The CFR Debates

[Council on Foreign Relations]

Torture, parts 1 & 2

The Council on Foreign Relations helps shape imperial strategy

by Lawrence Shoup, March 2006 & April 2006


Part I

Missing from the ongoing public debate over war and the torture and abuse of detainees by the CIA and U.S. military is the extent to which the debaters on both sides are all members of only one very influential ruling class organization, the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Their ongoing discussion reflects this organization's ability to frame public debate and the passage of laws. The debate also highlights the divisions within the CFR and the larger U.S. ruling class over imperial strategy and tactics as the U.S. tries to subdue Iraqi resistance and maintain control of its neoliberal empire.

The New York-based CFR is the oldest, largest, and most powerful of U.S. ruling class think tanks. It is much more than a think tank, however, since it is also an organization with over 4,200 members, each one prominent in a key sector of U.S. life. The CFR also publishes Foreign Affairs magazine, which, according to a recent survey, is the nation's "most influential" media outlet, ahead of all other newspapers, magazines, and broadcast media.

The largest single group in the CFR is the corporate business community, which makes up 31 percent of the CFR membership, with the academic community in second place with 25 percent. The balance of CFR members are employed in the nonprofit sector, government, law, and journalism. The business community is also the source of most of CFR's financial support, with hundreds of top U.S. corporations giving them from $15,000 to $50,000 every year. Among corporations who gave at least $25,000 during the 2004-2005 year were Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, BP plc, Amerada Hess, Chevron, Halliburton-KBR, Marathon Oil, Occidental Petroleum, Shell Oil, Kuwait Petroleum, Schlumberger Limited, and Aramco Services.

In terms of membership, the densest network of corporate ties to CFR are from the New York multinational corporate community. The CFR has also always had a close relationship with key federal government departments. Noteworthy for the purposes of an understanding of torture and abuse by the U.S. government is the close long-term ties between CFR and the CIA, along with extensive ties to the U.S. military. The CFR has had at least 14 CIA directors among its members, along with many other top CIA and intelligence leaders. A review of CFR membership lists finds that at least 20 current U.S. generals and admirals are also members of the Council.

Viewed in ideological terms, there are four key groups among the CFR membership. The small "left" side of the political spectrum is made up mainly of liberal Democrats, along with a few scholars and activists. These include people like civil rights leader Jessie Jackson, Nation magazine editor Katrina vanden Heuvel, Richard J. Barnet of the Institute for Policy Studies, ACLU President Nadine Strossen, former Senator George S. McGovern, U.S. head of Amnesty International William Schulz, author/activist Daniel Ellsberg, and Princeton University Professor Richard A. Falk.

Moving to the right is what could be called "middle of the road" imperialists. These are people who play important roles in both the Democratic Party and the CFR, people like former Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton; current and former Senators John Kerry, Christopher J. Dodd, Joseph I. Lieberman, Bob Graham, Sam Nunn, Gary Hart, John D. Rockefeller, Evan Bayh, and Diane Feinstein; AFL-CIO head John J. Sweeney; Robert E. Rubin of Citicorp; international businessperson George Soros; former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright; Zbigniew Brzezinski of the Center for Strategic and International Studies; Laura d'Andrea Tyson of Morgan Stanley and the Brookings Institution; and many others.

Moving further to the right is another key membership group, best labeled the conservative Republican imperialists. Much of the CFR's top leadership, past and present, fits into this category. Examples include corporate leaders David Rockefeller, Peter G. Peterson, Maurice R. Greenberg, and Carla A. Hills. Also part of this group are current and former Senators Chuck Hagel, Bill Frist, John McCain, John Warner, Olympia Snowe, Alfonse M. D'Amato, Warren Rudman, and William S. Cohen, as well as former Presidents Gerald R. Ford and George H.W. Bush (a former CFR member and director, but no longer listed as a member), and former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger, Alexander M. Haig Jr., Colin L. Powell, and George P. Shultz.

