October 25, 2012

Paths of Resistance (II): Monsters and Their Sycophants

Part I: The Refusal to Identify and Reject Evil

This is not the second installment I had planned, as indicated at the conclusion of the previous essay; I will address those issues in due course.

The Washington Post has published the second of its three articles on the Obama administration's Kill List and various aspects of the government's systematic dedication to murder and destruction. (I discussed the first of these articles in the first installment in this series.) The second Post article focuses on John Brennan and his central role in the administration's murder program.

I will confine my comments to two aspects of the Post article. Reading these Post articles is bad enough; I find the task of analyzing them in lengthy detail to be sickening in a manner I can barely describe. I imagine that being forcibly submerged in a large tub of liquified shit would not be dissimilar. Ha! I described it after all. Many of the reasons I find these articles so intensely nauseating are discussed in my series about the NYT piece concerning the Kill List: "Reflections on a Bestial Culture."

And mentioning the NYT article brings me to the first point I want to make. Consider this passage from the Washington Post article, dated October 24, 2012:
For each of Brennan’s critics, there are many associates who use the words “moral compass” to describe his role in the White House. It is Brennan, they say, who questions the justification for each drone attack, who often dials back what he considers excessive zeal by the CIA and the military, and who stands up for diplomatic and economic assistance components in the overall strategy.

Brennan’s bedrock belief in a “just war,” they said, is tempered by his deep knowledge of the Middle East, Islam and the CIA, and the critical thinking forged during a classic Jesuit education.

Some White House aides describe him as a nearly priest-like presence in their midst, with a moral depth leavened by a dry Irish wit.

One CIA colleague, former general counsel John Rizzo, recalled his rectitude surfacing in unexpected ways. Brennan once questioned Rizzo’s use of the “BCC” function in the agency’s e-mail system to send a blind copy of a message to a third party without the primary recipient’s knowledge.

“He wasn’t joking,” Rizzo said. “He regarded that as underhanded.”
Compare that to this excerpt from the NYT article, dated May 29, 2012:
Mr. Brennan, a son of Irish immigrants, is a grizzled 25-year veteran of the C.I.A. whose work as a top agency official during the brutal interrogations of the Bush administration made him a target of fierce criticism from the left. He had been forced, under fire, to withdraw his name from consideration to lead the C.I.A. under Mr. Obama, becoming counterterrorism chief instead.

Some critics of the drone strategy still vilify Mr. Brennan, suggesting that he is the C.I.A.’s agent in the White House, steering Mr. Obama to a targeted killing strategy. But in office, Mr. Brennan has surprised many former detractors by speaking forcefully for closing Guantánamo and respecting civil liberties

Harold H. Koh, for instance, as dean of Yale Law School was a leading liberal critic of the Bush administration’s counterterrorism policies. But since becoming the State Department’s top lawyer, Mr. Koh said, he has found in Mr. Brennan a principled ally.

“If John Brennan is the last guy in the room with the president, I’m comfortable, because Brennan is a person of genuine moral rectitude,” Mr. Koh said. “It’s as though you had a priest with extremely strong moral values who was suddenly charged with leading a war."

The president values Mr. Brennan’s experience in assessing intelligence, from his own agency or others, and for the sobriety with which he approaches lethal operations, other aides say.
The similarities are stunning, so stunning that I thought: "Jesus Christ. Why don't you bastards just print the press releases the White House gives you?" This was immediately followed in my mind by: "Silly me. Of course: you did."

If you compare the NYT and Washington Post articles, you will find many additional similarities. To be sure, there are differences as well -- but on all the major points and with regard to numerous details, the stories in the two papers are in full accord. The stories all emphasize that, while the murder program systematically targets and slaughters increasing numbers of human beings -- and does so on the basis of highly dubious, mistaken, or even nonexistent information -- the government brings profound and solemn dedication to its task. Our leaders genuinely value life, and only destroy it after the most careful weighing of moral factors of the greatest import. And so on.

It is striking that the Post in particular, since its articles are now appearing roughly five months after the NYT piece, didn't exert more effort to at least make its stories appear more original. That the Post didn't even bother reveals how far down this rabbit hole we've already gone. All the major papers (and networks, and radio stations, and...) are essentially propaganda outlets for the State. To the extent people are aware of that, they don't care, not in any way that could possibly represent a cognizable threat. The State and the major papers (and networks, etc.) know that people don't care. Why bother to hide it at all? Of course, we still must have newspapers, TV networks and so on, for Americans do love their illusions. A free press! And the first amendment is mighty important, doncha know.

It's quite funny, in an entirely horrific way. The State has so perfected its media domination -- and the media have so willingly neutered themselves -- that explicit censorship has been rendered irrelevant and completely unnecessary. That's very useful from the State's perspective: the State can guarantee that coverage will be exactly what it wants, while preserving the mirage of an active, free-ranging press, dedicated to ferreting out the truth. My goodness, whatever would we do without a free press? That's exactly what we're finding out.

I am compelled to offer a few observations about the fervid tributes to Brennan so eagerly tendered by both the NYT and the Post. I must emphasize -- and here, I must stop to note that I am forever emphasizing the actual nature of the subject of these articles, for it is precisely the bloody truth of the subject that these articles are constantly submerging, disguising, and burying in misdirection. And bloody is the goddamned operative word.

