April 28, 2009

A Request for Assistance

I'm kind of, sort of settling into a regular routine now, after my recent health scare and very brief hospitalization. I don't feel well exactly, but at least I don't feel too terrible. I did have a few very bad periods over the last month, lasting from several hours to a couple of days. For at least a few hours on each of these occasions, I was afraid the fibrillation might have returned, but the symptoms eventually went away. Unfortunately, I've been experiencing some new and rather unpleasant symptoms. They don't appear to be very serious, just unpleasant as I say, often extremely so.

But I'm very happy to be writing again, and to be able to write again. As you can tell from the first two installments of the new series, I've had a lot on my mind. I already have the rest of that series outlined in full, and I hope to get it done very quickly, in the next several days. There will be three to four more installments. It's easier to move through this material, even though I find parts of it exceedingly difficult to express with the precision and accuracy I aim for, but at least the subject is comparatively delimited. I use "comparatively" advisedly; this new series obviously is very complex in many respects. But the subject itself is not seemingly endless, in the manner of the issues to be covered in my tribalism series, which will explore psychology, the mechanisms of obedience, politics, culture, religion, art and all manner of additional areas. As I've noted before, I already have close to 20 further installments of the tribalism series in mind (often outlined in significant part), and I continue to have still additional thoughts for further issues I'd like to discuss. All in the fullness of time, I dearly hope. Oh, I'll be 61 on May 5. I tell you frankly that there were too many days in the past year, and particularly in the last few months, when I truly didn't think I would see this birthday, and I am fairly astonished to have arrived this close to it, albeit in diminished and weakened form. (I hope mentioning my birthday before the fact doesn't jinx it. Well, fate, not that I believe in such, knows what it can do with its usual bag of tricks.)

But drat and damn the luck. My computer, which had been typically sludgy and just minimally usable for the last several months, but at least dependable on a rudimentary level, started acting up again late yesterday. It's resumed its old habit of crashing every few hours. I'm trying to rectify it as best I can (being shockingly ignorant of computer matters), by duplicating what I did eight months ago or so ago to get it running on its basic level of minimal competence. But after it crashed again this morning, I began to fear that the problems might go on for a while. Hopefully, they won't get worse, but who knows.

And I realized that a new month is almost here. I loathe having to do this again and again, but since I have no other source of income at all, I have no choice if I prefer not to be evicted in the near future. (By the way, for those curious about such matters: inquiries I made in connection with the hospital stay and the ensuing bills in excess of $14,000, and consultation with a hospital billing administrator with reference to same, led to the determination that I am not eligible for any of the standard government assistance programs. The reasons are not mysterious, and regular readers have doubtless ascertained what they are by this time. When you don't follow the rules and comply with those requirements most dear to the government, which refusal can, not incidentally, land you in jail, the government tends not to want to give you money. But I knew that was the choice I was making. Given the nature of our government and its actions at home and around the world, I do not regret that choice in the least.)

So I must ask for donations still another time. I don't need much this time, about $600 in addition to the small amount I already have will take care of rent and a very few basic bills (telephone and electricity being the most pressing). My small head start is due to a handful of regular contributors. My blessings are always upon everyone who is kind and generous enough to help sustain my efforts here (meager as those efforts have been recently), but special blessings go to those who think it worthwhile to donate regularly, especially in these difficult financial times. I'm deeply grateful for your consideration; as usual, the PayPal donation button will be found at the upper right. (PayPal still indicates that you're donating to The Sacred Moment, my other site and the location of my earlier Alice Miller essays, among other articles. I've never been able to determine exactly how to alter that short of going through the entire PayPal signup process again, which I've never felt moved to do, and the donations all come to me in any case.)

My very grateful thanks once more. I'll continue to coddle and sweet talk my computer to keep it from exploding or imploding or whatever, and try to publish the next installment of the new series later today.

