March 30, 2011

Apres Moi ... Aw, C'mon, Who Gives a Crap?

So we don't get very hung up on this question of precedent because we don't make decisions about questions like intervention based on consistency or precedent. We base them on how we can best advance our interests in the region. -- Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough
Thank God the moronic, lying and/or hugely ignorant "humanitarians" are no longer embarrassed by the militant anti-intellectualism of the criminal Bush administration. Today they can enthusiastically embrace the militant anti-intellectualism of criminals with whom they feel entirely comfortable. Progress of this kind causes me to weep uncontrollably.

The weeping part is true. However, I am impelled to confess to a deformity of soul that also causes me to laugh uproariously. Aside from three or four of you, and you know who you are, is there anyone who fundamentally and -- dread word! -- consistently opposes the use of violence to achieve allegedly "good" ends? It appears there is not.

Of course, "our interests" is a phrase that is intentionally meaningless. It is infinitely elastic and can be used to justify any intervention anywhere; it is the indispensable tool for those who lead the American Empire. And let us not forget the impressive sophistication of the argument advanced on this point by one Barack Obama, as long ago as the spring of 2007:
In today’s globalized world, the security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people. When narco-trafficking and corruption threaten democracy in Latin America, it’s America’s problem too. When poor villagers in Indonesia have no choice but to send chickens to market infected with avian flu, it cannot be seen as a distant concern. When religious schools in Pakistan teach hatred to young children, our children are threatened as well.

Whether it’s global terrorism or pandemic disease, dramatic climate change or the proliferation of weapons of mass annihilation, the threats we face at the dawn of the 21st century can no longer be contained by borders and boundaries.

The horrific attacks on that clear September day awakened us to this new reality. And after 9/11, millions around the world were ready to stand with us. They were willing to rally to our cause because it was their cause too – because they knew that if America led the world toward a new era of global cooperation, it would advance the security of people in our nation and all nations.
In that same essay, I then wrote:
While I do not minimize the (possibly) serious dangers of avian flu, it must be acknowledged that this is a novel justification of the notion that the U.S. must continue to maintain the greatest military in the history of the world, as Obama goes on to insist. It appears we must be able to invade, nuke or otherwise coerce every nation on earth into doing our bidding -- so that the world will be safe for healthy chickens. And here I had thought the Marx Brothers all were dead.

This is the Open Door world carried to impossible, entirely unrealizable and ridiculous extremes. The door is not only open: the door and the entire structure in which it had been installed have been obliterated. The United States must be the global hegemon so that every human being eats well, is properly educated, and has a good job, until every society and culture is thriving and properly "democratic" in the form we alone will dictate, and until there is a (healthy) chicken in every pot.
With regard to all the "humanitarian" justifications that have been revived for the gabillionth time in connection with The Glorious Liberation of Libya, I can only ask: How fucking stupid are you people?

Really? That fucking stupid? To credit the "humanitarian" argument in the smallest degree, you have to be. I will not reinvent the wheel on this subject, for I've written about it extensively. In fact, I had forgotten I'd covered it this extensively. In the fall of 2009, I wrote about Matthew Hoh's supposedly "principled" resignation because of his objections to the war in Afghanistan. As I pointed out, there was nothing at all "principled" about Hoh's action, as Hoh himself made painfully obvious. But I also offered a number of observations about "humanitarian" interventions in general.

So, for the benefit of those who seem unable to appreciate facts that can be grasped by a healthy ten-year-old of average intelligence, I repeat the following:
[T]he conventional nature of Hoh's statements and approach made me begin to wonder precisely why he resigned, and if there was some additional reason that he hasn't identified. It's not that I disbelieve him, for I have no reason to. But my question, one which only grew stronger in my mind as I read his comments, is: Why did he draw the line here exactly? Why not somewhere else? And, most importantly, why not in Iraq? But as we know, he was "never more happy" than when he "whacked" some bad guys in Iraq, although neither he nor any other U.S. personnel had any right to be there.

