All posts by natyliesb

Citizen to Citizen Diplomacy in Russia: Americans Interview Andrei Kortunov

Moscow July, 2011 - Wikipedia
Moscow July, 2011 – Wikipedia
Note: As part of the citizen-to-citizen diplomacy group, consisting of 20 Americans and led by CCI’s Sharon Tennison, that traveled to Russia in June of this year, a discussion was conducted with Andrei Kortunov, Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) and President of the New Eurasia Foundation (FNE). Below, Sharon provides an introduction to the interview, which can be viewed at the link that follows.
-Natylie

On June 2, 2015 we 20 American travelers split into groups of four and traveled by metros or taxis with student guides to different parts of Moscow. Our videographer Mel Van Dusen, Merlin Miller, organizer of a new political party from Tennessee, Charles Heberle, retired military who worked at the Pentagon and NATO and I went to see an old acquaintance with whom I’d kept up for over 30 years.

Back in 1984 a group of us got an appointment to Moscow’s U.S.-Canada Institute, a quite prestigious ‘think tank’ that was considered the most liberal in the Soviet Union. To our surprise a quite young, blonde-haired young man introduced himself as Andrei Kortunov. He was decades younger than others in this prestigious institute. Obviously bright and comfortable in his position, he seemed warmly predisposed to all things American unlike others we had met. Andrei was interested in getting to discuss issues off and on with citizen diplomats from the U.S. During the Gorbachev and Yeltsin years I watched his career take him to positions of responsibility wherein he remained the same logical, open, helpful personality he exhibited from the beginning.

Today Andrei is the Director General of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC) and the President of the New Eurasia Foundation (FNE). He is still as down to earth, modest and as hesitant-to-be-sharp as was the fair-haired young man we met at around age 20. One thing noted this time, he seems weary now from dealing with the heavy issues of his position—-yet is as always the consummate gentleman. Mel pushed him with questions that finally brought out his feelings on a number of issues related to the US-Russia relationship.

Come along with us and meet Andrei. Opening scenes include the recently built pedestrian walkway over structures in downtown Moscow. We finally arrived at the new building that houses RIAC. Upon entering we passed through a gallery of magnificent paintings of 19th century Russian leaders. The environment was quite classical. Further into the building we navigated rooms of books, publications, researchers and on into Andrei’s office. This video segment was over an hour and was edited down to 13 minutes.

We hope this brief clip gives you insight into the thinking of most Russians in Andrei’s age group today. He is now somewhere around 50 years old.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAItu-Lpf3Qa

 

Citizen to Citizen Diplomacy Trip to Russia: Video of Red Square

 

Red Square, Moscow By Stavanen, Flickr
Note: In June of this year, Sharon Tennison, founder of The Center for Citizen Initiatives (CCI), took a group of approximately 20 Americans on a citizen-to-citizen diplomacy tour of Russia. Sharon provides an introduction to the 13-minute video of the high points of the group’s tour from Moscow airport to Red Square.
-Natylie

 

This first Youtube shows Moscow where we landed. It spans our first nine actual hours on ground, during which over two hours of video was shot––and the footage has been reduced to this 13-minute impression of Russia’s largest city.  Mel Van Dusen, our pro bono videographer, was seeing Russia for the first time.  He is the editor and voiceover for the series (with a little assistance from me). In addition he spent two months (pro bono) sifting through 60 hours of footage to provide a glimpse into today’s Russia.

In the video Mel’s refers to our “bus” and our “guides,” but they aren’t official buses with guides.  A Moscow friend of many years, Olga Gorbik, hired a private bus to get us and our luggage from the airport into the city. Olga is not a guide but did share knowledge of her home city on the way to the hotel. Upon arrival, another Russian friend of 30 years, Galina Nicolopolis (married a Greek years ago), met us and assisted me to get the group to simultaneous meetings across Moscow thereafter.  She too has never been a guide but was a terrific helper. Then I knew of students who also assisted us while in Moscow. Our group traveled “off the grid” so to speak, with Russian friends and CCI alums helping us experience their cities and meet local people.

There is no voice-over for Red Square so I will give you a few pointers.

After landing and going through Moscow on metro, we are seen walking up toward Red Square where a “look alike” for President Putin tried to entice us to take a photo, then into the massive Square. In past decades, there were ominous parades of gigantic missiles, tanks, military forces and armaments of all types which we saw on American TV. When I first visited Red Square in 1983 it was formidable. There were narrow designated areas where we could walk, we needed permission to take a photo––the area seemed immense and somber. Times have changed! Paul McCartney and numerous rock groups have since held concerts in this very spot.  Today it’s Moscow’s central square, clowns show up, elderly protesters wave signs and banners, bicyclists carefully maneuver the cobblestones. There were no policemen or security to be seen.  I noted that there were very few foreigners compared to previous years––this footage shows ordinary Russian youth and parents milling around with their children.

