Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

November 1, 2017

A Gray State

Filed under: conspiracism,Film — louisproyect @ 9:59 pm

Directed by Erik Nelson, “A Gray State” is a documentary about a man whose dark soul clearly piqued the interest of Werner Herzog, the film’s executive producer. Nelson produced Herzog’s “Grizzly Man”, another documentary about psychic disintegration, so the two obviously share the same sensibility. If you are a fan of Herzog’s work, this could not be a higher recommendation for “A Gray State” that opens on Nov. 3rd in NY (Cinema Village) and Nov. 24th in LA (Laemmle’s Music Hall) followed by a national release.

Its title is derived from that of the stillborn fictional film by David Crowley who killed his wife, their 5-year old daughter and then himself in January 2015—leaving behind words scrawled in his wife’s blood on the living room wall: “Allahu akbar”. His inability to finish the film, or even get a sizable chunk of it done, was probably one of the main factors leading to the tragedy. Using a film journal that Crowley left behind as a kind of suicide note, Nelson paints a picture of someone breaking down psychologically like Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance in “The Shining”. In contrast to Stanley Kubrick’s classic, “The Gray State” is far more chilling because it is about real people. Indeed, David Crowley is someone immediately recognizable to those following the rise of the alt-right. In the crowd-funding that led to the film’s trailer that went viral on YouTube, its success was virtually guaranteed since Alex Jones was one of its most ardent supporters.

David Crowley’s “Gray State” was a mash-up of conspiracist memes about globalism, the Deep State, out-of-control cops, and government snooping culminating in a civil war between men inspired by Rand Paul’s ideas on one side and the American military with FEMA leading the charge on the other. The trailer for the film evokes “Red Dawn”, except that the bad guys speak American rather than Russian.

Born in 1986, Crowley was one of those men who joined the military shortly after 2001 as part of the war on terror. Tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan turned out to be a disillusioning experience. In Afghanistan, he told a commanding officer that he could not feel responsible for another’s soldier’s life and was reassigned to sorting mail.

On leave from the military in Texas, he met a woman named Komel at a Waco bar and the two felt an immediate attraction to each other. Despite being the daughter of a well-to-do Pakistani immigrant, Komel was totally assimilated into American culture and open to the kind of adventurous, edgy existence that the free-thinking David Crowley sought.

After his discharge, she followed him up to Minnesota, where he enrolled in the Digital Video and Media program at the Minnesota School of Business, a for-profit school like so many that exploited veterans anxious to find a career outside of the military. After found guilty of ripping off students with illegal 18 percent tuition loans, the school was closed down in 2016.

While the film does not dwell on this, I suspect that a large part of Crowley’s difficulty in finishing the film was a lack of screenwriting skills. It is difficult enough to write a good screenplay, even if you have years of experience behind you. Just go see a recent Woody Allen movie and you’ll see what I mean. Judging from the trailer of “Gray State”, it looks like Crowley learned how to pull together some snazzy action scenes but probably had no idea about how to tell a story or create characters who could interact meaningfully with each other.

He certainly couldn’t have created such characters based on his own marriage since it was a case study in a failure to communicate. Just a month after meeting Crowley in the Waco bar, Komel accepted his marriage proposal. In the old days, they used to call that falling in love with a uniform. My mom made that mistake when she met my dad in Kansas City during WWII after he began attending Friday night kosher dinners at her mom’s house.

The marriage started off on a high note when Crowley became the charismatic figure addressing fellow libertarians at crowd-sourcing gatherings for his film. Articulate, muscular and handsome, he soon had them eating out of his hand. Unfortunately for him, the grueling task of writing a screenplay turned out to be a bridge too far. The final half of the film depicts him breaking down over an insurmountable task and, even worse, taking his frustrations out on his wife who had no idea that his disintegration would lead to a bloodbath. One can almost imagine her happening upon the screenplay he was working on, which only consisted of the words “All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy” repeated ten thousand times.

In looking over the press notes for the film just now, I was pleasantly surprised to see that director Erik Nelson had “The Shining” in mind when he was asked about the beginnings of “A Gray State”:

I became aware of the story of David Crowley as a random news item. When I read a description of who he was and what he was doing, out of curiosity, I went to his Gray State website and saw his trailer, and, more importantly, a lot of the promotional materials he had shot of the making of this film. Concurrently, I was aware that his death was immediately being characterized by some conspiracists as being a SEAL Team 6 helicopter-ninja-hit, and I’ve always had a fascination with that kind of subculture in America.  When I produced Grizzly Man, I went out after subject Timothy Treadwell’s material, brought it back and put it together, and negotiated the rights for it, and was prepared to direct the film myself. I brought the idea of a narrative feature to Werner Herzog and he said, “That’s fine, but what about the documentary you are doing? Who’s doing that?” And I said, “I am.” And Werner said, “Well, what would you think about me directing the documentary?” I had the idea that I could direct a good documentary, or I could have the chance to produce a great one, and I just knew that Werner, combining his prowess, his myth and his persona with the material could result in something special. But I always felt I sort of had missed the opportunity to do the film myself, so I was looking for a story similarly striking to that, and when you discover it, you know it. This story felt, to me, like it could have the appeal of a psychological horror narrative like The Shining or Fatal Attraction. Within four days of the news breaking, I started reaching out through intermediaries to Crowley’s family, and there was a year hiatus while the police report was being prepared.

October 4, 2017

Was Saudi Arabia behind 9/11? A reply to Andrew Cockburn

Filed under: conspiracism,Saudi Arabia,September 11 — louisproyect @ 8:54 pm

In the latest issue of Harpers Magazine (dated October), Andrew Cockburn tries to make the case that Saudi Arabia orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. Key to this conspiracy-mongering is 28 pages of a previously classified 2002 Congressional report that supposedly connected the dots between the hijackers and Saudi governmental officials. This is typical:

The FBI files in California were replete with extraordinary and damning details, notably the hijackers’ close relationship with Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi living in San Diego with a no-show job at a local company with connections to the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation. The FBI had investigated his possible connections to Saudi intelligence. A couple of weeks after the two hijackers flew into Los Angeles from Malaysia, in February 2000, he had driven up to the city and met with Fahad al-Thumairy, a cleric employed by his country’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs who worked out of the Saudi Consulate. Thumairy, reported to be an adherent of extreme Wahhabi ideology — he was later denied a U.S. visa on grounds of jihadi connections — was also an imam of the King Fahad mosque in Los Angeles County, which the hijackers had visited soon after their arrival.

Those 28 pages only surfaced because a former Democratic Senator from Florida named Bob Graham had raised a ruckus about Saudi complicity. As co-chair of the Congressional committee that produced the report in 2002, he had the clout to make it happen. You wouldn’t know it from Cockburn’s reporting but the Saudi government was just as vociferous in demanding that the 28 pages be released since they were sure it would clear them.

If you’ve read the 28 pages or articles about them, you’ll discover that there are three Saudis who had contact with a couple of the 9/11 hijackers when they were taking flying lessons in San Diego:

  1. Omar al-Bayoumi, who Cockburn describes as having a no-show job with a local company with connections to the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation.
  2. Fahad al-Thumairy, a cleric who was on the payroll of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. After al-Bayoumi met with al-Thumairy, he “accidentally” met the two hijackers at a Middle Eastern restaurant in San Diego.
  3. Osama Bassnan. He was a friend of al-Thumairy who funneled money from Prince Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, the former Saudi ambassador in Washington.

Clearly, the Bandar connection is critical to establishing high-level support for the 9/11 plot since he was widely regarded as about as close to the ruling dynasty as you can get. Of course, he was also widely regarded as just as close to the White House, whichever president sat in the oval office. He had such a close relationship to George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, he was often referred to as Bandar Bush.

Cockburn cites a Hillary Clinton memo dated December 2009 that refers to Saudi donors funding Sunni terrorists all around the world, clearly agreeing with her claim. Yet this does not jibe exactly with Bandar advocating Saddam Hussein’s overthrow in Iraq in March 2003. I guess if you are into false flags, this might make sense since it would provide the necessary cover for Prince Bandar to have worked with al-Qaeda to completely destroy the Twin Towers—the symbol of American financial power—and inflict massive damage on the Pentagon, the symbol of American military power.

It does not seem to make much difference to Andrew Cockburn that Saudi Arabia has been a stalwart defender of American imperialism for decades. He does not bother to provide an analysis of why the chief voice of the ruling dynasty would act against his country’s strategic interests but instead invokes the wild card whenever this business comes up: Wahhabism.

It was the Al Saud family’s alliance with “the puritanical and intolerant Wahhabi sect” that explains the royal family’s support for the hijackers. Fahad al-Thumairy was an adherent of “extreme Wahhabi ideology” so naturally he would make himself available for the aid and comfort of the hijackers in San Diego.

