Russia has just dropped another bombshell, announcing not only the de-coupling of its trade from the dollar, but also that its hydrocarbon trade will in the future be carried out in rubles and local currencies of its trading partners – no longer in dollars – see Voice of Russia
Russia’s trade in hydrocarbons amounts to about a trillion dollars per year. Other countries, especially the BRICS and BRCIS-associates (BRICSA) may soon follow suit and join forces with Russia, abandoning the ‘petro-dollar’ as trading unit for oil and gas. This could amount to tens of trillions in loss for demand of petro-dollars per year (US GDP about 17 trillion dollars – December 2013) – leaving an important dent in the US economy would be an understatement.
Added to this is the declaration today by Russia’s Press TV – China will re-open the old Silk Road as a new trading route linking Germany, Russia and China, allowing to connect and develop new markets along the road, especially in Central Asia, where this new project will bring economic and political stability, and in Western China provinces,where “New Areas” of development will be created. The first one will be the Lanzhou New Area in China’s Northwestern Gansu Province, one of China’s poorest regions.
“During his visit to Duisburg, Chinese President Xi Jinping made a master stroke of economic diplomacy that runs directly counter to the Washington neo-conservative faction’s effort to bring a new confrontation between NATO and Russia.” (press TV, April 6, 2014)
“Using the role of Duisburg as the world’s largest inland harbor, an historic transportation hub of Europe and of Germany’s Ruhr steel industry center, he proposed that Germany and China cooperate on building a new “economic Silk Road” linking China and Europe. The implications for economic growth across Eurasia are staggering.”
Curiously, western media have so far been oblivious to both events. It seems like a desire to extending the falsehood of our western illusion and arrogance – as long as the silence will bear.
Germany, the economic driver of Europe – the world’s fourth largest economy (US$ 3.6 trillion GDP) – on the western end of the new trading axis, will be like a giant magnet, attracting other European trading partners of Germany’s to the New Silk Road. What looks like a future gain for Russia and China, also bringing about security and stability, would be a lethal loss for Washington.
In addition, the BRICS are preparing to launch a new currency – composed by a basket of their local currencies – to be used for international trading, as well as for a new reserve currency, replacing the rather worthless debt ridden dollar – a welcome feat for the world.
Along with the new BRICS(A) currency will come a new international payment settlement system, replacing the SWIFT and IBAN exchanges, thereby breaking the hegemony of the infamous privately owned currency and gold manipulator, the Bank for International Settlement (BIS) in Basle, Switzerland – also called the central bank of all central banks.
To be sure – the BIS is a privately owned for profit institution, was created in the early 1930’s, in the midst of the big economic melt-down of the 20th Century. The BIS was formed precisely for that purpose – to control the world’s monetary system, along with the also privately owned FED and the Wall Street Banksters – the epitome of private unregulated ownership.
The BIS is known to hold at least half a dozen secret meetings per year, attended by the world’s elite, deciding the fate of countries and entire populations. Their demise would be another welcome new development.
As the new trading road and monetary system will take hold, other countries and nations, so far in the claws of US dependence, will flock to the ‘new system’, gradually isolating Washington’s military industrial economy (sic) and its NATO killing machine.
This Economic Sea Change may bring the empire to its knees, without spilling a drop of blood. An area of new hope for justice and more equality, a rebirth of sovereign states, may dawn and turn the spiral of darkness into a spiral of light.
Peter Koenig is an economist and former World Bank staff. He worked extensively around the world in the fields of environment
“The re-assertion of Russian identity, meanwhile, is as brutal a business as Russian self-assertion has been since the time of Peter the Great. Putin’s patriotism is not my patriotism. I don’t particularly like what Putin did in Crimea, but it was delusional to expect any other course of action. Russia is short of Russians, and it cannot ignore the 22 million Russians left stranded in newly independent republics of the former Soviet Union.”
By Spengler Asia Times
An Obama administration official leaked to the New York Times on Sunday the fact that German Chancellor Angela Merkel told President Obama she wasn’t sure if Putin was in touch with reality. “In another world,” Merkel reportedly said, according to the leak. Then in a conference call with reporters later in the day, three administration officials took turns firing rhetorical shots: “[B]eing inside Putin’s head is not someplace anyone wants to be.”
I doubt that Merkel ever said it, but that’s a different question. Russia, as Colonel Ralph Peters (retired) told Sean Hannity last week, “believes in Russia”; to the Obamoids, belief in one’s country is prima facie evidence of mental defect. Hillary Clinton, Senator John McCain and Senator Marco Rubio meanwhile compare Putin to Hitler, an example of what the late Leo Strauss derided as “reduction ad Hitlerium”.
Contrast that to President Obama’s characterization of Iran in his interview with Bloomberg’s Jeffrey Goldberg:
[If] you look at Iranian behavior, they are strategic, and they’re not impulsive. They have a worldview, and they see their interests, and they respond to costs and benefits.
That’s been the longstanding view of this administration.
Just how does one define rationality in global politics? Here is a question that helps: What is the rational self-interest of a nation that will cease to exist within the horizon of present-day expectations? We look uncomprehendingly on the petty wars of perished peoples and marvel at the sheer vanity of their forgotten battles. How do we know that someone in the future won’t look back at us the same way? There have been Great Extinctions of the Peoples before in world history, but never with the breadth and speed of the demographic declines in our own era. That should give us something of an objective gauge with which to judge the rationality of actors.
Iran’s unprecedented fertility decline has accelerated – from about 7 children per female in 1979 to only 1.6 last year, according to a UN estimate. Russia, meanwhile, is struggling to emerge from what seemed like a demographic death-sentence only a few years ago. Ukraine is Europe’s poster-boy for demographic death.
