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News :: Human Rights : International : Media : Organizing : War and Militarism
The Republican Candidate (4)
by posted by F Espinoza
18 Feb 2008
If this is a subject of interest to you, in the United States today there are five Cuban prisoners, separated one from the other by thousands of miles. They have no area that can be sarcastically called the “Hanoi Hilton”. Their suffering and the injustice of which they are victims will be known the world over; don't doubt it for a minute
The Republican Candidate (4)
When in the previous reflection I asked McCain what he thought of the Five antiterrorist Cuban Heroes, I did so because I remembered what he had published on page 206 of his book Faith of My Fathers, co-written with his assistant Mark Salter:
“It’s an awful thing, solitary. It crushes your spirit and weakens your resistance more effectively than any other form of mistreatment. Having no one else to rely on, to share confidences with, to seek counsel from, you begin to doubt your judgment and your courage. But you eventually adjust to solitary, as you can to almost any hardship, by devising various methods to keep your mind off your troubles and greedily grasping any opportunity for human contact.”
“When in 1970 my period of solitary confinement was finally ended, I was overwhelmed by the compulsion to talk nonstop..."
If this is a subject of interest to you, in the United States today there are five Cuban prisoners, separated one from the other by thousands of miles. They have no area that can be sarcastically called the “Hanoi Hilton”. Their suffering and the injustice of which they are victims will be known the world over; don't doubt it for a minute. I decided to revisit the subject remembering that, in one of your many declarations, you were trying to locate the spot turned into a prison for the pilots of the bombers brought down as they were attacking Vietnam.
I was housed in the former residence of the French Governor of all Indochina when I visited Vietnam in 1973, a country where I arrived on September 12 after the agreement between the United States and Vietnam, to which you referred. There I was visited by Pham Van Dong, the Prime Minister at the time, who wept as he remembered the human and material sacrifices imposed on his country; from there I left to visit the South –not yet totally liberated– up to the McNamara Line, where the steel bunkers had been taken by the Vietnamese combatants, despite the bombings and the continued U.S. air attacks.
All the bridges along the road, without exception, between Hanoi and the South visible from the air, were destroyed; the villages razed, and every day the cluster bomb grenades dropped for that purpose, were blowing up in the rice paddies where children, women and even very old people were working to produce food.
A great number of craters could be seen in each one of the entrances to the bridges. At that time there were no laser guided bombs, much more precise. I had to insist on making that trip. The Vietnamese were afraid that I would be the victim of some Yankee plot if they learned of my presence in that area. Pham Van Dong accompanied me at all times.
We flew over Nghe-An Province where Ho Chi Minh was born. In that province, as well as in Ha Tinh, two million Vietnamese starved to death in 1945, the last year of World War II. We landed in Dong Hoi. A million bombs were dropped over the province where that destroyed city lies. We crossed the Nhat Le on a raft. We visited an assistance center for the wounded of Quang Tri. We saw numerous captured M-48 tanks. We took wooden roads over what was once the National Highway that had been destroyed by bombs. We got together with young Vietnamese soldiers who covered themselves with glory at the Battle of Quang Tri. Calm, resolute, seasoned by the sun and the war, a slight tic quivered the eyelid of the battalion captain. No one knows how they could have stood up to so much bombing. They were worthy of praise. On that same afternoon on September 15, returning by a different route, we picked up three wounded children, two of which were in very serious condition; a 14 year old girl was in a state of shock with a metal fragment in her abdomen. The children were working in the fields when one of their tools accidentally touched a grenade. The Cuban doctors accompanying the delegation cared for them directly for hours and saved their lives. I was a witness, Mr. McCain, to the heroic deeds of the bombing raids on North Vietnam, the same ones you are so proud of.
During those days in September, Allende had been overthrown; the Presidential palace was attacked and many Chileans were tortured and murdered. The coup was promoted and organized from Washington.
All that unfortunately happened.
The basic problem at this time is to know whether the Republican candidate McCain is aware of the economic crisis which, shortly or immediately, will beset the United States. Only from that point of view will it be possible to evaluate any candidate with the possibility of assuming the leadership of that powerful country.
Two days ago on February 12, the international news agency IAR published an article signed by Manuel Freytas, a journalist, researcher and analyst, entitled “Why a recession in the United States can turn into a global crisis.”
There is no need for many proofs to argue the case.
“In the current bleak forecast of the U.S. economy –he writes– key institutions of today’s economic-financial system come together, such as the Federal Reserve and the United States Treasury, the World Bank, the WMF, the G-7 (the 7 wealthiest nations) and the central banks of Europe and Asia, seeing in the confluence of credit crisis-collapsing dollar-escalating oil prices, a potential central detonator in a recessive process in capitalism on a world scale.