The bloody fucking subject of these articles -- and the bloody fucking task to which Brennan devotes his goddamned miserable life -- is the murder of innocent human beings. To the extent Brennan and his fellow monsters rely on information at all, they rely on "intelligence" gathered across numerous agencies. But, and here I shock the children and doubtless many adults as well, "intelligence" is almost always wrong. I've written about this at great length, repeatedly, over many years. Start with "Played for Fools Yet Again," if you want to pursue the subject. Even after all my articles, everyone continues to insist that it is critical that "we get the intelligence right." The intelligence is almost never right; when it is, it is usually disregarded anyway. To the extent intelligence is available, and to the extent it might rarely be correct, it will always be disregarded if it runs counter to a policy to which the government is already committed. Authors such as Barbara Tuchman and Gabriel Kolko have made these arguments for decades; you'll find excerpts in my earlier posts. The primary use of intelligence is as propaganda, and it is used after the fact as justification for policy decisions the government has already made.

And given the numerous, repeated errors of intelligence that have occurred just in the last decade, Brennan and his wretched associates know that to the extent they rely on intelligence, they are most likely relying on information that is wrong. So Brennan regularly, routinely, systematically orders the death of human beings on the basis of information that he knows is most likely to be wrong.

He orders the murders anyway. And the government carries them out. Thus, the government regularly, routinely, systematically orders the death of innocent human beings.

Then there are the "signature strikes," which murder people on the basis of no information at all. That is, the government has no particular information about the specific individuals they are murdering. "Signature strikes" are akin to murders by crazed psychopaths firing into a crowd: they see a group of people, they see something they don't like or that looks "funny" to them, or maybe they're just in a shitty mood that day, so -- kill them! And they do.

This is what the articles in the NYT and the Washington Post are about. And John Brennan is the central figure directing the murder program.

Yet the Post tells us that "there are many associates who use the words 'moral compass' to describe [Brennan's] role in the White House." Both newspapers offer comparisons of Brennan to a priest, and speak of his "moral rectitude" and "moral depth." Brennan's murder program "is tempered by his deep knowledge of the Middle East, Islam and the CIA, and the critical thinking forged during a classic Jesuit education." Well, thank God for that. We wouldn't want a maniacal psychopath who was a pathetic, illiterate ignoramus running a murder program.

Jesus Christ. Do people realize how deeply insane this is? Then, on top of all this, the Post story includes the following:
One CIA colleague, former general counsel John Rizzo, recalled his rectitude surfacing in unexpected ways. Brennan once questioned Rizzo’s use of the “BCC” function in the agency’s e-mail system to send a blind copy of a message to a third party without the primary recipient’s knowledge.

“He wasn’t joking,” Rizzo said. “He regarded that as underhanded.”
This is the kind of detail I would never dare include in a fictional work. I would expect the reader to laugh at the utter ridiculousness of it. Details of this kind couldn't possibly happen in real life.

But there it is, reported by the Washington Post with a straight face. The Post article describes in grisly, horrifying detail how the United States government, and John Brennan in particular, run a program of routine, systematic murder which targets innocent human beings. But, we are told, the State commits these murders of innocent human beings with all required solemnity, directed by "strong moral values" and "moral rectitude."

We might summarize the theme this way: The United States government regularly murders significant and steadily increasing numbers of innocent human beings -- but it does so in a profoundly moral and thoroughly admirable manner.

You are not to wonder that the preceding sentence makes absolutely no sense. And miracle of miracles: almost no one does wonder about it.

And in this context -- that is, in the context of a program that regularly murders innocent human beings -- to offer Brennan's questioning about a blind copy of an email as further evidence of his "rectitude" and deeply moral character ... it takes my breath away. To mention such a comparatively trivial, meaningless detail -- in conjunction with a systematic, growing program of murder targeting innocent human beings directed by a hugely powerful government ...

But that suddenly made it real to me. It made real how deeply, irreparably damaged these people are. Not just the murderers and those who directly assist them, but the reporters and editors who put together these kinds of stories. The deaths of innocent human beings aren't real to them. The deaths don't register in their minds in any meaningful way. In that sense, the story about the email is perfect. Brennan is enthusiastically willing to devote his life to the murders of innocent human beings -- and as long as all the rules are followed, provided everything is neat and tidy and procedure is respected, he is able to regard those murders of innocent human beings as entirely moral and righteous. The rules must always be obeyed -- whether it is the rules about murdering innocent human beings, or the rules about when it is appropriate to send a blind copy of an email. As long as you follow the rules, you are a good person.

It is only because fearsome weapons are at their disposal that such people are at all frightening. And that is assuredly a danger to be protected against as best one can. But in themselves, these people are lamentably, sickeningly pathetic. They are barely human at this point, for their souls have shriveled into empty husks, devoid of genuine feeling, compassion and empathy. If the truth of their actions were to make itself known to what remains of their minds and souls, it would shatter them forever beyond repair. There are certain actions for which atonement is not possible. That is certainly true of Brennan and all those who work in any part of the murder program. It is also true of many people who refuse to acknowledge the nature of the State that rules us and its murder program, and who continue to support such evils.

Next time, I'll discuss such support further, as well as passive collaboration with evil.