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Truth or Uncle Powell’s Fairy-Tale Hour

The US Government Finally Presents “Evidence” to the UN Security Council

By Goedart Palm 

(Bei der Veröffentlichung der Geschichte habe ich leider einen medienstrategischen Trick unberücksichtigt gelassen: Powell trat ähnlich auf wie seinerzeit die Vertreter der USA vor der UNO anlässlich der Kuba-Krise, als sie Bilder der stationierten Raketenstellungen präsentierten und damit die Weltöffentlichkeit überraschten. Was damals Wahrheit in ihrer spezifischen Präsentationsweise war, sollte es nun auch sein. Bereits insofern sollten die, die gegenwärtig sagen, sie hätten es damals nicht besser gewusst, auch an ihre eigene Inszenierungsgeschichte erinnert werden.) 

[This article originally published in the cyber journal Telepolis, February 6, 2003 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.telepolis.de/deutsch/special/irak/14147/1.html.]

Facts, facts, facts!  Or Uncle Powell’s fairy tale hour as a “full multimedia blitz” for unbelievers?  US Secretary of State Colin Powell spoke (1) of “facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence” when he presented his evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to the UN Security Council.  Previously the issue was played down. The announcements stretching out for months without overwhelming evidence reveal more than is admitted [Iraq war prepared at a great distance (2)].  Powerful unequivocal evidence justifying momentous actions was not given.  Beating a population black and blue was the rhetorical field of Colin Powell’s apocalyptic revelation.

What remained after the 75-minute media blitz? Spy satellites record mysterious movements: mobile weapons laboratories, chemical weapon warheads, bio-weapon barrels, the scientists of evil in flight, aluminum tubes possibly for enriching uranium.

No limits are set any more to the fantasy since Iraqi weapons of mass destruction according to the will of Bush Jr. haunt the uncritical, media-saturated heads of the world population.   His Secretary of State presented Before-After photos presumably showing that prohibited material was removed before the arrival of the UN inspectors.  Decontamination aircraft were shown.  Monitored telephone conversations of Iraqi dark-skinned men were made public with fresh remarks about the lack of understanding of the weapons inspectors and hiding places for explosive material…

Powell gave user-friendly instructions for the media show-down before the military show-down in Bagdad.  With one’s mind and understanding, one should strive to see what the US government long wanted to see.   Propaganda is nothing but the politically correct execution of perception psychology.  Presenting a public dossier that could be scrupulously studied like the Iraqi weapons report instead of the multimedia blitzkrieg would have been persuasive.  TV is good but control is better.  Accounts of respectable men doing their hard jobs to save the world were emphasized.  In a time of digital data-manipulation and on the background of the first Gulf war, “seeing is believing” is a somewhat short-circuited truth program to replace conclusive evidence.  Neither foreign minister Fischer nor the representatives of France, Russia and China were publically converted to join in the war howling.

Colin Powell’s one man show was a legitimatorial event to soften incorrigible peace optimists and UN believers.  They always squeek and perhaps now more than ever.  Proofs that are not proofs are even worse than refusing proofs.  That Powell decorated his gala with satellite photos with the well-known reproaches “Saddam’s inhumanity knows no limits” did not improve matters.  His rehashed claim that Saddam Hussein was determined to gain possession of nuclear bombs wasn’t any more convincing than the “conservative estimate” that Iraq has 100 to 500 tons of chemical weapons… In Powell’s words, findings from his high-flying photos can still not be publicized for security reasons.  Vague photos of Iraqis zealously digging about in the sand, architecture without obvious function, tracks that could come from mobile weapons laboratories and information of exiled Iraqis prevented boredom in the multimedia show.   Evidence upon evidence flooding the eyes until one believes that one sees through a magnifying glass and doesn’t know where the illusion begins and ends.  Blix and his men have not seen the hot traces in the desert sand.  Are they withered by the wind? 

Instead of this show, a fundamentally different and serious approach of the American government would have been welcome.  Why weren’t the inspectors informed on time so the prohibited material could have been successfully seized?  Why wasn’t there at least a tiny snapshot of an actual hiding place thanks to the all-powerful satellites?   Why weren’t the various transports observed on their way to learn more about the remains or destination of the removed weapons?

The “needle in the haystack argument” is captivating on first view.  On one side, there should be tons and tons of prohibited material.   On the other side, not even the smallest knife was found. Admittedly the infernal biological and chemical stuff must be somewhere.  Finally, the Americans brought part of that material into Iraq.  Saddam Hussein doesn’t suffer under a confession pressure.   As one expert rightly remarked, “small quantities of terroristically suitable material is involved that can be produced in any university laboratory.  Even when traced, such risks are not eliminated.  The Anthrax letters in the US were produced in the US, not in Bangdad!”