Iran is dying a slow and dreadful death: by mid-century more than a third of its people will be over 60, and by the end of the century, half its people will be over 60, imposing an impossible burden on a poor country. Its rulers are taking urgent steps to reverse the fertility decline, opening clinics to treat infertility, which reportedly affects one-fifth of all Iranian couples, against a world average of around 8%. Why infertility is so widespread in Iran is unclear; it might be due to the fact that the reported incidence of chlamydia, a bacterial STD that causes infertility, is several times higher in Iran than in Western countries. Former president Mahmud Ahmadinejad began campaigning for earlier marriage and bigger families in 2009, but fertility has continued to fall.
I argued nearly a decade ago (see Demographics and Iran’s imperial design, Asia Times Online, September 13, 2005) that Iran’s decision to acquire nuclear weapons is an entirely rational response to its demographic decline: “Iran’s motives for acquiring nuclear power are not only economic but strategic. Like Hitler and Stalin, Ahmadinejad looks to imperial expansion as a solution for economic crisis at home. … This may appear to be a desperate gamble, but conditions call for desperate gambles. Ahmadinejad is not a throwback, as I wrote with a dismissiveness that seems painful in hindsight. He has taken the measure of his country’s crisis, and determined to meet it head-on. Washington, from what I can tell, has no idea what sort of opponent it confronts.”
Iran is rational, but not in the way Obama seems to believe. If you need $100,000 for an operation that will save your life and have only $10,000, it is rational to bet the whole stake at 10:1 odds. Iran must break out or break down. That is why it will gamble on nuclear weapons acquisition.
Apart from some fine work by the demographer Nicholas Eberstadt, though, the glaring facts of Iran’s demographic predicament have escaped notice by America’s policymakers. Not so the demographics of Russia: the prevailing view among Western analysts (and especially hawkish ones) holds that Russia is a doomed nation. In December 2011, Professor Eberstadt published an essay entitled “The Dying Bear: Russia’s Demographic Disaster” in Foreign Affairs. Last year I reviewed on this site Ilan Berman’s book Implosion, which stated this widely held view as follows:
Russia is dying. Russia is undergoing a catastrophic post-Soviet societal decline due to abysmal health standards, runaway drug addiction, and an AIDS crisis that officials have termed an “epidemic.” The population of the Russian Federation is declining by close to half a million souls every year due to death and emigration. At this rate, the once-mighty Russian state could lose a quarter of its population by the middle of this century. And according to some projections, if Russia’s demographic trajectory does not change, its population could plummet to as little as fifty-two million people by 2080. It’s a phenomenon demographers have described as “the emptying of Russia” – a wholesale implosion of Russia’s human capital and a collapse of its prospects as a viable modern state. (See Reports of Russia’s death are exaggerated, Asia Times Online, October 15, 2013).
A specter is haunting Russia: the specter of depopulation. The cohort of Russian women of child-bearing age is so depleted that even a recovery of Russia’s birth rate will not forestall severe problems. Nonetheless I thought Berman’s thesis one-sided and overstated. Russia’s total fertility rate has recovered from around 1.2 a decade ago to 1.7 last year, and Russia’s population increased slightly in 2013 for the first time in almost two decades.
We do not know quite why this has occurred, but it seems that Putin’s aggressive efforts to promote fertility have had some effect – unlike in Iran. Like Jonah’s prophecy to Nineveh, the threat of extinction may have motivated Russia to change course. And like Jonah, our modern prophets rankle at the prospect that the ban of doom may have been lifted.
I suspect that Russia’s revived nationalism has a great deal to do with rising fertility. That includes the revival of the Orthodox Church, which is consubstantial with the Russian state. Countries that lose their faith and their identity also lose their motivation to bring new generations into the world; that is how civilizations die, the title of my 2011 book on demographics and geopolitics. Putin’s nationalism is also a rational response to an existential threat. The Germans might go gentle into that good night, but Russia will fight for its identity and its future existence.
Russian nationalism – historically an imperial more than a national identity – always was a brutal business, and especially nasty towards national minorities, as my ancestors from the Pale of Jewish Settlement on the Western order of the Russian Empire knew all too well.
A core goal of Putin’s national revivalism is the reintegration of Russians left stranded in the “near abroad” by the collapse of the Soviet Union: Russia’s imperial policy of salting its border states with Russian settlers backfired when the evil Soviet empire collapsed. From the Russian vantage point this is not a matter of scoring points but an existential issue, a sine qua non of what it means to be Russian, and exemplary of the motivation for Russians to want their culture to continue.
Western pundits ridicule Putin’s claim that Russia is a bulwark against Western decadence. From a Western standpoint, Putin’s methods are repugnant. But they are the only methods Russia has ever known. The problem is that Western Europe is decadent. Most European countries are headed for demographic extinction. Russia, which seemed passed the point of no return, is struggling to retrace its steps.
That leaves the West with a conundrum concerning the Russian intervention in Crimea and possibly elsewhere in Russian-majority areas in Ukraine. Russia does not want to be like other European countries. Hungary, Poland, and the Baltic States have the lowest fertility rates of any nations in the West, ranging from just 0.82 children per female for ethnic Magyars in Hungary (excluding the Roma) to about 1.2 for Poland. That is where Russia was in 2000. Russia prefers the fecund past to the bleak future of the Europeans. That is why the nations of Europe fought the First World War 100 years ago: to avoid becoming what they are today. They fought to sustain belief in their destiny as nations. As Col. Peters said in the cited interview, “Putin believes in Russia’s destiny.”
