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World Economic Forum 2015: Global Governance In a World of Resistance

World Economic Forum 2015: Global Governance In a World of Resistance

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

26 January 2015

Originally posted at Occupy.com and the Transnational Institute

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This article and its accompanying infographic have been jointly published by the Transnational Institute and Occupy.com.

The annual meetings of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, bring together thousands of the world’s top corporate executives, bankers and financiers with leading heads of state, finance and trade ministers, central bankers and policymakers from dozens of the world’s largest economies; the heads of all major international organizations including the IMF, World Bank, World Trade Organization, Bank for International Settlements, UN, OECD and others, as well as hundreds of academics, economists, political scientists, journalists, cultural elites and occasional celebrities.

The WEF states that it is “committed to improving the state of the world through public-private cooperation,” collaborating with corporate, political, academic and other influential groups and sectors “to shape global, regional and industry agendas” and to “define challenges, solutions and actions.” Apart from the annual forum meeting in Davos, the WEF hosts regional and sometimes even country-specific meetings multiple times a year in Asia, Latin America, Africa and elsewhere. The Forum is host to dozens of different projects bringing together academics with corporate representatives and policy-makers to promote particular issues and positions on a wide array of subjects, from investment to the environment, employment, technology and inequality. From these projects and others, the Forum publishes dozens of reports annually, identifying key issues of importance, risks, opportunities, investments and reforms.

The WEF has survived by adapting to the times. Following the surge of so-called anti-globalization protests in 1999, the Forum began to invite non-governmental organizations representing constituencies that were more frequently found in the streets protesting against meetings of the WTO, IMF and Group of Seven. In the 2000 meeting at Davos, the Forum invited leaders from 15 NGOs to debate the heads of the WTO and the President of Mexico on the subject of globalization. The participation of NGOs and non-profit organizations has increased over time, and not without reason. According to a poll conducted on behalf of the WEF just prior to the 2011 meeting, while global trust in bankers, governments and business was significantly low, NGOs had the highest rate of trust among the public.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last September, the founder and executive chairman of the WEF, Klaus Schwab, was asked about the prospects of “youth frustration over high levels of underemployment and unemployment” as expressed in the Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street movements, noting that the Forum was frequently criticized for promoting policies and ideologies that contribute to those very problems. Schwab replied that the Forum tries “to have everybody in the boat.” Davos, he explained, “is about heads of state and big corporations, but it’s also civil society – so all of the heads of the major NGOs are at the table in Davos.” In reaction to the Occupy Wall Street movement, Schwab said, “We also try… to put more emphasis on integrating the youth into what we are doing.”

So, what exactly has the World Economic Forum been doing, and how did it emerge in the first place?

It began in 1971 as the European Management Forum, inviting roughly 400 of Europe’s top CEOs to promote American forms of business management. Created by Schwab, a Swiss national who studied in the U.S. and who still heads the event today, the Forum changed its name in 1987 to the World Economic Forum after growing into an annual get together of global elites who promoted and profited off of the expansion of “global markets.” It is the gathering place for the titans of corporate and financial power.

Despite the globalizing economy, politics at the Forum have remained surprisingly national. The annual meetings are a means to promote social connections between key global power players and national leaders along with the plutocratic class of corporate and financial oligarchs. The WEF has been a consistent forum for advanced “networking” and deal-making between companies, occasional geopolitical announcements and agreements, and for the promotion of “global governance” in a world governed of global markets.

Writing in the Financial Times, Gideon Rachman noted that more than anything else, “the true significance of the World Economic Forum lies in the realm of ideas and ideology,” noting that it was where the world’s leaders gathered “to set aside their differences and to speak a common language… they restate their commitment to a single, global economy and to the capitalist values that underpin it.” This reflected the “globalization consensus” which was embraced not simply by the powerful Group of Seven nations, but by many of the prominent emerging markets such as China, Russia, India and Brazil.

Indeed, the World Economic Forum’s main purpose is to function as a socializing institution for the emerging global elite, globalization’s “Mafiocracy” of bankers, industrialists, oligarchs, technocrats and politicians. They promote common ideas, and serve common interests: their own.

Geopolitics, Global Governance and the Arrival of the “Davos Class”

The World Economic Forum has been shaped by – and has in turn, shaped – the course and changes in geopolitics, or “world order,” over the past several decades. Created amidst the rise of West Germany and Japan as prominent economic powers competing with the United States, the oil shocks of the 1970s also produced immense new powers for the Arab oil dictatorships and the large global banks that recycled that oil money, loaning it to Third World countries.

New forums for “global governance” began to emerge, such as the meetings of the Group of Seven: the heads of state, finance ministers and central bank governors of the seven leading industrial powers including the U.S., West Germany, Japan, U.K., France, Italy and Canada, starting in 1975. When the debt crisis of the 1980s hit, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank achieved immense new powers over entire economies and regions, reshaping the structure of societies to promote “market economies” and advance the interests of domestic and international corporate and financial oligarchs.

Between 1989 and 1991, the global power structure changed dramatically with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Soviet Union. With that came President George H.W. Bush’s announcement of a “New World Order” in which America claimed “victory” in the Cold War, and a unipolar world took shape under the hegemony of the United States. The ideological war between the West and the Soviet Union was declared victorious in favor of Western Capitalist Democracy. The “market system” was to become globalized as never before, especially under the presidency of Bill Clinton who led the U.S. during its largest ever economic expansion between 1993 and 2001.

During this time, the annual meetings of the World Economic Forum became more important than ever, and the role of the WEF in establishing a “Davos Class” became widely acknowledged. At the 1990 meeting, the focus was on Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union’s transition to “market-oriented economies.” Political leaders from Eastern Europe and Western Europe met in private meetings, with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl articulating his desire to reunify Germany and cement Germany’s growing power within the European Community and NATO.

Helmut Kohl laid out his strategy for shaping the “security and economic structure of Europe” within a unified Germany. Kohl’s “grand design” for Europe envisioned a unified Germany as being “firmly anchored” in the expanding European Community, the main objective of which was to establish an “internal market” by 1992 and to advance toward an economic and monetary union, with potential to expand eastward. Kohl presented this as a peaceful way for German power to grow while assuaging fears of Eastern Europeans and others about the economically resurgent country at the heart of Europe.

At the 1992 WEF meeting, the United States and reunified Germany encouraged “drastic steps to insure a liberalization of world trade,” and furthered efforts to support the growth of market economies in Eastern Europe. The German Economics Minister called for the Group of Seven to meet and restart global trade talks through the 105-nation General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT). At that same meeting, the Chinese delegation included Prime Minister Li Peng, who was the highest-level Chinese official to travel internationally since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown.

Of great significance also was the attendance of Nelson Mandela, the new president of South Africa. When Mandela was released from prison in 1990, he declared the policy of the African National Congress (ANC) was to implement “the nationalization of the mines, banks and monopoly industries.” When Mandela attended the January 1992 meeting of the WEF just after becoming president, he changed his views and embraced “capitalism and globalization.” Mandela attended the meeting alongside the governor of the central bank of South Africa, Tito Mboweni, who explained that Mandela arrived with a speech written by ANC officials focusing on nationalization. As the week’s meetings continued, Mandela met with leaders from Communist Parties in China and Vietnam, who told him, “We are currently striving to privatize state enterprises and invite private enterprise into our economies. We are Communist Party governments, and you are a leader of a national liberation movement. Why are you talking about nationalization?”

As a result, Mandela changed his views, telling the Davos crowd that he would open South Africa up as a market economy and encourage investment. South Africa subsequently became the continent’s fastest growing economy, though inequality today is greater than it was during apartheid. As Mandela explained to his official biographer, he came home from the 1992 WEF meeting and told other top officials that they had to choose: “We either keep nationalization and get no investment, or we modify our own attitude and get investment.”

At the 1993 meeting, the main consensus that had emerged called for the U.S. to maintain its position as a global economic and military power, and for it to take the lead encouraging greater “co-operation” between powerful nations. The major fear among Davos participants was that while economies were becoming globalized, politics was turning inward and becoming “renationalized.”

Later that year, Anthony Lake, Bill Clinton’s National Security Adviser, articulated the “Clinton Doctrine” for the world, explaining: “The successor to a doctrine of containment must be a strategy of enlargement – enlargement of the world’s free community of market democracies.” Lake explained that the United States “must combine our broad goals of fostering democracy and markets with our more traditional geostrategic interests.” No doubt, the Davos crowd welcomed such news.

At the 1994 meeting, the director-general of GATT, Peter D. Sutherland, declared that world leaders needed to establish “a new high-level forum for international economic co-operation,” moving beyond the Group of Seven to become more inclusive of the major “emerging market” economies. Sutherland told the assembled plutocrats that “we cannot continue with the majority of the world’s people excluded from participation in global economic management.” Eventually, the organization Sutherland described was formed, as the Group of 20, bringing the leading 20 industrial and economic powers together in one setting. Formed in 1999, the G20 didn’t become a major forum for global governance until the 2008 financial crisis.

In 1995, the Financial Times noted that the new “buzzword” for international policymakers was “global governance,” articulating a desire and strategy for updating and expanding the institutions and efforts of international co-operation. The January 1995 World Economic Forum meeting was the venue for the presentation of an official UN report on global governance. President Clinton addressed the Davos crowd by satellite, stressing that he would continue to push for the construction of a new “economic architecture,” notably at meetings of the Group of Seven.

In 1997, the highly influential U.S. political scientist Samuel Huntington coined the term “Davos Man,” which he described as a group of elite individuals who “have little need for national loyalty, view national boundaries as obstacles that are thankfully vanishing, and see national governments as residues from the past whose only useful function is to facilitate the elite’s global operations.” An article that year in The Economist came to the defense of the “Davos Man,” declaring that he was replacing traditional diplomacy which was “more likely to bring peoples together than to force them apart,” noting that the WEF was “paid for by companies and run in their interests.”

Samuel Huntington presented a thesis, summarized in a 1997 Financial Times article, that outlined a world that “would be divided into spheres of influence,” within which “one or two core states would rule the roost.” Huntington noted that the “Davos culture people,” while extremely powerful, were only a tiny fraction of the world’s population, and the leaders of this faction “do not necessarily have a secure grip on power in their own societies.” The Financial Times, however, noted that while the “Davos culture people” did not constitute a “universal civilization” being such a tiny minority of the world’s population, “they could be the vanguard of one.”

Russian Oligarchs and the Rise of China

In fact, at the previous year’s meeting in Davos, the World Economic Forum functioned precisely as the vanguard for seven Russian oligarchs to take control of Russia and shape its future. At the 1996 meeting of the WEF, the Russian delegation was made up largely of the country’s new oligarchs who had amassed great fortunes in the transition to a market economy. Their great worry was that Russian President Boris Yeltsin would lose his re-election later that year to the resurgence of the Communists. At the WEF meeting, seven Russian oligarchs, led by Boris Berezovsky, formed an alliance during private meetings, where they decided to fund Yeltsin’s re-election and work together to “reshape their country’s future.” This alliance (or cartel, as some may refer to it), was the key to Yeltsin’s re-election victory later that year, as they held weekly meetings with Yeltsin’s chief of staff, Anatoly Chubais, the architect of Russia’s privatization program that made them all so rich.

Berezovsky explained that if the oligarchs did not work together to promote common ends, it would be impossible to have a transition to a market economy “automatically.” Instead, he explained, “We need to use all our power to realize this transformation.” As the Financial Times noted, the oligarchs “assembled a remarkable political machine to entrench and promote the market economy – as well as their own financial interests,” as the seven men collectively controlled roughly half the entire Russian economy.

Anatoly Chubais commented on this development and the role of the oligarchs, saying: “They steal and steal and steal. They are stealing absolutely everything and it is impossible to stop them… But let them steal and take their property. They will then become owners and decent administrators of this property.”

In the 1990s, with the spread of global markets came the spread of major financial crises: in Mexico, across Africa, East Asia, Russia and then back to Latin America. At the WEF meeting in 1999, the key issue was “reform of the international financial system.” As the economic crises spread, the Group of Seven nations, and the Davos Class, told the countries in crisis that in order “to restore confidence [of the markets], they should adopt politically unpopular policies of radical structural reform,” promoting further liberalization and deregulation of markets to open themselves up to Western corporate and financial interests and ‘investment.’

The major emerging markets have been frequent participants in annual Davos meetings, providing a forum in which national elites may become acquainted with the global ruling class, with whom they then cooperate and do business. China has been a major feature at Davos meetings. China started sending more high-level delegations to the WEF in the mid-1980s. During the 2009 meeting, two prominent speakers were President Putin of Russia and the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. Both leaders painted a picture of the crisis as emanating from the centers of finance and globalization in the United States and elsewhere, with the “blind pursuit of profit” and “the failure of financial supervision” – in Wen’s words – and bringing about what Putin described as a “perfect storm.” Both Wen and Putin, however, declared their intentions to work with the major industrial powers “on solving common economic problems.”

In 2010, China’s presence at Davos was a significant one. Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who attended the previous year, was not to return. In his stead, his chosen successor, Li Keqiang, attended. China’s economy was performing better than expected as its government was coming under increases pressure from major global corporations.

Kristin Forbes, a former member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers and an attendee at Davos, commented, “China is the West’s greatest hope and greatest fear… No one was quite ready for how fast China has emerged… Now everyone is trying to understand what sort of China they will be dealing with.” China sent its largest delegation to date to the World Economic Forum, with a total of 54 executives and government officials, many of whom were intending to “go shopping” for clients among the world’s elite.

Li Keqiang, the future Chinese prime minister, told the Davos audience that China was going to shift from its previous focus on exports and turn to “boosting domestic demand,” which would “not only drive growth in China but also provide greater markets for the world.” Li explained that China would “allow the market to play a primary role in the allocation of resources.”

In 2011, The New York Times declared that the World Economic Forum represented “the emergence of an international economic elite” that took place at the same time as unprecedented increases in inequality between the rich and poor, particularly in the powerful countries but also in the fast-emerging economies. Chrystia Freeland wrote that “the rise of government-connected plutocrats is not just a phenomenon in places like Russia, India and China,” but that the major Western bailouts reflected what the former chief economist at the IMF, Simon Johnson, referred to as a “quiet coup” by bankers in the United States and elsewhere.

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Davos and the Financial Oligarchy

The power of global finance – and in particular, banks and oligarchs – has grown with each successive financial crisis. As the financial crisis tore through the world in 2008, the January 2009 meeting of the World Economic Forum featured less of the Wall Street titans and more top politicians. Schwab declared, “The pendulum has swung and power has moved back to governments,” adding that “this is the biggest economic crisis since Davos began.” Goldman Sachs, which in past years was “renowned for hosting one of the hottest parties at the World Economic Forum’s glittering annual meeting in Davos,” had cancelled its 2009 party. Nonetheless, Jamie Dimon, CEO of JPMorgan Chase, decided to continue with his plans to host a Davos party.

In 2010, thousands of delegates assembled to discuss the “important’ issues of the day. And despite the reputation of banks and bankers being at all-time lows, top executives of the world’s largest financial institutions showed up in full force. The week before the meeting, President Obama called for the establishment of laws to deal with the “too big to fail” banks, and European leaders were responding to the anger of their domestic populations for having to pay for the massive bailouts of financial institutions during the financial crisis.

Britain and France were discussing the prospect of taxing banker bonuses, and Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, suggested the possibility of breaking up the big banks. Several panels at the WEF meeting were devoted to discussing the financial system and its possible regulation, as bankers like Josef Ackermann of Deutsche Bank suggested that they would agree to limited regulations (at least on “capital requirements”).

More important, however, were plans for a series of private meetings of government representatives and bank chiefs, who would meet separately, and then together, in Davos. Roughly 235 bankers were to attend the summit – a 23% increase from the previous year. Global bankers and other corporate leaders were worried, and warned the major governments in attendance against the financial repercussions of pursuing “a populist crackdown” against banks and financial markets. French President Nicolas Sarkozy spoke to the Forum’s guests about a need for a “revolution” in global financial regulation, and for “reform of the international monetary system.”

The heads of roughly 30 of the world’s largest banks held a private meeting at Davos “to plot how to reassert their influence with regulators and governments,” noted a report on Bloomberg. The “private meeting” was a precursor to a later meeting at Davos involving top policymakers and regulators. Brian Moynihan, CEO of Bank of America, said of the assembled bankers, “We’re trying to figure out ways that we can be more engaged.” According to Moynihan, a good deal of the closed-door discussion “was about tactics, such as who the executives should approach and when.” The CEO of UBS, a major Swiss bank, commented that “it was a positive meeting, we’re in consensus.” The bankers said they were aware that some new rules were inevitable, but they wanted to encourage regulators and countries to coordinate the rules through the Group of 20, revived in 2009 as the premier forum for international cooperation and “global governance.”

Josef Ackermann, CEO of Deutsche Bank, suggested that “we should stop the bank bashing,” and affirmed that banks had a “noble role” to play in managing the economic recovery. Christine Lagarde, France’s Finance Minister and current Managing Director of the IMF, encouraged a “dialogue” between governments and banks, saying, “That’s the only way we’re going to get out of it.” Later that week, the bankers met “behind closed doors with finance ministers, central bankers and regulators from major economies.”

The key message from finance ministers, regulators and central bankers was a political one: “They [the banks] should accept more stringent regulation, or face more draconian curbs from politicians responding to an angry public.” Guillermo Ortiz, who had just left his post as governor of the central bank of Mexico, said, “I think banks have misjudged the deep feelings of the public regarding the devastating effects of the crisis.” French President Sarkozy stated that “there is indecent behavior that will no longer be tolerated by public opinion in any country of the world,” and that bankers giving themselves excessive bonuses as they were “destroying jobs and wealth” was “morally indefensible.”