This war could only be justified if weapons of mass destruction existed in great number to perpetrate calculated genocide and the intention or mens rea were sufficiently clear.  Colin Powell didn’t bring this proof before the UN Security Council, only the sign that the US wouldn’t be deterred from waging this war…

According to CIA information, the tyrant armed by the US in those days has already left the country.  Perhaps he also took along his arsenal of evil.  However Bush will not order back his desert armada.  This would be a great loss of face for a president who at the moment cannot afford the appearance of indecision or vacillation (translator’s note: humility and self-criticism are strengths).  In this well-fortified civilization, it is not a loss of face to risk the lives of tens of thousands of civilians if it only serves the only good cause and collateral secondary objectives.


The Spirit of America

 By  Goedart Palm

[This article published in the cyber journal Telepolis is translated from the German on the World Wide Web.]

 Hollywood Celebrates the American Soul with a Three-minute Film Run for Immediate Consumption

              National virtues are an historically sensitive chapter of self-glorification.  They objectify supposedly typical qualities of the national soul up to the uninhibited chauvinism of being the people chosen by God.  The ideological rearmament of the American war society was from the start the top theme of Operation “Enduring Freedom”.  On one hand, the semantic of war propaganda individualizes victims with countless pictures of emotional shock and on the other hand conjures the never weary American fighting spirit.

              Now director Chuck Workman in his epochal three-minute film run “The Spirit of America” comes up with the essence of the American soul and thus of American existence in all its glory.  Workman has cut together clips from 110 American films, including shots from undying works like “Citizen Kane”, “High Noon”, “Some Like It Hot” and “Singing in the Rain” as well as the standard patriotic program “Pearl Harbor”, “The Patriot” and “True Grit”.  The cast of thousands of the best known film heroes who should inspire millions of American movie-goers is a gigantic Who’s Who of American film history.

              What sounds like subliminal propaganda when Hollywood’s praetorian guard is packaged in a time lapse clip should be the most visible contribution of the cultural war effort.  The White House has not paid for the celluloid soul of America.  Still Karl Rove, President Bush’s chief advisor, is satisfied with the work after he earlier in the presidential commission pressed the film- and television industry to come up with ideas that both promote homeland morality and upgrade the ambivalent image of the US beyond its borders.

              In 1986, clip maker Workman received the Oscar for his short film “Precious Images” on cinema history.  According to the copy- and paste director, many of the shredded films offer hesitant, reluctant heroes, the true symbol of the present role of the US in the war against terrorism.   According to the vigorous statements of President Bush, Defense secretary Rumsfeld and their representative Wolfowitz, the American supreme commanders demonstrate everything but self-image problems in the choice of their weapons.  Bush signed a law that declared September 11 as the “day of the patriots”.  With his elite troop which also included “Easy Rider”, Workman marched on the politically correct line capturing the American freedom panorama on the wide screen format.

              The old complacency or smugness, the national narcissism putting other nations in their place coupled with the hegemonial global power of god’s own country could appear too short-winded to the most pious.  Therefore Workman wanted to show the American soul in its whole diversity.  He emphasized resistance against the patriotic united front from yesterday and today.  In his micro-opus, power and money are not central.  Rather diverse anti-heroes and outcasts are revived like “Malcolm X” or the Vietnam veteran in “Born on the Fourth of July” who became the war adversary.  Such fractures of the American self-image don’t play any more when America is the supposed “melting pot” of pluralist freedoms, a trans-ethnic super-system that absorbs all ideologies at least cinematically.  As Howard Beale says in “Network”, “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take this any more!”

              This reflects the deeply moving saying in “The Grapes of Wrath”: “Wherever there is a struggle that hungry people can eat, I will be there”., thus in Afghanistan or Somalia.  War times are times of brotherly sacrifice.  We experience the epoch of global communitarianism for a shaken world – at least to serve the goals of the anti-terrorist war.

              Workman emphasizes the exciting nature of the American character about which other nations can only dream: “changing, enduring and endlessly interesting”.  The struggle for independence should be continuous after the brief prologue in Afghanistan.  Thus America is the great land of opposites but reconciles and ennobles them in the clip of the clips to a carbonated water advertisement: “Everything is in Afri-Cola.”  Whoever likes James Stewart must also somehow like George W. Bush.

              According to producer Michael R. Rhodes, tribute should be paid to the tough-minded American spirit so people in America can feel good again.  For the president of the other NATO (National Association of Theater Owners), John Fithian, what was central was the American way of life without taking refuge in despicable propaganda: “Americans look, think and act differently but we all meet in a common spirit.”

              This is nothing but propaganda from the slightly antiquated department “St. Michael versus Satan”.  This new mega-feeling of the many feelings under the star-spangled banner is communicated convincingly according to Fithian.  Thus diversity in unity, faithful to the hard dollar saying “e pluribus unum”, pluralist monism, prevails as long as no one questions too closely.

