To appreciate why this matters so much to me -- and, I would suggest, why more generally it should matter a great deal to you -- you can start here.
I will very likely have more to say about this at some future date. But not now.
[V]irtually everything the Democrats and progressives claimed to be their fervent concern was merely instrumental: that is, they staked out the positions they did for their perceived political advantage, and for the assistance those positions would provide in regaining and consolidating power.That Sheehan is profoundly principled, and that she continues her battle against what is an immensely evil program that produces only suffering, destruction and death, means of course that she is largely ignored by every aspect of the establishment, and by most commentators and bloggers as well. On a much more modest scale, that has been my fate, too. I was once frequently linked by the leading liberal-progressive blogs, when we shared our opposition to the loathsome Bush administration. But I began to see what actually motivated the Democrats and their voluntarily brain-dead supporters in the months leading up to the 2006 elections. Just before those elections, I published: "An Election Conceived in Nausea." My judgment of the Democrats and Democratic partisans grew steadily more negative, and the "big" links soon dried up completely. I was no longer "helpful" to their goals.
In the end, that was the only goal, the only purpose toward which everything else was directed: the achievement and maintenance of power.
This is truly masterful. I take my hat off to Ms. Noonan. It sounds so utterly reasonable. It sounds so judicious. It sounds so mature.In this cultural setting, it was inevitable that Cindy Sheehan would become a major target of the Bush supporters. And because her cause is gaining so much attention -- and most importantly, because it is gaining so much support from the American public -- she must be destroyed.
It is also a great big, enormous lie. In fact, Bush and many members of his administration -- and almost all of Bush's most ardent supporters in the media, and in an even more extreme form (if that is possible) in the blogosphere -- have been making all of these statements for the last several years. Since 9/11, such statements are the daily meal provided by the Bush administration.
It is not even the case that such statements are hidden or disguised. They are right out in the open, but Noonan relies on the unfortunate fact that most people are unable to see the truth and unwilling to name it.
Remember the basic dichotomy from which all the rest sprang, provided in a now-famous statement by our President himself in the immediate aftermath of 9/11: "You are either with us, or on the side of the terrorists." This statement is so broad and so general that it is susceptible to many different meanings and applications -- and that is precisely the point of this type of propaganda.
For almost overnight, one central meaning of Bush's statement became the following: If you disagree with the manner in which Bush chooses to fight this war -- if you question or criticize any aspect of it at all -- then you are “on the side of the terrorists." Don't take my word for it. Take the word of then-Attorney General John Ashcroft (defending the administration's actions in response to 9/11):
“To those who pit Americans against immigrants, citizens against non-citizens, to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve," Ashcroft told the Senate Judiciary Committee. “They give ammunition to America's enemies and pause to America's friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil."
This statement was not only not disavowed by the Bush administration: it has been reinforced countless times since. We most recently saw this tactic employed full-force in the completely phony Newsweek controversy. The always-dependable Mr. Rumsfeld:
“People lost their lives. People are dead," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said. “People need to be very careful about what they say, just as they need to be careful about what they do."
Note that the post in which I quoted Rumsfeld was entitled, "Careful Now, Obedient Servants!" Remember that Rumsfeld was addressing what people regard as a "free press." And his message was unmistakable: do not report stories that we do not like, or that we in our sole judgment view as possibly damaging, for reasons we are not obliged to share with you. Report only the "news" that we want you to report. Push us too far, and you will only report "news" that we permit you to report.
In the blogosphere, these kinds of tactics have been carried to still more insidious and more threatening levels. Strong critics of Bush's "War on Terror" are not antiwar: they are "on the other side." People who use and repeat such idiotic phrases seek to avoid their clear meaning: they are accusing many of Bush's critics of treason. They ought to state it openly, so everyone knows exactly what the nature of the accusation is -- and so that we may all appreciate how broad a swath of the American public they include in such judgments.
And that is the ultimate meaning of all such statements from the administration and its rabid supporters: passionate, meaningful, serious criticism of U.S. foreign policy is treason, it undermines our "national will," it weakens us in a time of great peril, and it "give[s] ammunition to America's enemies."
So let us improve upon Noonan's fictional Bush one more time. With the above actual statements from Bush and many others in mind -- and such statements could easily be multiplied a thousandfold -- consider what the message from those who support Bush's "War on Terror" in fact has been:
"Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. I want to speak this evening about how I see the political landscape. Let me jump right in. The struggle between freedom and the terrorists is a struggle between good and evil -- and we are the good. I hate anyone who questions or criticizes my way of fighting this war. Let's face it, all such critics hate freedom and want to see it destroyed. Who are they, really, but people who are intent on eroding our will, destroying the United States and undermining freedom as I conceive it? They have no shame.
