As a recovering spy who has published and agitated for intelligence reform over the years, I generally have little patience for spy novels less the George Smiley series by John Le Carre. Been there, done that. This book is nothing short of sensational, and at $9 a huge value.
This book is so very good that I am making it one of THREE books I recommend to future spies and those who wish to understand the human side of the spy world today (or course there are many others but this one is special). The other two are still:
I liked this book on multiple levels. It does for the clandestine service, where we were obscenely proud of having the highest alcoholism, adultery, divorce, and suicide rates in the US Government, what James Webb did for the abuse of military forces by craven politicians in Fields of Fire.
Brilliantly Translated, Poetry of Pathos, Compelling, June 5, 2009
Kudos to Hugo Chavez for putting this book in the eye of the emerging consciousness of the US public–Obama will not read this book because he already knows the story, he is the front end of the Borg–the system, and so similar in policies to Bush as to possibly wake up the naive.
The book begins with one of the finest Forewords I have ever read, by Isabel Allende, and I offer just one quote from her spectacular introduction of the book:
“His work is a mixture of meticulous detail, political conviction, poetic flair, and good storytelling.”
The translation by Bobbye Ortiz merits special note. This book sings in English, and the translator has done justice to the original.
A major recurring theme throughout the book is that of capital squandered by the few while the many actually producing the capital dies of hunger or disease.
I list ten other recommended books at the end of this review. Early on the author makes these points:
1. The indigenous bourgeoisie are the ones who have sold out their countries to the multinational corporations. Toward the end of the book re repeats this with a chapter on the guards that opened the gates.
2. “The human murder by poverty in Latin America is secret–every year, [the equivalent of] three Hiroshima bombs.”
3. Quoting Lyndon Johnson: $5 invested in population control is equal to $100 in economic growth. This in the context of the author making the case that Latin America is under-populated in relation to Europe.
4. Imperialism and what I call predatory capitalism depends on, imposed, inequality and growing disparity on the countries rich in raw materials.
His early account of the European invasion by steel and horse and disease was unique in its time; see 1491 below for a broader more recent treatment. The indigenous population by this account dropped from 70 million to 3.5 million.
Among my notes:
1. The historical record is lie–laws were indeed passed protecting the indigenous natives, but never enforced, something history does not document as well.
2. “Ideological justifications were never in short supply.”
3. Spanish dressed up the natives in Andalucian costumes, some of the clothing we think of today as traditional was actually imposed on the natives.
4. Spanish and others moved drugs (coca) from strictly ceremonial use to the general population and then into massive export.
The history of Latin America is a history of sequential pillaging. First gold, then sugar, then rubber followed by chocolate, cotton, and coffee, then the banana–the tree of hell under United Fruit. And then Chilean nitrates, Bolivian tin, and finally the “black curse” of petroleum.
Sugar in particularly devoured both the soil and humanity, first in Brazil then in the Caribbean.
The ready use of slavery, both of indigenous natives and of imported Africans, created the economic bottleneck that survives to this day, where those actually extracting the raw materials are virtual slaves and do not derive the fruits of their labor.
The author contrasts the manner in which the US used the Homestead Act to grant land to individuals who were incentivized to develop the West, and the latifundo oligarchy that imposes perpetual poverty on generations of indigenous individual families.
Myself being a survivor of the Central American wars, and the duty officer the night land reformer Mark Pearlman was executed in El Salvador by an extreme right death squad, I read with interest about the recurring attempts to achieve agrarian reform, only to have push-back from the 14-500 families that “own” the land.
I am fascinated by the corporate war between Shell (Paraguay) and Standard Oil (Bolivia) in which the armies of those countries, and the poor of those countries, were the pawns in the “great game” of wealth confiscation.
The book is a catalog of all the dictators supported by the USA and enriched by US and European multinational corporations.
The second half of the book yields the following notes:
1. Industrial infanticide has been imposed on Latin America by protectionism and free trade (as opposed to fair trade)
2. Loans and railroads (with attendant land rights and obligations) deformed Latin America.
3. The International Monetary Fund (IMB) is the knife that slits the belly of each country to let in the maggots of immoral capitalism.
