Backtalk, November 23, 2004

There Is No One Left to Stop Them

Thanks to Paul Craig Roberts (no relation) for his courageous honesty and intellectual and moral clarity. Remembering his Wall Street Journal pieces (why don’t they bring him back now?), and in light of my own history of protest, I frankly never expected to be writing a tribute to a conservative or to find conservatives saying things that have weighed grievously on my mind since Vietnam times. But as my 94-year-old mom says, if you live long enough you’ll see everything. Anyway, for me personal honesty transcends categories. The WSJ was sufficiently concerned about the convergence of right and left anti-imperialists to editorialize about it some months ago.

If I have time I may send in a few words about the convergence and the differences. (My own field is Asian Studies.) One obvious difference perhaps is the time line: many on the “left” see the problem beginning to unfold immediately after W.W.II, e.g. Truman’s bringing French forces into Vietnam in the fall of 1945 and getting involved in China’s civil war at that time. But there are many ways to segment the time line on all sides of the issues. Some of the contributors may be interested in Ross and Ross, eds. Anti-Americanism (Duke Press, November 2004), or an earlier collection Learning Places, Miyoshi and Harootunian, eds.

~ Moss Roberts

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

I appreciate the reader’s comments.

Back before conservatives morphed into Brownshirts, they were interested in debate. In those days, it was the left that was cocksure. Today it is the neocon nazis who are cocksure. I never gave up on debate, persuasion and learning from one’s opponents. The Bush people don’t want to know. They just want to do. Very dangerous for our country.

“However, Bush’s neoconservative masters will use his reelection as a mandate for further violence in the Middle East. They intend to set the U.S. on a course of long and debilitating war.”

I recognize that Bush has “masters.” I call them “puppet masters,” some like-minded folks call them “insiders” or “the powers that be.” I consider Cheney, in fact, to be one of Bush’s masters, or handlers. I believe he is a lightweight surrounded by more heavyweight handlers. I’d appreciate your thoughts on who some of the “top dogs” are.

~ Ralph Hughes, Mesa, Arizona

Paul Craig Roberts replies:

The top dogs are Bush’s neoconservative appointees, VP Cheney, the Israeli lobby, the corporate multinationals who are moving production for the US market offshore. Their propaganda organs are Fox “news,” CNN, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, National Review, Weekly Standard, talk radio, the Washington Times, the New York Post and the concentrated corporate media. The “liberal media” has done a disappearing act.

Democracy Deployed

You are not defending Serbia and Serbs if you “silently” defend Milosevic. Many people suffered because of him as well as many people suffer now because of the decisions of the Empire. But, these are two different things and should be discussed separately.

~ Andrej Loncar

Nebojsa Malic replies:

If by “silently defending” Milosevic you are referring to my claim that it will never be known whether he tried to steal the election of 2000, then am defending him, yes – and not at all silently. For there is no evidence that he did so, apart from the ballots – which burned in the sack of the Skupshtina. I do not have the slightest doubt that many people in Serbia reviled Milosevic, and that they had good reasons for thinking so. Nor do I question that among those who demonstrated in October 2000 were many such honest opponents of Milosevic. For some time now, however, I have hinted that their efforts were hijacked by shady political and criminal figures thirsting for power, funded and helped by the Empire. American and British press just about admitted so, and I’ve quoted them on numerous occasions. So, October 5 was the work of both the enraged people and “traitors” denounced by Milosevic. It isn’t a tragedy for Serbia that the traitors triumphed over Milosevic, but that they triumphed over the people. It did not take long for the Dossies to disappoint the demos, with their rampant disregard for law, serial scandals and outright service to the Empire. That is why they were thrown out of power last winter, and why so many have voted for the Radicals for these past four years. When I criticize DOS and the Empire, I do so on the merit – or lack thereof – of their own actions; Milosevic has nothing to do with it.

