Friday, March 27, 2009

Hysterica Passio

First published in The Moscow Times on October 22, 2004.

Now we come at last to the heart of darkness. Now we know, from their own words, that the Bush Regime is a cult — a cult whose god is Power, whose adherents believe that they alone control reality, that indeed they create the world anew with each act of their iron will. And the goal of this will — undergirded by the cult’s supreme virtues of war, fury and blind faith — is likewise openly declared: "Empire." You think this is an exaggeration? Then heed the words of the White House itself: a "senior adviser" to the president, who, as The New York Times reports, explained the cult to author Ron Suskind in the heady pre-war days of 2002.

First, the top Bush insider mocked the journalist and all those "in what we call the reality-based community," i.e., people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." Suskind’s attempt to defend the principles of reason and enlightenment cut no ice with the Bush-man. "That’s not the way the world really works anymore. We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality," he said. "And while you’re studying that reality, we’ll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that’s how things will sort out. We’re history’s actors ... and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

Anyone with any knowledge of 20th-century history will know that this same megalomaniacal outburst could have been made by a "senior adviser" to Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini or Mao. Indeed, as scholar Juan Cole points out, the dogma of the Bush Cult is identical with the "reality-creating" declaration of Mao’s "Little Red Book": "It is possible to accomplish any task whatsoever." For Bush, as for Mao, "discernible reality" has no meaning: Political, cultural, economic, scientific truth — even the fundamental processes of nature, even human nature itself — must give way to the faith-statements of ideology, ruthlessly applied by unbending zealots.

Thus: The conquered will welcome their killers. The poor will be happy to slave for the rich. The Earth can sustain any amount of damage without lasting harm. The loss of rights is essential to liberty. War without end is the only way to peace. Cronyism is the path to universal prosperity. Dissent is evil; dissenters are "with the terrorists." But God is with the Leader; whatever he does is righteous, even if in the eyes of unbelievers — the "reality-based community" — his acts are criminal: aggressive war that kills thousands of innocent people, widespread torture, secret assassinations, rampant corruption, electoral subversion.

Indeed, the doctrine "Gott mit Uns" is the linchpin of the Bush Cult. Tens of millions of Americans have now embraced the Cult’s fusion of Bush’s leadership with Divine Will. As a Bush volunteer in Missouri told Suskind: "I just believe God controls everything, and God uses the president to keep evil down ... God gave us this president to be the man to protect the nation at this time." God appointed Bush; thus Bush’s acts are godly. It’s a circular, self-confirming mind-set that can’t be penetrated by reason or facts, can’t be shaken by crimes and scandals. That’s why Bush’s core support — comprising almost half of the electorate — stays rock-solid, despite the manifest failures of his administration. It’s based on blind faith, on poisonous fantasy: simple, flattering ("We’re uniquely good, God’s special nation!"), comforting, complete — so unlike the harsh, bewildering, splintered shards of reality.

This closed mind-set is constantly reinforced by the ubiquitous right-wing media — evoking the threat of demonic enemies on every side, relentlessly manufacturing righteous outrage — and by Bush’s appearances (epiphanies?) at his carefully screened rallies, where even the slightest hint of demurral from his Godly greatness is ruthlessly expunged. For example, three schoolteachers were ejected from a Bush rally under threat of arrest last week. Not for protesting — they hadn’t said a word — but merely for wearing T-shirts that read, "Protect Our Civil Liberties." Thus the faithful "create the new reality" of undivided loyalty to the Leader.

The dogma of Bush’s godliness is no rhetorical flourish; it has been forged with blood and iron. Consider General Jerry Boykin, who, in uniform, toured churches across the United States, declaring openly that "George W. Bush was not elected by the majority of the American people; he was appointed by God" to lead his "Christian nation" against Satan and the "idol-worshippers" of Islam, as reports. Bush then made Boykin the Pentagon’s chief of military intelligence — the point man for wringing information out of Islamic captives in the "war on terror." The result — confirmed even by the Pentagon’s own anemic investigations — was a military intelligence system gone berserk, systematically torturing and occasionally murdering prisoners who, as the Red Cross notes, were overwhelmingly innocent of any crime. Bush signed orders removing these prisoners from the protection of U.S. and international law; Boykin’s boys then visited divine wrath upon the heathens. But these atrocities cannot be crimes, because Bush and Boykin are, in the general’s phraseology, "Kingdom warriors" in the "Army of God."

This isn’t politics as usual — not even an extreme version of it, not McCarthyism revisited, Reaganism times two, or Nixon in a Stetson hat. There’s never been anything like it in American life before: a messianic cult backed by vast corporate power, a massive cadre of religious zealots, a highly disciplined party, an overwhelming media machine and the mammoth force of history’s most powerful government — all led by men who "create new realities" out of lies, blood, theft and torment.

Their "empire" — their Death-Cult, their power-mania — is an old madness rising again.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

No Direction Home: The Red Wheel of War Crime Keeps Rolling

Original version published April 16, 2004, in The Moscow Times.

As the red wheel of Operation Iraqi FUBAR continues to roll, spewing hundreds of corpses in its wake, it becomes clearer by the hour that there is only one way for America to end this stomach-churning nightmare it has created: get out.

That's it. The occupying armies – including Bush's 20,000 corporate mercenaries – should leave now. They should never have been sent in the first place on this ghoul's errand: a war of aggression, a mission of murder and plunder – the perversion of every enlightened value of the civilization that the Coalition's "Christian leaders" purport to defend.