This underscores another of my earlier arguments: Hoh's objection regarding Afghanistan is basically arbitrary. No principle informs it. As I wrote:
The significance of Hoh's own judgment of his actions in Iraq, and his own failure to acknowledge the true nature of the U.S. presence there, lies in the fact that it undercuts his protest about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan on the most fundamental level. Hoh offers no principled opposition to wars of aggression: he approves of a criminal war in Iraq, but opposes it in Afghanistan. And he opposes it in Afghanistan not because it's a crime and morally abhorrent -- which it is -- but because it's not "working." It's "ineffective." This perfectly mirrors the typical liberal criticism of the Iraq crime: that it was executed "incompetently." Opposition of this kind finally reduces to no opposition at all, except on specifics. Such opposition is futile, inconsistent and contradictory, and ultimately worthless. It fails to challenge U.S. policy on the critical, more fundamental level -- and it invites a future catastrophe on an equal or, which is horrifying to contemplate, an even greater scale.
This is an issue of singular importance. Many manifestations of arbitrariness of this kind can be offered. I've written about one of them at length: those Democrats and liberals who vehemently opposed the Iraq invasion but approved and even encouraged Clinton's Balkans policy. See, e.g.: "The Truth Shall Drive You Mad: The Men and Women of the Empire of Death."

Perhaps of even greater significance here is another essay, "The Lies in Your Head," and especially the excerpts from Jean Bricmont's, Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War. Bricmont traces the connections in policy between the Clinton administration's interventions in the Balkans and the Bush administration's war in Iraq, connections that many (if not most) liberals will not confront to this day. Certainly, the Bush administration offered multiple, shifting rationales for the Iraq invasion, only one indication that they never told the truth. (The truth was the drive to U.S. global hegemony, as explained by Higgs.) But it is also true that alleged "humanitarian" concerns were one justification put forth. For many liberals, such concerns were irrelevant in Iraq, but determinative in the Balkans -- and made intervention an absolute necessity in the latter case. Why that factor necessitated intervention in one case and not the other has never been satisfactorily explained, and it cannot be.

And humanitarian concerns are offered today in connection with Afghanistan, and Hoh mentions some of them in his chat. In fact, this argument is only another example of the camouflage used by the ruling class to disguise its true purposes. Just as our leaders will never willingly surrender the base at Bagram, so they were intent on establishing a major base in the Balkans, Camp Bondsteel. Humanitarian justifications had little or nothing to do with what was actually going on.

Even if we take the humanitarian argument on its own terms, it's incoherent, as Bricmont demonstrates at length. He writes:
During the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo, a certain number of Western intellectuals fancied themselves following in the Spanish footsteps of Malraux, Orwell, and Hemingway. But, unlike their predecessors, they largely remained at home or ensconced in the same hotel, rather than entering the fray, while the International Brigades and the Spanish Republican Army were replaced by the U.S. Air Force. Now, nothing in United States policy indicates the slightest sincere concern for human rights and democracy. Assigning it the prime task of defending these values is strange indeed. Moreover, to call on an army to wage a war for human rights implies a naive vision of what armies are and do, as well as a magical belief in the myth of short, clean, "surgical" wars. The example of Iraq shows that it is possible to know when a war starts but not when it will end, and it is totally utopian to expect an army that is under constant attack from guerrilla forces not to have recourse to torture in order to obtain information. The French used it massively in Algeria. The Americans used it in Vietnam and again in Iraq. Yet both the French and American torturers were citizens of "democratic countries, respectful of human rights" -- yes, but when they were at home, and in periods of relative social peace.
To make the point again: if you wish to oppose these immensely destructive wars, bombings and interventions, you must ignore all the superficial marketing and camouflage -- all the talk of "humanitarian" concerns, promoting "democracy," "regional stability," and so on -- and focus relentlessly on the intentionally and carefully chosen policy of U.S. geopolitical dominance. And that is the policy Hoh accepts in all its essentials. He argues only one particular war, and only on narrow, strategic grounds. He offers no opposition that can genuinely encourage change, which must always be opposition on principle.
I also draw your attention to a related article, "Peace Is the Means and the End," and especially to these words from Jeff Nall:
What was most horrifying about Obama being awarded the peace prize was the content of his acceptance speech in which he defended the utility and morality of violence and war. Rather than merely ignoring the legacy of peacemakers before him, Obama used the speech as a full-frontal assault on the very philosophical tenets of nonviolence advocated by Gandhi and Rev. King.

