September 29, 2007

Still Not Nice, and Now Very, Very Annoyed

[ALMOST BACK (October 12): Profuse apologies for my continued absence. This has been a very, very bad spell; I've been capable of almost nothing, other than sleeping. But I'm very slowly gathering a bit of strength again, and I've started writing a few essays that I had outlined some time ago. So I hope to have at least one or two new pieces posted over the next few days.

My apologies once more -- together with my immense gratitude to all those who have been so remarkably kind.]

[PRETZELS AND BEER, AND A SICK BED: But as of Monday, October 8, I'm still here. You know how that one goes. And do you know -- well, you most likely don't -- I saw the original Broadway production of "Follies" three times, or maybe four; I'm not sure now. Definitely at least three times. It was spectacular; flawed, certainly, but spectacular nonetheless.

So, the equivalent of pretzels and beer for this boy, and also a sick bed, to which I've been confined for almost all of the past week. While I was sleeping (or trying to), and letting my body attempt to overcome a series of infirmities, a number of you were being incredibly generous. I offer my most heartfelt thanks. I'm very sorry for my absence. It will take another few days to gather my strength, and try to figure out what the hell I was writing about when last we met. So I hope to be back in a few more days.

Your wonderful kindness means that basic bills are taken care of for now, for which my deep gratitude once more. With the helpful advice of a friend, I'm attempting to put my computer back in full working order. It now has Spyware Doctor, Registry Mechanic, and a fully updated Zone Alarm super-duper anti-virus program (plus other assorted stuff). I've run all of them several times, and things seem to be basically okay again, although a few oddities remain. But I think the computer is all right now, those little quirks aside (may they remain little, please). At least all the insane flashing of numerous screens and menus has stopped, along with the need to restart the computer every hour or so. I want to avoid paying several hundred dollars for a computer technician if at all possible; that money may well be needed for other things, including a visit to the vet for my oldest cat, who turned 14 in July. She seems to have a few, hopefully minor infirmities of her own, and I'm riddled with guilt that I haven't been able to attend to her needs yet. As you know, the kids always come first.

In any event, I hope to be back in a couple of days with the next installments of a few ongoing series, or perhaps I'll begin with several simpler entries, if some stories strike me as being of special significance. I'm still catching up on what's been happening while I was laid low, physically and mentally.

I cannot adequately thank all of you who have been so kind and generous. I'll try to deserve it, as soon as I can.

To return to Sondheim's memorable lyric for that song: Lord knows, I was there. Indeed I was. No regrets. None at all. And I'm still here, baby.]

I just spent close to five hours working on the second part of this series, which has become more complicated than I had first thought and will therefore be longer than I had planned. My computer has become increasingly erratic over the last ten days. Among other things, various things start flashing on the screen even when I'm doing absolutely nothing. It's not ad popups; it's a start-up screen, and a whole series of different menus and God knows what. It also starts closing various windows I have open, sometimes before I can save them. Now I have to restart the computer before it will work normally again, at least for a few hours. So that essay is completely gone, and I'll have to rewrite the whole thing. I suspect part of the problem might be solved by Ad-Aware, so last night I downloaded their latest program. For some reason, although it identified close to 1,000 infections (yikes), it won't delete or quarantine them. I tried to run the scan again, and now it won't work at all. So I'll have to try downloading it again. Since I have a dialup connection, that takes a while.

So I need to call one of those computer services that come to your house and "make things work." (As you may know, one company is, in fact, called "Make It Work.") I estimate it would cost at least $100, probably closer to $200 (or more, God forbid). I don't have the money. Many of you were very generous in response to this post toward the end of last month, so I have half of my rent money for October. But I'm $400 short on that as well.

I'm very sorry that I can't post essays more often. I do the best I can. But I have to husband my energy very carefully given my generally rotten health and, as you can tell from the above (and I hope from the many articles here), writing essays of the kind I do takes a lot of time -- not just the writing, but research, reading and, hardest and most time-consuming of all, thinking. Nonetheless, I do think the three essays from earlier this week are pretty damned good.

I indicated a while ago some aspects of being very poor. One other aspect is this: when you can't afford to get any decent medical care for major health problems, you definitely can't afford to go to the dentist, for years on end in my case. One result is that your teeth finally rot and begin to fall out -- literally. For the past week, pieces of one rotten tooth have been falling out almost every time I eat. I eat very, very carefully now, mostly soft foods. The tooth doesn't hurt, at least not yet. This is on top of two fillings that fell out several years ago, and that I can't get fixed. One of the resulting holes gets infected every two months or so. When that happens, it lasts for about ten days. During the worst two or three days, the left side of my face swells up to the size of a small apple. I can barely open my mouth, so I usually just suck up soup or mashed potatoes until it passes.

Yes, it's a great life. Anyway, if you're able to help out with any of these problems (rent and the computer being the most pressing ones for me) and want to do so, I'd be profoundly grateful, as always. The generosity of many of you continues to amaze me. I'm deeply sorry that I still haven't written to all the donors individually. I keep intending to every day, but I'm so tired so much of the time that I try to save all my energy for writing-related tasks. I figure that's what you're donating toward, but it still is remarkably ill-mannered of me not to have thanked everyone on an individual basis. I'll try to get to that as soon as I can.

After I bang my head into the wall for a few hours, I'll attempt to write that essay again. The same thing almost happened several days ago, but I managed to save the draft in time on that occasion. No such luck today. Oh, well.

Many thanks for your attention, and for your kindness.

September 27, 2007

The Depravity of Empire

Because an empire must, by definition, rely on coercion and murder, any given day in the rule of empire is immoral and detestable for those who genuinely value liberty and peace. But certain days are worse than others. In terms of what it bodes for our future -- and for the future of the world -- yesterday was a particularly awful day in the United States Senate, now controlled and led by the imperial Democrats. If there are any people who still believed that the Democrats would represent a fundamental shift in U.S. foreign policy, they have no reason to believe it any longer. Even before yesterday's events, maintenance of such a belief required criminal ignorance and/or a willingness to peddle lies and propaganda on a huge scale. I say that for all the reasons discussed in my series, "Dominion Over the World" -- and I note that I have not even concluded that series, and that those essays do not cover anything close to all the reasons for my indictment. The logical and necessary implications of the Senate's actions mean we will see at least several more decades of war, large-scale death, chaos and destruction. It would appear that, with regard to its broad outlines, the 21st century will be the 20th century all over again: endless war, tens of millions of deaths, brutality that spreads across entire continents, and darkness that descends upon the world.

I will comment further on the Senate's actions in a moment, but I first want to consider a broader issue. One of the more viciously dishonest aspects of empire and colonialism is this: after interfering with and attempting to impose their will on numerous countries for decade after decade, colonial powers will occasionally withdraw, at least to some extent. The withdrawal is never complete, for the interference continues via economic and trade policy -- by the use, for example, of punitive sanctions which do nothing to dislodge disfavored regimes but cause untold hardship for the general populace, and which almost inevitably lead to further war, as we saw with Iraq and are now seeing again with Iran, and by various other methods. The endless years of occupation had prevented the victimized countries from developing in their own manner and on their own schedule -- but after they withdraw, and if the exploited nations do not immediately reshape themselves into what the colonial powers consider to be a "civilized" country, those powers condemn the same nations they had earlier destroyed.

Thus, we have the repellent Hillary Clinton saying it's the Iraqis' fault that they didn't avail themselves of the wonderful opportunity we provided to them. The same line is peddled by many other Democrats, and by Republicans as well. To describe this perspective as monstrously and brutally immoral and inhumane does not begin to capture its hideousness. The West has pursued this general pattern in Southeast Asia, in most of Africa and, of course, in the Middle East. As the earlier post discussed, an especially primitive and unforgivable racism is a necessary part of the dynamic involved, and this racism is an inextricable part of the American national myth.

I realize that most Americans' conception of history extends, at best, to the Vietnam war or, if we are contemplating once again the Eternal Virtue and Axiomatic Nobility of America the Great, World War II -- which, as Allesandra Stanley notes about Ken Burns' latest exercise in myth-building, was apparently all about us. (Since I don't have television, I'm not watching the Burns series, so I have no opinion about it myself. But narcissism of this kind is endemic to mainstream American culture; for a very different view of World War II and what we failed to learn from it, see "Let Us All Become Cowards.") Nonetheless, I will ask you to travel farther back in time, to the aftermath of World War I. Since the Senate has now endorsed restructuring the Middle East by means of brutal violence still another time -- which violence is, of course, to be directed by the United States -- we should try to appreciate how long the Western powers have been engaged in this deadly exercise. The following is from David Fromkin's book, A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East (also excerpted in my essay, "Narcissism and Paternalism as Foreign Policy"):
As you will see when you read the book, Middle Eastern personalities, circumstances, and political cultures do not figure a great deal in the narrative that follows, except when I suggest the outlines and dimensions of what European politicians were ignoring when they made their decisions. This is a book about the decision-making process, and in the 1914-22 period, Europeans and Americans were the only ones seated around the table when the decisions were made.

It was an era in which Middle Eastern countries and frontiers were fabricated in Europe. Iraq and what we now call Jordan, for example, were British inventions, lines drawn on an empty map by British politicians after the First World War; while the boundaries of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Iraq were established by a British civil servant in 1922, and the frontiers between Moslems and Christians were drawn by France in Syria-Lebanon and by Russia on the borders of Armenia and Soviet Azerbaijan.

