I am continually asked if I am anti-American, pro-or-anti Israel, pro-or-anti Muslim, homophobic or pro-gay, pro-life or pro-choice, pro this or anti that. It becomes annoying to find that people need you to subscribe utterly to one cause and all of its beliefs, idiocies, nooks and, often, dark crannies. They become annoyed if you cannot be easily categorized. I have been called, through my writing, everything from a bleeding-heart liberal to a fascist (for suggesting people ought to answer a simple multi-choice questionnaire before they are allowed to vote, just to establish that they know the candidates and the issues upon which they are voting). These labels essentially enable people who prefer not to think to accept or dismiss a writer – or anyone else – without having to fret over troublesome arguments that may not support their own opinions – and I stress ‘opinions’ because, increasingly, people who imagine they have an interest in current affairs merely have opinions on issues which they often cannot defend, except by such gobbledegook as, “I don’t care what you say; that’s what I believe.” The term ‘belief’ is interesting in this context, because, like ‘faith’, it is really saying, “That’s what I want to be true.” There used to be discussions and debates, in public, or on the media. Now there seem to be little more than opinions stated as facts, angry monologues or harangues by TV or radio ‘hosts’ who have forgotten that a host treats his or her ‘guest’ with courtesy – such is the traditional relationship, rather than bully and victim – or merely the brief and dreary interview with a politician skilled in the art of staying ‘on-message’ no matter what the question may be. Debate is where someone states an argument, and someone else opposes it. The person whose case cannot withstand the arguments opposing it loses the debate and, ideally, their point of view along with it. This would seem to be straightforward. Yet where did these discussions and debates go? Where are the public forums? In answer to the pro-anti questions, I have no knee-jerk views on any subject at all. If it interests me, I study everything I can find on a topic, from as many points of view as possible, and then make up my own mind about what strikes me as the truth regarding that issue. I am happy to debate with anyone about anything I feel capable of contributing some rational thought towards; and am equally willing to admit I am wrong when proved so. I do not, of course, mean discussions about such follies as so-called Creationism, where the argument against dinosaur bones and fossils consists of, “Satan placed them there to lead us astray.” An argument must be provable – such as the earth revolves around the sun. Instead of discussions, now we have TV documentaries which all too often present a tautological case for some mysterious phenomenon, setting out to ‘seek’ the evidence for what the producers already ‘know’ to be true. A good example is Egyptology, which, when it failed to refute Dr. Robert Schoch’s argument for a far, far earlier date for the origins of Ancient Egyptian civilization at the American Association for the Advancement of Science conference, in my view lost its entire science, along with the spurious chronology upon which it is largely based. To adequately counter the Schoch thesis, Egyptologists would have to dig down to far deeper levels, where the evidence of this far earlier civilization – and we are talking 7000 to possibly 30,000 BCE – would be found. In countless irritating Discovery Channel docs, we find the self-styled ‘experts’ rejecting the notion of much deeper digs because they know there is nothing there to be found. This is not science; it is tautological pseudo-science (see my book River in the Desert for a fuller account of this academic travesty). These docs do not even scratch the tautological iceberg’s tip when it comes to such risible irrelevancies as Noah’s Ark: Found! Being blind, I’m no great TV watcher; but I can still hear the torrent of nonsense, and am possibly more attuned to the verbal balderdash usually hidden behind flash-cuts and mosaic images designed to keep the short attention span on life support. It is such irresponsible programming that has afflicted the contemporary mind with a widespread inability to think for itself. For every newspaper headline or media lead-story there are at least 100 books which could be regarded as essential reading to provide a context for the 700 word story. Some of these may alter that story entirely; some may explain why an event, tragic or otherwise, actually occurred; others may explain a history of multitudinous causes leading up to what appears to be an isolated event. Admittedly, some