Notes On The News
By Gwydion M Williams
The USA in 1991 was handed the world on a plate, and knocked the plate over.
The Cold War had been won by the West, because the Keynesian semi-capitalist system had done better than its Soviet rival. Especially the West showed superiority in creating NASA and decisively winning the ‘Space Race’ by overcoming the initial Soviet lead and putting the first men on the moon. But the USA from the 1980s onwards has been in the grip of New Right enthusiasms. All state power is a deviation from the Natural Order, in which free humans spontaneously generate the exact same social order that is currently fashionable in the USA. So there was no need to create anything, just to knock down such barriers and regulations as still existed.
The Gulf War was a fine expression of this craziness. Iraq was allowed to believe that it could take a slice of Kuwait, then punished when the Thatcher persuaded Bush to act the tough-guy. But Iraq was trashed rather than remade, and the USA seemed to have no idea except to have someone much like Saddam to run it, just not Saddam since he had been officially classified as Evil.
Now Evil is once again discovered over the place. The United Nations has not yet been persuaded to replace the Secretary-General by a Witchfinder-General, but it would seem logical.
The USA created the problem with Islamic extremists, building them us as an alternative to secular nationalism. It also neglected Afghanistan after the Afghans anti-progressives had done their job defeating the Soviets and their local allies. It was the same error as in Iraq, you create military monsters, fail to pay them and then get surprised when they are not ready to vegetate quietly while the USA smugly dominates the world.
Global economics means global politics. But global politics at the moment is an oligarchy grouped around the USA, with the ideals of the UN treated as rubbish. Nations are not allowed to live their own lives, and yet the USA also does not make it easy for them to fit in and succeed, as was done for Japan and East Asia in the 1950s and 1960s, when they were vital US allies. Nor is local distinctiveness tolerated outside of Arab oil-producers (where there are no calls for democracy) and outside of China, which is too big and potentially dangerous to be bullied unless and until the USA gets a really good missile defence.
Except that it’s been graphically shown that in a globalised and mobile world, the USA cannot mess up foreign nations and expect it never to come home.
The USA makes a big thing of ‘established rights’ enshrined in the constitution. But the ‘Dirty Bomb’ business has now made nonsense of these rights, unless the courts rule against the government.
Detaining captured soldiers was bad enough. The prisoners in the US Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba are in a kind of legal limbo, with no law applicable. But they were at least combatants for Islamist causes, if not mostly provably connected with any specific campaign against the USA.
The case of Jose Padilla is very different. He might have been involved in some al-Qaeda plot, but all we have so far are some unproven accusations by US government officials. He has been defined as an ‘enemy combatant’ and can be detained indefinitely without trial, without the need to prove to any court of law that he was a combatant, or even affiliated to the enemy.
The matter came at a time when the US government was in trouble about an apparent failure to react to clues of an immanent attack before September 11th. Suddenly the new matter of the ‘Dirty Bomb’ knocks it out of the headlines, talk of a ‘dirty bomb’ being planned for Chicago, though whether it ever existed except on paper is moot. But now interest has shifted elsewhere.
Myself, I’d rate the Bush administration as having done nothing wrong before September 11th, there was a whole mass of contradictory data and false warnings, and I’ve not heard that there was any information specific enough to justify shooting down hijacked aircraft. And nothing less would have done any good, given that most of the hijackers were not spotted before-hand.
But what we now have is a ‘work-round’ that disables all of the complex legal protection that US citizens awarded themselves in the 18th century. Myself, I have always felt that an armed group should be treated as an unofficial army, not as criminals. But the US authorities have managed to create a class of people who have neither the rights of suspect citizens nor the protection accorded to combatants under the Geneva Convention.
The excuse is ‘security’. Even though most of the present wars are with people created by US policies 10 years ago or 20 years ago, it is Global Treason to criticise their latest batch of policies.
What is so terrible about standard pornography? Do people perhaps think that the pre-1960s controls were correct? One assumes not, but if it’s OK to have such stuff on our news-stands, why are the producers suddenly so tainted that they cannot be allowed to own newspapers or get involved in the standard business of influence-trading/
It is bizarre that Rupert Murdock is semi-respectable after a lifetime of lowering the quality of existing newspapers. While the straightforward production of pornography is viewed with horror.
The big shift all through the 1980s and 1990s has been a shift in existing wealth to rich people. The claim of boosting the overall economy was just untrue. The pretext has always been that private business will bring wonderful efficiencies rings pretty hollow after a ‘brilliant’ team of managers spend a huge amount of time and effort changing the name of the Royal Mail, only to make a huge loss and decide now to change it back.
All of this stuff is smoke-and-mirrors, though. The public get concerned with secondary issues, while a massive theft of public assets for the benefit of the rich passes almost unnoticed. New Labour is still intent on copying US ‘success’, even after Enron and similar cases suggest that most of the ‘success’ was due to fraudulent accounting.
Quite predictably, there has been some leaking of genetic modifications from GM maize to other maize. And so what? It’s all just corn, and is not going to sprout monsters or zombies just because some slightly different techniques have been used for producing it.
Almost all the things we eat are cultivated crops and animals, monstrous distortions of the wild originals. A hunter-gatherer of 40,000 years ago might have been terrified of woolly sheep, cattle vastly bigger than their wild ancestors, dogs that diverge hugely from a wolf-like ancestral dog. All of these things seem natural, just because we grew up with them.
Some of the uses of genetic modification have been foolish, crops made resistant to herbicides when it would be better to use less herbicides. But the protest is mostly about the method, not the specific ends.
The complaint is that genetically modified crops are not proved safe. Again, so what? How many things are proved safe? Can you prove that you won’t be trampled to death by an elephant, some time next week? You can safely ignore the danger, but it is not zero and you cannot prove it so.