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"Collecting countries" TOM LUTZ reviewed in The Times Literary Supplement

July 28, 2016

"He rarely travels for work. He simply must keep moving forward. His is an inquisitive and self-depreciating mind reminiscent of Geoff Dyer’s.”

To hear more, visit The Literary Supplement

What does Doug Henwood's MY TURN reveal about the tensions on display at the DNC?

July 27, 2016

Hillary in Her Own Words


The question remains whether Hillary Clinton is the progressive, feminist candidate the left wants her to be—or simply a hawkish corporatist.

 

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On Monday night at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, First Lady Michelle Obama and Senator Bernie Sanders both took the stage to voice their support of Hillary Clinton. Both the First Lady and Senator Sanders, perhaps to the disappointment of the latter’s fervent supporters, spoke strongly about why they believe Hillary deserves votes.

The First Lady was adamant that Hillary was the only candidate for the job, saying, “And I am here tonight because in this election, there is only one person who I trust with that responsibility—only one person who I believe is truly qualified to be President of the United States. And that is our friend, Hillary Clinton.”

Senator Sanders, on the other hand, struck a different note. “[T]he case he made for Clinton was less about a visceral appeal to liberal values than a dry, logical chain of argument that led (somewhat joylessly and amid boos) to the conclusion that Clinton deserved to be the nominee,” wrote Glenn Thrush of CNN. That was before Sanders tweeted on Monday: [embed]https://twitter.com/BernieSanders/status/757707676583391232?lang=en[/embed] Some suggested the tweet belies the fact that Sanders is more interested in keeping Trump out of the White House than putting Hillary in it.

The incongruous messages from the First Lady and Senator Sanders—one of full-fledged support and character endorsement, the other of resignation and necessity—reflect the anxieties of many voters on the left for whom Hillary Clinton is seen as the last remaining option, an alternative to Donald Trump who is not as progressive as they might like; that, as Doug Henwood points out in My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency, “The case for Hillary boils down to little more than her alleged inevitability.”

Which begs the question, is Hillary the progressive, feminist candidate the left wants her to be? Or another hawkish, corporatist politician?

In My Turn, a critique from the left that catalogs the rumors, policy complaints, and ideological alignments that have dogged the candidate throughout her career, Henwood allows Hillary’s words to speak for themselves:

“As a shareholder and director of our company, I’m always proud of Wal-Mart and what we do and the way we do it better than anybody else.”

—June 1990, at the annual stockholders’ meeting

“For goodness’ sake, you can’t be a lawyer if you don’t represent banks.”

—March 1992. In her youth, Hillary interned at a radical law firm in Oakland, which, in Carl Bernstein’s words, was “celebrated for its defense of constitutional rights, civil liberates, and leftist cases.”

“Now that we’ve said these people are no longer deadbeats—they’re actually out there being productive—how do we keep them there?”

—April 2002. The “deadbeats” she’s referring to are former welfare recipients who’d (briefly, in many cases) found low-wage work.

“It’s time for the United States to start thinking of Iraq as a business opportunity.”

—June 2011, to an audience of senior executives from U.S. companies and officials from the U.S. and Iraqi governments.

“I love this quote. It’s from Mahatma Gandhi. He ran a gas station in Saint Louis for a few years.”

—January 2004. She later apologized, explaining it as a “lame attempt at humor.”

“The office of the president is such that it calls for a higher level of conduct than expected from the average citizen of the United States.”

—Written in 1974, as a staff lawyer drawing up the rules for the impeachment of Richard Nixon.

Further Reading

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Revolution on the streets of Tehran, 1979: read an excerpt from REMEMBERING AKBAR

July 27, 2016
Photograph © Maryam Zandi

 

The news comes that in Tehran people have taken up arms and are taking over all the government buildings, including the state radio and television. They are storming the prisons and letting the political prisoners out along with thieves and murderers. Dark smoke is rising in different parts of the city. We gather outside along the road to Tehran and listen to a portable radio.

“Citizens of Tehran,” the announcer reads the latest declaration of the martial law authorities, “a curfew will be enforced from 4 o’clock this afternoon.”

