Monday, January 31, 2011
Egypt Threatens TINA doctrine - USA will stop democratic change
TINA = (T)here (I)s (N)o (A)lternative (to USA-style faux damocracy and vulgar capitalism
US MILITARY CALLS THE SHOTS (democracy is bad for business)
Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's appointment of a vice president for the first time in his 30- year-reign may herald the end of his rule. It probably won't end six decades of military control.
"Egypt's government is not so much a Mubarak government as it is a military government," said Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based policy group. "Generals and retired generals control much of the government and much of the economy, and they would stand to lose a great deal if Mubarak were deposed."
The army deployed across cities in Egypt after looting and mayhem on the weekend following the withdrawal of the police. More than 3,100 looters and escaped prisoners were arrested, state TV said. The week of protests left 150 dead and 4,000 wounded, Al Arabiya television cited a health official as saying.
Close ties between the military and the ruling elites in countries such as Egypt, Iran and Syria makes a repeat of Tunisian-style regime change unlikely, say analysts including Egyptian author Moustafa El-Husseini.
"Upon retirement, senior officers are given hefty retirement packages and appointed as provincial governors or head of municipalities," he said. One example is Magdy Sharawi, a former commander of the air force, who is Egypt's ambassador to Switzerland.
The appointment of Suleiman and Shafik may help restore stability and reassure investors. (Global capitalist owners)
Egypt's military relies on weapons from companies such as Lockheed Martin Corp. and General Dynamics Corp., the maker of Abrams battle tanks.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday backed off the threat to reconsider assistance, saying on ABC's "This Week" program, "There is no discussion as of this time of cutting off any aid."
The U.S. contribution of about $1.3 billion a year in defense assistance provides about a third of Egypt's annual military budget, said Bruce Rutherford, an associate professor of political science at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York. Many Egyptian military officers received training at U.S. defense institutes.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates and U.S. Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called their Egyptian counterparts over the weekend, Pentagon officials said. Mullen spoke with Lieutenant General Sami Hafez Enan, the Egyptian armed forces chief of staff, who led a delegation that cut short a visit to the Pentagon last week amid the unfolding turmoil.
"We have to remember that Egypt is essentially run by the military establishment, who control vast swaths of the economy and essentially dictate regional foreign policy," John R. Bradley, author of "Inside Egypt: The Land of the Pharaohs on the Brink of a Revolution," said in an interview.
The Egyptian armed forces control factories that make a range of products ranging from weapons to drugs, and even home appliances such as cookers. It's the largest army in the Arab world, totaling about 450,000 personnel divided into four services -- the army, air defense, air force and navy, according to globalsecurity.org.
Defense spending in Egypt is 3.4 percent of gross domestic product
WikiLeaks cable shows close US ties with new Egyptian vice president
By Joseph Kishore 31 January 2011
On Saturday, the US-backed president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, announced that he was appointing Omar Suleiman, director of the Egyptian General Intelligence Directorate, as his new vice president. Suleiman's appointment to the long vacant position places him at the top of the line of succession for president if Mubarak leaves.
The news was greeted with contempt by the masses of Egyptian protesters who are demanding an end to Mubarak's rule. In addition to having close ties with the military, Suleiman, as head of Egypt's intelligence agency since 1993, has worked closely with the United States and Israel in suppressing the population of Egypt and the entire region.
A document released by WikiLeaks on Friday, reporting an April 21, 2009 meeting between Suleiman and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen, further exposes the close ties between the US, Suleiman and the Egyptian government as a whole. The Obama administration continues to back the Mubarak regime because of the central role that he has played in maintaining US interests in the region
Other documents released by WikiLeaks expose US complicity in Egypt's use of torture against opponents of the regime. (See WikiLeaks exposes US complicity in murder, torture by Egyptian government)
In an article in the New Yorker, Jane Mayer notes that Suleiman, "suave, sophisticated and fluent in English … has served for years as the main conduit between the United States and Egypt."
As the head of Egypt's intelligence agency, Suleiman "was the CIA's point man in Egypt for renditions—the covert program in which the CIA snatched suspects from around the world and returned them to Egypt and elsewhere for interrogation, often under brutal circumstances," Mayer writes.
Mayer cites material in Stephen Grey's book, Ghost Plane, which documents the direct discussions between Suleiman and the CIA. Mayer writes, "Edward S. Walker, Jr., a former US ambassador to Egypt, described Suleiman as 'very bright, very realistic,' adding that he was cognizant that there was a downside to 'some of the negative things that the Egyptians engaged in, of torture and so on. But he was not squeamish, by the way.'"
Another cable, prepared in May 2007, discusses the possibility of Suleiman succeeding Mubarak as president, placing him second after Mubarak's son, Gamal, in the list of candidates. It refers to Suleiman as Mubarak's "consigliere," who "was often cited as likely to be named to the long-vacant vice-presidential post."
"Many of our contacts believe that Suleiman, because of his military background, would at least have to figure in any succession scenario for Gamal, possibly as a transitional figure," the document states.
OPTIMIST DEMOCRACY NOW
Cairo, Egypt—In the second day of defiance of a military curfew, more than 150,000 protesters packed into Tahrir Square Sunday to call on President Hosni Mubarak to step down. The mood was celebratory and victorious. For most, it was not a question of if, but when, Mubarak would leave.
Military tanks have been stationed at entrance points around the square with soldiers forming barricades across streets and alleyways. In another departure from ordinary Cairo life, people quickly formed orderly queues to get through the army checkpoints. Soldiers frisked people and checked their identification cards. One soldier said they were making sure no one with police or state security credentials could enter.
Reports are widespread that many of the looters in Cairo are, in fact, remnants of the police and state security forces that were forced into a full retreat during Friday's mass street revolt. In addition, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of prisoners were released from prisons in Fayyoum and Tora. Many believe it's all part of an organized campaign by the regime to create lawlessness in the city in a last gasp attempt to maintain its grip on power. The headline of Al-Masry Al-Youm today blared: "Conspiracy by Interior Ministry to Foment Chaos."
But those concerns largely evaporate inside Tahrir Square where a blossoming of mass public political expression is taking place. Never before during Mubarak's reign have so many gathered in one place in popular protest. Tens of thousands of people clapped in unison and chanted slogans ranging from the serious and patriotic to humorous rhymes filled with biting wit. Many had spent the night in the square and scores planned to stay longer.
A helicopter hovered overhead and two military fighter jets made repeated flybys, coming in at a lower altitude each time until the noise became deafening. Whatever the intended message, the crowd was not intimidated. They cheered, held up victory signs and waved in defiance. After emerging victorious in Friday's battle with the interior ministry's forces, there is little that can quell the enthusiasm of the Egyptian people or their full-throated call for change.
Mubarak's attempt to placate the mass uprising by naming two of his top party officials, Omar Suleiman, the country's infamous intelligence chief, as his first Vice President and Ahmed Shafik, a former Air Force commander, as Prime Minister have been met with strong opposition amongst the protesters.
"Omar Suleiman is not an option. The people are chanting against him today," said Nazly Hussein, a 30 year-old protester in Tahrir. "People want to bring down the system...I don't think anyone is going home until the president and everyone around him leaves."
Mohamed El Baradei–the Nobel Peace laureate and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency–arrived in Tahrir Square today to address the crowds. Baradei's reputation is beyond reproach and he commands respect amongst most Egyptians but many say he has lived outside of the country for too long and criticize him for not taking part in earlier street protests. Nevertheless, some are calling on him to be included in some type of transitional government.
The one unifying theme, however, remains Mubarak. Everyone wants him out and it is difficult to imagine what iota of support he holds in any segment of Egyptian society save for his very small inner circle. And so, the people wait. It turns out six days of revolt will not be enough to overturn thirty years in power. But patience is wearing thin.
One man who is sure Mubarak's time is up is my uncle Mohamed Abd El Qudoos [Arabic is phonetic and the English spelling of our last name varies within the family]. A leading opposition protester, Mohamed is the head of the Freedom Committee in the Press Syndicate, which has ties to the Muslim Brotherhood. He has been arrested countless times over the years by police and state security forces for leading small-scale demonstrations. Last week he was arrested on Tuesday and then arrested again during Friday's uprising. A picture of him being dragged away by plainclothes police was shown on international news outlets across the globe. He was eventually released and able to join Saturday's protests. In Tahrir Square Sunday, dozens of people came to pay tribute to his struggle. They shook his hand, kissed him hello and took pictures with him.
"This is a dream come true," Mohamed said, sitting in the middle of the packed square in his standard attire: suit, flag and megaphone. "Remember when I would stand on the steps of the press syndicate to protest? I would stand alone. Now look at everyone. They are all here."
Sharif Abdel Kouddous is a senior producer for the radio/TV show Democracy Now
Sunday, January 30, 2011
Aha! Finally. Democracynow (US non-corporate week-daily news hour) reports FAIRLY and WITHOUT investor-class doctrinal bias. TUNESIA+EGYPT+YEMEN have one thing in common. They all were USA puppet regimes and "key allies" for the "US WAR OF TERROR".here yesterday's DemocracyNow's summing-up report from Cairo:
January 29, 2011
Live From the Egyptian Revolution by Sharif Abdel Kouddous
Cairo, Egypt—I grew up in Egypt. I spent half my life here. But Saturday, when my plane from JFK airport touched down in Cairo, I arrived in a different country than the one I had known all my life. This is not Hosni Mubarak's Egypt anymore and, regardless of what happens, it will never be again.