"But why would they? They have never been acquainted with the truth. You ever been to a peace rally? They all look the same. They all behave the same. They have a dictatorship, and suffer from zeal so extreme that they dare to question my judgment and the actions of my administration. But what would you expect when you have a far left extremist base? Our nation, and the future of freedom around the world, cannot afford more of their leadership. I call on you to help me defeat them!"
As I said, this is exactly what Bush and many of his supporters have been saying for the last several years. You see these and similar statements every day in certain parts of our "mainstream" press, and you see them constantly in certain parts of the blogosphere. Most importantly, you hear them still from Bush and other members of his administration. I will grant Bush and his supporters this much: their target is much more all-encompassing than Dean's. Dean only spoke of the Republican Party. Bush and his supporters seek to demonize anyone and everyone who dares to disagree with them at all (except, of course, on issues that are insignificant and beside the point) -- Democrats, independents, libertarians, liberals, leftists, and even other Republicans who dare to step out of line from time to time, to say nothing of large parts of the rest of the world. Compared to these tactics and these goals, Dean is an amateur.
The only reason that Bush and his supporters get away with this, and that Howard Dean and some few others do not, is that lies are now the common coin of the realm, and the truth is despised. But Noonan gives us yet another version of the Big Lie -- the lie that is so immense, that is offered up in full daylight, that no one is quite willing to believe that such blatant deception and manipulation is being committed literally under his nose.
Given all this, the worst and biggest lie told by Noonan is this one:
"If Mr. Bush ever spoke this way, most Republicans would feel embarrassment. I would be among the legions who would denounce his statement."
But he has "spoke[n] this way," Ms. Noonan, countless times, as have countless others. But you have never, ever denounced such statements, not once. You cheer them all on, over and over and over again.
Well kindly Preznit Change-O, whutzup? Arthur Silber is back, once again ripping asunder the veil that even professed "dissenters" still draw over the blood-soaked reality he elegantly terms the "Death State." In his 2007 essay Obey or Die, Arthur says that in the last several years, the United States has caused the deaths of a million or more innocent people. The United States has committed crimes on a scale that defy comprehension. This fact is almost never mentioned by our leading politicians and commentators. And now all our leading politicians lay the groundwork for another act of still worse, monstrous, criminal aggression - but we discuss it as if it is our "right" to wreak destruction, suffering and death, in the name of "self-defense" and "civilization." Lies, on top of criminality, on top of genocide, both accomplished and planned. Lies and destruction without end, and facts and reality are banished altogether. Please keep in mind two critical ideas that both Arthur and I have mentioned: first - always, always first - profound reverence for the sacred value of a single human life; and second, the monstrosity that the United States government is today: a government which is unquestionably a Death State in every way that matters. In numerous ways it diminishes the value of each of our lives each and every day. We can hope that we will be able to continue our discussion, provided that our Change-O Death State does not decide speech of this kind is so horrible a danger that it must be ended. Yet to be honest, I must admit how pitifully obvious it is that a person who insists on the reverence due an individual life and who profoundly abhors violence of all kinds (actual or implied) represents a mortal danger to a State which can utterly destroy his or her life at a moment's notice. And yet we talk about none of this. If you do, you're a crazy troublemaker. No one should pay attention to you, and you will be shunned.
But golly, gee: What the *bleep* do I know anyway?
[I]t is Obama himself who has adopted the white racist framework. Yes, I repeat that: Obama has adopted the white racist framework with regard to every issue of importance.Moreover:
Very interestingly, however, [Uri] Avnery neglects to mention a further critical reason for Obama's identification with "American whites," although he hints at it. That reason is one I discussed in the first part of my "Triumph" series, and it must never be forgotten. It's a simple and terrible reason: Obama wants power. This is not a secondary or related, tangential issue: we are talking about politics here, so it is the reason. He wants power. In America, if you want power, you must be white -- or you must adopt all the trappings of the white rulers. That's it, that's the whole thing. Power accrues to the white, male ruling class. Period.Start here, and follow the numerous links if you care to. I can't go through it all again, and it wouldn't make a damned bit of difference if I did.
The truth today is still worse, for we have significantly regressed. Even as our governing class remains absolute in its determination to avoid the central and most fundamental lessons from Vietnam, it has remembered and applied certain lessons very well indeed. The horrors of Iraq, including the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of entirely innocent Iraqis, never even enter the consciousness of most Americans. The dead and horrifically injured Americans are shuffled offstage without ceremony. The great majority of Americans continue in their preferred mode of existence: intellectually ignorant and lazy, spiritually fat and self-satisfied, and completely oblivious to the unimaginable suffering their government inflicts in other parts of the world.After I wrote that in May 2007, it became necessary to increase the "hundreds of thousands" to over a million slaughtered human beings in Iraq.
