August 31, 2008

It's Kinda Like The Three Stooges on Acid, with Fully-Loaded AK-47s -- and All the Doors Are Locked!!

Aw, chill, Lambert. Everything's gonna be fine. Just like my title says., honest! They'll unlock the doors any minute now...any minute...any...

About, ah, this...
Barack Obama must be elected President of the United States. It's his worldview, his clarity of judgment, and his just plain right-mindedness that resonate with me. Figuring that my efforts were best spent raising money for the campaign, I have thrown myself into a new world—one in which fluffy chatter and frivolous praise are replaced by a get-to-the-point directness and disciple-like devotion.
"[H]is worldview..." Military intervention forever! Bombs unto eternity! America Is God, Her Will Be Done! No cheap shots now. It's a program.

"[H]is clarity of judgment..." Can't disown Wright! No, he can't! Oh, YES, HE CAN! So what if he has to lie about every issue of immense significance. It's a program!

"[H]is just plain right-mindedness..." Oh, for Christ's sake.

She has more, much more!
[W]hen I attended my second "Obama Live" fund-raiser last week at New York City’s Grand Hyatt, another public spectacle came to mind with which I am much more familiar: the designer fashion show.
Priceless. Way to get rid of that "fluffy chatter"!

Actually, though, not exactly priceless:
I have to confess I felt a certain shame that the dress I wore—a bright-red Prada number from next season that my former boss, Carol, insisted I buy the day before—cost more than the $1,000 ticket to the event itself. After surveying the large crowd, however, I quickly realized that this dress was a big standout in a sea of black, brown, and grey. How this paid off I’ll share in a moment.
From next season. You sly operator, you. But how much more than the $1,000 ticket? Hmm? Where, oh where, did that "get-to-the-point directness" go?

And you know, you just know, how the dress "paid off":
Obama was moving quickly and just passed me by. Then, in a moment of divine intervention [I do not believe, no, I do not, that she is speaking figuratively], he saw me, clad in my red stop-sign of a dress, back-tracked ever so slightly in his procession, grabbed my hand, and gave that brilliant smile of his. I literally said out loud to the woman next to me who witnessed my good fate, "I’ll never wash this hand again."

This is campaigning -- just as it will be governing -- of, by and for the ruling class.

Here I had thought the Bush Brawlin' Bozos had already made the United States the laughingstock of the world -- when you're not trying to retrieve your bloody limbs or your destroyed life from under the wreckage, you understand. But liberals of a certain kind constantly reassure us that they can do everything better than the Republicans. And whaddya know, they were telling the truth!

There's nothing at all to worry about. Just move on to the next alternative universe. If you're not clued in to doing that, drop me a note. Easy as pie. Pie! Mmmm.

In the meantime, as I often note nowadays, this campaign is a goddamn laff riot. As I said, laugh at the nightmare, and the nightmare laughs back!

Then it kills you.

Silenced: Barack Obama and the End of Struggle toward Truth and Freedom

At the opening of, "Psst -- While You Were Gibbering, the Ruling Class Rigged the Game and Won Everything," I discussed the overwhelming number of lies told on every subject of importance in America today and the ease, indeed the enthusiasm, with which most Americans accept and spread those lies. As I often do these days, and as is necessary given the huge number of lies attendant upon his person and candidacy, I mentioned Barack Obama: " All this means that it is Obama himself who has adopted the white racist framework. Yes, I repeat that: Obama has adopted the white racist framework with regard to every issue of importance."

I expressed a crucially related aspect of the same idea this way:
Very interestingly, however, [Uri] Avnery neglects to mention a further critical reason for Obama's identification with "American whites," although he hints at it. That reason is one I discussed in the first part of my "Triumph" series, and it must never be forgotten. It's a simple and terrible reason: Obama wants power. This is not a secondary or related, tangential issue: we are talking about politics here, so it is the reason. He wants power. In America, if you want power, you must be white -- or you must adopt all the trappings of the white rulers. That's it, that's the whole thing. Power accrues to the white, male ruling class. Period.
I have developed this theme at length in a number of essays over the past months:

Obama's Whitewash

The Triumph of the White, Male Ruling Class

Choosing Sides: Part I ("'Why America May Go to Hell,' and Feeling Young Again")

Part II ("Killing Truth and Hope -- The Fatal Illusion of Opposition")

Part III ("Let the Victims Speak")

Are You Now or Have You Ever Been...a Racist?

Songs of Death

The Hideous Horror of the Biden Selection

You will find a fascinating and provocative discussion of these ideas and many related issues, illuminated by much personal detail and by carefully developed arguments, in an extraordinary essay from February of this year which I just happened upon: Juan Santos', "Barack Obama and the 'End' of Racism." I strongly recommend that you set aside some time to read the entire article so that you have the opportunity to take it in fully and reflect upon it. Here I will offer only selected passages.