The European powers at that time believed they could change Moslem Asia in the very fundamentals of its political existence, and in their attempt to do so introduced an artificial state system into the Middle East that has made it into a region of countries that have not become nations even today. The basis of political life in the Middle East -- religion -- was called into question by the Russians, who proposed communism, and by the British, who proposed nationalism or dynastic loyalty, in its place. Khomeini's Iran in the Shi'ite world and the Moslem Brotherhood in Egypt, Syria, and elsewhere iin the Sunni world keep that issue alive. The French government, which in the Middle East did allow religion to be the basis of politics -- even of its own -- championed one sect against the others; and that, too, is an issue kept alive, notably in the communal strife that has ravaged Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s.

The year 1922 seems to me to have been the point of no return in setting the various clans of the Middle East on their collision courses....
From the lofty perch of their imperial rule, and from a height which allowed them to avert their eyes and their consciences from the bloodshed, murder and suffering unleashed by their uncaring, brutal calculations, it did not occur to the European and American powers that other nations and other peoples were not theirs to dispose of. Such a radical thought has yet to penetrate the barbarian skulls of Western politicians.

I've frequently noted one inevitable result of interventionism before: the first intervention causes dislocations and allegedly unforeseeable consequences, which are then used to justify the second intervention, which in turn causes further dislocations and allegedly unforeseeable consequences, which are then used to justify the third, and so on. In a compelling article from almost a year ago, "Anatomy of a Civil War: Iraq's descent into chaos," Nir Rosen provided critical details and background about the catastrophe that continues to unfold today:
Although the Bush administration has criticized the Iraqi government for not disarming the militias—and this is certainly the most important problem facing Iraq, apart from the occupation—this is an untenable first step. The militias exist because there is no security in Iraq. And when the Bush administration criticizes the Iraqi government for being weak, they forget that they deliberately made it weak and dependent on their dictates. The American failure to provide security has led to the militias. The American sectarian approach has created the civil war. We saw Iraqis as Sunnis, Shias, Kurds. We designed a governing council based on a sectarian quota system and ignored Iraqis (not exiled politicians but real Iraqis) who warned us against it. We decided that the Sunnis were the bad guys and the Shias were the good guys. These problems were not timeless. In many ways they are new, and we are responsible for them. The tens of thousands of cleansed Iraqis, the relatives of those killed by the death squads, the sectarian supporters and militias firmly ensconced in the government and its ministries, the Shia refusal to relinquish their long-awaited control over Iraq, the Kurdish commitment to secession, the Sunni harboring of Salafi jihadists—all militate against anything but full-scale civil war.

When it comes, through the slow progression we have seen so far or through a cataclysmic incident like Sarajevo, or the 1975 Ayn ar-Rummanah bus attack, or another attack like the one on the Samarra shrine, or perhaps the assassination of an important Shia cleric or leader, Sunnis will be cleansed from Baghdad. And the Shias will go to war against Sunnis. The Kurds, having waited for this opportunity, will secede and tell the world they tried the federalist route in good faith but those crazy Arabs down south keep killing each other. Who would want to belong to a country like that?

The Arab world had always been dominated by Sunnis, who make up 85 percent of the world's Muslims. The new Shia Iraq is overturning the Ottoman and colonialist legacies that entrenched Sunnis. Along with Hizbullah's victory against Israel this summer, this will threaten the status quo throughout the Arab world. In Syria, already seen as dominated by the Shia-like Alawi minority that is hated by the Sunni majority, the Iranians recently built a mosque commemorating a battle that Imam Ali lost. The unpopular Sunni regimes of Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, seeing their power wane, can no longer be anti-American or anti-Israeli, having sold out on those issues by supporting the Americans and practically supporting Israel against Hizbullah in July. Instead, they are playing the sectarian card to regain the respect they lost from their population and galvanize them against a new threat, the Shias. Most recently, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak accused Shias of being fifth-columnists, loyal to Iran. ...

If Iraq's Sunnis are targeted on a larger scale the concept of the Iraqi nation-state will cease to be relevant. Salafi jihadis will pour in to fight the hated Shias. Shias will attempt to push Sunnis out of Iraq, for until they can control the key highways in the Anbar leading to Syria and Jordan, their economy will be threatened. Sunnis throughout the region will not tolerate the Shias killing Sunnis or a Shia Iraq. Iraq's Sunni tribes extend into Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere. Their tribal kinsmen will come to their aid, sending reinforcements of men and materiel across the porous borders. Sunni retaliation against Shias or Alawis in Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, and even Afghanistan could provoke sectarian clashes throughout the Muslim world. Kurdish independence could provoke Turkish intervention. At minimum it will push the Turks closer to the Iranians and Syrians, who will have the same concerns of Kurdish irredentism. At some point Iran will intervene, and if it threatens the waters of the Persian Gulf the entire world's economy will be threatened. Iraq's civil war will become a regional war.

Rather than remaking the Middle East, the Iraq war has destabilized it. Sunnis throughout the region who already have so many reasons to hate the United States—Abu Ghraib, the Haditha massacre, the rape and murder of an Iraqi girl, Guantánamo—would now have one more, for the Americans would have handed Iraq over to the Shias. We are seeing the death throes, not the birth pangs, of a new Middle East.

The Bush administration persists in its assertions of progress and clings to the idea that something called victory is possible. What victory? By every measure, life is worse for the Iraqis (leaving aside the Kurds, who don't want to be Iraqis anyway). They are dying by the dozens or the hundreds every day—nobody even knows how many, since the Anbar province and much of the south, and even much of Baghdad, are black holes, with no information coming out. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died violently since the war began, probably eclipsing the number of Saddam's victims. The ministry of health was recently ordered again not to disclose the number of casualties. The United Nations' torture expert has stated that torture in Iraq is now worse than it was under Saddam. Over 1.5 million Iraqis have fled their country, to Jordan, Syria, and Egypt, and in late 2006 one European official in Syria estimated that up to 3,000 Iraqis a day were fleeing into that country.

SCIRI's calls for a Shia superstate have grown more strident, and Sunnis have made their own demands. Already in March 2006 Harith al Dhari reminded the rest of Iraqis that Sunnis had means of their own available: just as there was oil in the south, there was water in the center and the north, and it could be held off until "the barrel of water in the south was worth a barrel of oil," or it could flood the south and drown it. More recently, maps have been circulating on Sunni Iraqi Web sites showing an enlarged Anbar province including Baghdad, Mosul, and the so-called Sunni Triangle in a large Sunni superstate. Iraqi comedians joke about different neighborhoods of Baghdad becoming their own republics. Iraq is dying, falling apart.

America did this to Iraq. We divided Iraqis. We set them at war with each other. The least we can do is stop killing them and leave Iraq.
Of course, we will not leave Iraq, nor will we leave the Middle East. The horrific chaos and violence our actions have set in motion will now serve as the excuse for us to maintain a significant presence in the Middle East for decades to come -- which was the goal all along.

And yesterday, our barbarian mapmakers in the U.S. Senate, led by that notable barbarian, Joe Biden, lent their approval to redrawing the lines again:
[T]he Senate approved a resolution by Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, calling for greater diplomatic efforts and, in particular, a focus on partitioning Iraq into federal regions, in hopes of reaching a political solution and more swiftly ending the war.


Mr. Biden's resolution called on the United States "to actively support a political settlement in Iraq based on the final provisions of the Constitution of Iraq that create a federal system of government and allow for the creation of federal regions consistent with the wishes of the Iraqi people and their elected leaders."

And it said that the U.S. should call on the international community to help and on Iraq's neighbors not to "intervene in or destabilize" Iraq.
The limitless arrogance of these vile politicians is breathtaking. In the context of the U.S. invasion and occupation, the meaningless nod to "the wishes of the Iraqi people and their elected leaders" is worse than insulting. And to demand that Iraq's neighbors not "intervene in or destabilize" Iraq -- after all that we have done and continue to do, and after the genocide that we have caused -- is sickening to an extent that makes accurate description all but impossible.

You should read Nir Rosen's new article, "No Going Back," on the details of the monumental scale of the human tragedy that has resulted from our actions. Here is one critical excerpt:
The American occupation has been more disastrous than the Mongols' sack of Baghdad in the 13th century. Iraq's human capital has fled, its intellectuals and professionals, the educated, the moneyed classes, the political elite. They will not return. And the government is nonexistent at best. After finally succumbing to Iraqi pressure, the Americans submitted to elections but deliberately emasculated the central government and the office of the prime minister. Now Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki is the scapegoat for American failure in Iraq, and there are calls to remove him or overthrow him. But talk of a coup to replace Maliki fails to understand that he is irrelevant. Gone are the days when Baghdad was the only major city in Iraq, and whoever controlled Baghdad controlled the country. The continued focus on the theater in the Green Zone ignores the reality that events there have never determined what happens outside of it. Iraq is a collection of city states such as Baghdad, Mosul, Basra, Ramadi, Erbil, and others, each controlled by various warlords with their own militias. And the villages are entirely unprotected. Maliki will be the last prime minister of Iraq. When he is run out there will be no new elections, since they can't be run safely and fairly anymore, and the pretense of an Iraqi state will be over.

