Friday, January 7, 2011

The Uncomfortable Truth about Mind Control: Is Free Will Simply a Myth?

In the Sixties, a groundbreaking series of experiments found that 65 per cent of us would kill if ordered to do so.

By Michael Mosley

January 06, 2011 "The Independent" -- We have vain brains; we see ourselves as better than we really are. We like to think that we exercise free will, that put into a situation where we were challenged to do something we thought unacceptable then we'd refuse. But, if you believe that, then you are probably deluded.

I make this claim, based partly on the work of psychologist Stanley Milgram. Milgram devised and carried out ingenious experiments that exposed the frailty and self-delusion that are central to our lives. He showed how easy it is to make ordinary people do terrible things, that "evil" often happens for the most mundane of reasons.

I first read about Milgram's work when I was a banker in the Seventies, working in the City. I was so fascinated by his ideas that I re-trained as a doctor, with the intention of becoming a psychiatrist. Instead I became a science journalist. Recently I got the chance to make The Brain: A Secret History, a television series which reveals how much we have learnt about ourselves through the work of some of the 20th century's most influential, and deeply flawed, psychologists.

In the course of making the series we found rare archive and first-hand accounts of the many inventive and sometimes sinister ways in which experimental psychology has been used to probe, tease, control and manipulate human behaviour. High on the list of psychologists I wanted to learn more about was Stanley Milgram.

The son of Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe, Milgram struggled to understand how it was that German soldiers in the Second World War were persuaded to take part in barbaric acts, such as the Holocaust. As he once wrote: "How is possible, I ask myself, that ordinary people who are courteous and decent in everyday life could act callously, inhumanely, without any limitations of conscience."

Milgram was working as an assistant professor at Yale University in 1960 when he dreamt up an experiment that would try to answer that question. It was beautifully designed to reveal uncomfortable truths about human nature. Milgram described the moment he had the idea as "incandescent".

Some claim that what Milgram did was ethically and scientifically dubious. I have always thought it was justified and hugely important, but I had never had the chance to interview any of the "volunteers" who had unwittingly taken part in his notorious experiment, to get their perspective.

Last summer, nearly 50 years after the original experiment, I finally met one of the few remaining survivors, Bill Menold. I talked to Bill in his kitchen, surrounded by his grandchildren, who were eager to hear his account.

In 1961 Bill Menold was 23 and had recently left the army. "I happened to see an ad in The New Haven Register and it said 'memory and learning experiment' and they were going to pay $4, and I thought. I'm going to be in New Haven that day, why not?"

He went along to a building where he met an earnest young man in a white lab coat – The Experimenter - and a middle-aged volunteer. The Experimenter told Bill that he would be the Teacher and the other volunteer would be the Learner. The Teacher's task was to give the Learner a simple set of memory tasks, which he would then be tested on. If the Learner got an answer wrong, the Teacher had to give him an electric shock. If he continued to give wrong answers, the shocks would steadily increase.

Bill was left in a room with a microphone and a set of electrical controls. The Learner was put in another room, where Bill could hear but not see him. Then the experiment began. The Learner was a slow learner.

"Wrong – 150 volts."

Bill sat at the desk, carrying out the task he had been asked to do. Despite the screams coming from the next room, he continued to ask questions and administer electric shocks when the Learner failed to answer correctly.

"Wrong – 195 volts."

Even now he finds it hard to explain what went on inside him that day. "You are sitting in that chair with this stuff going on and that pressure that you were under, it's very hard to think clearly. I've never had anything before or since that was like that. Where you were literally out of your mind."

"Wrong – 350 volts."

"I just said to myself, I'm just gonna play this out and pretty soon we'll be out of here. I'm finishing this thing. I don't care what happens. Once you make the decision, you've made your decision. I want to go home. I want to get out of here, go and get a beer somewhere and go home. You know?

"Wrong – 450 volts."

When I asked him if he thought he had killed the Learner, Bill replied, "Yeah. When he stopped responding."

What Bill and the other volunteers who took part weren't told was that the electric shocks were fake – and that both the Experimenter and the Learner were actors. The real purpose of the experiment was to see how far the volunteers would go. Stanley Milgram had asked colleagues how many people they thought would go all the way and administer a lethal 450-volt shock. Most said less than 1 per cent – and those would probably be psychopaths.

Yet Bill, like 65 per cent of the volunteers, gave an apparently lethal electric shock when told to do so.

I remember thinking, when I first read this, that such a figure was completely unbelievable. I was absolutely certain, and I'm sure everyone who read about Milgram's work was equally certain, that I would never give a fatal electric shock to someone simply because I had been asked to do so by someone in authority. It is inconceivable that I could be manipulated in this way.

Perhaps, I thought, the volunteers had deep-down realised that this was a fake experiment, that they were just playing along. When critics put this point to Milgram he scathingly responded, "the suggestion that the subjects only feigned sweating, trembling, and stuttering to please the Experimenter is pathetically detached from reality, equivalent to the statement that haemophiliacs bleed to keep their physicians busy".

Milgram argued that far from being in any way fake, his experiment demonstrated in a very stark way something that we all know happens, but which we can't bring ourselves to believe. It is more comfortable to imagine that there was something uniquely evil or weak about German prison guards than to believe that most of us would behave the same way when faced by the same set of circumstances. "One of the illusions about human behaviour is that it stems from personality or character, but social psychology shows us that often human behaviour is dominated by the roles that we are asked to play."

Bill was surprisingly sanguine about having been deceived, and very honest, particularly when he was talking about that moment when he abandoned his moral compass and handed over responsibility for his actions to the Experimenter. With the wisdom of hindsight he was able to admire the thoroughness of the experiment and the skill with which the actors had played their parts.

I think that a more legitimate criticism than, "they were faking it," was the relevance of Milgram's experiment to the real world. Perhaps people had behaved the way they did largely because of the artificiality of the situation? In 1966, inspired by Milgram's findings, a psychiatrist called Charles Hofling created a more realistic scenario.

He arranged for 22 nurses working in a large hospital to be rung, separately, by a man simply calling himself, "Dr Smith". Dr Smith told each of the nurses that he wanted them to give 20mg of a drug called Astroten to a patient, who he named. Dr Smith also told the nurses that he was on his way to the hospital and would sign the necessary paperwork when he arrived.

The drug, an invention of the experimenters, had been placed in the drug cabinet several days before the telephone call with a prominent warning on its side that 10mg was the maximum safe dose. Despite this, and despite the fact that hospital protocol specifically stated that no drug should ever be administered based solely on a phone call, 21 out of the 22 nurses were preparing to give the 20mg dose when they were stopped. The nurses had bowed to the imagined authority of the "doctor".

People obviously knew, long before Milgram and Hofling did their experiments, that humans have a tendency to blindly follow orders, if they are presented in a plausible fashion by someone who is apparently in authority. What these experiments revealed was just how strong this "tendency" really is. Psychology, which is often criticised for discovering the bleeding obvious, had shown that it was capable of making surprising, original, disturbing contributions to our understanding of ourselves.

Some professional bodies,such as the US army, responded to these findings by incorporating it into their training, making sure that would-be officers were aware of the pressures they might come under to follow orders they felt were unethical. Medical and nursing students are also now taught of the dangers of blindly following orders.

Others,such as the American Psychological Society, responded to criticisms of Milgram's methods by adopting new guidelines for the treatment of volunteers in psychological experiments. In a more nebulous way, I also think Milgram contributed to the widespread questioning and suspicion of authority that was characteristic of his era, the 1960s.

Milgram's own motivation for doing experiments was not mistrust of authority, but the desire to understand why authority has such a hold over us. To find out more, he then took to the streets to see how people would behave in a situation where there was no obvious authority.

Milgram went with his students on to the New York subway. Their task was to approach passengers on the train and say, pleasantly: "I'd like your seat, please". As Milgram pointed out beforehand, "if you ask a New Yorker if he would give up his seat to a man who gives no reason for asking, he would say 'never'. But what would he really do?" The answer was that in just over half of all cases people gave up their seats when asked.

Recently I decided to repeat this experiment in a busy London shopping centre, with similar results. I was surprised by how many people complied with my completely unreasonable request, but even more surprised by how uncomfortable I found asking them to do it, something Milgram also discovered.

"I was about to say the words 'excuse me, sir, may I have your seat,' but I found something very interesting, there was an enormous inhibition, the words wouldn't come out, I simply couldn't utter them, there was this terrible restraint against saying this phrase."

Although it was unexpected, Milgram thought that this was a hugely significant finding. He had found through his own personal experience just how important feeling socially awkward is when it comes to modifying behaviour. We don't like breaking the social rules – whether it's asking for somebody's seat, or disobeying the instructions of somebody whose authority we have accepted.

In everyday situations there is an implicit set of rules of who is in charge and if we violate these rules it leads to feelings of embarrassment and awkwardness so intense we prefer to accept the submissive role the occasion requires. It is a terrible critique of human behaviour that we would rather let something terrible happen than act in a socially embarrassing manner. Yet it helps explain some of the chilling crimes you read about when someone is attacked, even murdered, in a public place and no one intervenes.