On December 10, 2009, Obama followed in the footsteps of so many believers in war before him: letting out a cry for peace while loading his guns. ...

Rev. King directly assailed those who proffered words of peace and love while they showered their enemies with bullets and bombs. "Many men cry ‘Peace! Peace!’ but they refuse to do the things that make for peace," wrote Rev. King. Summing up the philosophical tenet underwriting nonviolent direct action King continued: "One day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek but a means by which we arrive at that goal." In short, peace is both the means as well as the end.


Continuing [Obama] said, "Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaida’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force is sometimes necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history, the imperfections of man and the limits of reason."

The history Obama recognizes, however, is that cruel, blood-soaked fable of American Exceptionalism. Rev. King saw through this fraudulent cloak of Divine American Right when he observed, on April 4, 1967, that it was the United States that is "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

Rev. King was not being hyperbolic. He merely fulfilled the call of justice to look beyond national heritage and to honestly assess the actions of his country. And so his heart and mind followed our nation’s long trail of blood. ...

Since King made those remarks the U.S. only increased its commitment to resolving problems through militaristic means.
This is the infernal work that Obama continues today, expanding the reach of destruction, suffering and death still further.

March 24, 2011

Sick, Broke and Scared

I'll try to be brief, as this pathetic story is hardly unfamiliar to regular readers at this point.

I'm still recovering from the ailments that landed me in the hospital again recently. I continue to be exhausted, and I spend most of my time sleeping or lying in bed, unable to perform even simple tasks around the apartment. It may be that the exhaustion and weakness are inevitable aspects of a "normal" recovery process, but some symptoms are causing me to wonder about that. It would be helpful to have access to semi-decent, ongoing medical care; since I have no money and no insurance, that's not an option for me. So I'm left to wonder about what exactly may be going on.

By the end of next week, I'll have to pay the April rent, electric and telephone bills, plus a few additional outstanding bills. And I'll need to get two prescriptions refilled. One of them costs $200. Yes: $200 per month (30 pills, one a day). Thanks to some very kind individuals who have sent in donations recently (a multitude of thanks, as always), I have a little less than half of the rent. That's all I have.

Given my health problems over the last few years, and especially since I've had to call 911 twice now, I'm not particularly frightened of dying. I'm deeply unhappy (which can frequently be read as: murderously angry) that I'll certainly die ten to fifteen years earlier than I might if I had regular medical care, but I'm pretty much resigned to that. If I manage to make it to the beginning of May, I'll be 63. These days, that seems a little young for such concerns. These days, of course, more and more people find themselves in similar circumstances (and much worse), to say nothing of all those people who are maimed or murdered at much younger ages thanks to all the missiles and bombs our beneficent government drops around the world.

So dying itself doesn't bother me all that much. What does bother me is the thought that I might spend my last month or two homeless on the street, together with related concerns about what will happen to my cats. I guess this is the time I have to seriously think about finding new homes for them. I still don't know if I can bear to do that, which is a weakness on my part that I'm beginning to despise. My only solace is that I know I won't last for long on the street, so it should be over very quickly. Still, the specter of homelessness is the one that deeply unnerves me.

Well, that's the happy news here. Obviously, I could use some help. I still want/hope to complete some long-planned articles; if I get a little more strength back, I'll turn my attention to them. The few recent posts that have appeared here burst forth because of the outrage I was feeling about current events. The other articles awaiting completion are considerably more complicated and require that I hold a lot of information in my head. At the moment, I simply can't do it, try as I might.

I'm deeply grateful for any support you might be able to provide, especially in these increasingly uncertain times. Christ, this is depressing. All right, I'd better stop here.

Many, many thanks for your consideration.