The re-assertion of Russian identity, meanwhile, is as brutal a business as Russian self-assertion has been since the time of Peter the Great. Putin’s patriotism is not my patriotism. I don’t particularly like what Putin did in Crimea, but it was delusional to expect any other course of action. Russia is short of Russians, and it cannot ignore the 22 million Russians left stranded in newly independent republics of the former Soviet Union.
The Obama administration is staffed by the sort of utopian liberal internationalists who attended conflict-resolution seminars at Ivy League colleges. Putin seems a throwback, and that is just what he is: he is trying to revert to Russian identity prior to the 1917 October Revolution, not without some success. To compare him to Hitler is Billingsgate. The hawks seem upset that Russia has not chosen to accept its decline with Stoic resignation. It is easier to condemn Russian brutality than to suggest an alternative path by which Russia would remain viable a century from now.
It was inevitable that Russia would intervene if Ukraine became unstable. It is tragic in the full sense of the world, namely an outcome to which the participants are driven by circumstances they cannot control. Russia’s interest in Ukraine, particularly in the Russian-speaking eastern half of the country, is existential not opportunistic.
As in Georgia, there was nothing the United States (let alone the Europeans) could have done to hinder it, and nothing they can do to reverse it. The tragedy will play itself out, and at the end of it – the very end – there will be no Ukraine, because there will be no Ukrainians.
Whether Russia survives into the next century is an open question upon which the crude conclusions of hawkish foreign policy analysts shed no light. I do not know the answer, but I am sure that America will have to deal with Russia as a strategic power for the indefinite future – a power of second rank, perhaps, but not one to be trifled with in its back yard.
I am an American and a hawk who wants America to be the world’s dominant superpower. Whatever our errors, we are the only nation in the world capable of altruism. We hawks had a mandate after September 11, 2011, such as no-one had in America since Pearl Harbor, and we misplayed hand after hand until our chips are nearly gone. If we fail to understand the underlying trends that drive events and the motivations of the main actors, we will be out of the game entirely.
What should we have done in Ukraine? As I wrote on February 20, the West had the opportunity to promote a constitutional referendum including the option of partition. If Russian speakers in Crimea or the Donbas region preferred affiliation with Russia, so be it. Ukraine’s constitution was in ruins before the Russians moved in. The odious Viktor Yanukovich beat the “Gas Princess” Yulia Timoshenko in a reasonably fair election in 2010, and proceeded to abuse his presidential powers. When the Maidan Square demonstrators chased him out, Ukraine’s parliament voted unanimously to dismiss him. The absence of a single “nay” recalls Soviet-era majorities.
The West could have been midwife to a new national consensus – either a single Ukraine reaffirmed by popular mandate, or a decent divorce on the Czech-Slovak model, or perhaps a federal solution somewhere in between. Instead, we encouraged a constitutional crisis in Ukraine. Now we are stuck with the dubious Ms Timoshenko, one of the wealthiest oligarchs to emerge from Ukraine’s post-independence theft of national assets, and an intransigent Russia in possession of Crimea.
Rudolph Steiner’s 1915 & Edgar Cayce’s 1945 prophecies predict Russia’s importance to the future of the WestTuesday, October 1st, 2013
We read an excerpt from Rudolph Steiner’s “Destinies of Individuals and Nations”January 17, 1915 lecture in The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture predicting Russia’s future spiritual role in the West’s development many years ago. Recently we read about Edgar Cayce’s 1945 prophecy about Russia’s similar role in the future of the West. This article about The Ringing Cedars Series is an interesting aspect of the prophecies unfolding today.
Excerpt about Rudolph Steiner’s lecture from The Occult in Russian and Soviet Culture
“When Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925) reflected on the history of civilization, he envisioned a special role for Russia, because he considered Russia the country that could best embody the spirit of a new cultural epoch. In Russia, Anthroposophy developed beyond the mere study of an esoteric doctrine and its theory of knowledge. Anthroposophy sought to evaluate Russian and Soviet reality concretely, to interpret Russia’s historical development in the context of world history, and to become the basis of action for Russian cultural activities. Russian Anthroposophy is more than a variant of the Anthroposophical movement. Russia occupies a prominent place in the Anthroposophical conception of culture.
Steiner structured the history of civilzation in seven (post –Atlantean) periods: Indian, ancient Persia, Egyptian-Chaldean, Greek-Roman, Central European, Slavic, and American. According to his scheme, humanity at the end of the fifth ,the central European period-that is, at the threshold of the end of the fifth, the Central European period-that is, at the threshold of the sixth period, the Slavic period. The fifth post-Atlantean epoch began in the first half of the fifteenth century among the Germanic peoples. It manifested itself through an increase in individualism and through a growing interest in the sciences and technology. Around the year 3500, this era of perception was to be succeeded by the sixth epoch, the epic of the “Spirit Self” the characteristics of the Slavic people were to prevail: a sense of community, selflessness, patience, and the ability to accept a higher truth. These qualities constitute the basis for the ’seed’ of the world spirit incarnation in the Russian people, according to Steiner, the broad Russian masses already carried in them the seed of the coming civilization. Steiner used the image of ’seed’ repeatedly to describe the state of Russia’s development, the embryonic, nuclear state of the East as opposed to the ‘hypertrophy’ of the West. The spirit of the Russian people was ‘young and fresh in it’s hopes’ and ‘yet to confront it’s task.’ This task, to suffuse all aspects of life with new meaning, would be realized only in the course of history. Steiner called the Russian a child, in whose very soul one could find the questions that must be answered if humanity was to master the future. From the Russian character traits Steiner derived the capability of holistic thinking. In the Russian way of thinking, as he saw it, two opposing concepts can hold sway simultaneously so that rationality was mysticism and mysticism is rationality. ‘The Russian does not have the slightest understanding of what Westerners call ‘reasonableness.’ He is accessible to what we term ‘revelation. Basically, he will accept and integrate into the content of his soul anything he owns to a kind of revelation.”