It is already past 4:00 pm.

“In order to protect your lives and property, our brave troops are under strict orders to shoot without consideration subversive elements who defy this directive.” The radio played military marches and repeated the declaration. The workers at the General Electric plant were still demanding their back-pay.

The planning committee could not agree on a plan. Mohammad insisted that we had to stay there with the workers.

“The revolution will triumph,” he pleaded, “with or without us. No matter who rules the country, these workers will demand the same things.”

I was sympathetic to Mohammad, but could not ignore the bloodshed in the city. “We need to be there,” I said tersely. “What will we say when people later ask where were we during the uprising? What prison doors did we break? What military base did we conquer? What government building did we take over?”

Mohammad realized that he could not win this quarrel. He remained, while the rest of us headed back to the city to rejoice in the final triumph of the revolution.

Mohammad would be executed three years later.

Read More

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CODEPINK's MEDEA BENJAMIN unravels the U.S./Saudi tangle

July 27, 2016

The U.S. and Saudi Arabia seem to have very little in common. What is the origin of their strange alliance?


Over a period of decades, the United States has supported a regime shown time and again to be one of the most powerful forces working against American interests.

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UNRAVELING THE U.S.–SAUDI TANGLE: LET'S FIGURE THIS OUT

What is the origin of this strange alliance between two countries that seemingly have very little in common?

Why, over a period of decades, has the United States supported a regime shown time and again to be one of the most powerful forces working against American interests?

Let CODEPINK’s Medea Benjamin be your guide to unraveling this massive, and deadly, conundrum.

With extremism spreading across the globe, a reduced U.S. need for Saudi oil, and a thawing of U.S. relations with Iran, the time is right for re-evaluation of our close ties with the Saudi regime.

Kingdom of the Unjust ships in August. Pre-order now.

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In other CODEPINK news, protesters interrupted last week's Republican National Convention with banners in support of refugees. Via Jezebel:

“We’re here to say we don’t like the language coming out of the RNC presumptive nominee’s campaign with regards to the anti-Muslim rhetoric and the anti-immigration rhetoric,” Code Pink demonstrator Toni Rozsahegyi told the Los Angeles Times on Sunday, July 17. The Times reported that many anti-Trump protests began during the weekend, preceding the convention’s kickoff.

Dressed as Lady Liberty to honor the labor of immigrants and refugees, Rozsahegyi explained, “our country was made on [their] backs, and we love refugees. They’re welcome here. And if we want to stop having refugees, we need to end war.” 1

Further Reading

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1 Jezebel, published 18 July 2016

Turkish author BURHAN SÖNMEZ: "Our society should not be left to anti-democratic politics"

July 27, 2016

After the failed coup, Burhan Sönmez says there is "no stability in politics [or] social life" in Turkey. Does that mean there's no hope for the future? Not so fast.


"Both parties are bad. One of them is the army, the other side is the government... The collision of these two forces will not bring democracy to Turkey."

 

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An excerpt from Burhan Sönmez's interview with Deutsche Welle immediately following the attempted coup in Turkey:

Were you surprised by the attempted coup in Turkey?

I was very surprised and I believe the majority of society was surprised with this coup attempt, because the army and the government had been getting along very well with each other on almost every issue. No one expected this.

So how do you explain it suddenly happening then?

That's the nature of Turkey. There is no stability in politics and in social life, so you can expect anything to happen at any time in society with the army and the government. This unexpected occurrence is just a result of it.

How are you reacting to the aftermath of the events?

What's worrying is that two evil forces collided with each other last Friday. By evil force, I mean that both parties are bad. One of them is the army, the coup plotters, and the other side is the government, which is not good at applying democratic politics either. The collision of these two forces will not bring democracy to Turkey—so we are very worried.

Now, we have saved the parliamentary system, but that doesn't mean we have saved the democratic system, because Erdogan is using this to escalate his politics, his personal ambition and his pro-Islam regime. That is worrying for us.

. . .