And what a sickening spectacle these "leaders" presented last weekend: George W. Bush and Tony Blair piously kneeling in prayer on Easter Sunday, pledging their fealty to Jesus Christ and His teaching of mercy and lovingkindness – while ordering missile strikes on crowded cities, while filling hospitals with the mutilated bodies of young children, while shoveling fat war profits to their cronies and contributors. Only the most craven, bootlicking sycophant could fail to be revolted at the hypocrisy of these murderous cynics. They are a perfect match in moral idiocy for their crack-brained brother-in-arms, Osama bin Laden.

Their chest-beating pronouncements about "staying the course" and "seeing it through" are just so much rag-chewing nonsense. The way to rectify a crime is not to keep doing it – or in John Kerry's ludicrous formulations, to keep doing it in some different, "better" way – but simply to stop doing it. The illegal invasion was a crime, the occupation is a crime, and if you would not be a criminal, you must stop committing crimes.

The reprisal in Fallujah is a perfect example. Late last month, a four-day U.S. military incursion there – totally ignored in the "Coalition" press – left 18 Iraqis dead. Days later, four American mercenaries were killed and their bodies desecrated – a savage act by a small, angry crowd. Now, in retaliation for those four deaths, U.S. forces have killed more than 600 people, including many women and children. This isn't justice, this is collective punishment – disproportionate, indiscriminate, just as the Nazis practiced it during their "liberation" of Europe.

With each new reprisal, each act of repression, each killing of an innocent person – even unintentionally – Bush is recruiting vast cadres of new fighters, and an even larger pool of passive support, for the armies of Islamic extremism. America – and the world – will be reaping this whirlwind for generations.

The only solution that might, just might, offer some slim hope would be the immediate withdrawal of Coalition forces and their replacement with a much larger United Nations force – made up of troops from counties acceptable to the Iraqis – to provide security and stability while the Iraqis themselves reconstruct their society, hold elections, etc. America and its war allies would have nothing to do with this stabilization force, beyond helping to fund and supply it.
The departing Americans should then give the $18 billion slush fund now earmarked for Bush's "reconstruction" bagmen to the Iraqi people, as reparations for the Coalition's war crime. Iraq's foreign loans, procured by Saddam Hussein from sugar daddies like George Bush I, should be written off – and all of Little Bush's imperial edicts opening Iraq's economy for despoilation by his cronies should be rescinded. The United States and Britain should also be prepared to take in the vast horde of refugees who will flee the hardline Islamic regime that will doubtless be created in the ruins Bush has made of the once-secular state.

As for the "leaders" who committed this crime, there is only one thing left for them to do now, only one way for them to serve the people they have betrayed so vilely and stupidly. All of them – Bush, Blair, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condi Rice, Paul Wolfowitz, Colin Powell, Geoff Hoon, Jack Straw, Richard Perle, the whole sick crew – should pick up a rifle and go to the front lines in Fallujah and Baghdad. Let them take the places of the young men and young women who signed up as soldiers to defend their country or make a better life for themselves – not to become pawns and killers for the Hitlerite ambitions of the bloodsoaked fools who threw them into this quagmire.

Yes, Hitlerite ambitions: dreams of global dominance, fetishes of militarism, fantasies of superiority, and the willingness to impose your self-serving vision of "universal truth" – in this case, the rapacious crony capitalism that Bush has officially named "the single sustainable model of national success" – at the barrel of a gun. That's what lies behind this madness.

As we've noted so often here before – and will ring the bell one more time – the conquest of Iraq has nothing to do with terrorism or liberation or WMD or national security or Arab democracy or Bush family revenge. It's been planned for years by Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and other Bush retainers, planned openly, and for one reason only: to give the United States direct military control of the Middle East in order to dominate global economic and political life for "the New American Century." This need was so great, said the group – openly, in September 2000 – that it "transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." It wouldn't have mattered if Saddam had found Jesus, or freed his people, or set himself on fire in Madison Square Garden: the Bushists were always going to invade and occupy Iraq – always, no matter what.

So they'll never embrace any sensible solution for getting out. The red wheel will just keep rolling on, spewing thousands more unnecessary deaths – until those rabid Easter Bunnies, Bush and Blair, finally FUBAR themselves into the inevitable, ignominious retreat.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Annotations for Master Plan

Court Rules Military Panels to Try Detainees
Washington Post, July 16, 2005

Domination by Detention
Deep Blade Journaly, July 16, 2005

Dark Passage: The Bush Faction's Blueprint for Empire
Excerpt from the book, Empire Burlesque

Ruling Lets U.S. Restart Trials at Guantanamo
New York Times, July 16, 2005

Alberto Gonzales' Tortured Arguments for Reigning Above the Law
LA Weekly, Jan. 14-20, 2005

Torture Treaty Doesn't Bar `Cruel, Inhuman' Tactics, Gonzales Says
Knight-Ridder, Jan. 26, 2005

Bush Has Widened Authority of CIA to Kill TerroristsNew York Times, Dec. 15, 2002

Special Ops Get OK to Initiate Its Own Missions,
Washington Times, Jan. 8, 2003

Coward's War in Yemen,
Spiked, Nov. 11, 2002

Drones of Death,
The Guardian, Nov. 6, 2002,3604,834290,00.html

Bush Planned Iraq 'Regime Change' Before Becoming President
Glasgow Sunday Herald, Sept. 15, 2002

Rebuilding America's Defenses
Project for a New Century, September 2000

Statement of Principles
Project for a New American Century, June 3, 1997

National Security Strategy of the United States
The White House, September 2002

Memo Regarding Presidential Executive Order on Interrogations
Federal Bureau of Investigation, May 22, 2004