P.S. I also offer my most grateful thanks and appreciation to James Wolcott, for his exceedingly kind words at the end of this entry. I'm especially thankful, for that essay about Maria Callas remains among my two or three personal favorites among the many hundreds of essays I've written over the last five or six years. I've always regarded it in the manner of a personal credo.

I admit, however, that I'm not entirely sure who this "posterity" person is of whom Wolcott speaks. But she or he sounds completely swell. I would say I'd love to meet her or him, but that would seem to be singularly inadvisable. In any event, the day of that meeting will surely come for all of us eventually. But I do hope, for me and for you, kind reader, not for a good long time.

April 27, 2009

Against Prosecution (II): Concerning the State, the Law, and Show Trials

Part I: A Vicious Fury -- with Nukes

From a broad, theoretical perspective, any trial in any State can be regarded as a show trial. In this discussion, I use "show trial" to refer to a trial in which the guilt or innocence of the defendant may be a concern to those dispensing justice (or what is designated as justice in that State), but that determination is not the primary concern. The primary objective is not answering the question of guilt or innocence in a strictly legal sense (applying the relevant law to the specific facts of the case), but political in nature. The major value of a show trial to the State is its usefulness as propaganda; more specifically, the major value is the utility of the proceeding to the enhancement of the perception of the State as legitimate and/or to the demonizing of the State's chosen enemies. In the absence of a widespread campaign of terror directed against the general population, a people will regularly and consistently submit to the State only if they view that State as basically fair and good, devoted at least to some significant extent to their well-being and welfare. Thus, even and especially in a show trial, the State will be at pains to demonstrate its fairness and objectivity. The State will therefore carefully and systematically seek to portray the defendant it wishes to convict as a person fully deserving punishment. If the defendant is convicted, the State will want to be certain that most people view the defendant as having earned his fate. There must never be a significant suspicion that the defendant has been unjustly singled out for punishment, while others known to be guilty of similar or even worse crimes are allowed to walk free.

My analysis of these issues depends on several interrelated basic principles that I have previously discussed in detail. In "The State and Full Spectrum Dominance, Abroad and At Home," I set forth these principles (often relying on still earlier articles). The first principle is this (in abbreviated form; see the earlier essays for the fuller versions):
[F]rom the first historic forms of the State, the State has always formed and will always form alliances with certain individuals and segments of society -- to which the government bureaucrats will provide favors and special dispensations, and to the severe disadvantage of those individuals and groups that are not so favored.
The second principle concerns the nature of law itself:
The law is not some Platonic Form plucked from the skies by the Pure in Heart. Laws are written by men, men who have particular interests, particular constituencies, particular donors, and particular friends. ... Laws are the particular means by which the state implements and executes its vast powers. When an increasingly authoritarian state passes a certain critical point in its development, the law is no longer the protector of individual rights and individual liberty. The law becomes the weapon of the state itself -- to protect, not you, but the state from threats to its own powers. We passed that critical point some decades ago. The law is the means by which the state corrals its subjects, keeps them under control, and forbids them from acting in ways that the overlords might perceive as threatening. In brief, today, in these glorious United States, the law is not your friend.
Next, consider these observations from Albert Jay Nock (in his book, Our Enemy, the State):
The positive testimony of history is that the State invariably had its origin in conquest and confiscation. No primitive State known to history originated in any other manner. On the negative side, it has been proved beyond peradventure that no primitive State could possibly have had any other origins. Moreover, the sole invariable characteristic of the State is the economic exploitation of one class by another. In this sense, every State known to history is a class-State. Oppenheimer defines the State, in respect of its origin, as an institution "forced on a defeated group by a conquering group, with a view only to systematizing the domination of the conquered by the conquerors, and safeguarding itself against insurrection from within and attack from without. This domination had no other final purpose than the economic exploitation of the conquered group by the victorious group."
Following this passage from Nock in the earlier essay, I made these comments:
Thus, it is not enough to say, as I myself did, that "the State has always formed and will always form alliances with certain individuals and segments of society," although that is also true. The more accurate statement, and a formulation that delves more deeply, is that the State would never have taken form at all, and it would not have been able to impose its rule, but for the existence of a class or group of individuals that crafted the State to their particular ends. Here, I am not concerned with evaluating whether those ends are good or bad (except for the fact that one may believe that domination and exploitation are always bad, as I do), but rather with identifying the basis on which the State is founded.
Just as I was not concerned with the question of whether particular ends are good or bad in the earlier article, but rather with a particular aspect of the nature of the State itself, here I am not focused on whether any specific system of law is judged as good or bad, but with the nature and purpose of any system of law. As I have suggested, one often gets the sense from reading many commentators that they believe a Form of Law exists in some mystical world, that there is a pure, disinterested, fully objective and fair legal system by which society might be organized. The task of those who devise laws is to grasp this perfect (or at least, closer to perfect) system of law and bring it down to earth, as it were.

