Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Big War of 21st Century Has Begun Gerald Celente

"They" Hate Us Because We Bomb Them

Declassified Files Link U.S. to Palestinian Massacre

The outburst of anti-Americanism sweeping much of the Arab world was ignited by an off-the-wall film insulting Muhammad, but the underlying outrage is fed by decades of resentment against the U.S. and its ally, Israel.

Nothing fueled that anger more than the massacre of what’s estimated to be 800 to 2,000 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut on Sept. 16-18, 1982.

An Op-Ed in The New York Times on Sunday detailing U.S. complicity in that slaughter is a must-read for anyone trying to fathom the dynamics between Israeli and American leaders. It is eerily relevant to the current virulent demands of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the U.S. support a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities.

Recently declassified Israeli files, analyzed by Seth Anziska, a doctoral candidate at Columbia University and the Op-Ed’s author, reveal the bare-knuckle discussions between U.S. and Israeli leaders 30 years ago, as American officials were essentially bullied and browbeaten to do nothing to prevent the rape, slaughter and dismemberment of the Palestinians, nearly all of them women, children and elderly men. The killings went on for three days while Israeli troops surrounded the camps, their flares lighting the cramped, ramshackle streets and homes within.

The massacre was carried out by fanatical right-wing Christian Phalangist militias, allied with the Israelis, who had invaded Lebanon in June 1982. Israel’s goal was to eradicate the PLO, which had set up a state within a state in Lebanon, and to ensure the rule of the country by Israel’s Lebanese Christian allies. Ultimately, President Reagan dispatched several hundred U.S. Marines to Beirut to help establish a cease-fire and oversee the evacuation of thousands of Palestinian fighters to other Arab countries.

But after Israel’s ally, Bashir Gemayel, was assassinated, the Israelis broke the truce and occupied West Beirut where thousands of Palestinian civilians were still living.

Israeli leaders claimed the presence of the Israel Defense Forces was necessary because there were still thousands of “Palestinian terrorists” in West Beirut. But U.S. officials had helped coordinate the withdrawal of thousands of Palestinian fighters a month earlier. They knew the Israeli claim was false and they feared a massacre if the Phalange militias were allowed into the Palestinian camps. Many top Israelis had the same fears.

On Sept. 17, 1982, American envoy to the Mideast Morris Draper and U.S. Ambassador to Israel Samuel Lewis met with Gen. Ariel Sharon and other Israeli officials to attempt to force an Israeli withdrawal from West Beirut.

According to Anziska, “The transcript of the Sept. 17 meeting reveals that the Americans were browbeaten by Mr. Sharon’s false insistence that ‘terrorists’ needed ‘mopping up.’ It also shows how Israel’s refusal to relinquish areas under its control, and its delays in coordinating with the Lebanese National Army, which the Americans wanted to step in, prolonged the slaughter.”

Anziska writes that Sharon, who knew that the Phalange forces had already moved into the camps, assured the Americans that “nothing will happen. Maybe some more terrorists will be killed. That will be to the benefit of all of us.”

Sharon went on to declare, “So, we’ll kill them. They will not be left there. You are not going to save them. You are not going to save these groups of the international terrorism.”

And when the Americans continued to insist on an Israeli withdrawal, Anziska writes, “Mr. Sharon exploded again: ‘When it comes to our security, we have never asked. We will never ask. When it comes to existence and security, it is our own responsibility and we will never give it to anybody to decide for us.’ ”

Once the extent of the massacre had become known, U.S. officials from Reagan on down expressed their outrage but, writes Anziska, “The transcript of Mr. Draper’s meeting with the Israelis demonstrates how the United States was unwittingly complicit in the tragedy of Sabra and Shatila.”

The fallout from the killings was an enormous blow to U.S. influence and prestige in the region, which plummeted even further with the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in October 1983 and the humiliating withdrawal of the Marines from Lebanon.

“The lesson of the Sabra and Shatila tragedy is clear,” concludes Anziska. “Sometimes close allies act contrary to American interests and values. Failing to exert American power to uphold those interests and values can have disastrous consequences for our allies, for our moral standing and, most important, for the innocent people who pay the highest price of all.”

What Anziska fails to examine in his Op-Ed is the extent to which American officials at the time were not just being confronted by militant Israeli leaders but also by the powerful pro-Israel lobby back in Washington. It’s a good bet that AIPAC and its allies—publicly and behind the scenes—were also demanding that Israel be given a free hand.