It has become popular with former supporters of the war to blame the Iraqis for the Americans' failure. The Iraqis did not choose democracy or the Iraqis did not choose freedom, Americans like to say, or the Iraqis have to decide to stop killing each other or Iraqis have to "step up." But such complaints misplace the blame. Sunni and Shia Iraqis protested the American occupation as soon as it began, and demanded elections and sovereignty. The U.S. ignored their demands and instead imposed a dictator on them, Paul Bremer, hoping he would pave the way for an Iraqi strongman to rule in our stead. Other former supporters of the war, echoing the simplistic sentiments heard during the Balkan wars, now blame the alleged "ancient hatred" between Sunnis and Shias, who have been fighting each other for "thousands of years." But Iraq had no history of civil war or sectarian violence even approaching this scale until the Americans arrived. Iraq is not Rwanda, where Hutus and Tutsis slaughtered each other and America could pretend it had no role. We did this to Iraq. And it is time the U.S and the international community "step up" to the resulting humanitarian nightmare.
Because U.S. foreign policy is one bloody, murderous lie piled on top of countless bloody, murderous lies, we can hardly expect Biden or any other politician to be honest to any degree at all about what partition means in fact. For that, you should read Chris Floyd, here and here. This is the truth that no U.S. politician will ever utter:
"On the actual day of the relocation operation...." Try to imagine such a day, when millions of Iraqis are uprooted and forced to move to other areas, all under guard by "Iraqi and US-led coalition forces." Actually it's not that hard to imagine, for we have seen it before: in faded photographs and newsreel footage and films like "The Sorrow and the Pity," "Shoah," and "Schindler's List." Less familiar in the popular imagination but perhaps even more apposite are the "relocations" of ethnic populations carried out by Josef Stalin, when whole peoples, such as the Chechens, were uprooted and transported by force to other regions. Or we could of course look closer to home, at the "Trail of Tears," the deadly removal of the Cherokee from their homelands to concentration camps in Oklahoma.

These kinds of scenes are precisely what the clean-limbed O'Hanlon and his partner envisage for Iraq, followed by a life ensnared by checkpoints and passes and internal border controls. It may sound harsh, brutal and inhuman, but not to worry: "For the most part these burdens would be bearable."

....This is what we've come to -- or perhaps, harking back to the Trail of Tears, this is where we came in. Ignorant, arrogant, cowardly elites proposing -- and in Bush's case, inflicting -- vast human suffering on innocent people, driving them from their homes, terrorizing them, killing them. And all of this done for no other reason but to enhance the coddled elite's power, privilege and pleasures.
You can now add the Democratic-led U.S. Senate to the murderers' row that includes Bush, the Republicans, O'Hanlon and the other killers.

One genocide is not enough for the U.S. Senate, for yesterday they also advanced our government closer to the next one:
The Senate approved a resolution today urging the Bush administration to designate Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, and lawmakers briefly set aside partisan differences to approve a measure calling for stepped-up diplomacy to forge a political solution in Iraq.

Since last month, the White House has been weighing whether to deem the entire Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group or to take a narrower step focused only on the Quds Force, an elite unit of the corps. Either approach would signal a more confrontational posture by declaring a segment of the Iranian military to be a terrorist organization.


The Senate resolution, which is not binding, calls on the administration to designate the Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist group and to impose economic sanctions. Even if the White House were to take such a step, policy experts said it was unclear that it would be anything more than a symbolic gesture without the cooperation of other nations.

The measure proposed by Senator Jon Kyl, Republican of Arizona, and Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, an independent of Connecticut who votes with Republicans on war issues, relied heavily on testimony earlier this month by Gen. David H. Petraeus, the commander in Iraq, and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker, the top American political official in Baghdad.

It quoted General Petraeus as saying it is "increasingly apparent to both coalition and Iraqi leaders that Iran, through the use of the Iranian Republican Guard Corps Quds Force, seeks to turn the Shiite militia extremists into a Hezbollah-like force to serve its interests and fight a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq."
You have to hand it to the Washington Democrats and those commentators and bloggers who continue to shill for them. The Democrats count on the American public and their lobotomized lapdogs not to remember significant events from one week to the next -- and the Democrats' enablers willingly render themselves deaf, dumb and blind. The Democrats first put on a phony show of aggressively questioning Petraeus and doubting his propagandistic claims, and very shortly thereafter they rely on Petraeus's lies to set the stage for World War III.

I almost admire the Democrats' defenders in a certain way. The Democrats stab them deep in the gut and, while the knife is disemboweling them, the Democrats continue to lie in their agony-ridden faces -- and the victims still tell these bastards they will continue to support them. This collection of subhumans give sado-masochists a bad name. The commitment to cruelty, self-abasement and self-humiliation is all but perfect. It's no wonder they can regard one genocide after another with equanimity. It appears none of these people has a conscience any longer to be troubled in the smallest degree.

I will not go over the significance of the Revolutionary Guard amendment. I went over that ground in detail in "The Worsening Nightmare." Let it be noted that, if and when World War III destroys much of the world and the comfortable, ignorance-ridden lives of many Americans, neither the Democrats nor their defenders should look to any remotely civilized person for forgiveness. It will not be forthcoming.

So, still another time, I note that murder, chaos, devastation and human suffering on an ungraspable scale are what the U.S. governing class wants. Is it what you want? For many Americans, the answer is: Yes. Yes, it is.

God damn all such people to hell.

FROM THE DEPARTMENT OF UNSOLICITED ADVICE: For any Democrats who read this, and who oppose the Democratic party's program of perpetual war, corporatism and authoritarianism, here's what you can do: Tell the Democrats they have to change or die. Be a quitter.

Let it not be said that I never offer constructive suggestions.

September 25, 2007

Cui Bono? -- and Bush's Monstrous, Deadly Dare

An entry the other day from the frequently insightful Scott Horton at Harper's provides me an opportunity to amplify certain themes. I've discussed these issues before, but further commentary is required so as to dispel common confusions that can arise. The particular confusions involved are of some moment.

In "Cheney's New War Plans," Horton writes:
A thoroughly moderate, wonky international relations expert I know who spends much of his energy evaluating the efficacy of U.S. counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan recently offered this summary of the Bush-Cheney Administration's efforts:
The Bush-Cheney administration has surrendered much of Afghanistan to the Taliban and much of Pakistan to al-Qaida. They have turned most of Iraq over to Iran, creating the very danger over which they now threaten another disastrous war; they have strained the U.S. Armed Forces to the point of exhaustion, turned the Defense Department over to private contractors, the Justice Department over to the Republican National Committee, and the national debt over to foreign creditors, while leading a party whose single most basic belief is supposed to be that individuals must take personal responsibility for their actions. And they dare to lecture us on national security?
Indeed, the guiding star of the Administration appears to be Monumental Stupidity. Presented with two choices, they can be counted upon to pick the wrong one. Which is why the latest chapter in Cheney's maneuverings to launch the next war can come as no surprise. It's par for the course.
Consider the nature of some of the purported "miscalculations" or "stupidities" listed by these two writers. The Bush administration has drastically destabilized the Middle East, setting the stage for a wider war. The next target is unquestionably Iran -- which had been the primary target from the beginning. They want destabilization of the region, and they want a wider war -- for it is by these means that they seek to consolidate United States dominance of the Middle East, guaranteeing our control of the region's resources (among other factors).

The Bush administration has "turned the Defense Department over to private contractors" -- thus enriching certain huge and hugely influential nominally private companies in amounts of many billions of dollars. Not so coincidentally, the same private companies have numerous and intricate connections to many of those in government. The privatization of national defense also means that certain individuals in government have the ability to deploy not just one private army, but an entire series of private armies, to do their bidding, as may be required and for purposes those individuals will determine.

Turning our national debt over to foreign creditors may indeed be a cause for grave concern and an indicator of possible future economic collapse. But such eventualities hopefully lie some years in the future. Carpe diem, and all that. In the meantime, the top one or two percent of Americans -- including many of these same governmental players and their fellow gang members -- are amassing wealth in colossal amounts. All the rest of America, together with large parts of the world, may be going to hell. What's that to them?

In brief: the major actors in the Bush administration are achieving exactly what they want. They may well be about to launch the start of World War III, which will further enrich their corporate friends by many additional billions of dollars. As the favored few continue to amass vast wealth, the government continues to consolidate political power to an extent that makes a future dictatorship fully realizable. They are well on the road to the achievement of wealth and power on a scale rarely if ever equalled in the history of civilization.

To describe such an achievement as the result of "Monumental Stupidity" is, well, stupid. The problem is one of analysis and method, and it is very widespread. Most major commentators (and almost all bloggers) fall into the same error. The aims I have noted -- the amassing of wealth and power, and the drive to regional (and worldwide) hegemony -- are nothing remotely akin to a conspiracy, unless you view aims stated openly and repeatedly, and pursued over a period of decades in front of the entire world, as a "conspiracy."

The key to the nature of the error lies in this phrase: "while leading a party whose single most basic belief is supposed to be that individuals must take personal responsibility for their actions." Both commentators appear to have taken Republican marketing slogans seriously in the precise manner the Republicans hoped they would. And even though these commentators now view the slogans with suspicion and cynicism, it seems the dynamics involved -- and the vast gulf between marketing techniques and the reality of what is transpiring -- still escape them.