4. The Ministries of Labor in each Latin American country are the new slave traders.
5. “International charity does not exist.” The role of US aid is to help the US domestically. As of the book being written, only 38% of aid was actually targeted aid, all the rest existed to bring greater benefits back to the “giving” country.
6. What Latin America has been lacking all this time is a sense of economic community within its own continent.
7. The book was banned in Chile and Uruguay.
I end this summative review with two quotes–cliff notes for the President, if he has anyone active on Amazon:
Page 261. The task lies in the hands of the dispossessed, the humiliated, the accursed. The Latin Ameerican cause is above all a social cause: the rebirth of Latin America must start with the overthrow of its masters, country by country. We are entering times of rebellion and change.
Page 285. “The system would like to be confused with the country.” and “In these lands we are not experiencing the primitive infancy of capitalism buts its vicious senility.”
Notes and index complete the work. A solid four hour read without interruptions. A great book for anyone desiring to know why the USA is being pushed back while China and Iran are displacing the West in the southern hemisphere.
Clever in a sophmoric way–selective, Inconclusive, and naive, February 14, 2008
I have been going blind the past two weeks doing the index to the new edited work by Mark Tovey, COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE: Creating a Prosperous World at Peace, playing DVDs in the background.
This one fooled me right up to the end with its able review of the disconnect between most Arab oil going to China and Europe (so why should the US protect it), the great strengths of the German and Japanese economies, the great wealth of the Arab countries to whom we give most of our foreign military assistance….
I was especially intregued by his use of putative candidates for president promising to pull all our troops back and reinvest in the homeland, something Mayor Mike Bloomberg has been harping on.
Then he pulled the plug with, as I say, a clever but sophmoric conclusion that is NOT, as one “official” review would have it, conclusive at all–the DVD ends with a nuclear explosion and a replay of Hiroshima, with one Asian mother in the rubble asking another to tell her daughter (who is assuredly vaporized) that she loves here. Then she dies and the movie dies with her.
This happens to be my lifetime focus, so here are a few thoughts:
1) For what we spend on war all over the world, $1.3 trillion a year, we could use one third of it to retain essential military and law enforcement capabilites, one third of it to completely rebuild our homeland, and one third of it to invest in massive undersea, outerspace, paranormal, and inter-cultural innovation.
2) Washington DC is run by four crime families: the Clintons, the Bushes, the Republicans and the Democrats. They specialize in picking the taxpayers' pocket, robbing the many to enrich the few. At the same time, Wall Street has migrated from being a fiduciary trust to being a financial intermediary, and as John Bogle spells out in his most recent book, these asset managers have skimmed off one fifth of the wealth as “fees” without any of the “owners” being any the wiser.
3) The ten high level threats to mankind have now been definitively established, and they are poverty, infectious disease, environmental degradation, inter-state conflict, civil war, genocide, other atrocities, proliferation (which is best practiced by the arms mongering of the five permanent members of the Security Council), terrorism (note how this is NINTH yet consuming the current White House), and transnational crime (the latter a $2 trillion a year endeavor, against $7 trillion in the “legal” economy and an almost certain $1 trillion in corporate fraud and tax avoidance and another $1 trillion in barter and intangible exchange.
The USA needs the following:
1) Electoral reform and a citizenship mindful of its civic duties.
2) Honest politicians committed to transparent open government and no legislation without pre-publication in detail.
3) A strategy that commits to eradicating the ten high level threats, and buy-outs or force-oputs for the 44 dictators, 42 of whom we love to love, two of whom we love to hate (one being Cuba, which has the best health care in the world, the only sustainable agricultural model without pesticide and with full employment, and oh yes, they can send 10,000 doctors to Venezuela without blinking.
4) Recognition that all ten threats, poverty for example, require the harmonization of twelve policis from Agriculture to Water (for example, US wastes roughly a third of the food it grows, which consumed water we cannot afford to lose).
5) Recognize that nothing the US or EUR do will matter unless we can create an EarthGame that serves as the Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, and presents in compelling terms sustainable architectures that can be adopted by the eight demographic giants who–if they repeat our mistakes–will consume the entire planet within 3 to five generations.