In Tahrir Square, thousands of Egyptians–men and women, young and old, rich and poor–gathered today to celebrate their victory over the regime's hated police and state security forces and to call on Mubarak to step down and leave once and for all. They talked about the massive protest on Friday, the culmination of three days of demonstrations that began on January 25th to mark National Police Day. It was an act of popular revolt the likes of which many Egyptians never thought they would see during Mubarak's reign. "The regime has been convincing us very well that we cannot do it, but Tunisians gave us an idea and it took us only three days and we did it," said Ahmad El Esseily, a 35 year-old author and TV/radio talk show host who took part in the demonstrations. "We are a lot of people and we are strong."
In Cairo, tens of thousands of people--from all walks of life--faced off against riot police armed with shields, batons, and seemingly
endless supplies of tear gas. People talked about Friday's protest like a war; a war they'd won. "Despite the tear gas and the beatings, we just kept coming, wave after wave of us," one protester said. "When some of us would tire, others would head in. We gave each other courage." After several hours, the police were forced into a full retreat. Then, as the army was sent in, they disappeared.
The military was greeted warmly on the streets of Cairo. Crowds roared with approval as one soldier was carried through Tahrir square today holding a flower in his hand. Dozens of people clambered onto tanks as they rode around the square. Throughout the day people chanted: "The people, the army: one hand."
While the police and state security forces are notorious in Egypt for torture, corruption and brutality, the army has not interacted with the civilian population for more than 30 years and is only proudly remembered for having delivered a victory in the 1973 war with Israel. A 4pm curfew set for today was casually ignored with people convinced the army would not harm them. The police were a different story. Their brutality the past few days--decades in fact--has been well documented.
Saturday, some of the police forces were holed up inside their headquarters in the Interior Ministry building near the end of a street connected to Tahrir Square. When protesters neared the building, the police began firing live ammunition at the crowd, forcing them to flee back to the square. Three bloodied people were carried out. "The police are killing us," one man yelled desperately while on the phone with al Jazeera from outside the building. When the firing stopped, defiant protesters began approaching the building again. In the background, the smoking, blackened shell of Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic Party headquarters served as an ominous reminder of their intentions.
At this point it seems clear the people are not leaving the streets. They own them now and they are refusing to go until Mubarak does. They chanted, "Mubarak, the plane is waiting for you at the airport," and "Wake up Mubarak, today is your last day."
At one point, a rumor spread through Tahrir Square that Mubarak had fled the country. A massive cheer rippled through the crowd. People began jumping up and down in joy. One man wept uncontrollably. When it turned out not to be true, the cheers quickly ended but it provided a brief glimpse of the sheer raw desire for Mubarak's ouster. Reports now indicate that Mubarak's two sons and his wife, Suzanne, have fled Egypt, as have some of his closest business cronies. Many people believe that is a sign that Hosni will not be far behind.
There is a great sense of pride that this is a leaderless movement organized by the people. A genuine popular revolt. It was not organized by opposition movements, though they have now joined the protesters in Tahrir. The Muslim Brotherhood was out in full force today. At one point they began chanting "Allah Akbar" only to be drowned out by much louder chants of "Muslim, Christian, we are all Egyptian."
As the sun set over Cairo, silence fell upon Tahrir square as thousands stopped to pray in the street while others stood atop tanks. After the sunset prayer, they held a 'ganaza'–a prayer for those killed in the demonstrations. Darkness fell and the protesters, thousands of them, have vowed to stay in the square, sleeping out in the open, until Mubarak is ousted.
Meanwhile, across Cairo there is not a policeman in sight and there are reports of looting and violence. People worry that Mubarak is intentionally trying to create chaos to somehow convince people that he is needed. The strategy is failing. Residents have taken matters into their own hands, helping to direct traffic and forming armed neighborhood watches, complete with checkpoints and shift changes, in districts across the city.
This is the Egypt I arrived in today. Fearless and determined. It cannot go back to what it was. It will never be the same.
Sharif Abdel Kouddous is a senior producer for the radio/TV show Democracy Now.
DID YOU NOTICE that BARADEI was NOT mentionen?
Baradei in Cairo - The next US-military puppet?
Friday, January 28, 2011
Seymour (Sy) Myron Hersh (born April 8, 1937) is a United States Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist and author based in Washington, D.C. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine on military and security matters. His work first gained worldwide recognition in 1969 for exposing the My Lai Massacre and its cover-up during the Vietnam War, for which he received the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. His 2004 reports on the US military's mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison gained much attention.
And the winner is Iran ... and Muqtada
By Pepe Escobar
Iraqi Premier Nuri al-Maliki hit Tehran this Monday. He was duly received by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and talked extensively to President Mahmud Ahmadinejad, still beaming after his rock-star tour of Lebanon last week.
Maliki visited the holy city of Qom, described Iran-Iraq relations as "strategic" and called for even deeper Iran-Iraq cooperation. A good time was had by all - but certainly not the Armageddon-warning brigade in Washington.
Now let's shine some light over the broader context. Take this antiwar.com headline; "White House demands Maliki oust [Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-]Sadr from coalition." Anyone repressing uncontrollable rolls of laughter wins a sheesh kebab.
All through these interminable seven months since the Iraq elections on March 7, the Barack Obama administration said it would "not interfere" in internal Iraqi politics. Even the ghosts of the whores of Babylon knew Washington wanted its own favored, slightly pro-Western "coalition" in power - a Maliki-Iyad Allawi "cohabitation", as the French put it, with that Arab version of Tony Soprano, former Central Intelligence Agency asset and former "butcher of Fallujah" Allawi as prime minister.
Now it turns out Washington is involved in - guess what? - a whole lot of interfering. Maliki is set to actually remain in power - thanks to support by the Sadrist bloc. Allawi's Iraqiya List had slightly more seats (91) than Maliki's list (89), but not enough to form a government. At the same time, the Sadrists became predominant over the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council and the Iraqi National Alliance (10% of the 325 contested seats). Even said ghosts of the whores of Babylon also knew that after the elections the real kingmaker in Iraq would continue to be Muqtada.
Oh, those were the days when "firebrand" Muqtada was the Pentagon's top bogeyman - even bigger than Osama bin Laden, routinely described as "the most dangerous man in Iraq". It was so much easier to try to take him out than to deal with his nationalist appeal.
Today, only armchair "strategists" in Washington can actually believe that Maliki will tremble in his brogues and show Muqtada the door; for in that case Maliki would literally kiss his majority coalition goodbye.
As much as the Obama administration wanted a Maliki-Allawi cohabitation, Tehran wanted a Maliki-Muqtada cohabitation. Guess who's the winner - again; not only the regime in Tehran, but also the Shi'ite clerics in Iraq. With an important point to be considered; just because Muqtada himself is studying in Qom to become an ayatollah, that does not mean that Baghdad will be ruled from Tehran.
Western media have often spun that Iran masterminded a sort of coup d'etat in Baghdad. It's much more subtle than that.
Tehran abundantly knew the many reasons why Muqtada would not ally the Sadrists with Maliki. So they set in motion a very skillful diplomatic chess game operating first via religious channels.
Ayatollah Kazem al-Haeri, Muqtada's spiritual adviser, asked him to give Maliki a try. Then last month, Maliki sent his chief of staff to Qom along with Abdul Halim al-Zuhairi from his Da'wa party to talk in person to Muqtada.
Hezbollah's Mohamed Kawtharani came from Beirut, and they were all joined by General Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the al-Quds Brigades of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
Then Ahmadinejad met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus on his way to the United Nations in New York - Ahmadinejad did a tour de force to convince Assad that Maliki was OK.
To top it all, Supreme Leader Khamenei - not to mention eminent Qom elders - and Hezbollah's secretary general Hassan Nasrallah gave their final imprimatur to the Muqtada-Maliki cohabitation.
No wonder an outmaneuvered Washington is now on overdrive warning once again of a "Shi'ite crescent" - that figment of the imagination of those wildly democratic heavens such as Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Kuwait. As for the Allawi camp, its spin mantra - very popular in US corporate media - is that Iran is taking over Iraq. In a late September interview to German weekly Der Spiegel, Allawi insisted fear prevailed everywhere and war could soon break out all across the Middle East.
Obama may have declared the end of the Iraqi war to all those gullible enough to swallow it - but the fact remains that thousands of US troops will continue to be in Iraq even after the December 2011 withdrawal deadline, which in itself will be fought one Bradley vehicle at a time by the Pentagon. No one will know for quite a while what sort of military agreement will be struck by the - still - US occupiers and a theoretically sovereign Iraqi government. Needless to say that the Pentagon - religiously following the "full-spectrum dominance" doctrine - will pull out all stops to keep at least a handful of military bases inside Iraq.