You have experienced police violence firsthand. Now, just after the coup, more attention is given to the way Erdogan is dealing with his opponents, but the situation has been difficult for many years already. Was there a particular moment when you realized that things were becoming more threatening for freedom of expression in the country?

It is a slow-motion change. For years and years, social media platforms like Twitter have been blocked every now and then. Yesterday, 10 news websites were blocked. They were not even affiliated with Fethullah Gülen. They were left-wing or social democratic news sites. This censorship is not something that will stop at a certain point. It will carry on for years and years. But we will carry on in favor of freedom of speech and democracy.

Your 2015 novel Istanbul Istanbul is about prisoners who try to find relief from the pain of torture through storytelling. Can storytelling inspire us for the future of Turkey?

In that novel, you can see that people are in pain, but they keep their faith in the future, they still have their dreams.

People like me, we've believed in this country for years and years. If you ask me if I've had a good year in this country, I will tell you, no. Every year has been worse than the previous one. But that means that our hopes are getting bigger than the previous year—otherwise you cannot survive here.

I will tell you something very unrealistic: I am very hopeful for the future of my country, otherwise I would have left. I'm still here; people like me are still standing here. We will carry on our calls for freedom, equality, solidarity, tolerance and also peace. We need these more than ever before. 1

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Library Journal also recently reviewed Sönmez's novel, calling it "A real find; highly recommended":

Four men inhabit a dank cell in Istanbul: the Doctor; the student Demirtay; troublesome Kamo the Barber; and Uncle Küheylan, an older man from the mountains who has always dreamed deliriously of coming to Istanbul. As they wait tensely for guards to drag out one of them for the next round of torture, they tell one another stories they already know, stories that take them beyond their cell walls to the larger world. From the wily nun who escapes a rapist to hunters trying to undo fate decreed by a fairy, these tales are engrossingly rendered, and they eventually lead to Istanbul itself, fighting to defend its beauty. An award-winning Turkish author and former lawyer, Sönmez spent five years in the UK being treated for injuries sustained in an assault by the Turkish police, and he captures the chill of anticipating torture with quiet authority. But his book is ultimately and persuasively about what imagination can do. 2

Further Reading

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1 DW Akademie, published 18 July 2016
2 Library Journal, published 8 June 2016

"From New York to the Arab Gulf, Challenging Global Capitalism to Build Worker Power" ANDREW ROSS mentioned in In These Times

July 21, 2016

"In Qatar, while exact figures are disputed, perhaps over a thousand workers, mostly South Asians, have died during construction for the World Cup. Employers hold onto passports of imported laborers and deport them if they get too restive, drawing on the massive human well created by the agricultural misery of South and Southeast Asia. Such penury (rural South Asia holds nearly half the world’s poor) contrasts sharply with the opulence of the Gulf. In the desert cities of the peninsula, air conditioned skyscrapers contain ski slopes. Sand islands, built by European engineering firms, rise up from the sea. Meanwhile, the rights of those constructing these towers and islands are nearly nonexistent. This maltreatment, and the attempts to resist it, are the topic of The Gulf: High Culture/Hard Labor, edited by Ross, a lustrously illustrated chronicle of the efforts by the Gulf Labor Coalition to throw sand in the machinery of the repression and exploitation confronting guest workers in the Gulf.”

To hear more, visit In These Times

"The Internet as Art and Politics" SCOTT MALCOLMSON with Virginia Heffernan

July 19, 2016

"Scott Malcolmson in conversation with Virginia Heffernan”

To hear more, visit Virginia Heffernan

"Medea Benjamin: Why Is Government Downplaying Saudi-9/11 Docs After Keeping Them Secret for Years?" MEDEA BENJAMIN on Democracy Now!

July 18, 2016

"You talked about the dry run that was in 1999. It was actually two Saudis that were on their way to a party at the Saudi Embassy, with tickets paid for by the Saudi government, that tried to get into the cockpit twice, with an emergency landing, and then the FBI decided not to further investigate it. You mentioned Thumairy. Thumairy was allowed to go back to Saudi Arabia. When he was interviewed again in Riyadh in 2004, he denied that he had any contact with the hijackers, despite being presented with phone records. There are so many connections between individuals related to the Saudi government and these hijackers that it’s hard to even see why the U.S. government, whether it’s under the Bush administration or the Obama administration, continues to consider Saudi Arabia an ally. Of course, if you look deeper into it, you see things like $97 billion worth of weapon sales, so there’s a lot of money involved in this alliance.”