Those same volatile dynamics are playing out today, 30 years later, as intimidated American officials confront a blustering Israeli prime minister demanding that the U.S. join in an attack against Iran.

Screen capture from The New York Times

The 49 declassified pages contain discussions between American and Israeli officials during the time of the massacre.

The 1% And The 47%


Liberals and others have given Mr. 01 Percent Mitt Romney a well-deserved spanking for his vicious comments on “the 47 percent” at an elite fundraiser earlier this year. I am referring, of course, to the following noxious statement we recently learned the Republican presidential hopeful made to an elite gathering of right wing election investors in the Boca Raton mansion of private equity manager Marc Leder last May:
 
“There are 47 percent of the [American] people who will vote for the president no matter what….there are 47 percent who are with whom, who are dependent on government, who believe they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it….That’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what.”
 
“These are people who pay no income tax. 47 percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of lower taxes doesn’t connect…my job is not to worry about those people. I’ll never convince them to take personal responsibility and care for their lives…”[1]
 
It is hard to process the moral and intellectual idiocy of this rant. Here is the fantastically opulent arch-parasite Romney – a man who made an “equity capitalist” fortune destroying working class jobs and storing his profits in overseas tax havens – mocking the elementary civilized notion (once memorably enshrined in the U.S.-signed United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights[2]) that human beings are entitled to food, health care, and shelter. Does he really believe that nearly half of all Americans think of themselves as “victims” who rightfully depend on government in a country where most support work requirements for public family cash assistance (introduced in  the name of “welfare reform”15 years ago) and where 58 percent of the population believes they belong in the category of “the haves,” not “the have-nots”[3] (this even as the U.S. Census Bureau announced that half the U.S. population is officially poor or low-income)[4] Does Romney really think that close to half the population takes no personal responsibility for their own lives? And that receiving any assistance from the government (i.e., a Medicare check, Veterans benefits, Social Security payments) is an abdication from such responsibility? 
 
For what its worth (very little in Romney and Leder’s insulated .01% world), the  majority of U.S. households pay more than a quarter of their income in total taxes, including payroll, local, state, and sales levies as well as federal income taxes. This is a higher tax rate than Romney and other hyper-affluent folks pay, as billionaire Warren Buffett points out. As New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof observed last Thursday, “the 47 percent” (actually closer to 46 percent) Romney ridiculed for not paying federal income taxes “includes many…modestly paid workers and retirees who have contributed far more meaningfully to America than some who can shell out $50,000 to attend a fund-raiser like the one where Romney spoke in May…What,” Kristof asks, “about the underpaid kindergarten teacher in an inner-city school? What about young police officers and firefighters? What about social workers struggling to help abused children?” 
 
Did Romney really mean to denounce as indolent moochers American troops who pay no federal income taxes as they slog through deadly tours of imperial duty in Afghanistan and who depend on government benefits when they return to “the homeland”?
 
“One lesson,” Kristof notes, “is the narcissism of many in today’s affluent class. They manage to feel victimized by the tax code – even as they sometimes enjoy a lower rate than their secretaries and ride corporate jets acquired with the help of tax loopholes.”[5]
 
Deepened Inequality and the 1 Percent’s Tax Burden
 
That’s very well said, but let’s dig a little deeper. Do the wealthy few pay a disproportionate share of the nation’s income taxes? Yes, actually they do. As Wall Street Journal reporter and author Robert Frank notes in his latest book The High-Beta Rich:
 
“Just as they’ve taken over the consumer economy with their outsized incomes, spending, and wealth, America’s millionaires are also becoming the dominant funders of the federal and state governments.”
 