As the 2011 Davos meeting began, Edelman, a major communications consultancy, released a report that revealed a poll conducted among 5,000 wealthy and educated individuals in 23 countries, considered to be “well-informed.” The results of the poll showed there to be a massive decline in trust for major institutions, with banks taking the biggest hit. Prior to the financial crisis in 2007, 71% of those polled expressed trust in banks compared with a new low of 25 percent in 2011.

Despite the lack of public trust in banks and financial institutions, Davos remains devoted to protecting and expanding the interests of the financial elite. In fact, the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum (its top governing body) includes many representatives of the world of finance and global financial governance. Among them are Mukesh Ambani, who sits on advisory boards to Citigroup, Bank of America and the National Bank of Kuwait; and Herman Gref, the CEO of Sberbank, a large Russian bank. Ernesto Zedillo, the former President of Mexico who is also a member of the board, currently serves as a director on the boards of Rolls Royce and JPMorgan Chase, international advisory boards to BP and Credit Suisse, an adviser to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and is a member of the Group of Thirty and the Trilateral Commission as well as sitting on the board of one of the world’s most influential economic think tanks, the Peterson Institute for International Economics.

Also notable, Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, is a member of the Foundation Board of the World Economic Forum. Carney started his career working for Goldman Sachs for 13 years, after which he was appointed as Deputy Governor of the Bank of Canada. After a subsequent stint in Canada’s Ministry of Finance, Carney returned to the Bank of Canada as governor from 2008 to 2013, when he became the first non-Briton to be appointed as head of the Bank of England in its 330-year history. From 2011 to present, Carney has also been the Chairman of the Financial Stability Board, run out of the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland.

Apart from heading the FSB, Mark Carney is also a board member of the BIS, which serves as the central bank for the world’s major central banks. He is also a member of the Group of Thirty, a private and highly influential think tank and lobby group that brings together dozens of the most influential economists, central bankers, commercial bankers and finance ministers. Carney has also been a regular attendee at annual meetings of the Bilderberg Group, an even more-exclusive “invite only” global conference than the WEF.

Though there are few women among the WEF’s membership – let alone its leadership – Christine Lagarde has made the list, while simultaneously serving as the managing director of the IMF. She previously served as the French finance minister throughout the course of the financial crisis. Lagarde also attends occasional Bilderberg meetings, and is one of the most powerful technocrats in the world. Min Zhu, the deputy managing director of the IMF, also sits on the WEF’s board.

Further, the World Economic Forum has another governing body, the International Business Council, first established in 2002 and composed of 100 “highly respected and influential chief executives from all industries,” which “acts as an advisory body providing intellectual stewardship to the World Economic Forum and makes active contributions to the Annual Meeting agenda.”

The membership of the WEF is divided into three categories: Regional Partners, Industry Partner Groups, and the most esteemed, the Strategic Partners. Membership fees paid by corporations and industry groups finance the Forum and its activities and provide the member company with extra access to meet delegates, hold private meetings and set the agenda. In 2015, the cost of an annual Strategic Partner status with the WEF had increased to nearly $700,000. Among the WEF’s current strategic partners are Bank of America, Barclays, BlackRock, BP, Chevron, Citi, Coca-Cola, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Dow Chemical, Facebook, GE, Goldman Sachs, Google, HSBC, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, PepsiCo, Siemens, Total, and UBS, among others.

Depending on its finances from these sources, as well as being governed by individuals from these and others institutions, it is no surprise that Davos promotes the interests of financial and corporate power above all else. This is further evident on matters related to trade.

Davos and “Trade”

Trade has been another consistent, major issue at Davos meetings – which is to say, the promotion of powerful corporate and financial interests has been central to the functions of the WEF. As the Wall Street Journal noted, “it is pretty much a tradition that trade ministers meet at Davos with an informal meeting.” At the 2013 meeting, U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk explained at Davos that the Obama administration was “committed to reaching an agreement to smooth trade with the European Union,” saying in an interview that “we greatly value the trans-Atlantic relationship.” The week’s meetings suggested that there “were signs of progress toward a trade accord.” Thomas J. Donohue, the president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who was present at Davos, commented that “half a dozen senior leaders in Europe are ready to move forward.”

In fact, at the previous Davos meeting in January 2012, high level U.S. and EU officials met behind closed doors with the Transatlantic Business Dialogue (TABD), a major corporate grouping that promotes a U.S.-E.U. “free trade” agreement. The TABD was represented at the meeting by 21 top corporate executives, and was attended by U.S. Trade Representative Kirk, WTO Director-General Pascal Lamy, the European Commissioner for Trade, Karel De Gucht, other top technocrats, and Obama’s Deputy National Security Adviser for International Economic Affairs, Michael Froman (who is now the U.S. Trade Representative). The result of the meeting was the release of a report on a “Vision for the Future of EU-US Economic Relations,” which called “to press for urgent action on a visionary and ambitious agenda.” The meeting also recommended the establishment of a “CEO Task Force” to work directly with the “High Level Working Group” of trade ministers and technocrats to chart a way forward.

Just prior to the 2013 meeting in Davos, the TABD corporate group merged with another corporate network to form the Transatlantic Business Council (TBC), a group of top CEOs and chairmen of major corporations, representing roughly 70 major corporations. The purpose of the TBC was to hold “semi-annual meetings with U.S. Cabinet Secretaries and European Commissioners (in Davos and elsewhere).” At the Davos 2013 meeting, the TBC met behind closed doors with high level officials from the U.S. and EU. Michael Froman, who would replace Ron Kirk as the U.S. Trade Rep, spoke at the meeting, declaring that “the transatlantic economy is to become the global benchmark for standards in a globalized world.”

The following month, the U.S. and EU “High Level Working Group” released its final report in which it recommended “a comprehensive trade and investment agreement” between the two regions. Two days after the publication of this report, President Obama issued a joint statement with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President José Manuel Barroso, in which they announced that “the United States and the European Union will each initiate the internal procedures necessary to launch negotiations on a Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership,” or TTIP. At the announcement, Kirk declared the sectors that will fall under the proposed agreement, stating that, “for us, everything is on the table, across all sectors, including the agricultural sector.”

The World Economic Forum in a World of Unrest

Perhaps most interestingly, the World Economic Forum has been consistently interested in the prospects of social unrest, protests and resistance movements, particularly those that directly confront the interests of corporate and financial power. This became particularly true following the mass protests in 1999 against the World Trade Organization, which disrupted the major trade talks taking place in Seattle and marked the ascendency of what Davos called the “anti-globalization movement.”

These issues were foremost on the minds of the Davos Class as they met less than two months later in Switzerland for the annual WEF meeting in 2000. The New York Times noted that as President Clinton attempted to address the issue of restoring “confidence in trade and globalization” at the WEF, global leaders – particularly those assembled at Davos – were increasingly aware of the new reality that “popular impressions of globalization seem to have shifted” with growing numbers of people, including the protesters in Seattle, voicing criticism of the growing inequality between rich and poor, environmental degradation and financial instability. The head of the WTO declared that “globalism is the new ‘ism’ that everyone loves to hate… There is nothing that our critics will not blame on globalization and, yes, it is hurting us.”

The guests included President Clinton, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Mexican President Ernesto Zedillo, along with the leaders of South Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia and Finland, among others. The head of the WTO and many of the world’s trade ministers were also set to attend, hoping to try to re-start negotiations, though protesters were also declaring their intention to disrupt the Forum’s meeting. With these worries in mind, the Swiss Army was deployed to protect the 2,000 members of the Davos Class from being confronted by protesters.

As the World Economic Forum met again in January of 2001 in Davos, “unprecedented security measures” were taken to prevent “hooligans” from disrupting the meeting. On the other side of the world, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, roughly 10,000 activists were expected to converge for the newly-formed World Social Forum, a counter-forum to Davos that represented the interests of activist groups and the Third World. As the Davos Class met quietly behind closed doors, comforted by the concrete blocks and razor wire that surrounded the small town, police on the other side of the fence beat back protesters.

In the wake of the financial crisis, the WEF meeting in 2009 drew hundreds of protesters to Davos and Geneva where they were met by riot police using tear gas and water cannons. Inside the Forum meeting, French Finance Minister Christine Lagarde warned the assembled leaders, “We’re facing two major risks: one is social unrest and the second is protectionism.” She noted that the task before the Davos Class was “to restore confidence in the systems and confidence at large.” Protesters assembled outside held signs reading, “You are the Crisis.”

The January 2012 WEF meeting took place following a year of tumultuous and violent upheavals across the Arab world, large anti-austerity movements across much of Europe, notably with the Indignados in Spain, and the Occupy Wall Street movement just months prior in the United States and across much of the world. As the meeting approached, the WEF announced in a report that the top two risks facing business leaders and policy makers were “severe income disparity and chronic fiscal imbalances.” The report warned that if these issues were not addressed it could result in a “dystopian future for much of humanity.” The Occupy Movement had taken the issue of inequality directly to Davos, and there was even a small Occupy protest camp constructed at Davos.

As the Financial Times noted, “Until this year [2012] the issue of inequality never appeared on the risk list at all, let alone topped it.” At the heart of it was “the question of social stability,” with many Davos attendees wondering “where else unrest might appear.” Beth Brooke, the global vice chair of Ernst & Young, noted that “countries which have disappearing middle classes face risks – history shows that.”

With citizens taking to city streets and protesting in public squares from Cairo to Athens and New York, the Financial Times noted that discontent was “rampant,” and that “the only consistent messages seem to be that leaders around the world are failing to deliver on their citizens’ expectations and that Facebook and Twitter allows crowds to coalesce in an instant to let them know it.” For the 40 government leaders assembling in Davos, “this is not a comforting picture.”

In Europe, democratically elected leaders in Italy and Greece had been removed and replaced with economists and central bankers in a technocratic coup only months earlier, largely at the behest of Germany. Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank (ECB), was perhaps “the most powerful leader in Europe,” though an Occupy movement had sprung up at the headquarters of the ECB in Frankfurt as well.

During the Forum, Occupy protesters outside clashed with police. Stephen Roach, a member of the faculty at Yale University and a chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, wrote an article in the Financial Times describing his experiences as a panelist at the “Open Forum,” held on the last day of the Davos gathering, in which citizens from the local community could participate along with students and Occupy protesters. The topic he discussed was “remodeling capitalism,” which, Roach wrote, “was a chance to open up this debate to the seething masses.” But the results were “disturbing” as “chaos erupted immediately” with chants from Occupy protesters denouncing the forum and calling for more to join them. Roach wrote that it was “unruly and unsettling” and he “started thinking more about an escape route than opening comments.”

Once the discussions began, Roach found himself listening to the first panelist, a 24-year-old Occupy protester named Maria who expressed anger at “the system” and that there was a “need to construct a new one based on equality, dignity and respect.” Other panelists from the WEF included Ed Miliband from the U.K., a UN Commissioner, a Czech academic and a minister from the Jordanian dictatorship. Roach noted that compared to Maria from Occupy, “the rest of us on the panel spoke a different language.”

Having spent decades as a banker on Wall Street, Roach confessed that “it as unsettling to engage a hostile crowd whose main complaint is rooted in Occupy Wall Street,” explaining that he attempted to focus on his expertise as an economist, “speaking over hisses.” He explained that all of his “expert” insights on economics “hardly moved this crowd.” Maria from Occupy, Roach wrote, got the last word as she stated, “The aim of Occupy is to think for yourself. We don’t focus on solutions. We want to change the process of finding solutions.” As “the crowd roared its approval,” Roach “made a hasty exit through a secret door in the kitchen and out into the night.” Davos, he wrote, “will never again be the same for me. There can be no retreat in the battle for big ideas.”

In October of 2013, The Economist reported that “from anti-austerity movements to middle-class revolts, in rich countries and in poor, social unrest has been on the rise around the world.” A World Economic Forum report from November 2013 warned of the dangers of a “lost generation” that would “be more prone to populist politics,” and that “we will see an escalation in social unrest.” Over the course of 2013, major financial institutions such as JPMorgan Chase, UBS, HSBC, AXA and others were issuing reports warning of the dangers of social unrest and rebellion. JPMorgan Chase, in its May 2013 report, stated that Europe’s “adjustment” to its new economic order was only “halfway done on average,” warning of major challenges ahead. The report complained about laws hindering the advancement of its agenda, such as “constitutional protection of labor rights… and the right to protest if unwelcome changes are made to the political status quo.”

The 2014 meeting of the World Economic Forum drew more than 40 heads of state, including then-president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovich, as well as Mexico’s Enrique Pena Nieto, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, British Prime Minister David Cameron, Brazilian Presient Dilma Rousseff, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Nigeria’s Goodluck Jonathan. U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew and prominent central bankers such as Mario Draghi and Mark Carney also attended alongside IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and World Bank president Jim Yong Kim.

As the meeting began, a major report by the World Economic Forum was published, declaring that the “single biggest risk to the world in 2014” was the widening “gap between rich and poor.” Thus, income inequality and “social unrest are the issue[s] most likely to have a big impact on the world economy in the next decade.” The report warned that the world was witnessing the “lost generation” of youth around the world who lack jobs and opportunities, which “could easily boil over into social upheaval,” citing recent examples in Brazil and Thailand.

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff is due to attend the annual Davos meeting this week. But just prior to that meeting, violent protests erupted in the streets of Brazil in opposition to austerity measures imposed by President Rousseff, recalling “the beginnings of the mass street demonstrations that rocked Brazil in June 2013.” One wonders whether Rousseff will be attending next year’s meeting of the WEF, or whether she will still even be president.

Indeed, the growth and power of the Davos Class has grown with – and spurred – the development of global unrest, protests, resistance movements and revolution. As Davos welcomes the global plutocrats to 2015, no doubt they’ll be reminded of the repercussions of the “market system” as populations around the world remind their leaders of the power of people.

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The West Marches East, Part 1: The U.S.-NATO Strategy to Isolate Russia

The West Marches East, Part 1: The U.S.-NATO Strategy to Isolate Russia

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

17 April 2014

Originally posted at The Hampton Institute

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In early March of 2014, following Russia’s invasion of Crimea in Ukraine, the New York Times editorial board declared that Russian President Vladimir Putin had “stepped far outside the bounds of civilized behavior,” suggesting that Russia should be isolated politically and economically in the face of “continued aggression.”

John Kerry, the U.S. Secretary of State, lashed out at Russia’s ” incredible act of aggression,” stating that: “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on [a] completely trumped up pre-text.” Indeed, invading foreign nations on “trumped up pre-texts” is something only the United States and its allies are allowed to do, not Russia! What audacity!

Even Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, proclaimed Russia’s actions in Ukraine to be “aggressive, militaristic and imperialistic ,” threatening “the peace and stability of the world.” This is, of course, despite the fact that Russia’s invasion and occupation of Crimea took place without a single shot fired, and “faced no real opposition and has been greeted with joy by many citizens in the only region of Ukraine with a clear majority of ethnic Russians.”

Indeed, Russia can only be said to be an “aggressive” and “imperial” power so long as one accepts the unrelenting hypocrisy of U.S. and Western leaders. After all, it was not Russia that invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, killing millions. It is not Putin, but rather Barack Obama, who has waged a “global terror campaign,” compiling “kill lists” and using flying killer robots to bomb countries like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, and even the Philippines, killing thousands of people around the world. It is not Putin, but rather, Barack Obama, who has been sending highly-trained killers into over 100 countries around the world at any given time, waging a “secret war” in most of the world’s nations. It was not Russia, but rather the United States, that has supported the creation of “death squads” in Iraq, contributing to the mass violence, civil war and genocide that resulted; or that has been destabilizing Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation, increasing the possibility of nuclear war.

All of these actions are considered to be a part of America’s strategy to secure ‘stability,’ to promote ‘peace’ and ‘democracy.’ It’s Russia that threatens “the peace and stability of the world,” not America or its NATO and Western allies. That is, of course, if you believe the verbal excretions from Western political leaders. The reality is that the West, with the United States as the uncontested global superpower, engages the rest of the world on the basis of ‘Mafia Principles’ of international relations: the United States is the global ‘Godfather’ of the Mafia crime family of Western industrial nations (the NATO powers). Countries like Russia and China are reasonably-sized crime families in their own right, but largely dependent upon the Godfather, with whom they both cooperate and compete for influence.

When the Mafia – and the Godfather – are disobeyed, whether by small nations (such as Iraq, Syria, Libya, et. al.), or by larger gangster states like China or Russia, the Godfather will seek to punish them. Disobedience cannot be tolerated. If a small country can defy the Godfather, then any country can. If a larger gangster state like Russia can defy the Godfather and get away with it, they might continue to challenge the authority of the Godfather.

For the U.S. and its NATO-capo Mafia allies, Ukraine and Russia have presented a complex challenge: how does one punish Russia and control Ukraine without pushing Russia too far outside the influence of the Mafia, itself? In other words, the West seeks to punish Russia for its “defiance” and “aggression,” but, if the West pushes too hard, it might find a Russia that pushes back even harder. That is, after all, how we got into this situation in the first place.

A little historical context helps elucidate the current clash of gangster states. Put aside the rhetoric of “democracy” and let’s deal with reality.

The Cold War Legacy

The end of the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union between 1989 and 1991 witnessed the emergence of what was termed by President George H.W. Bush a ‘new world order’ in which the United States reigned as the world’s sole superpower, proclaiming ‘victory’ over the Soviet Union and ‘Communism’: the age of ‘free markets’ and ‘democracy’ was at hand.

The fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 prompted the negotiated withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Eastern Europe. The ‘old order’ of Europe was at an end, and a new one “needed to be established quickly,” noted Mary Elise Sarotte in the New York Times. This ‘new order’ was to begin with “the rapid reunification of Germany.” Negotiations took place in 1990 between Soviet president Gorbachev, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl, and President Bush’s Secretary of State, James A. Baker 3rd. The negotiations sought to have the Soviets remove their 380,000 troops from East Germany. In return, both James Baker and Helmut Kohl promised Gorbachev that the Western military alliance of NATO would not expand eastwards. West Germany’s foreign minister, Hans-Dietrich Genscher, promised Gorbachev that, ” NATO will not expand itself to the East.” Gorbachev agreed, though asked – and did not receive – the promise in writing, remaining a “gentlemen’s agreement.”

The U.S. Ambassador to the USSR from 1987 to 1991, John F. Matlock Jr., later noted that the end of the Cold War was not ‘won’ by the West, but was brought about “by negotiation to the advantage of both sides.” Yet, he noted, “the United States insisted on treating Russia as the loser .” The United States almost immediately violated the agreement established in 1990, and NATO began moving eastwards, much to the dismay of the Russians. The new Russian President, Boris Yeltsin, warned that NATO’s expansion to the East threatened a ‘cold peace’ and was a violation of the ” spirit of conversations ” that took place in February of 1990 between Soviet, West German and American leaders.

In 1990, President Bush’s National Security Strategy for the United States acknowledged that, “even as East-West tensions diminish, American strategic concerns remain,” noting that previous U.S. military interventions which were justified as a response to Soviet ‘threats’, were – in actuality – “in response to threats to U.S. interests that could not be laid at the Kremlin’s door,” and that, “the necessity to defend our interests will continue.” In other words, decades of justifications for war by the United States – blaming ‘Soviet imperialism’ and ‘Communism’ – were lies, and now that the Soviet Union no longer existed as a threat, American imperialism will still have to continue.

Former National Security Adviser – and arch-imperial strategist – Zbigniew Brzezinski noted in 1992 that the Cold War strategy of the United States in advocating “liberation” against the USSR and Communism (thus justifying military interventions all over the world), ” was a strategic sham, designed to a significant degree for domestic political reasons… the policy was basically rhetorical, at most tactical.”

The Pentagon drafted a strategy in 1992 for the United States to manage the post-Cold War world, where the primary mission of the U.S. was “to ensure that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge in Western Europe, Asia or the territories of the former Soviet Union.” As the New York Times noted, the document – largely drafted by Pentagon officials Paul Wolfowitz and Dick Cheney – “makes the case fora world dominated by one superpower whose position can be perpetuated by constructive behavior and sufficient military might to deter any nation or group of nations from challenging American primacy.”

This strategy was further enshrined with the Clinton administration, whose National Security Adviser, Anthony Lake, articulated the ‘Clinton doctrine’ in 1993 when he stated that: “The successor to a doctrine of containment must be a strategy of enlargement – enlargement of the world’s free community of market democracies,” which “must combine our broad goals of fostering democracy and marketswith our more traditional geostrategic interests.”

Under Bill Clinton’s imperial presidency, the United States and NATO went to war against Serbia, ultimately tore Yugoslavia to pieces (itself representative of a ‘third way’ of organizing society, different than both the West and the USSR), and NATO commenced its Eastward expansion . In the late 1990s, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic entered the NATO alliance, and in 2004, seven former Soviet republics joined the alliance.

In 1991, roughly 80% of Russians had a ‘favorable’ view of the United States; by 1999, roughly 80% had an unfavorable view of America. Vladimir Putin, who was elected in 2000, initially followed a pro-Western strategy for Russia, supporting NATO’s invasion and occupation of Afghanistan, receiving only praise from President George W. Bush, who then proceeded to expand NATO further east .

The Color Revolutions

Throughout the 2000s, the United States and other NATO powers, allied with billionaires like George Soros and his foundations scattered throughout the world, worked together to fund and organize opposition groups in multiple countries across Eastern and Central Europe, promoting ‘democratic regime change’ which would ultimately bring to power more pro-Western leaders. It began in 2000 in Serbia with the removal of Slobodan Milosevic.

The United States had undertaken a $41 million “democracy-building campaign” in Serbia to remove Milosevic from power, which included funding polls, training thousands of opposition activists, which the Washington Post referred to as “the first poll-driven, focus group-tested revolution,” which was “a carefully researched strategy put together by Serbian democracy activists with the active assistance of Western advisers and pollsters.” Utilizing U.S.-government funded organizations aligned with major political parties, like the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute, the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) channeled money, assistance and training to activists (Michael Dobbs, Washington Post, 11 December 2000).

Mark Almond wrote in the Guardian in 2004 that, “throughout the 1980s, in the build-up to 1989’s velvet revolutions, a small army of volunteers – and, let’s be frank, spies – co-operated to promote what became People Power.” This was represented by “a network of interlocking foundations and charities [which] mushroomed to organize the logistics of transferring millions of dollars to dissidents.” The money itself ” came overwhelmingly from NATO states and covert allies such as ‘neutral’ Sweden,” as well as through the billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundation. Almond noted that these “modern market revolutionaries” would bring people into office “with the power to privatize.” Activists and populations are mobilized with “a multimedia vision of Euro-Atlantic prosperity by Western-funded ‘independent’ media to get them on the streets.” After successful Western-backed ‘revolutions’ comes the usual economic ‘shock therapy’ which brings with it “mass unemployment, rampant insider dealing, growth of organized crime, prostitution and soaring death rates.” Ah, democracy!

Following Serbia in 2000, the activists, Western ‘aid agencies’, foundations and funders moved their resources to the former Soviet republic of Georgia, where in 2003, the ‘Rose Revolution’ replaced the president with a more pro-Western (and Western-educated) leader, Mikheil Saakashvili, a protégé of George Soros, who played a significant role in funding so-called ‘pro-democracy’ groups in Georgia that the country has often been referred to as ‘Sorosistan’. In 2004, Ukraine became the next target of Western-backed ‘democratic’ regime change in what became known as the ‘Orange Revolution’. Russia viewed these ‘color revolutions’ as “U.S.-sponsored plots using local dupes to overthrow governments unfriendly to Washington and install American vassals.”

Mark MacKinnon, who was the Globe and Mail‘s Moscow bureau chief between 2002 and 2005, covered these Western-funded protests and has since written extensively on the subject of the ‘color revolutions.’ Reviewing a book of his on the subject, the Montreal Gazette noted that these so-called revolutions were not “spontaneous popular uprisings, but in fact were planned and financed either directly by American diplomats or through a collection of NGOs acting as fronts for the United States government,” and that while there was a great deal of dissatisfaction with the ruling, corrupt elites in each country, the ‘democratic opposition’ within these countries received their “marching orders and cash from American and European officials, whose intentions often had to do more with securing access to energy resources and pipeline routes than genuine interest in democracy.”

The ‘Orange Revolution’ in Ukraine in 2004 was – as Ian Traynor wrote in the Guardian – ” an American creation, a sophisticated and brilliantly conceived exercise in western branding and mass marketing,” with funding and organizing from the U.S. government, “deploying US consultancies, pollsters, diplomats, the two big American parties and US non-governmental organizations.”

In Ukraine, the contested elections which spurred the ‘Orange Revolution’ saw accusations of election fraud leveled against Viktor Yanukovich by his main opponent, Viktor Yuschenko. Despite claims of upholding democracy, Yuschenko had ties to the previous regime, having served as Prime Minister in the government of Leonid Kuchma, and with that, had close ties to the oligarchs who led and profited from the mass privatizations of the post-Soviet era. Yuschenko, however, “got the western nod, and floods of money poured into groups which support[ed] him.” As Jonathan Steele noted in the Guardian, “Ukraine has been turned into a geostrategic matter not by Moscow but by the US, which refuses to abandon its cold war policy of encircling Russia and seeking to pull every former Soviet republic to its side.”

As Mark McKinnon wrote in the Globe and Mail some years later, the uprisings in both Georgia and Ukraine “had many things in common, among them the fall of autocrats who ran semi-independent governments that deferred to Moscow when the chips were down,” as well as being “spurred by organizations that received funding from the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy,” reflecting a view held by Western governments that “promoting democracy” in places like the Middle East and Eastern Europe was in fact “a code word for supporting pro-Western politicians .” These Western-sponsored uprisings erupted alongside the ever-expanding march of NATO to Russia’s borders.

The following year – in 2005 – the Western-supported ‘colour revolutions’ hit the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan in what was known as the ‘Tulip Revolution’. Once again, contested elections saw the mobilization of Western-backed civil society groups, “independent” media, and NGOs – drawing in the usual funding sources of the National Endowment for Democracy, the NDI, IRI, Freedom House, and George Soros, among others. The New York Times reported that the “democratically inspired revolution” western governments were praising began to look ” more like a garden-variety coup .” Efforts not only by the U.S., but also Britain, Norway and the Netherlands were pivotal in preparing the way for the 2005 uprising in Kyrgyzstan. The then-President of Kyrgyzstan blamed the West for the unrest experienced in his country.

The U.S. NGOs that sponsored the ‘color revolutions’ were run by former top government and national security officials, including Freedom House, which was chaired by former CIA Director James Woolsey, and other “pro-democracy” groups funding these revolts were led by figures such as Senator John McCain or Bill Clinton’s former National Security Adviser Anthony Lake, who had articulated the national security strategy of the Clinton administration as being one of “enlargement of the world’s free community of market democracies.” These organizations effectively act as an extension of the U.S. government apparatus, advancing U.S. imperial interests under the veneer of “pro-democracy” work and institutionalized in purportedly “non”-governmental groups.

By 2010, however, most of the gains of the ‘color revolutions’ that spread across Eastern Europe and Central Asia had taken several steps back. While the “political center of gravity was tilting towards the West,” noted Time Magazine in April of 2010, “now that tend has reversed,” with the pro-Western leadership of both Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan both having once again been replaced with leaders ” far friendlier to Russia.” The “good guys” that the West supported in these countries, “proved to be as power hungry and greedy as their predecessors, disregarding democratic principles… in order to cling to power, and exploiting American diplomatic and economic support as part of [an] effort to contain domestic and outside threats and win financial assistance.” Typical behavior for vassal states to any empire.

The ‘Enlargement’ of the European Union: An Empire of Economics

The process of European integration and growth of the European Union has – over the past three decades – been largely driven by powerful European corporate and financial interests, notably by the European Round Table of Industrialists (ERT), an influential group of roughly 50 of Europe’s top CEOs who lobby and work directly with Europe’s political elites to design the goals and methods of European integration and enlargement of the EU, advancing the EU to promote and institutionalize neoliberal economic reforms: austerity, privatizations, liberalization of markets and the destruction of labour power.

The enlargement of the European Union into Eastern Europe reflected a process of Eastern European nations having to implement neoliberal reforms in order to join the EU, including mass privatizations, deregulation, liberalization of markets and harsh austerity measures. The enlargement of the EU into Central and Eastern Europe advanced in 2004 and 2007, when new states were admitted into EU membership, including Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia, Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania.

These new EU members were hit hard by the global financial crisis in 2008 and 2009, and subsequently forced to impose harsh austerity measures. They have been slower to ‘recover’ than other nations, increasingly having to deal with “political instability and mass unemployment and human suffering.” The exception to this is Poland, which did not implement austerity measures, which has left the Polish economy in a better position than the rest of the new EU members. The financial publication Forbeswarned in 2013 that “the prospect of endless economic stagnation in the newest EU members… will, sooner or later, bring extremely deleterious political consequences .”

In the words of a senior British diplomat, Robert Cooper, the European Union represents a type of “cooperative empire.” The expansion of the EU into Central and Eastern Europe brought increased corporate profits, with new investments and cheap labour to exploit. Further, the newer EU members were more explicitly pro-market than the older EU members that continued to promote a different social market economy than those promoted by the Americans and British. With these states joining the EU, noted the Financial Times in 2008, “the new member states have reinforced the ranks of the free marketeers and free traders,” as they increasingly “team up with northern states to vote for deregulation and liberalization of the market.”

The West Marches East

For the past quarter-century, Russia has stood and watched as the United States, NATO, and the European Union have advanced their borders and sphere of influence eastwards to Russia’s borders. As the West has marched East, Russia has consistently complained of encroachment and its views of this process as being a direct threat to Russia. The protests of the former superpower have largely gone ignored or dismissed. After all, in the view of the Americans, they “won” the Cold War, and therefore, Russia has no say in the post-Cold War global order being shaped by the West.

The West’s continued march East to Russia’s borders will continue to be examined in future parts of this series. For Russia, the problem is clear: the Godfather and its NATO-Mafia partners are ever-expanding to its borders, viewed (rightly so) as a threat to the Russian gangster state itself. Russia’s invasion of Crimea – much like its 2008 invasion of Georgia – are the first examples of Russia’s push back against the Western imperial expansion Eastwards. This, then, is not a case of “Russian aggression,” but rather, Russian reaction to the West’s ever-expanding imperialism and global aggression.

The West may think that it has domesticated and beaten down the bear, chained it up, make it dance and whip it into obedience. But every once in a while, the bear will take a swipe back at the one holding the whip. This is inevitable. And so long as the West continued with its current strategy, the reactions will only get worse in time.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is a 26-year old researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada. He is Project Manager of The People’s Book Project, chair of the Geopolitics Division of The Hampton Institute, research director for Occupy.com’s Global Power Project, and hosts a weekly podcast show with BoilingFrogsPost.

“A Lot of People Believe This Stuff”: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Politics of Public Relations

“A Lot of People Believe This Stuff”: Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Politics of Public Relations

By: Andrew Gavin Marshall

“Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.” – George Orwell, “Politics and the English Language,” 1946

“It’s important, because a lot of people believe this stuff.”  – Bill Clinton, speaking at the Democratic National Convention, 5 September 2012

In case you were unaware, Bill Clinton gave a speech at the Democratic National Convention on the evening of September 5, which, the media tells us, revealed Clinton’s “special gift”[1] to “give a boost to Obama’s middle-class hero image.”[2] The speech has been hailed as Clinton’s “come back,”[3] and a “spirited defense” of Obama..[4] The “rock star,”[5] Bill Clinton, received heaps of praise from celebrities who endorsed his speech, and it’s obviously very important that the public know what Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Rock, and Alicia Silverstone think of the speech, so lucky for us, the media tells us. It was, “fantastic… common sense,” that Clinton was “up there teaching,” and “breaking it down.”[6]

But it’s also important that the public receive more ‘expert’ analysis from political commentators and reporters, so CNN reporter Wolf Blitzer explained that he had been watching Clinton since 1992 when he was CNN’s White House correspondent, and that, “[t]his may have been the best speech I have ever heard Bill Clinton deliver,” while GOP strategist Alex Castellanos proclaimed, “This will be the moment that probably re-elected Barack Obama.” Brit Hume on Fox News (“fair and balanced”) said that Clinton, “is the most talented politician I’ve ever covered and the most charming man I’ve ever met… No one in my view can frame an argument more effectively than he can.” Anderson Cooper shared his wisdom and analysis, explaining that, “[t]he level of detail in the speech was quite surprising… and yet there was a personality.” Chris Matthews on MSNBC chimed in, “I wouldn’t want to be the guy fighting Bill Clinton if the issue is Barack Obama.” But of course, there was some “intelligent criticism” of the speech within the media, so it wasn’t all praise. For example, John King of CNN noted that the speech could “use an editor,” because as various other critics noted, it was “too long.”[7]

So what exactly did Bill Clinton say that was so inspiring and praiseworthy? Well, he went up on stage, and for fifty minutes, successfully achieved the highest degree of hypocrisy possible. His speech could not have been better constructed if it had been written by a public relations firm, itself. And perhaps it was. After all, it’s not that the Clinton’s don’t have a cozy relationship with public relations firms, as Burson-Marsteller, the most prominent PR firm in the United States, ran Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential campaign in 2008.[8] The firm is venerable and highly respected, and has built a very prominent resume of individuals and institutions it has represented, such as Ceausescu in Romania, the Saudi royal family, the Nigerian government when it wanted to discredit claims of genocide during the Biafran war, the Argentine dictatorship which killed roughly 35,000 of its own people, the Indonesian government as it committed genocide in East Timor (ultimately eliminating a third of the entire population while Bill Clinton armed it to do so). Burson-Marsteller also represented Union Carbide following the Bhopal gas leak that killed 15,000 people in India, among other reputable clients.[9]

Controlling the “Bewildered Herd” of “Ignorant and Meddlesome Outsiders”

I mention the public relations industry, because elections are essentially run by the PR industry, and public relations is the officially-sanctioned term for “propaganda.” It is no small coincidence that the founder of the public relations industry, a man named Edward Bernays, also happened to have literally written the book on Propaganda (1928), in which he wrote, “The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.” He added: “it remains a fact that in almost every act of our daily lives, whether in the sphere of politics or business, in our social conduct or our ethical thinking, we are dominated by the relatively small number of persons… who understand the mental processes and social patterns of the masses. It is they who pull the wires which control the public mind, who harness old social forces and contrive new ways to bind and guide the world.” Naturally, explained Bernays, this is merely “a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized.”[10]