March 21, 2011

A Few Ugly Truths about the Death State and Its Supporters

Last November, in "On Veterans Day: Fuck that Shit," I excerpted a Laurence Vance article. In part, Vance wrote:
What is there to thank our soldiers for? They are not defending our freedoms. They are not keeping us safe from our enemies. They are not protecting us from terrorists. They are not guaranteeing our First Amendment rights. They are not defending U.S. borders. They are not guarding U.S. shores. They are not patrolling U.S. coasts. They are not enforcing no-fly zones over U.S. skies. They are not fighting "over there" so we don’t have to fight "over here." They are not avenging 9/11. They are not safeguarding the American way of life. Oh, and they are not ensuring that I have the liberty to write what I do about the military.

What, then, should we thank our soldiers for? Should we thank them for fighting an unconstitutional war, an unscriptural war, an immoral war, an offensive war, an unjust war, or a senseless war? Should we thank our veterans for helping to carry out an aggressive, reckless, belligerent, and interventionist foreign policy? Should we thank the military for sucking $1 trillion out of the federal budget?

But, some will say, these soldiers are just doing their jobs. They can’t help it if the U.S. military sends them to fight in an unjust war in Iraq or Afghanistan. They are just following orders. They didn’t enlist in the military to kill people.

What would any sane man think about a doctor who takes a job at a hospital knowing that the hospital instructs its doctors to euthanize old and sickly patients – and then says he was just doing his job, following orders, and didn’t take the job to kill people?

Why are soldiers treated so differently? Why do they get a pass on committing or supporting those who commit murder and mayhem?
If you consult my full essay, as well as the earlier "No, I Do Not Support 'The Troops,'" you will understand the argument that leads to this unavoidable conclusion:
There exists no legitimate, healthy reason for any person to join the United States military today. None.
As explained in the earlier articles, the U.S. military is not used now for any defensive purpose whatsoever. To the contrary, the U.S. military is used solely to advance the ruling class's obsessive, deeply disturbed dedication to global American hegemony.

In pursuit of that goal, the U.S. military will repeatedly and necessarily murder a vast number of entirely innocent civilians. Such murders are not the regrettable byproduct of a "well-intentioned" policy, and they are not "collateral damage" which cannot be avoided. The murders -- including the murders which occur daily in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries, now including Libya -- are an integral, indispensable element in the plan for control and domination.

When a person joins the U.S. military, she or he voluntarily joins an organization which regularly and methodically murders defenseless, innocent civilians -- women, men, children and even babies. If that is what you sign up for, that is what you want to do.

None of this is secret, specialized knowledge, available only to "experts" or to those who study an arcane subject for decades. No, this information blares from numerous media sources many times a day. This information is as common as dirt. If you don't understand it, you don't want to understand it.

If you join the U.S. military, you want to be a murderer and/or you want to support murderers. If that describes you, I'll see you in hell someday soon.

Given these indisputable truths, this story is not in the least surprising:
Commanders in Afghanistan are bracing themselves for possible riots and public fury triggered by the publication of "trophy" photographs of US soldiers posing with the dead bodies of defenceless Afghan civilians they killed.

Senior officials at Nato's International Security Assistance Force in Kabul have compared the pictures published by the German news weekly Der Spiegel to the images of US soldiers abusing prisoners in Abu Ghraib in Iraq which sparked waves of anti-US protests around the world.

They fear that the pictures could be even more damaging as they show the aftermath of the deliberate murders of Afghan civilians by a rogue US Stryker tank unit that operated in the southern province of Kandahar last year.


The case has already created shock around the world, particularly with the revelations that the men cut "trophies" from the bodies of the people they killed.

An investigation by Der Spiegel has unearthed approximately 4,000 photos and videos taken by the men.

The magazine, which is planning to publish only three images, said that in addition to the crimes the men were on trial for there are "also entire collections of pictures of other victims that some of the defendants were keeping".

The US military has strived to keep the pictures out of the public domain fearing it could inflame feelings at a time when anti-Americanism in Afghanistan is already running high.

In a statement, the army said it apologised for the distress caused by photographs "depicting actions repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States".
The army's "apology" is standard-issue propaganda for any bloody and barbarian regime. These actions are not "contrary to the standards and values of the United States": they perfectly embody "the standards and values of the United States."

