Roger Cohen’s Ode to Colonialism and Imperialism: Why is it “Insidious” to Want Justice for Banksters?

By William K. Black

In another proof of our family rule that it is impossible to compete with unintentional self-parody, Roger Cohen has penned “The Great Unraveling.”  What makes the article perfect is that it brings together Cohen’s worst traits – and ends with praise for Rudyard Kipling, who set the bar for those traits.  Cohen is distressed about many things, but the first one that I focus on is his claim that the Scots’ response to the City of London’s elite financial criminals is “insidious.”  In the passage that he makes this claim Cohen denounces the Scots as childish Celts.

“The northernmost citizens were bored. They were disgruntled. They were irked, in some insidious way, by the south and its moneyed capital, an emblem to them of globalization and inequality.”

Cohen, the inept apologist for centuries of despicable colonialism and imperialism, cannot even bring himself to feign enough respect to for the People he wishes to damn to use the words “Scots” or “Scotland.”  The Nation of Scotland and the Scots are reduced, like Woody Hayes’ famous refusal to utter the word “Michigan,” to the equivalent of “that state up north.”  But that is the point, only a Nation can demand and achieve respect for its People.  That is the primary reason so many Peoples have sought independence – including the U.S., Canada, Eire, Australia, and New Zealand.  Each of those Nations has been an enormous success largely because they chose independence.  Cohen crafts this paragraph to deny the Scots even the status of being a People.  They are reduced to being mere residents of a particular geographic area that is not even worthy of a general place name.

The Scots are not “bored” with England’s rule.  The Scots are not “bored” by the corrupt and anti-democratic process that produced the “union.”  The Scots are not “bored” by the fact that so many Scots fell and were maimed in England’s wars of aggression and colonialism.  The Scots are not “bored” that their young men bled so often in their role as England’s sharp spear that was wielded so shamefully to cut down the brave people in dozens of lands when they risked their lives to try to achieve independence and the ability to protect their families from the rapine, ruin, and famines produced by English colonial rule.

The most revealing and despicable word in Cohen’s attack on the Scots as immature adolescents (another direct steal from Kipling) is the word “insidious.”  That word means a subtle, secret, and treacherous strategy to cause undeserved harm to the righteous victim.  Cohen’s claim is that it is “insidious” of the Scots to be “irked” with the elite banksters of the City of London who “won” the global “race to the bottom” and created the global cesspool of finance that is the City of London.  The banksters caused the global financial crisis and the Great Recession.  The banksters created the largest cartel in history (Libor) – by three of four orders of magnitude.  The City of London’s banksters deliberately targeted – during and after the financial crisis – the elderly for the sale of grotesquely unsuitable financial products.  The City of London’s banksters became wealthy by leading these frauds and abuses.

The people then bailed out the banks and the banksters.  Virtually none of the controlling officers have been prosecuted or even had their fraudulent proceeds “clawed back.”  The Scots are not “irked” with the elite banksters of the City of London, the odious Tory mayor who slavishly protects the interests of the worst banksters, or the hundreds of “financial journalists” like Cohen who serve as apologists for the banksters.  The Scots are furious with the banksters and their fury is not “insidious” it is righteous.  Cohen indicates how deeply he is in the pocket of the banksters (and how willing he is to torture the English language) by claiming that it is “insidious” for the Scots to demand openly that the City of London’s banksters be brought to justice.

But Cohen’s horror that the Scots are “irked” with the City of London’s banksters is far more bizarre than I have yet explained in the context of his column.  Cohen’s primary claim is that civilization is “unraveling” and that it is vital that the civilized States “go to the mattresses” to fight and destroy the barbarians.  He begins with the sentence “It was a time of beheadings.”  It has apparently escaped Cohen’s attention that it has been the “time of beheadings” for many years.  Hundreds of Mexicans have been beheaded annually by drug lords.  (As I’ll explain in future columns, the British call their most murderous drug lord, Dr. William Jardine (a Scot), a “merchant.”)

The City of London’s banksters, of course, do not wield the knives personally when the Sinaloa cartel beheads its victims in order to sow terrorize.  The banksters’ $2,000 suits could be ruined by direct butchery – and if they actually used the knives they might see a murderer in the mirror rather than a “merchant.”  HSBC, however, knowingly laundered billions of dollars for the Sinaloa cartel while the cartel’s leaders were beheading hundreds of Mexicans.  If Cohen thinks that it is “insidious” for the Scots to be “irked” at the City of London’s banksters, he must be furious at Mexicans given how “irked” they are about HSBC’s hundreds of thousands of felonies on behalf of the Sinaloa cartel – and the fact that no senior HSBC banker was prosecuted for those acts.