What about Prince Bandar? How much of a Wahhabist fanatic was he? In 2013, when Prince Bandar stepped down from his diplomatic duties, Christopher Dickey wrote about his austere lifestyle in the Daily Beast: “When the prince was the ambassador he was the toast of Washington, and plenty of toasts there were. Bandar bin Sultan smoked fine cigars and drank finer Cognac.” Oh, I guess this was just a clever ruse to get the Americans to believe that he was a good old boy. When all the infidels finally went home from these affairs, I am sure he lashed himself with a cat o’ nine tails just to get right with Allah.

If George W. Bush was so determined to keep the 28 pages a secret, maybe he was in on the plot as well. And how about that Robert Mueller? He was also in on the act suppressing information that would blow the Saudi complicity sky-high. Cockburn writes:

The reason we know so much about the West Coast activities of the hijackers is largely because of Michael Jacobson, a burly former FBI lawyer and counterterrorism analyst who worked as an investigator for the Joint Inquiry. Reviewing files at FBI headquarters, he came across a stray reference to a bureau informant in San Diego who had known one of the hijackers. Intrigued, he decided to follow up in the San Diego field office. Bob Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told me recently that Robert Mueller, then the FBI director (and now the special counsel investigating connections between Russia and the Trump campaign) made “the strongest objections” to Jacobson and his colleagues visiting San Diego.

Whoa, Nellie! Mueller was trying to cover things up. The plot thickens…

The truth is that allegations of Saudi connections to al-Qaeda are bullshit and only a hair’s width in distance from the “controlled demolitions” people.

If the USA connived to open doors for men bent on its destruction, why wouldn’t it send in operatives to prepare a planned detonation of the twin towers or fire a missile at the Pentagon? If the ruling class was so desperate to launch a new war in the Middle East based on a “false flag”, why not?

The guilt of the Saudi government has been accepted by much of the conspiracy-minded left for obvious reasons. Osama bin-Laden admitted he was behind it and 15 out of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia just like him. Isn’t that proof enough? As so many guests on the Bill Maher or Jon Stewart show used to put it, we should have invaded Saudi Arabia rather than Iraq.

If you buy into this, it is probably a good idea to gloss over the long-standing relationship between the ruling class of the USA and the Saudi royal family. Saudi Arabia has been staunchly opposed to radical movements in the Middle East and supportive of stability in the West, where much of its oil wealth was invested. It supported the first Gulf War and has provided an open door to the construction of American military bases. In 2010 the USA signed a 60 billion dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia, not exactly consistent with reports that they might be used to destroy American assets both economic and personal.

In fact, it makes no sense at all, especially in light of al Qaeda’s hostility to the monarchy. Indeed, one of the reasons bin-Laden gave for the 9/11 attack was the presence of American troops on the land where Muhammad was born.

But an alternative interpretation begins to make sense if you look beneath the surface. Bin-Laden and the 15 hijackers might have been Saudi but their roots were in the Yemeni tribe that has been brutally oppressed by the Saudi monarchy since the early 20th century.

The Arabian Peninsula was home to two major tribes historically, the Adnan who lived in the north and became the rulers of contemporary Saudi Arabia, and the Qahtani who dwelled in the south and are now referred to as Yemenis. Bin-Laden was a Qahtani descendant as were every single one of the Saudi hijackers. Furthermore, most of the initial cadre of al Qaeda were Yemenis from the Asir region of Saudi Arabia that borders Yemen and was Qahtani homeland. Like Texas, this was a piece of foreign territory that a more powerful nationality was able to conquer and absorb.

If you have trouble with the word tribe, it is simply a synonym for the more anthropologically precise “segmentary lineage” term that is defined in Wikipedia as:

A simple, non-anthropologist’s explanation is that the close family is the smallest and closest segment, and will generally stand with each other. That family is also a part of a larger segment of more distant cousins and their families, who will stand with each other when attacked by outsiders. They are then part of larger segments with the same characteristics. Basically, if there is a conflict between brothers, it will be settled among all the brothers, and cousins will not take sides. If the conflict is between cousins, then brothers on one side will align against brothers on the other side. However, if the conflict is between a member of a tribe and a non-member, then the entire tribe including distant cousins could mobilize against the outsider and his or her allies. This tiered mobilization is traditionally expressed e.g. in the Bedouin saying: “Me and my brothers against my cousins, me and my cousins against the world.”

In 1906 the Asiris formed a state under the leadership of Muhammad al-Idrisi, the great-grandson of a revered Sufi scholar known for his skillful debates against Wahhabists from the north. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of WWI, al-Idrisi cast his lot with the British who he hoped could guarantee the sovereignty of his people. Instead the British chose alignment with Saudi Arabia that had became a state in 1932. Did this have something to do with the fact that the north had oil and the south virtually none? Do I have to ask?

Deciding that Asir must become part of Saudi Arabia, its monarch Ibn Saud went to war and was victorious. Some historians believe that as many as 400,000 Asiris and other tribesmen died as a result of Ibn Saud’s onslaught.

Once the Asiris were brought under Riyadh’s thumb, a process of forced assimilation took place with Wahhabi beliefs being forced down the throats of people whose customs could not be more remote from the austere but mammon-worshipping norms of the north. Qahtani tribesmen wore garments that amounted to skirts, revealing much of their legs. They were known as the “flower men” and frankly could pass for people walking around Haight-Ashbury in 1969.

As for the women, they liked to dress in colorful clothes and shunned the veil. Their elaborate headdresses were customarily bedecked with coins and jewelry.

To consolidate its grip on a people that obviously resented being forced into the Wahhabist mold, the Saudis constructed Highway 15 that would be the backbone of an economic-military presence in its newly acquired territory. It would have air bases, missile sites, and garrison outposts just like the Alamo. Guess who got the job of building Highway 15. Osama bin-Laden’s father. That project and others in Saudi Arabia generated billions for the family but did little to mollify his son. Even though the Asiris appeared to have been re-engineered as Wahhabi robots, they harbored resentment against the American presence in the region as well as the ostentation of the Saudi ruling class. From its inception, the Qahtani tribe had preferred a simple life and tribal camaraderie. Bin-Laden might not have had flowers in his hair but there were aspects of Saudi society he found deeply objectionable, in fact far more irritating than the reputed “Western” values like Madonna videos he supposedly reviled.

In order to understand the clash between the Asiris and the royal family, as well as to help debunk the outlandish claim that top Saudi government officials were involved with 9/11, you have to read Akbar Ahmad’s “The Thistle and the Drone” that I reviewed for Critical Muslim two years ago. Ahmad lays out the social divide between the descendants of the Adnan and the Qahtani:

Muhammad [bin-Laden] had come to feel at home in Asir. He loved its tribes, its ways, its history, and its cultural ambiance. One of his favorite wives was from Asir. In turn, the tribes of Asir accepted Muhammad as one of their own. Not only was he a fellow Yemeni, but they were won over by his easy charm as he held court sitting in a large white canvas tent with brightly colored cushions and carpets covering the floor. Muhammad received tribesmen who would petition him to settle disputes or for other assistance. He had become more than a mere construction worker. He had become their sheikh. The tribes would respond with loyalty when Muhammad’s son Osama would come to them for support. Twelve of the 9/11 hijackers were from towns along Highway 15.

While the oil boom made the Saudi royal family and its supporters very rich, little was done for the people of Asir. The large, extravagantly built holiday villas owned by the Saudi elite in Asir seemed to add nothing but salt to their wounds. In 1980 the poverty-stricken province had only 535 hospital beds for a population of about 700,000. Besides, given their religious background and its emphasis on austerity, the Yemenis disapproved of the Saudis’ arrogance and vulgar displays of wealth. Poor Yemeni tribesmen desperate for work looked for jobs in the Saudi cities. Typically, they could only find employment in the military or as cooks, gardeners, or drivers. After the kingdom began to invite immigrant workers from the Philippines and India, the Yemenis could not even obtain those menial positions. Their resentment against the Saudi centers of power remained a constant undercurrent of Asir society.

Eventually, the grievances against the ruling family reached a critical mass and led to open revolts. A cleric from Asir named Juhayman al-Otaybi led the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in December-January 1979 that was directed both against infidelity to Islam and the worship of riches in the country’s top echelons.

Finally, despite the emphasis on radical Islam versus the civilized world, a more plausible explanation for the violent clashes taking place around the world is not that different from that between tribes and civilization more generally. Indeed, Islam does not have to enter the picture as the British conquest of Ireland might indicate.