At the far right end of the CFR political spectrum is a large group of so-called "neo-conservatives." These are ultra-imperialists whose extremist ideological/political approach includes unilateral preventative war, disdain for human rights, use of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause, obsession with national security, favoring corporate control of society, racism, super-nationalism, extreme militarism, disregard for the rule of law, suppression of labor unions, promotion of fraudulent elections, and rampant cronyism/corruption. Council members who fit into this category include Vice President Dick Cheney and his former chief assistant I. Lewis Libby; former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz; former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas J. Feith; former Defense Policy Board chair Richard Perle; former Congresspeople Vin Weber and Newton L. Gingrich; State Department officials Elliott Abrams and John Bolton; right-wing organizer Grover G. Norquist; Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice; author Norman Podhoretz; and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad. All of these, except Rice, Feith, Perle, Bolton, Gingrich and Norquist, are also founding members of the super-imperialist group Project for a New American Century.

Given its right leaning, but politically divided membership, an ongoing central goal of the CFR is to develop a bipartisan consensus on the key foreign policy issues of the day, especially bringing together the rightwing and middle sectors of the U.S. political spectrum. It also deals with questions of the balance of power between states and the key role of certain "linchpin" nations in that balance. Geopolitical economics has been the CFR's dominant worldview at least since World War II.

The U.S. War in Iraq

Iraq, with its large proven oil reserves and even larger potential, but as yet undeveloped reserves, had been on the radar of the geopolitical economic planners of CFR for many years. This attention came to a climax with two studies in 2001. During that year the CFR co-sponsored an Independent Task Force on Strategic Energy Policy Challenges for the 21st Century with the James A. Baker III Institute of Public Policy at Rice University in Texas. Former Secretary of State James A. Baker III is a long-time CFR member and is also personally and politically close to the Bush family. Fifty-one task force members, many of them connected to the oil industry, signed the report, which reached a consensus on a number of questions. The first general conclusion was that "a new era of energy scarcity" was upon the world, with "supply constraints" now "...presenting fundamental obstacles to continued economic growth and prosperity." The primary cause of this, in turn, was seen as "persistent under investment juxtaposed with strong economic and oil demand growth." This applied especially to the Middle East-Persian Gulf region, where the bulk of the world's oil resources is concentrated, making it the only place with meaningful spare capacity to solve a looming and serious shortfall: "If political factors were to block the development of new oil fields in the Middle East, the ramifications for world oil markets could be quite severe." At the same time, United States energy independence is unattainable because it "faces a steep decline rate in its domestic oil fields..."

A second conclusion was U.S. and world vulnerability to the actions of Iraq, which the Task Force pointed out was now one of the world's key "swing" producers. In the words of the report: "The resulting tight markets have increased U.S. and global vulnerability to disruption and provided adversaries undue potential influence over the price of oil. Iraq has become a key 'swing' producer, posing a difficult situation for the U.S. government." Furthermore, Iraq's policies were seen as one of three key "drivers" (together with OPEC policy and the Arab-Israeli conflict) pushing prices upward. Iraq turns its oil tap "on and off when it has felt such action was in its strategic interest" and is trying to "stir up anti-American sentiment inside and outside the Middle East." This in turn meant that "the United States should conduct an immediate policy review toward Iraq, including military, energy, economic, and political/diplomatic assessments."

Finally, the CFR/Baker Institute group concluded that the U.S. government should create a permanent "interagency process to articulate and promote energy security policy with overall economic, environmental and foreign policy," noting that "the Bush Administration has moved rapidly in this direction through the creation of the White House Energy Policy Development Group headed by Vice President Dick Cheney."