We should note this autobiographical background at the beginning (the italics in these excerpts are his, the highlights are mine):
Barack Obama deeply troubles me. As a Mexican who grew up in a Black neighborhood in the U.S. at the height of the Black Power era, I absorbed Black people's rage- their righteous rage with the aim of justice and, ultimately, with the aim of healing - until it had sunk into my very bones. It was not a rage aimed at me; and no one "taught" it to me, no one schooled me in it. School was just everyday life...
When he was older, Santos collided with the white middle class:
Growing up on the border I grew up on was not exotic; nor did I think of it as a kind of crucifixion or torment. It was just normal. The Black world and my odd presence in it were just normal. The sense of torment would only come later, when I learned that I reacted to white middle class bullshit – the "polite" evasions of naming the daily realities of power and pain that characterize the white middle class – just the way any Black youth of my time would have reacted. They dumbfounded and enraged me. It took a long time to get that they are not just outright phonies, straight-up deliberate hypocrites, almost every one of them - but that they don't see - and that for that reason, they are very dangerous to those who do. My reality was not their reality.

Today, I am blessed to have a radical white friend, Tim Bennett, who gets this clearly. He calls white people like this "Not-Sees." His pun is intentional. But I didn't get the white world at all as a kid. They just enraged me. Not one of them talked straight, as far as I could see. The "nicer" they were the more they enraged me.

The real torment came later, when I had to learn, not only to see, but to fully articulate what I see.
The following is crucial. I recommend that you read it more than once, and think about it for a long, long time:
Millions of people from the oppressed nationalities in the US remain silent; and it’s not just that white people don’t care about oppression – it’s that we are punished for speaking out, for saying what we really see.

Here’s one simple example. About half the workers at my place of employment are people of color. Supervisors are hired in-house, as a rule. The boss is a “liberal” white woman in a company whose work is devoted to “liberal” causes. She came to our office after busting a union on behalf of the company in another city. In her first year and a half here not a single person of color became a supervisor. In my case, she tried to fire me – she sent my case to the corporate president and the corporate lawyers to see if they could fire me for having organized a union in another, similar workplace in the past. I came to work every day for four and a half months last year not knowing, if, that day, I would be fired. That’s the way it is, that’s the atmosphere white Amerikkka - liberal and conservative alike - has created for poor people and minorities.

Yes, of course, those of us who work there are the working poor. The “passionate” liberals who run the company act like they never heard of a living wage - but there is a shelf in the kitchen with “free food” for the people whose paycheck didn’t stretch far enough this week. It’s bought with money the liberal boss solicits from the workers. No one says anything. We all know the nature of the white liberal façade; We all know we’ll be punished if we speak up, if we demand equality in hiring or a raise, much less a living wage. So, our rage simmers in a pot with a tight lid. There’s one guy, though, who has blown up at work a couple of times over racist incidents at work. He’s one of the company’s most productive employees. I was told by a lower level supervisor that he was passed over for a promotion only because he’d gotten angry on the floor about racism – he’d created “conflict.” He wasn’t trustworthy.

So we stay silent, as a rule, on the job. We stay silent as a rule, in the white world.

Barack Obama is the living symbol of our silence. He is our silence writ large.

He is our Silence running for president –

With respect to Black interests, Obama would be a silenced Black ruler: A muzzled Black emperor. A Black man at the head of the White Amerikkkan State – one who’s unwilling to speak truth to power, but more than willing, like a Condi Rice or a Colin Powell, to become that power and to launch wars of aggression against other people of color
The following are some of the points Santos explicates in his deeper analysis:
[T]hat’s the Obama equation. Keep your Black/ Brown mouth shut and you can “succeed.” And you can still feel “clean.” Here we have the real story behind Obama’s portrayal of his squeaky clean-ness. Yes, Black man, yes, Black woman, you can have power in this killer-racist system and stay “clean.” In Obama’s carefully constructed image lies a symbolic resolution of a profound inner conflict that all people of color in the US face in their daily lives.

Obama plays the role of a Black Cinderella. He does for Black folks what Cinderella does for girls. He shows that oppression and silence can be good for you – at least if you are the one the prince chooses, or if you are the one who gets to be the prince. It’s total fantasy. It’s a glass slipper that will break at the arch and be turned on us like a broken beer bottle or a jagged-edged knife; the same knife Obama has threatened to turn on the people of Iran and Pakistan


Many people, nonetheless, think Obama is the realization of Dr. King’s dream. The power of this archetype is immense. It’s why the completely empty catch-phrase “Change” works for him, and it’s the deeper reason for the quasi-religious wave of “Obama fever.” Obama is Cinderella and King’s Dream rolled into one. He’s even had the myth of Kennedy’s so-called “Camelot” invoked on his behalf. For many, he’s not only phenomenally charismatic, but irresistible. There’s even been talk of an “Obama Cult.” {The comments at this link, many of which attack the essay, are every bit as interesting as the essay itself.}

But, if Obama is the realization of King’s dream, then the price of the dream is silence. And, as the slogan goes, “Silence = Death.” If Obama is the realization of King’s dream, then the price is silence about the oppression of Black people - and the abandonment of the millions locked away under the conditions of mass incarceration that have replaced Jim Crow. If Obama is the realization of King’s dream, then being Black means being white – then Black is white, or at least it’s Black on white terms. It’s a Blackness that dare not speak its name.