“The top 1 percent of Americans now earn 20 percent of the nation’s income and pay more than 38 percent of its federal income taxes. For many state governments, their share is even higher. In New Jersey, the top 1 percent of earners paid 40 percent of income taxes in 2008. In New York, the 1 percent pay about 42 percent, with Wall Street and the financial services business accounting for more than 20 percent of all state wages. In Connecticut, residents making more than $1 million a year (near the top half of the top 1 percent) accounted for more than a quarter of the state’s income taxes.”[6]
 
At both the federal and state levels, the disproportionate share of revenue coming from “the 1 percent” has risen in recent decades. Does this reflect an upsurge of progressive taxation on behalf of the supposed “47 percent” moocher mass that Romney identifies with the Democrats, the purported party of government dependency? No, it doesn’t. It’s mainly about the stunning concentration of wealth and income that occurred over the last three-plus decades, culminating the in New Gilded Age of 1990 to 2007, when the number of millionaire households in the U.S. doubled from 5 to 10 million and the number of U.S. households with more than $10 million of net worth rose from a quarter a million to more than half a million. This all took place while wages and salaries stagnated for most Americans.[7] 
 
During the nation’s weak expansion between 2002 and 2007, the top 1 percent (3 million people) received fully two-thirds of the nation’s income growth. The other 99 percent got “one-third of the gains to divide among 310 million people.”[8]    
 
It got worse after the Great Recession, itself very much a result of the nation’s extreme economic inequality (see below). The top 1 percent garnered no less than 93 percent of the nation’s gains during 2010, the first full year of technical economic recovery.[9]
 
Some states (Frank mentions Maryland, New Jersey, New York, and California) have hiked top tax rates and introduced “millionaire taxes” to enhance revenue. Still, as Frank notes:
 
“The bulk of the increase [in the share of income taxes paid by the top hundredth] …is driven by the growing share of the national income going to the top 1 percent. The top 1 percent of earners in the United States accounted for 20 percent of income in 2008, more than double their share in the ‘magic year’ of 1982. In California, the top 1 percent accounted for quarter of state income, up from 14 percent in 1993…If America has become a land of representation without taxation, with the bottom 40 percent paying little or no federal income taxes, it’s largely because so many Americans are now underrepresented in the country’s income pyramid (emphasis added).”[10]
 
“Failure By Design” in the Best Democracy Money Can Buy
 
Why has the income structure shifted so dramatically towards the top, making state and federal governments more and more dependent on the wealthy for revenues?  That, interestingly enough, is largely a matter of government policy on behalf of “the 1%” in America, “the best democracy that money can [and did] buy.” U.S. economic growth since the late 1970s has been slow and unequally distributed thanks to a number of regressive policy choices that have served the rich and powerful at the expense of ordinary working people and nearly everyone else. The problem has not been that that “the economy” has been broken by the supposed “invisible hand of the market” or other forces allegedly beyond human control. The real difficulty is that the “human-made” U.S. economic system has been working precisely as designed to distribute wealth and power upward. This outcome has been achieved with the visible political hand of policy. As Joshua Bivens of the Economic Policy Institute showed last year in his important study Failure By Design: The Story of America’s Broken Economy, the following interrelated, bipartisan, and not-so “public” policies across the neoliberal brought this terrible outcome across the long neoliberal era:
 
  • Letting the value of the minimum wage be eroded by inflation.
  • Slashing labor standards for overtime, safety, and health.
  • Tilting the laws governing union organizing and collective bargaining strongly in employers’ favor.
  • Weakening the social safety net.
  • Privatizing public services.
  • Accelerating the integration of the U.S. economy with the world economy without adequately protecting workers from global competition.
  • Shredding government oversight of international trade, currency, investment and lending.
  • Deregulating the financial sector and financial markets.
  • Privileging low inflation over full employment and abandoning the latter as a worthy goal of fiscal and economic policy.
 
These policies increased poverty and suppressed wages at the bottom and concentrated wealth at the top. They culminated in the Great Recession, sparked by the bursting of a housing bubble that resulted from the de-regulation of the financial sector and the reliance of millions of Americans on artificially inflated real estate values and soaring household debt to compensate for poor earnings. Thanks to flat wages and weak social expenditures, the tepid expansion of the early 2000s (the weakest upward business cycle on record)[11] depended on an unsustainable upward climb of home prices. The epic collapse that followed generated millions of foreclosures and devastated savings and net worth across the working and middle classes. It brought an official unemployment rate that reached 10 percent (real unemployment went considerably higher) and the longest recession since before World War II. The crash was foreseen by many, including financial interests who failed to warn households on the dangers of taking out more debt to buy homes. It didn’t have to happen. As Bivens notes:
 
“Policy makers found plenty of resources to throw at tax cuts aimed disproportionately at corporations and the very rich and at wars abroad. And when partisan politics demanded it, resources were also found to enhance Medicare coverage by adding a prescription drug benefit – but only when bundled with flagrant giveaways to pharmaceutical companies and other corporations. If even a fraction of these resources had found their way into well-targeted interventions to boost the job market, the decade could have been very different, with wage growth supporting living standards instead of debt….”
 