Bernays of course had experience. In 1917, he was asked by President Woodrow Wilson to join the Committee on Public Information (CPI), a propaganda agency created by the government to rally the American population to support entering World War I, which was popularly perceived at the time as “a rich man’s war.” The CPI was highly successful, and the American people went to war. Bernays and the other propagandists who were involved were so impressed with their manipulation of the public during war-time, that they felt they could do it during peace time as well. Thus, after the war, Bernays soon founded one of the first PR firms in the United States. Walter Lippmann, the most influential intellectual in the United States at that time, encouraged President Wilson to create the CPI, and even suggested the concept of “making the world safe for democracy,” which became Wilson’s “idealistic” democratic vision for the world, still discussed in political science today. Lippmann and other intellectuals of the era recommended using social scientists and other intellectual elites to undertake “systematic intelligence and information control” as a “regular organ of popular government.” This was what Lippmann called the “manufacture of consent.”[11]

Lippmann wrote that, “propaganda, as the advocacy of ideas and doctrines, has a legitimate and desirable part to play in our democratic system.” Harold Lasswell, another leading political scientist of the era, wrote that, “[p]ropaganda is surely here to stay.” In his 1922 book, Public Opinion, Lippmann wrote that for the “manufacture of consent,” society needed “intelligence bureaus” or “observatories” which would distribute “disinterested” information to journalists, governments, businesses, and the society at large. This essentially is the function of think tanks and PR firms. The term “disinterested” is used to refer to the concept that the information and ideas are not shaped by emotional, irrational, or utopian concepts like “morality” or “ethics,” they are simply facts without a perceived ideology.[12]

In his 1925 book, The Phantom Public, Lippmann defined democracy for the modern state-capitalist system, which would not only be firmly entrenched within the United States, but exported around the world. Lippmann was quite emphatic: “A false ideal of democracy can lead only to disillusionment and to meddlesome tyranny.” That “tyranny,” of course, was the public interfering in the affairs of the state. Lippmann wrote that, “the public must be put in its place… so that each of us may live free of the trampling of a bewildered herd.” Referring to the public as “interested spectators of action,” Lippmann explained that, “the opinions of the spectators must be essentially different from those of the actors,” designed in such a way that the rulers of society – the corporate-financial elite and the intellectuals that serve them – would be able to continue controlling society with “the least possible interference from ignorant and meddlesome outsiders.” What Lippmann recommended in 1922 as the “manufacture of consent,” Bernays recommended in 1923 as “the engineering of consent.” Engineering consent, Bernays later wrote in 1947, “affects almost every aspect of our daily lives.” He explained: “When used for social purposes, it is among our most valuable contributions to the efficient functioning of modern society.”[13]

Presidents and politicians are products of public relations. We are presented with officially sanctioned concepts of democracy, politics, and ideology. We are subsequently given a ‘choice’ between – usually two – different accepted views. This is called “balance.” The difference between the views are primarily tactical, but the fundamentals remain the same. Thus, no matter the political party in power, war and empire are on the agenda, but different views can proliferate on the tactics and assessment of the results of imperial policies. Imperialism itself cannot be questioned, or even acknowledged; it’s simply accepted. The same goes for serving the interests of the corporate and financial elite, which of course are the main actors in determining foreign imperial policy itself. Imperialism and war for the benefit of a parasitic economic and financial elite, however, is not something which the public could openly accept, so we are given different words, definitions, and mythologies of our society and its policies, so that the “invisible governors” – as Bernays referred to them – may continue to “manufacture consent” to the system; thus maintaining ‘social order’, which means to maintain the social hierarchy of power.

Idealistic Democracy in the Land of Simplistic Hypocrisy

When we discuss Woodrow Wilson as president, we give warm and boisterous praise to his “enlightened” vision of “democratic idealism.” In fact, so consistent and engrained is our officially sanctioned respect for Woodrow Wilson’s profound vision, that it was given a special name: “Wilsonian idealism” or “Wilsonian liberalism,” to “make the world safe for democracy.” It was conceived of as a kind of “internationalist” vision for world order predicated on “international cooperation and integration,” countering political realism which viewed the international arena as one of anarchy where states act in their own self-interest.[14]

Wilson of course, was not concerned with acting in “self-interest,” because he had an enlightened vision of “liberal idealism.” No doubt it was this “idealism” upon which Wilson based his invasions and occupations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic, literally sending the Marines into the Parliament to disband it at gunpoint, killing tens of thousands of Haitians and crushing a liberation struggle in the country-side, and re-writing the constitution to allow American corporations to control the resources and buy land. In fact, Franklin D. Roosevelt, another democratic “idealist” president, was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy during the Haitian occupation (which began in 1915 and lasted until the Roosevelt administration in 1934). FDR took credit for writing the Haitian constitution, and claimed that he was responsible for “running several Caribbean republics.” Roosevelt referred to the Haitian occupation and his work on the new constitution as “an excellent piece of constructive work,” for which “the world ought to thank us.” He explained the common view of elites toward the general population – foreign and domestic – when he explained that in relation to Latin Americans, “You have to treat them like children.” The American media, with the New York Times at the helm, praised the ruthless occupation as a way for America to “advance” the Haitians, who were “a horde of naked niggers.” Wilson’s Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan reflected on his profound knowledge of Haitians when he stated, “Dear me, think of it! Niggers speaking French.”[15]

Wilson occupied the Dominican Republic in 1916, the neighbouring country to Haiti on the island once called Hispaniola when Columbus landed there and eradicated the indigenous population. When the U.S. ended the occupation of the Dominican Republic in 1924, a US-army trained commander, Rafael Trujillo, rigged the elections and became the country’s new dictator. President Hoover congratulated Trujillo on his “auspicious” victory. When FDR became president in 1933, he implemented his “Good Neighbor” policy for Latin America, meaning that America would be a “good neighbour” to ruthless tyrants like Trujillo so long as they served American interests. During this time, Trujillo, America’s “staunch friend” – as one American businessman referred to him – murdered roughly 25,000 Haitians in Dominican territory in an effort to “purify” and protect the ethnic superiority of the Dominican race. The genocide, however, created bad publicity for America’s support of Trujillo, since it drew obvious comparisons to similar dictators of the same era in Italy and Germany. So FDR’s administration undertook a “massive public relations effort” for the Trujillo regime, which included having biographies written about Trujillo in which he was described as emblematic of “democratic” and “humanitarian” virtues.[16]

In his speech at the Democratic National Convention, Bill Clinton referenced all the good work he has done for Haiti, explaining that he was “honored” to have worked with both president’s Bush and Obama in Haiti through various crises in the impoverished country. He presented this as evidence of how he is not a divisive politician, but seeks to work “with Democrats, Republicans and independents,” and that they “focus on solving problems and seizing opportunities.”[17] Well, how is Clinton’s record in Haiti? Should this question not be asked?

After the American occupation of Haiti ended, a dynastic dictatorship emerged as father and son Duvaliers ruled Haiti with an iron fist, and US support. When the dictatorship could no longer be sustained, it collapsed in the mid-80s, and following a series of military governments, Haiti undertook mass democratic elections in 1990, through which a populist priest and practitioner of Liberation Theology (the view that the purpose of Christianity was to fight for and liberate the poor from their poverty and oppression), Jean Bertrand Aristide, became victorious in securing the presidency. Aristide campaigned on empowering the extremely poor peasant population, which infuriated the local economic elite, who called him “the devil,” as well as U.S. corporate investors, since he attempted to implement the rather radical policy of doubling the minimum wage in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. This was obviously unacceptable and “irresponsible,” so in September of 1991, less than a year after being elected President, Aristide was deposed in a military coup. The CIA had formed close links with Aristide’s political opponents, and undertook a campaign to discredit him. Officially, the American government denounced the coup, though within days urged the military dictatorship “toward sharing power with the Parliament.” Economic sanctions were imposed, but quickly lifted in 1992 for the benefit of American corporations in Haiti as the State Department sought an “acceptable” political compromise. Aristide was pressured to sign an agreement that would allow him to “share” power and return to Haiti to continue the rest of his term as little more tan a figurehead.[18]

When Clinton came to power in 1993, his administration continued the process of negotiations aiming to bring Aristide into the “solution,” but only “when conditions permit,” and he agreed to share power with the US-favored candidate in the 1990 elections, a former World Bank official who was installed by the military coup. Meanwhile, the military government had killed thousands of Haitian civilians who were Aristide supporters. When an agreement was announced with Aristide, the military government in Haiti – armed by the US – quickly accelerated its murderous campaign. The US negotiations with Aristide focused on the perceived “need” for Aristide to “share” power with the military, because the Americans – who created the Haitian military force during the first US occupation of the country – viewed it as a source of “stability.” However, the military government refused to have Aristide return and share power with him in any capacity. Thus, Clinton’s National Security Advisor Anthony Lake instructed his staff at the National Security Council (NSC) to construct “Haitian invasion scenarios.”  The United States, however, was a promoter of “democracy,” so it needed to install a “civilian” government, and not be seen supporting a ruthless military dictatorship so openly. Aristide was given advice by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), run by the U.S. State Department, as well as the World Bank and IMF, who “educated” Aristide on “suitable” economic plans for Haiti once he returned to power. It should be noted, however, that the CIA, several State Department officials, as well as several Democratic and Republican politicians felt it was a bad idea to return Aristide to power, and commonly referred to him as a “psychopath.” Obviously, someone would have to be a “psychopath” to attempt to raise the minimum wage in the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.[19]

In 1994, Clinton invaded Haiti with 20,000 troops in what was called “Operation Uphold Democracy,” which not only re-installed Aristide to finish his term, but ensured that the coup leaders and perpetrators of atrocities were not held to account for their crimes, the result of a deal brokered by the “human rights” president Jimmy Carter, whom Clinton dispatched to Haiti in order to negotiate a deal with the military. The United States occupation forces handed over “control” of Haiti to a United Nations ‘mission’ of 6,000 soldiers in 1995, with US forces expected to leave in 1996, when Aristide’s term finished and he was replaced with a business-friendly leader. Though in 1995, Clinton’s Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, reassured the U.S. Senate that, “even after our exit in February 1996, we will remain in charge by means of USAID and the private sector.”[20]

This is called the “restoration of democracy.” While Clinton sent 20,000 troops to Haiti to “restore democracy,” Obama sent 10,000 troops to Haiti to “restore order” following the devastating earthquake which killed several hundred thousand people who were living in the slums that were created through World Bank and IMF policies of austerity and structural adjustment, many of which were imposed during the Clinton administration. When Obama sent his troops to Haiti, he pledged that the “United States is in Haiti for the long haul.”[21] Indeed the U.S. has been invading and exploiting Haiti and punishing its population for over 200 years, so why stop now?

“The Price is Worth It”: How To Get Away With Murdering Half a Million Children

In his speech at the DNC, Clinton also praised Obama’s “successful end of the war in Iraq.” Clinton, of course, has had a great deal of experience when it comes to Iraq. After Iraq had stopped being a pliant U.S. puppet, George Bush Sr. waged a brutal war against the country, after which economic sanctions were imposed, lasting through the duration of the Clinton administration. The sanctions, in fact, began in 1990 before the first Gulf War, which destroyed the entire infrastructure of the country. Margaret Thatcher explained that the purpose of the Iraq war was to “destroy the entire military, and perhaps industrial, potential of that country.” The sanctions from 1990 to 2000 resulted in the deaths of roughly 1.5 million Iraqis, over 500,000 of which were children under the age of 12. The New York Times praised the sanctions as one of the “greatest successes” for the UN in Iraq. Three top UN officials who were sent to Iraq to monitor the sanctions and provide humanitarian assistance resigned in protest against the sanctions, explaining that they were causing immense harm to the civilian population. When Clinton’s Secretary of State Madeleine Albright was asked in 1996 about the 500,000 children killed by the sanctions, Albright stated, “we think the price is worth it.”[22]

Obama of course, has learned a valuable lesson from Clinton, and imposed sanctions on Iran in order to punish the Iranian population. The day before Clinton spoke at the DNC endorsing Obama, the Financial Times reported that the US-imposed sanctions on Iran were having the predictable effect as they were hitting medical patients especially hard, as deliveries of medicine and raw material for Iranian pharmaceutical companies was either stopped or delayed, as “access to medicine has become increasingly limited.” One Iranian medical NGO official commented, “This is a blatant hostage-taking of the most vulnerable people by countries which claim they care about human rights.”[23]

However, these are exactly the intentions of sanctions. When Castro overthrew the U.S.-supported dictatorship in Cuba in 1959, Cuba became the primary enemy of the United States because, in the words of a 1960 National Intelligence Estimate, of Cuba’s “successful defiance of the U.S.” As the Eisenhower administration – and the Kennedy administration following him – designed and implemented harsh economic sanctions, top officials were quite blunt in their internal discussions about the effects and intent of the policies. Eisenhower noted that if the Cuban people “are hungry, they will throw Castro out,” since the “primary objective” of the sanctions, the president noted, was “to establish conditions which will bring home to the Cuban people the cost of Castro’s policies.” Kennedy administration officials explained that the sanctions – and the accompanying covert warfare – were designed to alienate “internal support” in Cuba to Castro’s government, “based on economic dissatisfaction and hardship,” which meant that US policy had to aim “to bring about hunger, desperation and [the] overthrow of the government,” explained one State Department official.[24]

“It Takes Some Brass”: Serving the Corporate Consensus with the Politics of Poverty

The media outlet, PolitiFact, reported on Bill Clinton’s DNC speech, writing that the former president “received a hero’s welcome,” and then confirmed Clinton’s statements on the economy as “true.”[25] Well, what are some things that Clinton said about the economy? One thing Clinton stated was that, “It turns out that advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment is both morally right and good economics,” adding that, “poverty, discrimination and ignorance restrict growth.” He proclaimed that the Democrats “think the country works better with a strong middle class, with real opportunities for poor folks to work their way into it.” Clinton noted that the Republicans “want to get rid of those pesky financial regulations designed to prevent another crash and prohibit future bailouts.” Clinton, while referring to a Republican politician, noted, “it takes some brass to attack a guy for doing what you did.”[26] While the audience laughed, applauded, and cheered at that statement, the irony was lost on the fact that Clinton was doing just that: “attacking a guy for doing what [he] did.” Clearly, Clinton has “some brass” to not only do that, but to actually comment on that technique.

It’s truly an amazing exercise in absolute hypocrisy to see a man stand up in front of millions of people and blame Republicans for wanting to get rid of “pesky financial regulations” when his administration was largely responsible for getting rid of the most important “pesky financial regulations” – such as the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act – which Obama has obviously not even considered re-instating. The economic crisis – which is only going to get worse, since Obama has ensured that the next financial crisis will be much more severe than the last one – was not caused by a political party, it was caused by a socio-political and economic ideology that we call ‘neoliberalism.’ This ideology was and still is endorsed and promoted by Republicans and Democrats alike. So from Reagan onwards, every single U.S. president is responsible for creating and making the economic crisis worse, because they implemented policies which were designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many. And when the system crashes, as it inevitably does, the government moves in to save the banks and financial institutions from their crimes, and hand the people the bill.[27]

Under Bill Clinton, the derivatives market exploded as financial institutions were deregulated, major mergers approved – creating what we now call “too big to fail” banks – which since Obama’s “economic recovery” are bigger and more dangerous than ever. Under Clinton, the Federal Reserve kept interest rates at historic lows and provided liquidity (money) to help build the housing bubble, with which Clinton’s unregulated derivatives market saw an explosion in speculation, not only allowing banks and hedge funds to help create the financial crisis, but also to profit from it, as Goldman Sachs did (which was Obama’s main campaign contributor in his 2008 election). Clinton’s administration had the Department of Housing and Urban Development pressure the mortgage giants – Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – to provide mortgages to low-income borrowers, which helped build the housing bubble under an illusion of prosperity. The Glass-Steagall Act, which was put in place in 1933 in response to the Great Depression, was designed to prevent another Great Depression. So of course, banks like JP Morgan, Citicorp and others lobbied heavily to have it repealed (as a barrier to “growth”), and the Federal Reserve and Clinton’s Treasury Department responded to the demands of their constituents – the banks and corporations that they represent in government – by dismantling these “pesky financial regulations.” Thus, Alan Greenspan at the Fed, Robert Rubin and Larry Summers at the Treasury were among the key architects of the economic collapse, along with their constituents at JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, Bank of America and Goldman Sachs.[28]

So naturally, when Obama became president, it was important to appoint all the people who caused the crisis to positions in which they are responsible for solving the crisis they helped create. So Obama appointed Larry Summers to be his chief economic adviser, and of course, Timothy Geithner who previously served as President of the New York Federal Reserve, where he was appointed to that position by the major Wall Street banks he was to represent. Geithner was also a protégé of Clinton’s Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Rubin had since become an executive at Citigroup, rewarded for his work in dismantling “pesky financial regulations” and thus able to profit from the crisis he helped create. Summers had previously shown his propensity for “morally right and good economics” – as Clinton described it – when he was Chief Economist at the World Bank in 1991, where he wrote a secret memo advocating Western nations and corporations to dump toxic waste in poor African countries because by the time the effects of cancer emerge, statistically speaking, the population would already be dead because their life expectancy was so low. Thus, wrote Summers, “I think the economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest-wage country is impeccable and we should face up to that.”[29]

Clearly, Clinton’s economic policies as president – and those of which he has endorsed in Obama’s administration – were a triumphant success for the dominant banks, financial institutions and corporations that own the government. Despite all the evidence of Goldman Sachs having engaged in repeated criminal activity in causing the financial crisis and profiting off of it (not to mention getting massive bailout funds from Obama), Obama’s [In]Justice Department recently announced that the U.S. government “will not prosecute Goldman Sachs.”[30] And of course not, why would Obama prosecute the bank that was his number one financial contributor in his 2008 election campaign. Though of course, it should be noted, that Obama’s 2008 campaign had some diversity among its top donors: JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup, and UBS, among others. The financial institutions preferred Obama over John McCain in 2008, and it was a smart investment for them.[31] After all, Obama’s bailouts gave the banks $16 trillion.[32]

No surprise then, to see that Obama’s top campaign donors in 2012 include Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase and Goldman Sachs. And since the U.S. Supreme Court voted in January of 2010 to allow corporations to contribute as much money as they want to election campaigns – under “constitutional free-speech rights” – campaign spending has increased dramatically.[33] Thus, while Wall Street gave the Obama campaign $16 million in 2008, that number has soared during the current election, with the same contributors donating to Romney.[34] Among Romney’s current top supporters are Morgan Stanley, Bank of American, JPMorgan Chase, and Goldman Sachs, with Obama getting more support from Microsoft, Google, IBM, and others.[35] While Obama parades around calling Wall Street executives “fat cats,” Obama and the Democratic National Committee raised more than $14 million from the “fat cats” through the end of April 2012.[36]

Clinton stated at the Democratic Convention, reflecting upon his economic policies of the 1990s, “We could see that the policies were working, that the economy was growing… [and] by 1996 the economy was roaring,” neglecting to mention it was a roaring bubble built upon speculation and debt. This, of course, received a thunderous applause for Clinton as he spoke, adding that President Obama “has laid the foundation for a new, modern successful economy of shared prosperity. And if you renew the president’s contract, you will feel it. You will feel it.”[37] He had to repeat that part because people haven’t been “feeling it,” so it was important to remind them that current conditions are no basis for assessing the future. One must assess the future based upon pure “faith.” Hence, “you will feel it” is repeated despite all the policies that indicate otherwise.