Certainly, I think that more or less fair and objective systems of law can and have been devised, and I am not interested in pursuing a discussion of complex metaphysical and epistemological questions in any event. (I do not deny that those complicated questions underlie narrower conclusions, but such a discussion would take us much too far afield.) But I stress the man-made aspect of law, because it is so often neglected or emphasized too little. As I said in the earlier piece, laws are devised by particular people, in particular circumstances, with particular friends and interests. As we proceed through this discussion, we will see a few notable examples of this phenomenon. And those people who devise a system of law are members of the ruling class; that is why they are devising the laws, and not others. Thus, law is the specific means by which the ruling class utilizes the power of the State and directs that power to the ends they desire.

Moreover, as I have often had sad occasion to note, even dictatorships have laws, and even the most brutal and crushing of totalitarian systems. Even under a dictatorship, there must be a minimal appearance of law as a phenomenon providing fairness, stability and predictability -- even as the people struggle under the burden of sensing that any and all laws can be changed at a moment's notice, that what is punished today may be rewarded tomorrow, and that the ruling class may disregard the law with impunity and indeed live largely outside the law altogether, while those who are disfavored by the State may be punished at any time for any reason or for no reason whatsoever. The United States has not yet reached the stage of outright dictatorship, although it must be emphasized that all the mechanisms for the establishment of a dictatorship are now in place (see here, here and here, for example). But with regard to the operation of our system of law, you might well ponder how close to a dictatorship we have already come. I encourage you to do precisely that.

You will find these issues discussed from another perspective in, "It's not the sex. It's never the sex." (an essay of which, I freely admit, I am unashamedly fond). For our present purposes, I draw your attention to these passages:
The rules promulgated by the ruling class are not intended to constrain their behavior. They're intended to constrain yours, the behavior of those they rule. The ruling class will tell you repeatedly -- and most people will believe them -- that the rules are meant to apply to everyone, that "everyone is equal under the law." But that has never been true, and it will never be true....


With regard to these issues -- that is to say, with regard to every issue that matters in political terms -- the ruling class (or the elites) and the State are not different things: they are the same thing. As Christopher Layne observes: "Dominant elites do not hijack the state; they are the state." Rules, also known as "laws," are to control and direct the work and lives of those ruled by the elites. They are intentionally designed to protect the elites and to control everyone else. The elites may and will disregard them as they choose.

In exceptionally rare circumstances, a member of the ruling class may set aside the rules in a way that draws just a bit too much attention. As a result, all those "ordinary" people may become a trifle unruly; they might begin to wonder if the system is rigged against them in some basic way. Obviously, it is, but it would hardly do for the filthy masses to begin to grasp this central fact. In these situations, the ruling class will have to make some minor adjustments. It may not be enough to fire a waiter. A member of the ruling class might have to surrender one particular plum he had set his eyes on. This is not a matter of great significance for a member of the ruling class; there are many other plums waiting for him, including some of those plums he has enjoyed before. In all its essentials, his life of luxury, privilege and power will go on as before.
In considering these issues, it may prove helpful to consider a few examples. This will also provide me the opportunity of addressing one objection to my thesis that I can already hear: "But surely it's better to punish at least some of these criminals! We don't refrain from punishing one murderer because other murderers are unknown to us or cannot be convicted. Some justice is better than none." Etc.