Gonzales Excludes CIA from Rules on Prisoners
New York Times, Jan. 20, 2005

The Secret World of US JailsThe Observer, June 13, 2004,12469,1237650,00.html

The Torture Memos: A Legal Narrative
CounterPunch, Feb. 2, 2005

CIA Takes on Major Military Role: 'We're Killing People!
Boston Globe, Jan. 20, 2002

"Our Designated KillersVillage Voice, Feb. 14, 2003

A U.S. License to Kill
Village Voice, Feb. 21, 2003
CIA Weighs 'Targeted Killing' Missions
Washington Post, Oct. 27, 2001

US Again Uses Enemy Combatant Label to Deny Basic Rights
Human Rights Watch, June 23, 2003

[Bush Order] Lets CIA Freely Send Suspects to Foreign Jails
New York Times, March 6, 2005

Review: Torture and Truth and The Torture Papers
The New Statesman, March 7, 2005

The Torture Papers: Full Faith and Credit of the U.S. Government
San Diego Union-Tribune, Feb. 27, 2005

Friday, May 06, 2005

Ring Them Bells: Deadly Hypocrisy is Business as Usual

An occupational hazard of dissidence in the Age of Bush is the unavoidable necessity of belaboring the obvious. Again and again, you must ring the same bell; over and over, you must repeat the same, blatant irrefutable fact: that George W. Bush and his ghastly minions are lying hypocrites with blood on their hands.

But what can you do? Each week – each day – brings fresh confirmation of this damning truth. And until the American people redeem their lost national honor by rising up in their millions – taking to the streets with the patriotic cry, "These murderous jackals no longer represent us!" – the Bush crimes will go on, and must be documented. So grab the bell-rope: here we go again.

Last week saw a bumper crop of death-dealing hypocrisy, as the freedom-lovin', terrorist-fightin' he-men of the Bush Regime were caught in flagrante delicto with some rough trade indeed: genocidal rape-fiends, diabolical flesh-boilers and tyrannical peddlers of violent, ignorant religious extremism. (And no, it wasn't a meeting of the Republican National Committee.)

First the Bushists rolled out the red carpet for one of Osama bin Laden's former partners, Sudan's intelligence chief Salah Abdallah Gosh, the Los Angeles Times reports. Gosh was Osama's designated minder in the 1990s, when the ex-CIA ally was comfortably ensconced in Sudan. Gosh is also accused – by members of his own government– of directing military attacks on civilians in Sudan's Darfur region, where the Janjaweed militia is carrying out a government-backed "ethnic cleansing" program of rape, pillage and murder against the region's black Muslims. At least 400,000 people have died in the carnage, with 2 million more driven into exile.

Last year, the Bush Regime itself officially declared the Darfur despoliation a "genocide," and called Gosh's gang of terrorist-coddling goons "an extraordinary threat" to America's national security. But that was before the 2004 election, when Bush had to drag his "compassionate conservative" crapola out of mothballs for a few months to mollify soccer moms distressed at the pictures they saw on CNN of those poor little Ewoks dying in – where was it? Biafra? Burundi? Rwanda? Rangoon? Once Bush had his teeny-tiny mandate in hand, it was back to business.

That's oil business, of course. Sudan has become one of the chess pieces in the "Great Game" of petropolitics, as the "full spectrum dominators" of the Bush Regime plant their "military footprints" all over the globe in a relentless crusade to stem the inexorable rise of China and India as rivals to "the world's only superpower." It just so happens that China has become the leading player in Sudan's burgeoning oil industry, securing fat concessions in choice fields. Gosh and his goon squads gorge on these oil profits to fuel their mass terrorism in Darfur. Now Bush wants a piece of that action; and if he has to abet the murder of a few hundred thousand desert darkies to get it, who cares? (Certainly not those soccer moms, now fretting about high gas prices for their SUVs: "Get us more cheap oil, Georgie, pronto!")

And so Bush has bedded down with Gosh, who for his part is happy to swap a minor league privateer like Osama for a big-time state terrorist with unlimited resources. Gosh was flown to Washington for high-level "consultations" with his new partners in the CIA – just as the Sudanese government was announcing that "abundant" oil reserves have been found in Darfur, the Sudan Tribune reports. At the very same time, Bush moved – secretly – to gut legislation that would freeze financial assets of the genocidists and increase international protection for Darfur's people, the New York Times reports. Happy coincidences all around!

Meanwhile, the killing in Sudan goes on. Just days before Gosh's extra-special visit, the Janjaweed launched a "senseless and premeditated attack" in Darfur, "burning everything in their paths and leaving in their wake total destruction," Amnesty International reports. What's more, Bush's new allies in Khartoum knew the attack was coming and deliberately blocked African Union peacekeepers from intervening. But the cries of the raped and dying never reached Washington, where Gosh and the Bushists were happily plotting "joint security operations" – and no doubt divvying up the new Darfur oilfields.

How is such two-faced cynicism possible? It's easy: the Bushists don't regard the people of Darfur as human beings, unique individuals of infinite worth and intrinsic value. They're just counters in the game of greed and power, to be shifted or discarded as the need arises.

The same holds true for the people of Uzbekistan, now being abducted, tortured and boiled alive by Bush buddy Islam Karimov. Last week, Bush's "strategic relationship" with the Uzbek Boiler was laid bare in rich detail by the New York Times. Bush has lavished more than $500 million on Karimov's marauding security services, In return, he tortures Bush's own abducted, uncharged, "rendered" prisoners, while providing the Pentagon with a big ole "footprint" for dominating Central Asian oil. Again, the individuals being served up for Tashkent gumbo don't matter; only the game is important.