“The fear of a U.S. recession and its impact on the world economy…has negatively impacted on the confidence of the system’s economic and political elite.
“The Chairman of the United States Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, said that his country could fall into a recessive process and that it faces the double challenge of a falling real estate market, and at the same time the necessity of making sure that inflation does not push up the prices of oil and foods.
“In January, the United Nations Organization warned of the existence of an elevated risk of falling into a global economic recession…”
“At the Davos Forum held in January in the Swiss Alps, the leaders of the richest and most powerful world powers have just warned of a recession in the United States with worldwide implications, predicting a bleak forecast for this year.
“The Finance Ministers and the central banks of the seven wealthiest countries in the world (G-7) considered last Saturday that their economies are going to shortly suffer deceleration, according to the final communiqué at a meeting in Tokyo…”
“There are two key elements that explain why a recessive crisis in the United States would be immediately projected upon the entire world economy, both in the central countries as well as in the ‘emerging’ and ‘peripheral’ countries.
“a) In the current world economy globalized model, the United States is the principal buyer and consumer of products and energy resources, and represents 22.5 percent of the world economy, according to the latest calculations of the World Bank.
“b) The capitalist world economy is ‘dollarized’. The dollar is the standard currency for all commercial and financial transactions on a world scale.
“These two central factors explain why any economic-financial oscillation or imbalance having the United States as its protagonist impacts and immediately spreads throughout the ‘system’.
“A recessive crisis in the United States…would immediately impact on the stock exchanges and the globalized money markets…completing the cycle of the collapse of today’s model of capitalist economy on a world scale.
“The collapse of the model would break the equilibrium of political ‘governability’ and would unleash a wave of social and trade union conflicts that would equally affect the United States and the central powers as well as the 'emerging' countries."
Yesterday, February 13, various articles by well-known American journalists were pointing in the same direction, even though they took up different arguments. I shall quote only two; of these I have selected paragraphs that reflect the topicality and importance of their contents, using concepts that are completely accessible for the educational levels of our people.
Under the title of “The American Model is an Idea whose Time has Come”, Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, an international daily news show broadcast by 650 radio and television stations in the U.S. and the world, wrote:
“Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., made it personal: “Would waterboarding be torture if it was done to you?” “I would feel that it was,” Mukasey responded. Though he deflected questions, before and after Kennedy’s, his personal answer rang true.
“Our attorney general should not have to be waterboarded to know that it is torture.
“Suharto ruled Indonesia for more than 30 years, shored up by the most powerful country on Earth, the United States.
“Throughout Suharto’s reign, U.S. administrations—Democratic and Republican—armed, trained and financed the Indonesian military. In addition to the million Indonesians killed, hundreds of thousands were also killed during Indonesia’s occupation of East Timor, a small country 300 miles above Australia.
“On Nov. 12, 1991, when I was covering a peaceful Timorese procession in Timor’s capital, Dili, Suharto’s occupying army opened fired on the crowd, killing 270 Timorese.
“The soldiers beat me with their boots and the butts of their U.S. M-16s. They fractured the skull of my colleague Allan Nairn, who was writing for The New Yorker magazine at the time.
“Transparency International estimated Suharto’s fortune to be between $15 billion and $35 billion. The current U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, Cameron Hume, praised Suharto’s memory this week, saying, “President Suharto led Indonesia for over 30 years, a period during which Indonesia achieved remarkable economic and social development.
“Whether it’s waterboarding, waging an illegal war or holding hundreds of prisoners without charge for years at Guantanamo Bay or at CIA black sites around the world, I am reminded of Mahatma Gandhi, one of the world’s greatest nonviolent leaders. “What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless,” he asked, “whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?”
“When asked what he thought of Western civilization, Gandhi responded, “I think it would be a good idea.”
That same day, in CounterPunch, Robert Weissman wrote another article titled “The Shameful State of the Union”, translated for Rebelión by S. Seguí, where among other things he stated:
“The United States is spending more than $700 billion a year on the military. The 2008 appropriations bills include $506.9 billion for the Department of Defense and the nuclear weapons activities of the Department of Energy, plus an additional $189.4 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Congress has approved nearly $700 billion to fight the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is the appropriated amount. It doesn't include costs to society -- loss of life, injuries, etc.
“Depending on how you count, more than half of all discretionary federal spending is now directed to the military.
“Wealth is concentrating in the United States at a startling rate.
