veterans programs are an important part of the national security budget with the projected funding figure for 2012 being $129.3 billion. Of this, $59 billion is for veterans’ hospital and medical care, $70.3 billion for disability pensions and education programs. This category of national security funding has been growing rapidly in recent years because of the soaring medical-care needs of veterans of the Iraq and Afghan wars. According to an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, by 2020 total funding for health-care services for veterans will have risen another 45%-75%.  In the meantime, for 2012 we’ve reached:

$947.7 billion.

If you include the part of the foreign affairs budget not directly related to U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as other counterterrorism operations, you have an additional $18 billion in direct security spending.  Of this, $6.6 billion is for military aid to foreign countries, while almost $2 billion goes for “international peacekeeping” operations. A further $709 million has been designated for countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, combating terrorism, and clearing landmines planted in regional conflicts around the globe.  This leaves us at:

$965.7 billion.

As with all federal retirees, U.S. military retirees and former civilian Department of Defense employees receive pension benefits from the government. The 2012 figure is $48.5 billion for military personnel, $20 billion for those civilian employees, which means we’ve now hit:

$1,034.2 billion. (Yes, that’s $1.03 trillion!)

When the federal government lacks sufficient funds to pay all of its obligations, it borrows. Each year, it must pay the interest on this debt which, for FY 2012, is projected at $474.1 billion.  The National Priorities Project calculates that 39% of that, or $185 billion, comes from borrowing related to past Pentagon spending.

Add it all together and the grand total for the known national security budget of the United States is:

$1,219.2 billion. (That’s more than $1.2 trillion.)

A country with a gross domestic product of $1.2 trillion would have the 15th largest economy in the world, ranking between Canada and Indonesia, and ahead of Australia, Taiwan, the Netherlands, and Saudi Arabia.  Still, don’t for a second think that $1.2 trillion is the actual grand total for what the U.S. government spends on national security. Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld once famously spoke of the world’s “known unknowns.”  Explaining the phrase this way: “That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know.” It’s a concept that couldn’t apply better to the budget he once oversaw.  When it comes to U.S. national security spending, there are some relevant numbers we know are out there, even if we simply can’t calculate them.

To take one example, how much of NASA’s proposed $18.7 billion budget falls under national security spending? We know that the agency works closely with the Pentagon. NASA satellite launches often occur from the Air Force’s facilities at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Air Force has its own satellite launch capability, but how much of that comes as a result of NASA technology and support?  In dollars terms, we just don’t know.

Other “known unknowns” would include portions of the State Department budget. One assumes that at least some of its diplomatic initiatives promote our security interests. Similarly, we have no figure for the pensions of non-Pentagon federal retirees who worked on security issues for the Department of Homeland Security, the State Department, or the Departments of Justice and Treasury. Nor do we have figures for the interest on moneys borrowed to fund veterans’ benefits, among other national security-related matters. The bill for such known unknowns could easily run into the tens of billions of dollars annually, putting the full national security budget over the $1.3 trillion mark or even higher.

There’s a simple principle here.  American taxpayers should know just what they are paying for.  In a restaurant, a customer would be outraged to receive a check almost twice as high as the menu promised.  We have no idea whether the same would be true in the world of national security spending, because Americans are never told what national security actually means at the cash register.

Christopher Hellman is communications liaison at the National Priorities Project in Northampton, Massachusetts. He was previously a military policy analyst for the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, a Senior Research Analyst at the Center for Defense Information, and spent 10 years on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer working on national security and foreign policy issues. He is a TomDispatch regular and a frequent media commentator on military planning, policy, and budgetary issues. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest TomCast audio interview in which Hellman explains how he arrived at his staggering numbers, click here, or download it to your iPod here.

[Note on Sources: The press release from the Office of The Director of National Intelligence disclosing the Fiscal Year 2010 $53 billion intelligence budget consists of 138 words and no details, other than that the office will disclose no details. It can be found by clicking here (.pdf file).  An October 2010 analysis by the Congressional Budget Office entitled “Potential Costs of Veterans’ Health Care” projects rapid cost growth for Veterans Administration services over the next decade as a result of spiraling health care costs. To read the full report, click here (.pdf file).  To see all the federal agencies that contribute to homeland security funding, click here (.pdf file)]

The Protocols of the Learned Elders of OPEC Reply

Justin Raimondo takes down the latest neoconservative lunacy.

H. L. Mencken had it right when he wrote:

“It is hard for the plain people to think about a thing, but easy for them to feel. Error, to hold their attention, must be visualized as a villain, and the villain must proceed swiftly to his inevitable retribution. They can understand that process; it is simple, usual, satisfying; it squares with their primitive conception of justice as a form of revenge…. [The average reader] is not at all responsive to purely intellectual argument, even when its theme is his own ultimate benefit…. But he is very responsive to emotional suggestion, particularly when it is crudely and violently made, and it is to this weakness that the newspapers must ever address their endeavors. In brief, they must try to arouse his horror, or indignation, or pity, or simply his lust for slaughter. Once they have done that, they have him safely by the nose. He will follow blindly until his emotion wears out. He will be ready to believe anything, however absurd, so long as he is in his state of psychic tumescence.”