Bush capped Hypocrisy Week by strolling hand-in-hand with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah: de facto ruler of the fiercest religious tyranny on earth; mentor to the Taliban; global propagator of the vicious Wahhabi distortion of Islam; fount of corruption, bribery and baksheesh; longtime Bush Family business partner. With his warm embrace of the hereditary despot, Bush gave the lie to months of high-flown jive about lighting "fires of freedom" in the Middle East. As always, Bush's real message to those longing for liberty, at home and abroad, was clear as a bell:

"Tough luck, suckers."

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Some Direction Home: Following Bob Dylan Down the Old Plank Road

There's a legend in my family that we are kin to Uncle Dave Macon. We are for certain distant cousins to the Macons of Wilson County – and Uncle Dave lived in the next county over. My parents met him once, driving to his farm one afternoon when they were teenagers, not yet married. This was not too long before his death.

They found him sitting in a rocking chair on the front porch. He greeted the young strangers like the kinfolk one of them might well have been, invited them into the house, showed them his memorabilia, and gave my mother – definitely one of "them pretty girls from Tennessee" he sang about so often – a small, delicate glass deer as a memento of the visit. Back out on the porch, he picked up his banjo and did a couple of comic numbers from the rocking chair, feet keeping time on the wooden boards. There looked to be some whisky in his friendly manner, they said; perhaps a noonday dram before they had arrived.

It was all over soon enough, but a photograph survives to record the event, a black-and-white print taken with my mother's camera. Uncle Dave is in the rocking chair, legs crossed, battered hat perched on his head, banjo in his lap. His face is puffy, pitted, cadaverous; the fire that had stoked him since his hot young days – in the still-churning wake of the Civil War – is finally going out. A dying man, from a dying world.

But he played for the young folks anyway, out of courtesy, for the hell of it, conjuring up another reality out of rhythm, strings and joyful noise, then letting it dissolve into the air. "Won't get drunk no more, won't get drunk no more, won't get drunk no more, way down the old plank road…"


Despite the reputed kinship and this ancestral encounter, the first Uncle Dave Macon song I ever actually heard was one recorded by Bob Dylan: "Sarah Jane." This was on the "revenge" album of out-takes and studio warm-ups that Columbia Records put out after Dylan temporarily left the fold in the early Seventies. When I first heard the song, I thought Dylan had written it himself; certainly the line, "I got a wife and five little children," sung with such full-throated exuberance, seemed like straight autobiography. I didn't realize then the kind of alchemy Dylan could work on other people's songs, how he could make them his own, right down to the marrow.

Like most people who get into Dylan, at first I was dazzled by the originality of his vision, his words, the brilliant fragments of his own kaleidoscopic personality as they were lit up in turn by each new style, each different take or tonal mood. His work seemed a perfect embodiment of the Romantic ideal: art as the vibrant expression of the self – defiant, heroic, fiercely personal. But while that stance is as valid as most of the other illusions that sustain us, it only takes you so far. What I've come to realize over the years is that Dylan's music is not primarily about expressing yourself – it's about losing yourself, escaping the self and all its confusions, corruptions, pettiness and decay. It's about getting to some place far beyond the self, "where nature neither honors nor forgives." Dylan gives himself up to the song, and to the deeper reality it creates in the few charged moments of its existence. We can step through the door he opens to that far place and see what happens.

Dylan's words – original, striking, piercing, apt – are marvelous, of course. Like Shakespeare's, they knit themselves into your consciousness, become part of the way you see and speak the world. But the alchemy lies in the performance. The phrasing is more important than the phrases, no matter who happened to write them. The grain in his voice – the jagged edge that catches and tears at the weave of life as it flies past – is what moves us through that open door. Along with the music, obviously: the mathematical and emotional interplay among the musicians, shaped by Dylan's guiding will. When it all works, and it usually does, it's artistry of the highest order. As they say back home, you can't beat it with a stick.


You can follow Dylan through many doors, into many realms: the disordered sensuality of Symbolist poetry, the high bohemia and low comedy of the Beats and Brecht, the guilt-ridden, God-yearning psalms of King David, the Gospel road of Jesus Christ, the shiv-sharp romance of Bogart and Bacall. There's Emerson in there, too, Keats, Whitman, even Rilke if you look hard enough: fodder for a thousand footnotes, signposts to a hundred sources of further enlightenment.

But if you go far enough with Dylan, he'll always lead you back to the old music. This is the foundation, the deepest roots of his art, of his power. For me, as for so many people, he was the spirit guide to this other world, this vanished heritage. He has somehow – well, not just "somehow," but through hard work and endless absorption – managed to keep the tradition alive. Not as a museum piece, not like a zoo animal, but as a free, thriving, unpredictable beast, still on the prowl, still extending its range.

Early on, Dylan realized that the essence of the old music was not to be found in the particular styles of picking and singing rigorously classified by the ethnographers and carefully preserved by purists. Traditional music was idiosyncratic, created by thousands of unique individuals working their personal artistry on whatever musical materials came to hand, in cotton fields, coal mines, granges, churches, factories, ports, city streets and country roads. Who else in the world ever sounded like Roscoe Holcomb or Charley Patton? Their art was as distinctive as that of Beethoven and Chopin, who also drew on traditional elements to make their music.

No, what the old music held in common, what made it penetrating and great, was not some mythological collective origin or expression of sociocultural mores; it was a shared DNA of fundamental themes, fundamental truths – the double helix of joy and mortality, threaded like twine, tangled like snakes, inextricable, irresolvable. It was this genetic code that Dylan used to grow his own art, in its own unique forms.

