Prof James Petras
As President Barack Obama announces plans for another war, adding Syria to the recent and ongoing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere, a profound gap has emerged between the highly militarized state and US public opinion.
A Reuters/IPSOS poll taken August 19-23 (2013) revealed that 60 percent of Americans surveyed were against the United States intervening in Syria, while 9 percent said President Obama should act. Even when the question was ‘loaded’ to include Obama’s bogus and unsubstantiated claim that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces ‘used nerve gas to massacre civilians’, almost twice as many Americans oppose US military intervention (46 percent to 25 percent).
In panic several pro-Administration media outlets hastily conducted new polls to try to’ improve the results’ in ‘favor’ of the White House desire to attack Syria.
What is striking about these finding is that, despite the mass media and the Obama spokespeople’s saturation of the airwaves with lurid images of ‘victims’, the US public has become more vehemently opposed to another imperialist war. Reuters/IPSOS poll of August 13 found 30.2 percent of Americans supported intervention in Syria if it were proved that nerve gas had been used by President Assad against civilians, while 41.6 percent wanted no part of the conflict. In other words, as the Obama regime intensified its preparations for war, American public opposition increased by over 16 percent.
A growing number of polls and studies show that a substantial well-entrenched majority of Americans are opposed to the current war in Afghanistan, even as the President and Congress continue to finance and dispatch US troops and engage in aerial assaults in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere.
Across the world huge majorities oppose Obama’s war: Two thirds of the French and German public oppose the US bombing Syria, not to mention of the hundreds of millions of Roman Catholics responding to Pope Francis’s passionate anti-war message delivered on September 7 to over 100,000 worshipers in St. Peter’s Square. It is only in Israel a majority of Jewish Israelis support Obama’s push to war.
If, as some scholars argue, militarism and ‘national security’ (and the police state) have become the secular religion of the State, it is clear that the majority of civil society are ‘non-believers’. The ‘true believers’ of militarism as the road to empire building are firmly ensconced in Washington’s political establishment, especially among the powerful lobbies and propaganda mills known as ‘think tanks’. Militarist beliefs are widely embraced by strategically-placed officials with deep and long-standing ties to the Israeli power structure.
The two major myths, propagated by cynical political pundits, that “the US public opinion gets the elected officials it deserves” and that “Congress and the President reflect the values and sentiments of the electorate” are contradicted by the divergent attitudes and interests showing up in repeated public opinion polls.
The vast majority of Americas are concerned with domestic economic issues, such as unemployment, the steep decline in living standards, growing inequalities, the growing concentration of wealth (the ‘Wall Street 1% versus the 99%’ issue of the ‘Occupy Movement’), the grotesque and inescapable debt among students and graduates, the savage cuts in social programs (education, health, housing and infrastructure) in the face of soaring military expenditures and stratospheric government subsidies to bailout the banks and speculators. In other words, the values, attitudes and interests of the vast majority of Americans diverge sharply from those of the Washington establishment, the mass media and the power brokers who penetrate and surround the political elite.
War and Peace: Oligarchy and Democracy
This divergence raises fundamental questions about the nature of the American political system, the role and influence of the mass media and the power of minorities against the interests of the majority. Divergences and deep differences between rulers and ruled have become the norm in the United States on all the major domestic and foreign issues of our day.
As the differences accumulate, deepen and fester, they ‘grind’ on our public. Political ‘differences’ turn into outright personal animosities, citizen disagreement is transformed into anger and even hatred of the ‘O-man’. Obama’s deceptions, the very words he mouths, are repeated and mocked. Nothing is more irritating than to have to listen to an unmasked confidence man as he still tries to bamboozle a disenchanted public. Americans are not fooled anymore. Obama’s newly recruited Cabinet members of all genders and ethnicities are viewed as mere peddlers of toxic lies trying to justify ongoing war crimes via moral ejaculations that resonate in their own echo chambers and with their President, but not very far beyond the palace grounds.
Executive Prerogatives as Dictatorial Rule
The Presidential declarations of war against the will and opinion of the vast majority of citizens; the decision to finance massive bank bailouts with public funds behind the backs of ‘the 99%’; the shallow proclamations ‘ending’ ongoing wars which still continue under other guises; and the transparent fabrications serving as pretexts for dragging the country into new wars by trotting out the same lies recycled from the previous wars…all undermine any notion of a constitutional democracy in the United States.
It’s a dictatorship stupid! There is nothing ‘constitutional’ here. That abused document has become presidential toilet paper! Legal hacks and whores scratch their backsides and regurgitate the previous illegal executive orders in order to ‘legitimize’ new arbitrary powers to declare war.
The voters of thousands of local, state and federal officials are ignored. Who even bothers to describe the US as a democracy except during the theater of elections? War has become the ‘prerogative’ of the President, we are told by the propagandists. Waging sequential wars is the favored alternative to building a national health system for the scores of millions of Americans without access to adequate medical care. When the President mouths his moral platitudes most Americans ignore him, while others jeer, curse and wish he would choke on his rank hypocrisy.