Cheney had long seen the Persian Gulf region as the key to world power. In 1990 he stated that whoever controlled this region of the world was "in a position to dictate the future of worldwide energy policy[and would have] a stranglehold on our economy and on that of most of the other nations of the world as well." The Cheney energy policy group followed up on the CFR/Baker Institute study, including in their work consultation with representatives of major oil companies such as ExxonMobil, Conoco, British Petroleum America, Chevron, and Shell Oil. Cheney's secretive group evidently agreed with the CFR/Baker Institute that Iraqi oil was central to the strategic energy needs of the U.S.

While the complete documentary record of its work is classified and unavailable, Freedom of Information requests and a court case did result in the release of some edited documents from the Cheney energy policy group. One of these was a map of Iraq showing lease areas where oil drilling was planned. Another consisted of a list of 40 oil companies from 30 nations who were slated to get permission to drill for oil in Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The problem for the U.S. and Britain was that their oil companies were absent from this list of those who were to get concessions, and Iraq was second only to Saudi Arabia in proven oil reserves, with the possibility of much more petroleum in the largely unexplored western part of the country. The U.S. and UK would thus be frozen out of what was clearly one of the greatest material prizes in world history.

After the 9/11 attacks, Bush and other Administration leaders were mainly interested in finding a way to blame Saddam and conquer Iraq, as then Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill and others later reported. During 2002 the CFR contributed to the push toward war by publishing a book called Threatening Storm: The Case for Invading Iraq by CFR Senior Fellow Kenneth Pollack. At about the same time, a Washington Post article (September 15, 2002) summed up much about the war's origins in a single sentence: "A U.S.-led ouster of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein could open a bonanza for U.S. oil companies long banished from Iraq, scuttling oil deals between Baghdad and Russia, France and other countries, and reshuffling world petroleum markets, according to industry officials and the Iraqi opposition." Such a "reshuffling" through a U.S. opening of the Iraqi oil spigot would give Washington enormous leverage over the world oil market, driving down prices and perhaps even destroying OPEC through overcapacity and price wars. Control of Iraq would also give the U.S. immense power over the larger Middle East and the oil that China, Europe, and Japan depend on for their long term survival as industrial powers.

In 2003, a few months after taking over Iraq, Bush issued Presidential Executive Order 13303, which attempted to provide legal cover for U.S. corporations to loot Iraqi oil without consequences. This order states that the possibility of future legal claims on Iraq's oil wealth is "an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States," adding that "any judicial process is prohibited, and shall be deemed null and void" with regard to any commercial operation conducted by U.S. corporations involved in the Iraqi oil industry. Thomas Devine, legal director of the Governmental Accountability Project, condemned Bush's directive, arguing that it "cancels the concept of corporate accountability and abandons the rule of law" and is "a license for corporations to loot Iraq and its citizens." Also during 2003, and within a few months of his installation as the U.S. dictator of Iraq, CFR member L. Paul Bremer III issued his infamous Order 39, which privatized 200 Iraqi state companies and decreed that foreign firms can retain 100 percent ownership of Iraqi banks, mines, and factories and allowed these firms to send 100 percent of their profits out of Iraq. Bremer said his goal, irrespective of the wishes of the Iraqi people, was to change a "centrally planned economy to a market economy."

Bush declared in a 2005 address to the CFR, "Iraq's a nation with the potential for tremendous prosperity...they have among the largest oil resources in the world," adding that "liberating" and "reconstructing" Iraq would serve as a starting point for establishing a "U.S.-Middle East free-trade area" including 22 nations and based on the "free market system." Defense Secretary Rumsfeld underscored that the U.S. occupying authority would adopt policies that "favor market systems" conducive to foreign investment, control, and exploitation, again irrespective of the needs of the Iraqi people. First, due to the high unemployment created by the switch to a "free market" system (estimates of unemployment and underemployment range from 26 percent to over 70 percent), the people of Iraq now have trouble getting enough food. Second, CNN reported in May 2005 that there was "widespread poverty" in Iraq and 43 percent of Iraqi children aged 6 months to 5 years "...suffer from some form of malnutrition." Third, common crime of all kinds is rampant in Iraq, making the country insecure for everyone, but especially for women and children.