There is one final point to be made about all this -- and that has to do with the supreme value of a single human life. In our desensitized, dehumanized age, most people have almost no appreciation for what I'm talking about, and our political establishment and media only make this grievous failing worse. Each of us is unique; not one of us can be replaced. Each of us has a family, loved ones, friends and a life that is a web of caring, interdependence, and joy. When even one of us is killed or horribly injured for no justifiable reason, the damage affects countless people in addition to the primary victim. Sometimes, the survivors are irreparably damaged as well. Even the survivors' wounds can last a lifetime.Most Americans, and certainly the members of our ruling class, expend enormous energy in making certain that none of this becomes real. From the criminal war of naked conquest against Mexico, to the horrifying occupation of the Philippines, on into World War I (a conflict which the U.S. should never have entered if basic decency and humanity figured in our government's calculations at all, and which led to a century of devastation that continues to plague the world today in significant part because of U.S. participation), on into Vietnam, numerous other interventions after World War II, into Iraq, Afghanistan, to a global empire of bases and the continuing obsessive, deadly dream of worldwide hegemony -- none of the horrors is allowed to become real.
This is of the greatest significance. There is nothing more important or meaningful in the world. No moral principle legitimizes our invasion and occupation of Iraq, just as it will not justify an attack on Iran. Therefore, when the first person was killed in Iraq as the result of our actions, the immorality was complete. The crime had been committed, and no amends could ever suffice or would even be possible. That many additional tens or hundreds of thousands of people have subsequently been killed or injured does not add to the original immorality with regard to first principles. It increases its scope, which is an additional and terrible horror -- but the principle is not altered in the smallest degree.
So think of the five-year-old Iraqi girl who is no more, or think of any one of the countless other victims of this criminal war and occupation. Think of their families and friends. Think of the lives that have been altered forever, and of the wounds that will never heal. Think about all of that.
Contemplate the devastation and the horror. Make it real to yourself. And ask yourself if forgiveness is possible.
[S]ystematized, institutional torture is as American as sickeningly rancid, fatally poisoned apple pie. If one views the American government as a brutally dysfunctional family, then, my friend, Mom and Pop are the torturers-in-chief. (This is true in a more literal manner than most people are willing to countenance. See all of my series on "On Torture" on this question -- and the last two parts in particular, here and here. Another essay also analyzes certain of the dynamics in play: "Let the Victims Speak.")Well. Perhaps these excerpts had some of the effect I hoped for. They've caused my own earlier amusement at one particular story to dissipate for the moment. So I'll make this the first part of a two-part article, and discuss the other issues I had planned to cover later today or tomorrow. As you may gather from the title, the general subject which began this exploration concerns matters of a different kind. My title is a reference to this earlier essay, so if you care to read that, you'll have a head start. (I confess, as I have before, that that particular article gives me more pleasure than it probably should. But it's actually ... well, not bad.)
For more than a hundred years, the foreign policy of the United States government has been directed to the establishment and maintenance of global dominance. To this end, violence, overthrow, conquest and murder have been utilized as required. (See "Dominion Over the World" for the sources and development of this policy [the earlier essays in that series are listed at the conclusion of that article].) More and more, oppression and brutalization have become the bywords of domestic policy as well. Today, the United States as a political entity is a corporatist-authoritarian-militarist monstrosity: its major products are suffering, torture, barbarism and death on a huge scale.I repeat the fundamental point to make certain there is no misunderstanding as to where I stand on this question: as a political entity, the United States is an endlessly destructive monstrosity.
Clinton declared that "we do not have the right to resort to violence — or the threat of violence — when we don’t get our way."Bovard writes about Clinton and Iraq:
Unless you’re the government.
The four million Americans arrested for marijuana violations during Clinton’s reign were victims of government violence and government threats of violence. The "fact" that Clinton never inhaled did not prevent the drug war from ravaging far more lives during his time in office. The number of people arrested for drug offenses rose by 73% between 1992 and 1997. The Clinton administration bankrolled the militarization of local police, sowing the seeds for a scourge of no-knock raids at wrong addresses and a massive increase in efforts to intimidate average citizens in big cities around the country.