I return once again to these critically important observations from 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.
In my recent essay which included this Higgs excerpt, I went on to write:
It is important to recognize the two perspectives and the two kinds of analysis, and to keep them separate. Almost all of our public debate is conducted on the first level of analysis: what various political leaders say their goals and objectives are. In terms of those stated goals, their decisions in foreign policy are uniformly calamitous, and they lead to results that are the opposite of what they claim they hope to achieve. No public figure will admit the truth of the second kind of analysis and, I regret to note, most Americans are not the least bit interested in hearing such unpleasant truths. Nonetheless, they are truths: a huge swath of our economy is now devoted to preparing for war, making war, and cleaning up after war. To one degree or another, most members of Congress are beholden to the economic powers that drive the obsessive concern with war, and its cornucopia of economic opportunity. Both parties are enmeshed in the War State, and the current corporatist warmaking apparatus devours almost all those who go into public service. Until this intricate and complex system is altered, nothing else will change, except in comparatively superficial ways.
It would hardly do for our national leaders to announce the truth:
We have military power of a kind that allows us to do whatever we want, anywhere in the world. We intend to establish worldwide hegemony, baby. And while we're doing that, we and some of our best friends are going to get filthy, stinking rich. Guess what: most of the governing class is in on the scheme -- and there isn't a damned thing you can do about it.
No, that wouldn't do at all. So our leaders talk of "national interests," which can mean anything imaginable that serves the needs of the moment, and of spreading "democracy." To credit such claims requires as astounding degree of ignorance. Ask the slaughtered Filipinos, or the slaughtered Vietnamese, or those slaughtered in Latin America, or the victims of the genocide that continues in Iraq, about "democracy." To believe our government's aims are in fact what our politicians claim them to be is no longer an honest error, not if one watches only 15 minutes of news every few days, even as presented by our wonderful teevee personalities.

While it is not an honest error, it is easily explained. In large part, people continue to delude themselves in this manner because they are overwhelmed by our national myth throughout their lives. Our national propaganda is unrelenting and unceasing: people are taught the myth in school, it is repeated by every mainstream writer and commentator, and it is presented as Holy Writ by our politicians. The United States represents the climax of civilization. As William Pfaff puts it, in writing about the idea that "the American model of society is destined to dominate the world, by one means or another, since it is held to be the culmination of human development":
This conviction is commonly found on both left and right. It was during the Clinton Administration that the secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, proclaimed that Americans see farther than anyone else because they "stand taller." "Globalization" was a product of the same administration, a program for opening deregulated markets worldwide to U.S. investment that was articulated by the administration as part of world society's march towards unification in democracy and market capitalism (and history's end).

It was also under President Clinton that the unprecedented Pentagon system of regional commands was established that now covers the entire world, responsible for monitoring developments in each region and preparing for possible U.S. interventions under a wide variety of scenarios involving challenges not only to U.S. interests but, as it is said, to world order.

Militarized or otherwise, American policy remains under the influence of an unacknowledged and unjustified utopianism. This is the unanalyzed background to the work of all Washington's foreign policy agencies. It permeates the rhetoric and thinking of Republicans and Democrats alike. It is the reason Americans can think that history has an ultimate solution, and that the United States is meant to provide it.
Ever since the end of World War II (and going back to the Spanish-American War and the occupation of the Philippines), the goal of our foreign policy has been world hegemony -- and this is the goal shared and advanced by both the Democratic and Republican parties. It may not serve the purposes of "ordinary" Americans or of foreigners numbering in the millions -- and God knows, it has murdered enough of them (but mostly poor, brown foreigners, so as to prevent unrest among the docile American public) -- but it certainly serves the interests of the ruling elites.

As it goes abroad, so it goes at home. Our bloated, corporatist, increasingly authoritarian government similarly serves the interests of the ruling elites, as the lives of more and more Americans become exercises in mindless stupor. Most Americans are capable of experiencing what passes for "emotion" only when watching the latest stupidity on teevee, or a new Hollywood blockbuster, or contemplating the latest widget offered at the nearby mall. Our government has murdered more than a million innocent people in Iraq. Hey, man, who are you rooting for on American Idol? Our politicians will not tell us or themselves the truth. What murderer willingly admits he is a vicious sadist, undeterred by the screams of his victims as he counts his money? Nor do most Americans wish to acknowledge what their country has become, or the nature of its actions.

So it's all about self-delusion and marketing. We can't speak of genocide or the pursuit of power and wealth by means of mass murder -- so we talk about "American freedom," "spreading democracy" and "national interests." We insist on our "good intentions" and that, no matter the catastrophic devastation that directly results from our actions, we "mean well."

On the domestic front, because the Democrats and Republicans both want and enjoy the fruits of the corporatist, authoritarian state but still vie with each other for control over the mechanisms of power, the two parties have a problem. In terms of basic principles and the interests they serve, they are indistinguishable. The Republicans are primarily financed by and do the bidding of hugely wealthy corporate powers; so are the Democrats. The Republicans have numerous and intricate ties to the defense industry, which makes incalculable amounts of money from our perpetual war economy; the same is true for Democrats. The Republicans want an increasingly repressive surveillance state to ensure their rule and their own lives of comfort and privilege; so do the Democrats.

So why should any voter support one party over the other? This is not to say there are no differences at all between the parties, as we shall see in a moment. But when we consider the deeper level of analysis, we see that the problem is not one of fundamental political principles, since neither party is about to change those. We come back to marketing. The issue is succinctly described in a post at the aptly named, Stop Me Before I Vote Again:
Been exchanging a few e-mails this last day or so with a Pollyanna-ish comrade -- well, Pollyanna-ish compared to me, anyway. A propos the recent Secret Police Enablement Act, passed with the usual indispensable Democratic assistance, my correspondent observed, "Even on this wiretapping bill, Dems voted overwhelmingly against."

This remark reveals, I think, a really substantial error in how people think about parties. It's as if they believed the party could be characterized by taking some sort of arithmetic sum or average of the opinions of the people who comprise it.

But this ignores the fact that the party is an institution with a structure, with mechanisms of operation and levers of power -- levers which are in some hands and not others.

Among Democrats, it's the aisle-crossers who control the party as an institution. They're like the tiller on a boat -- an inch this way or that, and you've tacked. Or gybed, as the case may be.

It's true that if you average up the (expressed) views of Democratic and Republican officeholders you end up with two different-sounding songs. But all the Bernie Sanderses and Dennis Kucinich-es and Ted Kennedys etc ad soporem are in effect lashed to a chariot whose reins are firmly in the hands of the Lantoses and Liebermans. So the ineffectual enlightenment of the former is worse than useless -- it's an actual snare and delusion, like the sweet nectar that draws the poor fly into the flytrap.

I like to think of the two parties as being a lot like McDonald's and Burger King. In practice, they're marketing the same thing, but they're going after slightly different demographics and have slightly different marketing and branding strategies, and slightly different Secret Sauces to mask the rancid flavor of the same low-grade beef.
The analytic problem, as well as the nature of the differences between the parties, are further explained in these reflections from Chris Floyd:
I would like to apologize to the leaders of the Democratic Party for implying in my previous post that they are political cowards. I confess that I was carried away, rhetorically, in the heat of the moment, and was completely mistaken in ascribing their actions on the recent warrantless wiretapping bill to "spineless acquiescence" to the Bush Administration's authoritarian proclivities.

As one of Empire Burlesque's readers pointed out, that phrase was inconsistent with the rest of the piece, for it implied that the Democratic elite were actually opposed to the essence of Bush's authoritarian/corporatist/militarist agenda, and were somehow acting against their will in surrendering to Bush time and again during the past six years. As the reader noted, drawing on Arthur Silber's analysis ... the Democrats "are not spineless or weak. Nobody pushes them to do what they don't want (no matter how much the Digbys would like to explain away their actions that way.). They're completely corrupt and fully, volitionally complicit." The reader also pointed me to a comment they'd left on Glenn Greenwald's takedown of the vote: "It doesn't take any courage to do what you want to do. Just the opposite. They WANT all these things, but can hardly reveal that to their often sincere but easy-to-dupe followers, so they hide behind the 'we were threatened, Bush made us do it, we're spineless, and we don't want to look weak,' meme. They cop a plea to the lesser charge but the truth is, tragically, far more dark."

I think that's exactly right. They cop to cowardice to cover up complicity. As I said in the previous post, the Democratic elite are spawned by the same corrupt system that produces the Republican leadership. They serve, essentially, the same interests. Because no human organization is a complete monolith, there are of course differences in emphasis, different approaches to policy, different constituencies to be served (or snowed) etc. between the two parties. And it may well be, as Noam Chomsky noted before the 2004 election, that even minute mitigations in the operation of vast power structures can translate into real benefits for many ordinary people, simply due to the scale on which such structures operate. For example, it is almost certain that no Democratic administration would have cut off aid to women's health clinics around the world as the Bush Administration has done -- a heinous act that has resulted in death and suffering for untold thousands of the world's most vulnerable people. That is no small thing.

But the fact that one mafia boss gives groceries to Grandma while another one steals her blind and leaves her out on the street doesn't change the fact that both bosses are part of the same criminal system, operating on the same principles of violence, extortion, arbitrary rule and lawlessness.
Two aspects of Chris's remarks deserve further comment.

First, note again the two levels of analysis that I discussed with regard to foreign policy: the difference between the avowed aims of the governing class, and the truth of what is actually going on. If you consider only what our politicians say with regard to their intentions and goals, mysteries abound. If in fact they are in pursuit of peace and democracy, why have we been engaged in endless war, and why are we still? Why have we left nothing but widespread death and destruction in our wake, while our policies remain unchanged in even the smallest degree? But if you look beneath the rhetoric, a task which our politicians and the major media resolutely refuse to undertake, and if you analyze the problem in the way that, for example, Robert Higgs does, the mysteries vanish. The actual powers-that-be are achieving exactly what they want: chaos, war, murder and destruction.

