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Nederlog

August 31, 2015
Crisis: Capitalism, Austerity, Corbyn *2, Pentagon's War Manual

 "They who can give up essential 
   liberty to obtain a little temporary
   safety, deserve neither liberty
   nor safety."
 
   -- Benjamin Franklin
   "All governments lie and nothing
   they say should be believed.
"
   -- I.F. Stone
   "Power tends to corrupt, and   
   absolute power corrupts
   absolutely. Great men are        
   almost always bad men."
   -- Lord Acton















Prev- crisis -Next

Sections
Introduction

1.
The Great Unraveling
2. How Austerity Economics Is Fraying Europe’s Social
     Contract

3. Jeremy Corbyn poses national security threat, says
     George Osborne

4. Corbynmania is ‘Alice in Wonderland’ politics, says Tony
     Blair in final plea

5. Pentagon’s New “Law of War” Manual “Reduces Us to the
     Level of Nazis”
 



This is a Nederlog of Monday August 31, 2015.

This is a crisis blog. There are 5 items with 5 dotted links: Item 1 is on an article by Chris Hedges that I don't quite agree with; item 2 is about an article about Europe that I also don't quite agree with; item 3 is about a comparison by George Osborne who said Corbyn is "a national security threat" - because he wants to stop the English nuclear rearmament; item 4 is about Tony Blair's latest bullshit, by a catholic war criminal who earned ca. 50 million pounds for himself, who tells that you cannot trust one of the few honest left wingers since 40 years; and item 5 is about the latest issue of the Pentagon War Manual, which got rid of all standards, and seems to look upon war basically as the Nazis did (according to Dr Boyle, who works as a professor of international law).
 

1. The Great Unraveling

The first article is by Chris Hedges on Truthdig:
This starts as follows:
The ideological and physical hold of American imperial power, buttressed by the utopian ideology of neoliberalism and global capitalism, is unraveling. Most, including many of those at the heart of the American empire, recognize that every promise made by the proponents of neoliberalism is a lie. Global wealth, rather than being spread equitably, as neoliberal proponents promised, has been funneled upward into the hands of a rapacious, oligarchic elite, creating vast economic inequality. The working poor, whose unions and rights have been taken from them and whose wages have stagnated or declined over the past 40 years, have been thrust into chronic poverty and underemployment, making their lives one long, stress-ridden emergency. The middle class is evaporating. Cities that once manufactured products and offered factory jobs are boarded up-wastelands. Prisons are overflowing. Corporations have orchestrated the destruction of trade barriers, allowing them to stash $2.1 trillion in profits in overseas banks to avoid paying taxes. And the neoliberal order, despite its promise to build and spread democracy, has hollowed out democratic systems to turn them into corporate leviathans.

Democracy, especially in the United States, is a farce, vomiting up right-wing demagogues such as Donald Trump, who has a chance to become the Republican presidential nominee and perhaps even president, or slick, dishonest corporate stooges such as Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and, if he follows through on his promise to support the Democratic nominee, even Bernie Sanders.
I agree more than not with the first paragraph, although I have three qualifi- cations and one addition:

First, I think the correct term is "neoconservatism" rather than "neoliberalism": it really is conservatism + the lie of "free trade", but since "free trade" was a lie anyway, and there is no liberalism in the neoconservatives, neoconservatism is the correct term. (This is important, since one of the dominant neoconservative techniques is the use of old words in new senses, that are not in the dictionary and are ideological stances themselves.)

Second, it seems true that the wages of the working poor "
have stagnated or declined over the past 40 years" (or 35 years, since it really started on a large scale after Thatcher and Reagan were elected), but this means (i) there very probably was a (secret) campaign all these years to keep them low, and (ii) the most important part of that campaign consisted in the systematic destruction of laws that protected the poor and the middle class, which was and is also called deregulation (and has been going on since Reagan).

Third, the fact that there are now "
cities that once manufactured products and offered factory jobs are boarded up-wastelands" (such as Detroit (<- Wikipedia)) is fundamentally due to a basic consequence of deregulation: the fleeing of manufacturing jobs and manufacturing firms to third-world countries were wages are much lower, together with the scam of replacing these manufacturing jobs by "servicing jobs".