Many supporters of the Death State will seek escape from my argument by claiming that this "kill team" was made up of obviously sick sadists, and that it cannot be credibly claimed that everyone who joins the military is a sick sadist of that kind.

But I didn't say that everyone who joins the military is a disgusting sadist. What I said, and what I repeat, is that everyone who joins the U.S. military today wants to be a murderer and/or wants to support murderers. So you're not a nauseating sadist. You're simply a murderer who murders women, men, children and babies "cleanly," or you want to support such murderers. What is it you're arguing exactly? That a murderer who kills "cleanly," without an additional element of gratuitous sadism, belongs to a superior moral category?

I'll still see you in hell, motherfucker.

I'll add a few more ugly truths, concerning those who supported Obama believing that he represented some kind of important change from the Bush policies they claimed to detest so profoundly. First, your support of Obama represented a confession of comprehensive ignorance about politics and political systems, and how those systems develop and operate. Once again, the truth about Obama and the policies he would follow was not a secret that required special knowledge to decode. Some of us were screaming the truth about Obama repeatedly throughout 2007 and 2008. Almost everyone ignored us. Here's an article I wrote about Obama's foreign policy (and Hillary Clinton's) from May 2007. Here's an article about Obama more generally from May 2008, which included this:
Even if we assume that Obama genuinely wishes to alter our political system, the critical point is unchanged: one individual cannot do it. It is folly to believe otherwise. More bluntly: it is deeply, profoundly stupid. And the truth is very different from this idiotic fantasy: Obama is the perfect embodiment of the system as it now exists. He will challenge it on no issue of importance. To the contrary, he will advance the goals of the ruling class and ensure that the powerful are fully protected. He will lie to you about all of this, as he already has on numerous occasions -- but as I have noted, many Americans, including many liberals and progressives, are enthusiastically willing to believe anything.
And there's much, much more about the truth concerning Obama here, with many more links to follow.

Another ugly truth: anyone who still supports Obama and who denounced Bush wasn't sincere in the smallest degree about her or his criticisms of Bush. I've been over this ground before ("In the event, [the Democrats and progressives] didn't prove me wrong; to the contrary, they demonstrated the truth of what I had still hoped, however faintly, wasn't true. But what was demonstrated to be true was simply that virtually 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.").

One more ugly truth: anyone who votes for either the Democratic or Republican presidential nominee next year is ...

Yes, that's right: you're a pigfucker, too.

I'll definitely see you in hell, buddy.

March 20, 2011

A Nation Led by Blood-Guzzling, Flesh-Eating Pigfuckers

Yes, this will be a very rude post in part. No, my title doesn't refer to Libya, whose leader is the current candidate for StalinHitlerPolPot Monster of the Week, but rather to the leading terrorist nation of the world, the piece of shit United States of Pigfucking America.

There isn't any "news" in these latest events. Another day, another set of war crimes. Where's the news in that? That's what the United States does now, as it has regularly and systematically for over a century. Wait, that's not right: as it has since before it even became the United States. But hell, you don't want to think about any of that too deeply or too long. If you did, how could you continue with your lamentations about the "death" of the once-noble United States and its "true" values? What are the "true" values of a nation founded and developed in very significant part on not one, but two, genocides that lasted for centuries?

But, oh, oh, oh, the horror of bombing Libya! How will "we" ever survive? "We" will survive very well indeed. I note that the Pigfucker-in-Chief announced these sacrosanct principles the other day:
Our focus has been clear: protecting innocent civilians within Libya, and holding the Qaddafi regime accountable.
The same Pigfucker-in-Chief claims the "right" and power to murder anyone in the world, whenever he wants, for whatever reason he wishes. He's made clear that "cuz I feel like it" is reason enough. Since he claims to hold absolute power in this manner, bombing Libya, or any other country or region of the world, is an implied detail. He also is completely comfortable with the daily and hourly torture of a very well-known prisoner. The Pigfucker thinks that's fine! It's the American Way! (He's right about that.)