Now I'd like to believe that we have, as a society and because of what psychologists like Milgram have taught us, become less blind to the demands of authority. I'd like to believe that, but I don't.

Dr Thomas Blass, Milgram's biographer, recently asked himself that question."Would Milgram find less obedience if he conducted his experiments today? I doubt it. To go beyond speculation on this question, I gathered all of Milgram's standard obedience experiments and the replications conducted by other researchers. The experiments spanned a 25-year period from 1961 to 1985.

"I did a correlational analysis relating each study's year of publication and the amount of obedience it found. I found a zero-correlation – that is, no relationship whatsoever. In other words, on the average, the later studies found no more or less obedience than the ones conducted earlier."

There was a recent example of the continuing tendency towards blind obedience in the USA when a con man, dubbed "the modern Milgram", made the staff of dozens of fast-food restaurants behave in an appalling fashion simply by ringing up and pretending to be a policeman.

He persuaded managers to strip-search their staff in search of stolen goods, to make them jog naked, even to strip off and appear naked in front of startled customers. One manager, who strip-searched an employee and was subsequently jailed, said, "I didn't want to do it, but it was like he was making me".

Milgram once wrote that we are "puppets controlled by the strings of society". Yet what is also true is that not all puppets jump when their strings are pulled. Many of the fast-food managers who were rung up the "policeman" refused to follow his orders. In Milgram's own experiment, although 65 per cent of the volunteers were prepared to give apparently lethal electric shocks, that still left 35 per cent who would not.

What no experimenter has yet been able to predict are the characteristics that mark out those who will rebel from the rest. The only way you will ever know how you measure up is when you find yourself tested. You have a one in three chance of passing.

Editor's NOTE:

It is intriguing that the referenced psychological experiments on the selecting of the proper moral response yielded only a rate of 33% and that 2/3 of those tested were prepared to comply with an obviously immoral request including delivering a lethal electric shock.

These experiments would seem to demonstrate how difficult it can be to develop a properly formed moral conscience particularly in a society in which rank Utilitarianism and moral relativism are the rule rather than the exception. The effects of social pressure can be exceedingly great where a virtual societal moral vaccuum prevails. The important thing to recognize of course is that morally virtuous behavior cannot be completely extinguished any more than the Natural Law can be.

For millennia, the wisdom of the perennial philosophy has taught us that solitary virtuous acts are more likely to be performed where the common morality is highly developed and where virtuous character is developed through practice.

On a more practical level, parents recognize that they cannot teach the importance of virtuous behavior to their children in a milieu where they are constantly bombarded by immorality. If we wish to avoid whole-sale acts of morally reprehensible societal behavior, it behooves us to work toward the establishment of a much more highly developed common morality which follows the natural moral law.

Unfortunately, in the so-called developed West, the natural moral law has been replaced by a largely immoral kind of rank Utilitarianism--and with it the legalization of obviously immoral behavior(s) most commonly justified on the basis of spuriously postulated concepts of human right(s) where the "rights" in question are fictitious rather than real (based on the natural moral law and a fixed human anthropology). --Dr. J. P. Hubert

Thursday, January 6, 2011

WikiLeaks' Most Terrifying Revelation: Just How Much Our Government Lies to Us

By Fred Branfman

"Try as I may I can not escape the sound of suffering. Perhaps as an old man I will accept suffering with insouciance. But not now; men in their prime, if they have convictions are tasked to act on them." -- Julian Assange, 2007 blog entry

January 04, 2011 "AlterNet" -- Do you believe that it is in Americans' interest to allow a small group of U.S. leaders to unilaterally murder, maim, imprison and/or torture anyone they choose anywhere in the world, without the knowledge let alone oversight of their citizens or the international community? And, despite their proven record of failure to protect America -- from Indochina to Iran to Iraq -- do you believe they should be permitted to clandestinely expand their war-making without informed public debate? If so, you are betraying the principles upon which America was founded, endangering your nation, and displaying a distinctly "unamerican" subservience to unaccountable authority. But if you oppose autocratic power, you are called to support Wikileaks and others trying to limit U.S. Executive Branch mass murder abroad and failure to protect Americans at home.

These two issues became officially linked for the first time when former U.S. Afghan commander General Stanley McChrystal explicitly stated that the murder of civilians increases rather than decreases the numbers of those committed to killing Americans, and actually implemented policies -- since reversed by General Petraeus -- to reduce U.S. murder of civilians. McChrystal said that “for every innocent person you kill, you create 10 new enemies." By so doing he made it clear that killing civilians is not only a moral and war crimes issue, but -- in today's interdependent world -- also threatens U.S. national security.

As important as is the issue of free speech, it is the question of whether the U.S. Executive is in fact protecting the American people through its mass murder abroad that really lies at the heart of the Wikileaks controversy. Executive Branch officials justify persecuting and threatening to murder Assange on the grounds that he has damaged U.S. "national security." If McChrystal is right, however, it is the past decade of U.S. Executive mass murder in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, now revealed beyond any doubt by Wikileaks, that is the real threat to U.S. national security.

The chilling fact is this: whether you believe that September 11, 2001 was due to incomprehensible fanaticism or genuine grievances, it seems likely that U.S. leaders’ murder of countless Muslims since 2001 will cause the next 9/11 should, God forbid, it occur, The recent suicide-bomber in Sweden who came perilously close to succeeding taped a message saying "so will your children, daughters, brothers, and sisters die, like our brothers, sisters, and children die." Similar sentiments were voiced by the Times Square bomber, and it is likely that those responsible for future American deaths will also be motivated by revenge for the hundreds of thousands of Muslims for whose deaths U.S. leaders are responsible since 2001.

This is not, of course, to justify such attacks. Any attacks on civilians, whether by the Taliban or General Petraeus, are totally unjustified and crimes of war. But if the issue is how best to enhance U.S. national security, it is critical to rationally discuss the most prudent and sensible means of preventing further attacks -- which in this case is to stop creating huge numbers of people who want to kill Americans. If General McChrystal is correct, every American should tremble at the long-term danger to America caused by the last decade of U.S. war-making in the Muslim world. If only 1/100th of 1% of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims are moved to want to attack America because of America's post-9/11 killing of Muslim civilians, for example, the U.S. Executive will have created a pool of 160,000 Muslims devoted to murdering Americans.

Nothing is more emblematic of the service Assange is doing Americans than the July 25 N.Y. Times headline announcing its publication of the Wikileaks "Afghan War Logs": "View Is Bleaker Than Official Portrayal Of War In Afghanistan."

The N.Y. Times thus not only acknowledged that Wikileaks had supplied Americans with vital information about the war that its own government was denying them, but that this information had not been provided by the U.S. mass media. If it had been doing its job, after all, America’s “newspaper of record” not Wikileaks would have long ago revealed that the Afghan war was "bleaker than official portrayal of the war." The Guardian newspaper's headline on the same day drove the point home: "Massive Leak Of Secret Files Exposes Truth Of Occupation," i.e. the truth as opposed to U.S. Executive lies.

These "Afghan War Logs", like the Iraqi war logs after them, and much material in Wikileaks' recent release of diplomatic cables, reveal above all that U.S. Executive war-making is marked by massive deception of the American people -- particularly lying about (1) the enormous civilian casualties the U.S. is causing and (2) its claim to be pursuing a "counter-insurgency strategy" designed to install a democratic Afghan government. The Times and Guardian stories describe how these official U.S. documents reveal constant U.S. Executive Branch lying to the American people.

-- U.S. MURDER OF CIVILIANS: "A huge cache of secret US military files today provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents," (Guardian) "Incident by incident, the reports resemble a police blotter of the myriad ways Afghan civilians were killed -- not just in airstrikes but in ones and twos -- in shootings on the roads or in the villages, in misunderstandings or in a cross-fire, or in chaotic moments when Afghan drivers ventured too close to convoys and checkpoints". (N.Y. Times) "The Nato coalition in Afghanistan has been using an undisclosed "black" unit of special forces, Task Force 373, to hunt down targets for death or detention without trial ... The logs reveal that TF 373 has also killed civilian men, women and children and even Afghan police officers who have strayed into its path." (Guardian)

-- REGULAR COVERUPS OF U.S. CIVILIAN MURDER: "The dead, the reports repeatedly indicate, were not suicide bombers or insurgents, and many of the cases were not reported to the public at the time." (N.Y. Times) "War logs show how marines gave cleaned up accounts of an incident in which they killed 19 civilians ... There would be no punishment." (Guardian) "The logs detail how US special forces dropped six 2,000 lb bombs on a compound where they believed a `high-value individual' was hiding, after `ensuring there were no innocent Afghans in the surrounding area'. A senior US commander reported that 150 Taliban had been killed. Locals, however, reported that up to 300 civilians had died." (Guardian)