Entering the Square note on the left, the lovely Russian Orthodox Church, the Kazan Cathedral.  Stalin ordered this church destroyed in 1936––a communist building was put in its place.  In the 1990s shortly after the fall of communism, the Cathedral was precisely rebuilt using its original architectural plans and the same hues of a pale pinkish/orange and green.

On the left still and next to Kazan Cathedral, is the huge GUM shopping center. In 1983 it was a massive run-down structure which sold women’s corsets, galoshes, sink stoppers, etc.  Today GUM has captured high-end trade from over the  world and sells costly fur coats, designer clothing, jewels and watches. Oligarchs and business magnates who come and go through the capital city stop here for their luxuries.

Mel’s camera swings to the right to capture the thousand-year-old Kremlin Wall––the first walls and guard towers were built in 1156. With time, it has become this perfectly kept huge circular wall with numerous entrances, clocks and bell towers.  Behind the red brick, one sees the yellow official buildings of the Russian government, the seat of power.  There are two major churches within the walls, the Assumption and the Annunciation Cathedrals. Fabulous art work can be seen therein.

Next Mel catches St Basil’s Cathedral in the far end of Red Square, then moves to the right to Lenin’s Tomb ( some construction going on in front of it).  This low, squat building was erected by Stalin and is quite different from the architecture of other buildings––and yes, Lenin’s body is still in residence. They keep debating what to do with it, but so far it remains.

Then we see the majestic St. Basils up close showing the remarkable design and craftsmanship of this world famous church which holds services only once a year––but it stands daily as a reminder of the elegance of Russian artistry and the role of orthodoxy across Russia.

Lastly, outside Red Square, a spacious white pavilion area has been recently built with eateries tucked away in various corners — we enjoyed a great dinner before catching the metro and getting back at our hotel to crash. Three decades ago, I could have never imagined that Moscow and Red Square would have transformed into this casual and fun environment.

9/11/06: Russia Dedicates Memorial to 9/11 Victims

To the Struggle Against World Terrorism: A Monument Created by Zurab Tsereteli

Teardrop Memorial
(Sculptor, Zurab Tsereteli)   DMCA

I wonder how many Americans know about the monument that was created by a renowned Russian sculptor, Zurab Tsereteli, and dedicated as a gift in 2006 by the Russian government in honor of the victims of 9/11. The mainstream western media does not seem to have provided much coverage of the event, if any at all.

Tsereteli’s inspiration for creating the memorial is described as follows:

The artist, Zurab Tsereteli, was in his home in Moscow on the morning of September 11th. The television was on as he was getting ready for work and Zurab, like the rest of the world, was glued to coverage of the attacks on the Twin Towers. He watched the towers collapse on TV and was moved to tears.

That day, he went to work at the Academy of Art driving on a route that takes him past the American Embassy. People were gathered outside the embassy gates to pay sympathies, to be together, and to mourn. He saw a mass of crying people and decided to use the image of a tear in a memorial.

He set to work that day on a proper and appropriate form through which to express his feelings over the attack. He went through many various sketches and ‘forms’ (all of which are chronicled in the yellow book) until finally deciding on the current monument’s form.

Continue article here

 

“Deal or War”: Is Doomed Dollar Really Behind Obama’s Iran Warning?

By Finian Cunningham

What could really be behind Obama’s dire warning of “deal or war” is another scenario — the collapse of the US dollar, and with that the implosion of the US economy. Speaking in New York on August 11, US Secretary of State John Kerry made the candid admission that failure to seal the nuclear deal could result in the US dollar losing its status as the top international reserve currency.

::::::::

Reprinted from RT

From youtube.com/watch?v=QCEops-pybI: Austria: Iran nuclear talks in Vienna
US President Barack Obama has given an extraordinary ultimatum to the Republican-controlled Congress, arguing that they must not block the nuclear accord with Iran. It’s either “deal or war,” he says.

In a televised nationwide address on August 5, Obama said: “Congressional rejection of this deal leaves any US administration that is absolutely committed to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon with one option: another war in the Middle East. I say this not to be provocative. I am stating a fact.”

The American Congress is due to vote on whether to accept the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action signed July 14 between Iran and the P5+1 group of world powers — the US, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China. Republicans are openly vowing to reject the JCPOA, along with hawkish Democrats such as Senator Chuck Schumer. Opposition within the Congress may even be enough to override a presidential veto to push through the nuclear accord.

In his drastic prediction of war, one might assume that Obama is referring to Israel launching a preemptive military strike on Iran with the backing of US Republicans. Or that he is insinuating that Iran will walk from self-imposed restraints on its nuclear program to build a bomb, thus triggering a war.

