Why Won’t These “Terrorists” Renounce Violence?

Mandela ViolenceAnyone closely monitoring the latest developments regarding the Israeli massacres in Gaza will by now have noticed that Israeli officials and their apologists in the US press depend heavily on a restricted narrative to describe Palestinians. This narrative makes use of evocative imagery and buzzwords to steer public attitudes in desired directions. “Terror tunnels”, “human shields”, and “the Hamas Charter” are just a few of the phrases repeated ad nauseam to drill the right ideas into the public’s mind. Alongside these predictable attempts to de-legitimize Palestinian resistance is a more insidious doctrine that seeks to rob Palestinians of a right enshrined in international law, namely the right to resist foreign occupation by force. The typical form this doctrine takes is in the demand for Hamas to “renounce violence.” Underlying this demand is an understanding, unique to imperial societies, that those suffering under military occupation are the aggressors and not the victims. This notion can be discerned quite easily in mainstream commentary and the press generally.

In March of 2013 when President Obama visited Jerusalem, he made sure to reinforce this dogma. “Israel cannot accept rocket attacks from Gaza, and we have stood up for Israel’s right to defend itself,” remarked Obama. He continued “And that’s why Israel has a right to expect Hamas to renounce violence and recognize Israel’s right to exist.” Interestingly, there was no concomitant demand that Israel, the nuclear-armed and vastly more militarily advanced power, “renounce violence.” Unlike the rockets from Hamas, the F16s, tanks, and machine guns provided to Israel are interpreted to be for “defensive” operations.

Given the resilience of this ideology, it would be instructive to ask if there is any historical precedent that would help illuminate the thought pattern that might lay behind double standards of this kind. Fortunately, such a precedent does exist. In June of 1990 the New York Times, like the Obama administration, was also demanding that a certain “terrorist” renounce violence. This “terrorist” was, in President Obama’s words, “the last great liberator of the 20th century,” who was able to hold “his country together when it threatened to break apart.” The name of this violent “terrorist” was Nelson Mandela. Under the headline “Why Mandela Won’t Renounce Violence” David G. Sanders, a minority staff consultant at the US House Foreign Affairs Committee, perfectly anticipates the hasbara currently dominating the establishment press. “Who is the real Nelson Mandela?,” asks Sanders. “Before his supporters drape him in the garments of Abraham Lincoln or Martin Luther King Jr., they should take a close look.” This “close look”, Sanders continues, requires that Mandela answer “one simple question”, namely “Why won’t he and the A.N.C. renounce violence?”

The “simple question” was not directed at the South African apartheid regime and its use of far more devastating violence but at the ANC. Consequently, Sanders embraces the very same ideology of today’s apologists for Israeli terror. Take for example Nicholas Kristof, who wrote an Op-Ed in the New York Times condemning “Palestinian militancy” for “[accomplishing] nothing but increasing the misery of the Palestinian people.” Kristof went on to say if Palestinians “turned more to huge Gandhi-style nonviolence resistance campaigns, the resulting videos would reverberate around the world and Palestine would achieve statehood and freedom.”

Perhaps Kristof was unaware, but he was basically regurgitating commentary that Sanders made in 1990 in reference to ANC resistance in apartheid South Africa. Back then, Sanders observed that Mandela’s “conflicting public statements on violence may be prolonging the suffering,” in South Africa, adding that “acts of A.N.C. violence and intimidation [called] into question the group’s commitment to political pluralism.” Furthermore, Sanders lectured that Mandela “would do far better to associate himself more closely with the words of Dr. King and Gandhi than those of [Vladimir] Lenin” (an ideological precursor to Kristof’s “huge Gandhi-style nonviolence resistance campaigns”).

