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Member since: Fri Sep 28, 2007, 04:39 PM
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Why American Exceptionalism Is a Dangerous Sham

Why American Exceptionalism Is a Dangerous Sham
Perhaps we're not the hero of every story and God has not blessed us over all others.
The American Prospect via Alternet * By Paul Waldman * September 18, 2013

In a democracy, politicians seldom counsel the public to be modest. They flatter and praise the voters, telling them that they are just and wise, hardworking and principled, possessed of boundless vision and common sense. And here in America at least, they also generalize those virtues from the people to the nation itself. America, Americans are endlessly reassured, is unique and special among the world's countries. It isn't just that we're the most important country, which is undeniable, since we have the biggest economy, the biggest (and most frequently deployed) military, and the most influential popular culture. Those things could change someday. Instead, what voters are told over and over again is that we're "exceptional." We're not just stronger or richer; we're better. Indeed, we're stronger and richer because we're better. And we may well be exceptional in how often we're told that we're exceptional. My knowledge of the electoral politics of other nations may be limited, but I don't recall hearing about presidential candidates in Portugal or Peru who feel the need to convince voters that their country is superior to all others and they are the world's best people.

So some people were taken aback last week when Vladimir Putin, in his op-ed inThe New York Times last week, took exception to Barack Obama's talk of exceptionalism. "I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States' policy is 'what makes America different. It's what makes us exceptional,'" Putin wrote. "It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation." He probably didn't realize that every American president says that sort of thing; it's our national program to build self-esteem. That's how politicians put a gold star sticker on our papers, pat us the head and tell us that we're smart and kind and good-looking, and if the other countries don't like us then that's their problem, not ours.

It was a bit amusing to see Barack Obama being chastised by Putin for his comments on American exceptionalism, since it put conservatives in the uncomfortable position of defending the president for the very thing they spent so much time criticizing him for in the past. It seems like a distant memory now, but Republicans spent most of their 2012 presidential primary competing to see who was most appalled by Obama's allegedly insufficient belief in America's uniqueness. There was barely a Republican contender's stump speech that didn't feature thunderous insistence that, unlike that anti-American socialist in the White House, they knew deep in their red, white, and blue bones that this great land stands alone. Mitt Romney titled his book No Apology: The Case for American Greatness; Newt Gingrich offered A Nation Like No Other: Why American Exceptionalism Matters. "America is different," wrote Tim Pawlenty in his book. "And what makes us different makes us great. Barack Obama doesn't see it that way." Or as Sarah Palin put it in her inspiring tome America By Heart: Reflections on Family, Faith, and Flag, Obama "seems to see nothing admirable in the American experience."


US & Russia Reach Deal on Syria's Chemical Weapons (US still holds to possibility of military force)

US, Russia Reach Deal on Syria's Chemical Weapons
Despite agreement, US still holds to possibility of military force

Saturday, September 14, 2013 * Common Dreams * Andrea Germanos, staff writer

The U.S. and Russia reached a deal on a process to remove or destroy Syria's chemical weapons by mid-2014, officials for the two countries announced in Geneva on Saturday.

After a third day of talks, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov outlined the details of the deal, including a condition that Syria must provide a comprehensive list of its chemical weapons stockpiles within a week.

Kerry told reporters, "I have no doubt that the combination of the threat of force and the willingness to pursue diplomacy helped to bring us to this moment."

Echoing Kerry, President Obama said on Saturday, "This this plan emerged only with a credible threat of U.S. military action."

However, as Howard Friel and Noam Chomsky have pointed out, the threats of force against Syria the U.S. has issued are illegal.

Obama also emphasized that the deal did not mean that the possibility of force was off the table. "We will maintain our military posture in the region to keep the pressure on the Assad regime," he said. "If diplomacy fails, the United States and the international community must remain prepared to act."