Given the holy mission announced by the Pigfucker-in-Chief with regard to Libya, and in light of the Pigfucker's own repeatedly embraced policies, a question uncomfortably announces itself: Who will bomb the United States, and when does it begin? Thus are we instructed as to the critical importance of possessing the most frightening arsenal of weapons ever known in history. No one dares apply the Pigfucker's own standards to the Pigfucker himself.

Gee, you think outrage and condemnation are effective tactics with a Pigfucker like this? You think he loses sleep because a few people are upset? He desperately wanted to be Pigfucker-in-Chief, and tirelessly worked for many years toward that end. I once described anyone who so deeply desires to be Pigfucker-in-Chief as "terrifyingly deranged." Almost no one agreed with me when I first said it, and very few people agree with me now. That particular truth disturbs you too much. Poor, pathetic you.

I can barely tolerate reading most "dissenting" writers at times like this. The Pigfuckers launch their newest assault on decency and humanity, on the sacred value of a single human life, and on civilization itself, and the protesters are all so goddamned, fucking polite. The United States government is led by blood-guzzling, flesh-eating pigfuckers. Fuck polite.

I must mention one other aspect of much of the criticism being offered about the assault on Libya. Many writers point out in excruciating, mind-numbing detail that the assault won't "work," that it will fail to achieve its announced aims, that it will certainly lead to more death and suffering rather than less, and so on and so forth. All of which is true in one sense -- but all of which is, from the only perspective that genuinely matters, completely irrelevant.

I refer you to an essay I wrote in January 2009, "The Necessary Violence of the Murderous National Bully." Since I realize most of you have no intention of following the link, I'll repeat the concluding section of that article. I have no desire to reformulate the argument still another time; besides, I said it very well on the earlier occasion.

But I will first emphasize the fundamental significance of what I call The Higgs Principle (after Robert Higgs, who identified this phenomenon in especially cogent and powerful terms), namely:
There are no persistent "failed" public policies.
Here is the final section of my essay from two years ago:
[T]here is a much simpler reason for the actions of America and Israel, two reasons actually.

The first reason lies in the nature of a State centrally founded on conquest and violence in the way that is true of America and Israel. Setting aside moral questions and whether the murder of innocent people can ever be justified -- and I realize it is abhorrent to set aside such issues, but we must recognize that such matters rarely concern American politicians or those of any other nation, despite their frequent protestations to the contrary -- reliance on the conquest of victims who are inevitably furiously angry and resentful, and who will seek retribution whenever the opportunity presents itself, is necessarily uncertain and undependable. If your rule depends on the compliance and obedience of those over whom you hold sway in such circumstances, you will necessarily have to remind the subject-citizens of the price of disobedience from time to time. One result is that scapegoats will regularly have to be found: first they will be identified, then they will be demonized, and finally they will be punished, even eliminated as required. From this perspective, violence, even death on a horrifyingly large scale, and the power of the State are not different phenomena: they are two aspects of the same phenomenon. Violence is the State. Power is not the means to another end: it is the end.

The second reason concerns what constitutes "national interests," those of the United States, Israel, or any other nation. Just as many people contend they cannot understand what propelled Israel's recent actions, disregarding the arguments offered above, so many people say that it is not in the "national interests" of America to offer unquestioning support to Israel in the way it does. This rather badly misses the point of what those "national interests" are, and who determines what they are. Those "national interests" have nothing at all to do with you, or me, or with "ordinary" Americans. The "national interests" of the United States as a political entity concern only the ruling class, as discussed in detail here, here and in many other essays linked therein.

And so I return once more to Robert Higgs' formulation. There is another aspect to "national interest" which is analyzed here, but it is critical to appreciate the following. Robert Higgs:
As a general rule for understanding public policies, I insist that there are no persistent "failed" policies. Policies that do not achieve their desired outcomes for the actual powers-that-be are quickly changed. If you want to know why the U.S. policies have been what they have been for the past sixty years, you need only comply with that invaluable rule of inquiry in politics: follow the money.

When you do so, I believe you will find U.S. policies in the Middle East to have been wildly successful, so successful that the gains they have produced for the movers and shakers in the petrochemical, financial, and weapons industries (which is approximately to say, for those who have the greatest influence in determining U.S. foreign policies) must surely be counted in the hundreds of billions of dollars.