Source: Chicago Tribune

And the New York Times wasn’t alone in these ludicrous demands. In the same month that Sander’s published his “peace” manifesto on Nelson Mandela and the ANC, the Chicago Tribune reported the following:

“President Bush and a chorus of voices as diverse as American Jewish leaders, Dr. King`s colleagues, Cuban Americans and members of Congress have called on Nelson Mandela to emulate Martin Luther King more closely. By this they mean he should renounce violence, embrace civil disobedience and distance himself from some of his old comrades-in-arms, such as Communists and the notorious human-rights violators Yasser Arafat, Moammar Gadhafi and Fidel Castro.”

Unmentioned in this passage was that Mandela’s “comrades-in-arms”, the Palestinians and Cubans, were victims of the same US subversion and complicity that landed him in prison. Similarly, unmentioned was that Fidel Castro played an integral role in deterring apartheid South Africa’s aggressive war in Angola, an aggressive war that the US supported. In this respect, Cuba assumed the role that Hezbollah and Iran play today, namely a country stigmatized by their decision to militarily assist a population of people resisting foreign domination, an unforgivable sin in imperial circles. This is to say nothing of the comical notion that George H.W. Bush cared at all about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King. Months before joining this diverse “chorus of voices” he was dropping bombs on Panama in a flagrant war of aggression after one of his clients, Manuel Noriega, committed the supreme crime of disobedience.

In all, there’s something grotesquely hypocritical about journalists, who are citizens of a imperial state that has generated more violence and militarism than any other country in the post-war period, lecturing significantly weaker “enemies” to “renounce violence” while refusing to make equal demands of their own government. Nonetheless, these glaring moral deficiencies have only worsened since the demise of South African apartheid, as has the historical amnesia necessary to ensure no one notices them. Therefore, it’s rarely, if ever, acknowledged that in 1987 the US and Israel rejected a UN Resolution, which endorsed as legitimate the use of armed force to secure “the right of self-determination, freedom, and independence … particularly [for] peoples under colonial and racist regimes and foreign occupation.” The final vote on this resolution was 153 to 2, hence “the US and Israel were alone in the world in denying that such actions can be legitimate resistance, and declaring them to be terrorism.”

At bottom, this record illustrates fundamental flaws in elite conceptions of “violence.” Instead of demanding that those under occupation “renounce violence”, those genuinely interested in peace would focus on the source of armed resistance, which in the case of Israel-Palestine is clearly the multi-decade military occupation, preceded by many years of Israeli terrorism and ethnic cleansing. Here resides the “one simple question” that President Obama, David Sanders, Nick Kristof and innumerable others have not asked. Until this question is asked we can only expect more armed resistance, more hypocritical demands from oppressors to “emulate” Gandhi and less historically grounded understandings of liberation struggles. Rather than passively absorb these distortions as uncontroversial truths, they should be aggressively challenged. As the IDF continues its ruthless assault on the people of Gaza, its difficult to conceive of any intellectual or moral struggle more urgent.


Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky









Voices From the Other Side: An Oral History of Terrorism Against Cuba

9780745330402Few global conflicts illustrate the vindictive character of US power as dramatically as Washington’s ongoing war against the people of Cuba. The latest episode in this war was unveiled in an AP report detailing a USAID program designed to destabilize Cuban society. Using a social media website named ZunZuneo, the program’s stated objective was to “renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society,” by organizing “smart mobs” willing to overthrow the revolutionary government of Fidel and Raul Castro. This transformation would be made possible through the dissemination of propaganda aimed at discrediting the government. Apart from exposing the geopolitical goals of a purportedly “humanitarian” organization, this story has served as a fascinating case study into the historical amnesia that prevails in some of the most respected sectors of American intellectual culture. Responding to the mild, tactical criticisms made against ZunZuneo, the editorial board of the Washington Post published a statement praising the operation as necessary to undermine Raul Castro, a leader “who [insists] on a level of political control that has gone out of style everywhere except Havana and Pyongyang.” ZunZuneo was, according to the board, simply another strategy in “the Obama administration’s efforts to relieve the Cuban nightmare.”