Fourth, the addition I have in mind is that it has happened over the past 35 years: The rich basically have won, and have done so by breaking all the laws
that kept capitalism somewhat civilized, and used that fact to move their factories to the third world.

Next, there is this:
The attraction of a Trump, like the attraction of Radovan Karadzic or Slobodan Milosevic during the breakdown of Yugoslavia, is that his buffoonery, which is ultimately dangerous, mocks the bankruptcy of the political charade. It lays bare the dissembling, the hypocrisy, the legalized bribery. There is a perverted and, to many, refreshing honesty in this. The Nazis used this tactic to take power during the Weimar Republic. The Nazis, even in the eyes of their opponents, had the courage of their convictions, however unsavory those convictions were. Those who believe something, even something repugnant, are often given grudging respect. 
I don't know. What I see when I watch Donald Trump is mainly a megalomanic
quite unhappy fool who can blurt out his crazy "plans" because he is a casino billionaire surrounded by other Republican candidates roughly of his mental level but without his money.

Then again, although electing Trump as president probably would be a disaster,
I don't think he will be the Republican candidate or that if he will be, he will loose the elections. So on the moment I am more amused than not by his crazy antics, though indeed the successes he had show that the US electorate contains many millions of extremely stupid and ignorant fools, who can be misled to vote for virtually anyone.

Then there is this:
These neoliberal forces are also rapidly destroying the ecosystem. The Earth has not had this level of climate disruption since 250 million years ago when it underwent the Permian-Triassic extinction, which wiped out perhaps 90 percent of all species. This is a percentage we seem determined to replicate. Global warming is unstoppable, with polar ice caps and glaciers rapidly melting and sea levels certain to rise 10 or more feet within the next few decades, flooding major coastal cities.
I agree that "global warming is unstoppable", quite simply because the econo- mical system we live in, in part creates global warming through oil and coal, and especially oil is a very big and powerful industry, and also because the econo- mical system we live in does not have the reserves to undo the very large natural damages that have been done the last 50 years or so. [1]

Then there is this:
Fanaticism is bred by hopelessness and despair. It is not the product of religion, although religion often becomes the sacral veneer for violence. The more desperate people become, the more this nihilistic violence will spread.
Yes and no, and definitely no in the sense that fanaticism is also a product of religions, though indeed not limited to them. Indeed, the only reason I can see for Chris Hedges to deny this quite obvious fact (indeed about as obvious as the thesis that much of politics, as well, breeds fanaticism) is that he is currently a protestant minister, who somehow - and I don't understand how or why - also feels it necessary to defend all other religions except his own.

And then there is this:
We in the United States are not morally superior to Islamic State. We are responsible for over a million dead in Iraq and 4 million Iraqis who have been displaced or forced to become refugees. We kill in greater numbers. We kill more indiscriminately. Our drones, warplanes, heavy artillery, naval bombardments, machine guns, missiles and so-called special forces—state-run death squads—have decapitated far more people, including children, than Islamic State has.
This seems false to me, especially because of the use of the first term: "We in the United States". There are over 300 million people in the United States, and they have many shades of political and religious opinions, from the far left to the far right, with all inbetween positions filled by some as well.

You can't judge whole populations - over 300 million, in this case - by pretending to judge them as a whole, simply because you cannot, at least not rationally: the only thing all Americans have in common is that they live in America.

Then again, I think it is also not true that "the people of the United States" are "not morally superior to Islamic State". I will not argue this by comparing random Americans with random supporters of the Islamic State, but by comparing the intellectual bases of their systems:

The basis of the USA are its Constitution and its laws. I think both could have been much better than they are, but what there is, taken as a set of intellectual propositions [2], clearly is far superior to some fanatic interpretation (simply by reference to other Muslims, for most are a whole lot less fanatic than the followers of Isis) of some theses in the Koran. And Isis exists little over a year,
whereas the USA exists well over 200 years.

Finally, there is this, also as last paragraph:

Peace and harmony may not engulf the Earth if we succeed, but if we do not remove the ruling elites from power, if we do not overthrow the neoliberal order, and if we do not do it soon, we are doomed.
Well, "peace and harmony" never did "engulf the Earth", so it seems fair not to expect it will, as long as men remain men much as they have been the last 100.000 years.