But what could really be behind Obama’s dire warning of “deal or war” is another scenario — the collapse of the US dollar, and with that the implosion of the US economy.

That scenario was hinted at this week by US Secretary of State John Kerry. Speaking in New York on August 11, Kerry made the candid admission that failure to seal the nuclear deal could result in the US dollar losing its status as the top international reserve currency.

“If we turn around and nix the deal and then tell [US allies], ‘You’re going to have to obey our rules and sanctions anyway,’ that is a recipe, very quickly for the American dollar to cease to be the reserve currency of the world.”

In other words, what really concerns the Obama administration is that the sanctions regime it has crafted on Iran — and has compelled other nations to abide by over the past decade — will be finished. And Iran will be open for business with the European Union, as well as China and Russia.

It is significant that within days of signing the Geneva accord, Germany, France, Italy and other EU governments hastened to Tehran to begin lining up lucrative investment opportunities in Iran’s prodigious oil and gas industries. China and Russia are equally well-placed and more than willing to resume trading partnerships with Iran. Russia has signed major deals to expand Iran’s nuclear energy industry.

American writer Paul Craig Roberts said that the US-led sanctions on Iran and also against Russia have generated a lot of frustration and resentment among Washington’s European allies.

“US sanctions against Iran and Russia have cost businesses in other countries a lot of money,” Roberts told this author.

“Propaganda about the Iranian nuke threat and Russian threat is what caused other countries to cooperate with the sanctions. If a deal worked out over much time by the US, Russia, China, UK, France and Germany is blocked, other countries are likely to cease cooperating with US sanctions.”

Roberts added that if Washington were to scuttle the nuclear accord with Iran, and then demand a return to the erstwhile sanctions regime, the other international players will repudiate the American diktat.

“At that point, I think much of the world would have had enough of the US use of the international payments system to dictate to others, and they would cease transacting in dollars.”

The US dollar would henceforth lose its status as the key global reserve currency for the conduct of international trade and financial transactions.

Former World Bank analyst Peter Koenig says that if the nuclear accord unravels, Iran will be free to trade its oil and gas — worth trillions of dollars — in bilateral currency deals with the EU, Japan, India, South Korea, China and Russia, in much the same way that China and Russia and other members of the BRICS nations have already begun to do so.

That outcome will further undermine the US dollar. It will gradually become redundant as a mechanism of international payment.

From flickr.com/photos/68751915@N05/6355318323/: US Dollars

Koenig argues that this implicit threat to the dollar is the real, unspoken cause for anxiety in Washington. The long-running dispute with Iran, he contends, was never about alleged weapons of mass destruction. Rather, the real motive was for Washington to preserve the dollar’s unique global standing.

“The US-led standoff with Iran has nothing to do with nuclear weapons,” says Koenig. The issue is: will Iran eventually sell its huge reserves of hydrocarbons in other currencies than the dollar, as they intended to do in 2007 with an Iranian Oil Bourse? That is what instigated the American-contrived fake nuclear issue in the first place.”

This is not just about Iran. It is about other major world economies moving away from holding the US dollar as a means of doing business. If the US unilaterally scuppers the international nuclear accord, Washington will no longer be able to enforce its financial hegemony, which the sanctions regime on Iran has underpinned.

Many analysts have long wondered at how the US dollar has managed to defy economic laws, given that its preeminence as the world’s reserve currency is no longer merited by the fundamentals of the US economy. Massive indebtedness, chronic unemployment, loss of manufacturing base, trade and budget deficits are just some of the key markers, despite official claims of “recovery.”

As Paul Craig Roberts commented, the dollar’s value has only been maintained because up to now the rest of the world needs the greenback to do business with. That dependency has allowed the US Federal Reserve to keep printing banknotes in quantities that are in no way commensurate with the American economy’s decrepit condition.

“If the dollar lost the reserve currency status, US power would decline,” says Roberts. “Washington’s financial hegemony, such as the ability to impose sanctions, would vanish, and Washington would no longer be able to pay its bills by printing money. Moreover, the loss of reserve currency status would mean a drop in the demand for dollars and a drop in willingness to hold them. Therefore, the dollar’s exchange value would fall, and rising prices of imports would import inflation into the US economy.”

Doug Casey, a top American investment analyst, last week warned that the woeful state of the US economy means that the dollar is teetering on the brink of a long-overdue crash. “You’re going to see very high levels of inflation. It’s going to be quite catastrophic,” says Casey.

He added that the crash will also presage a collapse in the American banking system which is carrying trillions of dollars of toxic debt derivatives, at levels much greater than when the system crashed in 2007-08.