Conspicuously absent from this statement, and others that mirror it in ideological commitment, is the long history of state-sponsored terrorism directed at Cuba traceable to power centers in Washington. Understanding this record of terror is crucial in developing a more honest and coherent picture of US-Cuba relations. Keith Bolender’s examination of this violent history and its devastating effects on the people of Cuba Voices From the Other Side stands out as a dramatic example of the moral and intellectual courage required to divorce ourselves from the myths propagated by outlets like the Washington Post. Far from a phenomenon unique to the 20th century or Cold War politics, US hostility towards Cuban independence can trace its origins back to the 19th century when the island was a colony of Spain. In 1832 Secretary of State John Quincy Adams wrote that “Cuba, forcibly disjoined from its own unnatural connection with Spain, and incapable of self-support, can gravitate only towards the North American Union.” This myth–that the Cuban people are “incapable of self-support”–is a defining feature of US policy towards Cuba that has been embraced by virtually every American President from Kennedy to Obama. It was this myth that allowed the US to fulfill Adam’s desire to subjugate Cuba to American power after the Spanish-American war (often falsely portrayed as the “liberation of Cuba”) and legitimize this annexation through a series of deceptive amendments and treaties, none of which granted Cubans any meaningful degree of independence. Take for example the Teller Amendment of 1898 which declared that the US did not impose its military might on Cuba to seize its territory or economically exploit its people. Instead the US intervened to “leave control of the island to its own people”, words that carry a predictability which should only elicit uncontrollable laughter, at least when they are not being uttered in the presence of more disciplined audiences as when President Obama recently justified Bush’s invasion of Iraq as a war that left this target of first world savagery to “its own people.”

Luis Posada Carriles, 82, walks with his lawyers after leaving the court in El Paso, Texas
Luis Posada

Doubtless, similar sentiments were articulated by President Eisenhower and Kennedy when they laid the groundwork for what Bolender accurately describes as the principal threat in Cuba’s multi-decade war on terror, a war on terror that radically differs from Bush’s “war on terror” in that it doesn’t entail the unleashing of horrific amounts of state-terror against civilians in other countries. While conventional narratives restrict examples of US force in Cuba to the Bay of Pigs failure, the historical record tells a far more gruesome story. Since the initiation of the US assault on the Cuban revolution in 1960 “the personal toll has been calculated at 3,478 dead and 2,099 injured.” Furthermore, “the [Cuban] government has documented approximately 800 terrorist acts inside Cuba since 1960”, the majority of them organized in Miami, often with the cooperation (if not direct participation) of the CIA. Alpha 66, Omega 7 and Commandos F4 are some of the more prominent terrorist organizations responsible for these atrocities. Tactics used to destabilize Cuban society ranged from the bombing of hotels, ammunition ships, civilian airliners, department stores, and movie theaters, machine gunning defenseless neighborhoods, the murder of literacy activists, chemical warfare, psychological warfare and even biological terrorism. Perhaps the most significant aspect of Bolender’s study is that it is not satisfied with mere statistics about these US-backed atrocities. Embedded in this defense of historical memory are several deeply touching and humanizing portraits of the victims of these attacks, how they have dealt with the loss of loved ones and endured in the face of overwhelming odds. Take for instance the story of Jorge De La Nuez and his mother Niuvis. On October 6, 1976 Jorge’s father was murdered on Cubana Airlines Flight 455 after a bombing orchestrated by Luis Posada Carilles, a terrorist who currently resides in Miami, sent Jorge Sr. and the 72 other passengers aboard plunging to their deaths in a ball of fire. Jorge Sr. was the head of a delegation of shrimp fisherman. On the day of his death he was planning to make a surprise visit to his wife as it was their wedding anniversary. Jorge Jr.’s childhood recollection of the moment he discovered his father was murdered is enough to make one tremble with rage:

“So I got home and went upstairs, at the top of the stairs I saw my mother, and she was crying. It was a shock, a hit, to see her crying. I thought ‘why would she be crying?’ My dad is home and she should be happy. When I got to her she grabbed me and gave me a hug, she hugged me hard. She gave me a kiss. She said ‘oh my son’ and I replied ‘what’s the matter mom?’ She said once again ‘oh my son, something terrible has happened.’ And I start screaming ‘What happened to my dad? Why are you crying? You have to be happy.’ My mother told me my dad was not coming back. I thought, well he is not coming home today, when is he coming home? But she said my dad had been in an accident. She said my father would not be coming home ever.”