For Osama bin-Laden, the loyalty to Qahtani values might trump his Wahhabi beliefs. Indeed, if you take a close look at his statements around 9/11, there is a tribal element that stands out as Murad Batal al-Shishani pointed out in a March 4, 2010 Jamestown Foundation article:

A focus on tribes in Yemen has been a main reason behind al-Qaeda’s success in finding a safe haven there.  Abu Musab al-Suri, the first to see Yemen’s potential as a safe haven for the jihadist movement, has said that the main reason for considering Yemen a stronghold for jihadis is the tribal nature of its people and the solidarity between tribes. [3]. It was for similar reasons that Osama bin Laden addressed the southern tribes of Saudi Arabia in 2004, specifically in Asir province (which borders Yemen), naming the tribes and encouraging them to fight in Iraq. “Oh heroes of Asir and champions of Hashed, Madhaj, and Bakeel, do not stop your supplies to assist your brothers in the land of Mesopotamia [i.e. Iraq]. The war there is still raging and its fire spreading.”

Abdul-Ilah al-Sha’e, a Yemeni journalist, confirms that al-Qaeda has succeeded in building an alliance with the tribal system in Yemen because the country has not been “tamed” or “civilized” like other countries.  Tribes are still in control and thus it was easy to build alliances with them. [5] Abdul-Illah said that al-Qaeda wanted to recruit young people who were not afraid of death and found these young people in Yemen’s tribal and Bedouin societies, where acts of revenge and battles between tribes are still dominant, given the absence of state institutions (al-Jazeera.net, January 21).

 

February 19, 2017

Deep State, Deep Confusion

Filed under: conspiracism,Deep State — louisproyect @ 9:20 pm

Googling “Deep State” and “Donald Trump” will return 833,000 links, with most posing the question of whether the CIA and other government agencies operating beneath the radar are working to unseat the president. While this concern has been expressed even before he took office, it spiked after Michael Flynn was fired by Trump for lying about whether he discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak. For most on the left, their hatred for “Deep State” tactics trumps their hatred for Donald Trump. Glenn Greenwald probably spoke for most in a Democracy Now interview:

One of the main priorities of the CIA for the last five years has been a proxy war in Syria, designed to achieve regime change with the Assad regime. Hillary Clinton was not only for that, she was critical of Obama for not allowing it to go further, and wanted to impose a no-fly zone in Syria and confront the Russians. Donald Trump took exactly the opposite view. He said we shouldn’t care who rules Syria; we should allow the Russians, and even help the Russians, kill ISIS and al-Qaeda and other people in Syria. So, Trump’s agenda that he ran on was completely antithetical to what the CIA wanted. Clinton’s was exactly what the CIA wanted, and so they were behind her. And so, they’ve been trying to undermine Trump for many months throughout the election. And now that he won, they are not just undermining him with leaks, but actively subverting him. There’s claims that they’re withholding information from him, on the grounds that they don’t think he should have it and can be trusted with it. They are empowering themselves to enact policy.

As should be obvious, there is a strong affinity between people like Greenwald and the Baathist amen corner. These people don’t understand how ridiculous it is to refer to the CIA trying to achieve regime change in Syria for 5 years. If the CIA was truly intent on removing Assad, it would have not acted with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar (the three nations supposedly most committed to such goals) to block the shipment of MANPADs to Syrian rebels as the Wall Street Journal reported on October 17, 2012:

U.S. officials say they are most worried about Russian-designed Manpads provided to Libya making their way to Syria. The U.S. intensified efforts to track and collect man-portable missiles after the 2011 fall of the country’s longtime strongman leader, Moammar Gadhafi.

To keep control of the flow of weapons to the Syrian rebels, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar formed a joint operations room early this year in a covert project U.S. officials watched from afar.

The U.S. has limited its support of the rebels to communications equipment, logistics and intelligence. But U.S. officials have coordinated with the trio of countries sending arms and munitions to the rebels. The Pentagon and CIA ramped up their presence on Turkey’s southern border as the weapons began to flow to the rebels in two to three shipments every week.

In July, the U.S. effectively halted the delivery of at least 18 Manpads sourced from Libya, even as the rebels pleaded for more effective antiaircraft missiles to counter regime airstrikes in Aleppo, people familiar with that delivery said.

Reading between the lines, the Pentagon and the CIA only “coordinated” with the Sunni states to get its foot in the door. Without having a presence on Syria’s borders, it never could have been able to block the shipment of weapons that could have made the country a graveyard for MIGs and armored helicopters. That would have been the best way to facilitate a no-fly zone, by removing air power from the equation. There is little doubt that “regime change” could have taken place if the USA had not intervened.

Others like Alistair Crooke, a former British diplomat writing for the Putinite Consortium News, emphasize Trump running afoul of the Deep State for seeking détente with Russia:

Initially (and perhaps it still is so), Trump’s start point was détente with Russia. In terms of his aim to transform America’s foreign policy, that made sense. And one can understand why President Trump might be treading somewhat slowly on Russia, in the wake of the Deep State coup against Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the continuing attrition aimed against the President, but simply, were he to pursue his son-in-law’s plan, Trump will be handing over his foreign policy to the neocons.

I always get a chuckle out of the notion that Trump and the neocons are mortal enemies. Do you know who co-wrote Michael Flynn’s “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies”? Does the name Michael Ledeen ring a bell? A profile on Flynn in the New Yorker Magazine revealed that much of the book is practically plagiarized from Ledeen’s sorry body of books and articles. Ledeen is the Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. This is about as neocon as you can get with founder Clifford D. May now serving as President, who is also a member of the Henry Jackson Society, an outfit that is infamous for supporting the war in Iraq. Here is Ledeen on the countries posing the greatest threat to the USA:

It’s no coincidence. Russia, Iran and North Korea are in active cahoots. They are pooling resources, including banking systems (the better to bust sanctions), intelligence and military technology, as part of an ongoing war against the West, of which the most melodramatic battlefields are in Syria/Iraq and Ukraine.

To judge by their language, the leaders of the three countries think the tide of world events is flowing in their favor. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei delivered an ultimatum to the West, saying that Iran’s war against “evil” would only end with the removal of America. Russian President Vladimir Putin marches on in Ukraine, blaming the West for all the trouble, and the North Koreans are similarly bellicose.

They are singing from the same hymnal. And they aim to do us in.

Right, they aim to do us in. So it turns out that the guy that Flynn is most closely allied to ideologically is ten times scarier than Hillary Clinton. If you still have doubts about Flynn’s close ties to Ledeen, I recommend The New Yorker profile linked to above. It states:

Flynn and Ledeen became close friends; in their shared view of the world, Ledeen supplied an intellectual and historical perspective, Flynn a tactical one. “I’ve spent my professional life studying evil,” Ledeen told me. Flynn said, in a recent speech, “I’ve sat down with really, really evil people”—he cited Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Russians, Chinese generals—“and all I want to do is punch the guy in the nose.”

Get that, people? Flynn said he’d like to punch a Russian in the nose. People get confused over Flynn’s ideological core beliefs by missing that his interest in Russia is solely based on its usefulness against ISIS. Just because he favored a united military front against ISIS, it does not mean that he has the same affinity for the Kremlin that someone like Stephen F. Cohen has. Just remember that the USA and Stalin were allied against Hitler. You know how far that went.

Even the NY Times got in the act, sounding a bit like Glenn Greenwald. In an article titled “As Leaks Multiply, Fears of a ‘Deep State’ in America” co-written by Amanda Taub and Max Fisher, there are concerns that the USA is becoming more like Egypt and Turkey where you had an elected president (Morsi) toppled by a deep state and another (Erdogan) overcoming the Kemalists, who are in many ways the deep state paradigm. For Taub and Fischer, the main worry is the leaks that Washington insiders are channeling to the Washington Post and the NY Times. Trump, of course, loved such leaks when they were used against Hillary Clinton. Now he is beside himself with anger. He has announced plans to have financier Stephen A. Feinberg conduct a review of the agencies responsible for such leaks and perhaps recommend a clean sweep that might look like Erdogan’s purge of the Gulenists who had become embedded in the military, police, universities and courts just like the Kemalists before them.

There is always the possibility that the campaign to dump Flynn had other motives besides his supposed tilt to Assad and Putin, even if there is scant support for such an analysis. CounterPunch editor Jeff St. Clair weighed in:

In an administration where prevarication has gone pathological, are we really to believe that Flynn was fired for not fully briefing Mike Pence on his calls with the Russian ambassador? Perhaps Flynn was canned for a simple reason, namely that he was in over his head, like most of Trump’s inner circle. Like many intelligence officers, Flynn is a professional paranoid, seeing conspiracies everywhere he looks. This can be a useful psychological trait in a field agent, but it can prove disastrous in an administer. Consider the case of spy-hunter James Jesus Angleton, one of the most wretched figures in the history of the CIA, whose mental collapse led him to see Soviet agents on every barstool and bus bench in DC.