Working the "Dark Side"

On February 15, 2002 Vice President Dick Cheney traveled to New York to speak at the opening of CFR's new Geoeconomic Center. Cheney argued that terror cells existed in 60 nations and vast military spending and actions would be required to defeat them. Cheney also pointed out the importance of a "multifaceted approach" to the problem: "...some of it will be visible and public, as when we went into Afghanistan to take out the Taliban, other aspects of it may never see the light of day, probably shouldn't. You're clearly going to have to deal in the shadows..." Using slightly different words, Cheney stated a few months earlier that in dealing with terrorism, "We have to work...the dark side."

Cheney's references to dealing "in the shadows" and working the "dark side" reflected the fact that less than a week after the 9/11 attacks, President Bush gave the CIA wide ranging authorization to kill, capture, kidnap, imprison, interrogate, and torture suspected Al-Qaeda members in secret "black site" prisons around the world. Bush also authorized "extraordinary rendition," the kidnapping and transportation of suspects to countries with records of using torture. The CIA, under the leadership of CFR member George Tenet, implemented the use of black sites, extraordinary rendition, interrogation, and torture of detainees at the U.S. Naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, in Afghanistan, and other locations. Because these actions lacked due process and kidnapping and torture were involved, they were illegal under U.S. and international law, as well as the laws of some cooperating nations. Lawyers on Cheney's staff and from the Justice Department were therefore given the task of redefining the law. After much effort they bent the accepted legal definition of torture and "cruel and inhumane or degrading treatment" to include only those interrogation techniques that deliberately resulted in severe harm to a bodily organ or death. This definition allowed massive torture and was very different than that accepted by other legal experts and the United Nations. These government lawyers also decided that the Geneva Conventions governing treatment of all detainees during any conflict-which was part of U.S. law by treaty-did not apply to Al-Qaeda, the Taliban in Afghanistan, or to non-Iraqi detainees in Iraq.

Two of the top Justice Department lawyers working on these issues were CFR members John C. Yoo, now a professor of law at the University of California's Boalt Hall law school, and Jack L. Goldsmith III, now a professor at Harvard Law School. Goldsmith reportedly worked on the inapplicability of the Geneva Conventions and Yoo wrote the legal opinion that redefined the law to justify what was, in reality, torture. During the same period, Yoo wrote the "classified legal opinion" justifying unchecked presidential power to engage in domestic spying without a court order, which amounted to executive authorization of criminal activity.

Defenders of torture, such as Yoo and neo-fascist/neo-conservative commentator Max Boot, a CFR senior fellow who writes for the Los Angeles Times, have excused torture with various arguments. Boot, in a January 2005 LA Times article entitled "Necessary Roughness," denied that extensive abuse occurred, arguing that it was limited to "a few renegade guards at one prison," and then defended the use of torture like waterboarding when he wrote, "legions of critics are condemning one of the successful steps taken to prevent another 9/11-the aggressive interrogation of captured terrorists."

An Epidemic of Torture and Abuse

In a recent comparison of the Vietnam and Iraq wars, James Lindsey, CFR's vice president and director of studies, captured the essence of why the U.S. ruling class wants to stay in Iraq: "It was always hard to sustain the argument that if the United States withdrew from Vietnam there would be immense geopolitical consequences. As we look at Iraq, its a very different issue. It's a country in one of the volatile parts of the world, which has a very precious resource that modern economies rely on, namely oil..." CFR President Richard N. Haass added that in invading Iraq, U.S. leaders wanted to send a message to the world that "geopolitical momentum" was moving in their favor. The problem is that, as shown in both polls and actions, the vast majority of the Iraqi people do not want the U.S. occupying their country. A recent Washington Post poll put the figure wanting U.S. troops out at over 80 percent. Since ruling by consent appears to be impossible, ruling by fear, intimidation, and punishment is the only route open to the U.S. The by-now routine epidemic of violence, torture, and abuse perpetrated by Washington on the people of Iraq develops out of the logic of this situation. Added to it is the anger of U.S. troops at having to be in Iraq and having friends killed or injured. Ignored is the fact that the International Red Cross has estimated that 70 to 90 percent of the tens of thousands of Iraqis who have been detained by the U.S. have been arrested by mistake and are completely innocent. The total detained may be as high as 75,000. As of November 1, 2005 almost 14,000 were still being held illegally, without any due process. Despite their innocence, many are nevertheless abused, tortured, and even murdered by the CIA and U.S. soldiers, fueling the resistance.

