October 16, 2007

A Nation on the Edge of the Final Descent (II): A Culture of Lies, and a Desperate Need for Action

Part I: Glimpses of the Horrors to Come

Before we consider the nature of the questions put to John Kerry by Andrew Meyer, together with the implications of what happened at the University of Florida and the reactions to it (here's a video of the incident, once more), let us take several steps back. Let us try to describe the general nature of our national conversation, and of our political debates.

To even raise this subject, is to run into nearly insurmountable difficulties at the outset. It is not simply that our national discourse rests on a foundation of evasions, complicated by equivocations, twisted by avoidance, and rendered into meaningless insignificance by an uncountable series of lies. All of that is true, but it fails to capture the quality that is most striking to the perceptive observer. That quality is one of overwhelming, oppressive and suffocating unreality. It is as if everyone knows, but will never acknowledge, that we may speak only in code, and that we may only utilize the safe, empty phrases that we have agreed are "acceptable" -- phrases and language that are safe precisely because they have been drained of all correspondence to facts. It is as if everyone realizes, but will never state, that we are engaged in an elaborate charade, a pageant of gesture and indication, where substance and specific meaning have been banned. On those extraordinarily rare occasions when a politician appears who speaks the truth on any subject -- for example, a Ron Paul, or Mike Gravel, or Dennis Kucinich (and whatever one's disagreements with these individuals, all of them speak the truth on certain crucial subjects) -- such persons are regarded as kooks and crazies, and they are treated as objects of derision and ridicule. It is impermissible that they be taken seriously, or that they be allowed to hold the public's attention for any appreciable length of time. And it is absolutely forbidden that they ever attain a position of notable influence; the governing class, including its indispensable adjunct, the corporate media, will make certain of that.

For this is where we are in the United States, nearing the end of the Year of Our Lord 2007: the truth is not merely unpleasant, an uninvited guest who makes conversation difficult and awkward. Truth is the enemy; truth is to be destroyed. To attempt to speak the truth on any subject of importance requires a deep reserve of determination, for to speak the truth requires that one first sweep away an infinite number of rationalizations, false alternatives, and numerous other failures of logic and the most rudimentary forms of thought -- as well as the endless lies. On that single occasion in a thousand or a million when a person overcomes these barriers and speaks the truth, he or she discovers an additional, terrible truth: almost no one wants to hear it. This is how we live today: lies are the staple of our diet. Without them, we would die, certainly in psychological terms.

The United States is in the fifth year of a criminal, illegal occupation of a country that never threatened us. The occupation follows a war of aggression and conquest, an international crime that violates the Nuremberg principles. The Nazis fabricated a series of lies to justify their invasion of Poland; the United States did the same with regard to Iraq, and now does the same in preparation for an attack on Iran. The United States set in motion a series of events that has led to the deaths of one million innocent Iraqis, and probably more. The deaths will go on for at least several years to come; the United States will remain in Iraq for decades, probably for the rest of your lifetime. In this manner, the United States has made itself an international criminal, and a world outlaw. It did all this not out of any credible concern for self-defense, however slight, for Iraq never represented any serious threat to us, as much of the rest of the world (and many Americans) well understood in the winter and spring of 2002-2003. The United States did all this because the ruling class is intent on world hegemony; both parties are committed to this goal, and no major national politician opposes it. It did all this because it could, and because no one could stop us -- and because we will have our way. If other countries will not obey us, they will be bribed, coerced and otherwise manipulated, and -- if they persist in their disobedience -- destroyed.

But none of this is to be discussed. Instead, we speak of "liberation," and of "spreading democracy." Even the most strident of "respectable" critics of our foreign policy point only to the Bush administration's "incompetence," and to how badly it "bungled" the invasion and occupation of Iraq. It is understandable that you might have thought the twentieth century had forever ended contemplation of "competently" executed genocide -- but you would have forgotten the power of lies, and what happens to a culture steeped in lies. We are America the Good, the Noble, the Virtuous. We represent, in William Pfaff's phrase, "the culmination of human development." A Democratic administration in 2009 may "provide[] a less abrasive and more courteous version of the American pursuit of world hegemony," as Pfaff expresses the point -- but the basic policy will remain the same. Yet if you identify any of these truths, you are "extreme," or crazy, or a troublemaker. You are not "respectable," you are not to be treated with any degree of seriousness, and you are not to be listened to.