-- U.S. AND A CORRUPT AFGHAN GOVERNMENT ARE ALIENATING AFGHAN CIVILIANS AND LOSING THE WAR: "The documents illustrate in mosaic detail why, after the United States has spent almost $300 billion on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban are stronger than at any time since 2001 ... The reports paint a disheartening picture of the Afghan police (who) are often described as distrusted, even loathed, by Afghan civilians. The reports recount episodes of police brutality, corruption petty and large, extortion and kidnapping ... The toll of the war -- reflected in mounting civilian casualties -- left the Americans seeking cooperation and support from an Afghan population that grew steadily more exhausted, resentful, fearful and alienated ... The expanding (U.S.) special operations have stoked particular resentment among Afghans -- for their lack of coordination with local forces, the civilian casualties they frequently inflicted and the lack of the accountability." (N.Y. Times)

When the Iraqi war logs were published 3 months later, they revealed even more shocking information -- particularly that U.S. soldiers had handed over Iraqi civilians to Iraqi police, knowing they would be hideously tortured employing electric drills, acid and other devices before being savagely murdered. Ellen Knickmeyer, the Washington Post Bureau chief in Baghdad in 2006, wrote that these revelations meant that U.S. officials had been lying daily to the U.S. media

-- and American people -- by saying they were not aware of this mass murder. U. S. leaders also lied constantly in claiming they were not tracking civilian casualties, when in fact they were. Since international law made U.S. leaders responsible for providing law and order in occupied Iraq, these Wiklileaks cables thus also revealed that U.S. leaders bear a major responsibility for these warcrimes, among the worst since the end of WWII.

Both the Wikileaks Iraqi and Afghan War Logs, in short, have revealed that the entire U.S. Executive is a "vast lying machine", as journalist David Halberstam described the U.S. military in his affadavit for the CBS vs. Westmoreland trial. It must be understood that “truth” vs. “lies” is not even an operational category within the Executive Branch or military. The purpose of communicating with the public is not to provide them with truthful information but rather to advance “the mission”. People who communicate with the public obtain their jobs and are promoted on the basis of their ability to mislead, deceive, “spin” and lie. There is no recorded case where Executive Branch officials have been rewarded for telling the truth to the American people, and many where they have been punished or lost their jobs for doing so. And nothing so epitomizes the degradation of democracy in America that the fact the public expects Executive Branch officials to lie to them, and that mass media journalists even betray their profession by defending Executive secrecy and excoriating those who reveal their lies like Julian Assange.

It is thus impossible to overstate the importance of the Wikileaks documentation of these lies to the American people. When a journalist reports a U.S. government misdeed, government officials automatically deny it and many Americans are unsure whom to believe. But Wikileaks has revealed official government documents that prove U.S. leaders’ lying and commission of crimes of war. The fact that the U.S. has covered up its mass murder of civilians, and that this is contributing to its losing the war, is thus no longer open to serious question. The callous and careerist politicians and journalists who daily ignore U.S. mass murder, while calling for Assange's arrest or execution, shame themselves, their children, and their profession by their indifference to non-American human suffering and obsequious toadying to illegitimate Executive power.

And the Wikileaks documents reveal something even more important: the entirely bogus nature of U.S. claims that Assange has damaged U.S. "national security", e.g. by revealing information that could help the “enemy.” It is obvious that the "enemy" knows whether those murdered by the U.S. are civilians. The U.S. Executive clearly claims it is only killing “insurgents” to keep its murder of civilians a secret from the American people, fearing it would face protests that could tie its hands if it became known.

The Wikileaks documents, though they date from 2009 and before, also shed important light on what is occurring today under General David Petraeus.

It is important to remember, after all, that the Wikileaks controversy is not primarily about the past or abstract legal issues, but what is happening to actual human beings today. As you read these words countless Afghan and Pakistani villagers are huddling in their homes, terrorized by U.S. war-making, as General Petraeus's brutal offensive into southern Afghanistan, met by an increase in the Taliban's resort to roadside bombs and assassination, has caused the Red Cross to issue an unusual alarm saying that conditions are at their worst for Afghan civilians in 30 years, i.e. as bad as during the Russian invasion. A Canadian press report indicates that Kandahar's main hospital is overflowing with civilian casualties, and that "on some days, the floor is red with blood".

Petraeus has tripled air strikes, brought in 9,000 U.S. assassins who are conducting round-the-clock murder, and introduced an unprecedented number of night-time raids recalling Nazi movies from the 1940s -- as screaming U.S. soldiers break into people's homes, terrorize women and children, and kill, wound, torture or imprison men indefinitely without a trial or any chance to prove their innocence. Even the U.S.-installed Afghan President Hamid Karzai is so appalled that he has begged the U.S. to curtail its airstrikes and night raids, saying, “the raiding homes at night. Terrible. Terrible. A serious cause of the Afghan people's disenchantment with NATO and with the Afghan government … How can you measure the consequences of it in terms of the loss of life of children and women because you have captured Talib A. And who is this Talib A? Is he so important to have 10 more people killed, civilians? Who determines that?”

Petraeus has firmly refused to end what this Afghan leader describes as the General’s responsibility for civilian murder, making a further mockery of his claim to be bringing “democracy” to Afghanistan.

Particularly significant are the many first-person reports in the Wikileaks "Afghan War Logs" of U.S. murder of innocent civilians at U.S. checkpoints -- which flesh out McChrystal's March 2010 admission that "we have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat."

For this raises a basic question about Petraeus's vast escalation of U.S. airstrikes. If U.S. forces have murdered countless innocent civilians at checkpoints, where they can at least see those they are killing face-to-face, how many more innocent civilians is Petraeus killing from from the air, in bombing raids where those below can barely be seen?

And these Wikileaks documents also shed important light on how Petraeus's massive escalation into both southern Afghanistan and Pakistan, where he has dramatically escalated both U.S. drone and ground assassination, is weakening rather than strengthening long-term U.S. national security. Just as the Taliban is far stronger today after the U.S. has wasted $300 billion and thousands of American lives over the last 10 years, Petraeus's tactics are strengthening not weakening America's enemies over the long run. If he murders enough people in southern Afghanistan, the General may be able to claim some short-term successes there. But there is no serious question that his tactics are sowing a long-term whirlwind which not only threatens the stability of the Afghan and Pakistani governments, but pose a long-term threat to Americans at home.

A U.N. map just published by the Wall Street Journal has revealed that the Taliban, using classic guerrilla tactics, has moved into northern and western Afghanistan as Petraeus has moved south, giving them control of more territory than ever. “Internal United Nations maps show a marked deterioration of the security situation in Afghanistan during this year's fighting season, countering the Obama administration's optimistic assessments of military progress since the surge of additional American forces began a year ago”, the Journal reported.

The N.Y. Times has reported how various insurgent groups in Pakistan have responded to Petraeus's tactics by coordinating and cooperating for the first time, vastly increasing the threat they pose to the Pakistani state. It is also obvious that Petraeus cannot possible]y kill more "insurgents" than he is creating if he continues to provoke the 41 million Pashtuns on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to want to fight America. The population of North and South Vietnam combined during the Vietnam war was only 31 million, after all, and provided a manpower pool large enough to outlast 500,000 Americans.

In the end, however, the most profound questions for Americans raised by the Wikileaks documents go far beyond the Muslim world. If we can free our minds of a lifetime of official propaganda identifying the U.S. Executive with the American people, the evidence is overwhelming that in foreign and military policy the U.S. Executive Branch is an undemocratic institution that does not represent its own citizens. It operates largely independent of Congress, the Judiciary or a mass media which has largely become an arm of Executive power, broadcasting its lies far more often than it exposes them.

A few months before President Obama's December 2009 decision to send 30,000 more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, for example, only 24% of Americans wanted to send more and 43% wanted to decrease the number. Their wishes were ignored, as are the opinions of Americans today who, by a margin of 63 to 32, oppose U.S. war-making in Afghanistan. And, Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars revealed, even the President is largely a figurehead when it comes to Executive war-making. Woodward documents how the military thwarted Obama’s clear desire to begin a major pullout from Afghanistan in the summer of 2011. Last month, Obama was humiliated by being forced to endorse a hypothetical 2014 pullout date.

Most Americans would agree with the statement in the Declaration of Independence that governments derive "their just powers from the consent of the governed." But the governed can only give their consent if they are informed as to what they are agreeing to. This is obvious in our daily life. I cannot be said to have "consented" to buy your laptop if you deceived me by not telling me it was broken. One of our most basic legal principles is that a contract is null and void if it was obtained under false pretenses. By revealing massive U.S. Executive deceit Wikileaks has thus revealed that it does not legitimately represent the American people.

These Wikileaks documents thus raise the most fundamental question citizens can ask themselves: to what extent do citizens of a democracy owe their allegiance to autocratic leaders who obtain the consent of their citizens through massive duplicity? And to what extent can they trust either their judgement or their decency?

Americans may find themselves increasingly pondering such questions in coming years, as economic decline and future terrorist attacks cause U.S. elites to bring home the authoritarian mindset that has caused so much damage abroad. It seems certain that American democracy will face greater challenges than at any time since the country's founding.