newspapers and journals – never the most widely-read ones, it would appear – do still take pains to provide in-depth context; but you cannot read it in a minute, and no politician would dream of plumbing such depths, even if he or she were aware of them. I have discussed Iraq here too often, but only because I have written two books on the subject and become infuriated by politicians who still appear to view public ignorance of the issues involved as mandatory – or else share that ignorance. Listening to Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s lies and evasions on the question of Canadian involvement in a war today – and no doubt we shall hear the same from Obama tomorrow – is simply maddening, As I speculated here a few days ago, our ‘advisers’ will in fact be Special Forces troops, and they will be armed, boots on the ground, after all. Let us call ISIS, ISOS, and IS, SS instead – for ‘Sunni State (and for a certain historical resonance), since ‘Islamist State’ misleads people into imagining the enterprise involves Shia, Sufi, or any other branch of Islam. Ruled for decades by the nominally Sunni tyranny of Saddam Hussein, Iraq was suddenly turned by the US invasion into an allegedly democratic Shia state – under the misguided impression that the long-oppressed Shia majority would be undyingly grateful to their saviour, not to mention obey Washington’s dictates whenever required to. Let’s be honest: the US was solely interested in controlling the vast wealth of high-grade oil. It certainly was not thinking of how the dispossessed Sunnis would feel about their new situation under a government dominated by Shia. Since the Sunni used to wield all the power, controlled the army, and had most of the money, besides being better educated, it must surely have occurred to someone in a so-called Think Tank that, if the Sunni were unhappy with their lot they would be far more able to organize and start a civil war. This is in fact that civil war, aided by more radical factions funded, as I have tirelessly stated, by the fabulously rich Saudi Arabian Wahhabite theocrats, who have no wish to find a Iranian-Iraqi Shia block on their doorstep. They also view the Shia as heretical infidels. These grievances go back two hundred years, and involve many complexities as well as unresolved territorial disputes (remember, it was mainly the British who created nations in Arabia, which is why the boundaries are all straight lines, and still ignored by the nomadic Bedu tribes). Thus, many boots, and even shoes, will be on the ground for a very long time, unless someone makes a deal with the SS moderates to turn over the more barbaric radical elements – few of them probably Iraqis anyway – in exchange for a government in which they have proportional representation. This fantasy government is unlikely given the deep-rooted Shia-Sunni hatred. Alternatives? None really, since creating an autonomous Sunni State would place it where it currently is, in the north, where the oil is not. The Kurds have their own area, to the north-west, but they also have oil there. Would the Shia divide equally the oil cash? On paper perhaps, but not in reality. This leaves the US share of Iraq oil – exact figures unknowable, because private companies are involved. Is it possible that the US would oblige those companies to compensate the SS for a peaceful resolution to what could otherwise escalate into a pan-Arabian war? Hardly likely, since these companies essentially own America, started the war, and have fingers in every American pie – especially Military-Industrial Pie. There may be big money in keeping this chaos running, as long as it can be contained. Special Forces from three countries specialising in such forces could, with a few hundred men, and some fancy weaponry and air cover, contain such a situation indefinitely, while generating enough global fright to jack up the price of oil very nicely. Is this the plan? If so, no wonder we, the people, aren’t allowed to know about it. Mr. Harper spouted the usual national security crap – the all-purpose excuse for every abomination – but can he seriously believe that violent meddling in Muslim Arab disputes will help make Canada safer? The consequences faced by other meddlers – notably the one to our south and its English crony – would seem to refute that theory. A maple leaf lapel button used to guarantee safe passage through the hell-holes of this world; now it does not. This looming fiasco in Iraq is going to make Canadians less safe everywhere, Mr. Harper. Do you want that as your legacy, or will the lucrative sinecures on oil company boards be more than satisfying enough? With love, as always, Paul William Roberts.