To such protestations, the only response can be that all such objections may be entirely invalid. Depending on the specific context and circumstances, "some" justice may be far worse than no justice. In fact, "some" justice may constitute the greatest injustice of all.

Begin with the simple case. Imagine that a murder suspect has been apprehended, and that evidence of his guilt is as close to conclusive as possible. After conscientious investigation and consideration, we are aware of no other potentially relevant factors affecting a determination of the suspect's guilt or innocence. In this instance, the defendant's conviction would appear to be fully just. Murder is certainly a heinous crime (there is no suggestion that self-defense was involved), and evidence of guilt appears to be unassailable.

Now add just one new element. In the course of the investigation, the State becomes aware that several key pieces of evidence were tainted -- or that evidence was obtained in violation of the defendant's rights -- or that the defendant suffers from some legally recognized "mental defect," which would minimize his punishment. But the District Attorney is newly elected, and he is intent on burnishing his image as a "law and order" kind of guy. He wants a clean, simple case: overwhelming evidence, an unsympathetic defendant, and bang, off he goes to prison for life. So the DA suppresses all knowledge of the new element that has arisen. Has justice been done? Obviously not, but we may never know that.

Or imagine a case where no personal malfeasance of the kind described above is involved. But we might find institutional or systemic malfeasance. Two separate defendants are clearly guilty of the same crime; one is a child of privilege, the other is not. The first defendant, a teenager with wealthy, well-connected parents (who also happen to be white), is found guilty, but the jail sentence is suspended and he must perform community service. The second defendant, who is very poor, with no connections at all (and who also happens to be black), is also found guilty. He is sentenced to seven years in jail.

We don't need to imagine that last example. This is what happens many times a day in the course of the horrifying, destructive, utterly unjustifiable "War on Drugs." When you add the fact that in a very large category of drug cases, those that are nonviolent and involve only possession, no conceivably legitimate designated "crime" has been committed in the first place, the abomination is intolerable. To dispel any doubt, I am in favor of legalizing all drugs, period. In fact, for much of U.S. history, all those drugs now designated "illegal" were entirely legal. It was and is only a primitive, stupidly moralistic view of what is "good" and "bad," arising out of a quasi-religious view of the State's mission and a willingness to use the State to impose one particular vision of morality on everyone, that allowed the War on Drugs to take root, and that allows its depredations to continue today. See this essay for much more on this subject; once again, it was the Progressive movement of the early twentieth century which you can thank in significant part for the origins of the Drug War, which was inextricably woven into the drive to Empire.

These are only a few examples of the complexities involved in any consideration of the "majesty" and supposed "disinterest" of the law, and its uses by the State. You could easily multiply these examples many times, in endless variations. I emphasize again that the law always reflects and implements certain choices and interests of the ruling class. Those individuals who are strongly favored by the ruling class will do well in their dealings with any system of law, even when they run afoul of particular proscriptions. (Again, see "It's not the sex." for a discussion of this point in connection with all the tax issues that have arisen with Obama administration personnel, or would-be personnel.) Those who are strongly disfavored will do very poorly indeed. In the case of the Drug War, the State has been utilized to punish an entire class and an entire race over several generations in a hugely disproportionate way, to a degree that is eternally unforgivable.

The Drug War may be a prototypical example and indisputably repellent proof of one of my opening observations about show trials, but it is far from the only such example: "The major value of a show trial to the State is its usefulness as propaganda; more specifically, the major value is the utility of the proceeding to the enhancement of the perception of the State as legimate and/or to the demonizing of the State's chosen enemies." In this sense, the Drug War is nothing but an unending, detestable show trial from beginning to end. The fact that the Obama administration has already demonstrated a dedication to continuing this disgusting business earns that administration a lengthy stay in Hell, where it will join every previous administration. The fact that all administrations, Democratic and Republican, are equally dedicated to this loathsome persecution makes this unending abomination infinitely worse, not better.