“In 1976, the top 1 percent of the population received 8.83 percent of national income. In 2005, they grabbed 21.93 percent.
“In the hyper-financialized economy, it's the finance guys who are getting truly rich…despite the huge losses being wracked up on Wall Street.
“But even the traditional investment banks can't match the outrageous compensation captured by private equity and hedge fund managers, a few of whom manage to pull in more than $1 billion in a single year. Thanks to a tax loophole, these characters pay income tax at a rate less than half of what a dentist making $200,000 a year pays.
“Corporations are capturing more of the nation's wealth.
“The housing bubble and the subprime mortgage meltdown are driving millions of families from their homes.
“The Center for Responsible Lending estimates that 2.2 million subprime home loans made in recent years have already failed or will end in foreclosure. Homeowners will lose $164 billion from these foreclosures, the Center projects. Overall losses from deflated housing values may top $2 trillion.
“The racial wealth divide remains a chasm with little prospect of being bridged -- and is likely growing worse.
“It would take 594 more years for African Americans to achieve parity with whites, according to United for a Fair Economy. But the subprime debacle is hitting minority communities disproportionately hard causing what United for a Fair Economy believes may be the worst deprivation of people of color's wealth in modern U.S. history.
“More than one in six children lives in poverty.
“More than 45 million people in the United States do not have health insurance.
“The 2006 U.S. trade deficit totaled $763.6 billion. The trade deficit will eventually have to be balanced -- sooner than later, it now seems. As the dollar continues to swoon, expect to see inflation and higher interest rates over the medium term. The real standard of living, in economic terms, will decline as a result.
“U.S. fuel efficiency is worse now than it was two decades ago.
“The nation's infrastructure is crumbling. The American Society of Civil Engineers estimates that $1.6 trillion is needed over a five-year period to bring the nation's infrastructure to good condition.
“Most of these conditions are worse now than at the start of the Bush administration, many dramatically worse. But they have their roots in a bipartisan policy approach over the last three decades, favoring deregulation, handover of government assets to corporations (privatization), corporate globalization, hyper-financialization, lunatic military expenditures, tax cuts for the rich and a slashed social safety net.”
Robert Weissman, author of the article, is editor of the Washington D.C.-based Multinational Monitor and director of Essential Action.
So as not to impose on my readers, all that remains is Part Five.
Fidel Castro Ruz
February 14, 2008.
The Republican Candidate (5)
THE articles introduced in yesterday’s reflection, on February 14, were written in the last two or three days.
More than two weeks ago, on January 27, 2008, the digital publication Tom Dispatch reproduced an article translated for Rebelión by Germán Leyens: "Why the Debt Crisis is Now the Greatest Threat to the American Republic," by Chalmers Johnson. This American author has not been awarded the Nobel Prize, as has Joseph Stiglitz, the famous and well-known economist and writer, or even Milton Friedman himself, who inspired neoliberalism and led many countries down that disastrous path, including the United States.
Friedman was the most intensive advocate of economic liberalism opposed to any government regulations. His ideas nurtured Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. An active member of the Republican Party, he advised Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Augusto Pinochet, that man with a sinister story. He died in November of 2006 at the age of 94. He wrote numerous works, among them Capitalism and Liberty.
When I refer to Chalmers Johnson’s article, I am strictly abiding by the irrefutable arguments he used. I use the method of selecting essential paragraphs textually.
"Going into 2008, the United States finds itself in the anomalous position of being unable to pay for its own elevated living standards or its wasteful, overly large military establishment. Its government no longer even attempts to reduce the ruinous expenses of maintaining huge standing armies, replacing the equipment that seven years of wars have destroyed or worn out, or preparing for a war in outer space against unknown adversaries. Instead, the Bush administration puts off these costs for future generations to pay –or repudiate.
"This utter fiscal irresponsibility has been disguised through many manipulative financial schemes (such as causing poorer countries to lend us unprecedented sums of money), but the time of reckoning is fast approaching.
"There are three broad aspects to our debt crisis. First, in the current fiscal year (2008) we are spending insane amounts of money on "defense" projects that bear no relationship to the national security of the United States. Simultaneously, we are keeping the income tax burdens on the richest segments of the American population at strikingly low levels."
"Second, we continue to believe that we can compensate for the accelerating erosion of our manufacturing base and our loss of jobs to foreign countries through massive military expenditures…"
"Third, in our devotion to militarism, we are failing to invest in our social infrastructure and other requirements for the long-term health of our country..."