Probably the most intelligent analysis of the Deep State was written for The Nation by Greg Grandin. Titled “What is the Deep State?”, it makes many very good points especially about the tendency for it to become a pet hobbyhorse of the conspiracist left. He writes:

Much of the writing frames the question as Trump versus the Deep State, but even if we take the “deep state” as a valid concept, surely it’s not useful to think of the competing interests it represents as monolithic, as David Martin in an e-mail suggests. Big Oil and Wall Street might want deregulation and an opening to Russia. The euphemistically titled “intelligence community” wants a ramped-up war footing. High-tech wants increased trade. Trump, who presents as pure id wrapped in ambition motived by appetite, wants it all—which makes him both potentially useful and inherently unstable, simultaneously a product and target of the deep state. In 1956, C. Wright Mills wrote that “the conception of the power elite and of its unity rests upon the corresponding developments and the coincidence of interests among economic, political, and military organizations.” If nothing else, the “Trump v. Deep State” framings show that unity is long gone.

In my view, trying to understand the concept as it applies to the USA is made more difficult by the political terrain that inhibits the growth of political parties tied to a social class. In a typical parliamentary system, you can have dozens of parties that speak for clearly delineated segments of society even if they use rhetoric that aspires to the universal. For example, there have been parties that cater to the interests of the landed gentry, the manufacturers, the urban petty bourgeoisie, the workers and even fractions within each distinct class formation, especially in France and Italy–always referred to in my high school civics classes as places where it is impossible to get things done.

When you form a government based on a parliamentary majority, you typically bring in loyalists from the winner or a coalition of parties. In the USA, there is an extreme tendency to homogenize politics with Obama’s “team of rivals” setting the tone for the bipartisanship over an 8-year period. The Democrats are obviously more committed to this type of governance but even the Republicans have reached “across the aisle”. When he was a Senator, John Kerry chastised Republicans for failing to be more like Reagan, who supposedly “put politics aside” to work with the Dems, especially “Tip” O’Neill. Within the state apparatus, there are bureaucrats who are less interested in party politics than advancing their own career goals. Given Trump’s open hostility to this machinery that operates within the narrow framework of Democratic-Republican centrism, you can expect resistance just as you would in a corporation that has a new CEO bent on shaking things up. As someone who has worked in places like Goldman-Sachs, I can assure you that the same internecine battles that are taking place in the American state apparatus also take place in the corporate world where sharp elbows are a fact of life.

To a large extent, the torrent of abuse directed against Trump from CNN, the NY Times and Washington Post as well as the leaks are rooted in the desire of all the Democrats and a growing number of Republicans like John McCain to return to the status quo ante. It is not so much Trump’s programs that stick their craws but his utter lack of the talents and experience that are need to shepherd the world’s biggest imperialist power in a period marked by economic decline and instability. Trump is under siege not from the “deep state” but by the professional political class and their servants in the media who would much prefer someone like Mike Pence to run the country. In other words, like Trump on “The Apprentice”, they desperately want to see him fired even if they are incapable of mounting a serious resistance to those of Trump’s choices who were not hoisted on their own petard like Flynn.

The challenge for the left in this period is to stake out and define its own identity and goals when much of the country will be mobilizing because of initiatives taken by Democratic Party officials, labor unions, university presidents, mainstream environmental organizations, et al. Without going too far in making such an analogy, it might be possible to see the current period as having something in common with the late 50s as the USA began thawing from McCarthyism. The winds of change were generally being fanned by groups such as SANE, the NAACP and the UAW. As the civil rights and student movement began to pick up speed, the demands became sharper and the independence from liberal politics became more pronounced. By 1967, there was a feeling that if the radical movement could break out of its confines and connect to the working class, it would be possible to have a revolution in the USA. That, of course, was an over-projection. But given the failure of the American economy to satisfy the expectations of a working population that can remember when the country was “great” (for those fortunate enough to get a union job), things can get very polarized rapidly. As Lenin put it, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” Even if it is only apocryphal, it makes a lot of sense.

January 25, 2017

Is George Soros promoting a color revolution against Donald Trump?

Filed under: conspiracism,Soros — louisproyect @ 8:18 pm

George Soros

Recently one of the trolls who visits my website on occasion presented a rather unique interpretation of why the Kasama Project came to an end, differing with my analysis that it was a surfeit of Maoist sectarianism that was the cause.

Interestingly, the site flded [sic] quickly after the trolls began making connection between Kasama, BLM and George Soros. It’s interesting to note Kasama’s involvement with Occupy which is another Soros project. This helps to confirm the trolls assertion that Kasama (and RCP) are Soros fronts.

Could Occupy Wall Street have been a “Soros project”? Well, the first thing that came up when I googled Soros and Occupy Wall Street was an article in RT.com titled “Is George Soros behind Occupy Wall Street?” dated October 14, 2011 and strongly implying that the answer was yes. Meanwhile, Russia Insider went one step further. It published an article titled “George Soros: The Ugly Face Behind Many Protest Movements” that posed the question:

What do the “Arab Spring”, the “Maidan Protests”, “Black Lives Matter”, “Occupy Wall Street”, “Open Borders” and many other movements have in common? George Soros.

Further research revealed that among the other schemes Soros has hatched deep within the bowels of his Open Society, which for websites such as Russia Insider assumes the character of the villain’s lair in a James Bond movie, is the protests that took place in the USA on January 21. It was, as conspiracist Michel Chossudovsky par excellence put it, a “colored revolution”. He repeats the arguments of the Russian Insider as if they had been written by the same person:

What is at stake is a “color revolution” Made in America which is marked by fundamental rivalries within the US establishment, namely the clash between competing corporate factions, each of which is intent upon exerting control over the incoming US presidency.

The OTPOR-CANVAS-CIA model is nonetheless relevant. Several foundations involved in funding color revolutions internationally are involved in funding the anti-Trump campaign.

Moreover, while CANVAS’ mandate is to oversee “color revolutions” internationally, it also has links with a number of NGOs currently involved in the anti-Trump campaign including The Occupy Wall Street Movement (OWS). OWS launched by Adbusters was funded via the Tides Foundation which in turn is funded by a number of corporate foundations and charities, including the Ford Foundation, Gates Foundation and the Open Society Institute. Ford is known to have historical links to US intelligence.

Iran’s PressTV was in sync with Professor Chossudovsky and Russian Insider. They ran an article titled “Soros orchestrating color revolution against Trump: Analyst” that began “Jewish business magnate George Soros has orchestrated a ‘color revolution’ against US President-elect Donald Trump, says an American political analyst, pointing to nationwide anti-Trump protests as evidence.” Very important to get that “Jewish” thing going on except most of these types of commentaries are a bit more discreet about their anti-Semitism like when RT.com published an article about a trip Soros made to the Ukraine: “Soros, born György Schwartz in Hungary, fled in the 1940s for the UK and later became an American citizen.” How can anybody trust someone with a name like György Schwartz, I tell you.

The “analyst” referred to in the PressTV article is one E. Michael Jones, the editor of Culture Wars Magazine, who asserted: “What we are seeing here now is George Soros once again intervening in the internal politics of the United States by creating a color revolution.” Wow, very radical. Succumbing to my insatiable curiosity, I visited Culture Wars Magazine and learned that it is behind a publishing company called Fidelity that includes titles by Jones and like-minded deep thinkers. One by Jones is titled “The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit and Its Impact on World History” that according to one sympathetic critic makes the case that “when Jews rejected Christ, they rejected Logos in all its forms and became enemies of the social order”. I confess that sounds a bit like me.

Jeff Rense, an anti-Semite second to none, wrote a glowing review of the book that includes these intriguing insights:

The true “Jewish revolutionary spirit” is “to overturn” God and replace Him with Lucifer who represents the self-interest of the Illuminati (i.e. central bankers, Organized Jewry and Freemasonry.) This also was confirmed by Christian Rakovsky in his KGB interrogation.

 This also was confirmed by Christian Rakovsky in his KGB interrogation. “Christianity is our only real enemy since all the political and economic phenomena of the bourgeois states are only its consequences,” Rakovsky, says. Peace is “counter-revolutionary” since it is war that paves the way for revolution.

It’s not every day when you run into something like this. A convergence of Iranian clerical reaction, anti-Semitism and a defense of the legitimacy of the Moscow Trials. But then again after 6 years of deepening insanity on the left about the role of Iran and Russia in the world, I suppose anything is possible.

Turning to the question of “color revolutions”, I admit to originally having the same kind of Pavlov dog’s reaction as most people on the left, especially when I was writing about the Balkan Wars. Just mention the word Soros and I’d begin to salivate. But when I saw some on the left defending Putin’s invasion of Chechnya in 1999, I was sickened by the response. The carpet bombing of Grozny that became the template for the disaster in East Aleppo was unacceptable and no amount of “anti-imperialism” could justify it.