The abuse, torture, and murder at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba ("Gitmo") have been most reported on, but what is most revealing about both locations and the "Salt Pit" U.S. torture center in Afghanistan is the central role of the CIA in all three places. Major General George R. Fay's investigative report on Abu Ghraib pointed out that the CIA was actually in charge of interrogation/torture at that facility and that they "poisoned the atmosphere" there. The "Salt Pit" was a CIA-run camp and the CIA was also very active at Gitmo. Some of their techniques caused deaths, with over 100 detainees dying in U.S. custody over the past several years, most of them murdered by U.S. personnel. Despite these homicides and over 400 criminal investigations of misconduct, only a few low level U.S. soldiers have been tried, convicted, and sentenced to prison terms. The CIA, while most responsible, has been completely exempt from any independent investigations, let alone any real accounting. The chilling fact is that the CIA is entirely above the law.

Many of these CIA torture techniques were codified much earlier in a secret 1963 torture instruction book called KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation. These torture techniques have been spread by the CIA throughout the world over the past 40 years, resulting in an epidemic of torture worldwide.

A September 2005 Human Rights Watch report based on interviews with active duty soldiers in the elite 82nd Airborne Division occupying part of Iraq found that military commanders demanded that lower ranking soldiers get intelligence from detainees, without giving guidelines about what was allowed in terms of interrogation techniques. The report found that the torture of detainees at the 82nd Airborne's base in Iraq (called FOB Mercury) took place almost daily from September 2003 to April 2004. It concluded that, since no full scale investigation had taken place and no one had been punished, such torture was probably still continuing today. Detainees captured by the 82nd were held in tents separated from the rest of the base by concertina wire for several days prior to being released or sent to Abu Ghraib. In these tents detainees were tortured to get information under the direction of officers from the military intelligence unit.

A summary of the Human Rights Watch report, based on U.S. soldiers' own testimony, stated that techniques used included: "severe beatings (in one observed incident, a soldier reportedly broke a detainee's leg with a baseball bat), blows and kicks to the face, chest, abdomen, and extremities, and repeated kicks to various parts of the detainees' body; the application of chemical substances to exposed skin and eyes; forced stress positions...sometimes to the point of unconsciousness; sleep deprivation; subjecting detainees to extremes of hot and cold; the stacking of detainees into human pyramids; and, the withholding of food (beyond crackers) and water." The torture of detainees became so widespread and accepted that it became a means of "stress relief" for soldiers who were welcomed to the tents to beat up or otherwise abuse detainees. If a detainee suffered a broken bone from such beatings, then an army physician's assistant was called in to cover up the beating and agree that the detainee was injured during capture. Military intelligence officers approved of the beatings because they believed that it demoralized the detainees, making it easier to get intelligence from them. Officers and soldiers of the 82nd who wished to behave honorably and tried to report what was happening to superior officers to stop these outrages were told to keep their mouths shut and not risk their careers.

Since investigations about the behavior of other important U.S. military units in Iraq have not been conducted, we do not know if other divisions and units are also guilty of similar torture and abuse of detainees, but it would be surprising if this were not the case, since this problem is epidemic.



Part II

Crimes of War, Ruling Class Divisions

The events of the last three years were watched carefully all over the world. As evidence mounted that U.S. actions were indeed comparable to fascism, opposition grew worldwide.