Neil Barofsky, the special inspector general responsible for oversight of Obama’s bailout program, recently published a book entitled, “Bailout: An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street,” in which he wrote, “I had no idea that the U.S. government had been captured by the banks,” but this became clear as the bailouts were “setting the country up for potentially catastrophic losses.”[38] In his final report as inspector of the bailouts, Barofsky wrote: “The prospect of more bailouts will continue to fuel more bad behavior with potentially disastrous results.” In other words, the concept of “too big to fail” is an insurance policy for banks, telling them that the government will always be there to save them, and thus, they have no incentive to engage in safe financial practices, and are actually encouraged to continue making highly risky and speculative investments, paving the way for the next financial crisis at which time they will be bailed out again. Barofsky called the bailouts a “colossal failure,” under which the Treasury Department “made almost no effort to hold [the banks] accountable, and the bounteous terms delivered by the government seemed to border on being corrupt.”[39] Just more of Clinton’s “morally right and good economics,” no doubt.

“Free Trade” and Costly Poverty: A Bi-Partisan Consensus

Clinton of course, also implemented the NAFTA agreement, which is a protectionist corporate-dominated system of economic integration and exploitation between Mexico, Canada, and the US, undermining labour, de-industrializing the northern countries, exploiting the labour of poor Mexicans, and undertaking a concerted assault against the middle class. Thus, it is called a “free trade agreement,” though it consists of thousands of pages of rules and regulations expanding corporate rights and domination of the economy. This is perhaps what Clinton was referring to when he said that Democrats work towards “advancing equal opportunity and economic empowerment” in order to provide “real opportunities” for “a strong middle class.” Those statements were of course met with thunderous applause and cheers.

Back during the 2008 campaign, both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton said that they would renegotiate NAFTA, and even suggested that the United States would pull out of the agreement. While campaigning, they made these statements at a debate in Cleveland, Ohio, where NAFTA is “wildly unpopular with blue-collar workers,” due to all the manufacturing jobs that were lost as a result of the trade agreement. Hillary Clinton stated that she would “renegotiate it on terms that are favourable to all of America.” Obama agreed with Hillary at the debate, stating, “I will make sure that we renegotiate in the same way that Senator Clinton talked about, and I think actually Senator Clinton’s answer on this one is right.” Obama said that he would “ensure that we actually get labour and environmental standards that are enforced… That is something that I have been consistent about.”[40]

The Canadian business and financial elite – and their mouthpieces in the media – immediately declared the sky to be falling as a result of presidential hopefuls suggesting to renegotiate NAFTA. It was leaked to the Canadian media that a senior member of Obama’s campaign team contacted the Canadian Consulate in Chicago to inform them that when Obama talks about renegotiating or “opting out” of NAFTA, “it was just campaign rhetoric not to be taken seriously.” In other words, he was just lying to get into power. The statements were made by Austan Goolsbee, Obama’s senior economic adviser during his campaign.[41] Goolsbee further informed Canadian officials that Obama’s stand on free trade during the campaign trail was “more reflective of political maneuvering than policy,” and that Obama’s language “should be viewed as more about political positioning than a clear articulation of policy plans.”[42] In other words, it is important to completely ignore everything Obama says while he is campaigning for president, because it is all lies meant to be consumed by the “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders,” the voting public. It does not reflect the actual policies and plans of Obama, which the public is not to be informed of.

So why lie about NAFTA? In Ohio, where the pledges to renegotiate NAFTA were made, the trade agreement led to the loss of roughly 200,000 manufacturing jobs, while the U.S. as a whole lost some 3.1 million jobs between 1994 and 2009 due to NAFTA, which also led to a trade deficit with Mexico and Canada that was $9.1 billion in 1993, and has since risen to $138.5 billion in 2007. During the presidential campaign, national polls revealed that 56% of the American population was in favour of renegotiating NAFTA. In Mexico, hundreds of thousands of people had marched in opposition to NAFTA, demanding renegotiations, and in Canada, 61% of the population favour renegotiation.[43]

Public opinion polls are extensively studied by the public relations industry and political strategists, who advise politicians during their campaigns (and once they take power). Because public opinion is in favour of renegotiating NAFTA, the rhetoric of politicians must reflect public opinion, so that the politicians are viewed in a good light and get the votes they need to get into power. However, because politicians are put in power to serve the interests of corporate and financial institutions, it can only remain as rhetoric, because renegotiating is against the interests and desires of the economic and financial elite, who are, after all, the major financial contributors to electoral advertising campaigns. So public opinion must be studied so that it can be used to manipulate the public – “the engineering of consent” – but then it must also be immediately undermined and dismissed, so that policy does not actually follow public opinion. Rather, public opinion – to the best degree possible – must be influenced to follow policy.

Raymond Chretien, former Canadian Ambassador to the U.S. and nephew of former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien (who implemented NAFTA in cooperation with Bill Clinton), said in November of 2008, just following Obama’s successful election, that Obama “will likely find a way to back off his election campaign promise to renegotiate” the agreement, adding, “once in power in January, once apprised of what is at stake here,” meaning, massive corporate profits, “I doubt very much that he will want to reopen that.”[44] Within less than a month of becoming president, Obama stated that his promise to renegotiate NAFTA “will have to wait”; forever, no doubt.[45] Kind of like closing the torture camp at Guantanamo.

So apart from just lying about trade agreements to get into power, what is Obama’s actual record as president on trade agreements? Negotiations were begun under the Bush administration in 2008 for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), and of course, since the difference between Obama and Bush was one of rhetoric, the negotiations continued in the same manner: secretly.

The Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has been working for over three years on a massive so-called “trade agreement” behind closed doors, with input given only to 600 corporate lobbyists who have had access to the draft deal and negotiations, which have otherwise been kept secret from the public. Just part of Obama’s promised “transparency,” no doubt. The agreement includes the U.S., Australia, Brunei, Chile, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Malaysia, and Vietnam, among others. Roughly 133 Democratic representatives wrote a letter to Obama demanding access to the “secret texts” of the trade deal, with public interest groups warning that millions of jobs could be lost as a result of the agreement.[46]

While it is called a “trade agreement,” only 2 of the 26 chapters in the TPP have to do with trade, with the majority of the rest dealing with establishing corporate rights, protections, privileges, as well as constraints on “pesky” government regulations. Among these new “rights” and “privileges” for corporations (who obviously do not have enough rights and privileges as it is) include more job offshoring, protections to allow monopolies to raise prices, as well as new corporate controls established over natural resources. The deal also includes threats to food safety, land use, environmental protection, energy use and control, as well as a special chapter on “copyrights” which includes a massive threat to Internet freedom, which was previously stalled in Congress with the attempted Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). Obviously, dismantling Internet freedom through a corrupt institution like Congress failed due to public pressure, and thus, Congress is still too influenced by the “meddlesome and ignorant outsiders,” so it’s better that such an agreement be negotiated in secret with 600 corporations.[47]

Documents from the deal have been leaked, which is the only way that any of this information has become public. When the documents were leaked, it was reported that the Obama administration “intends to bestow radical new political powers upon multinational corporations.” In the documents, it was revealed that Obama’s administration has emerged as a very strong advocate “for policies that environmental activists, financial reform advocates and labor unions have long rejected for eroding key protections currently in domestic laws.” In other words, the already ineffective and almost-useless and toothless environmental, financial, and labour protections that exist are simply unacceptable to the Obama administration and the 600 corporations Obama is taking his orders from. The agreement stipulates that foreign corporations operating in the United States would no longer be subject to domestic US laws regarding protections for the environment, finance, or labour rights, and could appeal to an “international tribunal” which would be given the power to overrule American law and impose sanctions on the U.S. for violating the new “rights” of corporations.[48]

During his 2008 presidential campaign, Obama stated, “We will not negotiate bilateral trade agreements that stop the government from protecting the environment, food safety, or the health of its citizens; give greater rights to foreign investors than to U.S. investors; [or] require the privatization of our vital public services.” I suppose that was somewhat true, since technically it isn’t a “bilateral” agreement, but rather a “multi-lateral” agreement. Referring to the changed rules for medication – which would allow companies to increase prices and control monopolies over life-saving medications, as well as prevent poor countries from developing cheap alternatives – the U.S. manger of Doctors Without Borders Access to Medicines Campaign, stated, “Bush was better than Obama on this.” The agreement would of course grant similar rights to American corporations in the other countries of the TPP agreement, thus, it serves as a profitable and exploitative bonanza for all multinational corporations involved, and of course, all the populations from the countries involved will suffer as a result. The “international tribunal” which would dictate the laws of the countries would be staffed by corporate lawyers acting as “judges,” thus ensuring that cases taken before them have a “fair and balanced” hearing, as in, fairly balanced in favour of corporate rights over… everything else. The TPP deal is strongly supported by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the largest business lobby in the United States, as well as by presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, who has urged the U.S. to finalize the deal as fast as possible.[49]

Public Citizen is the organization that published the leaked document, a public research institution whose director, Todd Tucker, stated, “The leaked document… shows that in all of the major respects, this is exactly the same template that was used in NAFTA and other agreements that President Obama campaigned against,” and noted that the TPP has provisions that allow other countries to join in the future, potentially becoming a new “global trade agreement, larger than NAFTA.”[50] The American Prospect reported on the TPP leaks, writing that, “the TPP now threatens a slow-motion stealth attack against a century of progressive domestic policy,” though it’s hardly slow-motion, and the policies that exist can hardly be said to be “progressive,” but nonetheless, all the little concessions granted to the demands of the “bewildered herd” of “interested spectators” were simply too much to bear for corporate dominance. Gary Horlick, a former U.S. trade official who had spent four decades involved in trade deals, stated, “This is the least transparent trade negotiation I have ever seen.” In fact, participants in the negotiations and discussions have to sign a memorandum of understanding which forbids them from releasing any “negotiating documents until four years after a deal is done or abandoned.” In short, Obama’s TPP is a “corporate coup.”[51]

The objective with the “unprecedented secrecy” in the negotiations is to have the deal signed before the elections. As the U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk noted, “I believe … that we have very faithfully operated within the spirit of the Obama administration to have the most engaged and transparent process as we possibly could.” Though he explained what he meant by “as we possibly could,” when he added that, “there’s a practical reason” for all the secrecy: “for our ability both to preserve negotiating strength and to encourage our partners to be willing to put issues on the table they may not otherwise, that we have to preserve some measure of discretion and confidentiality.” In other words, the secrecy is necessary because if people knew what we were doing behind closed doors, they would oppose it, and the deal would be stopped. Yes, that is very “practical.” When asked if he would release a draft text of the agreement, Kirk replied that it was too early to do that, “there will be a time, once we have agreed on text, that we may – as we have with other agreements – be able to release that.” In other words: “maybe, and by maybe, I mean… nope!” Meanwhile, other nations don’t want to be left out of such an ambitious and “prosperous” trade agreement, as Japan, Canada, and Mexico have been lobbying to be included. But this would require the three countries to implement changes to their already-existing policies which would allow them to even be considered to enter the TPP. In other words, even Mexico doesn’t meet the required standards of desirable corporate exploitation and domination to be considered.[52]

All the secrecy is very important, because as public opinion polls show, the entire population is adamantly opposed to these types of negotiations. An opinion poll from 2011 revealed that the American population has – just over the previous few years – moved from “broad opposition” to “overwhelming opposition” to NAFTA-style trade deals. A major NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll from September of 2010 revealed that “the impact of trade and outsourcing is one of the only issues on which Americans of different classes, occupations and political persuasions agree,” with 86% saying that outsourcing jobs by U.S. companies to poor countries was “a top cause of our economic woes,” with 69% thinking that “free trade agreements between the United States and other countries cost the U.S. jobs,” and only 17% of Americans in 2010 feel that “free trade agreements” benefit the U.S., compared to 28% in 2007. A Democratic Party polling firm revealed that 45% of voters were much more likely to support a Democratic candidate if the candidate pointed out how their opponent supported various “free trade agreements” negotiated by George Bush. The same polling agency revealed in 2010 that Americans do not feel “warmly” towards corporations and banks, with only 29% of voters feeling “warm” toward corporations (compared to 13% among non-voters), and 12% of voters felt “warm” toward banks (compared to 16% among non-voters). These are lower ratings than those for Obama, Sarah Palin, the GOP, Democrats, Newt Gingrich, the NRA, labor unions, and much more. Polling showed that voters who vote for Democrats cited “job offshoring” as “the most important issue facing the country,” and felt that Republican support for offshoring was the “most important reason to not vote Republican.”[53]

The extensive polling, which politicians are well aware of, reflects a view that citizens look at corporations and banks unfavorably, and that issues of “free trade” and “job offshoring” feature extremely high in their concerns, and whether Democrat, Republican, or Independent, the population is overwhelming in opposition to “free trade” agreements. So, the lesson from all this research on public opinion is not to change the policy to meet the demands of the public, but rather to change the discussion. So “free trade” agreements are simply not discussed, hence the enormous secrecy behind the TPP. Since corporations and banks are viewed so unfavorably, you simply remove them from the discussion. After all, it is the corporations and banks that the politicians are there to serve, and you don’t want to bad mouth your bosses in public too much or too loud (unless it’s “just campaign rhetoric”). Thus, when it comes to blaming the economic crisis on someone, the discussion must be simplified to an absurd little fairy tale in which you remove facts from reality, and create an image and establish a political discourse in which it was either: a) the Republicans did it, or b) the Democrats did it. By framing the discourse at this very basic, black and white manner, you immediately divide people against each other, instead of uniting them in opposition to the banks and corporations which control the politicians and the government. This is done for obvious reasons. You can’t expect a parasite to help you find a way to get rid of parasites. That’s why public relations was invented.

“Jobs, jobs, jobs. Jobs jobby-jobs, jobby job-jobbin… Jobs.” – Every Politician Ever

When politicians blather about, they almost always mention this magical word called “jobs.” They usually state that their intention is to “create jobs” or that they have already “created jobs.” This is taken as a testament to their tireless work on behalf of the population that elected them. Jobs are good. So if politicians create jobs, they are doing good… right? Well, what if the word “jobs” meant something different when politicians say it? Perhaps, it would be helpful to seek a definition, so that we can translate political language and understand what is really being said. After all, if you only speak English, and you’re listening to someone who only speaks Spanish, you might recognize a couple of words now and again, but ultimately, you need a translation in order to understand what is being said. As Noam Chomsky has pointed out in countless public speaking events, when politicians say “jobs,” what they mean to say is, “profits.” Perhaps this is worth investigating, no?

First, we must ask some basic questions. Why are jobs important? Because they provide a means of living, of earning income, and thus, generating wealth and prosperity for all. That’s the story, anyway. But essentially we can deduce that jobs are important because they provide income, which we depend on to live. So, if we are to talk about jobs, we have to talk about income.