Also, there are at least three basic outcomes: (1) the neoconservatives win (as they have been doing the last 35 years): this means a few rich will owe almost everything, and the mass of mankind will differ little from serfs; (2) the liberal
left somehow wins: this means either a partial return to the capitalism of the
1960ies and 1970ies or somehing like social democracy or socialism; (3) the economy collapses and cannot be reassembled: this means millions or hundreds
of millions (or more) will die,
and anything may follow.

As things stand, I believe the third alternative is the most likely, and the second the least likely.

2. How Austerity Economics Is Fraying Europe’s Social Contract 

The next article is by Con Hallinan on Common Dreams:

This starts as follows:

On one level, the recent financial agreement between the European Union and Greece makes no sense: Not a single major economist thinks the $96 billion loan will allow Athens to repay its debts, or get the economy moving anywhere but downwards. It’s what former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis called a “suicide pact,” designed to humiliate the left-wing Syriza government.

Why construct a pact that everyone knows will fail?

On the left, the interpretation is that the agreement is a conscious act of vengeance by the troika — the European Central Bank, the European Commission, and the International Monetary Fund — to punish Greece for daring to challenge the austerity program that has devastated the economy and impoverished its people.

The evidence for this explanation is certainly persuasive. The more the Greeks tried to negotiate a compromise with the EU, the worse the deal got. The final agreement was the most punitive of all. The message was clear: Rattle the gates of Heaven at your own peril.

I think that is basically correct, and the reasons are in the last paragraph. But in fact the article is not about Greece but about Europe, and its thesis is this:

But austerity as an economic strategy is about more than just throwing a scare into countries that, exhausted by years of cutbacks and high unemployment, are thinking of changing course. It’s also about laying the groundwork for the triumph of multinational corporate capitalism and undermining the social contract between labor and capital that’s characterized much of Europe for the past two generations.

It’s a new kind of barbarism, one that sacks countries with fine print.

In fact, I think that the job - "laying the groundwork for the triumph of multinational corporate capitalism and undermining the social contract between labor and capital" - has been mostly done; was done in Europe mostly between 1995 and 2010; and was mostly realized with the introduction of the euro and the making of one big European Federalist State that only formally depends on being somehow, indirectly, elected, but mostly is not.

Also, most of the rest of the article is a - fairly brief - survey of how things stand in Europe, which I will leave to your interests.

What I will quote is the concluding paragraph:

Between now and next April, four countries, all suffering under the painful stewardship of the troika, will hold national elections: Portugal, Greece, Spain and Ireland. The outcomes of those campaigns will go a long way toward determining whether democracy or autocracy is the future of the continent.
Perhaps. I think the elections are important, but then again the states in which they will happen are less important in Europe.

3. Jeremy Corbyn poses national security threat, says George Osborne

The next article is by Press Association on The Guardian:

This starts as follows:

A Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn would pose a threat to national security by undermining the future of the UK’s nuclear deterrent, according to the chancellor, George Osborne.

The chancellor said “an unholy alliance of Labour’s leftwing insurgents and the Scottish nationalists” would shatter decades of near-unbroken Westminster consensus in favour of maintaining a nuclear capability.

Both Corbyn, the favourite to succeed Ed Miliband, and the SNP oppose the renewal of the Trident missile system being pursued by the Conservative government. Osborne said that would be disastrous.

O Lord! According to Osborne, a "Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn" is very little different from terrorists ("a threat to national security") simply because they propose to stop continuing the very expensive and quite unsafe nuclear Trident missile system. How crude and crazy can you make your propaganda?

Here is a Tory-lite "New Labour" vision of Corbyn:

4. Corbynmania is ‘Alice in Wonderland’ politics, says Tony Blair in final plea

The next article is by Toby Helm and Daniel Boffey on The Guardian:

This starts as follows (under a photograph of a very aged Blair):

A defiant Tony Blair has dramatically re-entered the debate over Labour’s future with an 11th-hour appeal to party members to come to their senses and reject the “Alice in Wonderland” politics of Jeremy Corbyn.

The former prime minister and winner of three general elections says Corbyn’s supporters are operating in a “parallel reality” which rejects evidence and reason, and says their leftwing choice for leader will be an electoral disaster.

And this not just by a "winner of three general elections" but by a war criminal, a mass murderer and the owner of a fortune of between 20 millions and 80 million pounds! A man who pretends he feels sure his kind of politics can be trusted!