In Soloviev’s ideas Steiner saw the seed of the philosophy of the ‘Spirit Self’ of the sixth epoch, for here the religious and philosophical worldviews merged. Soloviev’s philosophy spoke the language of religion, while his religion strove a philosophical worldview.” According to Steiner, this was where the superiority of the Russian philosophy over the aging Western philosophy lay: it transcended the limits of reason and it built a basis for a new holistic understanding. In order to develop the capacities and to fulfill its mission, Steiner said, the Russian people needed contact with the West; the ‘female East’ should be impregnated by the ‘male West.’ Intellectuality and technology, the achievement and problem of the fifth epoch of civilization, had led the life force to stagnate in Europe. Meanwhile this life force was at work in Russia, but was so lacking in form that it could fall into chaos. That was why Steiner felt that Russia depended on a Western awareness of form and consciousness. ‘To imagine that the East, at its present state, would develop on its own would be comparable to the foolish hope of a woman who wanted to have a child without a man. In the past, Eastern Europe had proved its receptiveness to the West. Steiner pointed to the reception of the Byzantine religion in Russia. Thus the Slavic peoples showed that they were also capable of absorbing higher truths- that is, the spirit of the sixth epoch.”
We made a documentary with economist John Kenneth Galbraith and Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT II) negotiator Paul Warnke on the eve of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979. Our timing with this issue made the Soviet invasion seem all too convenient. As we point out at the very end, it was President Carter who asked the Senate to hold back on ratification of SALT II following the invasion while having secretly authorized Brzezinski’s black project to lure the Soviets into Afghanistan in the first place. The Soviet invasion enabled the military/industrial/congressional complex to shift the political discussion permanently away from the civilian sector and towards the need for an unending military escalation of all sectors of the economy. It’s the basis of the false narrative of triumphalism our country is dying from today.
America’s Financial Armageddon and Afghanistan is an article we wrote that goes more deeply into the Cold War effects on today’s economy.
America’s Financial Armageddon and Afghanistan
by PAUL FITZGERALD and ELIZABETH GOULD
The U.S. economy grinds down to a finish, it becomes increasingly difficult to measure whether Washington understands the importance of how to deal realistically with the worsening crisis in Afghanistan. Left off the front pages during the recent obsession with the debt crisis, Afghanistan has lurched back onto the scene in ways that are reminiscent of the Soviet collapse of two decades ago. After ten years of war, it seems Washington not only continues to lack a comprehensive understanding of Afghanistan, but it lacks an understanding of its own role in creating both the economic and political catastrophe it now faces.
Even less understood is how the political decisions of the late 1970s are tied to the current simultaneous financial and foreign policy crisis. Nor is it understood how Washington and Wall Street set the stage for America’s financial downfall by using Afghanistan as an investment bank throughout the 1980s to renew the Cold War instead of reinvesting in America’s civilian economy.
Much like today, the America of 1979 faced a crossroads. Vietnam, two oil shocks, a disintegrating infrastructure, a beleaguered manufacturing base and the loss of strategic ally Iran had shown that America was a vulnerable colossus. Thirty five years of economic Cold War against the Soviet Union and China had produced a vast arsenal of nuclear weapons that were proving as useless as they were unusable. World War II had set the stage for the happy marriage of war production to business — pulling the U.S. out of the depression by doubling the Gross National Product in one year (1940). The Cold War ushered the financial benefits of the 1940s into the 1950s and 1960s. But these expenditures came at a massive expense to the civilian economy and not just in terms of tax dollars. Weapons development of the post World War II years lured America’s best and brightest away from the civilian economy and even the real world of guns, tanks and armies into a world detached from time, space and money. While Germany and Japan rebuilt their civilian industries free from defense spending, the U.S. moved into ever higher levels of technology, glorifying and expanding the influence of the defense industry into every fabric of American life.
Originally termed Military Keynesianism to describe the buildup of the German defense industry prior to World War II, America’s military Keynesianism of the Cold War was the unseen hand of government supporting the American economy, balancing the cyclical ups and downs of the market by providing 16 percent of the Gross Domestic Product in 1950s and 9 percent in the 1960s. By 1963 defense spending accounted for 52 percent of all the research and development done in the United States. But by the mid-1970s, a stagnant American economy combined with the Arab oil embargo and inflation brought on by the Vietnam War exposed the weakness in the system. As German and Japanese manufacturers battered their American competition in the marketplace, the defense-heavy American economy faltered.
Born of necessity, diplomatic overtures to China and détente with the Soviets offered the first chance since World War II to get off the wartime treadmill. To that end, for most of the decade the U.S. and Soviet Union pursued Strategic Arms Limitation Talks.
Endorsed by President Nixon in 1972, it was hoped that the agreement signed by President Carter and General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Leonid Brezhnev would enable the United States to back away from weapons manufacturing and reinvest those resources in the civilian economy. But the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan changed all that.