So U.S. soldiers get killed, so Palestinians get insulted, robbed, and confined to a set of squalid concentration areas, so the "peace process" never gets far from square one, etc., etc. – none of this makes the policies failures; these things are all surface froth, costs not borne by the policy makers themselves but by the cannon-fodder masses, the bovine taxpayers at large, and foreigners who count for nothing.
The ruling class has not "lost," not in Gaza, not in Iraq, not in most of the other many wars of aggression throughout history. To claim that they have is to misapprehend what their interests are, and how those interests are fulfilled. The prospect or, very infrequently, the actuality of large scale public unrest and protest may cause the ruling class to make concessions now and then, concessions specifically designed to ensure future compliance. But except for extraordinarily rare moments of profound historical shift, the ruling class continues in its enjoyment of untold wealth and power, all of which is fed with the blood and suffering of the "ordinary" people.

It may be that the rot now consuming more and more of the United States economy will circumscribe the U.S. ruling class's determination to dominate the globe. At present, however, there is no sign whatsoever that our ruling class is considering even the smallest degree of humility. To the contrary, Obama's proclamations that "the American moment" should extend for "this new century" lead to precisely the opposite conclusion. I would not be at all surprised if this theme is included in Obama's inaugural address in some form.

For the United States, as for Israel, violence, subjugation and death were indispensable to their founding and development, as they are indispensable to their continuance. We may desperately wish that it were otherwise, but these horrors will not end in the near future. To whatever extent we can, that is the goal demanded by decency, humanity and a genuine reverence for life toward which we must continue to work.
Still, it seems we must remain unfailingly polite, particularly if we wish to be viewed as "serious" and "respectable."

I'm deeply sorry I referred to our leaders as Pigfuckers. I'm certain they have simply made an understandable error of judgment, just as I know to an absolute certainty that after a period of serious reflection, they will reverse course and proceed to make all necessary amends. After all, history provides many examples of just this kind of profound social and political transformation. Leaders who claim to possess immense, ungraspable power repeatedly give up that power in exchange for the quiet contemplation of life's simple pleasures. This is especially true of leaders who claim to possess absolute power. Whatever else might be said about them, I'm sure Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and all the rest have good hearts and mean well.

That's right, dear reader. Laugh through your tears. Ignore the agonized, unending screams of the countless victims. What does their pain signify?

For us, life goes on, at least for now. As you were.

March 05, 2011

Kingdom of Evil

A human being can be destroyed in a seemingly infinite number of ways, as history repeatedly demonstrates. Our capacity for cruelty is limitless. It would appear to defy gratification. We are all too familiar with the horrifying varieties of physical violence inflicted on the human body, but there is another method of seeking to destroy those whom we have designated as enemies to our own survival. In one critical respect, this method is worse than injuries that might be visited on our fragile corporeal form, for while the body may survive intact, the person -- that is, his mind and soul -- will never be made whole again.

This method of destruction throws the victim into a nightmare world, one which mocks every effort to comprehend it. Cruelty is presented as compassion and solicitude for the victim's well-being; the words of justification seek to convince those who suffer that their unbearable pain should be accepted for their own good. The victim knows that every utterance of his tormentors is a lie, and the more he attempts to understand why they act so monstrously, the greater his suffering grows. The victim can never escape these lacerating questions:

How is it possible that human beings could treat another person in this manner?

How can I survive in a world in which such cruelties not only occur with soul-destroying regularity, but in which these cruelties are considered necessary and moral?

If the victim should conclude that he cannot survive in such a world -- and how can we be surprised that this should be his judgment? -- his soul will be lost. Even if his body continues to function, he will survive in a world rendered eternally bleak, with terror lurking in every moment. The possibility of joy is extinguished.

This is evil; those who seek to impose this fate on a human being are engaged in evil of an especially monstrous kind.

Read this New York Times story about the latest cruelties inflicted on Bradley Manning, and you will see the operation of these mechanisms. We must remember that Manning is, as the Times story states in its first sentence, the "accused." As of this date, Manning has been tried for nothing. As of this date, Manning has been convicted of nothing.