The "Framework for Elimination of Syrian Chemical Weapons" released by the State Department on Saturday states, in part:

In furtherance of the objective to eliminate the Syrian chemical weapons program, the United States and the Russian Federation have reached a shared assessment of the amount and type of chemical weapons involved, and are committed to the immediate international control over chemical weapons and their components in Syria. The United States and the Russian Federation expect Syria to submit, within a week, a comprehensive listing, including names, types, and quantities of its chemical weapons agents, types of munitions, and location and form of storage, production, and research and development facilities.

We further determined that the most effective control of these weapons may be achieved by removal of the largest amounts of weapons feasible, under OPCW [Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical] supervision, and their destruction outside of Syria, if possible. We set ambitious goals for the removal and destruction of all categories of CW related materials and equipment with the objective of completing such removal and destruction in the first half of 2014. In addition to chemical weapons, stocks of chemical weapons agents, their precursors, specialized CW equipment, and CW munitions themselves, the elimination process must include the facilities for the development and production of these weapons. The views of both sides in this regard are set forth in Annex B.

The United States and the Russian Federation have further decided that to achieve accountability for their chemical weapons, the Syrians must provide the OPCW, the UN, and other supporting personnel with the immediate and unfettered right to inspect any and all sites in Syria. The extraordinary procedures to be proposed by the United States and the Russian Federation for adoption by the OPCW Executive Council and reinforced by a UN Security Council resolution, as described above, should include a mechanism to ensure this right.

MORE: http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/09/14

(This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License)

The Roots of Terror: Hiroshima, Viet Nam & Other US Military Misadventures.

The Silent Military Coup That Took Over Washington
This time it's Syria, last time it was Iraq. Obama chose to accept the entire Pentagon of the Bush era: its wars and war crimes
Wednesday, September 11, 2013 * The Guardian/UK * by John Pilger

On my wall is the Daily Express front page of September 5 1945 and the words: "I write this as a warning to the world." So began Wilfred Burchett's report from Hiroshima. It was the scoop of the century. For his lone, perilous journey that defied the US occupation authorities, Burchett was pilloried, not least by his embedded colleagues. He warned that an act of premeditated mass murder on an epic scale had launched a new era of terror.

Almost every day now, he is vindicated. The intrinsic criminality of the atomic bombing is borne out in the US National Archives and by the subsequent decades of militarism camouflaged as democracy. The Syria psychodrama exemplifies this. Yet again we are held hostage by the prospect of a terrorism whose nature and history even the most liberal critics still deny. The great unmentionable is that humanity's most dangerous enemy resides across the Atlantic.

John Kerry's farce and Barack Obama's pirouettes are temporary. Russia's peace deal over chemical weapons will, in time, be treated with the contempt that all militarists reserve for diplomacy. With al-Qaida now among its allies, and US-armed coupmasters secure in Cairo, the US intends to crush the last independent states in the Middle East: Syria first, then Iran. "This operation [in Syria]," said the former French foreign minister Roland Dumas in June, "goes way back. It was prepared, pre-conceived and planned."

When the public is "psychologically scarred", as the Channel 4 reporter Jonathan Rugman described the British people's overwhelming hostility to an attack on Syria, suppressing the truth is made urgent. Whether or not Bashar al-Assad or the "rebels" used gas in the suburbs of Damascus, it is the US, not Syria, that is the world's most prolific user of these terrible weapons.

In 1970 the Senate reported: "The US has dumped on Vietnam a quantity of toxic chemical (dioxin) amounting to six pounds per head of population." This was Operation Hades, later renamed the friendlier Operation Ranch Hand – the source of what Vietnamese doctors call a "cycle of foetal catastrophe". I have seen generations of children with their familiar, monstrous deformities. John Kerry, with his own blood-soaked war record, will remember them. I have seen them in Iraq too, where the US used depleted uranium and white phosphorus, as did the Israelis in Gaza. No Obama "red line" for them. No showdown psychodrama for them.


NYTimes Newsfeed: Freed Captives (of Syrian Rebel Forces) Differ on Claim Rebels Framed Assad

Freed Captives Differ on Claim Rebels Framed Assad
The Italian war correspondent Domenico Quirico, who reported sympathetically on the uprising in Syria before being taken hostage in April by rebel fighters, told reporters on Monday after his release that two years of bloody, armed conflict had changed the nature of the rebellion. “I was a hostage in Syria, betrayed by the revolution that no longer exists and has become fanaticism and the work of bandits,” he said.