In June of 2012, the OECD – an international organization of economists representing 34 of the wealthiest countries on earth – released a report noting that the United States is facing “record long-term unemployment, income inequality and lack of investment in education and innovation.” The report noted that for the U.S., “income inequality and relative poverty are among the highest in the OECD.” Only Chile, Mexico, and Turkey rank higher among OECD nations in terms of income inequality. The chances of staying poor are higher in the U.S. than in Europe. As Deputy Secretary-General of the OECD and former State Department official Richard Boucher explained, “If your parents are poor, the chances are you are going to stay poor.” As the comedian George Carlin once said, “It’s called the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe in it.” The OECD report also noted, “the ongoing tide of foreclosures will continue to put downward pressure on house prices.” Just more of that “economic recovery” that we are told we are experiencing. Long-term unemployment in the U.S. is especially bad, with 40% of the unemployed – that’s officially 5.3 million Americans – have been out of work for 27 weeks or more. As the report also noted: “Although the middle class have seen their taxes remain roughly constant, or slightly increase, average income taxes have significantly declined for the most wealthy, especially the 1% top earners.”[54]

In 2008, the average household income for the top 1% was $1.2 million, though the percentage is highly skewed, as entry to the top 1% starts at $380,000. The share of total national income going to the top 1% reached an 80-year high in 2007, of 23.5% (and 17.6% in 2009 as the financial market deflated). For the top 0.1%, the inequality is even more pronounced. Their share of total income for the United States was 12.3% in 2007, sinking to a “still disproportionate” level of 8.1% in 2009 with the financial crash. Though this is a general trend in most countries of the OECD nations, it “began sooner, and has gone further, in America.” Increasingly, those who are within the top 1% work in finance, a trend which has increased faster than any comparable business between 1979 and 2005. In 1979, 8% of those within the top 1% worked in finance; in 2005, 13.9% of those in the top percentile worked in finance. For the top 0.1%, in 1979 roughly 11% were in finance, and in 2005 roughly 18% were in finance. The last time that income inequality was even comparable to the present day situation was during the Great Depression.[55]

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz said in June of 2012 that the United Sates is “no longer the land of opportunity” and “the ‘American dream’ is a myth.” As he detailed in his newest book, The Price of Inequality, “America has the least equality of opportunity of any of the advanced industrial economies.” This inequality will only widen in the coming decades, he warned, because the lack of mobility makes it a reinforcing system, and America will become a two-class society: “People will live in gated communities with armed guards. It’s an ugly picture. There will be political, social and economic turmoil.” Stiglitz, however, said there was a solution: eliminating “corporate welfare” and policies that “create wealth but not economic growth.”[56] In other words, instead of just creating profits for the few, focus on prosperity for the many. However, all U.S. administrations – whether Democrat or Republican – have done the exact opposite.

Between 1979 and 2006, the share of national income that went to the top 1% doubled, while the top 0.1% have amassed a larger share of the national income than at any other point on record. Between 2009 and 2011, the S&P500 (the stock prices of the top 500 companies) went up by over 80%, while median household income declined by more than 10%. While the bottom 50% of Americans own 2.5% of the national wealth, the top 1% own 33.8%. The bottom half of Americans own 0.5% of stocks, bonds, and other investment assets, while the top 1% own 50.9%. As of 2007, the top 1% had 5% of the debt, while the bottom 90% had 73% of the debt. Tax rates for the richest Americans are almost the lowest they have ever been. Productivity of workers has increased exponentially since 1947, but inflation-adjusted wages have remained flat for the same period of time. Between 1990 and 2005, the average pay for a CEO increased by 300%, and corporate profits have doubled, while pay for “production workers” (labour) has increased by 4% and the minimum wage has dropped. In 1970, the top CEOs earned 45 times as much as the average worker; in 2006, the top CEOs earned 1,723 times as much as the average worker. America has more income inequality than Egypt, India, China, Russia, and Iran. This inequality is further strengthened when you examine the generational divide. Between 1984 and 2009, the median net worth of people under the age of 35 has dropped by 68%, while seniors have gotten 42% richer. Adjusted for inflation, in 1984, the median wealth of someone under 35 was $11,521; in 2009, it was $3,662.[57]

Now we get to the actual subject of “jobs,” of which Clinton spent so much time discussing in his speech at the DNC, that Democrats are better at creating “private-sector jobs” than Republicans, which was met with thunderous applause, and endless articles in the media explaining how “right” he was. Well yes, the “private sector” has added some jobs. This led Obama to say in June that the private sector was “doing fine.” When this created a public relations problem for Obama, he later clarified that it is “absolutely clear that the economy is not doing fine.” He added: “If you look at what I said… we’ve actually seen some good momentum in the private sector… record corporate profits… so that has not been the greatest drag on the economy.”[58] Indeed, this is partly true. In May of 2012, the largest 500 corporations (the Fortune 500, as they are called) reported record-breaking profits, with ExxonMobil and Wal-Mart in the top spots. Further, “the combined earnings for the Fortune 500 corporations rose 16% from 2010 to a record high of $825 billion in 2011.”[59] As profits increase, the pay for CEOs increases too, jumping just 6% in one year.[60] In June of 2012, the Federal Reserve revealed that between 2007 and 2010, Americans saw their wealth plummet by 40%.[61] So, Obama was correct in saying that we have seen “record corporate profits,” but incorrect in saying that this was not a “drag on the economy,” as it rapidly accelerates income inequality, which, quite directly, creates a drag on the economy, to say the least.

While the private sector has been adding jobs, the public sector has been cutting them, at both the state and federal level, which has been hitting black Americans the hardest.[62] This has been a significant “drag” on economic growth (it’s called “austerity”), and it is a growing trend, and will continue regardless of whether a Democratic or Republican politician is in office, because it is what is demanded by the economic and financial elite and neoliberal ideology: which dictates “austerity” and “structural reform” as a response to a crisis. When you translate those words, you get “impoverishment” and “exploitation.” This leads to “growth,” which means “profits.” Just like the word “jobs” also often means profits.

When Obama created his “Jobs and Competitiveness Council,” he asked 26 CEOs to form a group to advise the president on how to “create jobs.” The council was headed by Jeffrey Immelt, the CEO of General Electric, but also included other “job creators” like the CEO of American Express.[63] And who better than the CEO of General Electric to lead the charge on “job creation”? After all, General Electric has cut significant amounts of American jobs, so naturally, it’s a logical choice from which to appoint a “jobs czar.” Between 2000 and 2009, the number of Americans employed by GE declined from 162,000 to 134,000, a general trend which saw U.S. multinational corporations reduce their domestic American workforce by 2.9 million people in the past decade, while increasing their overseas workforce by 2.4 million. When Obama appointed GE’s CEO, Jeff Immelt as “jobs czar,” President Obama stated that Mr. Immelt “understands what it takes for America to compete in the global economy.”[64] Indeed, it “takes” undermining labour, worker exploitation, deregulation, offshoring, job insecurity, and government subsidy for corporations. In fact, the ten largest companies on Obama’s “jobs council” have shed over 91,000 jobs since 2009, with General Electric contributing 19,000 job losses to that number.[65]

So, if we do translate the word “jobs” into the word profits, then things tend to make more sense. After all, Obama appointed Immelt as his “jobs czar,” after Immelt cut 19,000 U.S. jobs but helped GE make record profits, and not only that, but GE does not pay any taxes, and instead, claims billions of dollars in tax benefits.[66] Thus, it makes more sense to think of Immelt as the “profits czar” who was put on Obama’s “profits council” to “create profits.” When you translate political language, everything suddenly makes much more sense, because it becomes comprehensible and logical. It just also happens to be rather monstrous and corrupt and infuriating, but that’s why political language is constructed: to not be properly understood. Thus, it was perfectly understandable for Bill Clinton, who implemented NAFTA which led to massive job losses, declining wages and standards of living, increased debt, offshoring, but also immense corporate profits, to explain in his speech that, “we need a lot more new jobs,” but pointed out what a good record Democrats have for “creating jobs.” Indeed, General Electric and Goldman Sachs would agree.

Public Relations Shapes the Debate

Since the economy is a disaster, it is very important to properly shape the discourse on economic issues, most especially during a political advertising campaign, otherwise it would be difficult to maintain any legitimacy. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner is a public opinion research and strategic consulting firm that often works with the Democratic Party. Essentially, it is the Democratic Party’s public relations organization. In June of 2012, James Carville, a long-time Democratic Party political strategist who was the lead strategist for Bill Clinton’s successful presidential campaign, produced a research report along with other top political strategists for Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. The report was entitled, Shifting the Economic Narrative, which suggested that the “prevailing narratives articulated by national Democratic leaders” are “vulnerable” in regards to the economic situation. In other words, the Democratic rhetoric and talking points on the economy don’t have much legitimacy. The report wrote that Democrats face an impossible situation in the elections “if we do not move to a new narrative,” or, to construct a new story. This would mean to change the story to “one that contextualizes the recovery but, more importantly, focuses on what we will do to make a better future for the middle class.” The report stated that voters “know we are in a new normal where life is a struggle – and convincing them that things are good enough for those who have found jobs is a fool’s errand,” thus, the narrative must shift to discussing “the plans for making things better.” While noting that the Democrats were losing voters on the economy, the report added that the same voters were still leaning toward the Democrats “because Romney is very vulnerable,” since “[t]hey do not trust him because of who he is for and because he is out of touch with ordinary people.” The report noted that the result was that, “it produces a fairly diminished embrace of Obama and the Democrats, the lesser of two evils, without much feeling of hope.”[67]

What voters “want to know,” wrote the report, was that Obama “understands the struggle of working families and has plans to make things better.” It doesn’t matter whether or not this is true, of course, but just that people believe it, and that they “want to know” it. The report noted that it had conducted several focus group research studies on college-educated voters who are ‘independents’ or ‘weak partisans,’ meaning that they only somewhat align with a particular political party. The research was revealing: while most had jobs, they had lower wages and fewer benefits which has left them struggling to pay for groceries. For non-college graduates, the situation is even worse, largely dependent upon food stamps and with many expressing that they feel as if they live in the 1900s where “you’re just slave labour.” Young people also have a disproportionate struggle, and are increasingly moving back home with their parents. Even in affluent suburbs people are “struggling with new realities,” such as “stagnant incomes, pay cuts, and layoffs.” Wile bills go up, paychecks either remain stagnant or go down, and this is most keenly felt in the cost of groceries, gas, cable bills, and medical insurance. These voters, the report suggested, “are not convinced that we are headed in the right direction,” with “no conceivable recovery in the year ahead that will change the view of the new state of the country.” These people, stated the report, “actually have a very realistic view,” and thus, “the current narrative about progress just misses the opportunity to connect and point forward.”[68]

While most of these voters support Obama, “they say it cannot get worse and you have to believe it will get better.” The “optimism” is predicated on the basis that “this has to be rock bottom,” which the report defined as “pessimistic optimism.” The type of “leaders” they are looking for are those “who understand the uncertainty and can lead a way forward.” While the Obama campaign talks about “jobs gained,” wrote the report, “it gains no support beyond 2008 Obama supporters.” On the economy, Romney supporters typically cannot say anything positive except that he is “not Obama.” However, many voters would still choose Romney over Obama when it comes to the economy, but when forced to choose between the two on the whole, “many of the Obama voters work to figure out a way to support him, though it lacks the kind of emotion and rationale that would drive engagement.” In other words, support for Obama tends to be driven more by the fact that he is “not Romney.” In the words of the report, it was that Obama was “the evil you know” and the “lesser of two evils.” While the patience of voters on Obama was “wearing very thin, they still want to believe in him.” All the ideas of voters that support Obama “center on what he should do – not what he has done.”[69] In other words, support is maintained in false hope.

In terms of “shifting the economic narrative,” the research report suggested that, “the strongest message was one focused on the future of the middle class – with minimal discussion of the recovery and jobs created and maximal empathy for the challenges people face.” Thus, the election needs to be about the “future of the middle class.” Two-thirds of those who partook in the focus groups responded positively to this message of helping the middle class, and they reacted well to references of the Clinton era economy (when their wealth was constructed on an illusion of debt and consumption). Ultimately, the report suggested that the best advertising campaign for the Democratic Party and Obama in particular was to “connect on a pocketbook level” and “commit to the programs voters rely on most,” such as Medicaid, Social Security and foodstamps. This rhetoric has “the capacity to be very powerful, particularly when the offer on the other side is suspicious and weak.”[70]

This “shifting message” was well received in Bill Clinton’s speech, where he talked about moving people “out of poverty [and] into the middle class,” and warning people that the Republicans will “hurt the middle class and the poor and put the future on hold.” That phrase, in particular, hit all the right points of discussion as suggested by the Democratic Party’s polling agency: to talk about the middle class, to protect the poor, and to focus on “the future.” That is why, as Clinton was finishing his speech, he said that, “If you want a future of shared prosperity, where the middle class is growing and poverty is declining… you have to vote for Obama.”[71] Or that Democrats “think the country works better with a strong middle class.” Or that Republicans want to cut programs “that help the middle class and poor children,” which, of course, is true. But the statement neglects the problematic context that while Democrats may not necessarily “cut” these programs (though again, the evidence of this is scant, but let’s imagine as a hypothetical), the Democrats do continue to create the social conditions in which the middle class and poor struggle more, and thus, become more dependent upon various programs of support. It’s sort of like saying that, “After my opponent beats you with a stick, he won’t let you have a bandaid… But after I beat you with a stick, I at least give you a bandaid.”

Brand Obama: No ‘Hope’ in Hell for ‘Change’

Since the public relations industry runs election campaigns and a good deal of public politics, it only makes sense that the industry itself acknowledges this fact. When it came to Obama’s 2008 election campaign, the public relations and advertising industry were completely ecstatic. Before even being elected president, Obama won the Advertising Age’s “marketer of the year” award for 2008, winning the vote of hundreds of marketers, agency heads and other industry representatives at the annual conference of the Association of National Advertisers. Obama’s campaign of “hope” and “change” beat Apple for the coveted prize that year. The Vice President of Rodale marketing solutions stated, “I honestly look at [Obama’s] campaign and I look at it as something that we can all learn from as marketers.”[72]

At the Cannes Lion International Advertising Awards in June of 2009, the Obama campaign claimed two of the top awards at the prestigious international advertising and public relations industry awards. His campaign won the Titanium grand prix award, for which the criteria is an advertising campaign that is “provocative, challenges assumptions and points to a new direction.” For example, “hope” and “change.” The Titanium award, according to the organizers at the Cannes ceremony, “celebrates work that causes the industry to stop in its tracks and reconsider the way forward.” The other coveted prize that the Obama advertising campaign received was the Integrated Lions award, referring to a campaign that uses three or more media, such as the press, Internet and television, which is “high standard and state-of-the-art.”[73] One advertising executive commented, “They turned (political advertising) from being one dimensional to something the whole country could contribute to. It was a fantastic idea.” Another advertising executive stated, “it was effective. You couldn’t ignore it. There will never be a political campaign that doesn’t use these tools.”[74]

That same month, Obama’s White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs received the Public Relations Professional of the Year award from the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA), “for his groundbreaking use of new communications techniques and technologies, as well as successful delivery of campaign messages to a broad electorate.” The chairman and CEO of the PRSA, delivered the award to Gibbs, stating, “Robert Gibbs and his team revolutionized the way presidential candidates speak to voters by engaging best practices in current communications techniques and technologies,” adding: “He transformed static, one-way messaging into a dynamic dialogue to engage an expansive electorate like never before.” Upon accepting the award, Gibbs explained that his campaign had to “focus on the message of change being communicated by our candidate… we knew our success depended on our ability to stay focused on that message and relay it honestly and consistently to people across the country.”[75]

“You Have to Treat Them Like Children” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Whether Bill Clinton, George Bush, Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, they are all parasites, whose purpose is to manipulate the public into granting them the “consent” to govern, while they govern for the benefit of corporations and banks to plunder, exploit, and profit at the expense of the population, both at home and around the world, which is often facilitated through war, coups, repression of liberation movements, genocide, and impoverishment. To these people, the public – you and I – are nothing but a “bewildered herd” of “ignorant and meddlesome outsiders” who must be kept as the “interested spectators of action.” The more talented a politician is at “manufacturing consent,” the more praise he or she gets from the media, and thus, from the public, itself. It is important to expose the spectacle of “public relations politics” so that we can look underneath the surface of power, and understand the real functions and structure of our society, and thus, we can be more capable of changing it. To take a quote from Bill Clinton out of context when he spoke at the Democratic National Convention, “It’s important, because a lot of people believe this stuff.” When he said this, he was referring to the views of Republicans, but the quote is revealing of Clinton’s arrogance and indeed, his talent as a manipulator of the public mind, because it applies precisely to a public relations event like the Democratic National Convention itself: “a lot of people believe this stuff.”

It seems that it is time that people now place their beliefs in more tangible, factual, and logical realities. As children, we were told fairy tales; as adults, we believe fairy tales. Just as Franklin D. Roosevelt said of Latin Americans back in the early 20th century, “You have to treat them like children.” Well that applies to their view of the domestic population as well. Even though our political parasites continue to treat us like children, we have the choice – and the capacity – to act like adults. That means that we have to begin by dismantling the fairy tales that we believe in. Parents know that there comes a time when they must tell their children that there is no Santa Claus, and while this reality may be difficult for the children at first to accept, they are able to deal with that reality, and intellectually evolve and mature beyond it. People as a whole have the same capacity. Whether or not we utilize that capacity is entirely up to us, because our politicians have no interest in doing so, nor will they. It is up to us to dismantle the mythology ourselves.

The most effective way to do this is to take a very practical and logical first step of applying the same standards to our own society that we apply to others. In other words, instead of pointing to the crimes of state-sanctioned “enemies,” instead of blaming either Republicans or Democrats for all the woes of society, one must engage in social self-reflectionand apply the exact same method of inquiry into the ideas, individuals and institutions of our “enemies” as we do to our own ideas, individuals, and institutions.