This stomach-turning story and others like it lend Bolender’s study a unique quality that separates it from traditional academic work on US power which may satisfy all the demands of empirical research and analytical rigor but, for various reasons, fail make the suffering of the victims truly palpable. By doing this, Bolender sheds much-needed light on the severe moral costs attached to criminal policies and how we should position ourselves when evaluating the US role in these atrocities. For instance, Bolender’s description of how Dengue 2, a deadly mosquito borne disease, was introduced in Cuba as a form of biological terrorism finds meaning in a mother’s distress dealing with the loss of one child to the disease only to confront what at the time appeared to be the imminent death of her older child by the same plague. Ariel Alonso Perez, a leading authority on biological terrorism, states “there have been a minimum of 23 events of biological terrorism against Cuba,” a record that has resulted in “more than 100 dead children.” Although there isn’t 100% certainty that the CIA was responsible for this outbreak, strong reasons exist to suspect the agency was behind it, like the fact that “the United States conducted various research projects into biological warfare, including Dengue fever in 1959 at Fort Derrick in Maryland,” or that “Pentagon officials suggested a chemical and bacterial program to contaminate Cuba’s food supplies, and part of the sabotage criteria under Operation Mongoose was to induce failures in food crops.” In 1984 Eduardo Arocena, a Miami-based Cuban terrorist and member of Omega 7, confessed that he was sent on a mission to Cuba in 1980 to introduce “some germs” to the country.

While the imposition of terror through bombing and biological warfare stimulated disorder throughout Cuba, no other attack directly affected as many Cubans as the psychological terror behind what was called Operation Peter Pan. Under this covert operation, run by the CIA and the State Department with the decisive participation of Father Bryan O. Walsh, the Catholic Church in Miami and the Headmaster of Ruston Academy in Havana James Baker, thousands of I-20 student visa applications were illegally processed leading to what Bolender describes as “the exodus of more than 14,000 children from November 1960 to October 1962.” Underpinning this criminal operation was the mass circulation of black propaganda alleging that Fidel Castro and his comrades were plotting to “transfer parental authority to the state.” The foundational source of this psychological operation was a manufactured document called La Patria Potestad or the Act of Parental Authority. Unless Cuban parents sent their children out of the country, prominent members of the clergy argued, “they’d be subject to 15 years in jail, or simply made to disappear.” Also enlisted to take part in this propaganda coup was a radio program called Radio Swan. Radio Swan was created by the CIA in 1960 and was behind the first example of Peter Pan propaganda. In October of 1960 the following message was sent across the airwaves in Cuba:

“Cuban mothers don’t let your son be taken away from you. The new government law is to take your children away at five years old and give them back to you when he is 18 years. And by then he will already be a monster. Attention mothers, go to church, and follow instructions from the clergy.”

Bolender interviews the children, now adults, who were victimized by this psychological operation. Two of the victims are unambiguous in describing the operation as an act of psychological terrorism. Marina Ochoa, a Cuban native who lost her brother at the age of 10 to the operation, stated “there is the instillation of fear, the targets are civilian, there is a purpose to disrupt government functions, and the act is designed to achieve political aims. What else do we need to call it an act of terrorism?” Incidentally, we can ask the same question about the Obama administration’s “Cuban Twitter” program as it also meets this standard criteria only with a human cost that is , thankfully, much less devastating. As late as the 1980s, decades after the program was initiated, the US State Department rejected a request from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees “to help reunite Cuban children with their parents.” Other examples of US defiance of the international community include the refusal to lift the economic embargo against Cuba despite overwhelming opposition (in October 2013 the UN vote on the embargo was 188 to 2 with the US and Israel voting in favor of maintaining the blockade) and the imprisonment of the Cuban Five.