It’s Friday the 13th, with Mercury Retrograde, and a full moon, so don’t blame me if this sounds a trifle zany. I know I have promised more intriguing entries, and they will come; but there are times – possibly influenced by a full moon – when the state of this world, particularly as presented by our media, quite overwhelms one with dismay and disgust. What happened to reasoned commentary and debate? While no one wants the hollering opinions of a pig-ignorant, ill-mannered churl like Bill O’Reilly, do we want to hear Barack Obama – the biggest disappointment in politics since Napoleon crowned himself Emperor (or was it when Robespierre declared himself the Supreme Being?) – telling us that Iraq is in a state of “disruption” into which America would be unwise to wade, since any calming effect caused by U.S. intervention would vanish as soon as the intervention did? And this requires no comment from any news anchor? Such as, “America created this ‘disruption’, did it not?” Or, “The so-called ‘disruption’ has existed since the illegal and unwarranted invasion of 2003. Why is it suddenly an issue meriting sufficient concern to dispatch an aircraft carrier to the Gulf?” Answer: Because the suddenly-boisterous pseudo-Sunni ‘terrorists’ have begun to encroach upon the oil regions, which were the only real objective of George II’s attack, and are now controlled by U.S. oil companies, including the Bush family business, Standard Oil, as well as dubious corporations, many of them registered in tax-free Dubai, such as the octopus named Halliburton, run, if at arm’s length, by George I’s crony, and his son’s vice-president, Dick Cheney (wealth while in office going from a few million to a few hundred million). No doubt everyone forgets that the many oil companies used to be one giant company, until complaints of monopoly forced it to multiply like cancer cells into the current plethora of greasy concerns, all of which have governing boards that warrant close examination, since, originally they consisted of men who had previously run the Big Company, and currently they share many of the same names, or names from the same five families. Little known, too, is the fact that oil companies can declare every well ‘exploratory’, thus legally spared taxation, even if they’re foolish enough to have a head office in the U.S. Iraq has the world’s richest oilfields – over 33 million barrels a day – and most of them are yet to be tapped. These fields have a hidden bonus, too: the oil is under such pressure that it spurts out by itself, sparing the expense of pumping. So there’s an awful lot of money at stake, and you can bet your bottom dollar that America will eventually do anything it takes to secure those fields. In the meantime, oil companies have raised the price at the pumps, an essentially illegal practice known as ‘buncing’, where the price beans, say, increases, and a store raises the price of beans it already owns. The gas you’re now paying more for is the same gas you were paying less for last month. If the current ‘crisis’ creates an oil shortage, it won’t kick in for a year or so. The price rise now is a mix of commodities speculation – a practice where people who make nothing but money dictate prices for people who actually make something real – and sheer greed, the motto of Wall Street. Right now, in the militarised Gulf, it’s at the imminent threat stage, and confused by the sudden arrival of several divisions from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, come to aid their Shia co-sectarians, who are attempting to govern Iraq’s chaos with an army that recently fled from the ‘terrorists’, shedding their weapons and uniforms on the way. Iran has clearly forgotten its bloody and inconclusive war with Saddam’s Iraq, in which millions died, and the unlamented ex-president, Ahmadinajad, had the job of indoctrinating eleven-year-old children to fight, promising them all the joys of martyrdom, some of which many were too young to appreciate. Will America fight alongside the unforgiven and eternally-hated Iranians? Not likely. But, of course, no American recalls how their government, along with Britain’s M.I.6, destroyed Iran’s democracy in the 1950’s, restoring the late Shah’s brutal tyranny, and even encouraging its hideous excesses, such as the Savak’s tendency to arrest, torture and murder without legal process. Is the Iranian assistance to Iraq now purely altruistic? Perhaps not, since Iran has always laid claim to parts of Iraq – oddly enough the oily parts – as well as regarding the Strait of Hormuz as its private lake (Teheran’s only feasible war strategy being to sink oil tankers in the Strait, effectively preventing shipment of much of