I think it’s relatively safe to assume that most people would not want a mass murderer as a close friend, but for some reason, millions of people cheer and applaud mass murderers as their leaders. This obviously has no basis in logic. If mass murder is wrong and immoral, those who commit it or participate in it are also immoral. When someone has clearly demonstrated their capacity for immorality – and their willingness to commit mass atrocities – as Clinton, Bush, and Obama all have, it does not make any logical sense to support these people on other claims of “morality” such as: gay rights, family values, abortion, etc. These are designed specifically as issues which limit the political discourse, which remove any discussion of empire, war, mass murder, genocide, corruption, impoverishment, the dismantling of rights and freedoms, torture, assassinations, coups, exploitation, environmental devastation, surveillance and the construction of a police state apparatus. These divisive issues, which in a functioning democracy would have been solved almost immediately, are designed to facilitate a back-and-forth between Republicans and Democrats, to distract the “bewildered herd” with only a few acceptable issues of discussion. Thus, anyone who raises other issues, of much greater relevance, ends up sounding like a Martian; they are perceived as suffering from some sort of “fringe” insanity. But insanity is not “fringe,” insanity is very much mainstream.

If, by chance, issues like war are raised in the political discourse – and most especially during advertising campaigns (which we commonly refer to as “election campaigns”) – then the critique of war policies are themselves confined to an “acceptable” discourse: either the war was a “success”, or it was a “tactical failure.” This implies, immediately, that the objectives of war are always inherently good, because if we wage war, it must be with good intentions. The morality of war – and the reality of empire – are not to be questioned.

When Obama was campaigning for president in 2008, he wrote an op-ed for the New York Times in which he referred to the Iraq war as a “distraction” for which he would make “tactical adjustments.” He wrote that the Iraq war was a “strategic blunder.”[76] That “strategic blunder” led to the deaths of over one million Iraqis between 2003 and 2008.[77] Yet, Obama was given praise for his “enlightened” critique of the Iraq war.

We must apply very basic standards of human decency to those who parade about as our leaders and saviors. An enormous amount of effort is put into preventing people from assessing political leadership in a logical, coherent, and rational manner. That is what the public relations industry does. Politicians are products to be marketed, bought and sold, and like most modern products, they fall apart quickly and have to be replaced. We have to begin questioning our political consumption patterns, otherwise we won’t change them, and it is glaringly obvious that what we have, simply isn’t working.

Watching Bill Clinton speak at the Democratic National Convention reminded me of why I don’t watch political speeches. The man stood up on stage for nearly an hour, and talked about how he cared about what poor families will do if the Republicans come to power, that Obama has fixed the economy, and he even felt it necessary to literally state, “Look, I love our country so much,” just in case you had any doubts. Clinton reached divine levels of absurdity and double-think when he stated:

If you want a future of shared prosperity, where the middle class is growing and poverty is declining, where the American dream is really alive and well again and where the United States maintains its leadership as a force for peace and justice and prosperity in this highly competitive world, you have to vote for Barack Obama.[78]

Considering that none of those fantasies exist under Republicans or Democrats, let alone Clinton or Obama, I will simply end with my favourite quote from Clinton during his speech: “a lot of people believe this stuff.” Let’s hope not for long.

Andrew Gavin Marshall is an independent researcher and writer based in Montreal, Canada, writing on a number of social, political, economic, and historical issues. He is also Project Manager of The People’s Book Project. He also hosts a weekly podcast show, “Empire, Power, and People,” on BoilingFrogsPost.com.

Notes

[1]            Ryan Lizza, “Clinton’s Speech: The Power of a Hug,” The New Yorker – News Desk, 6 September 2012:

http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2012/09/bill-clinton-convention-speech-the-power-of-a-hug.html

[2]            Konrad Yakabuski, “Clinton gives a boost to Obama’s middle-class-hero image,” The Globe and Mail, 5 September, 2012:

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/us-election/clinton-gives-a-boost-to-obamas-middle-class-hero-image/article4522804/

[3]            David Giambusso, “Congressman Pascrell: Bill Clinton’s speech tonight is ‘his comeback’,” The Star-Ledger, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/09/bill_clinton_hits_the_stump_fo.html

[4]            Dan Balz and Philip Rucker, “Bill Clinton offers forceful defense of Obama’s record,” The Washington Post, 5 September 2012:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/bill-clinton-will-highlight-convention-tonight/2012/09/05/f6d5dcf2-f797-11e1-8398-0327ab83ab91_story.html

[5]            Mark Gollom, “Obama turns to ‘rock star’ Bill Clinton to boost support,” CBC News, 5 September 2012:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2012/09/05/democratic-convention-clinton-obama.html

[6]            Natalie Finn, “Bill Clinton at the Democratic National Convention: Celebs React to Teleprompter-Busting Speech,” E! News, 6 September 2012:

http://ca.eonline.com/news/343617/bill-clinton-at-the-democratic-national-convention-celebs-react-to-teleprompter-busting-speech

[7]            Rebecca Shapiro, “Bill Clinton Media Reactions: Pundits Praise Former President’s DNC Speech, Some Criticize Length,” Huffington Post, 6 September 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/05/bill-clinton-media-reactions-dnc-speech_n_1859892.html

[8]            Rachel Maddow, “’The Rachel Maddow Show’ for Thursday, August 2nd, 2012,” NBC News, 2 August 2012:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/48492324/ns/msnbc-rachel_maddow_show/t/rachel-maddow-show-thursday-august-nd/#.UDXF-ERQhgA

[9]            Josh Halliday, “Burson-Marsteller: PR firm at centre of Facebook row,” The Guardian, 12 May 2011:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/may/12/burson-masteller-pr-firm-facebook-row

[10]            Edward Bernays, Propaganda (New York: Ig Publishing, 1928), page 37.

[11]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Power, Propaganda, and Purpose in American Democracy,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 18 January 2012:

https://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/01/18/power-propaganda-and-purpose-in-american-democracy/

[12]            Ibid.

[13]            Ibid.

[14]            Bruce Cummings, “Trilateralism and the New World Order,” World Policy Journal, Vol. 8, No. 2, Spring 1991, page 206.

[15]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Punishing the Population: The American Occupations of Haiti and the Dominican Republic,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 21 February 2012:

https://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/02/21/punishing-the-population-the-american-occupations-of-haiti-and-the-dominican-republic/

[16]            Ibid.

[17]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all

[18]            Morris Morley and Chris McGillion, “”Disobedient” Generals and the Politics of Redemocratization: The Clinton Administration and Haiti,” Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 112, No. 3, Autumn 1997; David Malone, “Haiti and the international community: A case study,” Survival, Vol. 39, Issue 2, 1997; Scott Turner, “The Dilemma of Double Standards in U.S. Human Rights Policy,” Peace & Change, Vol. 28, No. 4, October 2003.

[19]            Ibid.

[20]            Ibid.

[21]            Helene Cooper and Mark Landler, “U.S. Mulls Role in Haiti After the Crisis,” The New York Times, 17 January 2010:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/18/world/americas/18policy.html

[22]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Economic Warfare and Strangling Sanctions: Punishing Iran for its “Defiance” of the United States,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 6 March 2012:

https://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/03/06/economic-warfare-and-strangling-sanctions-punishing-iran-for-its-defiance-of-the-united-states/

[23]            Najmeh Bozorgmehr, “Sanctions take toll on Iran’s sick,” The Financial Times, 4 September 2012:

http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/43abcb36-f5cc-11e1-a6bb-00144feabdc0.html#axzz25dqZrNTh

[24]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “Economic Warfare and Strangling Sanctions: Punishing Iran for its “Defiance” of the United States,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 6 March 2012:

https://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2012/03/06/economic-warfare-and-strangling-sanctions-punishing-iran-for-its-defiance-of-the-united-states/

[25]            Molly Moorhead, “Bill Clinton’s night at the Democratic convention,” PolitiFact, 5 September 2012:

http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2012/sep/05/Bill-Clinton-Democratic-convention/

[26]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all

[27]            Andrew Gavin Marshall, “The Great Global Debt Depression: It’s All Greek To Me,” AndrewGavinMarshall.com, 15 July 2012:

https://andrewgavinmarshall.com/2011/07/15/167/

[28]            Ibid.

[29]            Ibid.

[30]            Reuters, “Justice Department will not prosecute Goldman Sachs, employees for Abacus deal,” Reuters, 9 August 2012:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/08/09/us-usa-goldman-no-charges-idUSBRE8781LA20120809

[31]            Andrew Clark, “Bankers and academics at top of donor list,” The Guardian, 8 November 2008:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/08/barackobama-wallstreet-bankers-campaign-donations-goldmansachs

[32]            Tracy Greenstein, “The Fed’s $16 Trillion Bailouts Under-reported,” Forbes, 20 September 2011:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/traceygreenstein/2011/09/20/the-feds-16-trillion-bailouts-under-reported/

[33]            James Vicini, “Supreme Court permits no limits on state campaign funds,” Reuters, 25 June 2012:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/25/us-usa-campaign-court-idUSBRE85O0P520120625

[34]            Jonathan D. Salant, “JPMorgan Employees Join Goldman Sachs Among Top Obama Donors,” Bloomberg, 21 March 2012:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-03-20/jpmorgan-employees-join-goldman-sachs-among-top-obama-donors.html

[35]            Greg Giroux and Jonathan D. Salant, “Obama Outspends Romney 2-1 With $43 Million in Funds for Ads,” Bloomberg, 21 July 2012:

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-07-20/obama-raises-45-9-million-in-june-to-33-million-for-romney-1-.html

[36]            Peter Nicholas and Daniel Lippman, “Wall Street Is Still Giving to President,” The Wall Street Journal, 3 July 2012:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303933404577500810740985338.html

[37]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all

[38]            Jackie Calmes, “Bad Banks, Big Bailouts and Bruises,” The New York Times, 24 July 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/25/books/bailout-by-neil-barofsky.html?pagewanted=all

[39]            Deborah Solomon, “Neil Barofsky, the Democrat Taking Digs at Obama,” Bloomberg, 12 July 2012:

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-07-12/neil-barofsky-the-democrat-taking-digs-at-obama

[40]            AP, “Clinton, Obama threaten to withdraw from NAFTA,” CBC News, 27 February 2008: http://www.cbc.ca/world/usvotes/story/2008/02/27/debate-nafta.html

[41]            CTV, “Obama campaign mum on NAFTA contact with Canada,” CTV News, 29 February 2008:

http://www.ctvnews.ca/obama-campaign-mum-on-nafta-contact-with-canada-1.279448

[42]            Michael Luo, “Memo Gives Canada’s Account of Obama Campaign’s Meeting on Nafta,” The New York Times, 4 March 2008:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/04/us/politics/04nafta.html

[43]            Laura Carlsen, “Obama Reaffirms Promise to Renegotiate NAFTA,” Huffington Post, 12 January 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laura-carlsen/obama-reaffirms-promise-t_b_157316.html

[44]            Canwest News Service, “Obama not likely to renegotiate NAFTA, ex-diplomat says,” Canada.com, 13 November 2008:

http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/news/story.html?id=ae15ed12-326f-4187-8cd1-85ceef892b9a

[45]            Michael D. Shear, “NAFTA Renegotiation Must Wait, Obama Says,” The Washington Post, 20 February 2009:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/story/2009/02/19/ST2009021903268.html

[46]            Donna Marykwas, “Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations creating ‘NAFTA on steroids’,” The Examiner, 24 August 2012:

http://www.examiner.com/article/secret-trans-pacific-partnership-trade-negotiations-creating-nafta-on-steroids

[47]            Lori Wallach, “Trans-Pacific Partnership: Under Cover of Darkness, a Corporate Coup Is Underway,” AlterNet, 29 June 2012:

http://www.alternet.org/story/156059/trans-pacific_partnership%3A_under_cover_of_darkness%2C_a_corporate_coup_is_underway?page=0%2C0

[48]            Zach Carter, “Obama Trade Document Leaked, Revealing New Corporate Powers And Broken Campaign Promises,” The Huffington Post, 13 June 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/13/obama-trade-document-leak_n_1592593.html

[49]            Zach Carter, “Obama Trade Document Leaked, Revealing New Corporate Powers And Broken Campaign Promises,” The Huffington Post, 13 June 2012:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/06/13/obama-trade-document-leak_n_1592593.html

[50]            Josh Eidelson, “Trans-Pacific Partnership: Larger than NAFTA?,” Salon, 14 June 2012:

http://www.salon.com/2012/06/14/trans_pacific_partnership_larger_than_nafta/

[51]            Lori Wallach, “A Stealth Attack on Democratic Governance,” The American Prospect, 13 March 2012:

http://prospect.org/article/stealth-attack-democratic-governance

[52]            Doug Palmer, “Secrecy needed in trade talks: USTR Kirk,” NBC News, 13 May 2012:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/47405479/ns/world_news-americas/t/secrecy-needed-trade-talks-ustr-kirk/#.UEldH0RQhgA

[53]            PC, “Unfair Trade Deals Becoming Even More Unpopular, U.S. Polling Shows,” Public Citizen: www.citizen.org/documents/polling-memo-july-2011.pdf

[54]            Ewen MacAskill and Dominic Rushe, “OECD says US economy is recovering but income inequality problematic,” The Guardian, 26 June 2012:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2012/jun/26/oecd-us-economy-income-inequality

[55]            “Income inequality: Who exactly are the 1%?” The Economist, 21 January 2012:

http://www.economist.com/node/21543178

[56]            Aaron Task, “The ‘American Dream’ Is a Myth: Joseph Stiglitz on ‘The Price of Inequality’,” Yahoo! Finance, 8 June 2012:

http://finance.yahoo.com/blogs/daily-ticker/american-dream-myth-joseph-stiglitz-price-inequality-124338674.html

[57]            Gus Lubin, “23 Mind-Blowing Facts About Income Inequality In America,” Business Insider, 7 November 2011:

http://www.businessinsider.com/new-charts-about-inequality-2011-11#

[58]            Leigh Ann Caldwell, “Obama backtracks on comments that private sector is doing “fine”,” CBS News, 8 June 2012:

http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-503544_162-57449822-503544/obama-backtracks-on-comments-that-private-sector-is-doing-fine/?tag=contentMain;contentBody

[59]            AFP, “Fortune 500 smash profit record; Exxon back on top,” AFP, 7 May 2012:

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5gbj6XIng0Cu2YL2nn9uBvWN74EgA?docId=CNG.3b6426af1a176d2c5108891890072a79.101

[60]            Christina Rexrode and Bernard Condon, “Record profits for big companies spur 6% rise in CEO pay,” Seattle Times, 25 May 2012:

http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2018290135_usceopay26.html

[61]            Ylan Q. Mui, “Americans saw wealth plummet 40 percent from 2007 to 2010, Federal Reserve says,” The Washington Post, 11 June 2012:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/fed-americans-wealth-dropped-40-percent/2012/06/11/gJQAlIsCVV_story.html

[62]            Timothy Williams, “As Public Sector Sheds Jobs, Blacks Are Hit Hardest,” The New York Times, 28 November 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/29/us/as-public-sector-sheds-jobs-black-americans-are-hit-hard.html

[63]            Zachary Karabell, “The White House and Jeff Immelt on Jobs: Compelling, Infuriating or Simply Irrelevant?” Time Magazine, 15 June 2012:

http://moneyland.time.com/2011/06/15/the-white-house-jeff-immelt-and-jobs-compelling-infuriating-or-simply-irrelevant/

[64]            Zachary Roth, “With jobs czar under fire, new data confirm offshoring trend,” Yahoo! News, 19 April 2011:

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/lookout/jobs-czar-under-fire-data-confirm-offshoring-trend-155235152.html

[65]            Susanna Kim, “10 Largest Companies on Obama’s Jobs Council Lost 91K Jobs,” ABC News, 12 October 2011:

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/10-largest-companies-obamas-jobs-council-lost-91000/story?id=14714319#.UEmh3kRQhgA

[66]            David Kocieniewski, “G.E.’s Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether,” The New York Times, 24 March 2011:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/25/business/economy/25tax.html?pagewanted=all

[67]            Stan Greenberg, James Carville, and Erica Seifert, “Shifting the Economic Narrative,” Democracy Corps/Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research, 11 June 2012:

www.democracycorps.com

[68]            Ibid.

[69]            Ibid.

[69]            Ibid.

[70]            Ibid.

[71]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all

[72]            Matthew Creamer, “Obama Wins! … Ad Age’s Marketer of the Year,” AdAge, 17 October 2008:

http://adage.com/article/moy-2008/obama-wins-ad-age-s-marketer-year/131810/

[73]            Mark Sweney, “Barack Obama campaign claims two top prizes at Cannes Lion ad awards,” The Guardian, 29 June 2009:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2009/jun/29/barack-obama-cannes-lions

[74]            Theresa Howard, “Obama Campaign Takes Top Ad Prizes,” ABC News, June 2009:

http://abcnews.go.com/Business/Politics/story?id=7947528&page=1#.UEk6zURQhgA

[75]            PRSA, “White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs Receives Public Relations Professional of the Year Honors From PRSA,” Reuters Press Release, 5 June 2009:

http://pilot.us.reuters.com/article/2009/06/05/idUS121576+05-Jun-2009+BW20090605

[76]            Barack Obama, “My Plan for Iraq,” The New York Times, 14 July 2008:

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/14/opinion/14obama.html

[77]            “Iraq conflict has killed a million Iraqis: survey,” Reuters, 30 January 2008:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/01/30/us-iraq-deaths-survey-idUSL3048857920080130

[78]            NYT, “Transcript of Bill Clinton’s Speech to the Democratic National Convention,” The New York Times, 5 September 2012:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/05/us/politics/transcript-of-bill-clintons-speech-to-the-democratic-national-convention.html?pagewanted=all

Divide and Conquer: The Anglo-American Imperial Project

Divide and Conquer: The Anglo-American Imperial Project
Global Research, July 10, 2008

Establishing an “Arc of Crisis”

Many would be skeptical that the Anglo-Americans would be behind terrorist acts in Iraq, such as with the British in Basra, when two British SAS soldiers were caught dressed as Arabs, with explosives and massive arsenal of weapons.[1] Why would the British be complicit in orchestrating terror in the very city in which they are to provide security? What would be the purpose behind this? That question leads us to an even more important question to ask, the question of why Iraq was occupied; what is the purpose of the war on Iraq? If the answer is, as we are often told with our daily dose of CNN, SkyNews and the statements of public officials, to spread democracy and freedom and rid the world of tyranny and terror, then it doesn’t make sense that the British or Americans would orchestrate terror.