Joy and mortality: the psychic pain of being alive, your mind and senses flooded with exquisite wonders, miraculous comprehensions – and the simultaneous knowledge of death, the relentless push of time, the fleeting nature of every single experience, every situation, every moment, dying even as it rises. There's pain waiting somewhere – from within or without – in every joy, a canker in every rose we pluck from the ground of being.

This awareness shadows the old music – deepens it, gives it the bite of eternal truth. It's there even in the joyful noise of Uncle Dave Macon, so happy that he whoops out "Kill yourself!" in manic glee as he gallops down the old plank road. Yet in the songs that deal directly with this shadow, such as the blues, full of hard knowledge, hard pain, the very act of singing that pain gives rise to a subtle joy, and a kind of solace. The old songs, and the ones Dylan has built upon them, create another reality, an impossible reconciliation, where time stands still, life and death embrace, decay is banished, and all our pettiness, our evil urges, our confusions are arrested and transcended. Until, of course, the song itself, being mortal, fades away as the music ends.


Dylan's music can provide a doorway out of yourself – "a pathway that leads up to the stars" – but it can also help bring you back to yourself, to what you should be doing with your life: attending to these eternal truths, trying to take that code and carry it forward, pass it along, using whatever materials – musical or otherwise – that your life and history and inclinations have given you. In this case, Dylan brought me back to my own heritage; it was decades after hearing his "Sarah Jane" that I first mentioned Uncle Dave Macon to my father and heard the story of that long-ago visit, and was given the photograph to keep, and pass on.

Perhaps the kind of transcendence I've talked about here only works if you're a certain kind of person, with your nerves aligned in a certain way, attuned to a certain signal. Perhaps it's all a happenstance of biochemistry. I don't know. In a world where every understanding, no matter how profound, is provisional, temporary, clouded and corrupted, I wouldn't make universal claims for any particular path. I do think that the experience of the heightened reality offered by Dylan's music – and by all the places he leads us to – holds out the promise of a rough-hewn wisdom, something that can make us feel more alive while we're living, while our brief moment is passing.

Anyway, it works for me.

Chris Floyd
This is an extended version of a column originally published in The Moscow Times, Dec. 24, 2004. It is excerpted from the upcoming book, Encounters With Bob Dylan, Vol. II, edited by Tracy Johnson.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Sword Play: The Secret History of America's Terrorists (GLADIO)

From the Moscow Times, Feb. 18, 2005.

"You had to attack civilians, the people, women, children, innocent people, unknown people far removed from any political game. The reason was quite simple: to force…the public to turn to the state to ask for greater security."

This was the essence of Operation Gladio, a decades-long covert campaign of terrorism and deceit directed by the intelligence services of the West – against their own populations.
Hundreds of innocent people were killed or maimed in terrorist attacks – on train stations, supermarkets, cafes, offices – which were then blamed on "leftist subversives" or other political opponents. The purpose, as stated above in sworn testimony by Gladio agent Vincenzo Vinciguerra, was to demonize designated enemies and panic the public into supporting ever-increasing powers for government leaders – and their elitist cronies.

First revealed by Italian Prime Minister Giulio Andreotti in 1991, Gladio (from the Latin for "sword") is still protected to this day by its founding patrons, the CIA and MI6. Yet parliamentary investigations in Italy, Switzerland and Belgium have shaken out a few fragments of the truth over the years. These have been gathered in a new book, NATO's Secret Armies: Operation Gladio and Terrorism in Western Europe, by Daniele Ganser, as Lila Rajiva reports on

Originally set up as a network of clandestine cells to be activated behind the lines in case of a Soviet invasion of Western Europe, Gladio quickly expanded into a tool for political repression and manipulation, controlled and funded by NATO and Washington. Using right-wing militias, underworld figures, government provocateurs and secret military units, Gladio not only carried out widespread terrorism, assassinations and electoral subversion in democratic states like Italy, France and West Germany, but also bolstered fascist tyrannies in Spain and Portugal, abetted the military coup in Greece, and aided Turkey's ferocious repression of the Kurds. All of this in the name of "preserving democracy" and "defending civilization."

Among the "smoking guns" unearthed by Ganser is a Pentagon document, Field Manual FM 30-31B, which detailed the methodology for launching terrorist attacks in nations that "do not react with sufficient effectiveness" against "communist subversion." Ironically, the manual states that the most dangerous moment comes when leftist groups "renounce the use of force" and embrace the democratic process. It is then that "US army intelligence must have the means of launching special operations which will convince Host Country Governments and public opinion of the reality of the insurgent danger." Naturally, these peace-throttling "special operations must remain strictly secret," the document warns.

Indeed, it would not do for, say, the families of the 85 people ripped apart by the August 2, 1980 bombing of the Bologna train station to know that their loved ones had been murdered by "men inside Italian state institutions and…by men linked to the structures of United States intelligence," as the Italian Senate concluded after its investigation in 2000.

The Bologna atrocity is an example of what Gladio's masters called "the strategy of tension" – fomenting fear to keep populations in thrall to "strong leaders" who will protect the nation from the ever-present terrorist threat. And as Rajiva notes, this strategy wasn't limited to Western Europe. It was applied – with gruesome effectiveness – in Central America by the Reagan-Bush administrations. During the 1980s, rightwing death squads, guerrilla armies and state security forces – armed, trained and supplied by the United States – murdered tens of thousands of people throughout the region, often acting with particular savagery at those times when peaceful solutions to the conflicts seemed about to take hold.