The Cuban Five

In September of 2001 the Cuban Five–Gerardo Hernandez, Rene Gonzalez, Ramon Labanino, Antonio Guererro and Fernando Gonzalez–were sentenced to four life sentences and 75 years for “conspiracy to commit espionage, being unregistered agents for a foreign power and holding false documents.” In a revealing precursor to the Obama administration’s unprecedented war on whistleblowers the Cuban Five were actually punished for infiltrating and blowing the whistle on Miami-based terrorist organizations. When the Cuban Ministry of the Interior provided a FBI delegation with “detailed accounts of actions and plans, recording of phone conversations, videos, samples of explosive substances and other information their agents had gathered from infiltration work in Miami,” the FBI responded by using the material to reveal the identities of the Cuban agents and arrest them. Much like the response to Chelsea Manning’s release of the Collateral Murder video, this incident is a glaring indication of just how low a priority preventing terrorism is to the power elite especially if that terrorism is directed towards official enemies. The real criminals under this imperial logic are those who expose this gangsterism. Despite the fact that the case of the Cuban Five holds the ignoble distinction of being “the only judicial proceeding in United States history condemned by the Work Group of Arbitrary Detention of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights”–the Commission described the sentences as “not impartial” and “excessively severe”–when the case was presented to the Supreme Court in June of 2009 they “refused to hear the case.” Reflecting on the absurdity of the imprisonment of the Cuban Five, the wife of Rene Gonzalez, Olga Salanueva, noted “We had no choice but to prevent these [terrorist] acts by sending men for the sake of our country and family … We couldn’t invade Florida, like America did to Afghanistan.”

It’s worth mentioning that these crimes make up a mere fraction of the catalog of murder, torture, lies and exploitation featured in this incredibly penetrating and moving look at the world from the other side of the Godfather’s gun. Simply recommending or sharing a copy of this text with a friend or colleague constitutes a form of humanitarian intervention that regularly escapes some of the most educated members of privileged society who are more concerned with bringing the right weapon to a “flame war” than seriously examining the historical roots of popular discontent with US policies abroad. None of the lessons imparted in this book can be absorbed through articles which praise attacks on sovereignty as worthy or “applause” or a sign of the “imagination” and “ingenuity” needed to put Cubans in their place. Propaganda of this kind encourages thuggish behavior under the assumption that the Castros and their supporters are, in the words of Johnathan Mahler, “not gentle socialists.”  Works like Voices from the Other Side dares us, as citizens of the empire, to outgrow the sanitized, polite, and not coincidentally, psychologically comfortable discourse preoccupied with data retention and defending US “interests.” Bolender compels us to view the world through new eyes, through the lens of the Other. Those interested in waging this authentic war on terror will no doubt consider Bolender’s book, in many ways, unprecedented both in its attention to detail and moral maturity. For these reasons, Voices from the Other Side is a towering achievement in the highest tradition of dissident literature.


A Counter-‘containment’ Strategy: Foreign Policy Duets & the Final Liftoff from Sanity

Tonight president Obama and Mitt Romney will ‘debate’ foreign policy. The word ‘debate’ should be used sparingly as it implies a fundamental difference in the two platforms. Even a cursory look at both candidates reveals broad agreement on core policy topics. James Lindsay of the Council on Foreign Relations concedes this as well. In an article titled At Core, Obama and Romney Close on Foreign Policy he notes ‘Obama and Romney’s views are broadly similar. Both men are internationalists with a strong pragmatic streak,’ and ‘they largely agree on the chief threats the United States faces overseas.’

Lindsay then goes on to outline the ‘threats’ that the US confronts: a nuclear Iran, al Qaida and their ‘affiliates’, and China’s ‘predatory trade practices’. Debate moderator, Bob Schieffer affirmed this picture in his selection of topics for the debate, one of which was ‘the rise of China and tomorrow’s world’. Unless we are ready to uncritically accept what authority figures deem ‘threats to national security’, it would be useful to examine what the internal record says about this.