These latest developments anyway seem to be producing three inalterable facts.
Number one. Baghdad will have a Tehran-friendly and Shi'ite-friendly government, with intertwined strategic interests. But that does not mean it will be ruled by Tehran. Sunnis will have to included; otherwise civil war will be back (not that it ever left; what General David "counter-insurgency or bust" Petraeus managed to do was to sell to a gullible US public opinion a "surge" as a fake victory).
Number two. All that oil. Iraq's proven oil reserves now stand at 143.1 billion barrels, up from 115 billion barrels. That makes them the third-largest in the world, above Iran, according to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Oil exports account for 95% of Baghdad's revenue. And most of the new oil will be exploited by Chinese, Russian and Asian companies, not US Big Oil. So much for the neo-conservative dream of a US-controlled Iraq as "the new OPEC".
Number three. The final nail in the coffin of the neo-conservative fantasy of a Greater Middle East as an American lake. And to believe that these people still have a shot at being back at the helm of the US government by November 2012. Uncle Marx, we miss you so much; history does prefer to repeat itself as farce.
The germans built a shoah memorial RIGHT OPPOSITE OF THE USA EMBASSY.
US diplomats must look at it EVERY DAY.
That's only fair, because their colleagues knew in 1941 of the mass murder, they had the exact numbers
and knew timetable of the trains. US capitalist were big owners of Germany heavy industry.
The USA had their own NAZI parties, and the American population hated jews, too.
"if Hitler had not invaded a foreign country and murdered the jews inside Germany,
Bullsh*t? Learn more of that HERE and HERE
The field of ash grey rectangular slabs at the heart of Berlin is baffling, blended with the cityscape, strangely inviting and yet so alien it demands a response. What the...?
The vast expanse - 2,711 concrete monoliths covering 13,000sq
metres, bounded by streets facing the Grosser Tiergarten park - is a block away from the Brandenburg Gate. Built in 1788, the ceremonial portal is the embodiment of Germany and a symbol of both division and reunification of the city.
This field of stones, however, is the embodiment of something incomprehensible - how German people once united to murder millions.
At the outer edges of the field a few visitors sit in the sun on the flatter blocks. Teenagers ignore the signs, unable to resist the challenge of stepping from stone to stone. People enter the field from anywhere on the perimeter, choosing their own track and disappearing from view, swallowed by the stelae.
Stele: "standing stone," slab or pillar, usually inscribed or painted, used as commemorative markers in ancient Greece. These sentinels, with no inscriptions and unpainted, except for their anti-graffiti coating, stand silent, betraying nothing.
This is the "Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe". You wouldn't know it. There are no obvious signs - no Stars of David or other symbols of commemoration and nothing that overtly says Holocaust - just a field of slabs. A memorial in the abstract, yet very much concrete.
Ninety-five centimetre wide paths force single file through the stones.
No holding hands, no mass mourning, no rallies here. A monument against assembly. Inside, a dance of light and dark plays on the stone faces and shadows fall across the paths. Sound is muffled, as if submerged. The ground is an uneven, undulating pavement. The way out is easily seen - a maze without a centre - but where to go? Many of the stelae, more than 4 metres high, tower overhead. Some lean at an unsettling 0.5 to 2 degrees.
A monument to fascist order and yet an orderliness deliberately disintegrated throughout. The slabs are all the same width (0.95 metres) and length (2.38 metres) and arranged on the same axis, but they vary in height so the tops of the stones bob up and down. Off-kilter stones and the wave-like pathways further undermine the rationality of the grid.
The site has dark history. In 1937, it housed the office of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels. Not far away was Hitler's Reich Chancellery and the bunker where he died by suicide. From 1961 onwards, the area was part of "death strip" ¬alongside the Berlin wall, booby-trapped with tripwires, monitored by cameras and patrolled by guards instructed to shoot on sight.
The idea for the memorial was realised on 25 June 1999 when, after a decade of hand wringing, and controversy, the German Bundestag passed a resolution to:
• honor the murdered victims,
• keep alive the memory of these inconceivable events in German history
• admonish all future generations never again to violate human rights, to defend the democratic constitutional state at all times, to secure equality bhing.
Making the decision was a tortuous process. First proposed in 1988 by the journalist Lea Rosh, aided by the lobby group Perspective Berlin and the historian Eberhard Jäckel, the notion rapidly gained support from prominent figures including former West German Chancellor Willy Brandt and the writer Günter Grass.
Perspective Berlin's advertisements in German newspapers on 30 January, 1989 said:
"A half a century has passed since the Nazis came to power and since the murder of the Jews of Europe. But on German soil, in the country of the perpetrator, there is still no central site of remembrance to recall this singular genocide, and no memorial that remembers the victims. This is shameful."
A decade later the design chosen from a competition to achieve the purpose was that of New York architect Peter Eisenman - albeit modified by the inclusion of an information centre. Work began in 2003 and was completed in May 2005 at a cost of 27.6 million euro.
In June 1998 American sculptor Richard Serra, who collaborated with Eisenman on the original design, abruptly quit the project. Officially, it was for personal reasons, but design changes demanded by Chancellor Helmut Kohl are a more likely explanation. The original design was a much denser field - 4000 rather than 2711 stelae and without trees. Some 41 trees are planted on the north-western side of the site, apparently to soften it for visitors.
But perhaps the biggest compromise Eisenman had to swallow was the inclusion of an "Ort der Information" (Place of Information). Created by Berlin-based exhibition designer Dagmar von Wilcken, it is underground at the south-eastern corner of the field with three entrances - two flights of stairs and a lift.
On opening day, Eisenman had come to terms with the modifications. "I was wrong about the inclusion of the Ort," he told the audience, rationalising each part as a different form of memory. "One is the unforgettable, which is the silence of the field; the other is the memorable, which is recorded in the archives, in the Ort."
On the same day, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Paul Spiegel was critical: "The monument itself eludes the question of 'why?', avoiding any pronouncement about the guilty or the causes and reasons behind the catastrophe of the war." For Spiegel, the memorial's message was incomplete and had cast the Jews as victims in the form of 2,711 concrete stelae.
Spiegel reads the memorial literally, seeing the stelae as an array of tombstones. It's easy to see why. When the scheme made a shortlist of four in the design competition, it was described as Graberfeld (Field of Graves).
Its creator, Eisenman, also supports the tombstone reading. "It's to bring the Jewish cemetery into the everyday experience of the German, in the middle of the city," he tells Holocaust survivor and filmmaker Marian Marzynski, prior to construction.
But he also gives some alternative readings. "They're foundation stones for a new society." Or: "They're all lined up in rows, like the Nazis." The idea of the field, says Eisenman, is "rationality gone mad, entropy entering rationality".
Eisenman expects an emotional response: "You go and walk in it, and you will feel uncertain, you know? These things are tilting. I don't know where I'm going. Am I going to get lost? I'm alone. I can't hold anybody's hand. And that, when they get done, was what it felt like to be a Jew in Germany in the '30s."
If the memorial represents a Jewish cemetery, those who jump from pillar to pillar would be dancing on graves. If the stelae reflect the insanity of regimented brutality, they might equally be a phalanx of goose-stepping Nazis. Or the row upon row of prisoner barracks in the colossal killing field of Birkenau. Or the lines of railway sleepers leading to Treblinka.
Eisenman doesn't care. "People are going to picnic in the field. Children will play tag in the field. There will be fashion models modelling there and films will be shot there," he said in a Spiegel interview. "I can easily imagine some spy shoot 'em ups ending in the field. What can I say? It's not a sacred place."
Not sacred, yet so similar to tombstones. A depiction of absence. In countries such as Poland, the absence is acute. Ancient graveyards give testimony to a once thriving population of 3.25 million Jews living there before the Second World War. Walking through the 16th century Remuh cemetery in the Kazimierz district of Kraków, it's hard not see a source of inspiration for Eisenman's design. Worn sandstone stelae inscribed in Hebrew stand in rows - sentries to a past presence. Some, moved with time, sit askew. Others, broken, lie fallen in the overgrown grass. Small stones on the headstones, some weighing down scraps of paper mark a moment of memory - words to loved ones gone that someone has not forgotten.
It's hard not to see inspiration too, when you visit Treblinka in Poland, about two hours east of Warsaw, where there is indeed a symbolic field of graves. Some 17,000 jagged granite shards are set into concrete, in a vast clearing encircled by forest. The serenity of the stones amidst surrounding pine trees and the silent sky is eerie. An enormous silence demanding a response, but also making it impossible to speak.
These are not real gravestones, but markers to some 800,000 dead - their remains ploughed under the soil here to conceal the crime. When the Nazis destroyed the extermination camp in 1943, previously buried bodies were dug up and burned on cremation grids. As late as 1957 sun-bleached bones and skulls could be seen poking through the ground.
Designed by Polish architect Adam Haupt with sculptors Franciszek Duszenko and Franciszek Strynkiewicz, and built in 1964, the memorial marks the perimeter of the camp with tall, evenly spaced standing stones. Oversized concrete railway sleepers symbolise the railway track. Seven hundred of the stones are inscribed with the names of Jewish communities obliterated by the Holocaust.