Mr. Quirico, a veteran reporter, added, “It is not the revolution that I encountered two years ago in Aleppo — secular, tolerant. It has become something else,” in remarks published by his newspaper, the Turin daily La Stampa.

La Stampa also published video of Mr. Quirico’s emotional return to his newsroom and an English translation of his statement taking issue with part of an account given by a fellow captive, the Belgian academic Pierre Piccinin. As the Belgian newspaper Le Soir reported, Mr. Piccinin said in a television interview on Monday, after he too returned home, that “it was not the government of Bashar al-Assad that used sarin or some other gas during combat in the Damascus suburbs” last month.

According to Mr. Piccinin — who described himself as a previously “fierce supporter of the Free Syrian Army in their just struggle for democracy” — at one stage during their captivity, he and Mr. Quirico overheard rebels saying that the deadly gas attacks last month had been carried out by anti-Assad forces to frame the government and provoke intervention.

Mr. Quirico confirmed the incident but disagreed sharply with Mr. Piccinin on what it meant. “We heard some people we didn’t know talking through a half-closed door,” he said. “It’s impossible to know whether what was said was based on real fact or just hearsay.”

According to La Stampa, Mr. Quirico called it “madness” to say that the overheard conversation was definitive proof of a rebel plot.

“During our kidnapping, we were kept completely in the dark about what was going on in Syria, including the gas attacks in Damascus,” Quirico said. “But one day, we heard a Skype conversation in English between three people whose names I do not know. We heard the conversation from the room in which we were being held captive, through a half-closed door. One of them had previously presented himself to us as a general of the Syrian Liberation Army. The other two we had never seen and knew nothing about.”

“During the Skype conversation, they said that the gas attack on the two neighborhoods in Damascus had been carried out by rebels as a provocation, to push the West towards a military intervention. They also said they believed the death toll had been exaggerated,” Quirico said in his statement.

“I don’t know if any of this is true and I cannot say for sure that it is true because I have no means of confirming the truth of what was said. I don’t know how reliable this information is and cannot confirm the identity of these people. I am in no position to say for sure whether this conversation is based on real fact or just hearsay and I don’t usually call conversations I have heard through a door, true,” Quirico said.

“You must bear in mind the conditions in which we were; we were prisoners and heard things through doors. I have nothing to judge whether the things that were said are true or not. I am used to checking my facts before I speak and confirm something as true. In this case I was unable to check anything. It is madness to say I knew it wasn’t Assad who used gas.”


"Live" Minute-by-minute Updates on Syria Situation Here via The Guardian


Guardian Washington bureau chief Dan Roberts and national security editor Spencer Ackerman are reporting out a stranger-than-usual day in the national capital:

16m ago
Hillary Clinton is speaking on Syria as prelude to her comments at a forum on illegal wildlife trafficking, where she is appearing with her daughter, Chelsea.

Clinton is taking the Russian proposal very seriously.

She starts rather weakly:

"A vigorous and important debate is under way in Congress and around kitchen tables," Clinton says. This "challenge catalyzed the kind of debate that I think is good for our democracy."

Then Clinton shifts, referring to the "fluid situation in the last several hours." She says she just spoke with president Obama about Syria.

She has three points:

1) Assad action "demands strong response from the international community.

2) International community cannot ignore ongoing threat from Assad's chemical weapons stockpiles. "This is about protecting the Syrian people... and our friends in the regions... If the regime immediately surrendered its stockpiles to international control... that would be an important step. But this cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction.

This discussion only could take place in the context of a credible military threat by the United States.

3) the broader conflict in Syria is a threat to regional stability of our allies and partners... as well as a humanitarian catastrophe. She mentions 2m refugees.

Then, abruptly, she shifts to illegal wildlife trafficking.