But that is a long-term question. The key question now is whether Americans can hear the sound of suffering their leaders are causing abroad, as at this very moment innocent men, women and children are being murdered and maimed in what the Red Cross describes as the greatest civilian carnage since the Russians invaded 30 years ago.

Julian Assange should be applauded not persecuted for hearing the sound of their suffering.

Do we?
Any Respect For International Law Left In The US Congress?

By Franklin Lamb

January 05, 2010 "Information Clearing House" -- Beirut: This week marks the second anniversary of among the most savage criminal slaughters of human life in long memory. The 522 hour indiscriminate carnage, “Cast Lead” that killed 1,417 Palestinians, mostly civilians, 352 of them children, injuring for life more than 5,300, indicts Israel as well as those countries that continue to supply it weapons, diplomatic cover and to enforce Israel’s illegal siege on sealed Gaza.

The US administration, as revealed in a State Department cable posted by Wikileaks, has been working overtime with Israel to parry further condemnation of Israeli crimes documented in the Richard Goldstone and Richard Falk Reports, among others. These investigations established massive violations of human rights and international law, war crimes, and possible crimes against humanity while refuting claims by Israel that it acted according to the limited international right of self-defense. Goldstone, Falk and others have demonstrated that it was both the victims of Cast Lead and the Mavi Marmara who alone possessed the right of self-defense in light of Israel’s agressions, not Israel.

As Professor Falk instructs us, Israeli actions in both cases:

“Are certainly acts of aggression under the UN Charter, and an act of war by reference to customary international law. Whenever force is used in situations other than in situation where a proper claim of self-defense is made, the undertaking is unlawful, and if as here, it is an instance of flagrant non-defensive force, the attacker is engaged in criminal conduct and both the offending state and the perpetrators acting on behalf of the should be held responsible, and to the extent international crimes took place, held accountable.”

Rather than hold Israel to the “single universal human rights standard that applies to every country”, as Hilary Clinton crowed on Human Rights Day during an appearance before the Brookings Institute, the Obama administration claims others have ‘rushed to judgment’ and it has refused to condemn Israel’s May 31, 2010 murder of an American citizen on the Mavi Marmara humanitarian aid boat, 19 year old Furkan Dogan.

Rushing to judgment and ignoring International law in Congress

Maybe it requires the moral clarity of 19 year old Layal, and her teen aged friends huddled in a damp, candle lighted, cold subterranean hovel in Shatila Palestinian Refugees camp this New Years in Beirut, to speak the naked truth. In their make- shift ‘classroom’ the teenagers tutor camp kids on the three R’s after the youngsters double shift ‘short day’ and too early daily dismissal at Shatila’s overcrowded and undersupplied and understaffed, UNRWA Ramallah and Hemeh schools.

Wrapped in a woollen shawl for warmth, and discussing a planned commemoration of the second anniversary of the 22 day Gaza Massacre, Layal suddenly blurted out, “you know what? The Star of David and Israel’s flag has replaced the Nazi Swastika as today’s symbol of ethnic cleansing, racism and oppression.” She explained to her colleagues, “ Israel will remain a pariah state as long as its laws and its policies continue to violate the basic human rights of Palestinians. Israel has no right to exist as an exclusively Jewish State, any more than Hitler’s Reich had a “right to exist for Aryans only. We Palestinians will return. Liberty and justice will be achieved. Jews and Arabs can again live together in peace.”

As never before. the international community, increasingly appalled and angered by Israeli crimes is pulling back from supporting or trying to justify Israel’s actions and are shifting attention to the rights of Palestinians to live in their own country, to return from their Nakba caused refugee “sanctuaries” in more than 60 countries and to recognize the State of Palestine. This as some in the international community prepare to escort Israel before the bar of international justice.

But not in the US Congress which is some ways has become a grotesque caricature of what James Madison and the founding fathers wanted and, perhaps naively, as it has turned out, believed they had created.

As the Israel lobby and the Jerusalem Post have been claiming recently, and even as Israel’s most ardent apologists struggle to justify its actions and Israel’s position becomes increasingly untenable, nearly five dozen senators and over 180 members of the House of Representatives have by now issued statements since Cast Lead and the attack on the humanitarian aid boat the Mavi Marmara. Almost all of them overwhelmingly supportive of Israel while ignoring well established international law.

· In the Senate, former presidential candidate and Senate Foreign Relations Chairman John Kerry (DMA), who repeatedly claims he wants to reach out to Iran and other Middle East countries said that “Israel has every right in the world to make certain that weapons are not being smuggled into Gaza after the thousands of rockets that have been fired on it. It is not just Israel conducting this blockade; it is Israel and Egypt. So you begin that Israel has this right to protect itself and its claim to a right of self-defense is rock solid.”

· Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) noted that “Israel has an obligation to protect its citizens and therefore has a clear right under international law to prevent weapons from getting in the hands of terrorists determined to target them. Israel indicated it was willing to put in place a process to ensure that legitimate humanitarian relief reached Gaza. Unfortunately this offer was rejected”

· Israel has pledged to carry out a transparent and thorough investigation of this incident, and I look forward to its findings.”

· Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT) said, “We should be very clear about who is responsible for the unfortunate loss of life in the attempt to break the blockade in Gaza. Hamas and its allies are the responsible parties for the recent violence and the continued difficulties for the people of Gaza. Israel exercised her legitimate right of self-defense.” Lieberman added that he appreciates “the way in which the Obama administration has refused to join the international herd that has rushed to convict Israel before the facts were known and has apparently forgotten that Israel is a democratic nation and Hamas is a terrorist group.”

· Senator Scott Brown (R-MA) added that “Israel is at war. Each and every day thousands of its innocent men, women and children face the threat of lethal rocket attack from the terrorists.” “ Israel is not a liability to the United States,” Brown said. “There is no greater US ally in the critical area of the Middle East and perhaps no better strategic partnership in the world.”

· Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) stated, “Israel – rightfully so – invoked its right to self-defense in Gaza and on the Mavi Marmara.”

· Said Rep. Gary Ackerman (DNY): “I strongly condemn the action of those who assaulted the Israeli troops and made the use of violence by Israeli troops absolutely necessary and justified in self-defense”.

· Republican whip Eric Cantor (R-VA) noted, “ I commend the administration for its steadfast support of Israel in resisting another Goldstone-style UN investigation. These types of kangaroo courts have one goal, and that is to strip democratic nations of their rights to defend their citizens from terrorism. The United States must not lend its authority to any UN action to discredit our democratic ally and set back prospects for peace in the region, and I hope the Obama administration remains committed to that principle.”

· New Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner (R-OH) said, “Israel has every right to defend itself against terrorists which threaten its very survival.”

And the list goes on…and on……..

Of course our American problem is not just our Congress.
The Israel lobby picked and packed Executive Branch is not much more supportive of American values and international norms. To the shame of the US State Department, its spokesman, Robert Wood sullied and humiliated America when the hapless fellow refused to answer even a simple media question whether the United States considered pasta i.e. macaroni, spaghetti, fettuccini noodles items denied to Palestinians under Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza–a “dual-use item.” The American people are better than this and must demand better from our officials.

Currently, there is only a faint hint that Members of Congress, 83% of whom rely on Israeli lobby or arms industry political action committee money to keep their seats and sinecures, have the gumption to advocate a U.S. policy, consistent with American notions of substantial justice or which upholds Palestinian rights as defined by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Franklin Lamb is Director, Americans Concerned for Middle East Peace. He is the author of The Price We Pay: and is doing research in Lebanon for his next book. He can be reached at

Israel deliberately choked Gaza economy: WikiLeaks

(AFP) – 1 day ago

OSLO — Israel deliberately maintained the economy of the Gaza strip "on the brink of collapse" without "pushing it over the edge," a leaked US diplomatic cable from 2008 showed Wednesday.

According to a cable from the US embassy in Tel Aviv dated November 3, 2008 -- obtained by WikiLeaks and posted online by Norwegian daily Aftenposten -- Israeli officials told US diplomats of their intention to strangle the economy of Gaza.

"As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed ... on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge," the secret cable, posted online in its original version, read.

Israel first imposed a blockade on the Gaza Strip in June 2006 after militants there kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, and tightened it a year later when Hamas seized power in the territory of 1.5 million people, ousting its moderate rivals.

Israel says its limits on exports from Gaza are justified by several incidents in which Palestinian militants have concealed themselves or their weapons in crates being moved into Israeli territory.

Wednesday's cable said "Israeli officials have confirmed to Embassy officials on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis."

The unemployment rate in Gaza stood at 35 percent last year, one of the highest in the world.

Following the May 31, 2010 Israeli commando raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, in which nine Turkish activists were killed, international pressure has forced Israel to ease its blockade and allow in all purely civilian goods.

Israel continues to restrict what it says are "dual-use" goods which can be used for both military and civilian means, and only allows in limited amounts of building materials for projects run by international organisations.