The picture he painted isn’t pretty: “Now, when interest rates inevitably go up from these artificially suppressed levels where they are now, the bond market is going to collapse, the stock market is going to collapse, and with it, the real estate market is going to collapse. Pension funds are going to be wiped out” This is a very bad situation. The US is digging itself in deeper and deeper,” said Casey, who added the telling question:“Then what’s going to happen?”

President Obama’s grim warning of “deal or war” seems to provide an answer. Faced with economic implosion on an epic scale, the US may be counting on war as its other option.

Submitters Bio:

Author and journalist. Finian Cunningham has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England, before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20 years, he worked as an editor and writer in major news media organisations, including The Mirror, Irish Times and Independent.

 

From OpEd News

The Case for Enlightened Isolationism

From flickr.com/photos/38908037@N02/6851720302/: Chicago Anti-War Protest

Isolationism rests on the assumption that no region of the world outside of the Western Hemisphere is of vital strategic importance to the United States. Isolationists do not argue that America has no interests in the wider world, just that they are not important enough to justify deploying military force to defend them. They are fully in favor of engaging with the rest of the world economically as well as diplomatically, but they view all foreign wars as unnecessary.
-John Mearsheimer, from America Unhinged

Although renowned political scientist John Mearsheimer does not consider himself to be an isolationist – a term which has acquired a negative connotation since WWII – his definition is illuminating as much for clarifying what the term does not mean as for what it does.  As Mearsheimer makes plain, isolationism does not constitute a lack of constructive engagement with the outside world, but a judicious engagement that eschews military action outside of defending the homeland.

At a time when Washington is experiencing the hubris of imperial overreach and the prospect of the eventual collapse that history shows is the inevitable endgame of all empires, it is time for concerned Americans across the political spectrum to begin to seriously consider what a new paradigm and policy platform representing sanity might look like.

It is in the US’s long term interests (as well as the rest of the world’s) to have stability.  The bare minimum for stability is a lack of war.  As science writer John Horgan concluded in his book The End of War in which he undertook a scientific analysis of war via the study of history, anthropology, psychology and sociology, the old adage about justice being a prerequisite for peace is wrong.  It is peace that is necessary for justice to take root.  The violent, chaotic and wasteful conditions of modern war are not conducive to the pursuit of justice or human development.

Most Americans do not share the Neoliberal, Neoconservative, or Responsibility to Protect club’s messianic vision of an America that needs to recreate the world to fit some bastardized idea of  imperial “democracy” that requires a Year Zero program to destroy the social, cultural and political foundations of target countries (see Iraq, Libya, and Syria).

The restoration of our democratic republic and the revitalization of our economy and society are intimately connected to pulling out of the militarist/imperialist projects that are killing our country, along with the casualties it is responsible for around the world.

It has been recently estimated by physician’s groups that deaths in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan from the US War on Terror (USWOT) are 1.3 million at the conservative end.

The predictable blowback from friends and family members of those decapitated and blown apart by drone strikes and indiscriminate bombings, as well as shootings by soldiers whose psyches have been warped by immersion in the hellhole of counter-insurgency wars that are unwinnable, should give all Americans serious pause in terms of rational problem-solving toward the goal of increasing the conditions for peace and stability.

The casualties from the physicians’ groups does not even count the thousands dead in the Libyan civil war, precipitated by the US/NATO toppling of the Qadaffi government – a stable, secular government that had attained the highest standard of living in all of Africa – or our attempts to similarly support nihilistic jihadists who want to topple the Assad regime in Syria and the killing frenzy that has resulted in that country.

Other historians and political scientists, going further back in the American Empire’s reign, have estimated 20 – 30 million people have perished as a result of Washington’s covert operations and overt military interventions that have occurred almost continuously since 1945.

Take a moment to let that really sink in.  Each of those 20 to 30 million was a living, breathing person who – like you and me – had hopes, dreams, fears and other people who loved them.

With this track record, is it any wonder that the world views the US as the biggest threat to world peace by a wide margin?

Continue reading here

State Capitalism on Behalf of Militarism

From flickr.com/photos/79854445@N06/13892793691/: Boeing Wake of Destruction

 

There is much debate on what the nature of the Soviet Union’s economy actually was.  It is agreed by many that it wasn’t in reality a true socialist or even a communist system.  Some, like Seymour Melman and Jack Matlock, argue that it was something closer to a state run capitalist system with a vanguard political party controlling it.

 

What is hard to argue with is the fact that what constituted a huge part of the Soviet economy in terms of input of resources – and, ironically, what it has had in common with the U.S. economy – was a sprawling and wasteful military-industrial complex guaranteed by the state to enable an arms race.

 

The Military-Industrial Complex in the United States

 

In 1864, President Lincoln expressed profound concern over the rise of corporations resulting from the Civil War and what it portended for the political and economic future of the country.