The Sweetheart Contract With Sharon

The past few years have found me agreeing more and more with Mr. Buchanan’s articles, at least those dealing with U.S. intervention. However, I was disappointed in Mr. Buchanan’s recent article regarding Yasser Arafat, where he gives credence, without question, to the Clinton-Barak story that Arafat was offered 95% of the West Bank and Gaza. Gush-Shalom, the committed Israeli peace group, has a wonderful article and map detailing what Barak’s “generous offer” actually was.

~ Nathan S.

They’re Gonna Like Us, Really Like Us

Almost 30 years ago I went to the USA for my graduate education and I got one of the finest ones; it was worth every effort I made. Back in my country since then I kept telling the young people what America was like in those days. Now I will keep the article written by C.J. Maloney so the future generation can understand what was the cause of the fall. ¬°Brillante y Emocionante!

~ Miguel Guerrero

Iraqis Remove Corpses Under US Oversight

A quote from the article “Iraqis Remove Corpses Under US Oversight” by Edward Harris, Associated Press writer, reporting about the “clean-up” after Fallujah devastation:

“This exemplifies the horrors of war,” said Marine Capt. P.J. Batty, from Park City, Utah, of the body pickup. “We don’t wish this upon anyone, but everyone needs to understand there are consequences for not following the Iraqi government.”

Well, I bet Saddam Hussein used the same words.

~ Andrea Guazzotti

Jasmine B.’s Backtalk

For the benefit of Jasmine B. who recently raised the matter of “admissons” by the Bosnian Serbs about Srebrenica, it might interest you that at the URL below you will find a scanned copy of a secret Srebrenica report. Srebrenica is another tool in the demonization of Serbs and the longer the truth about it is hidden the more chance Clintonites and Blairites have to keep the Serbs demonized. Without Srebrenica they have almost nothing to wield – that’s why they manipulate it the way they do.

Pdf file:

~ Anna Pullinger

Arafat and Vanunu: Two Prisoners of War

This is yet another of Justin’s splendid articles. There are very few books written on Israel’s nuclear weapons program and the illegal U.S. collusion that made it possible. Two favorites are The Samson Option by Seymour Hersh and Dangerous Liaison by L. & A. Cockburn. Despite being illegal, US officials in the LBJ administration either looked the other way or actually colluded in helping Israel attain its nuclear arsenal. Washington has waged two wars against Iraq justified by falsely claiming Saddam had WMDs when in truth in that area only Israel has them. There are many interesting items in the Hersh book but one that displayed US hypocrisy more than most others was when a co-author of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, Senator Symington, was told Israel was already making nuclear weapons he replied, “Tell Israel to keep making them.” (Hersh, page 119.) …

~ SB Jr.

Police State USA

My husband and I visited Washington, D.C. in February and found exactly what you described in this article. Between us we have over 20 years of military service, and never have we felt so unwelcome at any place. Not only were we continually searched, but the attitude of the security forces at every public institution or landmark we arrived at was at the very least, rude and intolerant. Some thanks for the countless events we have missed, times we have left our families behind, packed and unpacked, lived from paycheck to paycheck and endured years of separation in the name of freedom.

~ R. Revell

Peter J. Paola’s Backtalk

“The facts: a 3.5 million vote margin in the popular vote – the greatest in the history of presidential elections.”

No, Clinton won in 1996 by 7.2 million, in 1992 by 5.8 million, Bush Sr. in 1988 by 7 million, Reagan in 1984 by almost 17 million, Reagan in 1980 by 8.4 million, and Nixon in 1972 by almost 18 million.

In fact, since 1920, there have only been five (maybe six) elections closer than that of 2004 in terms of the absolute popular vote margin: 1948, 1960, 1968, 1976, 2000 (1944 may also have a closer margin after all of the votes in 2004 are counted). This is before taking into account the fact that there are four times as many voters today as there were in 1920.

(Statistics from Dave Leip’s Atlas of US Presidential Elections.)

~ Michael J. Jose, The Glaivester

Abolish the CIA!