Here at home, the basic foundation of liberty -- habeas corpus -- has been destroyed by the Military Commissions Act. This is an occurrence of momentous significance; as I suggested in "Thus the World Was Lost," this may be the turning point that future historians identify as the moment when the final destruction of the United States as a constitutional republic became inevitable. But you would never know this from our national debate. One or two forlorn Democrats will mention restoring habeas corpus from time to time. But the Democrats have been in charge of Congress for almost a year, and this is obviously not a matter of great urgency to them -- for they have yet to do anything. I repeat: habeas corpus is the foundation of all our liberties. Without habeas corpus, nothing else matters. A few Democrats say they understand this point, but they do not act as if this overwhelmingly significant issue has any reality to them.

And no one speaks of repealing the Military Commissions Act. If anyone in Congress actually gave a damn about liberty and civilization on the most basic level, that is what they would discuss, and they would discuss it all the time. For the Military Commissions Act did not simply destroy habeas corpus; it also established the state's use of torture as an acknowledged, acceptable, standardized means of governance. All the Democratic presidential candidates have recently condemned torture as an element of official government policy -- although I am not aware that anyone has asked Hillary Clinton why she has apparently altered her previously expressed approval of a supposedly narrow "exception" to the prohibition against torture, and if she now rejects her own earlier view. But as long as the Military Commissions Act remains the law, all such condemnations are meaningless, and they deserve to be disbelieved. If any of these politicians were seriously opposed to torture, repeal of the Military Commissions Act would be among their very highest priorities.

So the United States has destroyed the foundation of liberty, and it has enshrined state torture as a legitimate means of government. This is very rarely discussed or acknowledged, and no one acts to change it. But we are not to speak of this. For all our major politicians and all our leading commentators, the United States remains "the last, best hope of Earth." On the actual record, and if our national leaders were correct in their view that the United States is the only nation that genuinely matters for the future of the world (they are not), mankind should surrender all hope now. But to say any of this makes you "crazy" and a troublemaker. You are not "respectable." You should shut up.

At present, the United States is the leading international murderer, and it murders on a monumental scale. And it appears determined to launch still another campaign of destruction and of possible genocide, against Iran. Every leading national politician agrees with Hillary Clinton's position, as expressed in this Foreign Affairs article:
Iran poses a long-term strategic challenge to the United States, our NATO allies, and Israel. It is the country that most practices state-sponsored terrorism, and it uses its surrogates to supply explosives that kill U.S. troops in Iraq. The Bush administration refuses to talk to Iran about its nuclear program, preferring to ignore bad behavior rather than challenge it. Meanwhile, Iran has enhanced its nuclear-enrichment capabilities, armed Iraqi Shiite militias, funneled arms to Hezbollah, and subsidized Hamas, even as the government continues to hurt its own citizens by mismanaging the economy and increasing political and social repression.

As a result, we have lost precious time. Iran must conform to its nonproliferation obligations and must not be permitted to build or acquire nuclear weapons. If Iran does not comply with its own commitments and the will of the international community, all options must remain on the table.

On the other hand, if Iran is in fact willing to end its nuclear weapons program, renounce sponsorship of terrorism, support Middle East peace, and play a constructive role in stabilizing Iraq, the United States should be prepared to offer Iran a carefully calibrated package of incentives. This will let the Iranian people know that our quarrel is not with them but with their government and show the world that the United States is prepared to pursue every diplomatic option.
My all-embracing cynicism is woefully inadequate to this moment. I had entertained a vague notion that the leading presidential candidate of the nominal "opposition" party, a woman who has offered numerous remarks purportedly critical of the Bush administration, would be reluctant to repeat the administration's Iran propaganda word for word. We might note the various critical assertions for which no proof whatsoever has yet been adduced: that Iran "uses its surrogates to supply explosives that kill U.S. troops in Iraq," for example, or the statement that Iran has a "nuclear weapons program" -- which Iran has repeatedly denied. And, I repeat, an assertion for which no proof exists or has been offered.

But there is a hugely notable omission in Clinton's formulation of her Iran policy, and it is critical that we appreciate what it is. This is the key sentence: "If Iran does not comply with its own commitments and the will of the international community, all options must remain on the table." According to the IAEA, Iran has complied "with its own commitments"; in fact, Iran has voluntarily undertaken commitments that it was not obliged even to consider. And the meaning of "the will of the international community" is clear enough: this refers to "the will" of those countries that the United States manipulates, cows and coerces into adopting its position, whether the other countries in question view that position as legitimate or even sane themselves. And there are a number of countries whose "will" is very different on this question. But those nations are not part of "the international community" as we choose to define it for our own purposes.