First, Iraq was invaded and conquered despite being no threat to the U.S. This was in violation of Article 51 of the UN Charter and was even called "illegal" by the cautious UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. The Nuremberg Tribunal concluded that no nation is immune from scrutiny for the illegal act of planning and launching an aggressive war. Second, existing international and domestic humanitarian law, such as the Geneva Conventions, were declared "obsolete" by U.S. government lawyers, including current Attorney General Gonzales. They might have been a bit more cautious had they been aware that Field Marshal Wilhelm Kietel, commander of the German armies in World War II, had used almost the exact same wording to declare that the humanitarian law of the time was irrelevant, resulting in actions which earned Kietel the death penalty. (He was executed in 1946.) Kietel said that the humanitarian laws of war of that time were "a product of a notion...of a bygone era" and were "obsolete."

During the 1930s the Japanese insisted on labeling their invasion of China as an "incident" and not a war so they could also escape existing Hague and Geneva Conventions. Among the techniques the Japanese fascists used on its detainees were various forms of water torture/waterboarding. Following World War II the International Military Tribunal for the Far East concluded that both the officers who ordered water torture/waterboarding of detainees and those who carried it out were guilty of war crimes. Some were executed.

In this regard the recent Congressional testimony of CIA Director Goss, as reported by the New York Times, is worth noting. In response to a question from Senator McCain, Goss stated that waterboarding fell into "an area of what I will call professional interrogation techniques," which he defended as a key tool in efforts against terrorism. Waterboarding has been mentioned in numerous newspaper and television reports as a commonly used, "approved" CIA torture technique. CIA Inspector General John Helgerson confirmed this in a recent leaked report that at least in 2002 and 2003, waterboarding was an approved technique often used by the CIA.



Finally, the U.S. military's actions in Fallujah reminds one, on a smaller scale, of the Japanese attack of Nanking, China and the Nazi destruction of Lidice, Czechoslovakia, both infamous examples of the fascist tendency to punish an entire population for refusing to submit to foreign domination. Fallujah was a city resisting the U.S. occupation, where U.S. military contractors had been ambushed, killed, and their bodies hung from a bridge. This marked the entire population of the town for punishment and large sections of the city were leveled with extensive "collateral damage"-civilian deaths and injuries amounting to U.S. war crimes.

The current wave of torture and other war crimes is not new in U.S. history. The U.S. war on Vietnam, the sponsorship of death squads, massacres, and torture in Latin America, to cite but two recent examples, have been extensively documented in books, declassified documents, CIA training manuals, congressional investigations, court records, and truth commissions. The failure to bring any high level decision makers to account for these war crimes is one source of the problems we now have.

Today, worldwide consciousness, the legal framework and organization for human rights is much stronger than in the past, putting the Bush administration, with its open advocacy of preventative war, torture and abuse, on the defensive. Recent kidnappings, transfer, and torture of suspects in Europe by the CIA have led to ongoing investigations by the Council of Europe and prosecutors, parliaments, and government agencies in Britain, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, Austria, and Denmark. The intense criticism from Europeans has been a major factor in attempts by some in the CFR-Senators McCain and Hagel and others-to sponsor another law to bar torture as counterproductive in a war of ideas.

As McCain put it: "To prevail in this war we need more than victories on the battlefield. This is a war of ideas.... Prisoner abuse exacts a terrible toll on us in this war of ideas...they threaten our moral standing..." The relevancy of McCain's ban, which has passed Congress and been signed by President Bush, is questionable, since the problem is not a lack of laws on the books, it is rather the lack of a government which respects and will uphold the rule of law. As the Washington Post pointed out in a December 2004 editorial: "The record...suggests that the administration will neither hold any senior official accountable nor change the policies that have produced this shameful record. Congress, too, has abdicated its responsibility.... For now the appalling truth is that there has been no remedy for the documented torture and killing of foreign prisoners by this American government."