But faster wage growth would have “threatened the only economic indicators that performed above-trend in the 2000s: growth in corporate profits.”[12] And that was unacceptable to the corporate and financial elites who dominate policy by virtue of their wildly disproportionate wealth and power, regardless of which of the two dominant political organizations holds nominal power in the White House and/or Congress.
 
Democrats are barely less prone to challenge the basic plutocratic policy mix for a number of reasons, including the ever-skyrocketing cost of elections, which serious candidates cannot hope to meet without massive backing from the filthy rich.
 
If Romney and their ilk want to know why the rich bear such a large share of the nation’s income tax burden to pay for “big government” these days, they should look at how they influenced big government precisely to serve their interests to concentrate wealth and income in ever fewer hands, to downgrade the middle and working classes, and to expand the ranks of the poor. As the rich never admit, they aren’t really anti-government. They are for big government that serves elite interests and punishes the rest. When their so-called free market medicine – replete with giant doses of corporate welfare (the Pentagon System is a leading example) – impoverishes the rest of us (and enriches the few) so much that we rely on them like never before for the revenue to keep government running, they mock us for thinking (in accord with the quaintly idealistic Universal Declaration of Human Rights) that we are “entitled” to food, shelter, health care, clothing, and economic and social security  We are instructed to stop our “dysfunctional” thinking about “Who Moved My Cheese,”[13] take a whiff of tough-love self-help smeller salts, and scurry on to sniff out new opportunities that don’t actually exist under the rule of the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorships of money and empire: “Take ‘personal responsibility’ for your fate in this world we made for you, or starve and die, you bothersome little mice-people![14] You have no right to government assistance – that is reserved for the rich and powerful, like everything else.” It’s a curious command from those who have become ever filthier rich thanks in great part to big government's role in serving and protecting the already well-off.

How Do You Take Your Poison?


We will all swallow our cup of corporate poison. We can take it from nurse Romney, who will tell us not to whine and play the victim, or we can take it from nurse Obama, who will assure us that this hurts him even more than it hurts us, but one way or another the corporate hemlock will be shoved down our throats. The choice before us is how it will be administered. Corporate power, no matter who is running the ward after January 2013, is poised to carry out U.S. history’s most savage assault against the poor and the working class, not to mention the Earth’s ecosystem. And no one in power, no matter what the bedside manner, has any intention or ability to stop it.

If you insist on participating in the cash-drenched charade of a two-party democratic election at least be clear about what you are doing. You are, by playing your assigned role as the Democratic or Republican voter in this political theater, giving legitimacy to a corporate agenda that means your own impoverishment and disempowerment. All the things that stand between us and utter destitution—Medicaid, food stamps, Pell grants, Head Start, Social Security, public education, federal grants-in-aid to America’s states and cities, the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program (WIC), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and home-delivered meals for seniors—are about to be shredded by the corporate state. Our corporate oligarchs are harvesting the nation, grabbing as much as they can, as fast as they can, in the inevitable descent.

We will be assaulted this January when automatic spending reductions, referred to as “the fiscal cliff,” begin to dismantle and defund some of our most important government programs. Mitt Romney will not stop it. Barack Obama will not stop it.

And while Romney has been, courtesy of the magazine Mother Jones, exposed as a shallow hypocrite, Obama is in a class by himself. There is hardly a campaign promise from 2008 that Obama has not broken. This list includes his pledges to support the public option in health care, close Guantanamo, raise the minimum wage, regulate Wall Street, support labor unions in their struggles with employers, reform the Patriot Act, negotiate an equitable peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians, curb our imperial expansion in the Middle East, stop torture, protect reproductive rights, carry out a comprehensive immigration reform, cut the deficit by half, create 5 million new energy jobs and halt home foreclosures. Obama, campaigning in South Carolina in 2007, said that as president he would fight for the right of collective bargaining. “I’d put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself, I’ll … walk on that picket line with you as president of the United States of America,” he said. But when he got his chance to put on those “comfortable pair of shoes” during labor disputes in Madison, Wis., and Chicago he turned his back on working men and women.