Our involvement in this story began in the summer of 1979 when we began production of a documentary we called Arms Race and the Economy: A Delicate Balance. During the next months numerous experts including economist John Kenneth Galbraith lent their experience to our understanding of the unseen damage that a massive new diversion of tax dollars and capital investment would represent to the civilian economy. The arms race wasn’t just about defending the United States. The arms race was also about jobs and money in a dark world of business, science, and politics ruled over by a self-described “priesthood” of experts. Galbraith insisted that accelerated defense spending and renewing the Cold War, which the neoconservative right was lobbying hard for at the time, would ultimately destroy the civilian economy. He was convinced that the Cold War had already helped rigidify the capitalist system by bureaucratizing a large part of production for non-productive uses. He saw American industry becoming more and more like the Soviet Union, ruled by a military-industrial-academic establishment immune from reality, living in a planned economy designed to suit its own needs at the expense of society.
Galbraith jokingly referred to his “First Law of Executive Talent” that he had formulated to describe the thinking of America’s military-industrial leadership. “It was that all great executives come to resemble intellectually the products they manufacture. Until you had done business with top officers of the steel industry, you didn’t really appreciate the intellectual qualities of a billet of steel.” So it was with the defense department. America’s militarized economy was already in essence a Soviet-style “planned economy,” to make it an even larger part of the economy would only lock the U.S. into the same dismal fate.
That fall, in Washington, the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency was one of the last holdouts of sanity in a rolling sea of hysterical accusations about American security. Was the Soviet Union really planning a sneak attack on the United States with nuclear weapons as the right wing claimed? Was SALT II really just a public relations scheme by Moscow to put the U.S. off its guard?
In hindsight we know that these claims were absurd. The Soviet Union was dying, driven to SALT by its weakness, not its strength. But when the Soviets crossed their southern border into Afghanistan that December of 1979 it played out on America’s TV screens like a World War II Hollywood B movie. Afghanistan was a far off South Asian country of no particular interest to the United States. A half dozen administrations had refused Afghan requests for military assistance. Eisenhower’s Secretary of State John Foster Dulles’s callous and careless diplomacy drove Afghanistan towards Moscow in the mid 1950s and its politics followed close behind. A low priority remnant from Britain’s colonial empire, President Carter labeled the invasion, “the greatest threat to peace since the second World War.” But the script had already been written long before the Soviet’s crossed their southern border on December 27, 1979.
A trap had been set to give the Soviets their own Vietnam and the Soviets had taken the bait. But no one outside a handful of policy experts and Wall Street wizards were supposed to know that. Instead, a crop of neoconservative experts appeared on the scene claiming the Soviets were running out of oil and using Afghanistan as a staging ground for Middle East conquest.
By the time our program aired that winter, the argument was no longer whether our government should call a halt to the nuclear arms race and reinvest in the civilian economy. The U.S. had stepped into the mirror with the media echoing a return to 1947 style Cold War rhetoric, and the debate refocused not on whether, but on how much was to be spent to counter Soviet aggression.
In the planning stages for most of the decade, the new right’s military stimulus program regained for them a strategic hold over the economy, raising American investment in new weapons systems to a new high, while setting in motion a series of changes to the fundamental economic order endemic to the previous iteration of the Cold War.
As it had in the 1950s and 1960s, military spending once again drove the American economy, accounting for up to 6.2 percent of GDP by 1984. But where previous defense spending had been carefully balanced against America’s industrial output as a percentage of GNP, the so-called Reagan agenda or Reaganomics required massive borrowing to finance the military budget while reducing regulation and oversight of where it was spent. This change would transform American thinking about the economy, sending it into a star wars unreality and more importantly from a creditor to a debtor economy.
Always detached from the real economy, the Reagan budgets lifted the arms race and its Wall Street backers into the stratosphere, focusing the nation’s attention away from the depression era roads, bridges, dams, schools and industry that were in desperate need of attention. Instead, America became transfixed by the phantom of an ever present danger of Soviet troops in Afghanistan and a stock market driven by the military’s expansion.
Part I A Campaign Where the Lie Became the Truth and the Truth Became the Enemy of the State
A Campaign Where the Lie Became the Truth and the Truth Became the Enemy of the State
By Elizabeth Gould & Paul Fitzgerald
9/11. The number still rings in the mind as if chosen to act as a Pavlovian trigger: Outrage, anger, paranoia, retribution. A shadowy band of religious zealots fly not one, but two commercial airliners into the heart of America’s financial community while others deal a deadly blow to the Pentagon. It was a Hollywood movie, an act of war rivaling Pearl Harbor. Why did it happen? Who would do this to Americans, to America? How could a band of ragged terrorists plotting from a cave in faraway Afghanistan have accomplished such a complex task given the size and pervasiveness of the largest and most expensive military/intelligence apparatus in the history of the world? And even more curiously, why would Islamic radicals give the ideology-driven neoconservative administration of George W. Bush exactly the pretext they needed to launch a bloody invasion and further occupation of the Middle East?
According to the official narrative, 9/11 was an attack on everything American and in so doing changed everything about America. Like Kafkaesque characters who’d suddenly found themselves on the other side of a Cold War “Iron Curtain” mirror, Americans would now have to “watch what they say and watch what they do,” open up to questioning or face jail when prodded by squinty-eyed border guards and forsake any hope of privacy or dignity in a new world of electronic spies and full body scans. Former National Security Advisor, Admiral John Poindexter’s Total Information Awareness program would be enacted and a preexisting “Patriot Act” would be signed into law to clamp down on dissent and real or imagined domestic terrorism.
Some careful observers like Anthony Lewis of the New York Times had already noticed the bizarre coup-like changes coming over Washington in the months leading up to the attack as the George W. Bush administration inaugurated radical shifts in domestic and foreign policy that seemed un-American and alien to anything that had gone before. But those concerns would soon be forgotten in the race for revenge.