To hear more, visit Democracy Now!

The story of Grove Theater: HAROLD PINTER and other playwrights

July 18, 2016

Read the story of Harold Pinter's time in New York—and a little-known account of his Broadway debut


Barney Rosset’s championing of new theater at Grove Press in the late 1950s, including work by such playwrights as Eugène Ionesco, Tom Stoppard, Amiri Baraka, and Bertolt Brecht, would influence modern drama internationally for decades to come.

 

 

Of the many accomplishments of Barney Rosset at Grove Press—introducing such writers as Kenzaburō Ōe, Samuel Beckett, and Marguerite Duras to North America, battling American obscenity laws to publish unexpurgated editions of Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer, championing such legendary films as I Am Curious (Yellow) and Norman Mailer’s Maidstone—the production of new theater in the United States in the late 1950s would influence modern drama internationally for decades to come. The stable of playwrights Rosset developed—Jean Genet, Eugène Ionesco, Tom Stoppard, David Mamet, Amiri Baraka, William Inge, Václav Havel, Bertolt Brecht, and Harold Pinter—rendered Grove an estimable force in theater, perhaps more influential than any other publisher of the century. What follows is an account from Rosset’s long-awaited autobiography of the Broadway debut of Harold Pinter, and his time in New York with his publisher.

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An excerpt from Rosset:

When we signed up Pinter, I remember very well that we had not yet seen one of his plays performed, but his scripts clearly showed his writing was brilliant. The way he used silence was reminiscent, to me, of Beckett—but different. There was an all-pervading sense of menace. The Dumb Waiter was a good example. Pure menace, terrifying, brilliant theater charged with a silent danger.

Pinter’s agent was Jimmy Wax. He and Harold were close friends. In New York they premiered The Homecoming on Broadway, but opening night was less than triumphant with many in the audience hating it. I remember asking Jimmy, “Who the hell did you invite to this opening?” I mean, at an opening when an author is already very well known, you can pick and choose whom you’re inviting—and you’re giving away many tickets. At least you ought to get people who might like the play. But on that first night one woman in the audience stood up and shouted in the middle of the first act: “Let’s get out of here, this is terrible!”

Pinter always talked and even acted as if he were a character in one of his plays. During the New York blackout of 1965, Cristina and I were in a Greenwich Village restaurant with Harold and my wife’s sister. Initially, when the lights went out, we thought that the blackout was confined to the restaurant and its immediate vicinity. I got my car from our nearby house, parked it facing the restaurant, and turned on the headlights so we could see to eat. The restaurant staff did not object. We slowly realized there was a total blackout extending as far as we could see uptown. Harold sat there silently for a long time, then suddenly said, “Does this happen very often here?” I waited for about three minutes before answering, as if we were in one of his plays, and then said, “Not often. Every twenty years or so.” Finally, Harold asked us to go back with him to his room at the luxurious, blacked-out Carlyle Hotel. We did and a city police officer carrying a flashlight escorted us up a back stairway. Back in his room, Harold read to us by candlelight a poem he had recently written. It was a memorable evening.

Pinter asked Beckett to critique everything he wrote, and Beckett liked Pinter both as a friend and as a writer, and paid him and his work close attention. The reverse was equally true.

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Further Reading

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EXTINCTION: A RADICAL HISTORY book trailer

July 15, 2016

A fan recently honored us with a book trailer for Extinction: A Radical History.

"Narco Politics: the Political Economy of the Drug War" CARMEN BOULLOSA and MIKE WALLACE reviewed by CounterPunch

July 13, 2016

"A Narco History does a commendable job of laying out the various players who came to power in the modern day Mexican drug cartels.”