During Clinton’s reign, the IRS seized over 12 million bank accounts, put liens on over 9 million people’s homes and land, directly confiscated more than 100,000 people’s houses, cars, or real property, and imposed over 100 million penalties on people for allegedly not paying sufficient taxes, paying taxes late, etc. The IRS knew that millions of citizens were assessed taxes and penalties that they did not owe. A 1997 audit of the IRS's Arkansas-Oklahoma district found that a third of the property seizures carried out violated federal law or IRS regulations. Former IRS district chief David Patnoe observed in 1998: “More tax is collected by fear and intimidation than by the law.” The Clinton administration fought tooth and nail against a law Congress passed in 1998 to curtail IRS depredations against innocent Americans.
Clinton’s op-ed mentions, almost as an aside, that the Oklahoma City bombing occurred on the second anniversary of the final assault at Waco. In 1995, Clinton denounced the Branch Davidians as “murderers” for their response to the 1993 Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms attack on their home. Clinton used that label even though a Texas jury found no such guilt - and even though the BATF apparently shot first and did not have a proper warrant for its no-knock, military-style raid.
Clinton was commander-in-chief when the FBI 54-ton tanks smashed into the Davidians’ home, collapsing 25% of the ramshackle building on top of residents before a fire commenced that left 80 people dead. His administration did almost everything it could to cover up the details of federal action at Waco, spurring the widespread distrust which Clinton later denounced.
Clinton’s Iraq policy relied on systemic violence. The U.S. was the lead country in enforcing and perpetuating the blockade on Iraq that resulted in hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dying. U.S. planes carried out hundreds of bombing runs on Iraq, and volleys of American cruise missiles slammed [that] country during his reign.You can read many more details about the devastating effects of Clinton's sanctions policy in some of my earlier essays. Here's an excerpt from one of them, focusing on the Obama administration's unfathomably awful Iran policy:
It is at this point that I must remind you of one issue which most people remain determined to deny, even as the world plunges into agony and death:Follow the links for more, as is said.A sanctions regime is not an alternative to war: it is the prelude to attack or invasion. Moreover, sanctions murder a hideous number of innocent people as surely as more overt acts of war.This is the exact pattern that unfolded with Iraq, where the Clinton administration's loathsome sanctions regime inevitably and necessarily led to the invasion in 2003. And now, possibly encouraged by this obscene Nobel Prize, the exact same pattern is likely to be repeated with Iran.
Bill Clinton has often acted like his 78-day bombing assault on Serbia in 1999 was his finest hour. The State Department was referring to the Kosovo Liberation Army as a terrorist group until 1997. After Clinton decided to attack Serbia, the KLA officially became freedom fighters. The fact that both Serbs and ethnic Albanians were up to their elbows in atrocities was simply brushed aside or denied. After surviving a Senate impeachment trial, Clinton was hellbent on starring in an old-time morality play.I've written a number of pieces about Clinton's monstrous Balkans policy and the lies upon which it depended. See, e.g., here, here and here.
Clinton’s bombing campaign killed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Serb civilians. From intentionally bombing a television station, Belgrade neighborhoods, power stations, bridges (regardless of the number of people on them at the time), to “accidentally” bombing a bus (killing 47 people), a passenger train, marketplaces, hospitals, apartment buildings, and the Chinese embassy, the rules of engagement for U.S. bombers guaranteed that many innocent people would be killed.
In his anniversary op-ed, Clinton declared that “without the law there is no freedom.” But the law did not stop, or even slow, Clinton from raining death on Belgrade. Clinton brazenly violated the War Powers Act, the 1973 law which required the president to get authorization from Congress for committing U.S. troops to any combat situation that lasted more than 60 days. The House of Representatives refused to endorse Clinton’s warring. But, on Serbia and many other issues, Clinton acted as if his moral mission exempted him from all restraints, legal and otherwise.
Almost every politician lies, and most politicians lie repeatedly. Yet in one sense, Obama's speech is exceptional, rare and unique -- but not for any of the reasons offered by Obama's uncritical, mindless adulators. It is exceptional for this reason: it is rare that a candidate will announce in such stark, comprehensive terms that he will lie about every fact of moment, about every aspect of our history that affects the crises of today and that has led to them, about everything that might challenge the mythological view of America. But that is what Obama achieved with this speech. It may be a remarkable achievement -- a remarkable and detestable one, and one that promises endless destruction in the future, both here and abroad.If one truly and comprehensively understood Obama's speech on race -- the unending, deadly lies on which it was based, and the terrible consequences to which those lies have led and the devastation they will continue to cause -- that speech told you everything you needed to know about Obama.
Is that what many Americans want? Tragically, the answer appears to be yes. Truth must be destroyed, no matter how many lives and how much suffering are required. Americans will accept anything else -- war, genocide, economic collapse, further terrorist attacks in the U.S. -- but the truth must be denied.