"Our public education system has deteriorated alarmingly. We have failed to provide health care to all our citizens and neglected our responsibilities as the world’s number one polluter. Most important, we have lost our competitiveness as a manufacturer for civilian needs –an infinitely more efficient use of scarce resources than arms manufacturing…"
"It is virtually impossible to overstate the profligacy of what our government spends on the military. The Department of Defense’s planned expenditures for fiscal year 2008 are larger than all other nations’ military budgets combined. The supplementary budget to pay for the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is in itself larger than the combined military budgets of Russia and China. Defense-related spending for fiscal 2008 will exceed $1 trillion for the first time in history. The United States has become the largest single salesman of arms and munitions to other nations on Earth…"
"The numbers released by the Congressional Reference Service and the Congressional Budget Office do not agree with each other…"
"There are many reasons for this budgetary sleight-of-hand—including a desire for secrecy on the part of the president, the secretary of defense, and the military-industrial complex—but the chief one is that members of Congress, who profit enormously from defense jobs and pork-barrel projects in their districts, have a political interest in supporting the Department of Defense…"
"For example, $23.4 billion for the Department of Energy goes toward developing and maintaining nuclear warheads; and $25.3 billion in the Department of State budget is spent on foreign military assistance…"
"The Department of Veterans Affairs currently gets at least $75.7 billion, 50% of which goes for the long-term care of the grievously injured among the at least 28,870 soldiers so far wounded in Iraq and another 1,708 in Afghanistan.
"Another $46.4 billion goes to the Department of Homeland Security; $1.9 billion to the Department of Justice for the paramilitary activities of the FBI; $38.5 billion to the Department of the Treasury for the Military Retirement Fund; $7.6 billion for the military-related activities of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA); and well over $200 billion in interest for past debt-financed defense outlays. This brings U.S. spending for its military establishment during the current fiscal year (2008), conservatively calculated, to at least $1.1 trillion.
"Such expenditures are not only morally obscene, they are fiscally unsustainable. Many neoconservatives and poorly informed patriotic Americans believe that, even though our defense budget is huge, we can afford it because we are the richest country on Earth… That statement is no longer true. The world’s richest political entity, according to the CIA’s World Fact Book, is the European Union. The EU’s 2006 GDP was estimated to be slightly larger than that of the U.S. However, China's 2006 GDP was only slightly smaller that that of the U.S., and Japan was the world's fourth richest nation.
"A more telling comparison that reveals just how much worse we're doing can be found among the "current accounts" of various nations. The current account measures the net trade surplus or deficit of a country plus cross-border payments of interest, royalties, dividends, capital gains, foreign aid, and other income. In order for Japan to manufacture anything, it must import all required raw materials. Even after this incredible expense is met, it still has an $88 billion per year trade surplus with the United States and enjoys the world's second highest current account balance. China is number one. The United States, by contrast, is number 163 -- dead last on the list, worse than countries like Australia and the United Kingdom that also have large trade deficits. Its 2006 current account deficit was $811.5 billion; second worst was Spain at $106.4 billion. This is what is unsustainable. .. "
"Our excessive military expenditures did not occur over just a few short years. They have been going on for a very long time in accordance with a superficially plausible ideology and have now become entrenched. This ideology I call "military Keynesianism" -- the determination to maintain a permanent war economy and to treat military output as an ordinary economic product, even though it makes no contribution to either production or consumption...
"The Great Depression of the 1930s had been overcome only by the war production boom of World War II…"
"With this understanding, American strategists began to build up a massive munitions industry, both to counter the military might of the Soviet Union (which they consistently overstated) and also to maintain full employment as well as ward off a possible return of the Depression. The result was that, under Pentagon leadership, entire new industries were created to manufacture large aircraft, nuclear-powered submarines, nuclear warheads, intercontinental ballistic missiles, and surveillance and communications satellites. This led to what President Eisenhower warned against in his farewell address of February 6, 1961: "The conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience" -- that is, the military-industrial complex.
"By 1990, the value of the weapons, equipment, and factories devoted to the Department of Defense was 83% of the value of all plants and equipment in American manufacturing…"
"Even though the Soviet Union no longer exists, U.S. reliance on military Keynesianism has, if anything, ratcheted up…
"Devotion to military Keynesianism is, in fact, a form of slow economic suicide…"
"The historian Thomas E. Woods, Jr., observes that, during the 1950s and 1960s, between one-third and two-thirds of all American research talent was siphoned off into the military sector…"
"Between the 1940s and 1996, the United States spent at least $5.8 trillion on the development, testing, and construction of nuclear bombs. By 1967, the peak year of its nuclear stockpile, the United States possessed some 32,500 deliverable atomic and hydrogen bombs…"
"Nuclear weapons were not just America's secret weapon, but also its secret economic weapon. As of 2006, we still had 9,960 of them (of the most modern ones). There is today no sane use for them, while the trillions spent on them could have been used to solve the problems of social security and health care, quality education and access to education for all, not to speak of the retention of highly skilled jobs within the American economy. .."