9/11 would ultimately give President George W. Bush and his neoconservative advisors all the public approval they needed to transform America and invade Afghanistan and Iraq to cleanse the world of evil in an endless “war on terror.” In the end it would turn America’s reputation for racial and religious tolerance, military invincibility and economic dominance on its head.
Looking back on the carnage of the last ten years it’s easy to see how the psychology of 9/11 changed America. What’s not easy to see is how a long standing campaign of covert psychological warfare built up since the early days of World War II had made the slow destruction of American democracy and the ascension of rule by secrecy inevitable, long before the planes ever left the runway on 9/11:
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.” -Dr. Joseph Goebbels
As chief propagandist for the Nazi Party, Joseph Goebbels system of black propaganda not only helped Hitler’s rise to power but kept him there by utilizing near-hypnotic powers over the German people even after the consequences of his disastrous failures had become obvious.
To counter Goebbels’ propaganda theatre emanating from Nazi party headquarters at Munich’s Braunes Haus (Brown House), an organization named Freedom House was founded in New York City in 1941. Fronted by American celebrities and public luminaries such as Eleanor Roosevelt, the brains behind the outfit was Leo Cherne, the psychological warfare specialist/co-founder of the Research Institute of America (RIA), which would much later be labeled the “CIA for businessmen.”
If anyone was a match for Goebbels mastery of the black arts of psychological warfare it was Cherne. In 1938 Cherne had published a guide to industrial mobilization in Adjusting Your Business to War, prophetically forecasting the outbreak of war in Europe in 1939 and on September 1st of that year completed a 3000-page report titled, Industrial Mobilization Plans for World War II, the very day that German troops crossed into Poland.
That same year Cherne asked a young protégé named William J. Casey, the future director of the CIA, “How do you take a country like ours, stuck in depression, and convert it into an arsenal?” Their combined answer was the loose-leaf book called The War Coordinator. Cherne and Casey’s psychological warfare campaign would establish a narrative that didn’t just embrace freedom as its major theme, in their minds their ideas would actually become Freedom and through the use of propaganda would grow and harden over the decades into an impenetrable shield-like narrative of American triumphalism.
Cherne’s prophecies on war and business attained a near mystical quality and over the decades following World War II he would attract the most powerful and influential figures in American business and politics to his causes. A listing of Freedom House trustees on its 50th anniversary in 1991 includes people as diverse as Kenneth L. Adelman, Andrew Young, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Jeane J. Kirkpatrick, Albert Shanker, Donald Rumsfeld and James Woolsey. It has since become an exclusive neoconservative bastion.
Freedom House’s narrative is no less than the narrative of the American century where, “It has fought on the side of freedom and against aggressors in struggles that can be evoked by simple words and phrases: the Marshall Plan, the Truman Doctrine, NATO, Hungarian Freedom Fighters, the Berlin Wall, the Prague Spring…” and of course Afghanistan.
We experienced Freedom House’s simple words and phrases and their dark influence on the major media in the spring of 1983 in a televised Nightline program following a trip to Afghanistan with Harvard Negotiation Project Director, Roger Fisher. We had brought Fisher to Afghanistan to explore the possibilities of a Soviet withdrawal of forces and discovered the Soviets were desperate to get out. But instead of expanding on Fisher’s efforts to get the Soviets out of Afghanistan, host Ted Koppel undermined the very premise of the discussion by introducing a political officer of the Jamaat-i Islami, which Koppel described as “an anti-communist resistance group based in Pakistan. He is here in the United States under the auspices of two American organizations, concerned with democracy in Afghanistan, the Afghan Relief Committee and Freedom House.”
Had Koppel and Freedom House really been concerned about democracy in Afghanistan, their choice of the Jamaat-i Islami could not be viewed as anything but the darkest of black propaganda, an outright lie.
Originally founded by the Pakistani theologian Abul Ala Maudidi in 1941, the goal of the Jamaat-i Islami was more than just that of gaining political representation for radical Islamists. The Jamaat was to be an all-embracing, extremist Islamic Society, crafted through the strictest interpretation of Islamic law, as a replacement for a modern western-style democracy.
Through the help of the mainstream media during the 1980s the psychological war promoted by Freedom House and Ronald Reagan’s C.I.A. director William J. Casey held the Soviets in Afghanistan for an additional six years, destabilized Central Asia, encouraged the growth of the largest heroin operation in history and enabled the rise of the very Islamic extremists that allegedly planned and carried off the attacks on 9/11.
Ten years after 9/11 Afghanistan remains the center of a growing Islamic insurgency and the longest war in American history. The success of America’s seventy year old psychological warfare campaign, where the lie became the truth and the truth became the enemy of the state, has now so disorientated America’s institutional thinking that we have reached the moment when the state can no longer shield the American people from the consequences of that lie.
Part II Building the Afghan Narrative with Black Propaganda, the People, the Process & the Product
Part III A Clockwork Afghanistan
Copyright © 2011 Gould & Fitzgerald All rights reserved
Part I Mystical Covert Agendas
By Elizabeth Gould & Paul Fitzgerald
As the U.S. becomes more and more the kind of country it has traditionally opposed, the answer to where we are headed may lie more in the arcane traditions of a dim past than in a bright future.
“‘We’re the dark matter. We’re the force that orders the universe but can’t be seen,’ a strapping Navy SEAL, speaking on condition of anonymity, said in describing his unit.”