Aftenposten said last month it had obtained all the diplomatic documents leaked to WikiLeaks and that it would publish stories based on them independently of the whistleblowing website's own releases.

WikiLeaks has so far only made public around 2,000 of the some 250,000 cables in its possession, in cooperation with publications El Pais, The Guardian, The New York Times, Le Monde and Der Spiegel.

'US drones kill 938 Pakistanis in 2010'

Press TV
Tue Jan 4, 2011 11:27AM

The US has stepped up its drone attacks in Pakistan's tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, a new report by a Pakistani Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) says.

The Islamabad-based NGO, Conflict Monitoring Center, revealed the details of the deaths by US drone attacks in its annual report.

The report gives detailed accounts on how the CIA killed innocent people merely on the suspicion of being militants.

In 2010, the CIA carried out an unprecedented 132 drone attacks in tribal areas, claiming the lives of 938 people, it said.

The Conflict Monitoring Center points out that none of the media organizations throughout last year reported on body counts from independent sources.

Many analysts believe the geo-strategic game plan of the US has turned out to be counterproductive.

The year 2010 was one of the deadliest years for civilians living in the tribal regions, as the number of drone strikes exceeded the combined number of such attacks carried out from 2004 to 2009.

The report states that 2,052 people lost their lives in drone strikes during the 5-year period between 2004 and 2009. The rising civilian causalities have left behind many tragic stories in the tribal areas.

The reaction of Pakistani people against the frequent use of drone strikes is finally gathering momentum.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Why Washington Hates Hugo Chavez

By Mike Whitney

Global Research
January 2, 2011

In late November, Venezuela was hammered by torrential rains and flooding that left 35 people dead and roughly 130,000 homeless. If George Bush had been president, instead of Hugo Chavez, the displaced people would have been shunted off at gunpoint to makeshift prison camps--like the Superdome--as they were following Hurricane Katrina. But that's not the way Chavez works. The Venezuelan president quickly passed "enabling" laws which gave him special powers to provide emergency aid and housing to flood victims. Chavez then cleared out the presidential palace and turned it into living quarters for 60 people, which is the equivalent of turning the White House into a homeless shelter. The disaster victims are now being fed and taken care of by the state until they can get back on their feet and return to work.

The details of Chavez's efforts have been largely omitted in the US media where he is regularly demonized as a "leftist strongman" or a dictator. The media refuses to acknowledge that Chavez has narrowed the income gap, eliminated illiteracy, provided health care for all Venezuelans, reduced inequality, and raised living standards across he board. While Bush and Obama were expanding their foreign wars and pushing through tax cuts for the rich, Chavez was busy improving the lives of the poor and needy while fending off the latest wave of US aggression.

Washington despises Chavez because he is unwilling to hand over Venezuela's vast resources to corporate elites and bankers. That's why the Bush administration tried to depose Chavez in a failed coup attempt in 2002, and that's why the smooth-talking Obama continues to launch covert attacks on Chavez today. Washington wants regime change so it can install a puppet who will hand over Venezuela's reserves to big oil while making life hell for working people.

Recently released documents from Wikileaks show that the Obama administration has stepped up its meddling in Venezuela's internal affairs. Here's an excerpt from a recent post by attorney and author, Eva Golinger:

"In a secret document authored by current Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Craig Kelly, and sent by the US Embassy in Santiago in June 2007 to the Secretary of State, CIA and Southern Command of the Pentagon, along with a series of other US embassies in the region, Kelly proposed "six main areas of action for the US government (USG) to limit Chavez's influence" and "reassert US leadership in the region".

Kelly, who played a primary role as "mediator" during last year's coup d'etat in Honduras against President Manuel Zelaya, classifies President Hugo Chavez as an "enemy" in his report.

"Know the enemy: We have to better understand how Chavez thinks and what he intends...To effectively counter the threat he represents, we need to know better his objectives and how he intends to pursue them. This requires better intelligence in all of our countries". Further on in the memo, Kelly confesses that President Chavez is a "formidable foe", but, he adds, "he certainly can be taken". (Wikileaks: Documents Confirm US Plans Against Venezuela, Eva Golinger, Postcards from the Revolution)

The State Department cables show that Washington has been funding anti-Chavez groups in Venezuela through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that pretend to be working for civil liberties, human rights or democracy promotion. These groups hide behind a facade of legitimacy, but their real purpose is to topple the democratically elected Chavez government. Obama supports this type of subversion just as enthusiastically as did Bush. The only difference is the Obama team is more discreet. Here's another clip from Golinger with some of the details on the money-trail:

"In Venezuela, the US has been supporting anti-Chavez groups for over 8 years, including those that executed the coup d’etat against President Chavez in April 2002. Since then, the funding has increased substantially. A May 2010 report evaluating foreign assistance to political groups in Venezuela, commissioned by the National Endowment for Democracy, revealed that more than $40 million USD annually is channeled to anti-Chavez groups, the majority from US agencies....

Venezuela stands out as the Latin American nation where NED has most invested funding in opposition groups during 2009, with $1,818,473 USD, more than double from the year before....Allen Weinstein, one of NED’s original founders, revealed once to the Washington Post, “What we do today was done clandestinely 25 years ago by the CIA...” (America's Covert "Civil Society Operations": US Interference in Venezuela Keeps Growing", Eva Golinger, Global Research)

On Monday, the Obama administration revoked the visa of Venezuela’s ambassador to Washington in retaliation for Chávez’s rejection of nominee Larry Palmer as American ambassador in Caracas. Palmer has been openly critical of Chavez saying there were clear ties between members of the Chavez administration and leftist guerrillas in neighboring Colombia. It's a roundabout way of accusing Chavez of terrorism. Even worse, Palmer's background and personal history suggest that his appointment might pose a threat to Venezuela's national security. Consider the comments of James Suggett of Venezuelanalysis on Axis of Logic:

"Take a look at Palmer's history, working with the U.S.-backed oligarchs in the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Sierra Leone, South Korea, Honduras, "promoting the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)." Just as the U.S. ruling class appointed an African-American, Barack Obama to replace George W. Bush with everything else intact, Obama in turn, appoints Palmer to replace Patrick Duddy who was involved in the attempted coup against President Chávez in 2002 and an enemy of Venezuelans throughout his term as U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela." Venezuela is already crawling with US spies and saboteurs. They don't need any help from agents working inside the embassy. Chavez did the right thing by giving Palmer the thumbs down.

The Palmer nomination is just "more of the same"; more interference, more subversion, more trouble-making. The State Dept was largely responsible for all of the so-called color-coded revolutions in Ukraine, Lebanon, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan etc; all of which were cookie cutter, made-for-TV events that pitted the interests of wealthy capitalists against those of the elected government. Now Hillary's throng want to try the same strategy in Venezuela. It's up to Chavez to stop them, which is why he's pushed through laws that "regulate, control or prohibit foreign funding for political activities". It's the only way he can defend against US meddling and protect Venezuelan sovereignty.

Chavez is also using his new powers to reform the financial sector. Here's an excerpt from an article titled "Venezuelan National Assembly Passes Law Making Banking a “Public Service”:

"Venezuela's National Assembly on Friday approved new legislation that defines banking as an industry “of public service,” requiring banks in Venezuela to contribute more to social programs, housing construction efforts, and other social needs while making government intervention easier when banks fail to comply with national priorities."...

The new law protects bank customers’ assets in the event of irregularities on the part of owners... and stipulates that the Superintendent of Banking Institutions take into account the best interest of bank customers – and not only stockholders... when making any decisions that affect a bank’s operations."

So why isn't Obama doing the same thing? Is he too afraid of real change or is he just Wall Street's lackey? Here's more from the same article:

"In an attempt to control speculation, the law limits the amount of credit that can be made available to individuals or private entities by making 20% the maximum amount of capital a bank can have out as credit. The law also limits the formation of financial groups and prohibits banks from having an interest in brokerage firms and insurance companies.

The law also stipulates that 5% of pre-tax profits of all banks be dedicated solely to projects elaborated by communal councils. 10% of a bank´s capital must also be put into a fund to pay for wages and pensions in case of bankruptcy.

According to 2009 figures provided by Softline Consultores, 5% of pre-tax profits in Venezuela's banking industry last year would have meant an additional 314 million bolivars, or $73.1 million dollars, for social programs to attend the needs of Venezuela’s poor majority."

"Control speculation"? Now there's a novel idea. Naturally, opposition leaders are calling the new laws "an attack on economic liberty", but that's pure baloney. Chavez is merely protecting the public from the predatory practices of bloodthirsty bankers. Most Americans wish that Obama would do the same thing.

According to the Wall Street Journal, "Chávez has threatened to expropriate large banks in the past if they don't increase loans to small-business owners and prospective home buyers, this time he is increasing the pressure publicly to show his concern for the lack of sufficient housing for Venezuela's 28 million people."

