Alexander Cockburn, prolific journalist and publisher of Counterpunch, has died. The UK Guardian, which seems positively radical in the comparison with the US’s shrill but quiescent mediascape, has an obituary that gives a sense of his vast energy and iconoclasm. In an era afflicted by a historically illiterate and often docile, if not sycophantic, press he never failed to challenge and vex even his political allies. While I often agreed with his assessments of US empire, I was irritated that he persisted in minimizing the significance of climate change.
On Sept. 11, 2001, in a statement that will seem prescient only to those who retain illusions concerning the character of US global power at the beginning of the 21st century he wrote:
The targets abroad will be all the usual suspects: rogue states, (most of which, like the Taleban or Saddam Hussein, started off as creatures of US intelligence). The target at home will of course be the Bill of Rights.
The explosions of Tuesday were not an hour old before terror pundits like Anthony Cordesman, Wesley Clark, Robert Gates and Lawrence Eagleburger were saying that these attacks had been possible “because America is a democracy” adding that now some democratic perquisites might have to be abandoned? What might this mean? Increased domestic snooping by US law enforcement and intelligence agencies; ethnic profiling; another drive for a national ID card system.
The commentators were similarly incapable of explaining with any depth the likely context of the attacks; that these attacks might be the consequence of the recent Israeli rampages in the Occupied Territories that have included assassinations of Palestinian leaders and the slaughter of Palestinian civilians with the use of American aircraft; that these attacks might also stem from the sanctions against Iraq that have seen upward of a million children die; that these attacks might in part be a response to US cruise missile attacks on the Sudanese factories that had been loosely fingered by US intelligence as connected to bin-Laden.
“Freedom,” said George Bush in Sarasota in the first sentence of his first reaction, “was attacked this morning by a faceless coward.” That properly represents the stupidity and blindness of almost all Tuesday’s mainstream political commentary. By contrast, the commentary on economic consequences was informative and sophisticated. Worst hit: the insurance industry. Likely outfall in the short-term: hiked energy prices, a further drop in global stock markets. George Bush will have no trouble in raiding the famous lock-box, using Social Security Trust Funds to give more money to the Defense Department. That about sums it up. Three planes are successfully steered into three of America’s most conspicuous buildings and America’s response will be to put more money in missile defense as a way of bolstering the economy. (cf. Raytheon wins $636 million US missile defense contract)