The same dynamic is found in the realm of domestic politics. While both parties are supported by and serve the same interests, to acknowledge that overwhelmingly significant fact would be to give the game away -- and it would provide no one any reason to support one party over the other. So the Democrats insist they want to "end the war" in Iraq, but they refuse to cut off funding for it. The Democrats insist they do not want still wider war, but they pass resolution after amendment after resolution providing full "justification" for an attack on Iran. The Democrats insist they oppose the Bush administration's authoritarianism, but they do nothing to stop the FISA legislation, even though they certainly could have.

If you believe the Democrats actually mean what they say, and if you further believe that the Democrats themselves believe it, you will be unable to make sense of what they do. You will search for any explanation, even one for which you have no evidence and which is entirely unnecessary given what the record reveals. But again, if you look underneath the surface, the mystery and the contradictions disappear. They are achieving exactly what they want. Now, I'm not prepared to say that no Democrat genuinely believes he or she is opposed to authoritarian government or to genocidal war. Perhaps their convictions on such matters have some smattering of authenticity, and the human capacity for self-delusion is endless. But the point is that when it matters, they do not act as if such convictions matter to them -- and they do not vote that way. Nonetheless, the Democrats forever contend that those convictions do matter to them. As one result, they end up looking as if they are cowards, and looking as if they are betraying their true convictions. But they are cowards only if you believe the marketing; if you look to the underlying analysis, you will see that they act in accordance with their actual goals.

Chris's revealing example of aid to women's health clinics also merits further discussion. That is an especially powerful example of the actual differences between the parties. Similar examples would probably include environmental and worker protections, as well as protection of a woman's right to abortion, that is, her right to her own body -- although it must be noted that the Democrats' commitment in these areas appears to be wildly variable and unprincipled, subject to whatever their latest polls indicate is most appealing to voters, and dangerously undependable. Still, if those issues are of great moment to you, the Democrats are certainly preferable to Republicans.

But I urge you to keep in mind the full meaning of the following from Chris's post: "even minute mitigations in the operation of vast power structures can translate into real benefits for many ordinary people, simply due to the scale on which such structures operate." If you choose to support one party over the other because of those "minute mitigations" that "can translate into real benefits for many ordinary people," that's fine -- but intellectual honesty ought to compel you to recognize the great danger you're courting. That danger lies in "the scale on which such structures operate." We are talking here about the massive power of government on a huge scale. A government that has the power to save you also has the power to kill you. When power is institutionalized on a gigantic scale of this kind, as it now has been in the United States, it is easy enough to flip the switch from a policy you abhor to one you approve, depending on who holds power at any given moment. But government is not run by some impartial, unbiased, God-like and fictitious force: it is run by individual human beings. One person may flip the switch in a way you think is wonderful; the next person in control may flip it back again, and slaughter another million people.

You may think that this system is not going to change in the foreseeable future or in your lifetime, so it is better to have at least semi-decent human beings in charge of it. In some circumstances and with regard to certain issues, I might even agree with you. But be clear about the nature of the system you are thereby supporting: one of immense power, that can cut down any one of us if even a single individual in a critical position decides to do so. And given the issues on which the two parties agree at present, I see nothing to recommend the Democrats over the Republicans. They both stand for endless war and global interventionism; they both stand for authoritarianism on the domestic front; and, if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, they both stand for torture. For me, all other issues recede into insignificance. If you make a different decision, at least be honest about the nature of your choice. That's all I ask.

This brings me to my final point: the nature of Bush's deadly dare. In "Dominion Over the World," I am analyzing the continuity of our foreign policy over the last century, and especially since the end of World War II, through Democratic and Republican administrations alike. In "Blinded by the Story," I explored how both Democrats and Republicans have sought to empower a surveillance state of vast power. In many other essays, I have set out voluminous historical evidence for the proposition that with regard to fundamentals, the Democrats and Republicans are after the same objective: a corporatist-authoritarian state, perpetually engaged in preparing for and fighting one war after another, all in the name of global hegemony.

It is true that the style of the Bush administration is notably crude and aggressive. But if genuine, widespread opposition to the administration's policies had existed, Bush would never have been able to enact his program in the first place -- and the Democratic Congress would not ratify and sanctify his crimes, as they have done and continue to do. When one appreciates the historic continuity which gave rise to this abominable administration and without which this administration would not have been possible, and when one considers the particular style in which Bush, Cheney and the rest present their program, it is as if they are saying -- both to the nominal "opposition" party and to all Americans:
We're doing what this government has done for over a hundred years. We start wars of aggression to establish American dominance around the world. We began that policy in the 1890s, and we've never stopped. Sometimes we do it through covert operations, and by toppling regimes that won't do as we demand. Sometimes we simply invade and bomb them.

And we've used torture as a standard means of warfare for decades. We just used to hide it better, and we had better PR about how we weren't "really like that." Some of you even said you wanted torture to be brought out "into the open." So we did that.

Beginning with Woodrow Wilson and even before that, the ruling class has wanted a powerful police state here at home. We never kept it a secret, but we made it go down more easily with flowery talk and nice phrases.

We decided to do away with all the camouflage. We recognized what the actual aims had been all along and we agreed with them, so we decided to bring it all out into the open. We didn't want to waste time with all those nice speeches that make people feel better about themselves. Oh, sure, we still do that to some extent. We have to, because you're not willing to face the truth about what we've been doing around the world for 60 years and more, and what we do today.

But we stripped away a lot of the delusions. We knew no one would stop us -- because this is what you've wanted all along, and it's what you want now. You like making the rest of the world do what we tell them. You enjoy it. And whenever you have the slightest excuse for it, real or imagined, wide scale murder doesn't bother you in the least.

You like it. It's what you want. If it isn't, why don't you stop us? You could, you know. If enough of you made your objections known in ways that mattered, we'd have to stop. We're not worried, because we know you won't.

But go ahead. Try to stop us. Try to stop this war and the wars to come, and the mass slaughter, and the growing authoritarianism. Aren't you going to at least try? Aren't you?

Go ahead. We dare you.
And what's the answer from almost all of you, and from almost all Americans?

Exactly. That's what they counted on. They were right.

September 23, 2007

Let's Make It About You: Can We Stop the Slaughter Now?

Considering the subject matter of this post, I must severely criticize myself in advance. Given the point I will try to make, my own perspective is utterly unimportant. To mention my despair and the sense of bleak futility that pervades my view of my own writing is the height of self-indulgence. But I will mention these factors very briefly, if only to explain in part why my writing now occurs in fits and starts.

I have written repeatedly on certain themes for several years now. I try to present my central ideas in new ways, to offer additional historical evidence for my contentions, and to make connections between seemingly disparate phenomena that I have not addressed earlier. But no matter what I attempt to do here, I make no headway whatsoever. It seems to me that my writing has no effect at all. That certainly has been true with regard to the likely coming conflict with Iran, which is the single greatest catastrophe that lies before us. But my essays have had no discernible effect in connection with any of the threats that hang over our heads. It often seems to me that to continue writing about foreign policy and the destruction of constitutional government in the United States is only my own brand of narcissism. Forces are in play that are far beyond the ability of any of us to influence, short of a massive national strike that continues for a long period of time. To expect complacent, ignorant, self-satisfied Americans to undertake such a project in anything close to the required numbers is a fool's dream.

I mention narcissism because that is our subject here. I've written about the national and nationalistic narcissism that suffuses American government and the American populace generally a number of times. This self-absorption springs from our conviction of "American exceptionalism," and our unshakeable belief that we are "the Good Guys" in a way that no other people ever has been, or ever can be. But as I noted in an earlier essay:
Much of the world now considers us to be a barbarian, pariah nation. From the Philippines, through Vietnam , and via many other interventions in Latin America, the Middle East and around the world, there is a monumental amount of evidence to prove the claim. We can appeal all we wish to the "principles" and "freedom" for which we allegedly stand -- but, and here is the point that most Americans refuse even to consider: to the extent those principles were once genuinely admirable, important and good, they are not operative with regard to our conduct abroad. That conduct arises from entirely different motives and concerns, as I am documenting in my Dominion Over the World series.

To continue to believe that we are "the Good Guys" in some unique manner, people must blind themselves to evidence that crashes over us at least several times a day. People must render themselves unforgivably ignorant, and criminally stupid.
Nowhere is our impenetrable national narcissism more sickeningly on display than in our neverending debate about the humanitarian catastrophe of Iraq. That debate will be as endless as our occupation of that forlorn country, for we are not leaving for decades to come. The contours of the discussion in Washington -- including the fact that almost no one talks of giving up our permanent bases or the nauseatingly grandiose U.S. Embassy in Baghdad -- make that conclusion as unavoidable as it is horrifying.

It must always be remembered that Iraq represented no serious threat to the United States, and that our national leaders knew that critical fact before the invasion began in 2003, just as many "ordinary" citizens did. Thus, the invasion and the continuing occupation represent an unforgivable series of monstrous war crimes. Yet our national conversation discusses only American losses, American costs, and American deaths. When the costs to Iraq and to Iraqis are mentioned, they are given a distant second place, if that. As far as Americans are concerned, this is all about us, and only about us.