the world’s high-grade oil. Don’t kid yourselves, Canadians, your tar-sand bitumen, no matter how well-refined, is shit, useful only for the most basic purposes. It’s the ‘Light Sweet Crude’ that makes the sophisticated wheels of industry turn, not to mention the wheels of any car not wishing to destroy its pistons every year by exploding crap inside them. And this good stuff, the light, the sweet, and the crude, comes only from the Gulf, where pliant tyrants rule the tiny emirates, which have more money than they know what to do with – unless you count building artificial islands and sub-aqueous hotels — but rampaging chaos, or its impending version, still reigns over the richest fields. Now, chaos is something the fiends in their Pentagon don’t mind, since it’s easy to manipulate, and to operate within without attracting any attention. They far prefer a military dictator, of course, since that means only having to pull the strings of one puppet. What they loathe and fear most is a relatively stable quasi-democracy like Iran, which cunningly avoids giving America any valid and legal reason to invade it, by playing chess as if they invented the game, which they did. This latest move, into Iraq, appears to create a stalemate with America – the emphasis being on ‘appears’. America seems unable to make a viable move; yet if they don’t, Iran’s next move could well create a Shiite Union between Iraq and Iran, both awash in the good oil, and both intent on disrupting life in the pseudo-Sunni theo-kleptocracy of Saudi Arabia, where the ever-less-fabulous oil wealth is divided between a pullulating ‘royal’ family, and an hereditary priesthood espousing an especially nasty and heretical version of Islam concocted by a eighteenth-century lunatic, named Wahhab, who possessed severe delusions of grandeur. Among its many aberrations, the Wahhabite heresy declares the Shia to be non-Muslims, along with the Sufis and other variants of Islam. It also bans music, a sure sign of insanity, condones slavery, and views women as sub-human chattels. Yet the Saudi ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar, is such good friends with the Bush family that he’s known affectionately as ‘Bandar Bush’. Go figure. Yet, with an Iranian-Iraqi Shia power block, old Bandar better make sure his pals get him a U.S. passport, since his homeland has been a bloodbath waiting to happen for some time now, while the country’s theocratic element has been spending its share of the oil cash in opening schools all over the world to teach their hateful heretical Wahhabite form of Islam to as many of the disadvantaged billions as possible. In league with the original King Ibn-Saud – a title accorded by the British to the man with more wives and goats than anyone else – Wahhab, who viewed himself as greater than the Prophet Mohammed, shaped his dogma according to the king’s needs. Since a Muslim cannot attack a fellow Muslim, the Shiite Iranians were declared non-Muslims so that Ibn-Saud could raid their rich trade caravans. Ardent believers in Wahhabism include the late Osama bin Laden’s hydra-headed al-Quaeda, whose local branches are now too numerous to mention, but include pretty much all the organizations responsible for senseless atrocities on every continent in the world. Wahhabism was behind 9/11, and the Boston Marathon bombing. It is responsible for the bombings, murders and kidnappings in Somalia, the South Sudan, and Nigeria; as well as in Britain, France, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bali, and the Philippines. The preponderance of Wahhabite-funded schools, financed by Saudi oil wealth, alongside numerous websites, are entirely responsible for the fitful reign of terror dominating the last two decades. I stress that these people have nothing whatsoever to do with Islam, yet the more anti-Muslim sentiment grows in the West, the more their membership expands, for, “As every schoolchild learns, those to whom evil is done do evil in return” (W.H. Auden). Since the root of this evil is so easily located in the Saudi Wahhabite heresy, one wonders why it has not been pulled out, just as one wonders why the only planes allowed to fly after 9/11 were those carrying members of the Saudi royal family out of America. It is well known that the more frightened a population is, the stronger its government will be. Is it possible that the Wahhabite terrorists – who, when all is said and done, amount merely to a few hundred people suffering from a mix of brainwashed mania and legitimate grievances – serve someone’s purposes perfectly? Who ordered all U.S. fighter planes to stand down on 9/11, and why? This question alone, among the many others, needs answering.