In the first part of this essay, I stated my objection to prosecution of the Bush war criminals in various ways: "By seeking to localize the evil in only one aspect of the much broader and more fundamental evil involved and within a falsely delimited period of time, the torture obsessives would thus whitewash the American project as a whole"; and: "So the selective pursuit and possible prosecution of a few of those who devised, directed and implemented the U.S. torture policies, but only those of recent vintage and not any of those that went before or are yet to come, will conveniently provide the United States with a clean slate upon which to write new chapters of crime." If there are ultimately any prosecutions in connection with torture, which I continue to strongly doubt will ever occur, certainly with regard to the highest-ranking officials, the message will be in effect: "We have investigated and punished those responsible for this great evil. Now America is Good again. We have restored America's soul, her true values, and her great moral virtue." These appeals to "America's soul" and America's "true values" are actual phrases I have seen repeatedly in various articles, columns and blog posts, and I will be discussing some notable examples of this remarkable idiocy in a future installment. Apart from the vacuous, meaninglessly empty phrases and hoary cliches employed by so many writers on this subject, the content of this view (to the extent such can be ascertained) is absolutely wrong: it is wrong as a matter of historical record, in terms of its analysis and methodology, and with regard to its evaluation.

Given my remarks about the great evil of torture, it should be obvious that when I say that any prosecutions in connection with torture will be only the worst kind of show trials, my meaning is precisely the opposite of those torture and/or Bush administration apologists who make the same claim. The apologists say they will be show trials because they will be unfairly selective, since many Democrats are also culpable. That much is true, but the apologists often make a further claim or claims: that the behavior involved was not torture (which is so disgustingly ludicrous given the specifics already available in the public record that I will not even bother to address it), and/or that the torture was "justified."

This is clearly not my view in any respect. Torture is a monstrous evil that is never justified. My objection to show trials concerning torture is not that these are not crimes, or that these acts are not evil. Instead, my objection is that, as monumental an evil as torture is, it is not the first evil, or the greatest one. The all-encompassing evil, the evil that is the bedrock on which a series of additional evils, including torture, has been erected is the system of governance involved and the nature of the State at issue: a corporatist-authoritarian-militarist State, one devoted to the expanding regulatory-surveillance State at home and to an unending series of aggressive interventions abroad. That is the evil that must be recognized and, if at all possible, rectified or minimized, if the series of evils and the unending path of destruction and death are to be ended.

To appreciate this, we must look at some history, including the history of torture itself, going back to before the founding of the United States. And we shall do that in the next installment.

April 26, 2009

Against Prosecution (I): A Vicious Fury -- with Nukes

In the Introduction to "Lies in the Service of Evil," I wrote:
I have discussed the subject of torture at great length, and descriptions of the individual entries in my series, On Torture, will be found at the conclusion of this post. Very often, I dealt with what properly should be an extraordinarily disturbing topic in dispassionate, calm tones. But, and I must emphasize this point once more, that is a large part of the problem: we must never forget what torture actually is. An enormous amount of research and study definitively establishes that all the supposed rationalizations for torture are simply that: not one of them stands up to rigorous scrutiny. All of them have been disproven time and again. (See my full series for further details.) With regard to the primary justification, we know that torture does not lead to useful or accurate intelligence, and that other, humane methods of interrogation are infinitely more reliable. If one's goal, in fact, is the acquisition of information that will lead to the saving of innocent lives, torture is without question not the way to obtain it. That fact alone leads to only one conclusion: the motives that in fact lead people to endorse even the very "limited" use of torture are not ones they care to identify or have known. In some form, they are aware of the deformity of their own souls, and they endlessly seek to hide it from themselves -- and from others.