In a piece from several months ago, and after discussing Iraqi casualties and the massive refugee crisis (one which our government has no intention of alleviating), I wrote:
And all this with regard to a country that had not attacked us, and that did not threaten us. We had a choice: by definition, we were not compelled, by facts, or morality, or history, or by any other factor, to initiate a criminal war of aggression, an offensive war similar in principle to Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland , a pattern most of our national leaders continually announce they may well repeat with Iran.

The Iraqis -- the dead, mutilated, maimed, and displaced Iraqis -- did not have a choice.
Even now, to listen to our political leaders and to read most commentary, and to note the complete obliviousness of most Americans to the horrors we inflict on huge numbers of innocent people, it is still only about us.

On some occasions, and this is unquestionably one of them, a notably crude and vulgar manner of expression is the only way it is even possible to try to break through the wall of resistance almost everyone has erected. So I repeat part of what I said toward the end of the earlier piece. This is addressed to those Americans whose perspective is so profoundly and sickeningly distorted by this degree of self-absorption -- which is to say, almost all Americans:
In previous articles, I have said that the Iraqi death toll resulting from the U.S. invasion and occupation has almost certainly now reached approximately one million, relying in part on extrapolation from the Lancet study. As this post discusses, that study used methods that are widely regarded as completely legitimate and noncontroversial; in fact, the current administration itself uses studies that employ identical methods when it suits their purposes. Obviously, those methods do not suit their purposes when it comes to assessing the destruction the U.S. has caused in Iraq.

It turns out I was wrong. The toll is likely to be even higher:
In the week in which General Patraeus reports back to US Congress on the impact the recent 'surge' is having in Iraq, a new poll reveals that more than 1,000,000 Iraqi citizens have been murdered since the invasion took place in 2003.

Previous estimates, most noticeably the one published in the Lancet in October 2006, suggested almost half this number (654,965 deaths).

These findings come from a poll released today by ORB, the British polling agency that has been tracking public opinion in Iraq since 2005. In conjunction with their Iraqi fieldwork agency a representative sample of 1,499 adults aged 18+ answered the following question:-

Q How many members of your household, if any, have died as a result of the conflict in Iraq since 2003 (ie as a result of violence rather than a natural death such as old age)? Please note that I mean those who were actually living under your roof.

None 78%
One 16%
Two 5%
Three 1%
Four or more 0.002%

Given that from the 2005 census there are a total of 4,050,597 households this data suggests a total of 1,220,580 deaths since the invasion in 2003. Calculating the affect from the margin of error we believe that the range is a minimum of 733,158 to a maximum of 1,446,063.
In a country that remained civilized to any significant degree, this would be the primary subject of discussion, particularly when that country itself had caused such devastation for no legitimate reason whatsoever.

About this study and the near total silence that has greeted it in the United States, Lew Rockwell writes:
To the extent anyone pays attention to this stuff, they only hear the words of the State Department spokesman: "The bottom line is that the secretary wants to make sure that we do everything we possibly can to avoid the loss of innocent life."

In light of the one million plus figure, such statements come off as evil jokes. The US has unleashed bloodshed in Iraq that is rarely known even in countries we think of as violent and torn by civil strife. It is amazing to think that this has occurred in what was only recently a liberal and civilized country by the region's standards. This was a country that had a problem with immigration, particularly among the well-educated and talented classes. They went to Iraq because it was the closest Arab proxy to Western-style society that one could find in the area.

It was the US that turned this country into a killing field. Why won't we face this? Why won't we take responsibility? The reason has to do with this mysterious thing called nationalism, which makes an ideological religion of the nation's wars. We are god-like liberators. They are devil-like terrorists. No amount of data or contrary information seems to make a dent in this irreligious faith. So it is in every country and in all times. Here is the intellectual blindness that war generates.

Such blindness is always inexcusable, but perhaps more understandable in a time when information was severely restricted, when technological limits actually prohibited us from knowing the whole truth at the time. What excuse do we have today? Our blindness is not technological but ideological. We are the good guys, right? Every nation believes that about itself, but freedom is well served by the few who dare to think critically.
Since Americans' narcissism is so all-encompassing, and because the superior value of American lives and goals as compared to those of all other peoples is regarded as an axiom never to be questioned, let's put these horrors in terms that Americans might understand. Let's make it about you.

For ease of computation, we'll use approximate figures. Assume the U.S.'s war crimes have resulted in one million deaths. That is roughly 1/26 of the total Iraqi population. An equivalent number of American deaths would be 11.5 million people. 3,000 Americans were murdered on 9/11. In terms of casualties, 11.5 million deaths represent 3,800 9/11s -- or a 9/11 every day for ten and a half years.

Let me repeat that: a 9/11 every day for ten and a half years.

Perhaps you think these casualty figures are highly inflated. Fine. Cut them in half. That's a 9/11 every day for a little over five years.

Every day.

Do you begin to understand now? Add to this the refugee crisis, which has displaced about four million Iraqis -- which would be 45 million Americans. Add to that the fact that all forms of civil society have been completely destroyed: you have electricity for a few hours a day at most; employment and food are close to impossible to find for many people; there is nothing approaching a normally functioning school system, or legal system, or any of the other aspects of life that Americans take for granted, assuming they could never be destroyed. How well do you think American society would be functioning if a 9/11 occurred every day for five years -- or ten years?

And neither you nor anyone you know can shop for food, go to work, or do anything else at all without fearing you will be murdered -- or that you will be kidnapped and tortured in ways that may cause you to wish for death.

Consider all this, and then think about the obscenity of a politician like Carl Levin saying, "the U.S. is losing lives and squandering resources while the Iraqis continue to 'dawdle.'" Or consider the unforgivable inhumanity of Hillary Clinton proclaiming:
Our troops did the job they were asked to do. They got rid of Saddam Hussein. They conducted the search for weapons of mass destruction. They gave the Iraqi people a chance for elections and to have a government. It is the Iraqis who have failed to take advantage of that opportunity.
A 9/11 every day for five or ten years.

Every day.

I realize that even this will no difference at all. The killing will go on. The U.S. will be in Iraq for many years into the future, despite the incontrovertible fact that there is nothing we can do to atone for or ameliorate these crimes, except to make those reparations that are possible, whenever they may be possible.

But think about the equivalent of a 9/11 every day for five or ten years. Make the endless, unbearable horror real to yourself. Then, perhaps, you will have the same question I do:
Please, for God's sake, can we stop the slaughter now?

September 21, 2007

Once More into the Land of the Blind

In "Blinded by the Story: Liberals and Progressives as Political Creationists" (written at the time of the Democrats' accession to the genuinely horrific FISA legislation, and before the Democrats' completely typical performance this week), I wrote:
I also note that, following the Senate cave-in, Atrios has dubbed Harry Reid the "Wanker of the Day." Will all this diminish in even the smallest degree Atrios's, or Digby's, or any other leading progressive blogger's efforts to ensure a huge Democratic victory in 2008? Of course not.

The reason for that is very simple, and it goes to the progressives' central articles of religious faith: The Democrats aren't really like this, not in their heart of hearts. The Democrats don't actually favor a repressive, authoritarian state. The Democrats are good, and they want liberty and peace for everyone, everywhere, for eternity, hallelujah and amen.

People who continue to believe this have evicted themselves from serious political debate, and they have willingly made themselves slaves to their enthusiastically embraced self-delusions. They confess a comprehensive ignorance of history, a stunning inability to understand the political developments of the last century, and a desire to place the story they have chosen, primarily because it flatters their own false sense of vanity and self-worth, above every relevant fact. In terms of these dynamics, they are no different from Sam Brownback and his ludicrous defense of his religious beliefs against the evidence of evolution.


Brownback has his story, which he refuses to give up or even to question: "Man was not an accident and reflects an image and likeness unique in the created order." And most liberals and progressives have their story, which they also refuse to surrender: Democrats are genuinely on the side of liberty and peace. If they act in ways that are inimical to those ends, there must be some explanation of which we are unaware. Some other factor must be making them do it, because they would refuse to behave in that manner if they could act in accord with their deepest convictions.
The following is an almost perfect example of the phenomenon I described. Avedon Carol is a wonderfully intelligent, funny and compassionate woman, and she has been a great blog friend to me, for which I am tremendously grateful. I hope we'll continue to be friends after this post.

I came to this post of Avedon's by way of IOZ, who offers an entirely accurate and very brief response to part of Avedon's deeply felt and very angry complaints about the Senate denunciation of the MoveOn ad. But at the end of her post, Avedon engages in some very desperate reaching, so as to avoid certain facts which apparently are too discomfiting to be contemplated:
You know what I want to see people talking about? I want to see people asking whether these Democrats are compromised. I want open discussion of the fact that the Democrats have been voting in ways that are indefensible and that maybe this has something to do with Bush's little program to spy on American citizens. It's not as if there's any reason to think this administration is above doing things we know the Nixon administration did, after all. Maybe what I ought to be asking Mikulski and Cardin is, "What do they have on you?"

Because actually voting in the Senate to condemn Democrats' supporters for supporting the truth is otherwise completely inexplicable. Really. You just don't do that.
This is exactly what I observed about this perspective: "Some other factor must be making them do it, because they would refuse to behave in that manner if they could act in accord with their deepest convictions." And now we know the mysterious X factor that is making the Democrats act in the way they do: BLACKMAIL!