The story informs us that Manning "will be stripped of his clothing every night as a 'precautionary measure' to prevent him from injuring himself," and that he "will also be required to stand outside his cell naked during a morning inspection." A Marine spokesman says that "the underwear was taken away from him as a precaution to ensure that he did not injure himself."

But as the story goes on to tell us, Manning "has not been elevated to the more restrictive 'suicide watch' conditions." The same Marine spokesman also says that "the new rule on clothing ... would continue indefinitely," and that "he was not allowed to explain what prompted it 'because to discuss the details would be a violation of Manning’s privacy.'”

Thus, according to this spokesman, Manning is subjected to repeated humiliation and degradation -- for his own good. Moreover, the reason for the repeated humiliation and degradation cannot be provided because of the military's boundless concern for Manning's "privacy" -- that is, the military also refuses to explain the reason for its cruelty for Manning's own good.

Does the nightmare begin to assume more definite shape before you? If you feel assaulted in the depths of your being by this mere recitation of the facts -- and you should -- you are experiencing but the faintest shadow of what Manning experiences in captivity. Manning is, I remind you, only the "accused."

Manning's lawyer, David E. Coombs, tries to cut through this enveloping fog of evil:
“There can be no conceivable justification for requiring a soldier to surrender all his clothing, remain naked in his cell for seven hours, and then stand at attention the subsequent morning,” he wrote. “This treatment is even more degrading considering that Pfc. Manning is being monitored — both by direct observation and by video — at all times.”

Mr. Coombs contended that stripping his client was medically unjustified.

“If a person is at risk of self-harm, then you get them treatment, you get them to a mental health professional and address the issue — you don’t strip them,” he said, adding in a separate telephone interview, “There is no excuse, no justification to having a soldier stand at attention naked. There can be no mental health reason for that.”
Coombs characterized these latest punitive measures "as an unjustified 'humiliation' of his client." I would add two comments to that description.

First, forcing a prisoner to remain naked for extended periods of time is not only a barbaric means of humiliating and degrading him: it necessarily includes a very significant element of specifically sexual humiliation and degradation. Add to this unforgivable atrocity the well-known fact that Manning is gay. Especially in the hypermasculinized world of the military, such sexual humiliation and degradation represents an intentional, additional cruelty. I can only say that the U.S. government and the military of which it is so proud put Torquemada to shame.

Second, these cruelties and the purported "justifications" offered by the military, all in a notably high profile case, definitively put the lie to the propaganda spewed by the U.S. government in response to the torture, including sexual humiliation, revealed at Abu Ghraib: that such incidents were an "aberration" perpetrated by a few "bad apples." (I emphasize that similar torture and humiliation occurred in other locations as well; Abu Ghraib is probably the best-known instance.) They also definitively put the lie to Obama's patently false claim that he has "ended torture," a point I have made repeatedly.

Now we have the U.S. military, with the full support of the U.S. government, openly engaging in repeated acts of cruelty, atrocity, humiliation and degradation -- acts which the military proclaims will "continue indefinitely" -- and offering nauseatingly ludicrous justifications which would not convince a minimally healthy ten-year-old child. No honest observer can regard these actions of the U.S. government and its military as "aberrations": these actions are brazenly offered as U.S. government policy.

These actions also constitute torture. I first offered this description of torture in December 2005, and I stand by it today:
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.
(Descriptions of the articles in my series, "On Torture," will be found here.)

I therefore repeat what I said above:

This is evil; those who seek to impose this fate on a human being are engaged in evil of an especially monstrous kind.

This is also the U.S. government and its military. Mark it well.


Several additional issues require further commentary. In particular: we must beware falling into the trap of selective outrage. The horrifying case of Bradley Manning is an especially high profile one, but he is hardly the only victim of even this particular form of the U.S. government's monstrousness. And the cruelties visited upon Manning -- a man who, I emphasize again, has not yet been tried and convicted of even a single crime -- necessarily raise this question: What is the source of the rage which the U.S. government directs at this man? The answer will not be found in most of the commentary on this awful case.

I will turn to these subjects next time.