To read more, visit CounterPunch

"Don't Burn the Books" MARA EINSTEIN in Philosophy Football

July 12, 2016

"Mara Einstein’s Black Ops Advertising details the many ways in which corporate PR operations have sought to colonise social media.”

To read more, visit Philosophy Football

A star deserves a star: Kirkus Reviews gives ROSSET a starred review

July 12, 2016

A self-portrait of the man who reshaped how we think about language, literature and sex


The renegade of 20th-century publishing, Barney Rosset, began work on his autobiography a decade before his death in 2012. Several publishers and editors later, it finally sees the light of day.

 

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"VIVID AND INFORMATIVE
... a must for anyone interested in 20th-century American publishing and culture."
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

 

This “candid self-portrait” (Publishers Weekly) of “the one-in-a-million Barney Rosset, America's bravest publisher” (Paul Auster) tells “a colorful and rollicking history” (Publishers Weekly) of the one person of whom it could be said he “represents the literary world of the latter half of the 20th century” (Kenzaburō Ōe).

 

 

Rosset is now shipping: only direct from OR Books. Not available on Amazon or in stores until January.

Further Reading

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"A Lit'r'y Coup": an excerpt from FINKS

July 12, 2016

When the literary élite was sustained by the C.I.A.


The secret organization better known for its coups, assassinations, and spying activities underwrote literary and cultural institutions such as The Paris Review—often with the complicity of their editors and publishers.

 

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From the introduction to Finks:

In early 1966, Harold “Doc” Humes, one of the founders of The Paris Review, wrote a well-intentioned ultimatum to George Plimpton, another founder. Having left it to Plimpton to run the famous magazine long before, Humes was floundering. Living in London, where his wife Anna Lou had left him over the holidays, he was dogged by bouts of extreme paranoia and convinced that he was under surveillance. According to Anna Lou, he believed that the bedposts in his London home recorded whatever he said, and that the recordings were then played directly for Queen Elizabeth.

Yet in his March 1966 letter to Plimpton, he was clear and reasonable, writing that Peter Matthiessen, another Paris Review founder, had just visited London and had told Humes an astonishing story. During his stay, Matthiessen had admitted that “The Paris Review was originally set up and used as a cover for [Matthiessen’s] activities as an agent for the Central Intelligence Agency.” Humes continued,

He further said that you [Plimpton] knew nothing about this until recently, that in fact when he told you your face “turned the color of (my) sweater” which I hasten to inform you is neither red nor blue but a very dirty grey-white, my having worn nothing else since my wife left. It precisely matches my spirits; they get greyer every day.

Humes even sympathized. “I believe Peter when he says he is properly ashamed of involving the [Paris Review] in his youthful folly, and, true, this was all 15 years ago. BUT…”

Humes was just one of The Paris Review’s larger-than-life personalities. The magazine received early praise from American publications like Time and Newsweek, and also from magazines and newspapers all over Europe. It helped launch the careers of William Styron, Terry Southern, T.C. Boyle, and Philip Roth, among others. It threw legendary parties where, for decades, actors like Warren Beatty and political and cultural figures like Jackie Kennedy would rub shoulders with New York City’s writers and book publishing rank and file. Its editor-in-chief Plimpton was already a best-selling author, a friend of the Kennedys, one of Esquire magazine’s “most attractive men in America,” and, according to Norman Mailer, the most popular man in New York City. His personal entourage drew attention, too. A 1963 Cornell Capa photograph shows a group assembled for one of the famous cocktail parties in Plimpton’s apartment. In the picture are Truman Capote, Ralph Ellison, Humes, Matthiessen, Styron, Southern, and Godfather author Mario Puzo.

. . .

Arguing that an association with secret institutions like the C.I.A. would inevitably lead to “rot,” Humes advised Plimpton that, for the integrity of the magazine, he should make Matthiessen’s ties during the magazine’s founding public. Citing Edmund Burke’s line “that it is enough for evil to triumph that good men do nothing,” Humes wrote, “I have deeply believed in the Review and all that we hoped it stood for, but until this matter is righted I feel I have no honorable choice but to resolutely resign. Even if I have to split an infinitive to do it.” He went on to suggest that Matthiessen might” laugh the matter off in print in a manner calculated to restore our tarnished escutcheon…” Under these circumstances, he would stay. Barring that, however, “I should like my name removed from the masthead. I’m sure it will not be missed.”