If anyone (correctly) thought that the war on terror and Washington’s response to it had taken on a fantastical otherworldly quality, this recent quote on the front page of the Washington Post seemed to confirm it.
Following 9/11 the elected government of the United States of America delivered the country to a whole department (of Homeland Security) dedicated to expanding the government’s fear of darkness into everybody’s life (remember the 2003 duct tape and plastic sheeting craze?) Now we also have a top secret military operation known as the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) that thinks it is the dark.
Begun as a modest hostage rescue team, JSOC has morphed into a veritable heart of darkness, with the power to murder at will and with immunity from American legal jurisdiction (which apparently still maintains that such assassinations are illegal).
Even within the military, JSOC operates as a “Stovepipe,” operation, meaning that it operates completely in the black, reports to no one and continues to employ rogue ex-CIA professionals such as indicted Iran Contra operative Dewey Clarridge. The Navy Seal Team that took out Osama bin Laden operated under JSOC. Retired military personnel refer to JSOC as “Murder, Incorporated” and the “most dangerous people on the face of the earth.”
But if JSOC’s reputation for secrecy, vengeance and death from above can’t be explained from within the context of traditional U.S. military operations or U.S. law, then what set of rules is it operating from? Or is it simply that the traditions of rationalism and law that most Americans took for granted about the United States are subject to deeper, religious, or perhaps even mystical rules, whose anachronistic logic has found a renewed acceptance in an irrational world of personal, private and holy war?
No one less than the legendary Cold Warrior, Time Magazine’s Henry Luce understood that his passion for defeating Communism constituted “a declaration of private war,” which, in citing the example of the privateer Sir Francis Drake made it not only “unlawful,” but “probably mad.” As the child of American missionaries, Luce was committed to the militant spread of Christian Capitalism while viewing its ultimate triumph over the world as an inevitable consequence of God’s will.
Known to its 19th century advocates as mystical imperialism, the term can be traced to both Britain and Russia’s 19th century efforts to establish dominion through a mix of imperialism and Christian zeal. The competition came to a dead stop in Afghanistan with the end of the Great Game in 1907. The Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 complicated matters by infusing a heavy dose of socialist realism. But with the advent of the Cold War and the mysterious and intoxicating god-like qualities inherent in nuclear weapons, a new iteration of mystical imperialism came into being.
America’s mystical Cold War warriors were far removed technologically from their 19th century counterparts whose Christian elite believed they were bringing rational western thinking to the “darker regions of the earth.”
The sole purpose of America’s mid 20th century defense intellectuals was to rationalize nuclear war scientifically. Their failure over time ultimately dragged an entire stratum of American scientific and political thought back into the irrational realm of medieval mysticism. A 1960s London Times Literary Supplement marveled at the new priesthood who moved as freely through the corridors of the Pentagon and the State Department as the Jesuits once had through the courts of Madrid and Vienna, centuries before. Tasked with defeating Communism they invented their own reality, accelerated the nuclear arms race, created the domino theory of Communist expansion and then escalated the war in Vietnam to counter it.
President Kennedy’s science advisor Jerome Wiesner eventually came to realize that the so called “missile gap” and the massive buildup of America’s nuclear arsenal in response to it was only a “mirror image” of America’s own intentions towards the Soviet Union and not the other way around. Yet instead of addressing the error, the U.S. slipped deeper into the Cold War mirror until its own identity began to take on the image of its “Other.”
By 1973 these thermonuclear Jesuits and their CIA counterparts were using the U.S., NATO, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia to shake the Soviet Union’s domination over Central Asia through a Christian/Islamic holy war in Afghanistan. In a rational world it might be assumed that this war was supposed to stop with the defeat of the Soviet Union and the collapse of Communism. But instead of ending, America’s full blown splurge into personal and private holy war had caused the U.S. to slip into a crisis of identity.
Forced after seventy five years of anti-communism to finally define itself based on what it stood for and not what it stood against, the United States entered a house of mirrors in which it continues to wander. Stricken by the results of decades of economic and military excess, it finds its mission confused and its underlying philosophical grounding threatened.
What is America on the eve of 2012? Who are these Americans who revel in their dark powers? What have we become and how did we get that way?
Join us as we explore the little-analyzed facts and mystical covert agendas that the United States continues to press on with into the 21st century and what those agendas may mean to America’s new role as the dark force that orders the universe in the run up to the 2012 presidential elections.
Part III- Making the Irrational Rational by turning the Empirical into the Lie & the Fantasy into the Truth
Copyright © 2011 Gould & Fitzgerald All rights reserved
Published on Boiling Frogs Post
The Afghan think tank we collaborate with, New World Strategies Coalition, has released an important policy brief. Pashtun Awakening: Defeat the Taliban by Changing the Narrative outlines a solution for the disintegrating situation in Afghanistan that can work for all the Afghan people. ======================================================================================= FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Afghanistan Policy Brief
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The New World Strategies Coalition, a think tank founded by native Afghans which creates nonmilitary solutions for Afghanistan, released its latest policy brief today entitled, Pashtun Awakening: Defeat the Taliban by Changing the Narrative.
The policy brief outlines a solution for resolving the situation in Afghanistan by exposing how Pakistan has systemically weakened Afghanistan’s sacred tribal structure via its Taliban proxy. Pakistan and the Taliban have conspired to keep the Pashtuns, the country’s largest ethnic group, in the dark ages in order to advance Islamabad’s age-old agenda of controlling Kabul, by replacing the Afghan ancient tribal code with the extremist ideology of the Taliban – a process we refer to as “de-Pashtunization.”