Unlike the Berlin field, the Treblinka stelae are random, rough, and jumbled. There is no grid, but there is a centre - a 7.8 metre anvil-like monolith with a fissure running through the middle and a menorah carved in its top. "Never again" is inscribed at the base of the obelisk in Yiddish, Polish, Russian, English, German, and French.
The day I visit a group of Israeli armed forces in uniform make a circle in front of the monument. They carry flags, say prayers, stand to attention, salute, and lay a Star of David wreath. Behind the monument is a rectangular pit filled with black, molten basalt - depicting the camp's cremation pyres. Many place small stones on the deformed rocks.
There is no place in the Berlin field for stones or wreaths. It's a
defiantly secular, public space - so much so that Eisenman was against using a graffiti coating to protect the slabs. "If a swastika is painted on it, it is a reflection of how people feel. And if it remains there, it is a reflection of how the German government feels about people painting swastikas on the monument."
The anti-graffiti product used - Protectosil made by Degussa - created a controversy. The firm had been involved in the National-Socialist persecution of the Jews and a subsidiary company, Degesch, had produced the Zyklon B chemical used in the gas chambers. Despite the protective coating, swastikas have been drawn on the stelae, most recently in 2008.
Australian philosopher Andrew Benjamin says the abstract quality of the stelae - "their refusal to provide an image" - is their power. "The pillars recall gravestones and yet they are not gravestones. What they stand for is a sense of loss and therefore they insist as forms of remembrance... How and what they represent remains open."
Multiple interpretations and responses are OK, indeed encouraged.
Anything goes when Eisenman is speaking. "One person says it looks like a graveyard and the next says it looks like a ruined city and then someone says it looks like it is from Mars - everybody needs to make it look like something they know," he says in an interview. Contrary to previous descriptions, he also says: "I have never seen a graveyard that looks like that. And when you walk in, it certainly doesn't feel like one."
Eisenman compares the "movement" of the pillars with "a billowy field of grain". Other times he will veer off into the deeply personal. Walking into the field is to leave the city behind and to experience sudden alienation and disorientation as "the darkness and walls descend" and the narrowness of the passages make one walk alone - "the same my mother felt when Mengele took her mother from her".
Architectural critic, Heinrich Wefing is unconvinced by Eisenman's view the memorial creates a "feeling of being torn apart", resembling the trauma of Auschwitz, "where many children were torn from their parents". On one occasion, Eisenman went as far to suggest a Japanese tourist "would perhaps feel what it is like to go into a gas chamber". Wefing: "It might be a lot of things, but one thing it is certainly not: a Holocaust simulator... To claim that here one can experience the feelings of the victims (and then afterwards go have a cup of coffee) - that would not only be obscene, it would also be denying the actual qualities of the memorial."
Polish born New York architect Daniel Libeskind, who designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin, also provokes emotional response with his buildings. "I find myself drawn to explore what I call the void - the presence of an overwhelming emptiness created when a community is wiped out," he says in Breaking Ground. The idea is incorporated into the Jewish Museum's "Holocaust Void" - a long, inaccessible empty space cut through the length of the zigzagging building and crossed by bridges.
Like the field it's an architecture designed to create unease. The building, which opened, in 1999, has no front door. Its zinc cladding, angularity and narrow windows slashed into the façade provide a deliberate difference from the surroundings. Entry is through the baroque Berlin Museum next door and by descending below street level. One passage leads up a set of stairs to a dead end white wall. Another to a tall, empty concrete shaft called the Holocaust Tower, where the door clanks shut into darkness, the only light filtering down from an acutely angled slit in the roof. Outside, in the Garden of Exile and Emigration, vegetation grows from the top of 49, six-metre pillars which, like the field's stelae, are oddly tilted - "making visitors feel disoriented, even seasick."
The garden, like the museum's void, tower and slashed windows, manipulate by metaphor. "I wanted visitors to be reminded of the shipwreck of German Jewish history, reminded too of what it's like to arrive, totally without bearings, in a strange, new land," says Libeskind. That's not all. The building's shape resembles a broken Star of David. Forty-eight of the columns in the Garden are filled with dirt from Berlin and one with earth from Jerusalem - apparently to signify 1948, the year Israel was founded. The tower could represent the cold, dark and claustrophobia of a gas chamber, although the light falling from the top apparently indicates hope. Libeskind based the design on a story of a woman catching a glimpse of sky and a white line through the slats of a boxcar en route to the Stutthof concentration camp.
Dithering in response to architectural ambiguity - whether at the Field of Stelae, the Jewish Museum, or the Treblinka memorial - may not be a bad thing. "The surest engagement with Holocaust memory in Germany may actually lie in its perpetual irresolution," says author James E. Young. "Better a thousand years of Holocaust memorial competitions in Germany than any single 'final solution' to Germany's memorial problem."
Young advocates for "counter-monuments" - memorial spaces that challenge the premise of the monument. Artist Horst Hoheisel proposed to blow up the Brandenburg Gate, grind its stone into dust, sprinkle the remains over its former site, and then cover the entire Memorial site with granite plates. "How better to remember a destroyed people than by a destroyed monument?" says Young.
The counter monument is also a reaction to Hitler's exploitation of national monuments and symbols to mobilise the German people. As a counter monument, the Field of Stelae puts most of the remembering back on the spectator. With no inscriptions, symbols or gathering place, it certainly disrupts what monuments normally do. But it is also exceedingly monumental.
The sheer scale of the field is its power - so big it can't be ignored, capturing the enormity of the crime, and confronting visitors in much the same way as the seemingly boundless bleakness of the Birkenau ruins. Also known as Auschwitz II, the Birkenau death camp is immense, covering almost 200 hectares. It once comprised 300 buildings, including over 174 horse-stable barracks. Today, only a few mouldering buildings remain, but the grid of barracks is still visible in the rows of crumbling brick chimney stacks, forlorn in the long grass. The retreating Nazi's in 1945 destroyed much of the camp. The ravages of time have done the rest - entropy engulfing fascistic rationality at a place that once again has you gasping. What the...? Why?
Berlin's Field of Stelae provides some answers - buried in the Information Centre beneath the field. The subterranean chamber resonates with allusions: the way the Nazi's concealed their "Final Solution" to the "Jewish Problem"; and the external staircases to Crematoria II and III at Auschwitz, which descended to an underground undressing room and gas chamber.
Spiegel laments that "only a fraction of visitors will ever take the trouble to deepen the impressions they have gained in the Field of Stelae by means of additional facts". In 2010 the Information Centre attracted 461,000 visitors. Wefing points out, the Information Centre runs against every intention of the open memorial. He says the entrances disrupt the filigree net of paths so that "instead of straying directionlessly through the field, the visitors are channeled in one direction, toward the bathrooms and the coat check and the displays."
Yet the entrances to the Centre are well camouflaged among the stones, meagerly signposted, if at all, and a visitor choosing any number of paths could easily "stray directionlessly" and miss them entirely. Which would be a shame. It's a knockout. Wefing agrees: "Admittedly, all objections against this pedagogical extra fall silent when one has descended the stair... There is nothing else like this in Berlin, nothing like what is imparted about the Holocaust in this small space, through carefully chosen examples in a sparing, yet suggestive display."
Underground, you go through a security bag check. (Note to visitors to Berlin: Do not go into a museum with a souvenir gas mask from Check Point Charlie in your bag.) In the foyer, visitors are greeted by a text-and-image strip showing a timeline of events from 1933 to 1945 that created the Holocaust. It includes a quote by Italian Auschwitz survivor and writer Primo Levi: "It happened, therefore it can happen again: this is the core of what we have to say."
The undulating ground and the grid of the field above are exposed in the coffered ceiling vault in each of the four rooms comprising the exhibition. In the first room glass panes on the floor, a mirror of the stones above, carry quotations from victims.
Fela writes on 27 January 1942: "My dear ones! I have already written a card to you on the fate that has befallen us. They are taking us to Chelmno and gassing us. 25,000 Jews are lying there already. The slaughter goes on. Have you no pity for us? Natan, the child, mother and I have escaped, no one else. I don't know what will become of us. I have no strength to live any more. If Aunt Bronia writes, write to her about everything. I send you warmest greetings."
In the second room, hanging slates display life histories of Jewish families in Europe. The Room of Names, the third room, is dark and empty except for three slab-like benches where visitors can sit to hear the reading of short biographies of Jews murdered or lost. The fourth room has historical footage and witness accounts of the horrors of the Holocaust.
In his project text, Eisenman outlines the enormity of the memorial's task - that where once an individual human life could be commemorated by a single stone, slab, cross, or star, the Holocaust and Hiroshima and the mechanisms of mass death changed everything.