Updated 9m ago
27m ago

Here's a summary of where things stand:

• The White House says it is taking a "hard look" at a Russian proposal for Syrian president Bashar Assad to place his chemical weapons arsenal under international control and then destroy them.

• However Obama administration officials said that the proposal amounts so far only to talk, that Damascus and Moscow have a dismal track record and that the proposal may be a "stalling tactic."

• Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov made the proposal, subsequently welcomed by the Syrian foreign minister, after US secretary of state John Kerry said Monday morning that Assad could resolve the crisis by surrendering control of "every single bit" of his arsenal to the international community by the end of the week.

• The US state department soon retracted Kerry's statement, calling it a "rhetorical argument" [sic]. A spokeswoman later called Kerry's remarks "rhetorical and hypothetical."

• At least 49 people have died from violence in Syria on Monday, including 25 in Damascus and environs, according to the Local Coordination Committees activist group.

• The White House continued its aggressive push to win congressional support for US strikes on Syria. National security adviser Susan Rice said the chemical attacks in Syria are a "serious threat to our national security" including to "citizens at home."

• US popular support for military strikes on Syria continues to fluctuate between nonexistent and anemic according to polls.

• Clips from President Barack Obama's interviews with the major US cable and network TV outlets were to air at 6pm ET. Syrian president Bashar Assad sought to address the American people in an interview with Charlie Rose (transcript) in which he denied using chemical weapons. "The first question that they should ask themself, what do wars give America?" Assad said.

After Syria Accepts, US says Offer to Call Off War 'Rhetorical'

After Syria Accepts, US says Offer to Call Off War 'Rhetorical'
John Kerry says Assad has one week to turn over weapons as Assad speaks to U.S. audience warning of dangerous consequences for its involvement
Common Dreams * Jon Queally, staff writer * Sept. 9, 2013

Update (12:30 PM):

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry was for Syria giving up control of its chemical weapons before he was against it.

Jumping on comments made by Kerry earlier in the day (see below), Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov backed the idea of having the Syrian government hand over control of its chemical weapons stock piles to a team of international monitors.

"We do not know whether Syria will agree to this, but if the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in that country will avoid strikes, we will immediately begin working with Damascus,” Lavrov said. “We call on the Syrian leadership not only to agree on a statement of storage of chemical weapons under international supervision, but also to their subsequent destruction.”

Following Russia's offer, however, the U.S. State Department immediately backtracked, with spokeswomen Jennifer Psaki saying that Kerry's earlier comments were only meant to make a “rhetorical” point about the unlikelihood of Assad ever bending to international pressure.

But, as Agence France-Presse and Reuters both tweeted shortly after Lavrov's proposal went public, the Syrians seem very keen to the idea of a negotiated settlement over their chemical weapons:

It remains to be seen how these latest developments will play out as official statements from all parties have yet to surface.

In the immediate term, however, what is striking so far is the speed with which the U.S. seems to have tried to close the door on the possibility of a coordinated resolution despite the fact a) it was their idea in the first b) it would ostensibly end the need for a war the American people clearly don't want and c) it would represent the kind of "political solution" that nearly everyone agrees is the only way to end the violence and bloodshed in Syria.

Forbes: The 147 Companies That Control Everything

The 147 Companies That Control Everything
by Bruce Upbin, Forbes Staff Writer * Forbes Magazine * Sept. 7, 2013

Three systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have taken a database listing 37 million companies and investors worldwide and analyzed all 43,060 transnational corporations and share ownerships linking them. They built a model of who owns what and what their revenues are and mapped the whole edifice of economic power.

They discovered that global corporate control has a distinct bow-tie shape, with a dominant core of 147 firms radiating out from the middle. Each of these 147 own interlocking stakes of one another and together they control 40% of the wealth in the network. A total of 737 control 80% of it all. The top 20 are at the bottom of the pos. This is, say the paper’s authors, the first map of the structure of global corporate control.

The #occupy movement will eat this up as evidence for massive redistribution of wealth. The New Scientist talked to one systems theorist who is “disconcerted” at the level of interconnectedness, but not surprised. Such structures occur commonly in biology, things like fungus, lichen and weeds. Economists say the danger comes when you combine hyperconnection with the concentration of power. The Swiss scientists warn that this can lead to an unstable environment. No Scheisse, Sherlock.

