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Unspeakable: the Black Book of Imperial Terrorism
Unspeakable: the Black Book of Imperial Terrorism

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American “mainstream” journalists who want to keep their paychecks flowing and their status afloat know they must report current events in a way that respects the taboo status of the nation’s underlying inequality and oppression structures and its savage and relentless imperial criminality. Those topics are understood as off limits, as beyond the narrow parameters of acceptable and polite discussion. They are subjects that serious reporters and commentators have the deeply indoctrinated common sense to avoid.
“We’ve Done Enough as a Country”
An excellent example is a recent CNN report on how U.S. President Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban is playing out in the small Vermont city of Rutland.  A CNN reporter spoke to two local players on different sides of the question of whether Syrian refugees should be settled in Rutland.  The first source was the town’s mayor, Chris Louras, who has been leading an effort to make Rutland a refugee resettlement hub that would welcome 25 Syrian families in 2017.  When asked about why he’s been pushing for this, the mayor cited humanitarian concerns (“it’s the right thing to do”) but also (and above all) mentioned economic considerations. Rutland’s unemployment rate of 3 percent is “dangerously low,” making it hard for companies to find workers and thereby inhibiting investment and “growth,” the mayor told CNN.
CNN also featured an interview with Rutland doctor Timothy Cook, a Trump fan and an opponent of the mayor’s refugee resettlement plan. “I think we’ve done enough as a country,” Cook told CNN.  “I’m tapped out and this nation is tapped out. We need to fix our own problems first and then we can reconfigure and see if we can rescue the rest of the world.” Cook naturally supports Trump’s travel ban.
Capitalism 101
It was fine reporting as far as it went but notice what was, to use the title of Chris Hedges’ latest book, Unspeakable. One unmentionable topic was capitalism’s reliance on what Karl Marx called “the reserve army of labor” – a mass of job-seeking unemployed people sufficiently large to keep the price of labor power to guarantee profitable exploitation of the working class. Is it unthinkable that Rutland might consider turning their town into a labor magnet that might attract workers by, say, raising the local minimum wage to $15 an hour?  Sadly, it probably is because local employers – including the global megacorporation and leading corporate welfare recipient and “defense” contractor General Electric (GE), which employs more than a thousand workers across two Rutland plants – want to keep wages as low as possible in the interest of sustaining an “acceptable” rate of profit.  Grow the “reserve army” and grow the local tax base.
We can be sure Louras doesn’t want to give GE reason to shift its Rutland operations elsewhere in pursuit of cheaper labor. That’s Capitalist Labor Market economics 101 and Corporate Power 102.
Guns v. Butter: Spiritual Death
A second forbidden topic is the role of U.S. militarism in, to use Dr. Cook’s term, “tapping out” America. It is beyond the parameters of acceptable debate and commentary to note that the nation is impoverished thanks in no small part to the massive Pentagon budget (54% of federal discretionary spending), which pays for the global empire that has wreaked havoc, fueled jihadism, and generated massive refugee streams in places like Iraq, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, Syria, and Iran (more on this below), all on Trump’s travel ban. It’s a taboo topic in dominant media: the role of the military budget in hollowing out American society from the inside.
Hedges gets this right in the following exchange in Unspeakable, a compilation of interviews with left journalist David Talbot:
Talbot: “[Bernie Sanders] promised to impose much higher taxes on the wealthy and Wall Street speculators.”
Hedges: “Yes, but if we don’t get control of our military spending we are finished…Our infrastructure, our public educational system, our social services – everything is crumbling for a reason, we don’t have money for it.  It is being consumed by the war machine.  And Sanders didn’t touch the military-industrial complex. That would have been political suicide…There will be no socialism until we dismantle imperialism and dramatically sash military spending power.  Martin Luther King understood that.”
And look what happened to Dr. King, who was assassinated (or perhaps executed) exactly one year to the day after giving a celebrated speech in which he made a deep connection between his opposition to poverty and racism at home and his opposition to the U.S. war on Southeast Asia.   In explaining his decision to follow his conscience and speak out against U.S. militarism, King said, “I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic destructive suction tube. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such… A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift,” King warned, “is approaching spiritual death” (emphasis added).
Don’t take it just from left radicals past (King) and present (Hedges). In his recent magisterial study of the overlapping “deep state” concentrations of corporate, financial, and governmental power that control American society beneath and beyond the nation’s quadrennial electoral carnivals, the former longtime Republican Congressional staffer Mike Lofgren notes that the U.S. struggles with widespread poverty, rotting infrastructure, inadequate health care, and deficient pubic services (schools, transportation, and more) not because the government lacks money but because too much of its money goes to serve entrenched interests. Top among those interests is the nation’s enormous military-industrial complex, funded by a Pentagon budget that accounts for more than half of U.S. federal discretionary spending and nearly half the world’s military outlay.  As Lofgren notes in his indispensable book The Deep State: The Fall of the Constitution and the Rise of a Shadow Government (2016):
“Even as commentators decry a broken government that cannot marshal the money, the will, or the competence to repair our roads and bridges, heal our war veterans, or even roll out a health care website, there is always enough money and will, and maybe just a bare minimum of competence to overthrow foreign governments, fight the longest war in U.S. history, and conduct dragnet surveillance over the entire surface of the planet (p.4)…It is as if Hadrian’s Wall was still fully manned and the fortifications along the border with Germania were never stronger, even as the city of Rome disintegrated from within and the life-sustaining aqueducts leading down from the hills began to crumble.” (p.216)
A Proven History of Terrorism
Also unspeakable is the criminality of what the America Empire – accurately described by Dr. King in 1967 as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world” – does abroad.  It is unthinkable that CNN might challenge Dr. Cook’s notion of the U.S. as a nation that tries to “rescue the rest of the world.”
The correction would include confronting Washington’s role in criminally devastating some of the very nations from which Trump has tried to ban travelers and refugees.  Iraq, for one leading example, has been subject to two mass-murderous U.S. invasions along with an intervening decade plus of deadly economic sanctions that have combined to kill millions, maim millions, and displace millions more.
Yemen has been ravaged by joint U.S, and Saudi Arabian air assaults, U.S. Special Forces, and U.S. drone attacks.
Sudan has long been tortured by the U.S., which has played a central in political dissolution and civil war there.
Libya was collapsed with U.S. and NATO bombs, miring that country in civil war and jihad.
Syria has been torn apart by an epically murderous Civil War that Washington has fueled along with the jihadism that the U.S. and its oil-rich Arab state allies and Pakistan have spread there and across the Muslim world.
“During his campaign,” CNN reported when the president announced his travel ban, “Trump vowed to ban Muslim immigrants from countries with a ‘proven history’ of terrorism against the United States or its allies.”
Orwell might have enjoyed that statement in light of the United States’ proven history of mass-murderous Superpower terrorism against the countries Trump has imposed his travel ban against.....

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