              The clips are framed into the super-clip by scenes of the enduring western “The Searchers” (John Ford, 1956), a classic epic of the undying law-and-order- and gunpowder hero John Wayne who pursues the inhuman redskins who killed his brother and his pregnant wife and kidnapped his daughter.  “The Searchers” glorify the search which is successful after endless stress and strain.  Undoubtedly Usama bin Ladin is non the evil savage, a diabolical aborigine, a wild chieftain beyond civilization who must be decapitated so everything will be good.  Thus the films are blinded about real events.  Merged with them, reality is intoxicated in the fictional.  What a pity that Sam Peckinpah’s “Bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia” (1974) is missing.  What is underscored is the most direct form of justice that would have spared the arduous ride of the “Searchers”.

              Hollywood’s love service for the “White House” is a mutual affair.   Politics relies on good “war-tainment” and Hollywood speculates on the recurring gratitude of the government to prevail in its global business without restrictions.  There is still much to do since the rest of the world beyond the US should be excited by Hollywood’s film message.  Since John Wayne could be too broad for this saddle, the western “Wagon Song of the Death Blow” (Soldier Blue, 1969) which summarized the historical care for the Indians was offered instead for the international “All Time Greats” list.

            The credits for the non-American version of “Enduring Entertainment” could have been spoken by the Suquamish chief Seattle: “People make their gods according to their conceptions.  Brothers come from the same spirit.  Therefore your God is not our God and you are not our brothers.  We are two different races with different origins and different fates.  There is nothing common between us” (1853).


On the Human Right to Laziness

From: Los Angeles Indymedia

"Paul Lafargue spoke satirically about the first sinister acceleration thrusts of early industry: "All individual and social misery comes from a passion for work. O laziness, be merciful with your endless misery!: O laziness, you are the balm for the pains!"

The German Chancellor in the Struggle against State-Subsidized Laziness

By Goedart Palm

[This article published in the German-English cyber journal Telepolis April 9, 2001 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,
http://wwwtelepolis.de/deutsch/inhalt/co/7336/1.html.]

Linda Evangelista wouldn’t make chancellor Schroder happy. The top model said she wouldn’t even get out of bed for less than $10,000 a day. Perhaps some recipients of income support and unemployment benefits see life similarly when work under 1000DM monthly is offered them. Now this idleness will be ended.

“There is no right to laziness in our society,” said the pragmatic social democrat Schroder. Whoever refuses reasonable work will receive reduced support.

The Slaving Solidarity Community

No constitutionally guaranteed right to laziness exists. However a natural right or human right is involved. Christ pleaded for laziness at least in the Sermon on the Mount. “Behold the lilies of the field how they grow. They neither toil nor spin and yet I tell you Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these” (Matthew 6,28-29). In the 19th century in Gontscharov’s “Oblomov”, the Russian soul (Volksseele) preferred remaining in bed to hectic times and discovered laziness as a meaning of life.

This sense for the leisurely-contemplative life has withered. Richard Sennett described the suffering of the “flexible person” in the dotcom-society. Lifelong flexibility for lofty business goals is emphasized. In turbo-capitalist times, even “sweat jobs” become attractive again since the connection between the economic situation and full employment is regarded as irrefutable. The chancellor’s verdict on state subsidized laziness is popular in the ears of all those who slag away for little more than “sustenance” while others are paid for idleness by the social welfare office. Resentment helped him to a good election outcome.

Whoever denies the right to laziness is a populist who speculates on voter moods. The economy is regularly seen this way. The chancellor doesn’t need more jobless. The government has the goal of reducing unemployment to below 3.5 million by the 2002 Bundestag election. The number of unemployed in Germany fell 113,100 in March compared with February to 3,999,600. This was the smallest decline in the spring since the 1990 reunification.

The statistical governmental goal doesn’t ask about the economic meaning or quality of work. A “McJob” as a bag-carrier may also be regarded as socially valuable work. The connections between the numbers of the unemployed and economic development are hardly clear. More and more businesses see the real danger that the German economy is strongly affected by the growth weakness in the United States and its consequences for the international economy.

Is the question whether some alleged “social parasites” live more or less in the last socio-topes of German laziness and are completely irrelevant for the economic upswing exaggerated by the chancellor? Since everything is “somehow” connected with everything else in the economy, the lazy jobless must be described as the spoilsports in the solidarian “one-boat-society”.

On the Nobility of Work

If the work of people supposedly ennobles, the question remains why millions prefer to live so un-feudally. Work is regarded as the foundation of social esteem. According to numerous studies, unemployment is the cause of many forms of personal unhappiness and also for rising rates of criminality that cannot be cushioned by the constitutionally guaranteed social state principle.