"Our short tenure as the world’s "lone superpower" has come to an end.
"Today we are no longer the world's leading lending country. In fact we are now the world's biggest debtor country, and we are continuing to wield influence on the basis of military prowess alone."
"Some of the damage done can never be rectified."
"There are some steps that this country urgently needs to take. These include reversing Bush's 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the wealthy, beginning to liquidate our global empire of over 800 military bases, cutting from the defense budget all projects that bear no relationship to the national security of the United States, and ceasing to use the defense budget as a Keynesian jobs program. If we do these things we have a chance of squeaking by. If we don't, we face probable national insolvency and a long depression. "
In an Internet conference about Johnson’s work, the answer is already designed by him. What does he say? Something which I shall explain in a very brief summary:
Johnson is arguing that the United States is its own worst enemy. ‘Sooner rather than later, he assures us, the arrogance of the United States will result in its downfall’. Johnson’s book is largely made up by independent chapters on a number of vaguely related subjects."
"‘The time to avoid financial and moral bankruptcy is short’. Later, he arrives at the following conclusion: ‘We are on the edge of losing democracy in the name of holding on to our empire’. Johnson’s work is described as ‘polemical’…While many of us have become insensitive to the White House’s atrocities, Johnson’s indignation with the Administration –its torture memoranda, its disdain for free public information, its mockery of established treaties– is vivid. This could be due to his conservative background: Marine lieutenant in the 50’s, CIA adviser from 1967 to 1973 and a long-time advocate of the Vietnam War. Johnson became horrified by militarism and American interventionism late in the game. Now he is writing as if he would like to make up for lost time. The most outstanding of Johnson’s contributions to the debate about the American empire is his documentation of the vast network of U.S. military bases overseas…
"‘Many years ago we were able to trace the expansion of imperialism by tallying up the colonies', writes Chalmers Johnson in Nemesis: The Last Days of the American Republic. ‘The American version of the colony is the military base…’"
"Nemesis is a book about hard power. By comparing the far-flung U.S. bases with Roman garrisons, Johnson hypothesizes that things haven’t changed much since the days of Caesar and Octavius. But with nuclear weapons scattered among the great and the lesser powers, military might can only achieve mutual destruction…Our troops are besieged."
"Each one of Johnson’s erudite chapters teaches as much as it disturbs. But his underlying moaning about the death of democracy lacks analytic strength. Johnson looks incredulously at ‘those who believe that Washington’s governmental structure today is in any way similar to that which was sketched out by the Constitution of 1787'."
"Such pessimism seems exaggerated. The Republic has survived Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover, and democracy, despite the blows it has received, will also survive Bush."
The arguments for concretely answering the article signed by Johnson on January 27th require more than a declaration of faith in democracy and freedom. Johnson did not invent the arithmetic that even a sixth grade student knows; nor was it invented by the great Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, also a Nobel Prize Laureate. He was very close to not getting his university degree: his biographer tells us that he was constantly asking how much 8 times 5 were; he could never remember that it was 40.
Several months ago, while carefully analyzing more than 400 pages of the translation of the memoirs of Alan Greenspan who for 16 years was the Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States, The Age of Turbulence –about which I promised to write some reflections and it is already water under the bridge– I learned about the secret of his enormous worries: what is beginning to happen today. In essence, I clearly understood the consequences, so terrible for the system, of printing paper bills and spending with no limits.
I deliberately did not confront any of the candidates from both parties on the very delicate subject of climate change to avoid disturbing illusions and dreams. Publicity does not affect the laws of physics and biology. These are less understandable and more complicated.
I expressed a few months ago the certainty that the most knowledgeable person on the subject of climate change and the most popular would not be running for president. He had already been a candidate and victory was snatched from him as the result of a scandalous fraud. He understood the risks of nature and politics. Obviously, I refer to Albert Gore. He is a good barometer. We have to ask him every day how he slept. His answers would doubtlessly be useful to the desperate scientific community which desires the survival of the species.
In my next reflection I will deal with a subject of interest to many compatriots, but I won't give any hints.
I apologize to the readers for the time and the space that I took for five days with the Republican Candidate.
Fidel Castro Ruz
February 15, 2008
Translated by ESTI
This work is in the public domain