The current sharp divisions within the Council on Foreign Relations and wider U.S. ruling class about how to respond to the current situation while successfully maintaining U.S. imperialism's worldwide domination, opens some possibilities for mobilizing support for a real repudiation of the Bush administration's neo-fascism. The U.S. ruling class is constantly lecturing other segments of society about the importance of the "rule of law." In the final analysis, they are, of course, frequently talking about the protection of their own private property interests. But the law also applies to the serious crimes discussed above, which cannot be ignored.

To cite but one example of relevant existing law, a 1996 federal statute, 18 USC Section 2441, a law without a statute of limitations, makes it a crime for any U.S. national, military or civilian, to violate the Geneva Convention by engaging in murder, torture, or inhumane treatment. Those who order, sanction, or carry out such crimes all come under this law. Penalties include life imprisonment and execution if anyone dies under torture. Instead of passing new laws as public relations stunts, McCain and others should advocate for the full enforcement of this existing one.



Can we expect ruling class institutions to use their power to uphold the rule of law? Will key sectors of the powerful private sector demand that a fully independent, high level special prosecutor be appointed to conduct a full investigation of any and all domestic and international crimes related to the U.S. "war on terror" and the wars on Afghanistan and Iraq? If even some of the reports that have appeared in the daily newspapers over the past four years are accurate, then there should be plenty of evidence on which to bring an indictment of all those involved, as high up the power structure as responsibility goes, and have a trial. Only through such a complete and fair process will this issue of war crimes and the resulting shame on our nation have a chance to go away. Otherwise, it is clear that the rule of law is a sham and criminal behavior together with impunity is acceptable for those powerful enough to escape scrutiny.

At every historical moment we stand at the gate of potential new worlds, facing alternative human futures. Our actions can influence that future, but we have to struggle against existing material and ideological constraints. Understanding these constraints must begin with the insight that we live in a completely corrupt system bent on privatizing, commodifying, and despoiling the entire planet. Meaningful political participation in this system is blocked by a two-party controlled, winner-take-all electoral system dominated by the corporate ruling class and groups like the CFR that reduce our "democracy" to a useless vote between nearly identical candidates. The first step in constructing a meaningful alternative is to withdraw our support for an illegitimate system, to refuse and resist. We cannot depend upon the more liberal sectors of the ruling class to even promote transparency and the rule of law, let alone a humane future. In James Baldwin's prophetic words: "It is a terrible, inexorable law that one cannot deny the humanity of another without diminishing one's own." The wider public in the U.S. must demand an immediate end to all war crimes, an end to illegality and impunity and an accounting for the lawlessness committed in our name and with our tax money. Only this will protect us.

In the short term, a non-violent national insurrection, a campaign of mass civil disobedience, including tax resistance, strikes, and boycotts is now needed. Resistance can build the solidarity, direct democracy, and cultural transformation needed to open the door to a new world of equality, ecology, and social justice. In the longer term, we need a people's think tank/membership organization that can plan and organize both for the survival of our planet and a peaceful and cooperative future worthy of human beings.

To uphold the rule of law, foreign governments should investigate top U.S. officials and, if those investigations support prosecution, these governments should arrest any of these officials who enter their territory and begin legal proceedings against them. These and other actions by governments and people who believe in law, peace, and justice are imperative. Everyone can have a role in bringing to account the criminals who have tortured and murdered so many in wars of aggression justified by lies. At the same time such a struggle can promote a positive vision of equality, solidarity, and social justice in favor of an economic and social system centered on direct popular power, the democratization of our economy and society, with the goal of enhancing all forms of life.


Laurence H. Shoup has taught U.S. history at several universities and written three books, including: Imperial Brain Trust: the Council on Foreign Relations and U.S. Foreign Policy (with William Minter), first published by Monthly Review Press in 1977, reprinted by iUniverse in 2004. Part II of this article will appear in April.

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