Another of Spiegel's objections to the Memorial is that it's not an authentic site like the former concentration and extermination camps, the mass graves and the sites of shooting and torture. His concerns is such places may "pay a price" for the creation of the Holocaust Memorial. "Without the authentic places of annihilation, every abstract memorial will, in the long run, lose its effect as a sign against forgetting." But a visit to Auschwitz, the most significant site of the Shoah, shows that what's authentic depends very much on your point of view. Auschwitz I, the Stammlager, at the edge of the town of Oswiecim, is also the most significant site of Polish suffering under German rule. Auschwitz I appears to be intact. "The presentation of the buildings does not convey a sense of abstract history, but of tangible actuality," write Deborah Dwork and Robert Jan van Pelt in their seminal Auschwitz.
But sightseers may not realise the camp today is very different from the one liberated by the Soviet army in 1945. "A misconstruction of history," begins in the parking lot where visitors arrive, say Dwork and van Pelt. Most would be unaware that the stucco buildings to the north of where the tour buses park, now used by the Polish army and as low income housing, were once part of the camp. Many wouldn't know either that few of the Jews deported to Auschwitz ever saw the iconic Arbeit Macht Frei inscribed steel gate, as most went directly to Birkenau a couple of kilometres away.
For many the gate is the threshold between humanity and insanity, the entry to the "unimaginable universe" describe by Primo Levi. But from 1942 it wasn't the entrance to the camp. Visitors taking tea in the cafeteria next to the car park, are unlikely to know they are sitting beside the prisoner reception building designed by Karl Bischoff, who produced the expansion plan for Auschwitz. The missing spaces, now devoted to tourist facilities, are where prisoners were stripped, robbed, shaved, tattooed, disinfected and degraded - a step-by-step metamorphosis from Mensch to Untermensch (human to sub-human)."
It's difficult to reconcile why this authentic architecture of ritual humiliation has been removed from the Auschwitz visitors' experience, but it highlights a disconnect between the two camps and which history is being maintained. "The main camp first and foremost preserved Polish - not Jewish - history," say Dwork and van Pelt, who argue the decision to relegate Birkenau to a position of secondary importance reflects a neutralising of remembrance.
Canadian sociologist Iwona Irwin-Zarecka describes it as an "Auschwitz without Jews" - allowing one to think of genocide as a fate shared by Jews, Poles, Russians and so on. "At the least, it allows one to think of Poles as the 'next in line' on the extermination list. At the most it makes their experience during the war identical to that of the Jews.
Both Jews and Poles become victims of a murderous regime." The perception, says Irwin-Zarecka, is of course historically correct, but hides the historical reality - "the difference between living in terror and being sentenced to death."
Historian and author Tony Judt makes a similar point: "For Poles, it was difficult to survive under German occupation but in principle you could. For Jews it was possible to survive under German occupation - but in principle you could not."
To appreciate the architecture of Auschwitz, it's necessary to find where it transformed from a collection of utilitarian buildings - used as a labour exchange, then a Polish army base, then a German concentration camp - into a machine for murder. When did it become architecture? Perhaps the clearest sign is seen in what the retreating Nazis destroyed - the dynamited remains of Crematoria II and III, the last stop on the Birkenau railway.
The identical buildings were designed by architects Georg Werkmann, Karl Bischoff and Walther Dejaco and the furnaces by Topf and Sons, under the guidance of chief engineer Kurt Prufer. Blueprints left behind in the archive of the Central Construction Office show all the details of the Badeanstalten für Sonderaktionen (Bathhouses for Special Actions): the power of the forced-air system (over 4 million cubic feet per hour) to fan the flames; the official cremation capacity (32 corpses) per muffle per day; how the mortuary was modified into a death chamber; the size of the gas-tight doors; and the specifications of the ventilation system required to extract the Zyklon-B from the gas chamber in 20 minutes.
Other elements revived from eye-witness accounts also indicate deceit by design. Zyklon-B gas crystals were dropped from the roof of the underground gas chamber through hollow sheet metal columns, perforated at regular intervals. Mounted on the ceiling were dummy shower heads to create the illusion of a shower-room.
Complementing the architecture of murder at Birkenau is the architecture of Untermensch designed, in part, by Bahaus graduate Fritz Ertl, who organised the camp in repeating units of 12 barracks, each with one latrine, kitchen and wash barrack. The shoddy horse stable barracks at Birkenau demonstrate the Nazis' contempt for concentration camp inmates. It's difficult to imagine how 744 people could be crammed into one shed. Originally designed for 550 inmates, capacity was increased with a stroke of pen by Bischoff to increase the camp's labour force from 97,000 to 125,000.
Each barrack was subdivided into 62 bays, each bay with three "roosts" originally designed for three prisoners to sleep. Bischoff's design change increased capacity to four - "a space that amounted to the surface dimensions of a large coffin or the volume of a shallow grave." Visitors can also see an example of a latrine barrack designed to serve 7000 inmates - a shed with three open sewer drains, each with two rows of holes for toilet seats formed into the concrete slab bridging them.
Author Terrence Des Pres described the conditions as an "excremental assault" designed to destroy the last vestiges of prisoners self worth and dignity. Seeing these grimly austere barracks and how they fit in the vast orderly grid of the camp brings a terrible realisation of the Nazi's monumental design. Architects created these holding pens for slave labour, a temporary living purgatory before death.
Visitors seeking comprehension of the machinery of murder might be advised to begin their tour at Birkenau - following the railway track beside the rudimentary wooden watchtowers alongside the barbed wire fences, past the selection point to the ruins of Crematoria II and III.
From there, skirting the periphery of the camp there is the Central Sauna, used for Disinfektion und Entwesungsanlage (disinfection and decontamination); the ruins of other Birkenau crematoria including the earlier Bunkers I and II; the pond with ashes and the open air burning pits. Plus the foundation remains of the 29 warehouses known as Kanada where the Nazis stored the plundered possessions of the Jews - a stockpile of spectacles, shoes, scissors, shaving brushes and bales of human hair.
Such a tour in reverse might provide better understanding of where the exhibits - suitcases, spectacles, crutches, prayer shawls and hair - displayed in Blocks 4 and 5 at Auschwitz I, came from. As Dwork and van Pelt point out, the displays, including an "almost pornographic" model of people entering, undressing and dying in Crematorium II, wrongly "endow the commemorative camp with the history of the nearby murder machinery."
Guides will tell visitors Crematorium I, the finale to the Auschwitz I tour, is a reconstruction of a building the SS had ultimately converted into an air raid shelter. Little is said about the extent of the reconstruction - that the chimney has been rebuilt, openings in the roof for pouring Zyklon B into the gas chamber have been re-cut, and two of the three furnaces have been rebuilt from original parts.
The crematorium morgue was transformed into a killing room (initially prisoners were shot there) and then gas chamber, inaugurated in September 1941 with the murder of 900 Soviet prisoners. What isn't made clear is that the building had a design problem - disposal. With three double muffle (openings for corpses) ovens, six bodies could be burned every 20 minutes giving a maximum capacity of 18 bodies an hour. "The rate-limiting step of their murder machinery was the disposal of bodies. This was the horror of Auschwitz 1."
What's missing from the tour at this point is the grand, insane design of Birkenau, where the machinery of genocide was refined and four incinerator chimneys smoked incessantly. Here the larger Crematoria I and II employed five innovative triple muffles (three crucibles in a single furnace) each capable of burning 15 corpses at a time. The smaller crematoria III and IV had four double muffle furnaces each able to take eight corpses simultaneously. A carefully thought out production facility of death where more than a million Jews were murdered and incinerated.
Much of the memorial of Auschwitz I is about the German brutality inflicted on Poles and their subjugation into enslavement. The permanence of the brick and tile former Polish Army barracks is in sharp contrast to the desolate wasteland of Birkenau. The camp is a city of the dead, a necropolis with no gravestones. A shabby monument at the end of the railway track has a series of plaques in various languages with the words: "Forever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity, where the Nazi's murdered about one and half million men, women and children, mainly Jews from various countries of Europe."
There is no doubt that Auschwitz-Birkenau provides a more immediate link to the horrors of the Holocaust. But to decry the Field of Stelae because it lacks authenticity is to entirely miss the point of a memorial in the heart of Berlin. Criticism of the memorial kept coming. In 1998 Grass, who had previously been a supporter of the memorial, joined with a group of German intellectuals, historians, and authors urging Chancellor Helmut Kohl, to abandon the Eisenman plan. They described it as an "abstract installation of oppressively gigantic proportions" that would never create a place of "quiet mourning and remembrance, of warning or enlightenment."
Their open letter was also critical that Gypsies, homosexuals, Soviet prisoners of war, disabled persons, and other victims of the Nazis were excluded. The mayor of Berlin, Eberhard Diepgen, was another opposed to the memorial, refusing to attend its opening (www.nytimes.com/2000/01/18/world/berlin-mayor-to-shun-holocaust-memorial-event.html). Unhappy with all four finalists in the design competition, he became convinced that it was impossible to portray an event such as the Holocaust through artistic means. Diepgen said Eisenman's design was "too monumental", that it would be more appropriately located at one of the concentration camps, and that Berlin risked becoming "a city of memorials and repentance."