One of the first color revolutions took place in Ukraine in 2004. At the time, as far as I can remember, I was not quite a supporter of either the Orange movement as it was called or the Kremlin, largely a result of lingering concerns about NATO’s role in Yugoslavia. But it never occurred to me to look too deeply into what drove people to demand a break with Russia.

It was the “Green Revolution” in Iran in 2009 that helped me clarify my thinking. By that time I had become a friend and comrade of Reza Fiyouzat, an Iranian living in the USA who was part of the Iranian revolutionary movement. He was blogging at http://revolutionaryflowerpot.blogspot.com/ at the time, a website that is no longer active but that still can be accessed for a first-rate introduction to Iranian Marxist thought. Unlike most of the left, Reza was able to stake out a position that was distinguished from both Ahmadinejad and his opponent in the 2009 elections, Mir-Hossein Mousavi who was a leader of the Green Revolution supported by Nicholas Kristof, George Soros and all the other usual suspects. He wrote an article for CounterPunch in 2009 that could serve as a guide to all of these “color revolution” scenarios:

Where Ahmadinejad has made loud claims of victory — e.g., pushing forth Iran’s nuclear program — the ‘reformists’ hit back with the assertion that the nuclear program started some 25 years ago (when the ‘reformist’ candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, was the prime minister), and that Ahmadinejad should stop pretending as if he was the sole creator of the nuclear program.

Where the ‘reformists’ have piled on the accusations of economic mismanagement, topped with a 25% inflation, Ahmadinejad has hit back with (I’m paraphrasing here): “It does not take a mere four years to be in such economic mess. Did it all just start with my government? Was there no unemployment before my government? Were there no addiction problems? Was there no inflation? Was I handed a spotless Garden of Eden created by you (Mousavi) and your reformist colleagues, which has now turned into ruins?”

If you see the conflict between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi as analogous to the current polarized situation in the USA, it is necessary to make distinctions that would be lost on conspiracist minded figures such as Michel Chossudovsky and other pro-Kremlin websites that have been propagating the nonsense about a color revolution taking place in the USA (including such Assadist strongholds such as Zero Hedge, 21st Century Wire, Signs of the Times and the Wayne Madsen Report).

It is certainly true that Soros is funding groups that are opposed to Trump but they would exist without his money, which seems to be rapidly vanishing. Apparently, Soros has lost a billion dollars on a gamble that the market would plummet after Trump took office. That’s on top of another two billion he lost betting against the possibility of a Brexit. People haven’t gone to Washington to protest Trump because Soros has funded them. It is because he is deeply unpopular as this graph would indicate:

screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-2-44-57-pm

Soros’s goal is not to foment a coup. It is to throw his weight behind an emerging movement that is clearly designed to channel discontent into supporting Democratic Party candidates in Congressional elections, culminating in a recapture of the White House in 2020.

What is the role of the left in all this? As was the case in Iran, we should be for channeling that discontent into specific issues where the Democratic voter might be moved to rally around a struggle that has a class dynamic such as the pipelines that Trump has given the green light to, the right of a woman to have an abortion, his ban on immigrants from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, the proposed wall separating the USA from Mexico, etc.

Some on the left are wary about the Women’s March because so many Democratic Party officials were involved with it. I have some experience dealing with such issues as a socialist and Vietnam antiwar activist. In 1969, David Hawk and Sam Brown, two staff members of the unsuccessful 1968 Eugene McCarthy campaign, proposed a Moratorium as a deliberate alternative to the coalition that the SWP had been part of. If we had taken a sectarian position, we would have denounced it and kept our distance. Instead we embraced it and joined the organizing drive to make it as big and as successful as possible. So instead of a watered-down and pro-DP festival, the Moratorium turned into one of the most powerful protests of the 1960s.

People who have not become radicalized always tend to follow the cues of bourgeois politicians. When I was 21 years old, I kept hoping (and even praying) that a peace candidate could be elected and end the war in the same way people today hope that a liberal Democrat could replace Trump and be a far better keeper of his or her promises than Barack Obama. While Bernie Sanders might run again in 2020, I expect that the candidate will be someone much more in the Elizabeth Warren mold. Soros is pumping money into groups that are promoting such hopes. It will be up to the left to figure out a way to exploit the rising discontent with Trump to channel it into mass actions that can have the same kind of impact that the Standing Rock protest did. Condemning this ferment as “reformist” would be a mistake but none so nearly as rotten as those on the far reaches of the American “left” that have the low political IQ to take Michel Chossudovsky, PressTV and RT.com seriously.

September 18, 2016

The uncontrolled demolition of the Truther brain

Filed under: conspiracism,September 11 — louisproyect @ 8:20 pm

Over the past five years I have monitored various pro-Assad websites in order to keep track of the amen corner’s latest talking points. At various times I have read Global Research, World Socialist Website and Moon of Alabama towards that end but never simultaneously since that would overload my circulatory and nervous systems to dangerous levels.

About three months ago I began monitoring a new website after one of my FB friends, who disagrees with me on Syria but like so many people is quite good on other questions, posted a link to an article on something called Off-Guardian that is focused on exposing the Guardian newspaper. As you might expect, they serve up articles crossposted from RT.com and other media associated with the “axis of resistance”. Given the generally fact-free environment of Off-Guardian, I am surprised nobody has started something called Off-Off-Guardian.

This month I was mildly surprised to see that they were avid 9/11 Truthers, posting numerous articles about a vast conspiracy that helped the USA launch wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. I say mildly surprised since Off-Guardian relies on conspiratorial “false flag” mumbo-jumbo rather than any kind of class analysis. When I quoted Alexander Cockburn on Trutherism, who certainly would have agreed with them on the need to back Assad, they took great umbrage:

These days a dwindling number of leftists learn their political economy from Marx via the small, mostly Trotskyist groupuscules. Into the theoretical and strategic void has crept a diffuse, peripatetic conspiracist view of the world that tends to locate ruling class devilry not in the crises of capital accumulation, or the falling rate of profit, or inter-imperial competition, but in locale (the Bohemian Grove, Bilderberg, Ditchley, Davos) or supposedly “rogue” agencies, with the CIA still at the head of the list. The 9/11 “conspiracy”, or “inside job”, is the Summa of all this foolishness.

In some ways, it makes perfect sense that Trutherism would resonate with the Assadist left since their analysis of the war is based on the idea that intelligence agencies in the West plotted to remove Assad and then exploited “false flags” to justify its intervention. I reviewed this in an article I posted a year ago titled “Baathist Truthers” that points out how Wikileaks and other hacked material matters much more to them than class relations in Syria. One supposes that given the unfamiliarity with historical materialism in such circles, it could have hardly turned out differently.

As it happens, the spasm of Truther articles on Off-Guardian and some videos that cropped up on FB “proving” once and for all that 9/11 was a “false flag” got the old noggin worked up enough to say something about this nonsense. I realize that most of my regular readers would never believe that crap to begin with but as happens with me frequently, I write in order to get something out of my system rather than change anybody’s mind. It is self-administered psychotherapy.

This article will not attempt to refute all of the Truther claims since that would require more time and more words than is justified, plus the last thing that I have an appetite for is arcane discussions of whether jet fuel can melt steel, etc. Instead I want to explore the whole question of controlled demolitions, which is a sine qua non for the conspiracy theorists.

As I pointed out to the Off-Guardian people in a comment on an article titled “On the physics of high-rise building collapses”, “If you don’t think the impact of the plane was a factor but instead ‘controlled detonation’, you need to believe that a building as tightly guarded as the WTC (I know because I used to work two blocks from it and was there 3 or 4 times a week) allowed a small army of demolitions experts to come in unimpeded and deploy a huge amount of TNT.”

Except for that and a few other comments posted there, I was ready to let the whole thing drop because I understood that belief in a 9/11 conspiracy is about as far-fetched as believing that the moon landing didn’t occur, etc. However, when a FB friend posted a link to an article titled “15 Years Later, Physics Journal Concludes: All 3 WTC Towers Collapsed Due to Controlled Demolition”, I commented that it was nonsense. In the course of defending the article, he insisted that I watch a video that I dutifully did. That video and the Off-Guardian junk convinced me that this rebuttal was necessary even if doesn’t change a single mind. I need to get it off my chest, damn it.

When I got to the point in the video where there was some kind of proof of a conspiracy to bring down the towers through a controlled demolition, I was shocked to discover that it was this:

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-11-51-21-am

In other words, we are led to believe that because the Ace Elevator Company had unlimited access to the elevator shafts, its men could have served as co-conspirators along with al-Qaeda and the CIA. This is rather mind-boggling when you stop and think about it.