Last month, it was widely reported that the Pentagon is considering a similar program in Iraq. What was not reported, however – except in the local Iraqi press – is that at least one pro-occupation death squad is already in operation. Just days after the Pentagon plans were revealed, a new militant group, "Saraya Iraqna," began offering big wads of American cash for insurgent scalps – up to $50,000, the Iraqi paper Al Ittihad reports. "Our activity will not be selective," the group promises: anyone they consider an enemy of the state will be fair game for the killing floor.

Strangely enough, just as it appears that the Pentagon is establishing Gladio-style operations in Iraq, there has been a sudden rash of terrorist attacks on outrageously provocative civilian targets, such as hospitals and schools, the Guardian reports. Coming just after national elections in which the majority faction supported slates calling for a speedy end to American occupation, the shift toward high-profile civilian slaughter has underscored the "urgent need" for U.S. forces to remain on the scene indefinitely, to provide security against the ever-present terrorist threat. Meanwhile, the Bushists continue constructing their long-sought permanent bases in Iraq: citadels to protect the oil that incoming Iraqi officials are promising to sell off to American corporations – and launching pads for new forays in geopolitical domination.

Perhaps it's just a coincidence. But the American elite's history of directing and fomenting terrorist attacks against friendly populations is so extensive – so ingrained and accepted – that it calls into question the origin of every terrorist act that roils the world. With each fresh atrocity, we're forced to ask: Was it the work of "genuine" terrorists or a "black op" by intelligence agencies – or both?

While not infallible, the ancient Latin question is still the best guide to penetrating the bloody murk of modern terrorism: Cui bono? Who benefits? Whose powers and policies are enhanced by the attack? For it is indisputable that the "strategy of tension" means power – and profit – for those who claim to possess the key to "security." And from the halls of the Kremlin to the banks of the Potomac, this cynical strategy is the ruling ideology of our times.

Chris Floyd

Tongues of Flame: Strange Doings at the Inauguration

"Keep thee far from a false matter; and the innocent and righteous slay thou not: for I will not justify the wicked." – Exodus 23:7

There was something strange – passing strange – about the sumptuous carnival mounted to celebrate George W. Bush's chokehold on power this week.

And it wasn't the fact that this $50 million extravaganza of corporate bribery and royal fawning took place against the stark backdrop of last week's news:

**the senseless bloodshed of Bush's failing war, its ostensible "cause" – the threat of Iraqi WMD -- confirmed, yet again, as a tissue of lies, this time by the final report of Bush's own weapons inspectors;
**the CIA's damning report confirming, yet again, that Bush's clumsy, criminal invasion has vastly increased the power, scope – and expertise – of Islamic terror; a torrent of new evidence confirming, yet again, the Bush Regime's systematic use of torture, kidnapping, and murder as sanctioned instruments of national policy;
**Bush's successful backroom effort to quash a Congressional attempt to put mild restraints on his worst atrocities;
**plans to build permanent "gulags" for the lifelong detention of uncharged, untried, arbitrarily designated enemies of the state;
**the sudden appearance of a new pro-government terrorist group in Iraq, the "Saraya Iraqna," offering wads of American cash for insurgent scalps – just days after the Pentagon floated the idea of funding "death squads" in the occupied land;
**the appointment of a sexually-obsessed religious crank – ex-Jesse Helms minion Claude Allen – as head of the regime's "domestic policy;"
**and the official announcement that infant mortality had risen in America for the first time in 45 years – another magnificent feat of arms in Bush's relentless war against the poor and working people of his own nation.

But it wasn't any of these stories – a single week's droppings from the Bush Regime's ever-oozing moral corruption – that plagued the fat and happy inaugural feasters. On the contrary, they accounted such things as great achievements of their Leader, proud moments in his mighty, ongoing work: the transmogrification of the American Republic into a militarized thug state, driven by cronyism, conquest and fear, ripe for the plucking by predatory elites. There was nothing strange at all in their celebration of Bush's crimes and perversions.

Yet as the glorious day went by, something uncanny began to gnaw at the designer-clad, diamond-studded celebrants – at first just among the more perceptive few, but later spreading throughout the whole glittering herd. It was a presence, mute, disturbing, manifesting itself in brief flashes at the edge of one's vision. "Was that--? Could it be--? Surely not!" They would shake their heads, move on to the next round of drinks, the next back-slap with a lobbyist or Regime grandee, trying to regain the strutting spirit of triumph and superiority that had filled them since the President's sliver-thin victory.

But still it pressed forward, the presence, like visual static, like an alternate reality breaking through the day's shining façade. When the feasters looked on the bristling military displays, the lavish floats, the thumping bands, they began to see ghostly figures mingled with the marchers: corpses walking, men, women and children, dirty, ragged, still bearing the wounds and manglements of their deaths. Their ranks grew thicker and thicker: a hundred thousand Iraqis, the death toll of the innocent killed since the invasion; hundreds of American soldiers, the agony of senseless death seared in their eyes; the three thousand victims of September 11, betrayed by Bush's own embrace of the ultimate act of terrorism – an unprovoked, unnecessary war of aggression.

And when the feasters sat down to their prayer breakfasts and power lunches, the flashes, the static gave them no respite. When they bit down on succulent portions of prime rib and smoked ham, human blood gushed through their teeth and poured down their throats. When they offered up a toast to their victorious Leader, human blood dribbled from their lips. The waiters bearing in the steaming platters of haute cuisine were all naked, hooded, electrodes clamped to their dangling genitals, dog chains wrapped around their necks. Their blood and feces dripped into the soups and iced desserts as silently, diligently they served the feasters.

Now it was impossible to deny; there was something monstrous among them. The only question left was this: Do you acknowledge the horror, the new reality – or do you ignore it and feast on?