However, if the answer to the question of why the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq occurred was not to spread democracy and freedom, but to spread fear and chaos, plunge the country into civil war, balkanize Iraq into several countries, and create an “arc of crisis” across the Middle East, enveloping neighboring countries, notably Iran, then terror is a very efficient and effective means to an end.

An Imperial Strategy

In 1982, Oded Yinon, an Israeli journalist with links to the Israeli Foreign Ministry wrote an article for a publication of the World Zionist Organization in which he outlined a “strategy for Israel in the 1980s.” In this article, he stated, “The dissolution of Syria and Iraq into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front. Iraq, rich in oil on the one hand and internally torn on the other is guaranteed as a candidate for Israel’s targets. Its dissolution is even more important for us than that of Syria. Iraq is stronger than Syria. In the short run, it is Iraqi power which constitutes the greatest threat to Israel.” He continued, “An Iraqi-Iranian war will tear Iraq apart and cause its downfall at home even before it is able to organize a struggle on a wide front against us. Every kind of inter-Arab confrontation will assist us in the short run and will shorten the way to the more important aim of breaking up Iraq into denominations as in Syria and Lebanon.” He continues, “In Iraq, a division into provinces along ethnic/religious lines as in Syria during Ottoman times is possible. So, three (or more) states will exist around the three major cities: Basra, Baghdad and Mosul and Shiite areas in the South will separate from the Sunni and Kurdish north.”[2]

The Iran-Iraq War, which lasted until 1988, did not result in Oded Yinon’s desired break-up of Iraq into ethnically based provinces. Nor did the subsequent Gulf War of 1991 in which the US destroyed Iraq’s infrastructure, as well as the following decade-plus of devastating sanctions and aerial bombardments by the Clinton administration. What did occur during these decades, however, were the deaths of millions of Iraqis and Iranians.

A Clean Break for a New American Century

In 1996, an Israeli think tank, the Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, issued a report under the think tank’s Study Group on a New Israeli Strategy Toward 2000, entitled, “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” In this paper, which laid out recommendations for Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, they state that Israel can, “Work closely with Turkey and Jordan to contain, destabilize, and roll-back some of its most dangerous threats,” as well as, “Change the nature of its relations with the Palestinians, including upholding the right of hot pursuit for self defense into all Palestinian areas,” and to, “Forge a new basis for relations with the United States—stressing self-reliance, maturity, strategic cooperation on areas of mutual concern, and furthering values inherent to the West.”

The report recommended Israel to seize “the strategic initiative along its northern borders by engaging Hizballah, Syria, and Iran, as the principal agents of aggression in Lebanon,” and to use “Lebanese opposition elements to destabilize Syrian control of Lebanon.” It also states, “Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq — an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.”[3]

The authors of the report include Douglas Feith, an ardent neoconservative who went on to become George W. Bush’s Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from 2001 to 2005; David Wurmser, who was appointed by Douglas Feith after 9/11 to be part of a secret Pentagon intelligence unit and served as a Mideast Adviser to Dick Cheney from 2003 to 2007; and Meyrav Wurmser, David’s wife, who is now an official with the American think tank, the Hudson Institute.

Richard Perle headed the study, and worked on the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee from 1987 to 2004, and was Chairman of the Board from 2001 to 2004, where he played a key role in the lead-up to the Iraq war. He was also a member of several US think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute and the Project for the New American Century.

The Project for the New American Century, or PNAC, is an American neoconservative think tank, whose membership and affiliations included many people who were associated with the present Bush administration, such as Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Richard Armitage, Jeb Bush, Elliott Abrams, Eliot A. Cohen, Paula Dobriansky, Francis Fukuyama, Zalmay Khalilzad, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Peter Rodman, Dov Zakheim and Robert B. Zoellick.

PNAC produced a report in September of 2000, entitled, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces and Resources for a New Century,” in which they outlined a blueprint for a Pax Americana, or American Empire. The report puts much focus on Iraq and Iran, stating, “Over the long term, Iran may well prove as large a threat to US interests in the Gulf as Iraq has.”[4] Stating that, “the United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security,” the report suggests that, “the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification,” however, “the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime change of Saddam Hussein.”[5]

Engineer a Civil War for the “Three State Solution”

Shortly after the initial 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, the New York Times ran an op-ed piece by Leslie Gelb, President Emeritus and Board Member of the US-based Council on Foreign Relations, the most influential and powerful think tank in the United States. The op-ed, titled, “The Three State Solution,” published in November of 2003, stated that the “only viable strategy” for Iraq, “may be to correct the historical defect and move in stages toward a three-state solution: Kurds in the north, Sunnis in the center and Shiites in the south.” Citing the example of the break up of Yugoslavia, Gelb stated that the Americans and Europeans “gave the Bosnian Muslims and Croats the means to fight back, and the Serbs accepted separation.” Explaining the strategy, Gelb states that, “The first step would be to make the north and south into self-governing regions, with boundaries drawn as closely as possible along ethnic lines,” and to “require democratic elections within each region.” Further, “at the same time, draw down American troops in the Sunni Triangle and ask the United Nations to oversee the transition to self-government there.” Gelb then states that this policy “would be both difficult and dangerous. Washington would have to be very hard-headed, and hard-hearted, to engineer this breakup.”[6]

Following the example of Yugoslavia, as Gelb cited, would require an engineered civil war between the various ethnic groups. The US supported and funded Muslim forces in Bosnia in the early 1990s, under the leadership of the CIA-trained Afghan Mujahideen, infamous for their CIA-directed war against the Soviet Union from 1979-1989. In Bosnia, the Mujahideen were “accompanied by US Special Forces,” and Bill Clinton personally approved of collaboration with “several Islamic fundamentalist organisations including Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda.” In Kosovo, years later, “Mujahideen mercenaries from the Middle East and Central Asia were recruited to fight in the ranks of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in 1998-99, largely supporting NATO’s war effort.” The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the British Secret Intelligence Services (MI6), British SAS soldiers and American and British private security companies had the job of arming and training the KLA. Further, “The U.S. State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist organization, indicating that it was financing its operations with money from the international heroin trade and loans from Islamic countries and individuals, among them allegedly Usama bin Laden,” and as well as that, “the brother of a leader in an Egyptian Jihad organization and also a military commander of Usama bin Laden, was leading an elite KLA unit during the Kosovo conflict.”[7]

Could this be the same strategy being deployed in Iraq in order to break up the country for similar geopolitical reasons?

The Asia Times Online reported in 2005, that the plan of “balkanizing” Iraq into several smaller states, “is an exact replica of an extreme right-wing Israeli plan to balkanize Iraq – an essential part of the balkanization of the whole Middle East. Curiously, Henry Kissinger was selling the same idea even before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.” It continued, “this is classic divide and rule: the objective is the perpetuation of Arab disunity. Call it Iraqification; what it actually means is sectarian fever translated into civil war.”[8]

In 2006, an “independent commission set up by Congress with the approval of President George W Bush,” termed the “Baker Commission” after former Secretary of State, James Baker, “has grown increasingly interested in the idea of splitting the Shi’ite, Sunni and Kurdish regions of Iraq as the only alternative to what Baker calls ‘cutting and running’ or ‘staying the course’.”[9]

It was also reported in 2006 that, “Iraq’s federal future is already enshrined within its constitution, allowing regions to form, if not actually prescribing how this should happen,” and that, “the Iraqi parliament (dominated by Shi’a and Kurds) passed a bill earlier this month [October, 2006] allowing federal regions to form (by majority vote in the provinces seeking merger).” Further, “The law, which unsurprisingly failed to win Sunni support, will be reviewed over the next 18 months in a bid to bring its opponents round.” The article, however, stated that instead of a three state solution, “a system based upon five regions would seem to have more chance of succeeding. A five-region model could see two regions in the south, one based around Basra and one around the holy cities. Kurdistan and the Sunni region would remain, but Baghdad and its environs would form a fifth, metropolitan, region.”[10] The author of the article was Gareth Stansfield, an Associate Fellow at Chatham House think tank in London, which preceded, works with and is the British equivalent of the Council on Foreign Relations.

“Ethnic Cleansing Works”

In 2006, the Armed Forces Journal published an article by retired Lieutenant-Colonel Ralph Peters, titled, “Blood Borders: How a better Middle East would look.” In the article, Peters explains that the best plan for the Middle East would be to “readjust” the borders of the countries. “Accepting that international statecraft has never developed effective tools — short of war — for readjusting faulty borders, a mental effort to grasp the Middle East’s “organic” frontiers nonetheless helps us understand the extent of the difficulties we face and will continue to face. We are dealing with colossal, man-made deformities that will not stop generating hatred and violence until they are corrected.” He states that after the 2003 invasion, “Iraq should have been divided into three smaller states immediately.” However, Iraq is not the only country to fall victim to “Balkanization” in Peters’ eyes, as, “Saudi Arabia would suffer as great a dismantling as Pakistan,” and “Iran, a state with madcap boundaries, would lose a great deal of territory to Unified Azerbaijan, Free Kurdistan, the Arab Shia State and Free Baluchistan, but would gain the provinces around Herat in today’s Afghanistan.” Further, “What Afghanistan would lose to Persia in the west, it would gain in the east, as Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier tribes would be reunited with their Afghan brethren.” Peters states that “correcting borders” may be impossible, “For now. But given time — and the inevitable attendant bloodshed — new and natural borders will emerge. Babylon has fallen more than once.” He further makes the astonishing statement that, “Oh, and one other dirty little secret from 5,000 years of history: Ethnic cleansing works.”[11]

The map of the re-drawn Middle East, initially published alongside Peters’ article, but no longer present, “has been used in a training program at NATO’s Defense College for senior military officers. This map, as well as other similar maps, has most probably been used at the National War Academy as well as in military planning circles.”[12] Nafeez Mossadeq Ahmed wrote of Peters’ proposal, that “the sweeping reconfiguration of borders he proposes would necessarily involve massive ethnic cleansing and accompanying bloodshed on perhaps a genocidal scale.”[13]

Federalism or Incremental Balkanization?

A month before Peters’ article was published, Leslie Gelb of the Council on Foreign Relations, and Joseph Biden, a Democratic member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote an op-ed for the New York Times, in which they stated, “America must get beyond the present false choice between “staying the course” and “bringing the troops home now” and choose a third way that would wind down our military presence responsibly while preventing chaos and preserving our key security goals.” What is this third option? “The idea, as in Bosnia, is to maintain a united Iraq by decentralizing it, giving each ethno-religious group—Kurd, Sunni Arab and Shiite Arab—room to run its own affairs, while leaving the central government in charge of common interests.”

They describe a few aspects of this plan. “The first is to establish three largely autonomous regions with a viable central government in Baghdad. The Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite regions would each be responsible for their own domestic laws, administration and internal security. The central government would control border defense, foreign affairs and oil revenues.” Then, “The second element would be to entice the Sunnis into joining the federal system with an offer they couldn’t refuse. To begin with, running their own region should be far preferable to the alternatives: being dominated by Kurds and Shiites in a central government or being the main victims of a civil war.”[14]

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in 2007, Leslie Gelb stated that his plan for “federalizing” Iraq, “would look like this: The central government would be based on the areas where there are genuine common interests among the different Iraqi parties. That is, foreign affairs, border defense, currency and, above all, oil and gas production and revenues.” And, “As for the regions, whether they be three or four or five, whatever it may be, it’s up to—all this is up to the Iraqis to decide, would be responsible for legislation, administration and internal security.”[15]

The Senate subsequently passed a nonbinding resolution supporting a federal system for Iraq, which has still yet to be enacted upon, because it stated that this resolution was something that had to be enacted upon by the Iraqis, so as not to be viewed as “something that the United States was going to force down their throats.” Further, “when Ambassador Ryan Crocker appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he testified in favor of federalism. In his private conversations with senators, he also supported the idea,” yet, while in Baghdad, the Ambassador “blasted the resolution.”[16] Could this be a method of manipulation? If the American Embassy in Baghdad promotes a particular solution for Iraq, it would likely be viewed by Iraqis as a bad choice and in the interest of the Americans. So, if the Ambassador publicly bashes the resolution from Iraq, which he did, it conveys the idea that the current administration is not behind it, which could make Iraqis see it as a viable alternative, and perhaps in their interests. For Iraqi politicians, embracing the American view on major issues is political (and often actual) suicide. The American Embassy in Baghdad publicly denouncing a particular strategy gives Iraqi politicians public legitimacy to pursue it.

This resolution has still not gone through all the processes in Congress, and may, in fact, have been slipped into another bill, such as a Defense Authorization Act. However, the efforts behind this bill are larger than the increasingly irrelevant US Congress.

Also in 2007, another think tank called for the managed “break-up of Iraq into three separate states with their own governments and representatives to the United Nations, but continued economic cooperation in a larger entity modeled on the European Union.”[17] In a startling admission by former US Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, stated in 2007 that the “United States has “no strategic interest” in a united Iraq,” and he also suggested “that the United States shouldn’t necessarily keep Iraq from splitting up.”[18]

Conclusion

Clearly, whatever the excuse, or whatever the means of dividing Iraq, it is without a doubt in the Anglo-American strategy for Iraq to balkanize the country. Saying that what is being proposed is not balkanization, but federalism, is a moot point. This is because reverting to a more federal system where provinces have greater autonomy would naturally separate the country along ethno-religious boundaries. The Kurds would be in the north, the Sunnis in the centre, and the Shi’ites in the south, with all the oil. The disproportionate provincial resources will create animosity between provinces, and the long-manipulated ethnic differences will spill from the streets into the political sphere. As tensions grow, as they undoubtedly would, between the provinces, there would be a natural slide to eventual separation. Disagreements over power sharing in the federal government would lead to its eventual collapse, and the strategy of balkanization would have been achieved with the appearance of no outside involvement.

NOTES

[1] Global Research, Iraqi MP accuses British Forces in Basra of “Terrorism”. Al Jazeera: September 20, 2005: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=20050920&articleId=983

[2] Linda S. Heard, The Prophecy of Oded Yinon. Counter Punch: April 25, 2006: http://www.counterpunch.org/heard04252006.html

[3] Richard Perle, et. al., A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm. The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies: June 1996:  http://www.iasps.org/strat1.htm

[4] PNAC, Rebuilding America’s Defenses. Project for the New American Century: September 2000: Page 17

[5] PNAC, Rebuilding America’s Defenses. Project for the New American Century: September 2000: Page 14

[6] Leslie Gelb, The Three State Solution. The New York Times: November 25, 2003:

http://www.cfr.org/publication/6559/threestate_solution.html?breadcrumb=%2Fbios%2F3325%2Fleslie_h_gelb%3Fpage%3D3

[7] Michel Chossudovsky, “Osamagate.” Global Research: October 9, 2001:

http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO110A.html

[8] Pepe Escobar, Exit strategy: Civil war. Asia Times Online: June 10, 2005:

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/GF10Ak03.html

[9] Sarah Baxter, America ponders cutting Iraq in three. The Times: October 8, 2006: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/article664974.ece

[10] Gareth Stansfield, The only solution left for Iraq: a five-way split. The Telegraph: October 29, 2006: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2006/10/29/do2904.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2006/10/29/ixopinion.html

[11] Ralph Peters, Blood Borders: How a better Middle East would look. Armed Forces Journal: June 2006: http://www.armedforcesjournal.com/2006/06/1833899

[12] Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya, Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a “New Middle East”. Global Research: November 18, 2006: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=3882

[13] Nafeez Mossadeq Ahmed, US Army Contemplates Redrawing Middle East Map

to Stave Off Looming Global Meltdown. Dissident Voice: September 1, 2006: http://www.dissidentvoice.org/Sept06/Ahmed01.htm

[14] Leslie Gelb and Joseph Biden, Jr., Unity Through Autonomy in Iraq. The New York Times: May 1, 2006: http://www.cfr.org/publication/10569/unity_through_autonomy_in_iraq.html?breadcrumb=%2Fbios%2F3325%2Fleslie_h_gelb%3Fpage%3D2

[15] Leslie Gelb, Leslie Gelb before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The CFR: January 23, 2007: http://www.cfr.org/publication/12489/leslie_gelb_before_the_senate_foreign_relations_committee.html?breadcrumb=%2Fbios%2F3325%2Fleslie_h_gelb

[16] Bernard Gwertzman, Gelb: Federalism Is Most Promising Way to End Civil War in Iraq. CFR: October 16, 2007: http://www.cfr.org/publication/14531/gelb.html?breadcrumb=%2Fbios%2F3325%2Fleslie_h_gelb

[17] Robin Wright, Nonpartisan Group Calls for Three-State Split in Iraq. The Washington Post: August 17, 2007: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/08/17/AR2007081700918.html

[18] AP, French report: Former U.N. envoy Bolton says U.S. has ‘no strategic interest’ in united Iraq. International Herald Tribune: January 29, 2007: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2007/01/29/europe/EU-GEN-France-US-Iraq.php