Very sorry, Avedon, but while these ruminations might represent some promising initial thoughts for a juicy Washington novel, they will not do as serious political analysis -- especially when a full and convincing explanation lies spread out before you in open sight. Let's apply Occam's Razor, shall we? In addition to all the issues I discussed in "Blinded by the Story" about the historical record proving what the Democratic party in fact stands for -- which, among other things, is a militarized state which engages in an aggressively and endlessly interventionist foreign policy, coupled with an increasingly authoritarian domestic government -- there are some unpleasant truths about the nature and concerns of our ruling class which are being completely ignored.

I discussed those issues in detail in "The Elites Who Rule Us," as well as in a followup essay, "It's Up to Us Now." From the latter essay, this is the critical point:
[T]o impeach Bush and Cheney for actual constitutional crimes...well, that's an entirely different matter. That would be an occurrence of great moment: it would serve notice that Congress had drawn certain lines and had solemnly announced that certain actions are impermissible to government officials. That would constrain the governing class in its future behavior. Since the Democrats may control all the levers of power after the 2008 election, they themselves might be so constrained as a consequence. That would never do. As I have analyzed in some detail, it must always be remembered that the ruling elites are not like you and me, which is to say they are utterly unlike 99.9% of the Americans they claim to represent. They say they are devoted to fulfilling the wishes of "the people," but that is only the cover used to delude Americans into ceding them more and more power, so that the ruling elites may satisfy those special interests of greatest concern to them (and whose support makes their election possible in the first instance) and continue their own lives of immense privilege and comfort. The ruling elites live in a world entirely unlike ours, and their motivations bear no resemblance to the concerns that dominate the lives of most of us. As the earlier essay discussed, they could not care less about "the people" for the most part. They will only offer faint concessions to "the people's will" when expressions of that will become so overwhelming that the elites' hold on power is thought to be threatened.
In short: the ruling elites do not care what you think. I repeat: they do not care.

Oh, yes, they care to some extent when elections come around -- but any such concern Democratic politicians might have for certain voters' views is obliterated by one consideration loudly and repeatedly announced by almost every liberal and progressive blogger. As I've noted before (with regard to the vacuous, narcissistic bloviating of that great political thinker, Markos Moulitsas), the Washington Democrats know you will continue to vote for them no matter what they do.

When you approach the negotiating table and tell your opponent you'll give him everything he wants before you even sit down, exactly how successful do you think those negotiations will be from your perspective? Yet this is precisely what the liberal and progressive bloggers do time after time after time -- and then they profess amazement when the Democrats act in ways opposed to those same bloggers' views. And note this is not even about all voters' views, just the views of some of them. Since you'll vote for them anyway no matter what they do, why the hell should they care? Sure, you're "alienated" for the moment -- but who are you gonna vote for in November 2008, hmm? They already know the answer to that question.

The ruling class does not care about you or your views. The MoveOn denunciation is an aspect of the performance put on by one part of the ruling class for the benefit of another part. They may criticize each other in certain predetermined ways and within certain narrowly circumscribed limits -- but you may not criticize any of them in ways that go beyond what the ruling class as a whole has decided is acceptable. Wesley Clark has told you that explicitly. Your role -- and your only role -- is to vote for them as required, and then to shut up. Almost everyone in the ruling class has identical beliefs, but they are usually more adept at hiding them from the unfortunately necessary voters (necessary for the moment, at any rate).

But, you might wonder, aren't there any principles at all that deeply matter to them? The answer to that is indisputably: No. There are not, with the exception of perhaps two or three members of Congress. I repeat what I said before: the ruling class is not like you and me. Their concerns are not ours. Their motivations are not ours. Their primary, and often their sole, concern is power: achieving it, maintaining it, and expanding it. Power. That's it. That's the whole thing.

It's hardly a secret. Overwhelming evidence for all these statements, and for all the arguments made in my earlier essays, lies all around you. Take off the blinders -- and look at it.

On the Other Hand...

Huh. I mean, like, wow. Blacks have restaurants that are just like restaurants run by normal people. Even when blacks own the restaurants and most of their customers are black, people just sit there, order food, and have fun. They aren't actually crazy at all! They're just like, well, normal people.

Okay, I realize this is probably very upsetting to some of you, since it challenges your entire worldview and all. So I'm here to tell you that the same thing is absolutely not true about gay restaurants. You may have noticed that restaurants owned by queers and run for a largely queer clientele are very dimly lit, although you could easily have missed this all-important fact since it's practically impossible to see into gay restaurants from outside. Ever wonder why that is?

I know what you're thinking...and you're right! Everyone is having wild, debauched, filthy, nasty, great sex. No sitting there, no ordering food -- but lots of having fun, but probably not the nice, "normal" kind of fun you're likely to think of. Depending on how much you pay, you can have sex with your waiter, or with the waiter and the maitre d', or with the waiter, the maitre d' and the hot guys at the next table, or...well, you get the idea. It's very expensive to go to gay restaurants, especially if you want to have a really good time. That's why all gays are incredibly successful and have so much disposable income. We need the money and lots of it, especially on weekends.

It's also true that all gays who go to gay restaurants -- well, actually all gays, but I don't want to make you feel too bad -- are fantastically gorgeous and have incredibly hot bodies. We're also much, much more well-endowed than straight dudes. Yes, it's all true. We feel sorry for you straights, we really do.

If you doubt any of this, I refer you to perhaps the only unassailable source of wisdom on all matters sociological, sexual, cultural and otherwise. I obviously mean Jonah Goldberg, who wrote about all this a few years ago. Most of the column is about conservatism, Andrew Sullivan and other super-boring stuff, so forget that. For our purposes here, you only need to know that, as far as Goldberg is concerned, the question for (straight) society is: "[W]hat is to be done about gays?" His obvious concern makes me feel all warm and fuzzy. No, definitely not that way.

Here's the great part, which cleared up a whole lot of things for me:
Men are horny goats by design — which is the short answer to why homosexual men are more promiscuous than lesbians or heterosexual men or women: There are fewer speed bumps and toll booths on the road to Getting It On. If society refuses to steer young gay men onto the roads with those speed bumps and toll booths, it's pretty unfair for us to criticize them for speeding. If I were a gay teen (soon to be an essay topic in every public school, no doubt) and I was told that marriage and monogamy were just as shameful as promiscuity — then why the hell wouldn't I take the Nestea plunge into a pool full of buff dudes at a Fire Island beach house?
See? Everything you thought about faggots is true! Just like I told you about the gay restaurants. We are freaks. No marriage for us.

In his column, Goldberg says that gays aren't going to "go away," and that gays will always be here. That's why (straight) society needs to figure out "what is to be done about" us, doncha see. But I think he's wrong. I think if Goldberg himself decided to turn gay, the whole problem would vanish practically overnight. Jonah Goldberg: The Biggest Speed Bump of All. Think about it. Jonah Goldberg, gay.


You know, Angelina Jolie is really hot. I could go for her. Forget about Brad. Oh. My. God. I never thought I'd say that. It's working already! Thanks, Jonah!

(That paragraph of Goldberg's is quite wonderful in a certain way. I can't recall seeing so many incredibly, viciously wrong ideas compressed into so little space in quite a while. Wait, that's not true -- at least not since the last op-ed I read in the New York Times or Washington Post. Sometime, when I have a free week and have read every book ever written, listened to all the opera recordings ever made (including every recital album and all the lieder ever composed by anybody), and solved all the world-shattering questions that have stumped humanity for untold millennia, I'll try to untangle it all. In the meantime, let's Get It On, baby! That was addressed to female readers only. Seriously. No, seriously.)

September 20, 2007

A Nation on the Edge of the Final Descent (I): Glimpses of the Horrors to Come

I. The Current Crisis in Historical Context

Because my title refers to "the final descent" of the United States, I must begin by emphasizing an issue I have discussed in many essays. The destruction of the basic political structure of this country has been a continuing project for well over a century. That destruction has been the purpose of both the Republican and Democratic parties, and it reveals itself in two major ways: through a foreign policy of aggressive, non-defensive interventionism overseas, and by means of an increasingly powerful and intrusive government domestically. It is crucial to see the interconnectedness of these two aspects of the authoritarian, corporatist war state. When states make war, they accrue ever greater powers. Those powers are initially justified by appeals to external threats, which threats are almost always exaggerated and often entirely fictitious. Once the state has acquired those powers, it is a simple matter to alter their focus, and to direct them against alleged internal threats. The purpose in both spheres is always the same: to reduce and eventually eliminate challenges to the exercise of state power, whether such challenges are presented by foreign nations or by domestic dissenters. The ultimate goal is absolute power wielded by an omnipotent state.

As I am discussing in "Dominion Over the World," the United States has been a war state since the Spanish-American War. Beginning with that episode in the non-defensive use of brute military power on the world stage, which was soon followed by the U.S. entrance into World War I (a conflict which had posed no serious direct threat to the U.S., but into which this country's leaders consciously and with careful deliberation chose to insert it), the United States has been perpetually preoccupied with war: preparing for war, fighting endless wars either openly or covertly, and then rebuilding after war. War is our major national product; war consumes an increasingly greater proportion of our national wealth and energies. By such means, the state renders its power unassailable. Perpetual war means the state can create endless opportunities to consolidate and expand its already vast powers.