 

Advancement in industrialization led to more mechanized and phenomenally more destructive warfare in the 20th century, with the outcomes increasingly dependent upon material production and technology.

 

In World War I, military officers still played a critical role in the decisions to wage war which were based on previous strategies that were soon rendered outmoded due to a lack of technological expertise and inability to manage the more complicated industrial economics crucial to sustaining modern warfare.  Thus, for expediency, government allowed responsibility for the war economy to be transferred from the Army to private industrialists who controlled the terms of war organization and procurement through the War Industries Board (WIB), a body comprised primarily of corporate executives and bankers.

 

Once this arrangement was established it was difficult to put the proverbial genie back in the bottle.  Many of the major anti-competitive trusts running the war economy through the WIB had long desired a relationship with the state that would facilitate public subsidy of their interests.  The war effort had proven a convenient means to this end.

 

Between 1918 and 1941, formal patronage was fostered between the War Department and Big Business for the first time outside the context of an actual war.  Drawing on the WIB model, the War Production Board instituted favorable tax and profit standards for major industrialists who again dictated policies within their own economic sectors during World War II, usurping substantial decision-making from state actors.

 

Since 1945, the power, reach and ambition of multinational corporations have expanded, including encroachment into areas traditionally considered part of the public interest and outside of its domain.

 

More sophisticated, diversified and structured than historical mercenaries, Private Military Firms (PMF’s) have proliferated since the collapse of the Cold War.  These companies have participated in conflicts from the civil war in Sierra Leone to the Balkans conflict.  They played an increasing role in the Iraq war, with Blackwater (now Academi) being the most controversial with the September 2007 killing of 17 civilians and the wounding of 20 more in Nisour Square in Baghdad.  Just prior to those killings, a high level manager of the company reportedly issued a death threat to a State Department official who was in Iraq investigating the company’s practices.

 

A 2014 report issued by Remote Control Project in Britain found that the US Special Operations Command is outsourcing sensitive activities like flying drones, target acquisition oversight, communications, prisoner interrogations, translation of captured material and information management.  The report raises concerns due to the challenges that remote warfare has in terms of accountability and oversight.  The concern is compounded by the fact that the Obama administration has not decreased war and militarism but has increasingly reorganized it to be under the auspices of covert and special operations with a presence in nearly 70 percent of the world’s nations at 134, up from around 60 nations at the end of the Bush II era.   Funding for the Special Operations Command has risen from $2.3 billion in 2001 to a total of $10.4 billion in 2013.

 

In an investigative report on Obama’s covert-special ops policy, Nick Turse detailed the administration’s militaristic foreign policy:

 

Although elected in 2008 by many who saw him as an antiwar candidate, President Obama has proved to be a decidedly hawkish commander-in-chief….While the Obama administration oversaw a US withdrawal from Iraq  (negotiated by his predecessor), as well as a drawdown of US forces in Afghanistan (after a major military surge in that country), the president has presided over a ramping up of the US military presence in Africa, a reinvigoration of efforts in Latin America, and tough talk about a rebalancing or “pivot to Asia”….The White House has also overseen an exponential expansion of America’s drone war.  While President Bush launched 51 such strikes, President Obama has presided over 330….Last year, alone, the US also engaged in combat operations in Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.  Recent revelations from National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden have [also] demonstrated the tremendous breadth and global reach of US electronic surveillance during the Obama years.

 

An article in The Daily Beast revealed that many employees of these contractors expect new opportunities with Obama’s long-term plan to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria without “boots on the ground” by following his established pattern of using covert players to obscure the extent of U.S. involvement:  “One U.S. military contractor working in Iraq who asked not to be named said, ‘I can tell you the contractor-expat community is abuzz thinking this will lead to more work. We expect a much larger footprint than he is showing right now.’”

Then there are the more mundane support services for both overt and covert military operations provided by firms like KBR which provide ice delivery, trash disposal and portable toilet maintenance, among other services.  These contractors and their sub-contractors, like Najilaa Catering Services International, have often performed poorly or committed outright fraud.  But that usually doesn’t stop them from continuing to procure contracts with the US government.

 

Najilaa, for instance, had been under fire for non-payment of bills and fraud in both Iraq and Kuwait prior to being signed on to provide food preparation services to USAID in Iraq in February of 2010.  KBR has been plagued with continuing allegations of overcharging and poor service for more than 10 years.  In 2011, KBR was hit with an $85 million verdict for exposing members of the Oregon Army National Guard to toxic chemicals while serving in Iraq.

 

This kind of fraud and waste, however, is not unique to these relatively small players.   It is indeed rampant among the top 5 defense contractors:  Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrup Grumann, General Dynamics, and Raytheon, with 3 of these 5 also occupying the top slots in federal contractor misconduct.