The Case for Impeachment
When in the course of human history an elected US President perpetuates and extends his power beyond the restraints of the constitutional order, and wilfully commits the American people to endless suffering, emptying the public treasury of its citizens’ wealth, the question of impeachment must be addressed. And it ill behooves the ‘climbers and clamorers’ serving foreign lands, to flatter, manipulate and blackmail the President whose own imperial pretensions further fuel the ambitions of their ‘Chosen State’.
Profound and lasting divisions between the rulers and the ruled, burdened by long-standing hardships at a time when they lack redress in petition and protest, will eventually lead the American people to demand their President’s impeachment – for high crimes and misdemeanors against the constitution and citizenry.
What they demand would be a trial by jury, conviction and incarceration for multiple and grave violations against the constitutional order and dereliction of the President’s duty to safeguard the nation from enemies, foreign and domestic. When the executive has usurped the constitutionally-guaranteed rights of the American people at the service of an empire and their foreign and domestic collaborators with traitorous intent, he must be impeached and brought to justice.
The Tyranny of the Minority
It is not the members of the US military who choose to disenfranchise and ignore the vast majority of Americans overwhelmingly opposed to new Middle East wars. The usurpers are mostly civilians, some of whom had formerly carried weapons for a foreign nation and still carry dual citizenship while plying our President with calls for military expansionism. Nor is the exclusion of the majority of Americans part of some hidden conspiracy by the oil companies; in fact, they have lost hundreds of billions of potential profits to wars, which were not of their making and which now disrupt access to oil fields, trade, production and shipping.
Idle chatter, flowing from ‘leftist’ or ‘progressive’ monthlies, liberal weeklies and a multitude of pundits, academics and ‘critical’ public intellectuals, decry the ‘military-industrial complex’ as the movers behind the wars in the Middle East. True, their lobbyists seek fat military contracts, but they were not the ones to formulate ‘position papers’ for the invasion of Iraq, nor secure sanctions, and bellicose Congressional resolutions against Iran.
If we want to identify and understand the minority, which secures its own militarist agenda in the White House and Congress against the majority of Americans, it is clearly marked by its swaggering, consistent and intrusive presence. It is a smaller, more cohesive new version of the’ 1%’– and best described as the Zionist Power Configuration (ZPC).
One can be 99% sure that among the scant 11% of Americans who ‘support’ US military intervention in Syria, the ‘pro-Israel crowd and its acolytes’ are overwhelmingly represented. The evidence is clear: They are the most actively engaged in propagandizing and pushing for war with Syria at the national and local levels throughout the country. They are the ever-present bullying pundits’ and news commentators lying about the Syrian government’s exclusive use of chemical ‘weapons of mass destruction’ in a horrific civil war riddled by foreign mercenaries. They and other mass media pimps, pundits and publishers have totally buried a major the Associated Press report from Syria which quotes members of the armed Syrian opposition who admit they had ‘accidentally released stores of chemical weapons, supplied by Saudi Arabia’ (their sponsor)..
Israel’s semi-official web site, Ynet.com, published a lead article by Yitzhak Benhorin, entitled “AIPAC to Lobby Congress for Syrian Strike”. The article reveals the leading role of the Israeli-directed Zionist war effort: “After Israel’s ambassador to Washington,Michael Oren and AIPAC noted that military action would send a message to Assad’s supporters …some 250 Jewish leaders and AIPAC activists ..intend to storm the halls on Capitol Hill beginning next week (September 9-13)to persuade(sic)lawmakers that Congress must adopt the resolution authorizing US strikes against Syria”(9/6/13). To counter Pope Francis’ plea to the world for peace and opposition to Obama’s threats to bomb Syria before 100,000 people of faith in front of St .Peter’s Basilica, the Cleveland Jewish News(9/6/13) reported that, “leading rabbis covering the religious and political spectrum (sic)urged lawmakers in Congress to support President Obama’s plans to strike Syria..”
Everyday since Obama called for a Congressional vote, the Daily Alert, publication of the 52 Presidents of the Leading American Jewish Organizations, has published only articles and statements promoting war and urged its supporters to round up Congressional votes for Obama and counter and undermine the pro-peace sentiments of the majority of Americans.
To the degree that we have moved from democracy to oligarchy, from a democratic republic to a militarist empire engaged in foreign wars of occupation, the Zionist Power Configuration (ZPC) has accumulated enormous influence in the government and, in turn, has furthered the tyranny of the minority over the majority. They are not alone, but certainly domestic tyranny against the majority of the citizens has been to their advantage; the ZPC has marginalized Americans of all creeds, races and religions (including the majority of American Jews and seculars) – especially those who would oppose their agenda.
The nature of oligarchy facilitates the minorities’ access to power against the majority of citizens: it is far easier for them to buy and blackmail a handful of venal, wealthy legislators and a coterie of narcissistic senior administration officials, than peddle their agenda to the millions of citizens suffering the double onus of perpetual foreign wars and sharply declining domestic living standards.