The war propagandists know this, and act accordingly. They know how to manipulate emotions: it’s their job. Our job here at Antiwar.com is to provide an antidote to the hate, the ignorance, and the lies of the War Party. Of course, we can’t do it alone: but we’re doing our part. And, as you no doubt realize, our job is never done. However, with reason as our sword, and truth as our shield, we shall prevail.

Whatever third-rate propagandist thought up this wacked-out “theory,” which is the post-9/11 version of the Protocols, he seriously misjudged the American people. Although I admire Mencken, I don’t believe his cynicism reflects reality: this blame-the-Arabs narrative is going nowhere, fast. For someone to suggest that a population living on $2 a day, on average, is somehow engaging in “economic warfare” against the US, and taking us down, is just bonkers: we are waging economic warfare against ourselves, and have been for quite some time. Our politicians have been waging that war, using the US Treasury as their arsenal – and everybody knows it.

Will the U.S. Stifle the Revolution in the Middle East? Reply

Lew Rockwell interviews Eric Margolis.

No candidate opposed to the US occupation is permitted to run in Iraqi or Afghan elections. It will be the same in Egypt and Libya if the US gets its way. Soviet-style rigged elections make a mockery of the occupied peoples’ desire for self-determination, for honest courts, for social mobility, and for an end to the wealth-stealing dictators and monarchs who have forced servitude on the Arab world, thanks to the US empire.

Invasion of the Kochtopussies Reply

Jim Goad’s hilarious takedown of the paranoid Left.

I make it a general rule never to trust even one-half of a word that any politician says, whether it’s left, right, up, down, North, South, and even some parts of Philly. I’ve never been good at team sports, and when forced to choose between Democrats and Republicans, it’s like having to pick whether it’ll be my parents or the nuns at school who slap me in the face. Not for a nanosecond, even when I was really bored, have I ever considered myself “right-wing” or “conservative” or “libertarian,” and I took the Last Train out of Leftville about 20 years ago, long after they’d lost their sense of humor and had become so insufferable, you didn’t know whether to fart in their face or stab them in the neck.

It’s hard if not impossible to ever find me saying anything in favor of the “right,” but I’ll talk your ears deaf about how much leftists suck. The reason—let’s come clean, everybody—is because people who identify with the “left” have been The Biggest Assholes in the Universe for quite some time now.

The Libyan Fox at Bay Reply

Eric Margolis on the demise of Gadaffi.

Gadaffi is a sad example of the maxim about absolute power corrupting absolutely. People like me who relish political theater of the absurd will miss the “Leader;” but most of his people, I suspect, will not.

While Gadaffi prepares for his last stand, the next storm to hit North Africa may come in Algeria and Morocco, two western-supported regimes that are considerably more brutal and repressive than Gadaffi’s ramshackle “people’s jamuhyria.”

The revolution now burning across the Arab world – and perhaps as far east as Central Asia, even China – has just begun.

Farrakhan: Middle East Uprisings Will Come to the US Reply

Read all about it.

“What you are looking at in Tunisia, in Egypt … Libya, in Bahrain … what you see happening there … you’d better prepare because it will be coming to your door,” Farrakhan said in a booming voice, thousands of followers cheering in his wake.

Farrakhan also called on President Barack Obama to allow protesters to march, urging the president not to attack innocent people when they do.

Government Should Not Control Internet Access 1

http://www.kstatecollegian.com/opinion/government-should-not-control-internet-access-1.2501245

by Ian Huyett

In the event of a national emergency, the president should be able to shut off access to the Internet for our safety. Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me either. But that seems to be the argument behind S.3480, the Protecting Cyberspace as a National Asset Act, a 197-page bill that would grant the government vast new powers over the Internet in the name of cybersecurity.

If you’re wondering why our elected officials might want the ability to stop Americans from communicating with each other, you need only look to Egypt. There, a wave of protests, organized largely over Facebook, has unseated the nation’s tyrannical ruler. In an effort to quell the protests, Egypt’s government disconnected 80 service providers at 5:20 p.m. on Jan. 17, according to a Jan. 28 Arbor Networks article. The entire country was virtually shut off from the Internet.

S.3480, sponsored by Senator Joseph Lieberman, would give the president the power to do just that. In an Aug. 11, 2010, column, lawyer and Time writer Adam Cohen wrote, “Imagine a President misusing this particular power: If the people are rising up against an unpopular administration, the president could cool things down by shutting off a large swath of the Internet.”

Lieberman insists the bill is not intended to stifle free speech. Yet Lieberman, the former running mate of Al Gore, has a long record of advancing Orwellian policies aimed at expanding the government and trampling personal liberty. Lieberman has held congressional hearings on offensive music, tried to amend the Espionage Act to prosecute WikiLeaks and has been a staunch advocate of the Patriot Act. Lieberman is a longtime supporter of “Christians United for Israel” which overtly advocates a preemptive military strike against Iran.