Enough. This is an annoying movie for its lack of nuance and serious understanding of the complexities as well as the opportunities that lie before us.
Afterthought: anyone can search on the terms in brackets for more:
[Chinese Irregular Warfare Memorandum oss.net]
[Steele Joint Forces Quarterly Asymmetric]
[Steele Alternative Paradigm for National Security]
[Steele Presidential Leadership oss.net]
And of course there are the books I have written and the ones we are publishing and providing free online at Earth Intelligence Network.
I was offered a free rental today, and casting around for something I had never seen before, I grabbed this one thinking it would be about how Nixon was outed from office, not actually assassinated. I put it in on background as I struggled with creating the index to a 550 page new book, and within 15 minutes I stopped and the movie had my undivided attention.
Sean Penn is perfect, deep, emotional, and inspires commitment to the movie and to his plight as a failure who is honest. As I am a student of how “honest” governments are in fact a form of legalized organized crime, I may have appreciated this movie more than most, but I do not hesitate to recommend it to anyone. What price integrity?
5.0 out of 5 starsDick Cheney Pulls Noam Chomsky to the Center (Relatively Speaking)
October 18, 2007
Edit of 15 Jun 09 to correct factual error in original review (nuclear deal with Iran under Gerald Ford, not Ronald Reagan, in 1974).
Chomsky is actually starting to win over the balanced middle with his common sense. I have long respected him, but it took Dick Cheney and his merry band of nakedly amoral and obliviously delusional henchmen to really bring home to America how much his straight talk and logical thinking can help us.
There is virtually no repetition from past works. This series of interviews took place in 2006 and early 2007, and I found a great deal here worth noting.
* In 70 New York Times editorials on Iraq, not once did they mention international law or the United Nations Charter. He uses this and several other examples to show how pallid, how myopic, how unprofessional our mainstream media has become.
* A wonderful section talks about how civil *obedience* of immoral and illegal orders is our biggest challenge in this era, and I agree. The “failure of generalship” in the Pentagon resulted from a well-meaning but profoundly misdirected confusion of loyalty to the civilian chain of command, however lunatic, with the integrity that each of our senior swore to the Constitution and to We the People in their Oath of Office.
* His knowledge of Lebanon, a country I have come to love as representative of all that is good in the Middle East, is most helpful. His many remarks, all documented, make it clear that Israel has been abducting people for decades, and that the Lebanese have quite properly come to equate US “freedom” with the “kiss of death.” I am especially impressed with his discussion of Hezbollah as having legitimacy based on providing social services to those ignored by past governments, and as having a significant strategic value to Iran as a flank on Israel. His observations on how the US consistently refuses to recognize honest elections that do not go as the policymakers (not the US public) wish, are valid.
* He reminds us that the US made an enormous strategic mistake in using Saudi Arabian extremist Islam as a counterpoint to Nasser's natural Arab nationalism. As Robert Baer puts it, we see no evil and slept with the devil like a common whore lusting for oil.
* His comments on China and the Shi'ites who sit on most of the reserves (including Saudi reserves in one corner of that country, are provocative. I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that the USA needs to cede the oil to China and execute a Manhattan Project to leverage solar power from space, tidal power, air power, and–for storage–hydrogen power made with renewable resources.
* Chomsky's comments on Chavez track with my own understanding. Chavez is a serious and well-off revolutionary who is sharing energy with his Latin American brethren, and leading the independence of Latin America from the overbearing and often hypocritical and predatory US government and US multinational corporations.
* He offers compelling thoughts on how India is sacrificing hundreds of thousands of poor rural people who now commit suicide or migrate to cities after losing their lands, for the sake of the high technology investments. I wonder why India is not doing more to teach the poor “one cell call at a time.”
* His observations on US electoral fraud are brilliant. He points out that the fact that elections are stolen is much less important than the fact that the entire electoral process in the US is fraudulent, without substance, only posturing and platitudes.
* He discusses how the US public is completely divorced from the policy choices of the dual tyranny of the US (political) government and the US corporate sector.