 

According to the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), Lockheed Martin has more contracts with the federal government than any other company.  It also has the most misconduct violations, ranging from age discrimination to contract fraud and unfair business practices, totaling over $600 million in fines, penalties and settlements.

 

A June 2011 POGO press release states that Boeing overcharged the Army millions in spare helicopter parts, such as $1,678.61 “for a plastic roller assembly that could have been purchased for $7.71 internally from the Department of Defense’s own supplies.”  Boeing is ranked second in instances of contractor misconduct.

 

These kinds of antics have no effect on these companies’ status as government contractors.   The fact that the top 5 defense contractors  named above were among the top 6 defense industry contributors to federal political candidates and parties in the 2014 election cycle undoubtedly plays a major role.

 

Furthermore, this kind of waste has been largely built into the system of Pentagon contracting over the years in the form of cost-plus practices in the negotiation process.   As the late Seymour Melman, an analyst who specialized in the workings of the military-industrial complex, detailed in his writings, the practice of cost-plus or cost-maximizing defense contracts, in which an agreed upon profit margin was simply added on to the previous cost of producing the product or service, had cropped up during WWII and was institutionalized during Robert McNamara’s tenure as Defense Secretary during the Vietnam War.  Not only did this practice result in increasingly inflated price tags for the tax payer, it also discouraged quality control and increases in productivity, and encouraged labor unions in the affected industries to partner with management to the detriment of their own interests.  Moreover, the practice bled over into other sectors of the government, such as health care contracts, and even into the private sector.

 

This cost-maximization, combined with the frequency of no bidding and the companies’ generous campaign contributions, makes these kinds of problems all too pervasive and easy to predict.

 

When more and more private corporations have entered the market with a profit motive in favor of military conflict, incentives to overcharge taxpayers built into the system, and legalized bribery that passes for campaign financing, what are the chances for a conversion from a war economy to a peaceful, civilian economy as the end of the Cold War provided an opportunity for?

 

You may continue reading this article, here

American Propaganda and the Mass Media

From flickr.com/photos/65193799@N00/3049886600/: The Committee on Public Information  during WW1

Edward Bernays and the Manipulation of the Public Mind

Edward Bernays was the nephew of pioneering Austrian psychiatrist Sigmund Freud. His parents had settled in the U.S. and Bernays grew up American, but came to be deeply influenced by his uncle’s ideas about the unconscious, its role as the repository of repressed sexual and aggressive impulses and its potential use as a means of manipulating the masses. Bernays was also influenced by social psychologist Wilfred Trotter’s theories on crowd psychology and the “herd instinct.”

During WWI, which threw Freud into a deep depression because he saw it as confirmation of his worst fears about human behavior, Bernays was working as a press agent and was asked to assist the war effort by participating in the American government’s committee on public information, known as the Creel Committee. His great contribution was effectively promoting president Woodrow Wilson’s narrative of the war as a fight to spread democracy to Europe. During the Paris Peace Conference, Bernays would see first-hand the success of his propaganda efforts as the Paris crowds greeted Wilson as “a liberator of the people. The man who would create a new world in which the individual would be free.”

Inspired by the achievements of propaganda during wartime, Bernays, looking to make his fortune, set to work on turning Americans from citizens into passive consumers who would be controlled by channeling their unconscious desires into a constant quest for goods and services that they would associate with their deepest yearnings for beauty, freedom and fulfillment. Bernays would come up with tactics to bombard the public with messages that would cement this objective.

One of his first successes involved helping the tobacco industry expand their market by breaking the taboo against women smoking in public. After soliciting the advice of the top psychoanalyst in America who told him that cigarettes were a phallic symbol and represented male sexual power, he realized that if cigarettes could be associated with challenging men’s power, women would respond positively to smoking as it would be connected to the ideas of freedom and rebellion —two of the most common marketing concepts to this day.

At the annual Easter Day Parade in New York City, Bernays staged a memorable event in which a group of “rich debutantes” lit up cigarettes in theatrical fashion at Bernays’ pre-arranged signal. He had tipped off the media that a group of “suffragettes” would be lighting up what they called “torches of freedom.” As Bernays knew, who could argue against freedom in America? By associating cigarettes with freedom to women, Bernays had helped the tobacco companies hit the jackpot.

Bernays and his insights soon became indispensable to corporate America, which was worried that consumer demand for their products would plateau as mass production had been mastered and people at the time tended to buy goods based on need and durability. Only a small group of wealthy people could buy a significant number of luxury items. Consequently, to continue growing their markets, they needed to “transform the way the majority of Americans thought about products” as Paul Mazen, a Leahman Brothers Wall Street banker said. Mazen turned to Bernays for implementation of this transformation.