The outcome might have been very different had not Federal Chancellor Helmut Kohl vetoed, in 1996, the two winning designs of an earlier competition because he believed consensus was lacking. One, designed by Christine Jackob-Marks, was a huge tilted concrete slab covered with the names of 4.2 million known victims of the Holocaust, with spaces left empty for those victims whose names remain unknown. The other design by architect Simon Ungers comprised an 85 metre square of steel girders supported on concrete blocks at the corners. The names of several extermination camps would be perforated into the girders, so that these would be projected onto objects or people in the area by sunlight.
In the second competition, three other designs made the shortlist along with the Eisenman and Serra entry. Steinatem (Stonebreath) by Daniel Libeskind featured a 141 metre broken wall that would direct visitors' view to the Tiergarten park, and to a monument honouring Germany's celebrated writer, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. Berlin architect Gesine Weinmiller proposed a memorial with eighteen blocks that would appear as a fragmented Star of David when viewed from a certain angle. And Paris-based German artist Jochen Gerz's Warum ist es geschehen? (Why Did it Happen?) had thirty-nine light masts, each of which would feature an inscription of the word "why" in as many languages.
As well as the proposed blowing up of the Brandenburg Gate, another radical counter-monument that didn't make the shortlist was "Bus Stop-The Non-Monument" by Berlin artists Renata Stih and Frieder Schnock. Their proposal would keep the site desolate and turn it into an open-air bus terminal for coaches departing to and returning from regularly scheduled visits to several dozen concentration camps and other sites of destruction throughout Europe.
Despite Kohl's preference for the Eisenman design, he was unable to guide it through the political process before the impending federal election. In September, 1998 Gerhard Schröder of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) was elected chancellor. His top adviser on cultural affairs, Michael Naumann, was strongly against the memorial, arguing the money should be used renovate Germany's concentration camps such as Bergen-Belsen and Sachsenhausen and their museums.
Naumann compared the short-listed designs to the monumental architecture of Hitler's favourite architect Albert Speer. He scorned the memorial as a Kranzabwurfstelle - a "wreath-dumping ground" Post-election the SPD found a compromise - the inclusion of the underground Information Centre in the Eisenman design. Even then, a last minute proposal by German theologian Richard Schröder threatened to derail the project. Such was the level of support for the scheme - a smaller memorial inscribed with the words "Thou shalt not kill" in Hebrew and other languages - that it was included as an option in the final vote of the Bundestag.
In the final vote, 439 out 559 MPs present voted to build the monument and 325 voted for a monument dedicated solely to Jewish victims. Eisenman's design won the day with 314 votes, the "Thou shalt not kill" proposal getting 209 votes and 14 MPs abstaining. Most argument in the drawn out affair was about whether there should be a memorial at all, who it should be for, and how memory would be best preserved. Very little of the debate was about the form or aesthetics of the proposals.
It was German novelist Martin Walser who provided the clearest insight into what some German minds were objecting to: "Paving over the centre of our capital to create a nightmare the size of a football field. The monumentalisation of our disgrace," he said in a speech in October 1998.
Walser asks whether there is anywhere else in the world where there is "a memorial of national ignominy". Perhaps not, but that one has been created to "keep alive the memory of these inconceivable events in German history" marks, in abstract concrete, atonement and admonishment for generations to come. An architectural triumph over historical amnesia.Chris Barton visited Berlin, Auschwitz-Birkenau and Treblinka last year as part of his Qantas Wolfson Press Fellowship at Cambridge where he researched architecture journalism.
Thursday, January 27, 2011
A Pennsylvania teenager accused of murder is facing the prospect of becoming the youngest person ever sentenced to life in prison without parole. Thirteen-year-old Jordan Brown is accused of fatally shooting his father's pregnant fiancée as she slept in her home two years ago. Brown was 11 years old at the time. The judge in the case reportedly ordered Brown to be tried as an adult after he refused to plead guilty. Defense attorneys say the ruling violates Brown's right to be presumed innocent. Amnesty International has criticized the trial, saying, "It is shocking that anyone this young could face life imprisonment without parole, let alone in a country which labels itself as a progressive force for human rights."
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
People are commemorating the 50th anniversary of
President Eisenhower's Farewell Address in which he warned Americans about the dangers posed by the military-industrial complex. However, while the commentators are focusing on the obvious impact that the military-industrial complex has on American life — i.e., the out-of-control federal spending, the widespread dependency of the private sector on military spending, the dependency of U.S. cities on military bases, and ever-present crises and threats that are used to expand the power and influence of the military — most everyone seems to be studiously avoiding another danger that Eisenhower may have had in mind: the threat of a military coup here inside the United States.
Look at the words that Eisenhower used:
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
If Eisenhower had meant to say "endanger our economic system or monetary system," it seems to me that he would have said that. He didn't. He instead said, "endanger our liberties or democratic processes."
What more direct danger of a threat to our liberties or democratic processes than a military coup?
For that matter, who better than Ike to know about the danger of a military coup by the military-industrial complex and the CIA? Near the beginning of his term, he authorized the CIA to instigate a coup in Iran in 1953, one that succeeded in ousting the democratically elected prime minister of Iran, Mohammed Mossadegh, and replacing him with the unelected dictator the Shah of Iran, who proceeded to brutally rule the country until he was ousted from power in the Iranian revolution in 1979.
One year after that successful coup, Eisenhower authorized the CIA to engage in another one, this time in Guatemala, where the CIA succeeded in ousting that country's democratically elected president, Jacobo Arbenz, and replacing him with a brutal unelected military general. That coup succeeded in throwing the country into a civil war that ended up killing hundreds of thousands of people.
Just prior to his Farewell Address, Ike authorized the CIA and the Pentagon to plan a regime-change operation for Cuba, one that would oust Cuba's new president, Fidel Castro, from power and replace him with a U.S.-approved ruler. It was Ike who initially approved the planning of what later became the Bay of Pigs disaster under Kennedy.
Was Ike contemplating the danger of a military or CIA coup when he referred to the danger that the military-industrial complex posed to our liberties and democratic processes?
Well, one thing is for sure: Ike's successor sure contemplated it. After reading the novel Seven Days in May, which posited a coup attempt by the U.S. military to oust the president from office on the ground of national security, Kennedy recommended that the novel be made into a movie to warn Americans that such a possibility was a very real danger here in the United States. Here is an interesting, short video featuring American historian Arthur Schlesinger detailing why JFK wanted the novel to be made into a movie. Or click here for a Google list of articles under a combined search for "Seven Days in May" and "Kennedy."
Is there any danger of a military coup today? Of course not. The mindset of every single president since Kennedy — LBJ, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama — has mirrored that of the military and the CIA: that the national security of the United States depends on an expansive and ever-growing military establishment and CIA, under the rubric of "defense" of course. Thus, there would be no reason for the military and the CIA to oust a president whose policies posed no danger to the military and the CIA or to national security.
But what would happen, say, if a president came into power with the aim of not only reducing military spending but actually dismantling the hundreds of overseas military bases, bringing all the troops home and discharging them, closing the thousands of domestic military bases, repealing the National Security Act of 1947, abolishing the CIA and the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and ending the standing army.
Then, it seems to me that all bets would be off and that Eisenhower's and Kennedy's concerns could become a reality.
After all, what would happen today if President Obama were to recommend, say, a 30 percent cut in military and CIA spending to avoid the danger of national bankruptcy? Wouldn't both the military and the CIA immediately claim that this would be a serious threat to national security, given the perpetual war on terrorism and, recently, the resurgence of the communist threat from North Korea and China? And don't forget Iran or, for that matter, Cuba itself, which is still ruled by that old Cold War nemesis Fidel Castro.
If military and CIA officials would consider a cut in military spending to be a threat to national security, think how they would react to a complete paradigm shift in which the military-industrial complex and the CIA would be completely demolished. There can be no doubt that they would consider such actions to be akin to surrendering America to the terrorists and to the communists.
Keep in mind that these people consider themselves to be the ultimate guardians of America's national security. Presidents come and go. They only have 4-year terms. But the Pentagon and the CIA, the ultimate guardians of America's national security, are permanent.
So, what would happen if the Pentagon and the CIA were faced with a situation in which the American people had made a mistake by electing the wrong person to office, a person whose naivety was leading America down the road to disarmament and surrender to either the terrorists or the communists — a person whose policies would almost certainly lead a communist or terrorist takeover of America.
Would the military and the CIA, the ultimate guardians of national security, simply stand aside and let it happen? How often have we heard the dictum, "The Constitution is not a suicide pact"? What they mean by that dictum is that if it's necessary to violate the Constitution to save the nation, then so be it.
Even today, we hear statists justifying the U.S.-supported coups in Guatemala and Chile (1973) by saying that the coups were necessary and beneficial because they saved both countries from a communist takeover. If the military and the CIA were convinced that a president's policies were taking the United States to the same result, would they stand aside and simply let it happen or would they do what they did in Iran and Guatemala and tried to do in Cuba to protect our nation's existence and national security?