This is the kind of background one requires of the media, yet why does one not get it? Take a close look at the executive boards of oil companies and companies in the war business. It should be someone’s Ph.D. thesis. The same names crop all over the places where serious wealth is to be had. U.S. ‘intervention’ only occurs where such people’s money is at stake. Why no help for Syria, by far the biggest catastrophe in the Middle-East, which is saying alot? Answer: no oil, dummy. What happened to the brief democracy in Egypt, now returned to a comfortable military dictatorship just like the one supposedly sprung by the ‘Arab Spring’? Answer: Israel did not like the hostile tone it was hearing from the Muslim Brotherhood. Why does Israel have so much clout in America and Canada? Answer: take a look around, then ask yourself why five percent of the population occupies so many powerful positions, makes so much noise, and controls so much wealth. But don’t tell a soul, because the brand of anti-Semitism – a literally meaningless term in the Semitic Arab world – is impossible to remove. All the major newspapers are shamelessly pro-Israel, as if the Jewish State has done, and could do no wrong. The odd article detailing Palestinian grievances is thrown in so that these rags can ‘prove’ their lack of bias, yet when the column inches are compared, pro-Israel encomia stretch a mile or so, and Palestinian-favourable laments amount to a couple of feet. By contrast, read the Israeli press, like Ha-Aretz, which convey a true sense of the divisions of opinion within Israel itself. Some of the articles would have anyone writing them here thrown in jail. Okay, the Holocaust did happen and was indeed the greatest abomination committed by an allegedly-civilized nation; and Israel does have a right to exist; yet the Palestinians also have rights, or do in theory. They had nothing whatsoever to do with the Nazi Holocaust, yet they were driven from their homeland, entire villages destroyed without trace, and are now forced either to live in an apartheid state, or as refugees abroad, often in camps worse than prisons. Even if so-called peace talks get off the ground, they will stall over control of Jerusalem, a symbolic, rather than holy place for both Jews and Muslims. The problem created by Zionism has no solution – unless it is a reprise of the ‘final’ one – and everyone knows it. Why the endless stream of U.S. Secretaries-of-Sate bother to try solving the insolvable is beyond me. This is why most Jews have no desire to live in Israel, which itself is more symbol than actual homeland. Many of my Jewish friends even regard America as the Promised Land, and hardly any believe the Torah has any more historical value as a property deed than the Koran, or, for that matter, the so-called New Testament, whose geography, let alone historicity, is provably fictional, cobbled together in bad Greek by Roman schismatic Jews who had never left Italy in their lives. You won’t hear this stuff on your radio or television, however, because the powers that be know very well that religion – from the Latin religare, ‘to bind together’ – is a great pacifier of the masses, promising, like a parent or school, punishment for bad behaviour, and great rewards for the good, meaning ‘the meek’, who shall inherit the earth only when the multi-national corporations have reduced it to a toxic trash heap, or a smouldering cinder. The only future those people believe in is the next quarter’s bottom-line. The board of a corporation is legally forbidden to make any decision which will lower share-holder dividends. Legally forbidden. So wonder not why such organizations fail to decide on matters like more environmentally-friendly ways to dispose of their poisonous by-products. Only strong and concerted public lobbying can force them to behave responsibly; and even then governments, largely the pawns of corporate interests, can pass laws subverting the will of the electorate. If there was any justice in this world, the Jews would have been given Germany as their homeland. They would have been much happier there, and it would have given the Germans a chance to atone, instead of trying to forget their whole nation went mad for twelve years. If, if, if…
If Justice were truly for all, fines, like speeding tickets and the rest, would be levied according to the culprit’s income. To a poor man $100 is a hardship; to the driver of a Ferrari it is merely a license fee. When you can afford a crack lawyer, you don’t go to jail; but if you’re in court with some overworked loser from Legal Aid, abandon all hope before ye enter. A heart surgeon here murdered his two children, stabbing them multiple times, yet his crack lawyer, with some quack psychiatrist, got him acquitted on the grounds of ‘temporary insanity’. Try that defense after robbing a bank. No, my friends, justice, like democracy, is a myth by which we imagine life is endurable. As the Dalai Lama once said, “What mystifies me about humanity is that you lose your health trying to make money, then spend the money trying to regain your health. You live in memories of the past, and fantasies about the future, ignoring the present, and refusing to believe you will die. Thus, when you do die, you have never even lived.” I would add to this that if you rely on the corporate media for your knowledge of the world, you will die in utter ignorance, believing you are well-informed.