Limits of Media Manipulation
The arbitrary power of the oligarchy, with its domestic and foreign collaborators, and their growing distance from the ruled is no longer bridged by mass media propaganda. The Obama regime and the Washington ‘think tanks’ have repeatedly saturated print and electronic media with the lurid images of little children suffering from the Syrian government’s ‘war crimes’ in order to browbeat the American people into supporting another US military intervention.
There are daily reports in the New York Times, Washington Post, Financial Times, and all the major and minor television networks, which endlessly repeat the ‘need for war’ and ‘our humanitarian obligation to bomb Damascus’ – to no avail. The mass media and the high powered propaganda campaign, run by and for the war mongers in Washington and Tel Aviv, have failed to gain no more than 10% of the US citizenry – despite a near-total black-out of any alternative news or debate.
For years we have been told by ‘media experts’ about the power of the mass media to manipulate the US public, as if the people were a blank sheet of paper with the media writing the script for the oligarchy and the masses repeating it on ‘blind faith and the flag’. In fact, time and time again, a majority of US citizens have rejected ‘the line’ peddled by the mass media, especially on questions of peace and war, their living standards and the grotesque bankers’ bailouts. The credibility of the US mass media is now minus zero!
The public’s rejection of the Obama’s push for war against Syria is another example of the growing limits of mass propaganda.
In the wake of the destruction of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, the US public supported the invasion of Afghan and, to a less extent, the war in Iraq – once troops were sent. But as the costly, endless wars and occupation ground on, and new wars spread; and as the police state (and abuses) expanded and domestic living standards plunged, the public drew back and became wary. The domestic economic and social crisis drove the message home: domestic decay results from imperial wars. No amount of empty rhetoric or high powered Zionist lobbying for more wars on behalf of the state of Israel will convince Americans to continue sacrificing their lives and treasure and their children’s and grandchildren’s future living standards to this endless bloodletting, spiraling costs and devastating political and economic consequences.
It has been hard to black out all the news: Throughout Europe, vast majorities reject their rulers’ participation in more imperial wars, particularly the push for war in Syria. Even the usually servile British Parliament rose up on its hind legs and bleated ‘no’ to bombing Damascus. Only, the decrepit French regime under the ‘socialist-imperialist’ President Hollande, a most ‘humanitarian’ colonial whore master, has expressed unconditional support Obama- at least for a few days until the French Parliament has a chance to finally bark out its disapproval.
The editorial writers of the imperial ‘mass media’ smell ‘trouble in the empire’. They have started to quote skeptical military officers and experts… who have posed a few rather timid questions, including retired Generals who ask, “What will be the consequences of bombing the al-Assad government and aiding al Qaeda in the region?”
Chastened by the opposition, Obama now has to face the jeers of his Zionist backers… “not to back down from the Administration’s ‘red line’ …”. White House Propaganda Office parrots Israeli reports of ‘intercepted Syrian military directives ordering the use of chemical weapons’ and those provided by ‘rebel’ sources based in Turkey and Saudi Arabia – but no credible documents have been given to the UN or the skeptical world public.
When Obama declares his ‘red line’: the American public senses the ‘big lie’! Deception by the mass media and White House is losing its force. The majority of Americans are fed up with the fabrication of ‘weapons of mass destruction’ that provided a pretext for the invasion of Iraq, the phony ‘mass rapes (the obscene and racist reports of Gaddafi handing out tons of Viagra to his black “African mercenaries”) and other fake atrocities’ in Libya and the blatant cover-up of Israeli land grabs and ethnic cleansing against the native Palestinian population.
The specter of economic insecurity, of life-long debts and precarious employment stalks the cities and towns of America. A whole generation will be lost. There is anger and fear at home directed against the current push for new wars abroad and their most visible propagandist: President Barack Obama. The Obama regime is facing ‘a fall’ in this groundswell of disgust among the people. Will Obama’s handlers and willing accomplices crawl back to their Washington think tanks? Will the oligarchs decide the Obama ‘product’ has exceeded its ‘shelf life’, is no longer useful, has lost its appeal to the public, and is too narcissistic?
Will the oligarchs decide that there have been… one too many ‘wars for Israel’? (Oh, my god, how did that one slip in?) Will they realize that their puppet has not focused enough attention on ‘rebuilding America’? Soon there will be a new election: All aboard! The people have spoken! It’s time to trot out the special new presidential product – one less effusive and more mainstream – on order from the oligarch’s puppet factory!
With Obama’s fall, we learn that the mass media are not all powerful and that Israel’s smiling well-wishers among the elite will not cool their insatiable appetite for power even though they comprise a tiny 1% minority. The majority can bring down the regime. The question is: Can they create an alternative?
- James Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University, New York. He is the author of 64 books published in 29 languages
Views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect Caravan’s policies.