They kept feasting, of course, kept smiling, kept dealing, kept slapping backs, waiting for the high point of the day: the president's speech, his vision for the nation, the world, the course of history itself. Here they would find their justification, their exaltation, the confirmation of their righteousness.

At last the time came, and they gathered eagerly before the great podium, where He himself – the president – was standing. But here too was a mystery. For a strange light was upon him, and behold there talked with him two men, which were Osama and Zarqawi. They spake all three together of their common faith, the way of blood: terror, slaughter, zealotry and ignorance.

Then he, the Leader, turned his countenance to the multitude, and as he spoke, as the lies issued from his mouth, his visage began to alter. It reddened, flickered, wavered, belched smoke, and finally burst into flames. And the president was become a pillar of fire, and all of his followers and agents, his adulators and sycophants and brother-enemies, were likewise pillars of fire, the whole great crowd. And they lived and raged and walked in fire, and the heavens grew black with stench and smoke as the fires, in madness, feasted on the bodies of the dead and the tortured.

And so ended the second inauguration of the forty-third president of the United States.

Chris Floyd

Fresh Horses: Bush Brings Butchery to the Homeland

From the Moscow Times, Dec. 17, 2002

It was a largely secret operation, its true intentions masked by pious rhetoric and bogus warnings of imminent danger to the American way of life. Having gained the complicity of a somnolent Congress, George W. Bush calmly signed a death warrant for thousands upon thousands of innocent victims: a native population whose land and resources were coveted by a small group of powerful elites seeking to augment their already vast dominance – by any means necessary, including mass slaughter.

A flashback to March 2003, when Bush finally brought his long-simmering witch's brew of aggressive war to the boil? Not at all – it's happening right now, even as we speak. This time, however, the victims are not the Iraqi people, but one of the last remaining symbols of pure freedom left in America itself: the nation's herd of wild horses, galloping unbridled on the people's common lands.

With an obscure provision smuggled into the gargantuan budget bill – 3,000 pages of pork and chicanery slapped together at the last minute and approved, unread, by Bush's rubberstamp Republicans and those wiggly bits of protoplasm known laughingly as the "Democratic opposition" – Bush stripped the nation's wild horses of their long-standing legal protections against being sold off, slaughtered and shipped overseas for meat. Under the 1971 Wild Horse Protection Act, a small number of wild horses could be culled under certain restrictions. Bush's new plan, spearheaded by Montana Senator Conrad Burns – longtime bagman for Big Cattle interests – eliminates most of the restrictions, throwing the door wide open for a massive sell-off and slaughterfest. Bush and Burns aren't shy about it, either; their declared aim is to kill up to 20,000 wild horses in the next year alone. (The new death penalty also applies to the horses' less glamorous – but no less free – compadres: wild burros. Up to 10,000 of these are now earmarked for the knackers' yard.)

Why must these magnificent beasts be massacred, after decades of bipartisan protection? If they could speak, no doubt they'd look at the state terrorists in the Bush Regime and say: "They hate us for our freedoms." And certainly, anyone cramped within the narrow confines of a harsh, blinkered fundamentalism would be offended, even unmanned, by the sight of such splendid avatars of liberty. First brought to America by the Spanish conquistadors, these bold rebels broke free of their masters and have roamed wild and unbound for centuries. Their very existence is a living reproach to crippled souls obsessed with conquest, control, and domination. So they must be destroyed.

Well, that's a nice conceit – but the reality of the situation will hardly bear such tragic grandeur and psychological angst. Like its mirror image, the Iraq atrocity, Bush's horse caper is essentially just a grubby little piece of graft: his fat-cat pals want to get fatter, so they use the federal government as a front for looting the public treasury. Meanwhile – as with Iraq – Bush ladles out the BS to cover their tracks.

Here's how it works. The nation's 50,000 wild horses roam on federal land – that is, land held in common by the entire American people. Bigtime ranchers also use this land to graze millions of their privately-owned cattle. Able to buy and sell politicians like so much prime stock, the wealthy ranchers have rigged up a long-running sweetheart deal (100 years old and still going strong) that gives them access to this common pasturage at bargain prices: less than one-tenth of the going market rate for private grazing land. The result is an effective annual subsidy of more than $500 million to some of the richest men in America. As always, your rootin', tootin' cowboy capitalists must be protected from the risks of the "free market" at every turn – even as they impose it, at gunpoint, on others.

It's certainly a juicy deal – but like all good Bushists, they want more. Why do they want more? Simply because it's there, and they want it. Yes, our leaders and elites are that witless. Which is not to say they're stupid, of course. After all, given the manifold imperfections of our still-evolving brainpans, it's entirely possible to be devious and cunning in pursuit of your basest desires while remaining perfectly oblivious to their pointlessness and brutality – and to their origin in the blind electrical firings of those primitive layers of the mind we all share with the rat, the pig and the chicken.

So the ranchers want the horses off public land so they can cram more cows in there and make more money through their sweetheart deals. The resource at issue here is grass, not oil, but the principle is the same as in Bush's witless, pig-layer adventure in Iraq: me want, they got; kill them, give me.

And as in Iraq, Bush's horse-killing policy is swaddled with lies and fearmongering. The ranchers say they must be given even more public subsidies, or else the sacred right of all Americans to churn cheap beef through their intestines twice a day might be lost – and that would mean the terrorists win, right? Meanwhile, Bush says it costs too much to let all the wild horses live out their natural lives. Yet the total annual outlay for the federal horse programs – $50 million – is a fraction of ranchers' yearly gorging at the public trough. The tiniest increase in grazing fees could cover the programs' costs for decades – while still keeping the delicate cow barons well-protected from that mean old free market.