In attempting to inspire his colleagues to come clean, Humes cited an opinion that grew increasingly common as revelations of the C.I.A.’s vast propaganda apparatus were published in Ramparts magazine and The New York Times in 1964, 1966, and 1967. Namely, that any association with the super-secret spy agency—notorious for coups, assassinations, and undermining democracy in the name of fighting communism—tainted the reputations of those involved. Humes pressed the point forcefully. “Since this was apparently a formal arrangement, involving his being trained in a New York safehouse and being paid through a cover name, then without doubt the fact is recorded in some or several dusty functionarys’ [sic] files in Washington or around the world that our hapless magazine was created and used as an engine in the damned cold war…” He continued,

although Peter is not [to] be blamed for a paranoid system that makes victims of its instruments, nevertheless what of Styron?… What of half the young writers in America who have been netted in our basket? What color would their faces turn?

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Of interest: Rear Window, Julian Stallabrass on the C.I.A.'s covert funding of Abstract Expressionist painters during the Cold War.

 

Further Reading

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How to support CHELSEA MANNING today

July 11, 2016

How to support Chelsea Manning in the wake of her recent hospitalization:




DEMAND SAFE LIVING CONDITIONS AND MEDICAL TREATMENT. Chelsea Manning has been fighting to receive urgent medical care for years. Though she managed to secure access to hormone therapy after a lawsuit against the Department of Defense, she (against the advice of her military doctors) is being forced to conform to male grooming standards. The Department of Justice claimed this was due to “safety concerns”, but as Manning’s lawyer Chase Strangio countered: “There is no question that Chelsea already stands out in a men’s facility - there is likely not a person there who does not know who she is or that she is a woman.” Fight for policy changes that will ensure the safety of trans prisoners, from fair sentencing to critical health policy.
SUPPORT CHELSEA'S APPEAL
As the Court Martial Appeal Brief, filed May 18 of this year notes, “No whistleblower in American history has been sentenced this harshly”. Despite incendiary claims that Wikileaks “has blood on its hands”, government witnesses found no examples of any deaths resulting from the leaks. As her appeals process is now underway, funds are desperately needed to cover the legal expenses involved. Donate here.


WRITE!
Chelsea has noted that letters are a great source of comfort, stating ““I am happily reminded that I am real and that I do exist for people outside this prison.” Chelsea’s address is as follows: CHELSEA E. MANNING 89289 1300 NORTH WAREHOUSE ROAD FORT LEAVENWORTH, KANSAS 66027-2304 Guidelines detailing what sort of mail Chelsea is able to receive can be found here.

"With Friends Like These..." DOUG HENWOOD reviewed by The Indypendent

July 7, 2016

"Progressives will find many new reasons to dislike Clinton after reading this sordid expose.”

To hear more, visit The Indypendent

"Ashley Dawson Interview - Podcast July 4, 2016" ASHLEY DAWSON on Democratic Perspective

July 7, 2016

"Ashley Dawson, professor of English at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York, and author of the new book, Extinction, a Radical History, joins Democratic Perspective regulars Mike Cosentino, Gary LaMaster, and Steve Williamson, for a discussion of the toll human exploitation has taken on Earth’s biodiversity. What does it imply for our future that in the past fifty years alone, 40% of the planet’s species have disappeared? The inescapable answer: we have to change our perspective. Simply put, the ruthless exploitation of natural resources has limits. If we refuse to acknowledge them, we may wind up without a home.”

To hear more, visit Democratic Perspective

Roundup: PATRICK COCKBURN on the Chilcot inquiry

July 6, 2016

The Chilcot inquiry is an unmistakable and damning indictment of Tony Blair's Iraq War policy—but will it make a difference?


Veteran war reporter Patrick Cockburn has spent years covering the unfolding disaster in the Greater Middle East. In light of this week's report, his analysis is proving indispensable.