And everyone knows -- although no one will state explicitly -- the meaning of that last vile phrase: "all options must remain on the table." That means one thing, and only one thing: if Iran does not do exactly as we say, we reserve the "right" to attack it, to bomb it, and to destroy it -- just as we have destroyed Iraq. But note what Clinton does not say: she does not postulate that Iran has directly threatened the United States, or that it has even indicated it wishes to threaten us. She does not imagine that Iran has attacked the U.S., or that evidence exists that it plans to do so. No, Iran's crime would be of an altogether different kind: Iran will not have conducted itself in the manner that we demand. This has nothing at all to do with self-defense, if that phrase remains even tenuously tethered to reality. But it has everything to do with the title of my ongoing foreign policy series: "Dominion Over the World."

Clinton has enunciated this position before. The ultimate meaning of this foreign policy stance is what I indicated at the conclusion of that article: "America is God. God's Will be done." Other nations must do exactly what we tell them to do, and nothing else at all. If they do not, we have the "right" to destroy them.

This is the meaning of American world hegemony. These are the utterances of a genocidal murderer, without conscience and without remorse. These are among the reasons I have said the United States is infinitely worse than a murderer like Cho Seung-Hui. An attack on Iran by the United States might lead to the deaths of millions, and to worldwide war, possibly with nuclear weapons. No matter. Very few Americans seem to be troubled by a million or more deaths in Iraq. What's another two or three million dead, even if the murdered individuals never threatened us, and never could have? (Furthermore, as I discussed in detail here, even an Iran with nuclear weapons, which possibility lies at least five or more years in the future, would represent a danger that could certainly be contained, if it represented a danger at all.)

But none of this is to be discussed. In the last several years, we have caused the deaths of a million or more innocent people. The United States has committed crimes on a scale that defy comprehension. This fact is almost never mentioned by our leading politicians and commentators. And now all our leading politicians lay the groundwork for another act of still worse, monstrous, criminal aggression -- but we discuss it as if it is our "right" to wreak destruction, suffering and death, in the name of "self-defense" and "civilization." Lies, on top of criminality, on top of genocide, both accomplished and planned. Lies and destruction without end, and facts and reality are banished altogether.

And yet we talk about none of this. If you do, you're a crazy troublemaker. No one should pay attention to you, and you will be shunned.

It was in this cultural setting that Andrew Meyer asked his questions. His second question concerned Iran (we assume Kerry discussed Iran in his lengthy remarks, which ran longer than scheduled, thus conveniently reducing the time for questions significantly). Meyer wanted to know this: why, if Kerry is so concerned about Iran, isn't Kerry urging impeachment of Bush now, before he can order an attack on Iran? Meyer pointed out that Clinton was impeached for a blowjob, for God's sake. Shouldn't Bush be impeached now, before another monstrous crime is committed -- and before a possible world war is begun?

At this moment in history, and in view of the stakes involved -- which stakes involve literally the future of the world and of civilization, to employ those words with their genuine meanings for once -- that is the question that should be asked of every national leader at least once a day, and preferably a hundred times a day. It is the question that should be asked all the time, of everyone. It is the question that should be asked of every Democratic member of Congress all the time, every day. Almost no one asks it. Democrats and their partisans continue their dull-witted fixation on the 2008 elections, forbidding themselves and anyone else to acknowledge that by then, it may be far, far too late. Major actors in the Bush administration have longed to attack Iran for years, and they have never tried to hide it. Now, their viciously murderous purpose is being aided and abetted by leading Democrats such as Hillary Clinton.

And no one will ask: Why don't you act to stop this insanity?

Andrew Meyer asked that question. The prospect of an attack on Iran appeared to upset him a great deal, and he wondered why Kerry wasn't more upset than he seemed to be. Why aren't you more upset? Why aren't you asking that question? Why don't you act to stop this? Almost eight months ago, I offered a number of practical suggestions to try to avert this looming catastrophe, one with effects that are likely to stretch across the globe. With very few exceptions, no one gave a damn about them.

The first of those suggestions involved the placement of a series of newspaper ads. I am unable to raise the necessary funds and do all the required work myself -- but if several people (including, I would hope, one or two bloggers with readerships far larger than mine) were willing to assist me, I'll help write the ads and get them placed, if it seems at all possible to raise the money needed. (And as I've stated many times before, if you have different and better ideas, I'd be most grateful for them.)

No one else will do it. So I will, or at least try to. Your help is needed, and a lot of it. If no one wants to help to try to stop this nightmare, that means you don't give a damn either. If that turns out to be the case, to hell with you.

In the next part, I'll consider the Meyer incident in more detail and begin to examine the most common reactions to it -- as well as the underlying causes for those reactions, and their meaning.