If back in 1953 the young CIA was already smart enough to invent the term “blowback” to express concern about “unintended consequences of covert operations,” what would make it difficult for the mature CIA in 2001 to invent the practice of politically expedient fake blowback? The picture this article present of the CIA’s maturation process in deploying covert actions around the world as a degenerative one, because it only increased the probability of various blowbacks, is utterly unconvincing. Actually, the image of incompetent CIA (e.g., supposedly really bombing the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade because of faulty maps etc.) is just as cartoonishly nonsensical as the proposition that there exists a real threat to the only superpower from a bunch of destitute, cave-inhabiting would be plotters in the most inhospitable quarters of the planet.

The CIA needs to be abolished not because it is incompetent or dangerous for Americans, but because it is devious.

~ JA, Belgrade

The Abu Ghraib Prison Photos

The sight of the startling photos from Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison drew me back to the dungeons from which I thought I had been liberated forever. I am an Argentine physicist who was politically involved in opposing the last dictatorship in my country (1976-1983). For this reason I was abducted and held prisoner – without formal charge – in five different secret and clandestine concentration camps, from November 1977 until August 1981. For almost four years I was a “desaparecido.” …

In the Abu Ghraib photos I saw the same sordid corridors, the same barred doors and the same terrified faces of prisoners I knew from the Argentinean camps. I saw my own face and that of my old fellow prisoners. The photos of naked and hooded prisoners reminded me of my own hood and humiliation, of the attempt to destroy me by depersonalizing me. I again felt the unmistakable stench of fear. Piled up naked prisoners – some of them bloodstained – reminded me of being part of a similar pile, hooded and punched by the guards, while they laughed at us and mocked us, with some of them even walking over that human mountain wearing their jackboots.

These methods dehumanize executioners too. I have seen many of them laughing, mocking and celebrating before the corpse of a prisoner who had died while being tortured. And again I remembered those events when I saw the photos of Spc. Charles Graner and Spc. Sabrina Harman, of the 372 Military Police Company, who were celebrating next to the corpse of the Iraqi Mandel Al Jamadi, who died while a U.S. prisoner. Those Argentinean torturers and these executioners were enjoying the pain, suffering and death of their victims, rather than the information supposedly being pulled out of them. Corpses do not confess.

In every case, cruel and inhuman treatment has been justified by the need to obtain information that might prove significant to pursuing counterinsurgency or anti-terrorist aims but, as some of my own torturers confessed to me, the information thus obtained ends up not being reliable at all (a conclusion reached also by a Pentagon work-group).

If torture and mistreatment are useless to obtain reliable information, what are they good for? Maybe to terrorize the victims as well as instill fear on the population at large by unofficially leaking information about such acts until they become public knowledge while officially denying them. The intention to fight terrorism with terror amounts to fighting cannibals by eating them. The only goal you achieve is the spread of cannibalism.

Military personnel and government officials have tried to deny that U.S. forces were using torture. There is, however, a great deal of evidence on the contrary. When speaking about tough interrogation techniques, for instance, Lt. Col. Diane E. Beaver, then legal adviser at Guantanamo, declared that “these and other techniques – including interrogation along 20 hours, aggressions with light and sound, exposure to cold and water – were legal.” She remarked that these could be used with proper supervision and well trained interrogators as long as an important governmental objective was being pursued and they were not carried out with the intention of doing harm or causing mental suffering! This statement simply amazed me. It appears that even the boundaries of cynicism were being crossed.

When cruel interrogation methods are applied to persons considered hard-core terrorists, torturers certainly are not likely to respect any boundaries because they think these methods to be effective only when the victim feels they are being applied beyond his/ her tolerance, as I frequently heard them admit it, and also experienced myself.

It is paradoxical that, from a country such the United States of America, which stands as a pioneer of modern democracies, also would arrive political, economic, and military support for dictatorships in Latin America and elsewhere. Several of my torturers boasted about having being trained at the School of the Americas – in Panama –, which depended on the Southern Command of the US Army. Also paradoxical is the fact that, in the name of democracy and freedom torture and crime can be committed. …

In 1978, the Italian General Carlo Alberto Della Chiesa, director of the inquiry into the kidnapping of the then Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro, abducted by the guerrilla group “Brigatte Rosse,” replied to those clamoring for torture on a guerrilla prisoner in order to obtain information that might lead them to Moro: “Italy can survive the loss of Aldo Moro, but would not survive torture.”