You can get a flavor for the “analysis” about the role of Ace Elevator from an article titled “ACE Elevator Company: 9/11 Questions and Research” by Rick Shaddock. He finds it quite suspicious that the company is not mentioned in the official report. Neither is the security company that would have vouchsafed its work. But he does find it significant that the Larry Silverstein, the owner of the WTC complex, was able to hire “the Jewish firm Kroll for security.” Oh, I got it. Silverstein…the Jewish firm Kroll”. Now the scales are falling from my eyes.

One of the Truther commenters at Off-Guardian recommended a book titled “The Host and the Parasite” to help me understand how security could have bypassed prior to 9/11. To show how I take my ideological adversaries seriously, I even downloaded the book to Kindle (taking advantage of a temporary premium membership that I will terminate after I’d had a chance to look at the stupid book.)

Okay, here’s the deal. The Host is the USA and the parasite is Israel. Basically Felton argues that American politics is subservient to the state of Israel and that American Jews have no loyalty to the country—people like Larry Silverstein et al are dirty rats. You can get a flavor for Felton’s scientific acumen by his taking seriously the possibility that a “small-yield hydrogen bomb” might have been detonated on 9/11 in addition to explosives planted in the basement by unidentified agents. Why a hydrogen bomb? Because of the pulverization of the building into a micron-sized dust aerosol, the high incidence of cancer among emergency responders and the recording of an electromagnetic pulse by broadcast cameras. So where did they get the hydrogen bomb, you ask. Well, maybe Larry Silverstein called someone up at the Pentagon to get their help. Those Jews know how to use their influence after all. Small-yield hydrogen bomb coming right up.

Felton’s explanation of the WTC attack was “overdetermined” in Althusserian terms. His main emphasis is on it being a “false flag” as the chapter on the WTC being titled “A New Pearl Harbor” would indicate. But he also believes that it might have been the intention of Silverstein and Lewis Eisenberg, the chairman of PATH, to blow up the buildings to get the insurance needed for a more profitable real estate development. In other words, these were a couple of sneaky Jewish landlords who hired people to destroy existing low-yield property just like happens when parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn become gentrified.

While Felton is committed to the idea that it was explosives in the basement that brought the towers down, others finger Ace, which had a maintenance contract on the elevators. This means that someone was assigned to push a button an hour or so after the planes crashed in order to detonate the explosives that led to the collapse. The problem with this is that a remote control operation like this is obviously based on a radio signal in the same fashion as an IED being set off by a cell phone like in Iraq. But when a plane smashes into the WTC, the damage is extensive. One of two things would likely happen. The flames from the crash would have detonated the explosives immediately or if not, they would have destroyed the radio receiver that would be used to detonate them. In other words, this was an operation that had zero possibility of succeeding in conspiratorial terms.

But going even further into cloud cuckoo land, consider the possibility that an elevator company that has been operating for some number of years prior to 9/11 would have been staffed by men who were secret agents willing to place explosives in the WTC that killed 3000 of their countrymen. You would imagine that these would be the kind of super-villains like in Bruce Willis’s “Die Hard”, nihilists ready to take part in a Pearl Harbor attack on their own country and at the same time experienced elevator mechanics. Can you imagine recruiting people for such a job?

ACE corporate recruiter: So, Joe, I see you were in the marines. Any particular skills you learned there?

Joe: I was trained in the use of explosives.

ACE corporate recruiter: Perfect. We’re staffing up for a project to bring down the WTC so that Bush will have the excuse he needs to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as help Larry Silverstein get the insurance payments he needs for a new real estate development. When can you start?

Joe: Um, I have to talk it over with my wife first since her dad works in the WTC. But I guess we’ll have no problems as long as the pay is good. We want to build a swimming pool in the back yard plus I have same sort of devil may care attitude as another marine named Lee Harvey Oswald.

But for sheer imagination, nothing can top Kevin Ryan’s four-part series “Demolition Access to the WTC Towers.”  This is a 94-page treatise that would have you believe that there were six degrees of separation between the Pope and Osama bin Laden.

Marsh & McLennan is an investment firm that lost all its employees on 9/11 when a plane hit the north tower. For Ryan, however, CEO Jeffrey Greenberg might have been part of the conspiracy along with ACE elevators and al-Qaeda since he was a member of the Brookings Institution, the Trilateral Commission, and the son of the chairman of American International Group (AIG), a firm reported to be at the center of a number of CIA operations.

Can you imagine the conversation between Jeffrey Greenberg and the CIA agent supervising the 9/11 attacks?

CIA biggie: Look, Jeffrey, we want to run something by you. The agency is part of a top-secret operation that will result in the WTC and the Pentagon being attacked and leveled to the ground on 9/11 with the loss of thousands of lives, including all the people who work for you at Marsh & McLennan. This is a big deal for America since we need an excuse to invade Afghanistan and Iraq as part of an overall exercise to control oil resources everywhere.

Greenberg: Sounds good to me. I’ve gotten bored with the investment business anyhow and am thinking about starting a yoga ranch in the Hamptons. I’ll just make sure to call in sick that day.

In part two, Ryan explores the shady connections of the man who ran Kroll, the “Jewish security firm”. His name was Brian Michael Jenkins. While clearly not a Jew, there were all sorts of red flags associated with his career. He was “chairman of the RAND Corporation’s Political Science department and he directed RAND’s research on political violence. He also had served as a captain in the Green Berets in the Dominican Republic and later in Vietnam.” At the risk of sounding like I was part of the conspiracy myself, I would only point out that this is the typical CV for someone heading up a security firm, especially one that oversaw an obvious target like the WTC that had been attacked once before in 1993. What kind of prior work experience wouldn’t arouse Ryan’s suspicions? A lead guitarist for a punk rock band? A professional ice skater?

What seems beyond the realm of possibility for these people is that Islamic fundamentalists conspired to attack the WTC because of American support for the Saudi potentates, the Israeli apartheid state and other affronts to Muslims. Occam’s Razor states that simpler theories are preferable to more complex ones because they are more testable. In the case of 9/11, it is best to test what happened not so much on the basis of physics but on that of political plausibility. The Truthers strike me as people who have read far too many of those cheesy spy novels that you can find in airport magazine shops. They would be better off reading Karl Marx. In fact everybody would be. It is far more useful politically and more important than ever in a period of growing class struggle.

 

May 6, 2016

Left Forum 2016: The Truth is Out There

Filed under: Left Forum,conspiracism — louisproyect @ 5:02 pm

Ever since I left the SWP in late 1978, I have been attending the yearly Left Forums in NY that were known as the Socialist Scholars Conference prior to a split in the leading bodies in 2004 over Yugoslavia. Veteran social democrat Bogdan Denitch, who died a few months ago, was viewed as a Serbophobe by the faction that would go on to form the Left Forum in 2005. That year there were two conferences, one in the name of the Socialist Scholars Conference and the other as the Left Forum. Next year there was only the Left Forum as many of the figures aligned with Denitch reconciled with their erstwhile ideological opponents.

From 2005 until 2015 (excluding 2007 for some reason I can’t recall), I have written reports on the Left Forum and more recently produced videos of the sessions I attended. This year I have decided not to attend since it has reached the point where quantity has turned into quality as Plekhanov might have put it. Or more accurately, it has reached the point where quantity has turned into excrement. In a nutshell, the same sort of idiocy that has taken over the left on Syria has become so pervasive this year that I cannot justify spending $70 to attend. Are there panel discussions that would be worth my while? I suppose so but that is almost like someone trying to convince me to tune into WBAI. The station exudes such a stench that my hand refuses to obey my brain’s order to dial up 99.5FM.

In a very real sense, the Left Forum has been transformed into something resembling WBAI—leading to the pun that it has been subject to Pacification. The other night the hand got the upper hand over the brain and I listened to WBAI for a couple of minutes. I was not surprised to see that they were in the midst of one of their biweekly fund-drives. Nor was I surprised to see that they were offering premiums for a 5 DVD documentary titled “The Great Lies of History”. One, of course, is about 9/11. Another is: “Cancer: The Forbidden Cures”. It claims that the “drug-dominated medical profession” has suppressed cures including Mistletoe and Bicarbonate of Soda. I suppose they are geared to oral and stomach cancer respectively. I don’t think that Lew Hill had this in mind when he launched Pacifica in 1946.

While WBAI is much more fixated on such quackery from the likes of Gary Null, it too traffics in the sort of “anti-imperialism” that has swamped the Left Forum. Amy Goodman, the station’s star for what that’s worth, has allowed Seymour Hersh to babble on about Syria in the very week that Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al-Shami were in NY on a book tour for “Burning Country”. When Goodman was approached about doing an interview with them, she said no.