Caracas suffers from a massive housing shortage that's gotten much worse because of the flooding. Tens of thousands of people need shelter now, which is why Chavez is putting pressure on the banks to lend a hand. Of course, the banks don't want to help so they've slipped into crybaby mode. But Chavez has shrugged off their whining and put them "on notice". In fact, on Tuesday, he issued this terse warning:

"Any bank that slips up...I'm going to expropriate it, whether it's Banco Provincial, or Banesco or Banco Nacional de Crédito."

Bravo, Hugo. In Chavez's Venezuela the basic needs of ordinary working people take precedent over the profiteering of cutthroat banksters. Is it any wonder why Washington hates him?

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Coup d’état - The Historical Framework of Globalization

Editor's NOTE:

I am largely in agreement with Dr. Polk except for his assertion that a coup d’état occured in 1913. It is certainly true that the creation of the Federal Reserve system served as a major impetus in the conversion of the USA from a representative democratic constitutional republic to an oligarchy/plutocracy. However, it was not associated with any violence and therefore, technically speaking it does not qualify as a coup d’état the accepted definition of which is that the overthrow of government must be associated with violence.

Nevertheless the Federal Reserve system helped put in place the foundation for what has become a dictatorship of the rich and powerful. But it was the assassination of John F. Kennedy which marked the actual violent overthrow of a democratically elected administration, after which government of, by and for the people was effectively ended-- if it ever existed at all. Since then, no US President has dared oppose the Regime for fear of being eliminated (read sidelined or assassinated).

I agree with noted author Jim Marrs that what we now have is a situation not appreciably different from the National Socialism [e.g. as in the Nazi creation of a corporatist economy and a virtual single-party state] of the Third Reich where instead of the powerful business interests being led by one solitary dictator, the US Presidency has become a figurehead position through which the plutocrats enact their demands in concert with the bought and paid for US Congress that is to say, the Democrats and the Republicans represent two apparent adversarial wings of the same party, both of which are controlled by the ruling Regime. It would not be incorrect to label the extant situation a kind of Fourth Reich as Jim Marrs has done in his book The Rise of the Fourth Reich, (New York, 2008).

Readers should understand that the so-called New World Order is really the world-wide control of global resources by a cadre of banking elites who utilize both overt and covert military power in the realization of their goals.

--Dr. J. P. Hubert

Dr. James Polk

Global Research
December 29, 2010

Our era is largely defined by two highly interlinked concepts: globalization and the so-called “war on terrorism.” As geopolitical-economic operatives, both concepts complement each other as significant means to specific ends; both shape important aspects of our daily lives and determine form and content of much that passes for public discourse. Particularly in Europe and in the United States, populations are kept vigilant to the “clear and present dangers” ostensibly posed by “international terrorism” through mnemonic icons of troop movements in Central Asia and/or strategically deployed bomb plots that are purportedly thwarted “just in time” by our intelligence services. As if copied from the lecture notes of Carl Schmitt, a totalitarian “enemy” has been constructed which can conveniently be called back into service at a moment’s notice should public memory begin to fade.

Globalization has proceeded by means of three distinct but clearly interwoven interpretations and representations of the world in toto: as the sociopolitical “cosmopolitan moment” [1] (to borrow a term coined by Seyla Benhabib) of the globe as the embodiment of our lifeworld; as the stage of operations for multinational corporate/financial interests; and as the battlefield on which incited conflicts are seen as requiring comprehensive, global solutions which are to be achieved through a New World Order. In its current development, the construct of a unified world is largely synonymous with the ideal world government as envisioned in the Sociocracy of French philosopher Auguste Comte in the 19th century [2], in which international bankers and elitest think tanks determine and execute public policies.

Implied in this global ideal is of course the complete dissolution of the nationstate as such through the gradual but de facto irreversible integration of individual nations into the totalitarian framework of the political, economic, and chief judicial/juridical entities operating on a global scale (most significantly the United Nations, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Bank for International Settlements, and the World Trade Organization).

The philosophical roots of this integrative process can be found in the determinant factors that led to the Treaty of Westphalia, which ended Europe’s horrendously brutal Thirty Years War. The treaty also buried the eius regio, quius religio principle and reinstated the tolerance of Protestants as spelled out in the Peace of Augsburg (1555), the revocation of which under the Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II in the Edict of Restitution (1629) prompted the vicious counter-response from Protestant nobility in Austria and Bohemia. The terms of the peace accord also radically limited the territory and power of the Holy Roman Empire and acknowledged the sovereignty of the many principalities that constituted the realm of German influence, with France and Sweden entrusted as guardians of the peace.

But the Treaty of Westphalia was of major importance for one other significant reason. The councils of minds at Münster and Osnabrück were able to establish through rational discourse the concept of a peace accord based on the primacy of reason and rules of law that transcended warring national interests and belief systems, effecting in a truly Kantian sense the regulative idea of attainable peace as a principle of reason to guide all actions of the parties involved, and to which all participants, nolens volens, were to submit. This is clearly evident in the way various clauses in the treaty assumed a meta-normative role. The treaty thus paved the way for an era of secularized thought in which the rule of law and political negotiation served as instruments of conflict resolution and as guidelines of national sovereignty based on principles of reason.

Parallel to the development of international principles of cosmopolitan conduct in our own time such as those found in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and in the statutes of the Geneva Convention, economic and financial interests have exploited both the judicial codices formulated in international agreements and the juridical measures that now in many cases supersede pre-existing national laws through increasingly totalitarian bodies such as the World Trade Organization. [3] It is the power embodied in the domains of concentrated financial interests that today are in the process of transforming our lifeworld and realms of experience in previously unimaginable ways.

Coup d’état

Silently, and carefully hidden from public scrutiny, a coup d’état occurred in 1913 in the United States of America. The results of this bloodless coup are being felt today on a truly global scale. With careful, detailed planning, representatives of the most powerful financial institutions in both Europe and the United States succeeded through the enactment of the Federal Reserve Act (also known as the Glass-Owen bill) in radically and permanently altering the foundations of the nation as a whole.

Through the creation of the Federal Reserve system, the financial interests that conceived, wrote, and implemented the Glass-Owen bill took away the authority of the United States government as theoretical representative of the citizens of the country to print our own currency and placed that authority in the hands of a private banking cartel. According to Article 1, Section 8 of the American Constitution, it is Congress to whom the power is given “to coin money” and to “regulate the value thereof.” The Federal Reserve Act of course interprets this power quite literally as the coinage of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters; it is, however, the creation of money in the form of bank notes that lies at the heart of the act. When the government requires money, the United States treasury writes out IOUs in the form of U.S. treasury bonds, which it then sells to the privately owned Federal Reserve system in exchange for a Federal Reserve check. In reality, the “Federal” Reserve bank simply enters the corresponding numbers on its computer keyboard, once as a liability, and once as an asset. In other words, the numbers are created by the Federal Reserve out of nothing, for which it then demands repayment with interest. The funds are then credited to the government’s account, from which all the various bills are then paid. It is in that exact moment that “money” as such is created by the Federal Reserve bank out of nothing. But there is one additional trick used by all banks operating on the Federal Reserve system: fractional reserve lending. This scheme allows the bank to multiply the amount of money it lends to clients tenfold without having the actual funds in reserve to back it up. This entire scheme has allowed the hidden owners of the private “Federal” Reserve system to effectively extort money from the American people in the form of IOUs, also known as treasuries, which then must be repaid with interest.

The legal anchoring of this scandalous system in the Glass-Owen bill in the United States was only the beginning. Like other central bank signatories to the Bretton-Woods Agreement (and thereby to the World Bank and International Monetary Fund), the US Federal Reserve system is able to control the amount of money in circulation through several mechanisms, for example by raising or lowering interest rates and/or the minimum reserve requirements of banks in the fractional reserve lending system. Through the enactment of the Federal Reserve system, the essence of money has become debt. Through the creation of debt, money comes into existence in the system. It thus becomes obvious that it is never in the bank’s interest that clients, borrowers, actually pay off their debts because that would leave the banks without interest payments. When the borrowers happen to be sovereign nations, for example from the developing world, or now the United States and a number of countries in Western Europe, the interest payments earned by the banks easily go into the hundreds of billions. This is extraordinarily profitable for banks who have been able to “sit in on” the negotiation of peace accords (through which terms of surrender and repayment of damages are settled) and international trade agreement deliberations to regulate global commerce and finance.

World War I and its outcome provide a very enlightening example of just how this has been accomplished. The terms forced on Germany through Article 231 of the Treaty of Versailles laid the foundations for the consolidation of the enormously powerful financial interests in London, New York, Frankfurt, and Paris, which had been instrumental in pushing through, by hook and by crook, the Federal Reserve Act in the United States. (It should be noted that these are the same financial interests which also did their part to push the nations into military conflict in the first place. The focus here however remains restricted to the genesis and perpetration of the private central banking cartel as such and its connections to the current financial crisis and the war on terrorism.)