As long as terror is an accepted strategy to combat terrorists, the construction of a free and democratic society will be undermined instead of defended. Aldo Moro was assassinated, but the “Brigatte Rosse” were defeated and Italy survived as a democracy. If torture spreads as acceptable method in the globalization era, will democracy survive in the U.S. and the rest of the world?

~ Mario C. Villani


Again, I am forced to write to protest the editor’s incompetence concerning the Russian/ Belorussian questions.

It seems odd that’s relentless and enjoyable assault on the neocon cabal in DC does not seem to reach Minsk or Moscow. There, it seems, the neocons do, after all, know what they’re talking about.

Just a few facts. Vladimir Putin is overseeing a Russia resurgent. He has taken inflation from 2500% (no kidding, under Yeltsin in the 1990s) to roughly 7% in just a few years. Unemployment is plummeting. The economy is growing, year-on-year, about 14% (and that includes only the aboveboard economy), making it one of the fastest growing economies in the world. He has stood fast against NATO and the neocons who run it. He has exiled the hated media magnates and nationalized their anti-Russian media empires. In short, he is wildly popular, and is the envy of every other world leader in existence. If he were to run for President today, he would get about 85% of the vote without campaigning.

It is because of this that he can do as he pleases. His desire to appoint regional governors is not about terror (’tis true, he really needs to hire Ruder-Finn), but about the fear that these local lords might make “separate deals” with the west for control over Russia’s natural resources. This is truly a threat to the economic health of Russia and needed to be addressed quickly. It might also be interesting to note that not a peep of protest was heard from these regional governors, and many actively supported the measure.

Oh, and, by the way, the Washington Times column on Putin did not mention that the regional governors appointed by Putin must be accepted by the local legislatures. He cannot appoint them or remove them “at will.” It is because of Putin’s successes that he is loathed by the west. It is because he stands fast against western capitalists buying up Russia’s oil and gas wealth that he is hated and called a “dictator.” He is hated because he nationalized a media empire partially owned by the Washington Post. He is hated because he is running a nationalist, and not a cosmopolitan, economy, and is amazingly successful at it, contrary to all the Harvard-penned predictions, and, yes, to libertarian economic theory.

He is hated because he won a staring contest with Ariel Sharon over missiles Putin sent to Syria. The list can continue.

One principle that would do well: please do not run anything by the Washington Times – ever. They are a major mouthpiece for the neocon establishment that rejects (except when they talk about Russia, I guess).

Please, guys, be more careful in the future.

~ M. Raphael Johnson, Ph.D., Washington DC

I did combat duty in Vietnam, so I have earned the right to criticize Bush policy. Our invasion of Iraq was illegal and unjustified. Let’s back our troops, of course, but let us start calling the “insurgents” what they deserve: the “resistance” or “nationalists.”

~ RT Carpenter

Ohio decided the election.

Ohio is full of socially conservative blue-collar workers. The type of people who might have been seriously torn between Bush and Kerry for various reasons.

Obviously, Kerry was an undesirable poster boy for liberalism, but of the two candidates, he WAS the antiwar candidate, and – much more likely – the less dangerous of the two men.

I cannot help but speculate that Patrick J. Buchanan’s ill-conceived endorsement of George W. Bush played a role in the final outcome of the race. I am disturbed, indeed, offended, that Mr. Buchanan allowed himself to be made a puppet of the Republican Party the way that he did. I have no idea what his motivations were, but he has lost credibility with me, for all time. And I am not only a past supporter of Mr. Buchanan, but a past contributor to his political websites, and a former cover artist for several issues of his magazine. Never again.

Libertarians, for all their faults, are genuine people. Conservatives, who are apparently desperate for media attention and Beltway social recognition, are not.

I have had it, personally, with any and all individuals who call themselves “conservative.” From this day forward I am a libertarian, and that is all that I am, politically.

I urge you, at, to consider taking a similar position.

~ Kevin Tuma

Previous Backtalk