* At every turn Chomsky offers common sense observations, for instance, Pakistan, not Iran, is vastly more likely to leak nuclear capabilities to jihadists. In passing, he points out that it was the US that gave the Shah of Iran an entire MIT nuclear program and substantive assistance that is now being harvested by Iran, in 1975. Kissinger, Cheney,Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz as well as Gerald Ford are mentioned by name.
* He observes that Israeli influence is vastly larger than the lobbying effort, because the entire US intellectual network has “bought into” the Israeli myths and lies. The American fascists (see American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America), the Christian fundamentalists, are actually anti-Semitic, but support Israel because of their belief in the apocalypse.
* The Internet is having a pernicious effect on dialog and debate and compromise, because it creates little cul-de-sacs for lunatics of like mind to find and reinforce one another, divorced from larger realities.
* Avian flu (and our lack of preparation for it) is vastly more dangerous than a nuclear event. (See my review of the DVD Pandemic).
* Missile “defense” is actually code for allowing a first strike by the US on Russia or China, as a means to moderating their counter-strike. This is the first time I have heard it put this way, and I agree. All Americans should oppose “missile defense.”
* State secrecy is about keeping our own citizens ignorant of the crimes being done “in our name” not about keeping secrets from the enemies we a re covertly screwing over time and again.
* Darfur is being dumbed down, at the same time that the *millions* being genocided in the Congo are being ignored.
* He ends on two good notes. Like Thomas Jefferson (A Nation's best defense is an educated citizenry”) he says that “educating the American people is the main thing to be done,” and love of the people is fundamental.
Great book, completely fresh and absolutely worth reading for the mainstream that might have in the past written Chomsky off as a perennial leftist, which he is not. Chomsky is what we must all seek to be: an educated engaged citizen.
I sometimes tire of non-fiction (reality) and escape into DVDs, but many of them are either reality or a sembalnce of reality that merits respect. This is such a film.
I would also add a note of caution to those who would demean this film as “corny.” NOT right. This film was ahead of its time. In this film, the moderate Islamists (represented by Sean Connery) are upset with foreign presence (Western Europe), and the USA with its bully Theodore and its aggressive Marines, are in the wrong until the Marines are led back on track by the female American protagonist (Candice Bergen) and free the Lion of Islam to fight again.
TAKEAWAY: Americans can be, are, morally wrong (as are all immoral predatory nations), and moderate Islamists are, in their own place that we have invaded, morally correct. Our God is NOT, as LtGen Jerry Boykin, one of my top five greatest generals ever (out of 75 or so I have known, most never more than a Colonel with a facelift) greater than theirs. Our God is CO-Equal to theirs, and the sooner we put Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger behind bars, the sooner we eliminate our 750 bases overseas, the sooner the world can restore balance. Legitimacy and morality are the two strategic pillars that America has abondoned its in prostitution to Saudi oil and 42 of 44 dictators, and we can never be America the Beautiful, America the Good, unless we right ourselves.
As a patriotic estranges Republican I will say this clearly: America and Israel are the scourges of the world, followed by Saudi Aribia. We have sown the dragon's teeth, and I weep for what we have become: virtual colonialists, unilateralist military confusing might with right, and a cheating culture that ignores the class war led by our predatory immoral Wall Street band of merry thieves laundering drug money and covering up the complicity of Dick Cheney and Rudy Gulliani in the murder of most who died on 9-11 from controlled demolitions (NYC) or a missile (the Pentagon).
Where, or where, is the American Eagle that we need so desperately? See the image I have posted above to understand where we need to go if our children, if all children, are to have a future.
You Can Read This More Than Once, and Learn Each Time
July 22, 2007
Ralph Peters is one of a handful of individuals whose every work I must read. See some others I recommend at the end of this review. Ralph stands alone as a warrior-philosopher who actually walks the trail, reads the sign, and offers up ground truth.
This book is deep look at the nuances and the dangers of what he calls the wars of blood and faith. The introduction is superb, and frames the book by highlighting these core matters:
* Washington has forgotten how to think.
* The age of ideology is over. Ethnic identity will rule.
* Globalization has contradictory effects. Internet spreads hatred and dangerous knowledge (e.g. how to make an improvised explosive device).