Meanwhile, Goodman and Slavoj Zizek are doing the closing plenary on Sunday night. At this stage of the game, inviting Zizek to speak to a left audience is almost as much of an insult as inviting Donald Trump. I have heard through the grapevine that Verso Press has cut its ties to the Elvis Superstar of Marxism over his filthy insistence that Syrian refugees adapt to Western norms but he is good enough for the Left Forum apparently.

I have to give credit to Amber A’lee Frost who sized up the 2015 Left Forum conference accurately in The Baffler.

That’s right: If you pay your registration fee and fill out the proper forms, you get a room and a table and a spot on the schedule. So in addition to all those experienced and intelligent rabble-rousers, Left Forum is a home for 9/11 Truthers, those who would save us from the terrors of “mandatory fluoridation,” and the generally batshit and/or pathologically anti-social. No one is required to observe their lectures, but they wander into other people’s and there is something truly dispiriting about not being able to distinguish self-identified radicals from the parodies of us imagined by the right wing.

Frost singled out a panel from 2014 as a “wackjob nadir”, the infamous “Žižek Delenda Est” (“Žižek Must be Destroyed.”).

The thesis of the panel—which featured at least one “tankie,” slang for Soviet apologist, or actual Stalinist—was that Slovenian Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek is some kind of COINTELPRO crypto-Nazi.

What’s odd about their obsession with Zizek is a failure to see how close he is to them ideologically. With his disparagement of the Syrian rebels as “a mess of fundamentalist Islamist groups”, you’d think he’d be hoisted on their shoulders. Of course, on the far left some of the bitterest quarrels take place among sects that were born from the same womb. Just look at the Trotskyists.

It must be said at the outset that the people who run the Left Forum are not identified with this kind of conspiracism. It just so happens that it is a Big Tent that allows virtually anybody to schedule a panel discussion. The fact that this year’s conference is flooded with “Žižek Delenda Est” type barking dogs only reflects the siren’s call of conspiracism on the left, one in which a Marxist class analysis is so sorely lacking.

Let me walk you through a few of the panels to give you an idea of what you can get for your $70, starting with Deep State: The Fabricated Global War on Terrorism — Why the Left Should Unite to Expose and Rebel Against It that pretty much epitomized the malaise that afflicts the Left Forum. The organizers breathlessly announce:

The yellow-journalism press rarely reports that ISIS was 100% planned, created and controlled by US/NATO/Israel/Turkey/Saudi forces. Publicly this newest bogeyman is reviled and used to whip up fear and bellicosity. Behind the scenes, ISIS is our shock troops, the go-to mercenaries to effect regime change in places like Libya and Syria, and ensure wavering countries like France tow the line.

One of the speakers is Wayne Madsen, an “investigative reporter” and author of “Unmasking ISIS”. He is a 9/11 Truther, as are many in this neck of the woods. As part of his investigative reporting, he came up with the startling revelation that Barack Obama is a homosexual who belonged to the same Chicago gay bath house as Rahm Emmanuel. Madsen was able to provide about the same amount of proof as those who allege that Obama was born in Kenya. Madsen’s articles have appeared in  CounterPunch, In These Times, The Progressive and The Village Voice. Don’t ask me why.

For more of the same, you can attend How Universal U.S. Sovereignty Threatens World Peace. It features Sarah Flounders of the Workers World Party and Michael Perino, who once told CounterPunch readers that about 50,000 Blacks were “massacred” in Libya. Since the highest estimate for all casualties in the Libyan civil war was half of that, who knows where Perino got his number.

Want to know about The Situation in Ukraine? Then haul your ass over to a panel organized by UNAC, the “coalition” made up of Socialist Action members and other like-minded leftists who have succumbed totally to the “axis of resistance” disease now an epidemic on the left. The SA members were educated in the Socialist Workers Party, a group that was distinguished by its embrace of Ukrainian opponents of Soviet domination in the 1960s. One of the speakers is Bruce Gagnon, who like many in this milieu blames Kiev for starting the civil war in Ukraine when it threatened to remove Russian as one of the official languages as if the people in Donetsk and Luhansk would suffer the same kind of fate as Kurds in Turkey. This was essentially a Goebbels type of big lie. The truth is that Russian would continue as a regional language along with 17 other languages including Yiddish but Ukrainian would be the sole official language, which only meant that it would be used in driver license applications, etc. Was that a reason for Putin to dispatch thousands of special forces into Eastern Ukraine? Obviously not. His real intention was the same as Catherine the Great’s—to keep Ukraine under Russia’s thumb.

You can guess from the title The US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and War in the “Middle East” (I have no idea what the scare quotes in the title indicate) what this one is about. Organized by the pro-Assad International Action Center, it includes Kazem Azin as one of the speakers, a contributor to Workers World newspaper and an ardent supporter of the Islamic Republic who once claimed that “Imam Khomeini was able for the first time to unite all religious groups and the majority of the people under the banner of Islam.” Of course, if you were stiff-necked enough to refuse being so united, you might end up being tortured in Evin prison.

If you miss the X-Files, as I certainly do, you might want to check in on Deep State: False Flags — How a United Left Could Defeat a “Global Gladio” Agenda since it features Richard Dolan as a panelist. Dolan is the author of “A History of False Flag Operations” but he is probably best known for his books on UFO’s and the National Security State. This leftist version of Fox Mulder once met with a CIA agent referred to as “Anonymous” who on his death bed revealed that The Truth Is Out There:

Facing impending kidney failure, this individual felt compelled to disclose secret information he feels is too important to keep secret. In the video, he claims to have served in the U.S. Army, worked for the CIA, and worked on the U.S. Air Force’s Project Blue Book–one of the USAF’s official studies of UFOs. And he refers to the project as “partially a fraud.” Asking for clarification, Dolan states, “You’re saying some of the Blue Book cases were completely fictitious?” The anonymous man responds, “Yes.”

“Anonymous” alleges that, after an invasion threat from President Dwight Eisenhower, he and his superior at the CIA were allowed inside the secretive Area 51 in Nevada to gather intel and report back to the president. There, “Anonymous” describes seeing several alien spacecraft, including the craft that crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. Then, he and his superior were taken to the S-4 facility southwest of Area 51 where they observed live extraterrestrials.

On Sunday there’s more from UNAC at The Fight to End US Wars as well as two 9/11 Truther panels, one titled Time to Take Down the Wall Between the Left and the Truth Movement and the other Exposing 28 Pages of 9/11 Evidence, Legislating Transparency. Don’t forget to bring the Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle in case your mind begins to wander. Also, for vintage conspiracy theory navel-gazing, you can’t top The JFK Murder Cover-up: Your Rosetta Stone to Today’s News, Elections, Policy. I suppose that one of the speakers will argue that Al Qaeda was on the grassy knoll at the rate things are going.

Just to be clear, 90 percent of the workshops are more conventional in nature. I wish I could say that this would be sufficient for me to shell out $70 but I am afraid that far too many are empty theorizing that I have little use for. For example, something titled Marx, Hegel, and the Current Situation  is a non-starter. Apparently the participants have been studying Hegel for years at the Brecht Forum and at the Marxist Education Project at the Brooklyn Commons. With all due respect to the speakers, I studied Hegel fifty years ago at the New School mostly to maintain a student deferment and don’t want to go back there now. But if Hegel works for you, don’t let me get in the way. That’s a helluva lot better than nattering about Area 51 but then again just about anything else is–especially for $70 that can be better spent on dinner for two at a Thai restaurant.

 

June 8, 2015

A reply to cult leader David North on an American “first strike” on Russia

Filed under: conspiracism,cults,nuclear power and weapons — louisproyect @ 5:36 pm

Screen shot 2015-06-08 at 1.33.33 PM

David North

UPDATE: Comments have been closed on this article because I simply cannot waste my time replying to people who are not worth replying to. I regard the Socialist Equality Party as detritus left over from the period when sect and cult formations operated in much more fertile soil. Today they are completely irrelevant. I only commented on the WSWS’s laughable article because the website is influential to an extent on people who are not mentally ill. Those who are part of David North’s fan base had their moment to make their case here and they ruined it by evading my repeated demands that they explain the obvious contradiction between Robert Scher’s written statement and the comments he made–at least how they interpreted them–during the Congressional questioning seen on Youtube. That’s all folks. Don’t go away angry. Just go away.

* * * *

I don’t want to spend too much time replying to David North, the cult leader of a tiny group called the Socialist Equality Party that is one of the fragments left over from the breakup of sexual predator Gerry Healy’s International Committee of the Fourth International but it is worth pointing out once again why you read WSWS.org at your own risk, like smoking cigarettes or having unprotected sex. If the CP was syphilis in Trotsky’s eyes, this tiny group is not much more than a case of the crabs.