The objective of this brief is to provide U.S. policymakers with a snapshot of the ground truth in Afghanistan so they can make informed decisions on how to best address the de-Pashtunization of Afghan society. The key to setting the Afghans free is by setting the truth free, as the brief explains:
There is still hope if the Pashtuns can restore their sacred tribal structure and identify the Taliban movement for what it really is – a religious mafia concocted on white boards in Rawalpindi.
In order to accomplish this, NATO and ISAF should focus on unifying the Pashtuns through a grassroots information campaign – a path that will be much more effective than the military option:
If the crux of the problem is a lost narrative the solution is taking it back from the jihadists who hijacked it. This calls for identifying, confronting and defeating propaganda through public diplomacy counterstrikes and preemptive psychological tactics.
The Policy Brief can be downloaded by clicking here.
Gould and Fitzgerald’s books on Afghanistan, Invisible History and Crossing Zero, have won praise from the likes of Noam Chomsky, Oliver Stone and Daniel Ellsberg. They were also the first Western journalists allowed back into Soviet-occupied Afghanistan during the early 1980s, when Paul discovered a story that wasn’t being reported in the mainstream press.
While conducting research for their books, Paul and Liz discovered a trove of esoteric history surrounding the West’s attraction to Afghanistan, dating back to the 1800s when the British set out to colonize the non-Christian world. During the lecture, Liz provided this brief explanation of an age-old esoteric ideology which continues to infect our current political and military leaders:
“Simply put, Mystical imperialism rationalizes the expansion of a nation’s authority, by conquest over other nations, by infusing a sense of the divine into the raw politics of empire building. Today’s practitioners of American Mystical Imperialism are a hardened core of ideological defense intellectuals and military officers who infuse their own esoteric and religious beliefs into Washington policymaking.”
Mystical imperialism can be traced back about 400 years to the British East India Company’s draconian pursuit of profits at any cost, as the Russians were demonized to protect the Raj’s interests in Central Asia and India. Somewhere along the line the British convinced themselves and the world that Russia was bent on controlling routes to the Persian Gulf – a neurosis that forced the British to do everything in its power to transform Afghanistan into a protective bulwark against Czarist Russia’s inevitable expansion.
This type of thinking was then embraced by the U.S. at the dawn of the Cold War. In the 1970s American policymakers and the media came to view the struggle in Afghanistan through a Manichean prism, and the Soviets were on the wrong side of this black and white world which saw the U.S. find common cause with violent Islamist fanatics, purportedly to ensure Afghanistan remained a Cold War “buffer zone.”
The blinding Cold War paradigm became like a religion, bemoaned by Senator William Fulbright as early as 1972: “Our ‘faith’ liberated us, like the believers of old, from the requirements of empirical thinking… Like medieval theologians, we had a philosophy that explained everything to us in advance, and everything that did not fit could be readily identified as a fraud or a lie or an illusion.”
Even when the U.S. had an opportunity to detangle itself from Afghanistan it resisted. In fact, the U.S. aimed to draw the Soviets into Afghanistan in what later became known as the “Bear Trap”, designed by Zbigniew Brzezinski to give communist Russia its own Vietnam War.
An underreported historical fact is how the U.S. began funding terrorists in Pakistan before the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Years later Brzezinski admitted as much and saw the rise of the Taliban as an acceptable side effect of the CIA’s shadowy program because, in his mind, it led to the fall of communism.
The U.S. also embraced the British tactic of empowering backward elements within Afghan society who seemed intent on keeping Afghanistan in the dark ages, including reactionaries who continually sabotaged Kabul’s attempts at modernization. In the 1920s King Amanullah brought on a period of rapid liberalization which included a democratic constitution, universal suffrage and civil rights. In 1922 U.S. envoy Cornelius Van Engert reported that the Afghans were not savage fanatics, but highly cultivated people in the midst of a major effort to modernize.
In fact, near the end of a 40-year era of peace, King Zahir Shah’s “experiment in democracy” was thwarted in the 1970s when the superpowers began using Afghanistan as a geopolitical chessboard. As a result of foreign meddling, Afghanistan regressed in terms of security, prosperity, human rights, education and culture over the past four decades at an unprecedented pace.
Flash forward to today’s “AfPak” policy, which is also void of reason and underpinned by an outdated mythology, as the U.S. continues to operate based on flawed assumptions left over from the British colonial era. And like its predecessors, the U.S. now finds itself mired in the “graveyard of empires.” And just like it did during the Afghan war against the Soviets, the U.S. continues to rely on its wayward ally Pakistan, who in turn continues to support virulently anti-American jihadists.
What makes Liz and Paul’s story especially compelling is the synchronicity that exists between their personal lives, their dreams and the historical drama as it unfolds in Central Asia. Their story is retold in the novel The Voice, in which they make esoteric connections between Templar Knights, the mujahideen and the CIA.
Underlying what appears to be irrational foreign policy is a twisted spirituality, an American exceptionalism and crusading impulse the U.S. inherited from its British forebears. Perhaps Gould and Fitzgerald were meant to serve a higher purpose themselves as they try to decode a mystery that has caused the people of Afghanistan endless suffering. Perhaps they were meant to “shed some light” on dark unseen forces swirling at the center of one of America’s biggest foreign policy catastrophes.
Michael Hughes is a Washington D.C.-based journalist and foreign policy analyst who attends and covers daily press briefings at the U.S. State Department for Examiner.com. Michael has been published in a number of major media outlets including CNN and The Huffington Post, has been cited as an expert in Reuters and the Middle East Policy Journal, and has made several live appearances on RT News.
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