The horror of World War I quickly led to the realization that the global community of nations should not allow a recurrence of such cruelty, and that universally recognized and accepted principles of conduct were needed to guarantee international peace and harmony. Such principles of good will, intentionally redolent of the terms set out by the Peace of Westphalia, could only be implemented through a common general will or global consent. In other words, a League of Nations, a Völkerbund in the strictest Kantian sense, was needed to define and implement internationally valid principles of humanitarian, indeed cosmopolitan conduct to benefit the entire human species and our lifeworld.

It was this positive impulse among other things that led the participants in the “war to end all wars” to found the “Covenant of the League of Nations.” The agreement encompassed 26 principles to which the 58 member states committed themselves. But the most central problem confounding the ideals of the League was the fact that the agreement was predicated on significant economic interests that essentially doomed the treaty to failure from the start. The League was based on the status quo as defined by the victors of World War I, who, as simultaneous representatives of ostensibly “national interests” did everything in their power to ensure the richest gains possible for the elite bankers working behind the scenes in New York, London, Paris, and Frankfurt. And the means to this end were found in the terms of reparation payments they then forced on Germany. An article featured in the May 31, 1922 issue of the New York Times outlined the most salient demands being made on Germany by the Allied entente powers:

“The Reparation Commission called on Germany to consent to the following undertakings before May 31:

1. Reduce expenditures and balance the budget.

2. Halt the increase of the foreign debt and the growth of paper money in circulation.

3. Accept a light supervision of her efforts in that direction.

4. Take measures to prevent the further flight of capital and to get back $2,000,000,000 spirited out of the country in the last two years.

5. Assure the Reichbank’s autonomy from politics.

6. Resume publication of Government fiscal statistics.” [4]

Attentive readers will immediately note the unmistakable parallels to the demands (“austerity measures”) frequently imposed on developing nations through the international monetary fund in its policy proposals formerly known as “structural adjustment programs,” including demands for the privatization of the banking system, or to use the phrase introduced by “Fed speak,” to guarantee the banks’ independence (“autonomy”) from politics. (In corrected translation, this is the simple demand that this private banking cartel as the sole source of phony money should be allowed to perpetrate its debt-based currency scam without any supervision or control by the people or their representatives.) A gamut of conditions imposed by the IMF has consistently led to widespread domestic hardship and economic crises within the nations in question, because the interests and well-being of the general population are often clearly at odds with the IMF programs being implemented. Joseph Stiglitz put it this way:

“The IMF is pursuing not just the objectives set out in its original mandate, of enhancing global stability and insuring that there are funds for countries facing a threat of recession to pursue expansionary policies. It is also pursuing the interests of the financial community. This means the IMF has objectives that are often in conflict with each other.

The tension is all the greater because this conflict can’t be brought out into the open: if the new role of the IMF were publicly acknowledged, support for that institution might weaken, and those who have succeeded in changing the mandate almost surely knew this. Thus the new mandate had to be clothed in ways that seemed at least superficially consistent with the old.”

And it is precisely this extraordinary expansion of the power of the private bank cartels that was central to much of the behind-the-scenes maneuvering during and after World War I. In a very enlightening essay published in Foreign Affairs in 1936, Leon Fraser brought the true hidden agenda of the banking elite into selective public view:

“The truth was that the experts [i.e., of the second Young Commission - jp] seized the occasion of the new reparation adjustment as an excuse to repair a long recognized gap in the international financial fabric. The organization which they proposed had functions not connected with reparations, and these ostensibly secondary functions were, in the inner consciousness of the originators, the predominating motives for its establishment. By some of the members -- in particular those connected with commercial banking -- the institution was envisaged as an instrument for opening up new fields of world trade by means of fresh extensions of credit […] While there was no unanimity about the opportuneness of creating more credit, all experts agreed that the Bank could fill one obvious hiatus in the financial organization of the world, namely provide a center for central bank collaboration and for corporation to improve the international monetary mechanism.” [6]

The bank Fraser was referring to, of course, is none other than the central bank of all central banks, the Bank for International Settlements, with headquarters in Basel.

Louis McFadden, former banker-turned-congressman from Pennsylvania, condemned the hidden motives and operational methods of the Versailles Treaty in no uncertain terms. McFadden took particular aim at the Bank for International Settlements, which took charge of the gold Germany was required to deliver in reparations payments. Writing with reference to Grotius’s theory of just settlements of military conflicts (De Jure Belli ac Pacis), McFadden argued that the Versailles Treaty had in fact been negotiated in bad faith, with the “House of Morgan” and the usual suspects from the clique of international bankers being the prime beneficiaries of the reparations bonds, and that substantial aspects of the treaty had been worked out in the financial centers of London well in advance of the actual negotiations in Paris. McFadden prophetically augured the long-term consequences of the treaty as laying the “foundation for the renewal of a dozen wars that are legally justifiable.” [7]

The consolidation of economic and financial power in the West at the end of World War II made possible the ensuing rapid and encompassing globalization of inchoate trends already visible in the League of Nations platform. The establishment of the United Nations in 1945 as well as the foundation of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund as stipulated by the outcome of the Bretton-Woods Agreement (1944), contributed substantially to the international system of currency and finance of a distinctively Anglo-American character. This meant in particular that the central banks of all member nations were largely to adopt the modus operandi of the Federal Reserve system. The printing of national currencies, once the privilege of sovereign governments, was to be replaced by the system of government bonds or IOU issuance, which would then be lent or sold to the private banking cartel (spearheaded by the country’s respective “central-bank”) in exchange for currency notes -- with interest due. The outcomes of two world wars, in which a private banking cartel had ultimately written the terms of economic and financial surrender, had forced the vanquished into participant roles in the greatest scam in human history: the creation of money out of thin air through debt, with interest payments in permanent flow to the elite sphere of private bankers -- all on a global scale.

Many of the newest investment vehicles and resources discussed in growing numbers of studies have so successfully interlocked the political realm with the corporate/financial that a clear separation is no longer possible. Nevertheless, among wide segments of the populations in many countries, voting citizens are still convinced of the sanctity of the elected office
. Such convictions are based on false advertising, and the voters have failed to see the fusion between capital and the successful campaign/office tenure regularly performed behind the smoke and mirrors screens of the mass media. In a number of important instances, even opposition/protest movements have been bought and staged. [8] Yes we can! Si, se puede! should now be seen as the pitiful chants of all those who fell for the change they believed in. Change came in the form of continued bailouts for Wall Street banks, with the former head of the New York Federal Reserve placed comfortably by Obama himself on the throne of the US treasury, immune from critique and reprimand, despite his urgent e-mails to the legal counsel of AIG urging silence in response to congressional queries on the extent of the Fed’s bailout funds funneled into the pockets of Goldman Sachs. (Of course at the time these revelations became public (on the Internet!), the mainstream media was busy convincing the semi-conscious public of the importance of the then-and-now whereabouts of Tiger Woods’s genitalia.) It’s been all business as usual. But the teary-eyed and desperate seem to fall for the Hollywood hype every time: He’s the ONE!

The schematic procedures carried out by the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO often acquire an outright absurd character. Such was the case in the often-cited structural adjustment program developed for Bolivia in the Enhanced Structural Adjustment Facility (ESAF) Policy Framework Paper for 1998 - 2001. In exchange for much-needed IMF loans, Bolivia was required to transfer the “rights” of the Cochabamba water system to the private firm of Aquas de Tunari, a subsidiary of the International Water Ltd. / Bechtel Corporation consortium. (Bechtel gained international notoriety unter the George W. Bush administration as the recipient of generous no-bid military “reconstruction” contracts in Iraq.) The privatization of the water supply meant that prices for this necessity of life increased by more than 300%, becoming unattainable for many families. With public outrage and potential violence on the horizon, a report authored by World Bank experts advised: no public subsidies should be given to ameliorate the increase in water tariffs in Cochabamba. [9]

Recent machinations by the World Trade Organization have also led to precarious globalization strategies. According to Greg Palast, an internal report sent to his office at The Guardian revealed actual threats directed at the leftist government of Brazil if the country continued to refuse to sign the Financial Services Agreement of 1999. This agreement formed the international legal basis for the deregulation of so-called “financial products,” specifically derivatives such as “credit default swaps” and “mortgage backed securities,” which then led to the global financial meltdown.

The pattern of crisis followed by a ready-made plan for a global solution has been persistent since the early 1800s, when European banking elites pulled out all the stops in order to establish a central bank on American soil. These were the same structural interests which eventually led to the passage of the Glass-Owen bill. And it is within this pattern that the origins of the current financial crisis are also to be found, specifically within the highest echelons of the Federal Reserve system.

Subsequent to the September 11 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, D.C., the Federal Reserve was “forced” to lower interest rates to a minimum in order to avoid a potential collapse of a number of important services and industries. This move enabled the decision by all branch banks nationwide to make credit easily available, particularly for home mortgages. Two years later, the entire country was in a house-buying frenzy with visions of homes increasing in value year after year until the end of time. Many buyers bought two or three in the hope of “flipping” them into untold thousands in profit.