North thinks he has the goods on me because I referred my readers to Robert Scher’s opening statement to Congress. Scher, you will recall, was the source of a quote in AP reporter Robert Burns’s article that the WSWS interpreted as a possible first-strike nuclear attack on Russia after the fashion of Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s “Doctor Strangelove”. Burns told his readers that Scher said “we could go about and actually attack that missile where it is in Russia.” Taking Burns at his word, WSWS.org posted an article titled “U.S. Officials Consider Nuclear Strike Against Russia”.

North claims that the words do appear but not in the written statement Scher presented to Congress and only in the verbal response to questions posed by members of the committee:

The plain truth is that Robert Scher did make the statement attributed to him by the AP correspondent. However, the critical phrase (“we could go about and actually attack that missile where it is in Russia.”) does not appear in the written statement prepared by Scher in advance of the hearing. His opening statement, as is usually the case in congressional hearings, was not actually read by Scher. It was formally accepted and included in the record.

The real work of the subcommittee consisted of a 50-minute hearing at which Scher and several other witnesses answered questions put to them by congressmen. It was during the question and answer period that the statement relating to the Obama administration’s nuclear policy toward Russia was made.

The full video of the hearing is available on the YouTube channel of the House Armed Services Committee. Whether from laziness, dishonesty, or—most likely—a combination of the two, Proyect did not bother to consult the video record of the hearing.

In fact not much more than an hour after my article was posted, an old friend and professional archivist referred me to the Youtube clip in which Scher replies to the Congressmen. I listened to it and concluded that it reinforced my case. North admits that the word “attack” is not audible in the recording but is convinced that this is the only conclusion that makes sense. Sad, really.

Who knows if North read the written statement that I referred my readers to but it is clear that there is no difference between it and the answer he gave, as is obvious from North’s words, even if he did not understand their import: “He reviews three categories of military action (beginning at 17:50) that the US is considering if this does not happen.”

Undoubtedly the “three categories” are a reference to Scher’s Triad strategy outlined in his written statement that I alluded to in my article. As I pointed out, the Triad is not about a first strike but simply a restatement of long-standing Pentagon policy in line with “deterrence”, more accurately described as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). This is a policy deeply inimical to world peace but not a throwback to American threats brandished during the Korean War about nuking China, etc. when the USSR was not in a position to provide a nuclear umbrella for itself and its allies.

As it turns out, the word “attack” that North insists was either inaudible or clipped was supposed to be in the second leg of the Triad. Below is the text of Scher’s written statement. If you believe that any of this is a first-strike manifesto, then there’s not much I can say to persuade you otherwise—least of all the people in David North’s cult who maintain that Joseph Hansen, Leon Trotsky’s bodyguard, collaborated with the Kremlin to have Trotsky assassinated. They are beyond help and would probably only benefit from a stiff dose of Thorazine.

Each leg of the Triad contributes unique characteristics to the overall force. Strategic submarines (SSBNs) provide maximal survivability. Current U.S. nuclear posture preserves survivability by maintaining a continuous SSBN at-sea presence.

Land-based ICBMs provide the most rapid response capability, while maximizing Presidential decision making time and preventing accidental launch. Current U.S. nuclear posture preserves that responsiveness and reinforces crisis stability by maintaining most ICBMs on alert. The ICBM force complicates the planning of any adversary contemplating a disarming counterforce strike by vastly increasing the required scale of such an attack. For regional adversaries with smaller nuclear arsenals, the challenge of even targeting our ICBM force is insurmountable.

Nuclear-capable aircraft that can be forward-deployed provide the United States with flexibility and visibility that supports strategic deterrence, extended deterrence of potential adversaries, and assurance of U.S. allies and partners. The air leg represents the full Triad when used by the President to help signal resolve. In this capacity, these aircraft provide the President options for controlling and limiting escalation throughout all stages of a potential conflict.

The combined effect of all three legs is to force any adversary seeking to negate our deterrent to invest in multiple expensive capabilities, including large-scale hard-target kill capability, advanced anti-submarine warfare (ASW) technology, and extensive, multi-layered air defense.

The scale and complexity of this task protect the long-term survivability and credibility of our deterrent. Sustaining a full Triad also enables the policy objective of maintaining the ability to hedge effectively against failure of any single warhead or platform, and against shifts in the strategic and geopolitical environments.

Conspiracy theories that “the US fuelled the rise of ISIS”: Why they are a back-handed attack on the Syrian uprising

Filed under: conspiracism,Syria — louisproyect @ 11:55 am

Conspiracy theories that “the US fuelled the rise of ISIS”: Why they are a back-handed attack on the Syrian uprising.

June 5, 2015

Is the U.S. contemplating a nuclear attack on Russia?

Filed under: conspiracism,journalism,nuclear power and weapons — louisproyect @ 9:08 pm

Screen shot 2015-06-05 at 11.37.30 AM

Any normal person looking in on the latest World Socialist Web Site would pee in their pants. US officials consider nuclear strikes against Russia? Holy shit, this is serious business.

The question, of course, is whether the WSWS.org can be taken at face value. Some radicals of my acquaintance do take it at face value. A FB friend and Marxmail subscriber who is a professor of sociology frequently links to their articles. Another professor who was a houseguest for a few days told me that he prefers checking WSWS every day because it is more reliable than the NY Times. The site is also popular with college students who like to cite it in essays, according to my wife who works in the CUNY system.

It is easy to understand its appeal. Basically it is a press digest that is spiced with radical-sounding interjections. It also appears authoritative since it quotes the mainstream media. Taking the above article on nuclear strikes against Russia as an example, it states:

Most provocatively, a report published by the Associated Press yesterday reports that the Pentagon has been actively considering the use of nuclear missiles against military targets inside Russia, in response to what it alleges are violations of the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty.

Unfortunately, these people did not take the trouble to identify the reporter but a minute or two of searching revealed that Robert Burns, the AP specialist on nuclear matters, wrote it.

Furthermore, Burns’s reporting is based totally on the testimony of a Defense Department official named Robert Scher to Congress. Quoting WSWS.org quoting Burns:

Robert Scher, one of Carter’s nuclear policy aides, told Congress in April that the deployment of “counterforce” measures would mean “we could go about and actually attack that missile where it is in Russia.”

Now you can actually read Scher’s testimony here. The only reference to a “counterforce” is the following. “The ICBM force complicates the planning of any adversary contemplating a disarming counterforce strike by vastly increasing the required scale of such an attack.” This sentence can be found as part of Scher reviewing American nuclear weapons policy that he describes as a “Triad”, with ICBM’s as the first leg. In other words, all he was doing is recapitulating Washington’s long-standing policy of using a vast arsenal of nuclear missiles so as to make retaliation a complex task.

Reading WSWS.org, you would get the impression that Washington had developed a brand-new (or revival) of a “first strike” strategy that would be used to destroy missiles in Russia that the White House viewed as inimical to its interests—like Bush’s “preemptive” strike against Saddam Hussein’s non-existent WMD’s. But if you read Scher’s testimony, it is clear that he is simply recapitulating policies that have been around for decades.

Furthermore, Burn’s quote of Scher (“we could go about and actually attack that missile where it is in Russia”) cannot be found in his testimony, nor can it be found in Nexis, an authoritative database of newspaper articles I continue to have access to as a Columbia University retiree.

In other words, Burns was making an allegation about what Scher said that is not supported by the Congressional record.

My understanding is that the World Socialist Web Site is staffed by a dozen or so people who do nothing to build the fucking mass movement but see their job as writing this kind of sloppy bullshit that is badly in the need of a fact-checker. My understanding is that their cult leader owns a printing press with non-union labor. You’d think he’d have enough dough to put one on staff.

June 1, 2015

A Saudi neutron bomb attack on Yemen?

Filed under: conspiracism,nuclear power and weapons — louisproyect @ 11:36 pm

There’s a Youtube clip about such an event that has gone viral. It has been endorsed or at least taken seriously by all the usual imbeciles like Global Research who posted an article titled “Possible Tactical Nuclear Strike (Neutron Bomb) in Yemen?

Here’s the Youtube clip of the bomb going off:

Pretty impressive, no?

However, it has to be understood that neutron bombs carry the equivalent of 10 kilotons of TNT payloads. Here’s a Youtube clip of a 3.5 kiloton nuclear weapon. Does the explosion above look three times as powerful as the one below? How do people on the left end up looking like such cretins? Of course, since Rush Limbaugh has recommended Global Research to his listeners, maybe it doesn’t make sense to group Chossudovsky and company as part of the left.

As another yardstick, here is 100 tons of TNT going off. As you can see, it is roughly equivalent tof the Yemen bomb going off at the top. So the notion that a neutron bomb went off  in Yemen that was 1000 times greater than this is psychotic.

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.