As Peter Solomon, investment banker for Leahman Brothers, said about Bernays in the documentary film Century of the Self:

Prior to that time there was no American consumer, there was the American worker. And there was the American owner. And they manufactured and they saved and they ate what they had to and the people shopped for what they needed. And while the very rich may have bought things they didn’t need, most people did not. And Mazen envisioned a break with that where you would have things that you didn’t actually need, but you wanted as opposed to needed.

As the New York banks financed the spread of chain department stores across the country to serve as oases of consumerism, Bernays came up with many methods of product promotion that would become pervasive later on, such as linking products with movie stars who were also his clients, adorning those same movie stars in clothes and accessories made by other corporate clients during public events, and prominently placing products in films.

He also paid psychologists to issue reports claiming that certain products and services were good for people’s well-being and celebrities to push the idea that clothes were not merely necessities but a means of self-expression. This became known as the “third party technique” of conferring legitimacy by what appears to be a disinterested party or an authoritative source.

The dramatic growth in consumerism that Bernays actively facilitated contributed to the stock market boom. After it crashed in 1929, however, challenges were presented to the idea that Americans were consumers rather than citizens as the consumer boom could no longer be sustained and Franklin Roosevelt’s administration actively lobbied against it as part of the New Deal program. Supreme Court justice Felix Frankfurter in a letterto Roosevelt described Bernays and his PR colleagues as “professional poisoners of the public mind, exploiters of foolishness, fanaticism, and self-interest.” Unlike Bernays, Roosevelt and his colleagues believed that people could be trusted to make rational decisions if their fears, desires and insecurities were not manipulated in other directions as reflected in Roosevelt’s famous admonition, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

Bernays eventually saw his ideas transferred into the realm of political philosophy as renowned political writer and repentant former socialist Walter Lippmann, who had served with Bernays on the Creel Commission, began to apply Freud’s ideas to a need to control the masses politically, viewing the Russian Revolution as an example of the dark forces of the rabble being unleashed. Bernays was intrigued by Lippmann’s interpretation of his uncle’s ideas — contained in Freud’s books which Bernays professionally promoted in the U.S. Lippmann had begun to openly question the feasibility of democracy:

The lesson is, I think, a fairly clear one. In the absence of institutions and education by which the environment is so successfully reported that the realities of public life stand out sharply against self-centered opinion, the common interests very largely elude public opinion entirely, and can be managed only by a specialized class whose personal interests reach beyond the locality.

In his 1922 book, The Phantom Public, Lippmann stated plainly: “The public must be put in its place [so that we may] live free of the trampling and the roar of a bewildered herd.”

In 1930’s Germany, the Nazis were also asserting that democracy was not feasible and Joseph Goebbels, who emerged as the Nazis’ pre-eminent propagandist, had taken note of Bernays methods of public manipulation based on Freudian theory as a way to channel the desires of the population in a particular direction favored by the leaders. Goebbels reportedly admitted putting Bernays’ book Crystallizing Public Opinion to use in the regime’s genocidal campaign against the Jews in terms of creating a public environment of hatred and scapegoating.

Having honed his propaganda skills since WWI, Bernays would once again provide his services on behalf of the martial ambitions of the U.S. government. He served as an advisor to Eisenhower and believed that the best way to deal with Americans’ fear of Communism and the nuclear arms race was to manipulate those fears to support America’s mobilization in the Cold War.

In 1954, Bernays assisted the CIA’s overthrow of Guatemala’s democratically elected leader, Jacobo Arbenz, a democratic socialist with no ties to the Soviet Union. The CIA had a propaganda program in place called Operation Mockingbird, in which numerous journalists and editors — both paid and unpaid — published and broadcast stories sympathetic to the increasingly aggressive and unaccountable agency. Led by Frank Wisner, Operation Mockingbird was also used to suppress reporting that would expose the agency’s nefarious covert activities or present them in a negative light.

Bernays’ role was to create a narrative that portrayed the coup as the popular overthrow of a Communist dictator and puppet of Moscow whose removal represented the spreading of democracy. In reality, Arbenz’s ouster was to preserve the profits of United Fruit Company, a company that Bernays had worked for in a PR capacity since the 1940’s while the head of the CIA, Allen Dulles, had made investments in United Fruit in his earlier years as a lawyer at the Sullivan and Cromwell firm which served as United Fruit’s corporate counsel.

To continue reading, click here

 

Deconstructing the Ukraine War: The Players and Their Interests

From flickr.com/photos/124634075@N03/14201504334/

(image by toivo_xiv)   DMCA

As ominous reports of increased violations of the Minsk 2.0 ceasefire continue to surface and the Kiev government paves the way for martial law, the winds of war appear to be picking up again. Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergei Lavrov, has even gone so far as to publicly state, without providing details, that “someone in the European Union” is sabotaging the ceasefire.