What is reasonable work? All work that pays higher than unemployment benefits is considered reasonable. The German trade union alliance sees the dangers of wage dumping. According to the DGB, the “real shirkers” sit in the boardrooms where overtime is decreed and jobs aren’t offered even in good profit- and growth conditions.

This is the populism of the opposite side that can point to diets of parliamentarians, fat corporate profits, juicy settlements for departing CEOs and executives with work overload. “Whoever can work and will not work cannot expect solidarity”, the chancellor said. But can those who define the reasonability of work for others expect much solidarity when they don’t think any more about the reasonableness of their own work?

Before capitalism was promoted to the international economic order, such populisms were charged with the tried and tested formula of the “class struggle”. The post-industrial “social parasites” are coming out of the “industrial reserve army” today. Angela Merkel abolishes the class struggle: “We don’t make policy for classes or strata. The CDU (centrist-conservative party of Helmut Kohl) was and is the great party of the middle. I don’t want a society of false divisions in modernization losers and modernization winners. I want a We-society [http://www.neue-soziale-marktwirtschaft.edu.de/wir.html]. That is a society that accepts changes through globalization and digitalization.”

These changes from national economies to boundless global business create immense problems for social systems and their labor markets that cannot be solved in the windmill battle against social laziness. Transnational divisions of labor, labor under virtual conditions and growing pressures of lifelong learning reach the limits of reasonability for employees and national societies. 2.5 percent of present jobs in Germany can be found in the environment of the Internet. The increase of jobs in the sphere of the “New Economy” is greater than in any other branch. The way into the global information society euphorically welcomed with tele-work, virtual businesses and the decontrol of digital everyday work produces hop0e along with the apathetic outcasts of world society.

A national labor market policy or a rigid application of the social state principle will not lead to an international adjustment of human working conditions. The dangers of international outsourcing have intensified enormously through the virtualization of working conditions. According to a bold calculation of MIT, unforeseeable turbulences threaten anyway for the national labor markets since 80% of all jobs in the leading industrial states will be shifted abroad by the end of the decade.

Like other palliative rhetoric, the slogal of the “We society” will not annul the growing digital gulf. Only vulgar sociology believes that the differences between higher income persons and starvation wages can be reduced to the social Darwinian distinction of diligence and laziness. To be sure, the chancellor’s verdict over laziness may be excellently suited for the national pride debate. However Germans by nature are very diligent, particularly in self-assessment.

On Laziness of Thinking

The problem of the chancellor and other “We-society theoreticians” is an atrophied idea of work in which “slaving away” and paid income, laziness and social crises are equated. Economic productivity in the future will be increasingly independent of human labor. It becomes an intolerable paradox in times of a raging technology not to define once celebrated automation, the disappearance of stupid body drudgery and the cancellation of socially necessary work as progress while waving the fetish of full employment.

The step-son of Karl Marx and precursor of Marxism in the French working class movement Paul Lafargue used harsh words in his 1891 treatise “The Right to Laziness” (“Le droit a la Paresse”) long before the development of fully-automated factories and human-friendly robotization:

“The blind, absurd and humanly murderous work mania/addiction has transformed the machine from an instrument of liberation to an instrument for enslaving free persons. The productive power of the machine has become the cause of the impoverishment of multitudes… To force capitalists to perfect their machines of wood and iron, one must raise the wages of machines and reduce the working hours.”

Redefining the individual or collective purpose of labor under the new technological conditions is urged for future human work

Now and then work makes people poor, not free. Germany as a performance- and start-up society is still not ready or able to pay for necessary work. There is no pay for the work of housewives and mothers. Instead with the social proscription of such work, it has become a paradoxical privilege of overstrained families to find at least part-time work for mothers. A future tax reform that offers less relief for families than singles doesn’t seem to recognize this indispensable work. Savings occur where lobbies are weak, not with resources that can be redistributed.

The treatment of non-profit or charitable activities demonstrates that work is redefined. Here there is no salary system that could make this work as attractive as it urgently needs to be in an increasingly splintered society. This work is beyond the stock market quotations.

There is no right to laziness in this society. This should also be true for laziness of thinking instead of presenting creative models of society and work, labor, gainful activity, income and the “we-all-sit-in-one-boat” mentality designed for an early industrial turbo-capitalism. Before the cheap condemnation of “parasites”, the rigidities of German labor law and the high non-wage labor costs for low-wage earners should be reversed. Without speaking of a Manchester-capitalist “hire-and-fire” work society, more flexible possibilities of changing jobs is still future music for businesses and employees.

Paul Lafargue spoke satirically about the first sinister acceleration thrusts of early industry: “All individual and social misery comes from a passion for work. O laziness, be merciful with your endless misery! O laziness, mother of the arts and the noble virtues, you are the balm for the pains of humanity!” However like all satires, this should not be taken seriously.

Goedart Palm

 

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Copyright. Dr. Goedart Palm 1998 - Stand: 28. Oktober 2013.