Empire's Way and Means

by Berry Friesen (April 6, 2016)

This blog meanders from time to time; recently it has focused on important events from the Christian calendar.

But its core purpose is to acquaint readers with the ways and means of the US-led empire. Those ways and means define our experience of the world, yet are almost invisible because they are so pervasive and widely embraced.  Invisibility is the crowning success of the empire, indicating broad acceptance of the empire's version of how the world works.

I often write about Syria because the war there helps us see what is otherwise hidden.

By following events in Syria, we learn the empire prefers war to peace and actively supports terrorists as agents of war.  We learn the mainstream media work tirelessly to obscure this preference for war and this collaboration with terrorists. And we learn that other leading sectors of civil society—business, labor, academia, the arts, philanthropy, the church—acquiesce to this state of affairs.

So let’s get back to work.

1. President Obama continues to insist on the one thing that ensures the war in Syria will continue: removing President Bashar al-Assad from his position as the popular leader of the Syrian government.

Not surprisingly, the February 27 ceasefire is starting to come apart.  On April 2, “moderate” fighters joined al-Qaeda units in attacking government positions near Aleppo.

So-called “moderate” units that signed on to the ceasefire reportedly have used the nearly 6-week lull in fighting to restock arms inventories and rebuild manpower levels.

The US-led coalition funded and facilitated this resupply effort via cross border movements from surrounding nations, especially Turkey.  Indeed, the empire has for the first time provided insurgents with MANPADs, hand-held missile launchers that can shoot down Syrian fighter jets and helicopters.  A Syrian fighter jet reportedly was shot down April 5.

It is well documented that about half of all weapons turned over to “moderates” end up in the hands of al-Qaeda or Da’esh, so we should not be too surprised when domestic airlines are targeted somewhere in the world.

2.  On March 26, after three days of intense fighting with Da’esh, the Syrian army captured Palmyra, the desert city known for its antiquities.  Syrian troops have since unearthed there the graves of many civilians slaughtered by Da’esh.

The Obama Administration was unable to find any good news in the liberation of Palmyra.  NPR radio reported March 28 that the city and its beleaguered inhabitants “fell into government hands.”  The New York Times compared Syrian President Assad to a scorpion and groused that the liberation of Palmyra bolsters Assad’s confidence.

Again, we learn from Syria that the empire is more prepared to accommodate savage terrorism than a popular leader who refuses to cooperate.

3.  The belief in the freedom of Western media is a major asset of the empire.  So long as we believe in the vigor and independence of the press, we are highly likely to give the benefit of the doubt to the empire.  If anything is rotten about the way things are, the media would dig it up and expose it, right?

This week we saw an example of how this works.

An organization that specializes in investigative reporting revealed a huge data base of information about government officials, politicians and business leaders who have invested in a shady tax shelter administered by a Panamanian law firm called Mossak Fonseca.

The data set is massive and is still being analyzed, but its contents have been available to at least one media outlet for at least a year already. Yet we see no stories implicating politicians or billionaires from the inner circle of the empire (USA, Canada, UK, Australia, New Zealand).  Instead, this story investigating hidden corruption focuses mostly on people who are disfavored by the empire.

For example, though Russian President Putin is not named in the documents, many Western newspapers published reports about the "leaked" documents alongside a picture of Putin. (As an example, have a look at how The Guardian presented the story.)  This suggests that this entire episode is designed for a very different purpose than exposing corruption.

Moon of Alabama views the entire “leak” as a propaganda ploy and includes this quote from former UK ambassador Craig Murray:

“The filtering of this Mossack Fonseca information by the corporate media follows a direct western government agenda.  There is no mention at all of use of Mossack Fonseca by massive western corporations or western billionaires—the main customers.  And the Guardian is quick to reassure that ‘much of the leaked material will remain private.’

“What do you expect?  The leak is being managed by the grandly but laughably named ‘International Consortium of Investigative Journalists,’ which is funded and organized by the USA’s Center for Public Integrity.  Their funders include [the] Ford Foundation, Carnegie Endowment, Rockefeller Family Fund, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, Open Society Foundation (Soros).”

Independent journalist Robert Parry provides a similar analysis.

“The . . . advantage of ‘corruption’ as a propaganda weapon to discredit certain leaders is that we all assume that there is plenty of corruption in governments as well as in the private sector all around the world. Alleging corruption is like shooting large fish crowded into a small barrel. Granted, some barrels might be more crowded than others, but the real decision is whose barrel you choose.

“That’s part of the reason why the U.S. government has spread around hundreds of millions of dollars to finance ‘journalism’ organizations, train political activists and support ‘non-governmental organizations’ that promote U.S. policy goals inside targeted countries. For instance, before the Feb. 22, 2014 coup in Ukraine, there were scores of such operations in the country financed by the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), whose budget from Congress exceeds $100 million a year.”

Do you believe a free press is important?  Do you like to think we in the West have one? If so, the empire can work with that.

As Parry puts it, the “perversion of journalism” can set the stage for regime change, which almost always entails stigmatizing a targeted leader.  This obviously is underway in the Mossack Fonseca “leak;” Putin is being stigmatized, another step in the campaign for “regime change” in Russia.