Bush also claims the horses are gobbling up too much government grass; yet private cattle on federal lands outnumber wild horses by 50-1. Indeed, past government studies have consistently recommended reducing cattle numbers to save deteriorating rangeland. Needless to say, the ranchers' prime stock in Congress will never let that happen.

But we do Mr. Bush and his cohorts wrong to imply they are completely witless. Certainly they exhibit a sense of humor – of the heavy, frat-boy doofus variety – in commiting their depredations. For example, the very day after Bush consigned 20,000 living creatures to unnecessary slaughter, Congress proclaimed a new "National Day of the Horse" – a yearly celebration of the animal's "vital contribution" to American culture.

What yocks, eh? No doubt the dead horses will enjoy this great honor just as much as the 100,000 slaughtered Iraqis enjoy their "liberation."

Chris Floyd

Monday, April 18, 2005

Home Cooking: Feast of the Conquerors

The Moscow Times, Dec. 10, 2004

When the devil comes knocking on your front door, looking for a way to spread his evil inside, he won't be sporting horns and a tail. He's going to come dressed as your sweetest dream, clean as a whistle, pious, sincere. He's going to speak your lingo, ape your ways – and when he opens up his little box of poison, it's going to look like the heaven your mama sang about when she rocked you to sleep in your cradle.

Then one day, when the mind-fog lifts, you see him sitting at the head of the table, the walls of the room smeared with filth, dead bodies swelling on the blood-mucked floor, the still-living victims hogtied and naked, screaming for mercy as the whip-cords strike. He beckons you forward with a welcoming smile. You pause for a moment. It seems so strange: all this horror – it would have once made you sick, but now it just feels like…home. You shrug, you grin, you take your place beside him at the feast.

In just this way, while Americans were finishing their Thanksgiving dinners and preparing to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, a series of stories exposed -- once again – the torture chamber at the heart of their feast: a government gone morally insane, embracing terror, atrocity and tyranny. Yet there was no public outcry against these desecrations. Few even noticed; fewer still cared.

Last week, the minions of George W. Bush announced, in open court, that he has the power to seize anyone on earth – even "little old ladies in Switzerland" – and imprison them forever if he so chooses, the New York Times reports. The minions said that anyone Bush declared "an enemy combatant" – even if they never took up arms against America, even if they didn't know their actions were related to terrorism in any way – could be abducted from any nation, friend or foe, or in the Homeland itself, and held indefinitely, "at the president's discretion," stripped of all rights under the U.S. Constitution or the Geneva Conventions.

Assistant Attorney General Brian Boyle said Bush's captives were entitled only to a single hearing, alone before a military tribunal, without legal counsel or access to the evidence against them – evidence which Boyle cheerfully admitted could be obtained by torture in foreign countries, AP reports. Overturning centuries of Anglo-American jurisprudence, Boyle said there were no restrictions whatsoever on using torture evidence, as long as the president or his military agents arbitrarily decide it is "credible."

Days earlier, the Sunday Times tracked down the "private" planes of CIA front companies that Bush uses to carry victims of his lawless abductions to torture chambers in Jordan, Egypt, Libya and Uzbekistan, where "credible" evidence can be obtained with fists, cattle prods, rape, drugs and starvation. For example, witnesses told of hooded American agents grabbing captives in Sweden, stripping them, jamming drugs up their rectums, putting them in diapers and chains, and bundling them off to Egypt's hellhole prisons – whose tortures have already produced generations of violent extremists.

But outsourcing is only one aspect of Bush's Torture, Incorporated; he has plenty of domestic production as well. Last week, the Pentagon released a report – completed long before the election – confessing that the "aberrations" of Abu Ghraib were in fact part of a broad system of state terror spread throughout Iraq, the Washington Post reports. Elite squads of "Special Operations" officers and CIA agents beat and abused prisoners across the country, the Pentagon said, while regular troops committed "technically illegal acts" by rounding up thousands of innocent people at random and holding them for months in crowded prisons – where they were often turned over to those same "elite" squads for "special handling." Some of this blood-soaked "intelligence" was "sent directly to the White House," interrogators noted. The report also admitted that American forces had taken innocent people hostage – especially "female family members" – in an effort to pressure wanted men to surrender: a clear war crime, as if such things mattered anymore.

Meanwhile, the International Red Cross revealed that Bush has even perverted the healing professions at his concentration camp in Guantanamo Bay, using doctors and nurses to help "set the conditions for interrogation" by withholding medical treatment and using their diagnostic skills to determine captives' "vulnerabilities" to various physical and psychological torments – "a flagrant violation of medical ethics," said the Red Cross. Its investigators also found that the Guantanamo regime -- "an intentional system of cruel, unusual and degrading treatment, and a form of torture" – was growing worse over time, reports.

In such a moral sink, it was hardly even news that more photos of prisoner abuse – taken months before the Abu Ghraib atrocities – were uncovered last weekend, Reuters reports. This time it was "elite" teams of Navy SEALs mugging for the cameras with bloodied captives – some with guns to their heads. Nor did anyone blink when Bush military brass announced plans last week to create forced labor camps for all male citizens in "liberated" Fallujah, the Boston Globe reports.

This Satan's Rout of blood and abandon comes directly from the White House, where Bush's legal counsel, Al Gonzales, engineered memos "justifying" torture and exalting unrestricted presidential power, beyond the reach of any law, foreign or domestic. As a reward for this violent rape of American honor, Gonzales – sweet-talking, pious and sincere, just like his boss – will soon become the chief law officer of the land.

And the American people, what do they do about all the horror being wrought in their name? They shrug. They grin. They sit down to the feast.

Chris Floyd