Given these basic facts, I stand by the description of torture I have provided before:
Torture is the deliberate infliction of unbearable agony on a human being -- a human being who is intentionally kept alive precisely so that he will suffer still more and for a longer period of time -- for no justifiable reason. This is the embrace of sadism and cruelty for their own sake, and for no other end whatsoever.
It is immensely difficult to keep the full scope of the monstrousness, inhumanity and evil represented by torture in mind. Yet we must struggle to do precisely this, and we must do so all the time when discussing this subject. It is not acceptable, it is not civilized, and it is not decent to analyze whether and in what fashion one should inflict agonizing pain on another human being for its own sake in the manner of desiccated bureaucrats, utterly devoid of feeling and compassion.
Toward the conclusion of the same essay, after a lengthy analysis of the lies, distortions and fallacies attendant upon the utterly invalid "ticking bomb" scenario, and following discussion of numerous other issues related to the immense evil of torture, I said this:
The crucial point is Foucault's. Let me rephrase it as follows, in connection with torture specifically.

Torture does not work. Its use permanently damages all those who are tortured, and those who administer the violence. Its "lawful" use profoundly undermines the broader society and democratic institutions in ways that are irreparable. But its persistent, ineradicable failure is entirely irrelevant for those who seek to consolidate and expand state power. Moreover, its inherent failure underscores their aim: it does not work, everyone knows it does not work, but the state does it because it can.

In this view, power is all, and power is its own justification. It is a simple truth, and a terrible one.
In looking over that article from two and a half years ago, I find a few formulations that I now consider somewhat imprecise, together with certain points of focus in my argument that, with the acquisition of further knowledge and understanding, I would slightly alter. But with regard to all the essential and most significant points, I stand by everything I wrote.

At present, we are in the midst of a heated debate over whether and to what extent the crimes committed by the Bush administration should be investigated; over what means would be best employed if it is determined that an investigation should proceed, and which particular individuals should ultimately be prosecuted, if any. Considering the above excerpts from my earlier analysis of this subject, my own view on this question might surprise you: Given the prevailing realities of American politics and culture, I am unalterably and unequivocally opposed to investigation and prosecution of these monstrous crimes.

I would hope that regular readers of this blog might grasp at least some of the reasons for my position. Yet I recognize that these issues are complex, and that certain of the connections involved are not readily apparent. Therefore, I will present my argument in detail. On a number of points, I will provide links to earlier essays that offer fuller presentations of particular issues. Read in conjunction with the present essay, the earlier articles will offer a more detailed case for my position. But I also understand that many readers do not have the time and/or interest to spend the required time on study of this kind, so I will provide key excerpts from previous articles in what follows. This pattern is similar to the one I employed in "Lies in the Service of Evil," which excerpted the "On Torture" essays, while adding new observations and exploring further connections. Similarly, this new piece will try to add some new pieces to this puzzle, especially as this subject becomes intertwined with the phenomenon of tribalism that I am exploring. (Links to the first four installments of the tribalism series will be found here.)

As I contemplate the continuing crackup of the American State and the American imperial project, a disintegration that occurs with a rapidity and comprehensiveness that few would have predicted as recently as a decade ago, it often occurs to me that we are to be spared nothing. On the domestic front, the authoritarian-surveillance state continues to expand its reach, destroying what small vestiges remain of the foundation of liberty identified by Brandeis, "the right to be let alone -- the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men." (In addition to the more recognized forms of the authoritarian-surveillance state, please always keep in mind other programs that escape notice and comment almost entirely. The InfraGard program is a prime example of what I mean; I still see almost no discussion anywhere of that monstrosity.) Simultaneously, the United States descends into unapologetic, full-fledged oligarchy-kleptocracy, as monumental debt piles up higher and higher, ensuring that this and future generations will be reduced to a desperate hope that a lifetime of debt servitude will be the worst fate to befall them.