The last open report published by the US Senate Intelligence Committee stated the following in regard to what they called, perhaps ignorantly, the ‘leadership of the Global Jihad’: ‘we judge that most [al-Qaida operatives] lack either the capability or the intent to plan, train for, and execute sophisticated attacks in the United States’.  So even if we accept that al-Qaida constitutes a national security threat, it could only reasonably be called a threat to the US forces who are illegally occupying sovereign territory not the civilian population of the US.

 I should add the criminality of the US war in Afghanistan is not in great dispute. Respected legal scholar Michael Glennon, writing in the Yale Journal of International Law, stated that ‘during the 2003 invasion of Iraq and military operations against Afghanistan . . . the United States  . . . carried out extensive bombing campaigns, both of which constituted aggression under [the ‘bombardment’ provision of the International Criminal Court’s Special Working Group on the Crime of Aggression].’
Incidentally, if this legal analysis were taken seriously within educated circles, Romney and Obama would scarcely debate over which candidate can better manage a successful ‘drawdown’ of troops before 2014. Rather they would debate over which candidate can most equitably allocate funds for reparations or which candidate can catch a plane to The Hague the quickest to defend their actions before an impartial judge. But as another accomplished scholar noted, such fantasies are ‘unthinkable’. Romney showed his respect for international law by enlisting Tommy Franks, the general behind the invasion and occupation of Iraq, as a foreign policy adviser in his 300 member Military Advisory Council, a non-event for a criminal state.

On the topic of Iran we find more interesting insights, mainly because they depart sharply from the accepted narrative. The accepted rationale for the current sanctions against Iran is that Iran is ‘the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism,’ to borrow Paul Ryan’s phrase. In short, Iran is an international pariah willing to secure political goals by aggressive means, embodied in the boy-cry-wolf refrain that they want to ‘wipe Israel off the map’.  The intelligence committee offers a different picture. In a section titled ‘the threat from Iran’ James Clapper states ‘Iran’s growing inventory of ballistic missiles and its acquisition and indigenous production of anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCM) provide capabilities to enhance its power projection’. Then emerges the substance: ‘Tehran views its conventionally armed missiles as an integral part of its strategy to deter—and if necessary retaliate against—forces in the region, including US forces’ (my emphasis added). Based on this report, we can conclude that the US is not punishing Iran’s civilian population because Ahmadinejad is the world’s largest sponsor of terrorism. Rather the US is ‘tightening the vice’ on Iran’s economy because they are developing a strategic deterrent to US force in the region, a crime in the eyes of superpower states. In fact, this objective is spelled out quite clearly in the Defense Department’s annual review of military strategy. This year’s report titled Sustaining Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense states that ‘in order to credibly deter potential adversaries and to prevent them from achieving their objectives, the United States must maintain its ability to project power in areas where our access and freedom to operate are challenged.’

The legality of this norm—that the US ‘must maintain its ability to project power in areas where our access and freedom to operate are challenged’—can be tested by a simple thought experiment. It is well-known that the US has long maintained a ‘two-pronged’ policy consisting of an ‘economic embargo and diplomatic isolation’ in regards to Cuba. What if the Cuban leadership published a document titled Sustaining the Global Revolution: Priorities for 21st Century Resistance and in this document they upheld the principle that the Cuban armed forces could ‘project’ their power where their ‘access and freedom to operate are challenged,’ by the US-imposed embargo, an act of economic warfare that the UN roundly condemned in 2011 through a resolution vote of 186 to 2, the US and Israel voting against. Unlike Iran’s ‘strategy to deter’, the US is actually undermining Cuban national security. In a 28 page report filed by the UN Secretary General the World Health Organization states ‘the consequences of the embargo have a negative multiplier effect on the cost of basic everyday health products [in Cuba], on the availability of basic services and, therefore, on the overall living conditions of the population.’ Indeed, it would be in the ‘national security interest’ of Havana to impose ‘crippling sanctions’ on the United States, at least while they are not ‘keeping all options on the table’ or sending a drone over Luis Posada’s home in Florida.