He also said (among other things that I will not quote):

Writing in the Observer, Blair says he accepts that successive warnings about Corbyn from himself, Neil Kinnock and Gordon Brown have fallen on deaf ears and seem to have made people more likely to back the MP for Islington North than turn away.

Let's hope so! And indeed Kinnock, and especially Blair and Brown, have let down and lied to their electorate in very many and major ways, so indeed they have made their own beds, that seem to be turned over and discarded now, indeed for simple reasons: You cannot lie to your own electorate for twenty years and hope to keep getting away with it. [3]

Here is the last Blairite bit I will quote:

“It is a vast wave of feeling against the unfairness of globalisation, against elites, against the humdrum navigation of decision-making in an imperfect world. It persuades itself that it has a monopoly on authenticity. They’re ‘telling it like it is’; when of course they’re telling it like it isn’t.”
Well...let me put it thus: You betrayed your electorate; you helped in making a war in which more than a million people were killed; you made ca. 50 million pounds (I average) for yourself; you converted to Catholicism - and now you are depicting one of the few Labour politicians who was honestly left wing for forty years as if he is the madman?!

5. Pentagon’s New “Law of War” Manual “Reduces Us to the Level of Nazis”

The last article of today is by Don Quijones on Raging Bull-Shit:

Or rather: it is in fact a reprint of an article by Washington's Blog, on his blog.
In any case, here is a good part of it, for it seems sensible. The colors are in the original:

Pentagon Goes Barbarian

The Pentagon’s new Law of War Manual – a 1,200-plus page document issued in June by the Defense Department’s Office of the General Counsel – is barbaric.

The Manual is so bad that one of the leading experts on the law of war (Dr. Francis Boyle) – who wrote the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989, the American implementing legislation for the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention, served on the Board of Directors of Amnesty International, and teaches international law at the University of Illinois, Champaign – says :

This Law of War Manual reduces us to the level of Nazis. There’s no other word for it.

Boyle also says the Manual:

Reads like it was written by Hitler’s Ministry of War.

Why is the Manual so bad?

Manual Authorizes Slaughter of Innocent Civilians

Because – according to Boyle – the Manual allows massacres of civilian populations. The most comprehensive previous such document – the 1956 Pentagon field manual – assumed that any deliberate targeting of civilians was illegal and a war crime.

Reporters Can Be Assassinated

And the Manual treats allows reporters to be treated as “unprivileged combatants”, who can be assassinated.

In fact, it is a war crime to slaughter civilian populations, both by the Nuremberg Trials (<- Wikipedia) and according to the UN.

Here is some more, though I quote only the first of seven points:

Manual Authorizes Barbarous War Crimes

Boyle also says the Manual authorizes the following barbarous war crimes:

(1) Warfare with nuclear weapons. Specifically, the manual states:

There is no general prohibition in treaty or customary international law on the use of nuclear weapons.

This flies in the face of the United Nations Charter, which – as noted by the World Court in its Advisory Opinion on the Legality of the Threat or Use of Nuclear Weapons – makes even threatening to use nuclear weapons a war crime.

There is some more in the article, but on the whole I agree with Dr. Boyd [4].

--------------------------------------
Notes

[1] Incidentally, I live in Amsterdam, which lies some 7 feet below the current sea level. If Chris Hedges is right that "sea levels [are] certain to rise 10 or more feet within the next few decades" that will be the end of Amsterdam and also of much of the rest of Holland, since that also lies below sea level. (Do the Dutch care? Mostly not. I agree it may take another 30 years, or more, and correctly predicting what will happen in 30 years is quite difficult, but a rise in sea levels seems a virtual certainty, and it is 100% certain most of the West of Holland - where about 7-10 millions live - does lie below sea level.)

[2] I am making this abstraction (which is valid in principle) mostly because I want to have definite texts as a basis, and I want here and now to disregard what has been made of these texts in practice. (That is also a valid problem, but far more complicated.)

[3] That is: Except if you succeed in refusing 500.000 new Labour members as valid Labour members because they are pro-Corbyn, which is what some Blairites are trying.

[4] I would agree he is something of a radical, judging by Wikipedia, but then these are radical times. And one should not target civilian populations nor journalists, and one should not start a nuclear war or threaten with one.


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