Interestingly, a month after Kennedy was assassinated, former President Harry Truman wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post stating that when he brought the CIA into existence with the National Security Act of 1947, he had assumed that the CIA would simply be an intelligence-gathering agency. Instead, it had grown into a "symbol of sinister and mysterious foreign intrigue — and a subject of cold war enemy propaganda." Truman stated, "We have grown up as a nation, respected for our free institutions and for our ability to maintain a free and open society. There is something about the way the CIA has been functioning that is casting a shadow over our historic position and I feel that we need to correct it."
Of course, by that time Truman had long been out of office and, thus, presented no threat to the military-industrial complex and CIA. In fact, at the time Truman wrote his op-ed — December 1963 — America's new president, Lyndon Johnson, was already working closely with the Pentagon and the CIA to get America actively involved in the Vietnam War, a war that would ultimately take the lives of some 58,000 American men, justified under the rationale of protecting the national security of the United States from a communist takeover.
Perhaps what Ike, Kennedy, and Truman were saying was that the military-industrial complex and the CIA had now become permanent features of American life and that the American people had simply better get used to it. Given the conviction of military and CIA officials that America's national security depends on the existence of the military-industrial complex and CIA, any president who would threaten national security by attempting to dismantle the military-industrial complex and CIA would face the danger to our liberties and democratic processes to which Eisenhower referred in this Farewell Address.
Monday, January 24, 2011
Call for Protest of the ACTION ALLIANCE AGAINST THE NATO SECURITY CONFERENCE
Saturday, 5 February 2011 – start 1 p.m., Marienplatz in Munich!
Many thousands of demonstrators against the Conference!!
Given by Munich American Peace Committee the 2011 "Peace through Conviction" award goes to Wikileaks fame Bradley Manning!!
In 2008 it went to US Iraq war veteran, Chris Capps, who deserted from the US base in Darmstadt, Germany, to avoid being deployed to Afghanistan. (Chris did not go to jail! GIs call GI Rights Hotline: (00)1-510-535-1104!)
At the 44th Munich Security Conference in February, 2008, NATO awarded a Canadian soldier who had fought in southern Afghanistan the so-called "Peace Through Dialogue Medal."
Act against NATO war-making
For peace and disarmament
Get the Bundeswehr out of Afghanistan!
Call for protests against the so-called 'Security Conference' on 4-5 February 2011 in Munich
On the first weekend in February, the government representatives, military men, war strategists, and arms lobbyists, mainly from NATO and EU countries, will be meeting in the Hotel Bayerischer Hof again.
While they are discussing the rules of the game for their world order, we will take to the streets and demonstrate.
Wars begin even before the bombs fall
A billion people go hungry. "Every five seconds, a child dies of malnutrition or easily curable diseases. These children do not die, they are murdered." (Jean Ziegler) – Murdered by a world order that will stick at nothing to make a profit, by an economic system which is systematically ruining the vital natural resources of this planet, by a capitalist system that bears war within itself, as clouds bear rain.
Torture, kidnapping, and mass killing of civilians are aspects of war, just like the sealing of our borders against refugees fleeing poverty or climate catastrophe, or the victims of German arms exports.
The victims of these wars are always people, nature, and a culture of living together on this one Earth.
The SiKo – mobilization for profits, murder, and war
This is what the military strategists at the 'Security' Conference stand for. They count on people keeping quiet, out of fear. Fear of unemployment, fear for the future of their children, or fear of terrorism.
Those responsible for criminal wars, for worldwide poverty, and for ecological lunacy want to make people believe that "There Is No Alternative" to their world order.
However, many people are beginning to resist. Our rulers are preparing for this with a terrorism hype. They are expanding the surveillance regime, inflating police forces, and even want to use the military at home.
But there are always alternatives. They start with acting in solidarity, protest, and resistance. Let us show the self-appointed world rulers and arm-chair strategists:
We will counter your policies of neoliberalism, war, and armament with our protest and nonviolent resistance.
We will demonstrate
- against war-mongering and military power politics
- against chauvinism and racism
- for the immediate withdrawal of the Bundeswehr from Afghanistan and an end to all military interventions
- for disarmament instead of the further conversion of the Bundeswehr to a expeditionary force that can be deployed throughout the world – abolish the Bundeswehr!
- for Germany's withdrawal from NATO, and no participation in the military structures of the EU.
The world does not need NATO, or any other military alliances. What we need are peace, disarmament, development, and social justice.
Join the mass demonstration, imaginatively, colorfully, and loudly!Mail: info--at--sicherheitskonferenz.de
We will not be intimidated, and reject defamatory insinuations that serve as an excuse for police repression – and also for restricting our freedom of assembly.
This is not working in Stuttgart or in Gorleben. It will not work in Munich, either.
Come to the protests against the war conference in Munich!
Saturday, 5 February 2011 – start 1 p.m., Marienplatz in Munich!
Sunday, January 23, 2011
A NEW DOCUMENTARY:
Sundance '11 Day 3: Selling out
Morgan Spurlock, the director "Super Size Me" and "Where in the World
Is Osama Bin Laden?," returned to Sundance to premiere his third
documentary. It's called "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold," and in it,
rather shamelessly, Spurlock races around the country in pursuit of
corporate sponsorship. He does so under the guise of exposing both the
evils of product placement in movies, television, public
transportation, and everywhere else and the omnipresence and insidious
omniscience of advertising. And while Spurlock rounds up the likes of
Mark Crispin Miller, Noam Chomsky, and Ralph Nader to speak doomily on
the subject, for most of the film Spurlock meets higher-ups at willing
companies interested in placing their products in his movie. That's
pretty much it: meetings and montages.
It may be the case that Spurlock is uninterested in -- or incapable of
-- rising to the intellectual challenge he presents for himself.
Instead, he uses the film to turn himself into a human billboard. He
doesn't appear to find corporate sponsorship for nonfiction filmmaking
a problem. In a sense, it isn't. Without big business' backing, many
of the movies we see and festivals we attend wouldn't happen or would
Spurlock tries to complicate things by getting Hollywood directors
like Peter Berg and Brett Ratner to come clean about product
placements in their movies. They say nothing surprising. Corporations,
for instance, don't care about art. And: Sellouts? We're all sellouts!
Sony Pictures Classics bought "The Greatest Movie Ever Sold" a few day
before, a move one imagines is a bargain given the money the
sponsoring companies are likely to spend on marketing. (The movie
includes scenes in which its posters are printed and pressed and
another in which Spurlock appears on Jimmy Kimmel's talk show.
Presumably, it was staged, which, of course, makes you wonder what
else Spurlock has rigged.) The movie doesn't ask whether good product
placement is good for documentaries. Spurlock doesn't need to. The
answer is obvious: It's good for him. Spurlock says he set out to make
a "docbuster," which, of course, would make him the Brett Ratner of
Even so, as empty of insight and crass in its shamelessness as it is,
the movie is occasionally funny. The audience went for it. The Q&A was
packed; and as proof of the film's queasy efficacy, one questioner
told Spurlock, who was joined by the charmed executives he pursues in
the film, that he plans to start using the products whose makers
backed Spurlock, because they're supporting documentary filmmaking.
Above is a bit from the Q&A, for which Spurlock changed into a blazer
emblazoned with the logos of his sponsors. He looked like a waiter at
a NASCAR restaurant.
Following the world premiere of Morgan Spurlock's hilarious and sly
new documentary at Sundance, he announced a title change. It's now
"POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold."
This is, of course, part of an actual deal he made with POM to become
his title sponsor in exchange for helping to finance his film and part
of the film's sneaky investigation into the nefarious world of
sponsorship, product placement, marketing and advertising in movies
The film is going to clean up at the box office so the many sponsors
he kids will end up with high-fives all around.
Spurlock once again stars on camera as the fatally afflicted addict
from Super Size Me, although this time instead of Big Macs he wants to
make a "doc-buster" movie so badly he'll pursue financing from any
brand willing to give him a buck. Thus, he journeys into the heart of
darkness that is branding, cross-promotion, advertising and, above
all, product placement. READ: Q&A with Morgan Spurlock
His cameras follow him into pitch meetings, brainstorming sessions and
confabs with attorneys and fellow filmmakers who break down the
various contractual agreements into English. He thereby ushers the
viewer into a movie world where if Casablanca were made today the
plane behind Ingrid Bergman would be JetBlue (one of his sponsors),
Bogie would be outfitted with CARRERA Sunglasses (another one) and he
would walk away with Claude Rains in Merrell Shoes (you betcha it's a
None of this will shock anyone who watches movies or TV these days. In
fact, the film's greatest shock comes in a brief excursion to Sao
Paulo, Brazil, a city that has banned all outdoor advertising.
Spurlock wanders through a city landscape that feels strangely
denuded. This stuns you into realizing just how much advertising is a
part of daily life. In Sao Paulo, you can actually see the city.
Marshall McLuhan famously said "the medium is the message" but here
the message is the movie. Spurlock actually raises the film's $1.5
million budget as he makes his movie. First he rounds up sponsors.
When Ban Deodorant comes aboard at $50,000, you can feel Spurlock's
excitement after all the rejections. He gets a lengthy hearing from
POM's co-owner Lynda Resnick and her executive team, and even
discusses commercials he might make for the company. He eventually
He makes others as well even as he learns how to develop his own
"brand personality" and garners tips from Hollywood filmmakers from
Brett Ratner to John Wells.