Given the scope of these gathering catastrophes, one might think that those who direct and implement the American imperial project would at least momentarily consider adopting aims somewhat more modest than global hegemony maintained by a worldwide empire of bases. Of course, one would be gravely mistaken. No less an authority on the liberal-progressive mindset than Media Matters informs us, in its typically exhausting tone of outraged moral indignation, that certain conservatives are vicious liars when they accuse the Obama administration of wishing to cut military spending. Oh, no! yelps Media Matters. The Great White Hope -- and the emphasis is on White and don't you forget it, although most people never understood this in the first place, which ignorance constitutes a major part of the diseased heart of Obama's evil genius -- is increasing military spending:
Summary: Sean Hannity falsely asserted that the Obama administration "is taking steps to cut defense spending." In fact, the administration's proposed 2010 budget would increase funding for the Defense Department and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan by billions of dollars.
In the manner of a proud parent boasting of the thoroughly admirable tendencies of its homicidal offspring, as the parent joyously contemplates the countless murders yet to come, Media Matters proclaims:
Rather than cut overall defense spending, the fiscal year 2010 budget recommendations "reshape the priorities of America's defense establishment," in Defense Secretary Robert Gates' words. Gates' recommendations include full funding for the growth of the U.S. military force and a shift in funds to what Gates believes are the "programs that are most needed today and most likely needed in the future." From an April 6 Defense Department press release:
The secretary's recommendations will eliminate some high-cost, under-performing programs, but will "fully protect and properly fund" the growth in the Army and Marine Corps and halt reductions in the Navy and Air Force, Gates said.
Over two years ago, in writing about the alleged necessity for a "bigger military" insisted upon by almost all politicians and commentators at every point in the political spectrum, I observed:
[This] is also one of the clearest proofs of one of my general themes: in terms of fundamentals, there is no difference at all between Republicans and Democrats in the realm of foreign policy. Both parties, our governing elites, and most bloggers all hold the same unchallengeable axiom: that the United States is and should be the unequaled, supreme power in the world, with the capability of directing events across the globe and intervening wherever and whenever we deem it necessary for our "national interests." As [Christopher] Layne notes, all our prominent national voices are united in their conviction that no other state "entertain the 'hope of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States.'" Military power on a scale never before seen in world history is the most certain means of ensuring that goal.


I will be blunt: I submit that, considering these facts and the staggering reach of our global military power, any relatively sane person ought to be aghast that our governing class, together with almost every pundit and blogger, will look at these same facts and say only: "More, please!" But this is the inevitable result for a people who are entirely comfortable with the fact that their nation dominates the world, and of their belief that it does so by right.


According to this worldview, we are the world's sole superpower, and we should be. We are morally entitled to dictate events around the world, and we are right to have our way. And that is the actual root of almost all the current complaints about the parlous state of Iraq: we have not successfully had our way. This failure, made before the entire world, damages our "credibility," and it lessens our influence. Such an outcome is impermissible for our governing class, and for those who support it. Moral considerations find no place in these calculations.

We have power undreamt of in world history -- but our governing elites can never have enough. Our strategy of global dominance causes untold human suffering, it severely (and probably permanently) undermines our economic well-being and causes profound economic dislocation, it increases the threats we face -- and they still can never have enough. After the Iraq catastrophe, one would think that a reassessment of this strategy would be a minimal requirement. But our elites do not agree: we must increase our military budget, and increase the size of our military -- and everyone applauds the further increase of our already immense power.

Occasionally, I have referred to the phenomenon of pathology as foreign policy. When one contemplates these facts, it is very hard to conclude that anything other than pathology is involved. Our strategy is indefensible, irrational and immensely destructive, and yet almost no one questions it. But this particular pathology is so inextricably woven into our myths about the United States and about ourselves as Americans, that we believe this is simply "the way things are," and the way things ought to be.
As I have discussed at great length, torture represents an immense evil. Yet the current obsessive focus on torture constitutes only another facet of the same overall pathology. In the manner of a Lady Macbeth compulsively washing her hands, almost all of our ruling class and those who support them believe that if only they can remove this single "damn'd spot," all of their and America's sins will thus be purified. As with Lady Macbeth, this is the route to a final, irrevocable break with reality, and to ultimate destruction.