* The post-colonial era has begun.
* Women's freedom is the defining issue of our time.
* There is no way to wage a bloodless war.
* The media can now determine the war's outcome. I don't agree with the author on everything, this is one such case. If the government does not lie, the cause is just, and the endeavor is effectively managed, We the People can be steadfast.
A couple of expansions. I recently posted a list of the top ten timeless books at the request of a Stanford '09, and i7 includes Philip Allott's The Health of Nations: Society and Law beyond the State. Deeper in the book the author has an item on Blood Borders, and it tallies perfectly with Allott's erudite view that the Treaty of Westphalia was a huge mistake–instead of creating artificial states (5000 distinct ethnic groups crammed into 189+ artificial political entities) we should have gone instead with Peoples and especially Indigenous Peoples whose lands and resources could not be stolen, only negotiated for peacefully. Had the USA not squandered a half trillion dollars and so many lives and so much good will, a global truth and reconciliation commission, combined with a free cell phone to every woman among the five billion poor (see next paragraph) could conceivably have achieved a peaceful reinvigoration of the planet with liberty and justice for peoples rather than power and wealth for a handful.
The author's views on the importance of women stem from decades of observation and are supported by Michael O'Hanlon's book, A Half Penny on the Federal Dollar: The Future of Development Aid, in which he documents that the single best return on investment for any dollar is in the education of women. They tend to be secular, appreciate sanitation and nutrition and moderation in all things. The men are more sober, responsible, and productive when their women are educated. THIS, not unilateral militarism, virtual colonialism, and predatory immoral capitalism, should be the heart of our foreign policy.
The book is organized into sections I was not expecting but that both make sense, and add to the whole. Part I is 17 short pieces addressing the Twenty-First Century Military. Here the author focuses on the strategic, lambastes Rumsfeld for not listening, and generally overlooks the fact that all our generals and admirals failed to be loyal to the Constitution and instead accepted illegal orders based on lies.
In Part II, Iraq and Its Neighbors, we have 24 pieces. The best piece by far in terms of provocative strategic value is “Blood Borders: How a Better Middle East Would Look.” Curiously he does not address Syria or Lebanon, but I expect he will since the Syrians just evacuated Lebanon and Syria and Iran appear to be planning for a pincer movement on Baghdad after they cut the ground supply line from Kuwait.
A handful of pieces, 5 in all, are grouped in Part III, The Home Front. The best two for me were “Our Strategic Intelligence Problem” in which he points out that more money and more technology are NOT going to make us smarter, it is humans with history, culture, language, and eyes on the target that will tease out the nuances no satellite can handle. He also points out how easily our satellites are deceived. I share his anguish in the piece on “Lynching the Marines.” I called and emailed the Colonel at HQMC in charge of the defense, and offered a heat stress defense that I had just learned about from a NASA engineer helping firefighters. If the body gets too hot, the brain starts to fry, and irrational behavior is the norm. The Colonel declined to acknowledge. That told me all I needed to know about how the Marines were all too eager to hang their own.
Part V was the most unfamiliar to me, covering Israel and Hezbollah. In 17 pieces, the author, an avowed supporter of Israel, pulls no punches, tarring and feathering the Israelis for being corrupt (selling off their military supplies on the black market (to whom, one wonders, since the only people in the market are terrorists?) confident the US will resupply them) and militarily and politically incompetent. To which I would add economically stupid and morally challenged–Stealing 50% of the water Israel uses to do farming that is under 5% of the GDP is both nuts and short-sighted. See the brief by Chuck Spinney at OSS.Net.
Part V, The World Beyond, is a philosophical tour of the horizon, from water wars and plagues (see my lists for books on each of the ten threats, twelve policies, and eight challengers), to precision knifing of Russia, France, and Europe. Darfur, one of over 15 genocides being ignored right now (Darfur because Sudan pretends to be helping on terrorism and the US does not have the will or the means to be effective there) is touched on.
The book ends marvelously with a piece on “The Return of the Tribes,” a piece that emphasizes the role of religion and the exclusivity of cults and specific localized tribes. They don't want to be integrated nor do they want new members.