 

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Quoting at length from Patrick Cockburn's column in the Independent:

"By an accident of history, the Chilcot inquiry on the Iraq War is appearing at a critical moment in British history. The war was the first great test this century of the ability of the British powers-that-be to govern intelligently and successfully and one which they demonstrably failed. The crisis provoked by the vote to leave the European Union is the next crisis of similar gravity faced by these same powers and, once again, they appear unable to cope.

"Britain’s politicians and senior officials have traditionally had the reputation of making fewer mistakes than their rivals, but their inability to grapple with these crises is a sign that this period may be drawing to an end. The Chilcot report will presumably provide evidence about why Britain made so many mistakes before and during the Iraq war, but is unlikely to explain why it went on making them in Libya and Syria.

"Britain’s rulers periodically admit that they got many things wrong in Iraq, but they tend to be unspecific about what these were or what practical lessons can be learned from British military involvement there between 2003 and 2009. This ignorance is wilful, stemming from a conscious or unconscious sense that, if Britain admits to real weaknesses and failures, it will be seen as a less valuable ally by the US and others whom Britain is trying to convince of its continuing political and military strength.

"One way of looking at the Iraq conflict is to see it as a disastrous attempt by Britain to make war on the cheap in conditions which were far more risky than those launching it imagined. To prevent fragile support for the war eroding further, bad news was concealed or glossed over to the point that propaganda took over from reality.

"It was comical but chilling in the early years of the war to see Tony Blair and other British ministers, sometimes protected by helmets and body armor, travelling by helicopter from Baghdad International Airport to the Green Zone because it was too dangerous for them to drive along the short stretch of road between the two. Despite the necessity for these security measures in the heart of the Iraqi capital, they would then blithely state that the insurgents were on the run and a majority of Iraqi provinces at peace, a claim they wisely made no attempt to validate by a personal visit and in the knowledge that journalists could not disprove without grave risk of being murdered." 1

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BBC Radio also called on Cockburn to contextualize the inquiry's findings in the greater British political landscape. Cockburn:

Robin Cook, the former Foreign Secretary … made a magnificent resignation speech in 2003 before the beginning of the war, saying, 'look, the military strategy for overthrowing Saddam Hussein is that he’s militarily very weak, there won’t be much resistance; but the justification for this war is that he is a threat to us all—and you can’t have it both ways. So from the very beginning there was a contradiction. And Cook also says, 'well it’s very unlikely he has militarily significant WMD'. It turned out he had none. But that’s something that could and should have been known at the time, and probably was instinctively known. So the threat was exaggerated to the point that it just becomes untrue. 2

And later, on BBC Radio Five Live, Cockburn charges that Blair, on Iraq, "has always been a bit detached from reality," but that the "single-minded focus on Tony Blair as the evil architect of the whole war and almost a scapegoat for everything that happened is simple-minded and a bit deceptive. You have to look at what happened to British policy in general." 3

Further Reading

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1 The Independent, published 4 July 2016
2 BBC West Midlands Radio, broadcast 7 July 2016
3 BBC Radio Five Live, broadcast 7 July 2016

"Summer Camp Under Siege" MOHAMMED OMER for The New York Times

July 5, 2016

"Balloons emblazoned with an Olympic-style torch bobbed cheerfully in the sky above a swimming meet. For 12-year-old Adam Nairab and the other children on the beach, they provided inspiration. The balloons meant there was more to life than drones, explosions and the threat of sudden death.”

To hear more, visit The New York Times

"Chilcot report: Tony Blair, the Iraq War, and the words of mass destruction that continue to deceive" PATRICK COCKBURN for The Independent

July 5, 2016

"By an accident of history, the Chilcot inquiry on the Iraq War is appearing at a critical moment in British history. The war was the first great test this century of the ability of the British powers-that-be to govern intelligently and successfully and one which they demonstrably failed. The crisis provoked by the vote to leave the European Union is the next crisis of similar gravity faced by these same powers and, once again, they appear unable to cope.”

To hear more, visit The Independent