But the web of corporate control is not de facto a conspiracy of world domination. There are many reasons for tightly bundled nodes and connections: anti-takeover strategies, reduction of transaction costs, risk sharing, increasing trust and groups of interest.

A few caveats with the data set: It excludes GSEs and privately-held companies and is dominated by banks, institutional investors and mutual funds that don’t always have much in the way of control over assets. Reader danogden left an especially good comment below: “…pension plans, corporate 401(k) plans and individual funds..manage trillions in assets ultimately belonging to individuals who are predominantly not in the “1%”. …There are a number of “custodian banks” in the list — companies who hold the assets of asset managers to ensure timely processing of things like foreign dividend and bond interest, name changes (due to mergers, etc.), foreign currency conversion and the like…Again, they do not own the assets, or even really control the assets — they merely house the assets. A better list would be the actual asset OWNERS, rather than the vendors who manage, house and clear said assets.”


The Top Fifty Corporate Owners

1. Barclays plc
2. Capital Group Companies Inc
3. FMR Corporation
4. AXA
5. State Street Corporation
6. JP Morgan Chase & Co
7. Legal & General Group plc
8. Vanguard Group Inc
10. Merrill Lynch & Co Inc
11. Wellington Management Co LLP
12. Deutsche Bank AG
13. Franklin Resources Inc
14. Credit Suisse Group
15. Walton Enterprises LLC (holding company for Wal-Mart heirs)
16. Bank of New York Mellon Corp
17. Natixis
18. Goldman Sachs Group Inc
19. T Rowe Price Group Inc
20. Legg Mason Inc

3 Simple Questions/3 Answers: The USA has no moral standing to lecture or attack Syria re: CWs

Q: Is Depleted Uranium (DU) considered to be a chemical weapon? A: YES.

Q: Is white phosphorus considered to be a chemical weapon? A: YES.

Q: Does the US Military routinely use DU -- and occasionally use white phosphorus -- on our ME battlefields? A: YES.

So I submit to you that the US has absolutely NO moral standing to be lecturing -- much less bombing -- Syria about the chemical weapons recently used on Syrian civilians. We've compromised our "moral authority" into the toilet of MIC greed & avarice.

Optional Reading: And this is ESPECIALLY true, since we are not even certain HOW this CW attack happened. Instead, we’re told the US intel is “classified”. So they are saying “trust us, Assad did it”. Really? Trust us? Trust us, despite the evidence or lack thereof? Trust us, that this was NOT a false flag (by Saudi/Mossad/CarlyleIA) designed to gin-up the MIC/war-machinery/lobbyists & M$M propaganda factories to reflexively launch a US missile attack on Assad?

Please forgive me for not falling in line to "trust" official appearances.

Perhaps there's an important "Upside" re: Obama's Syrian Death Wish

Is there any way to snap Obama out of this war trance?

As if things weren't bad enough a few years ago, with the endless ME wars dragging on, letting war criminals run free, Gitmo still open, Seigelman still in prison, etc. But then on top of all that we got the Manning/Snowden memos about torture and other war crimes, corruption with corporate subcontractors, the NSA bombshell opening a whole new vistas of citizen-abuse via our new draconian surveillance & security state.

And now, as if THAT weren't bad enough, NOW WE HAVE BOMBING SYRIA on Obama's To Do List?

Why in God/dess' name is he doing this to his "legacy"?

Why is he doing this to his country? He's gone completely off the rails.


I think it's possible that what it happening really, is we are in beginning stages of re-birthing a whole new ground-up grassroots solidarity, broadly reaching across isles, across numerous ideologies, across an array of sectors of US society, and strains of humanity everywhere, and all these strands are all saying pretty much the same thing:

"Hell no. We will not be bullied into another bloody pointless war again... not ever again".

This may be the start of something big.

Masters of War

The audio is by Dylan, from a recent live performance. And the video montage is awesome.

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