Against this backdrop, the EU-Ukraine Summit last week hailed a neoliberal free trade agreement set to take effect on January 1, 2016, but it was also made clear that any EU membership aspirations for Ukraine are still a distant dream, rendering Ukraine’s relationship with the EU to be a rather lopsided one in terms of who benefits and who suffers.

It seems like a good time to take a look at the parties in the Ukraine war, their interests and what may be expected in the future.

Continue reading the article here.

 

 

“Architects of American policy towards Russia and Ukraine are destroying American national security”: Stephen F. Cohen on the truths U.S. media and politicians hide

"Architects of American policy towards Russia and Ukraine are destroying American national security": Stephen F. Cohen on the truths U.S. media and politicians hide

Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin, Mikhail Gorbachev (Credit: AP/Reuters/RIA Novosti/Photo montage by Salon)

Salon.com
April 23, 2015
“Architects of American policy towards Russia and Ukraine are destroying American national security”: Stephen F. Cohen on the truths U.S. media and politicians hide
Myths of American nationalism busted as our interview with noted scholar concludes
By Patrick L. Smith
Patrick Smith is the author of “Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century.” He was the International Herald Tribune’s bureau chief in Hong Kong and then Tokyo from 1985 to 1992. During this time he also wrote “Letter from Tokyo” for the New Yorker. He is the author of four previous books and has contributed frequently to the New York Times, the Nation, the Washington Quarterly, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter, @thefloutist.

If there is a lesson in Stephen F. Cohen’s professional fortunes over the past year, it is the peril of advancing a dispassionate reading of our great country’s doings abroad. Cohen’s many pieces in The Nation on the Ukraine crisis and the consequent collapse of U.S.-Russia relations now leave him in something close to a state of siege. “My problem with this begins with the fact that… I don’t have a vested interest in one of the ‘isms,’ or ideologies,” Cohen says in this, the second part of a long interview conducted last month.

The problem lies with the ideologues infesting the waters wherein Cohen swims. Terminally poisoned by Cold War consciousness, they cannot abide disinterested thought. Cohen has been mostly scholar, partly journalist, since the 1970s. His “Sovieticus” column, launched in The Nation in the 1980s, put a magazine traditionally tilted toward domestic issues among the few American publications providing consistent analysis of Russian affairs. At this point, Cohen’s Nation essays are the bedrock scholarly work to which those (few) writing against the orthodoxy turn.

The first half of our exchange, last week on Salon [http://www.salon.com/2015/04/16/the_new_york_times_basically_rewrites_whatever_the_kiev_authorities_say_stephen_f_cohen_on_the_u_s_russiaukraine_history_the_media_wont_tell_you/], began with events during the past year and advanced toward the post-Soviet origins of the current crisis. In part two, Cohen completes his analysis of Vladimir Putin’s inheritance and explains how he came to focus his thinking on “lost alternatives”-outcomes that could have been but were not. Most surprising to me was the real but foregone prospect of reforming the Soviet system such that the suffering that ensued since its demise could have been averted.

Salon: Putin inherited a shambles, then-as he would say, “a catastrophe.”

Stephen F. Cohen: As Russia’s leader, Putin has changed over the years, especially in foreign policy but also at home. His first impulse was toward more free-market reforms, anti-progressive taxes. He enacted a 13 percent flat tax-Steve Forbes would’ve been ecstatic, right? He offers [George W.] Bush what Clinton never really offered Yeltsin: a full partnership. And what does he do? On September 11, 2001, he called George and said, Whatever you want, we’re with you. Bush says, Well, I think we’re going to have to go to war in Afghanistan. And Putin said, I can help you. We’ve got major resources and assets in Afghanistan. I even have an army over there called the Northern Alliance. I’ll give it to you! You want overflight? It’s all yours!

How many American lives did Putin save during our land war in Afghanistan? And do you know what a political price he paid in Russia for that? Because his security people were completely against it.

Q: They were? Please explain.

Oh, yeah. You think they minded seeing America being brought to its knees? They’d been invaded so often; let America get a taste of it! But Putin assumes he’s achieved what Yeltsin couldn’t and that this benefits the Russian state. He has a real strategic partnership with America. Now, remember, he’s already worried about his radical Islamic problem because Russia has nearly 20 million Muslim citizens of its own. Russia sits in the East and in the West; it’s on the front lines.

What does Bush give him in return? He expands NATO again and he unilaterally withdraws the United States from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, the bedrock of Russia’s nuclear security- it’s a complete betrayal. Is that how you repay somebody who’s helped you save the lives of your citizens? This is where the word “betrayal” begins to enter into the discourse.

Continued here.