But Cohen’s column also decries the failure of the civilized nations to go to war against the nations that support the terrorists.  HSBC and Standard Chartered took the lead in committing hundreds of thousands of felonies designed to defeat U.S. sanctions against a passel of nations that the U.S. government claims are actively funding terrorism (and seeking nukes).  Standard Chartered and HSBC trained their staff how to commit these tens of thousands of felonies in a manner that U.S. authorities would find difficult to spot because of false statements by HSBC personnel and the stripping of accurate information from the files.  When a U.S. manager warned his City of London counterpart that Standard Chartered’s actions were unlawful under U.S. law he reported that the City of London officer responded:

“You fucking Americans. Who are you to tell us, the rest of the world, that we’re not going to deal with Iranians?”

If Cohen were inclined to introspection, he might have noticed a tension between the positions he thinks he’s championing.  Jardine, Lord Palmerston, HSBC, and Standard Chartered’s controlling officers’ view is that it is an obscene violation of the inviolable principle of “free trade” to keep a City of London bankster (sorry, “merchant of death,” check that, “merchant”) from financing the sale of opium to China, cocaine to the U.S., poison gas to Sudan, or nukes to Iran.  As the always elegant English officer at Standard Chartered put it, who are we, “fucking Americans” to tell the City of London’s banksters that they are not allowed to profit from mass murder?  After all, our effort to stop a voluntary transaction prevents a pareto-optimal gain in efficiency as any neo-liberal economist would be delighted to explain.  Cohen’s view in his article, however, is that there is an urgent need for the white man to again take up Kipling’s burden and make unremitting war on drug dealers (the world’s leading beheaders) and terrorists (number two in beheading and eager to be number one in mass murder).

If I did not know that it would be “insidious” to do so, I would have thought that Cohen should be “irked” at the City of London’s banksters choosing to grow wealthy by knowingly financing the groups that behead and terrorize and seeking to deceive we “fucking Americans” about this financing in violation of U.S. law.  Were it not “insidious” to be upset about elite banksters growing wealthy through knowingly aiding mass murderers, Cohen might even join the Scots (sorry, “the [bored] northernmost citizens”) and the American people (sorry, the “fucking Americans”) in being “irked” that no senior banker at Standard Chartered or HSBC was prosecuted for leading tens of thousands of felonies.  Cohen might even join us in calling for Attorney General Holder to resign in disgrace be replaced by a real prosecutor.

Indeed, if Cohen were ever moved to analysis and introspection he might consider the issues I’ve just discussed in light of the Kipling poem from which he drew his inspiration and the conclusion to his article.  Cohen might ask himself why he did not quote the next line of the poem.  Here is the full conclusion of Kipling’s poem.

“There are only four things certain since Social Progress began.
That the Dog returns to his Vomit and the Sow returns to her Mire,
And the burnt Fool’s bandaged finger goes wabbling back to the Fire;
And that after this is accomplished, and the brave new world begins
When all men are paid for existing and no man must pay for his sins,
As surely as Water will wet us, as surely as Fire will burn,
The Gods of the Copybook Headings with terror and slaughter return!”

Kipling warns that when “no man must pay for his sins” the system will collapse.  Kipling, for all his faults, would have agreed that the collapse would be prompted when elites of enormous power no longer must pay for their sins.  Given Kipling’s ideology and biases and his obvious mocking of the entire concept of “Social Progress” it is clear that Kipling intended his conclusion to assert the folly of trying to help the poor, the sick, and those Kipling dismissed as inferior.  But it you reread the seven lines closely you will also see how much better they describe the banksters who “return” to their “toxic mortgages” (“vomit” and “mire”) because doing so makes them wealthy by following the “sure thing” of the accounting control fraud recipe.  The banksters were “paid” not because of their hard work or skill in making good loans but “for existing.”  And “no [bankster] must pay for his sins.”  That is guaranteed to produce economic “terror and slaughter” through the “return” of the fraud epidemics that drive our recurrent, intensifying financial crises.

Cohen is so deep in the banksters’ pockets that he cannot see that he is a leader in the movement to ensure that no bankster will ever “pay for his sins.”  Cohen has already written to decry criticisms of the banksters.  He does not write to protest the refusal to prosecute the banksters or “claw back” their fraudulent proceeds.  He does not write to demand that they at least suffer the loss of their reputations.  Instead, he denounces Scots who criticize the banksters as “insidious.”

In an earlier passage that is actually the recurrent motif of the poem that Cohen cites, Kipling warns that crises came because “we worshipped the Gods of the Market Who promised these beautiful things.”  I discuss this motif in future articles in greater detail, but for now it suffices to say that the economic and regulatory systems became controlled in the U.S. and the City of London by virulent anti-regulators who “worshipped the Gods of the Market” and “promised these beautiful things.”

9 responses to “Roger Cohen’s Ode to Colonialism and Imperialism: Why is it “Insidious” to Want Justice for Banksters?

  1. Pingback: Bill Black: Roger Cohen’s Ode to Colonialism and Imperialism: Why is It “Insidious” to Want Justice for Banksters? | naked capitalism