What is the point of giving the right to vote to someone who hasn’t a clue what the candidates or their parties really stand for? Why does the American working class consistently vote against its own interests by electing Republicans? Why does anyone watch ‘Fox News’, which actually peddles opinions, not news, since opinions are cheap and can never be wrong? Why do so many right-wing media yackers have to shout all the time, when the only people listening to them agree with every malicious word they say? These are mysteries to be probed. Being blind, I no longer own a television, yet have never missed the box. When I encounter one in a hotel room, on rare occasions, I find the hundred-odd channels broadcasting hysterical nonsense, scarcely differentiated from the ads that seem to run every five minutes. Such ‘serious’ programs as you can find are aimed at a kindergarten audience, and any discussions are on a level of banality so stupefying that one fears for any audience they may have. If this is where most people obtain information – along with the dubious and frighteningly unreliable Internet – then why bother with education? Why pretend any vote is ‘democratic’ when no voter has access to any real information on the issues involved? In the United States of Amnesia, history does not really exist beyond a few legends and a great many outright lies. Why do so many Americans still believe that Saddam Hussein was behind the 9/11 atrocity? Why do they continue to believe that the people they elect for Congress or Senate have their best interests at heart, when these people consistently vote against these interests? How many still think Obama was born in Kenya, and why? How did ‘Socialism’ become a pejorative, when it means what the Constitution promises: rule by the people for the people?
In 1776, 95% of Americans worked for themselves, producing real items, crops or manufactures; and only 5% of the national income came from non-productive sources, like rent or usury. Now 95% of the population work for a salary, for a ‘boss’, and 1% control 98% of the wealth. How did this happen? How can a Constitution written for the social order of 1776 even be considered relevant today? The right to bear arms? Come on, N.R.A., that was added at a time when the country had no standing army, and it seemed wise to have a potential militia familiar with weapons. Guns don’t kill people? I think we all know that’s bullshit. By all means go hunting, but not with laser-sighted automatic machine guns. That is not sport. America, the whole world views you as an armed madhouse – because you have become that. What has made a nation which began as the greatest advance in human history, embodiment of our noblest dreams, become so stultifyingly stupid? And this stupidity is now its greatest export, if not the only one. Last year I found British television to be plumbing new depths of idiocy, every talking-head adopting the tone of pseudo-manic excitement pioneered by U.S. media. Does the audience need to be kept awake or something? You wouldn’t want house guests talking like that. I have watched unmitigated Hollywood crap in places like Burma and Papua-New Guinea, where most of its content must be incomprehensible, yet its short-attention-span editing and noise levels seem to compel viewers to watch for neuro-psychological reasons, much the same as being beaten-up commands attention without interest. Admittedly, I did watch Bergman’s Hour of the Wolf on Jordanian television, with some Bedouin in a desert tent, whose only comment on the hauntingly beautiful yet hopelessly obscure film was that, “It have no wolf…” I think Miami Vice was on next, engaging more interest, but disapproval at the scandalous behaviour and dress of women. When was the last time any American channel played a Bergman film? Or Fellini? These giants of the cinema have been replaced by midgets, like Tarrentino and others whose names are not worth remembering. The culture is dying a slow and painful death. No one reads a book anymore, although they may buy many, in order to appear as if they read them. Is there not a way we can salvage this wreck of a civilization? Does this ‘dumbing-down’ benefit someone? If so, who, and why? Is it all to end, as T.S. Eliot predicted, “not with a bang but a whimper”? Always follow the money to find your answers to these mysteries, and then refuse to take the bullshit any more. Stand up and fight, if you believe there is anything to fight for. Life is about Now, not when or then. It is never too late to build a better world. I only wish I could be of more help, yet remain sincerely, Paul William Roberts (I warned you it might be zany. Blame it on the Moon, or the Bossa-Nova).