When Lieberman defended his bill in a June 20, 2010, interview with CNN, he cited China as an example of good cybersecurity. “Right now China, the government, can disconnect parts of its Internet in case of war,” Lieberman said. “We need to have that here too.” China’s draconian control of the Internet has little to do with war; in June 2009, the Chinese government completely shut down the Internet across northwestern Xinjiang to silence a wave of dissent, according to a May 14, 2010, article in the Guardian.

It’s difficult to think of a scenario where shutting off major Internet providers would make Americans safer. If “cyber terrorists” want to shut down our infrastructure, we’ll respond by shutting down our infrastructure?

On the other hand, it’s easy to think of ways in which, as in Egypt and China, an oppressive government could abuse this power to stem the free flow of information and ideas.

The bill would work by creating a new agency within the Department of Homeland Security, the National Center for Cybersecurity and Communications, or NCCC. If the president decided to shut off Internet access, any private company reliant on the Internet would become “subject to command” by the NCCC, and would be required to “immediately comply with any emergency measure or action,” including “information sharing,” or else face charges, according to a June 17, 2010, article in the Huffington Post.

FDR’s Communications Act of 1934 already gives the president the authority to shut down “wire communications” during “a state or threat of war.” The new bill, however, would remove this precondition. The president could pull the plug on Internet providers whenever he deemed it necessary.

Short of an armed populace, the Internet is an oppressive government’s worst fear. It allows for a nearly limitless amount of simultaneous speech and makes total surveillance and regulation next to impossible. The governments of Egypt and China would not have shut it down if it weren’t vastly more difficult to manage and control it.

Americans can use the Internet as a vital tool to safeguard our inalienable rights. Or, as in Egypt and China, we can allow the government to assume control of it under the pretext of taking care of us.

The Rise of Anti-Western Christianity Reply

Matthew Roberts explains why the future of Christianity will be in the Third World rather than in the West.

Although Third World Christianity at present may be ethnocentric, some people hope it will eventually become more universalist (ie, more liberal), as Western Christianity has become. But there is no reason to assume that the development of the new Christendom will mirror Western Christianity. For all we know, Third World Christianity could become more ethnocentric, more anti-Western, and privilege non-whiteness even more.

Many Western conservatives (and leftists) have denounced the liturgies of the new Christendom as overly syncretistic, as essentially non-Christian. Jenkins, however, argues that the meaning of Christianity is rather fluid, noting that even the Nicene Creed is not static, as Western Europeans altered it by adding the filioque. “We cannot be too precise about defining Christianity,” he maintains, because people following Jesus have “always been very diverse, and we should acknowledge and accept that broad range of self-conceptions.” Besides, Western denunciations of non-Western syncretism will probably carry very little weight in the future.

A Judge Against the Drug War Reply

Watch the interview.

In 1992, Jim Gray, a conservative judge in conservative Orange County, California, held a press conference during which he recommended that we rethink our drug laws. Back then, it took a great deal of courage to suggest that the war on drugs was a failed policy.

Today, more and more Americans are coming to the realization that prohibition’s costs—whether measured in lives and liberties lost or dollars wasted—far exceed any possible or claimed benefits. Reason.tv’s Paul Feine interviewed Gray about drug policy and the prospects for reform.  The interview was shot by Alex Manning and edited by Hawk Jensen.

Judge Jim Gray is a spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) is the author of Why Our Drug Laws Have Failed and What We Can Do About It: A Judicial Indictment of the War on Drugs.

Campus Witch Hunts Reply

Paul Gottfried on the theocratic institutions of our time.

The student posted an anonymous note including a shockingly abusive fact. Matzeliger, it seems, was being honored on Thomas Edison’s birthday. The note implied it might be inappropriate to lavish attention on Matzeliger while ignoring a much more famous American inventor simply because they were a “white person.” The college at which this malignant enormity occurred has created a dragnet which will be in force until the hate criminal is apprehended. Apparently some female students are posting entries on Facebook indicating their shock about being forced to live in a toxically racist environment. Is this college really the best place for them to spend their parents’ money?

One tender young thing has gone into truly high gear and announced that “we will not ignore the bigotry that seems to keep the lines of equality broken.” These arbitrarily drawn “lines of equality” permit one to blow up or invent from whole cloth special accomplishments for minorities to increase their racial consciousness. Said lines only get broken when some student dares to report that we are ignoring Edison because he was a “white person.” Does anyone this side of the loony bin have a better explanation?

“Is this college really the best place for them to spend their parents’ money?”

Significantly, this “racist vandalism” was reported in the same issue of the school paper as another white Christian outrage. This time it was reported by a member of the Jewish social organization Hillel, and it provides a sad story about how Jews are “excluded” on campus. Despite the swelling number of Jews or partial Jews at this college, a number which may soon reach as high as ten, this group has still not been given a separate residence in which its members can live and associate with each other.