Monday, October 21, 2013

Attention Shoppers!
The Westgate Mall In America's Jihad Bargain

I know that events in Africa during the weekend of September 21st are, in terms of American historical memory, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but I’m going to pay them some belated attention. The attack on the Westgate Mall in Kenya was, after all, a horrific action by the  Somali jihadi group, al-Shabaab, lasting over a number of days, in which at least 61 civilians died. It was also, as USA Today opined: “the post-9/11 nightmare that Americans have been half expecting: al-Qaeda gunmen attack a shopping mall, take hostages, leave behind carnage and a sickening repeat question: ‘Why us?’" 

I’m sure many Americans felt exactly that dread on watching the events unfold – and well they should, since, given the forces in play, it’s quite possible that something similar will, again, happen here.

For Americans who might have more than a passing interest in understanding why such atrocities happen, and who might want to do more than shake their heads, after the fact, in bafflement and moral self-righteousness, one might start out with the always-cogent Jeremy Scahill’s explanation of “where al-Shabaab came from,” and how it came to target Kenya. It's a somewhat complicated story of how American special ops forces used favored Somali warlords as an “assassination squad” against perceived “al-Qaeda” militants. This was followed by American connivance with Ethiopia and Kenya to invade Somalia and break up the network of local institutions, known as the Islamic Courts Union, that had been established by a broad Somali movement to achieve some order and stability in the country. Al-Shabaab started as a marginal groupuscule within that movement, and only rose to prominence as a result of the foreign incursion.

As Scahill explains:
Most Somalia experts said that there were no more than a dozen al-Qaeda-connected individuals in Somalia right after 9/11. And so, the CIA hires these warlords ostensibly to go in and hunt these people down. Well, they end up murdering vast numbers of people who were imams or religious scholars, and in some cases, I was told, that they would literally like chop people’s heads off and then bring them to their American liaison and say, ‘This is so and so, and I’ve killed them.’ And so, you had this utterly thuggish collection of warlords murdering people, and doing so, they believed, with the backing of the United States of America, the most powerful nation in the world.
In this segment (about five minutes) from Democracy Now (full interview and transcript), Scahill lays out quite clearly how the US “made the very force they claimed to be trying to fight the most powerful force in Somalia”:

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Long Leash:
Avant-Garde Culture as "Propaganda Asset"

Take a look at this article from The Independent, on the "long leash" of the CIA's Propaganda Assets Inventory.

"It was like a Wurlitzer jukebox: when the CIA pushed a button it could hear whatever tune it wanted playing across the world."

Besides confirming that Althusser pegged it with the concept of the "ideological state apparatus," this article is a reminder that:

1) The CIA -- the one that gave us coups, assassinations and torture, as well as Jackson Pollock -- was run by Ivy League-educated liberals, and

2) Much more than we like to think, we are the manipulated subjects of1 a system in which, even when you think you're singing that cool, cutting-edge, outlaw song, you're still dancing to someone else's tune.

Revealed: how the spy agency used unwitting artists such as Pollock and de Kooning in a cultural Cold War 
By Frances Stonor Saunders  The Independent, Sunday 22 October 1995
For decades in art circles it was either a rumour or a joke, but now it is confirmed as a fact. The Central Intelligence Agency used American modern art - including the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock, Robert Motherwell, Willem de Kooning and Mark Rothko - as a weapon in the Cold War. In the manner of a Renaissance prince - except that it acted secretly - the CIA fostered and promoted American Abstract Expressionist painting around the world for more than 20 years... 

1"Manipulated subject of" is a phrase from Herman Melville's great novella, "Benito Cereno." Phrase and story are perfectly apt here.

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