The executives, PR consultants, lawyers and media professors all seem
to be in on the joke about the movie — they could hardly ignore the
camera in their offices — but they spill the beans anyway. There is a
sense, although few in the industry say it, that product placement has
gotten seriously out of hand. Ralph Nader suggests the only way to
avoid advertising is to go to sleep. Then Spurlock entices him into an
involved discussion about Merrell Shoes. Yes, he does.
No one can quite find the line between a movie's hero legitimately
driving a luxury car and film and the embedding of products into story
development and character behavior. Spurlock certainly grabs all the
laughs this goldmine of comedy proffers even as he swills POM juice,
conducts interviews at Sheetz Convenience Stores and shops for the
musicians to promote themselves by writing the Greatest Movie theme
He then imagines his film is ready to open with sponsorships splashed
all over the movie's trailers, co-promotions and poster art. "He's not
sellout, he's buying in!" declare the posters. He appears on Jimmy
Kimmel Live in a suit plastered with corporate logos, the same suit he
wore following the film's Sundance premiere.
So don't tell Spurlock he can't have his cake and eat it too. In
Greatest Movie, he gleefully accepts his sponsorships on camera just
to show you how wrong this all is. And the sponsors dig it too:
They're getting exactly what they want.
Oh, and one more thing. After the film was shot, the Federal Trade
Commission filed a lawsuit against POM Wonderful for making false and
unsubstantiated claims for its product in advertising. You can bet
Morgan Spurlock appreciates the irony in that.
Wednesday, January 19, 2011
Whenever the U.S. Government wants to demonize a person or group in order to justify attacks on them, it follows the same playbook: it manufactures falsehoods about them, baselessly warns that they pose Grave Dangers and are severely harming our National Security, peppers all that with personality smears to render the targeted individuals repellent on a personal level, and feeds it all to the establishment American media, which then dutifully amplifies and mindlessly disseminates it all. That, of course, was the precise scheme that so easily led the U.S. into attacking Iraq; it's what continues to ensure support for the whole litany of War on Terror abuses and the bonanza of power and profit which accompanies them; and it's long been obvious that this is the primary means for generating contempt for WikiLeaks to enable its prosecution and ultimate destruction (an outcome the Pentagon has been plotting since at least 2008). (NY Times 18 Mar 2010)
When WikiLeaks in mid-2010 published documents detailing the brutality and corruption at the heart of the war in Afghanistan, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Michael Mullen, held a Press Conference and said of WikiLeaks (and then re-affirmed it on his Twitter account) that they "might already have on their hands the blood of some young soldier or that of an Afghan family." This denunciation predictably caused the phrase "blood on their hands" to be attached to WikiLeaks and its founder, Julian Assange, in thousands of media accounts around the world. But two weeks later, the Pentagon's spokesman, when pressed, was forced to admit that there was no evidence whatsoever for that accusation: "we have yet to see any harm come to anyone in Afghanistan that we can directly tie to exposure in the WikiLeaks documents," he admitted
Several months later, after more flamboyant government condemnations of WikiLeaks' release of thousands of Iraq War documents, McClatchy's Nancy Youssef -- in an article headlined: "Officials may be overstating the danger from WikiLeaks" -- reported that "U.S. officials concede that they have no evidence to date" that the disclosures resulted in the deaths of anyone, and she detailed the great care WikiLeaks took in that Iraq War release to protect innocent people.
The disclosure of American diplomatic cables triggered still more melodramatic claims from government officials (ones faithfully recited by its servants and followers across the spectrum in Washington), accusing WikiLeaks of everything from "attacking" the U.S. (Hillary Clinton) and "plac[ing] at risk the lives of countless innocent individuals" and "ongoing military operations" (Harold Koh) to being comparable to Terrorists (Joe Biden). But even Robert Gates was unwilling to lend his name to such absurdities, and when asked, mocked these accusations as "significantly overwrought" and said the WikiLeaks disclosures would be "embarrassing" and "awkward" but would have only "modest consequences."
Since then, it has become clear how scrupulously careful WikiLeaks has been in releasing these cables in order to avoid unnecessary harm to innocent people, as the Associated Press reported how closely WikiLeaks was collaborating with its newspaper partners in deciding which cables to release and what redactions were necessary. Indeed, one of the very few documents which anyone has been able to claim has produced any harm -- one revealing that the leader of Zimbabwe's opposition privately urged U.S. officials to continue imposing sanctions on his country -- was actually released by The Guardian, not by WikiLeaks.
To say that the US Obama administration's campaign against WikiLeaks has been based on wildly exaggerated and even false claims is to understate the case. But now, there is evidence that Obama officials have been knowingly lying in public about these matters. The long-time Newsweek reporter Mark Hosenball -- now at Reuters -- reports that what US officials are saying in private about WikiLeaks directly contradicts their public claims:
A congressional official briefed on the reviews said the administration felt compelled to say publicly that the revelations had seriously damaged American interests in order to bolster legal efforts to shut down the WikiLeaks website and bring charges against the leakers. . . .
"We were told (the impact of WikiLeaks revelations) was embarrassing but not damaging," said the official, who attended a briefing given in late 2010 by State Department officials. . .
But current and former intelligence officials note that while WikiLeaks has released a handful of inconsequential CIA analytical reports, the website has made public few if any real intelligence secrets, including reports from undercover agents or ultra-sensitive technical intelligence reports, such as spy satellite pictures or communications intercepts. . . .
National security officials familiar with the damage assessments being conducted by defense and intelligence agencies told Reuters the reviews so far have shown "pockets" of short-term damage, some of it potentially harmful. Long-term damage to U.S. intelligence and defense operations, however, is unlikely to be serious, they said. . . .
Shortly before WikiLeaks began its gradual release of State Department cables last year, department officials sent emails to contacts on Capitol Hill predicting dire consequences, said one of the two congressional aides briefed on the internal government reviews.
However, shortly after stories about the cables first began to appear in the media, State Department officials were already privately playing down the damage, the two congressional officials said.
The only specific cases anyone could identify were ones where the U.S. was caught by these documents lying to its own citizens or, at best, concealing vital truths -- such as the far greater military role the U.S. is playing in Yemen and Pakistan than Obama officials have publicly acknowledged.
And this, of course, has been the point all along: the WikiLeaks disclosures are significant precisely because they expose government deceit, wrongdoing and brutality, but the damage to innocent people has been deliberately and wildly exaggerated -- fabricated -- by the very people whose misconduct has been revealed. There is harm from the WikiLeaks documents, but it's to wrongdoers in power, which is why they are so desperate to malign and then destroy the group.
Just as was true in 2003 -- when the joint, falsehood-based government/media demonization campaign led 69% of Americans to believe that Saddam Hussein participated in the planning of the 9/11 attacks (the Bush era's most revealing fact about American politics) -- this orgy of anti-WikiLeaks propaganda has succeeded, with polls reliably showing the American public largely against the group and even favoring its prosecution (citizens in countries not subjected to this propaganda barrage view the group far more favorably). As has been demonstrated over and over, when the U.S. Government and its media collaborate to propagandize, its efficacy is not in doubt.
The case against WikiLeaks is absolutely this decade's version of the Saddam/WMD campaign. It's complete with frivolous invocations of Terrorism, grave public warnings about National Security negated by concealed information, endlessly repeated falsehoods, a competition among political and media elites to advocate the harshest measures possible, a cowardly Congress that (with a few noble exceptions) acquiesces to it all on a bipartisan basis and is eager to enable it, and a media that not only fails to subject these fictions to critical scrutiny, but does the opposite: it takes the lead in propagating them. One might express bewilderment that most American journalists never learn their lesson about placing their blind faith in government claims, but that assumes -- falsely -- that their objective is to report truthfully.
UPDATE: Kevin Drum, Dan Drezner and Daniel Larison all cite this report as evidence that the WikiLeaks disclosures have been insignificant. They seem to equate a finding of "no harm to national security" with "nothing of significance," but not only are those two concepts not the same, they're hardly related. Many revelations are very significant even though they do not harm national security.
When The New York Times revealed that the Bush administration was eavesdropping on Americans' communications without the warrants required by law, that revelation was extremely important even though it entailed no national security harm. The same is true of The Washington Post's exposure of the CIA "black site" program, or David Barstow's exposé on the Pentagon's propaganda program, and countless other investigative reports. The WikiLeaks disclosures -- like most good investigative journalism -- harm those in power who do bad things (by exposing their previously secret conduct), but do not harm the national security of the United States. I'd be interested in hearing anyone who wants to argue that the WikiLeaks disclosures contain "nothing new" dismiss the actual revelations (here and here).
As for the comparison of this deceit to Saddam/WMD: obviously, the magnitude of the consequences are not similar, but the misleading tactics themselves -- for the reasons I enumerated -- are. Moreover, prosecution of WikiLeaks would hardly be inconsequential; it would likely be the first time in history that a non-government employee is convicted of "espionage" for publishing government secrets and, as such, would constitute one of the greatest threats to press freedom in the United States in a long time.