The current administration is notable for its crudity, its boastful, unapologetic cruelty, and its outright stupidity -- but none of its crimes would have been possible without the policies pursued by Democrats and Republicans alike for many preceding decades. As I summarized this issue in "The Empire at Evening":
With the enactment of the Military Commissions Act, we feel only the vanishing warmth of the final traces of the sun's distant rays, and the shadows lengthen and grow darker. We will not see noon again, or even late afternoon, in our lifetimes.

And all this is not because of George W. Bush, although he has hastened events. How could it be remotely conceivable that such an utterly ridiculous figure would bring down the most powerful nation in the world, even with the aid of his corrupt cabal? He, and they, could not; he, too, is a symptom of the rot that has been eroding the country's foundations for at least a century. Do you think so little of the United States that you truly believe the country you imagine still exists could be destroyed by this?

But Bush is the perfect embodiment of what has brought us here: he captures the arrogance, the determined anti-intellectualism and embarrassing incoherence, the insatiable greed for power and the predilection for violence, and the absolute conviction that fortune and God smile upon him and us as upon no other peoples in the entire span of history, in a single, pathetic, laughable imitation of a genuine human being.

George W. Bush is our fate, and our reward. We have earned him.
I wrote that passage almost one year ago. It remains accurate in every respect. The continuing delusions with which many people seek to console themselves and allay their fears cause me to emphasize one sentence in particular, the meaning of which appears to have escaped many people: "Do you think so little of the United States that you truly believe the country you imagine still exists could be destroyed by this?" If the United States in fact had still existed as the viable political entity that many Americans fantasize about, Bush's crimes would never have been possible in the first instance. If the Democrats represented a genuine alternative in terms of fundamental political principles, they would have taken action to reverse those crimes since taking control of Congress. Most critically -- and particularly if the Democrats cared at all about forestalling an attack on Iran, and preventing widening war and the further entrenchment of the authoritarian state -- they would have begun impeachment proceedings.

But the Democrats have not done this, and they will not. As Chris Floyd wrote recently:
[T]he Bush Administration is now in a far stronger position than it was a year ago.

How can this be? The answer is simple: the United States is no longer a democratic country, or even a degraded semblance of one.
I occasionally see comments to the effect that I am something akin to a prophet of doom, and that I am always announcing that we are about to enter hell on earth. In fact, I have always been careful not to say this, precisely because I cannot know the exact schedule and form of our collapse, just as no one can know such details with any certainty. (I also note that Chris Floyd does not say this either, although he speaks for himself on this point, and many others, with great eloquence.) That the collapse of the United States is coming cannot be seriously disputed. Our economy is a house of cards, as it has been for some time. While it might implode overnight depending on events, it might also fray and shred slowly, over a period of decades. There is no way to know.

In the same way, the extent to which the now terrifying police powers of our government will be applied, and the targets against which they will be directed, cannot be known in advance with any specificity. That, too, will depend on countless factors -- whether the Middle East war widens (or more accurately, when it widens, since that will almost certainly happen under a future Democratic administration if Bush unaccountably fails to accomplish the terrible deed), whether there are further terrorist attacks in the U.S. itself and their severity, etc. Too many variables are in play, and they render particular scenarios exercises in fiction. But the general trend is clear; moreover, history tells us the trend is now irreversible, short of the kind of miracle that does not figure in my metaphysics. There will be further and much more destructive war, and the authoritarian state will make its powers known to the general populace in ways that will constantly increase. Only the timing and the details remain to be determined. Still, for the majority of Americans and as I recently observed, life may continue largely unaltered for some years to come.

Having offered these introductory observations, I note that certain kinds of incidents can reveal in stark and powerful ways the general state of a culture. The public reaction demonstrates what the majority of people are prepared to accept -- and what the government can get away with. Such incidents are barometers of future political developments: if we are attentive to their messages, they can tell us whether people will passively accept whatever actions the state may take, or if they will offer some resistance if the state acts in ways that are particularly cruel and oppressive. Public commentary and debate also reveal to what extent people are eager and willing to obey, and whether certain individuals will say, "No." As I have put it before, such reactions will tell us whether people are with the resistance -- or with the murderers.

One such incident is the tasering of Andrew Meyer earlier this week -- and the general reaction has been horrifying to a degree which is close to indescribable.

II. Torture in Broad Daylight

I assume everyone has seen the incident in question. If you have not, you should watch this video of it, which contains a brief and appropriately bitter commentary at the end, courtesy of Celine Dion.

If people are going to offer opinions about this incident, and in the last few days everyone has had an opinion about it, they ought to know what a taser does and the great dangers that accompany the use of this weapon -- that is, they ought to know if they are even minimally responsible and conscientious with regard to views they offer so eagerly. Almost no such responsibility and conscientiousness have been evident in the national discussion of this subject. The most minimal standards of basic decency have also been notably absent from the debate.

Here are some excerpts from an article from 2005, which provides some necessary background:
Feb. 17, 2005 – The death of a 54-year-old and the hospitalization of a 14-year-old after police stunned them with a controversial weapon last week in Chicago are the latest in a growing number of debatable uses of the potentially deadly Tasers, which is sparking community outrage across the country. The teenager went into cardiac arrest last Monday after police shocked him with the 50,000-volt weapon, and although he survived, another man died after police shocked him on Thursday.


Since June 2001, more than 70 people have died in police custody in the US and Canada after being struck with Tasers, with the number of reported cases rising each year, according to a November 2004 report by Amnesty International, a worldwide human rights organization. In five of these cases, an autopsy found that the Taser shock was a main cause of death. In several others, coroners’ reports identified the Taser as a likely contributing factor.

Additionally, the weapon’s critics maintain that many deaths in which the Taser has not been implicated could, in fact, be related to electrical shock from the device. Amnesty International commissioned a forensic pathologist to review some fatal cases in which Tasers were used. In some cases he found that, in addition to the "official" causes of death, which are often listed as heart failure, drug use, or head injuries, Tasers may have contributed.

The guns typically work by firing a pair of pronged darts that latch onto clothing or skin and send a 50,000 volt shock into the body in five-second bursts, which overrides the subject’s central nervous system, causing uncontrollable contraction of the muscle tissue and instant collapse. The darts are attached to wires, which can reach up to 21 feet. People who have been "tased" report extreme, debilitating pain.
All of this should be sufficiently horrifying to anyone who still retains a shred of humanity and decency, but it is still not the worst aspect of the use of tasers.

This is the worst:
The Amnesty study found that Florida is the state in which officials have been most enthusiastic about Tasers. There have been 17 deaths in Florida in Taser- related incidents since 2000. The deaths, the use of the weapon on children and the refusal by most police departments to reconsider their policies is fueling public opposition. On January 12, a Lakeland, Florida police officer shocked 17-year-old Soladoye Oyelowo because he was in the way of the officer who was running to break up a fight between two girls. "Why couldn't he push them out the way?" asked Theodora Oyelowo, the students’ mother, speaking to the Lakeland Ledger.

It is those questionable uses of the weapon that undermine the company’s claim that Tasers decreased use of force. Some law enforcement agencies say that with the introduction of Tasers, the use of guns by officers has gone down, and while Amnesty agrees that an electric shock is often more preferable than a bullet, the group’s analysis finds that because they are perceived as "non-lethal," police often use Tasers when there is no need for any use of force at all.

A statistical analysis of 2,050 Taser field applications across the USA, produced for Taser International in November 2002, showed that in 79.6 percent of cases the suspects were unarmed.

A study by the Denver Post in May 2004 found that the Denver Police Department commonly used Tasers to gain compliance, not to avoid other forms of violence. The Post additionally found that officers sometimes even shocked handcuffed suspects with the painful device.

The Portland, Oregon newspaper Willamette Week, has reported on Oregon police using Tasers on people for nonviolent offenses, such as littering, jaywalking, and failure to obey an officer.
In brief: tasers can kill people, or cause very serious injury; tasers are "commonly gain compliance" -- from people who are usually unarmed and who pose no serious threat whatsoever; and tasers are frequently used on suspects who have already been subdued and immobilized.

See the connection, and the similarity: the United States launches criminal wars of aggression against nations which constitute no serious threat to it, and which are known to constitute no serious threat -- for the sole purpose of gaining compliance, that is, of installing governments in other countries that will act in accordance with our demands. This has long been the purpose of our interventionist foreign policy: to ensure that other countries act in accordance with our orders, even when genuine issues of national defense are altogether absent. America is God. God's Will be done. Even after the catastrophe of Iraq, leaders of both political parties threaten war against Iran, another nation that does not threaten us, because Iran dares to thwart our will.

Is it any wonder then that, within our own borders, law enforcement will use potentially lethal weapons in the absence of any serious threat -- simply to gain compliance? When the state decides that your behavior matters, you will obey. Yes, you may engage in debate -- within the parameters established by the state. Yes, you may ask questions -- if the state approves them. If you dare to step outside the boundaries set by the state, you will be brought into line, by force as required -- and by possibly lethal force. The United States government murders a million innocent people who never threatened it; of what significance is the life of a single student, especially since he's a "troublemaker" anyway?

In the next part, we will consider the questions asked by Meyer, what kind of "threat" he represented -- and some of the reactions to this incident, which were uniformly awful across the political spectrum. And then, with invaluable assistance from Hannah Arendt and Alice Miller, we will examine the cultural and psychological factors that are involved in the horrors of this week -- and that tragically will be involved in the horrors still to come.