The foundations were laid for the initialization of a previously unknown financial instrument -- BISTRO (Broad Index Secured Trust Offering) -- developed in the think tanks of J P Morgan. At the speed of electronic funds transfers, BISTRO enabled unimaginable exponential profits through “credit default swaps” which the “House of Morgan” then divided up into packages and sold by the thousands to interested parties among corporations, banks, insurance giants, and investment funds worldwide. As the German magazine Der Spiegel so accurately put it, “bank managers and central bankers were the capitans of this ship, among them superstars such as J P Morgan manager Blythe Masters and former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan.” [10]

Attentive observers of financial history should recognize the concrete developmental pattern at work here. A putatively well-founded expansion of credit and a corresponding economic boom are followed by a sudden retraction of credit and an implosion of the markets. At the core of our current crisis is the banking industry and its ability to create money and derivatives out of thin air. The collapse was predictable, and in all likelihood carefully planned. No sooner had the collapse of 2008 begun than the directors of America’s leading banks began to issue ultimatums to the American people through their own representative, Henry Paulson (former CEO of Goldman Sachs), as the Secretary of the Treasury. If bank coffers were not replenished with ample public funds, Americans would soon wake up to martial law on the streets of many major cities.

And promptly, the see-no-evil representatives in Washington came to the rescue of the global financial elite, all at the expense of tax payers, and ultimately also at the expense of national sovereignty. Concomitant demands for “global solutions” to this admittedly global problem were promptly put on the national and international agenda by the G20 and by leading economists such as Kenneth Rogoff. The U.S. Congress recently ratified a comprehensive overhaul of the nation’s financial system, and thereby granted increased authority to the Federal Reserve. On a global scale, financial and economic experts from around the world are in the process of developing fundamental revisions to the Basel Accord (Basel III) within the framework of the Bank for International Settlements. [11]

At the same time, the Federal Reserve’s late-2010 announcement that it would initiate a second round of “quantitative easing” in its efforts to free up credit and relieve financial institutions of moribund assets led to more vociferous calls for a new global reserve currency to replace the ailing dollar. The Federal Reserve’s decision to increase liquidity by printing more dollars is already seen as a potentially fatal mistake by many skeptics particularly in China, which holds an inordinately large sum of US dollars in its reserve currency trove. Russia and China, among others, have already agreed to a bilateral exchange of goods and services by using their own currencies, without the US dollar as intermediary.

Unavoidable inflationary pressures guarantee that the days of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency are numbered; this outcome does not bode well for the people of the United States, who very likely will see martial law if and when prices for daily necessities such as gasoline skyrocket beyond what is affordable. As the chief operative for all the clandestine forces intent on seeing a one-world government in control of the planet, the Federal Reserve has been actively destroying the US currency as an instrument of national sovereignty. And in close collaboration with the “Fed,” working groups within both the United Nations and the IMF have published key position papers in which a new global currency is proposed, to be printed or coined expectedly by a global central bank. [12]

The global “war on terror”

Accompanying the increased authority of global instruments such as the IMF, the WTO and the Bank for International Settlements, an international surveillance network is fully in the making with far-reaching consequences for individual life and liberty. At particular risk today is the integrity of the Internet as the last bastion of uncensored information exchange. With every publicized “cyber attack,“ whether a reality or an ad hoc creation, new demands go out for increased security measures and legislation to control both form and content online. New key supranational concepts such as “Al Qaeda,” “terrorist networks” or “suspicious money transfers” are now in common use in public discourse and enable the implementation of unprecedented military/political control measures and surveillance strategies over ordinary citizens. The readiness of governments worldwide to adopt anti-terror measures that are potentially inimical to all forms of individual freedom is predicated on the questionable acceptance of the official explanation offered by the US government and its intelligence services for the events that transpired on 9/11. The paucity of critique, particularly among mainstream US media, of the implausible official narrative of all that transpired on 9/11 is itself sufficient evidence of a thoroughly top=down controlled American press.

The analyses of David Ray Griffin and Steven Jones (among many others) [13] of multiple inconsistencies and sheer impossibilities in the official explanation of the 9/11 attacks provide clear evidence that there were and are far more sinister plots at work than what the American public is ready to believe. Answers to the inevitable cui bono? question point to the long-term beneficiaries of global control which will ultimately allow for no exceptions.

The pattern is always the same. Present a crisis of epoch proportions, and offer solutions on a global scale which ultimately consolidate the interests of a New World Order, one as envisioned by Auguste Comte, with bankers and a select intellectual elite in complete control. The Federal Reserve system should be seen for what it is - the agency of an international clique of banking elites who are hell-bent on obtaining a global government, with a single system of universal justice, a single currency, and an all-encompassing surveillance network as guarantors of a fail-proof, totalitarian, neo-feudalistic regime. Thanks to the efforts of this same global elite, the United States is in its last throes and will eventually succumb to the constraints its leaders have willingly adopted within the context of globalization.

As admirable as perpetual peace might be under a system of benevolent reason, with the sanctity of all terrestrial life on earth foremost in mind, the concrete historical track record of those most actively engaged in bringing the ideals of this New World Order into full fruition suffices completely as a reason to reject their goals.

Elite bankers in the United States and Europe conceived and enacted the Federal Reserve system as a major stepping stone toward eventual global governance of a neo-feudalistic society. The continuing global economic crisis was also conceived and implemented as a further essential tool in bringing about a one-world government controlled by bankers and their intellectual shills sitting in crucial positions and calling the shots -- qui custodiet custodes?

The “Fed’s” covert policies and clandestine machinations are accelerating the “need” and “demand” for a global currency to replace existing national currencies. In previous eras, the implementation of such plans and intentions would have been deemed high treason and appropriately punished; in today’s parlance, it should most properly be categorized as an act of terrorism.

--Deeply influenced by both the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory and twentieth-century phenomenology, James Polk pursued his graduate studies in philosophy at the Freie Universität Berlin, where he received his PhD for work on Kant and Heidegger. He is the author of Am Horizont der Zeit and The Triumph of Ignorance and Bliss - Pathologies of Public America.


1) Benhabib’s understanding of cosmopolitanism and its implications for human societies is presented in Another Cosmopolitanism (Berkeley Tanner Lectures), Robert Post, ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008) and in The Rights of Others: Aliens, Residents, and Citizens (The Seeley Lectures), (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

2) Auguste Comte, System of Positive Polity, transl. Richard Congreve, (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1877).

3) See in particular Michel Chossudovsky, “The Global Economic Crisis: An Overview,” The Global Economic Crisis. The Great Depression of the XXI Century, ed. Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall, (Montreal: Global Research Publishers, 2010) 3 - 60.

4) Edwin L. James, “Reparations Issue Now Up To Bankers,” New York Times, 31 May 1922.

5) Joseph E. Stiglitz, Globalization and Its Discontents (New York: W. W. Norton, 2002) 206 - 207.

6) Leon Fraser, “The International Bank and Its Future,” Foreign Affairs (New York: Council on Foreign Relations) vol. 14, number 3 (April, 1936), p. 454.

7) Louis T. McFadden, “The Reparations Problem and the Bank for International Settlements,” Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, vol. 150, Economics of World Peace (July, 1930), p. 53 - 64.

8) Michel Chossudovsky, “Manufacturing Dissent: the Anti-globalization Movement is Funded by the Corporate Elites. The People’s Movement has been Hijacked,” Center for Global Research, September 20, 2010,

9) IMF Bolivia Public Expenditure Review.

10) The original Spiegel text: “Bankmanager und Zentralbanker waren auf diesem Schiff die Kapitäne, darunter Superstars wie die JP Morgan-Managerin Blythe Masters und der Ex-chef der US-Notenbank, Alan Greenspan.” (translation j.p.) “Der größte Diebstahl aller Zeiten - wie Finanzjongleure die Welt in eine Krise stürzten, die noch lange nicht beendet ist,“ Der Spiegel, number 47 (November 11, 2008) p. 47.

11) See Ellen Brown, “The Towers of Basel: Secretive Plan to Create a Global Central Bank,” The Global Economic Crisis. The Great Depression of the XXI Century, ed. Michel Chossudovsky and Andrew Gavin Marshall, (Montreal: Global Research Publishers, 2010) 330 - 342.

12) See in particular the International Monetary Fund paper entitled “Reserve Accumulation and International Monetary Stability” prepared by the Strategy, Policy and Review Department (April 13, 2010) and the United Nations’ “Report of the Commission of Experts of the President of the United Nations General Assembly on Reforms of the International Monetary and Financial System” (September 21, 2009).

13) See especially David Ray Griffin, Debunking 9/11 Debunking: An Answer to Popular Mechanics and Other Defenders of the Official Conspiracy Theory (Northampton, Mass.: Olive Branch Press, 2007); idem., The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions (Northampton, Mass.: Olive Branch Press, 2004); Niels H. Harrit, Jeffrey Farrer, Steven E. Jones et al., “Active Thermite Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe,” The Open Chemical Physics Journal, 2009, 2, 7-31.