It also should be noted that this condemnation of US foreign policy was not limited to official ‘enemies’. Staunch allies, like Mexico, also condemned the embargo, decrying it for stimulating ‘serious humanitarian consequences that are contrary to international law and, moreover, signify the abandonment of diplomacy and dialogue as an appropriate way of settling disputes.’ This ‘unlawful use of force . . .’—in this case economic force—‘against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government; the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives,’ goes by a special name within the FBI: terrorism. The Council on Foreign Relations agrees, boiling the embargo down to ‘a fundamental incompatibility of political views’. This ‘incompatibility’ has now entered its 50th year with no resolution in sight. Now that Paul Ryan’s ‘largest sponsor of terrorism’ has been displaced by the World Court designated champion of international terror, let’s look at the ‘predatory economic policies of China’. First, as any person who believes in the principle of universality, we should ask if we engage in currency manipulation. This can be easily answered if one observes what’s happening to another BRICS nation, with the ‘predatory’ role reversed.

Brazil has long argued that the global economic recession caused a sudden influx of ‘cheap money’ from richer nations and that this ‘inflow of capital’ led to ‘serious cost and competition distortions’. Brazil’s finance minister Guido Mantega went on to call this a “‘currencies’ war” and, according to the Uruguay based South Atlantic News Agency MercoPress,  he is “[pointing] his finger at the US, China, Korea, and several other countries suffering from recession and intent in promoting exports (and surplus production) to the booming commodities-export emerging economies.” Again, applying non-hypocritical standards, Dilma Rouseff should be giving Romney-esque speeches about ‘cracking down’ on Washington.
These are all just brief glances at the widening gulf between political rhetoric and reality. A look deeper will surely erode the legitimacy of the electoral system further, if not entirely. But there is a salient subtext to American foreign policy that is much less talked about, presumably because it tells us too much about our position in the world.

The reflexive resort of force in world affairs exacts unseen, but brutal, economic, social, political, and even moral costs on the American public; facts graphically illustrated in a recent study by the New York based Institute for Economics and Peace. In a stunning report titled Violence Containment Spending in the United States they outline in great detail the human costs of what they call the ‘violence containment industry’—‘economic activity that is related to the consequences or prevention of violence where the violence is directed against people or property. This includes all expenditures related to violence, included but not limited to medical expenses, incarceration, police, the military, insurance, and the private security industry. It is divided into local, state, and federal government expenditure as well as private spending by corporations, households, and individuals.’

This industry received a handsome ‘stimulus package’ on December 31, 2011 when the president signed into law the national defense authorization act, legalizing the extrajudicial and indefinite detention of terror suspects or ‘associated forces’. Likewise, new CIA chief David Petraeus is now ‘urging the White House to approve a significant expansion of the agency’s fleet of armed drones,’ in an attempt to ‘extend the spy service’s decade-long transformation into a paramilitary force’. Others are calling for nuclear capable drones.

Along with the horrific toll these drones have imposed on the civilian population of Pakistan, these urgent requests reach a new peak of immorality given the record levels of economic inequality, homelessness and poverty, all of which could easily be reversed if state funds were redirected toward more productive means. Or as the Institute report concludes ‘if US federal violence containment spending was reduced by $326 billion or 25% . . . then in one year the saved funds would be sufficient to entirely update the energy grid, rebuild all levies and renew the nation’s school infrastructure.’

So as the two candidates of the corporate party ‘contain’ China, economically strangle Iranian civilians, and drone strike al Qaida ‘militants’, we should be asking ourselves what our policy is for ‘global leadership’. Is it a policy that blindly applies one standard to ‘enemies’ but vigorously rejects that standard when it gets too personal, a policy driven by the inordinate drive for world control and venality, a post-moral worldview? The outcome of such a struggle will not be settled in tonight’s debate; nor will the dark clouds of US bombs, unless those of us who desire a more humane and just future take a principled stand.