For close to none of our politicians and almost none of our prominent national voices will offer a serious challenge to the view that America is entitled by right to be God on Earth. In the context of this pervasive national denial of the truth of the American State and its explicitly proclaimed goal of worldwide dominance, the preoccupation with torture is another manifestation of the identical denial, just as it profoundly misidentifies the nature of the evil involved and reverses cause and effect. For torture is not some aberrational addition to the American polity; it is not a localized barnacle that can be scraped off an otherwise strong and healthy hull.

The truth is precisely the opposite: Torture is an inevitable and necessary part of the American project as envisioned and directed by the ruling class. The American government's systematic use of torture long predated the Bush administration, just as America's foreign policy of endless, aggressive intervention abroad took shape over more than a century, often most zealously directed by Democrats prior to the arrival of the detestable Bush. And more than this, and as we shall shortly see, torture was a foundational element of the American State itself. (On the bipartisan roots and development of America's foreign policy of worldwide hegemony, see my "Dominion Over the World" series, and Parts III and VI, in particular. And progressives might pay special attention to Part VIII, for some "unwelcome history." Links to all the installments will be found at the conclusion of Part IX.)

But our ruling class and those who call for anything less than the most radical of reforms refuse to acknowledge any of this. By seeking to localize the evil in only one aspect of the much broader and more fundamental evil involved and within a falsely delimited period of time, the torture obsessives would thus whitewash the American project as a whole. And until our foreign policy of the last hundred years is uprooted entirely, torture will never be eliminated. As I have analyzed in detail (in particular, see "Cui Bono? -- and Bush's Monstrous, Deadly Dare," with special attention to the "dare" part of that discussion), the primary objection to the vile reign of Bush, to the extent such objection made itself known, was not to the substance of his foreign policy or to the nature of his actions. The rejection of Bush arose because Bush and his fellow criminals committed the one unforgivable sin: they stated explicitly, without apology and in an especially crude way what America's goals and methods had been all along. This cannot be allowed; "our" sort of people just don't do this sort of thing, after all. America's genocidal murderers are nothing if not well-mannered.

So the selective pursuit and possible prosecution of a few of those who devised, directed and implemented the U.S. torture policies, but only those of recent vintage and not any of those that went before or are yet to come, will conveniently provide the United States with a clean slate upon which to write new chapters of crime. And to those who insist that we must pursue investigations because they may finally allow the entire web of evil to be unraveled, I can only say that such people ought to grow up one of these days. Short of massive, sustained civil unrest, even of the nonviolent kind, the ruling class will not allow it. When in the history of humankind has a ruling class, particularly one which has amassed to itself the kind of power now enjoyed by the American elites, ever fundamentally reformed itself and relinquished a significant part of the power it has obtained through many decades of unrelenting, diligent effort? Only if you answer, "Never," are you correct.

We will examine all these issues in more detail. For now, keep in mind the nightmare vision of Lady Macbeth in the last stages before her final destruction. Tragically, we must revise even Shakespeare's powerful imagination. For our Lady Macbeth is not yet a pathetically broken, largely helpless figure, moaning and whimpering as madness consumes her.

No, the Lady Macbeth of our time -- a figure who ought to terrify you to the roots of your being -- is very different from that. For America today is broken, but she refuses to acknowledge it. In addition, and this is where the terror takes root, she possesses the most fearsome arsenal of weaponry ever seen in history.

This, then, is the waking nightmare that confronts us: America is a hollowed-out hag desperately trying to maintain a fragile, weakening toehold on sanity -- a vicious fury, with nukes.

And Part II: Concerning the State, the Law, and Show Trials