Obama, while promising to defend Social Security, also says he stands behind the planned cuts outlined by his deficit commission, headed by Morgan Stanley board member Erskine Bowles and former Sen. Alan Simpson, a Wyoming Republican. The Bowles-Simpson plan calls for cutting 0.3 percentage points from the annual cost-of-living adjustment in the Social Security program. The annual reduction would slowly accumulate. After a decade it would mean a 3 percent cut. After two decades it would mean a 6 percent cut. The retirement age would be raised to 69. And those on Social Security who continued to work and made more than $40,000 a year would be penalized with further reductions. Obama’s payroll tax cuts have, at the same time, served to undermine the solvency of Social Security, making it an easier target for the finance corporations that seek to destroy the program and privatize the funds.

But that is just the start. Cities and states are frantically staving off collapse. They cannot pay for most pension plans and are borrowing at higher and higher interest rates to keep themselves afloat. The country’s 19,000 municipalities face steadily declining or stagnant property tax revenues, along with spiraling costs. Annual pension payments for state and local plans more than doubled to 15.7 percent of payrolls in 2011 from 6.4 percent a decade ago, according to a study by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. And local governments, which made some $50 billion in pension contributions in 2010, face unfunded pension liabilities of $3 trillion and unfunded health benefit liabilities of more than $1 trillion, according to The Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government. State and local government spending fell at a rate of 2.1 percent in the second quarter of this year, according to the Commerce Department. It was the 11th consecutive quarterly reduction in expenditures. And in the past year alone local governments cut 66,000 jobs, mostly those of teachers and other school employees, reported The Wall Street Journal, which accumulated this list of grim statistics.

The costs of our most basic needs, from food to education to health care, are at the same time being pushed upward with no control or regulation. Tuition and fees at four-year colleges climbed 300 percent between 1990 and 2011, fueling the college loan crisis that has left graduates, most of them underemployed or unemployed, with more than $1 trillion in debt. Health care costs over the same period have risen 150 percent. Food prices have climbed 10 percent since June, according to the World Bank. There are now 46.7 million U.S. citizens, and one in three children, who depend on food stamps. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency under Obama has, meanwhile, expelled 1.5 million immigrants, a number that dwarfs deportations carried out by his Republican predecessor. And while we are being fleeced, the Treasury Department and Federal Reserve Bank has since 2008 doled out $16 trillion to national and global financial institutions and corporations.

Fiscal implosion is only a matter of time. And the corporate state is preparing. Obama’s assault on civil liberties has outpaced that of George W. Bush. The refusal to restore habeas corpus, the use of the Authorization to Use Military Force Act to justify the assassination of U.S. citizens, the passing of the FISA Amendments Act to monitor and eavesdrop on tens of millions of citizens without a warrant, the employment of the Espionage Act six times to threaten whistle-blowers inside the government with prison time, and the administration’s recent emergency appeal of U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest’s permanent injunction of Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act give you a hint of the shackles the Democrats, as well as the Republicans, intend to place on all those who contemplate dissent.

But perhaps the most egregious assault will be carried out by the fossil fuel industry. Obama, who presided over the repudiation of the Kyoto Accords and has done nothing to halt the emission of greenhouse gases, reversed 20 years of federal policy when he permitted the expansion of fracking and offshore drilling. And this acquiescence to big oil and big coal, no doubt useful in bringing in campaign funds, spells disaster for the planet. He has authorized drilling in federally protected lands, along the East Coast, Alaska and four miles off Florida’s Atlantic beaches. Candidate Obama in 2008 stood on the Florida coastline and vowed never to permit drilling there.

You get the point. Obama is not in charge. Romney would not be in charge. Politicians are the public face of corporate power. They are corporate employees. Their personal narratives, their promises, their rhetoric and their idiosyncrasies are meaningless. And that, perhaps, is why the cost of the two presidential campaigns is estimated to reach an obscene $2.5 billion. The corporate state does not produce a product that is different. It produces brands that are different. And brands cost a lot of money to sell.

You can dismiss those of us who will in protest vote for a third-party candidate and invest our time and energy in acts of civil disobedience. You can pride yourself on being practical. You can swallow the false argument of the lesser of two evils. But ask yourself, once this nightmare starts kicking in, who the real sucker is.