Obama’s shot at the presidency doesn’t signal the end of racism in the U.S. It is made possible, rather, by the new form racism itself has taken, a form that offers a prison cell to poor people of color, and, for the middle class, on the other hand, an Apartheid-style pass card stamped “SILENCED.”


Obama knows the rules of the game, after all - he is the rules of the new race game- his candidacy itself is a manifestation of the new system of racism.

He knows how to make white Amerikkka feel good about the status quo, here and abroad.

There’s a reason for that.

If he told the truth, if he stood up for justice, and on that basis, authentic healing, he couldn’t be president.

Under those circumstances, if he’d attracted any measurable attention, much less the global attention he’s gained today, more likely be dead.

Like King.

Like Malcolm.


Barack Obama, in the meantime, says that the invasion of Iraq was misdirected. It was the wrong war. The Empire’s real enemy, he says, lay elsewhere.

He says nothing at all about the War at Home against his own people.

It’s not after all, that racism is over. It’s that whites imagine that they can now be at peace about it – that the race war in Amerikkka is over as a two-sided affair. Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report, in a fascinating and important debate with Michael Eric Dyson, says the Obama campaign is "relentlessly sending out signals to white people that a vote for Barack Obama, an Obama presidency, would signal the beginning of the end of black-specific agitation, that it would take race discourse off of the table." Ford says, “Barack Obama does not carry our burden, in addition to other burdens. He in fact promises to lift white-people-as-a-whole’s burden, the burden of having to listen to these very specific and historical black complaints, to deal with the legacies of slavery. That is his promise to them.”

An exhaustive NAACP report indicates that there is very little difference between the stances of Obama and Clinton on issues important to Blacks. Others have noted the centrist nature of the Obama campaign more broadly. Black legal scholar Vernellia Randall, of the University of Dayton, Ohio, says that Obama has No specific plan for addressing institutionalized racism, and that he doesn’t even acknowledge the issue. (Others have noted the centrist nature of the Obama campaign more broadly.)

In the white imagination, Barack Obama represents, not the “End of Racism” (racism has an experiential, existential meaning for only the barest sliver of the white population), but, he represents, rather, the end of the struggle to end racism.


Obama doesn’t represent a new system or the new way of life we dreamed of and fought for and that has been suppressed - he represents the old one. He represents a system that is fundamentally rooted in exploitation, oppression and destruction on a global scale, and he is living proof that no fundamental change for the better can – or will - come about under the system he represents and upholds. It doesn’t work that way. To tell the truth is to betray the system, and he can’t bring himself to do it, even though he is far too conscious not to know it.

Attaining authentic freedom requires, as its barest starting point, the naming of what keeps us subjugated. What keeps us subjugated is the very system Obama wants to rule. The system, even with Barack Obama as its first Black emperor, is not our hope. It’s our enemy, the enemy of the world, and, because this system is rapidly undermining the ability of the planet to foster and sustain life, it is the enemy of all Life on Earth. This is exactly the understanding that the Christian fascists like Weyrich and Heubeck wanted to crush out of our awareness, and the lack of such awareness is exactly what Barack Obama depends on if he is to remain a symbol of the impossible dream that the system can be something other than what it is.
Santos has much, much more. You should read it. It is truly extraordinary.

August 30, 2008

Who Hates Women (and So Many, Many Others) This Much?

One guess:
This chick flick, naturally, features a wild stroke of fate, when the two-year governor of an oversized igloo becomes commander in chief after the president-elect chokes on a pretzel on day one.

The movie ends with the former beauty queen shaking out her pinned-up hair, taking off her glasses, slipping on ruby red peep-toe platform heels that reveal a pink French-style pedicure, and facing down Vladimir Putin in an island in the Bering Strait. Putting away her breast pump, she points her rifle and informs him frostily that she has some expertise in Russia because it’s close to Alaska. "Back off, Commie dude," she says. "I’m a much better shot than Cheney."

Then she takes off in her seaplane and lands on the White House lawn, near the new ice fishing hole and hockey rink. The “First Dude,” as she calls the hunky Eskimo in the East Wing, waits on his snowmobile with the kids — Track (named after high school track meets), Bristol (after Bristol Bay where they did commercial fishing), Willow (after a community in Alaska), Piper (just a cool name) and Trig (Norse for “strength.”)

“The P.T.A. is great preparation for dealing with the K.G.B.,” President Palin murmurs to Todd, as they kiss in the final scene while she changes Trig’s diaper. “Now that Georgia’s safe, how ’bout I cook you up some caribou hot dogs and moose stew for dinner, babe?”
The prize goes to the person who can identify the greatest number of distinct categories of people who could legitimately take grave offense at this outpouring of vitriol parading as "clever" commentary. I stopped counting at ten. (The full article increases that number substantially.)

You know who wrote it.

I stand in awed astonishment. Once upon a time, it appeared that many "liberal-progressive" blogs were at odds with much of the mainstream media. "Appeared" was always the operative word. Now that many of those same blogs have united in certain crucial ways with those they once claimed to despise (that's what the acquisition of power will do for you and your pretense of honesty and integrity, especially when you are close to acquiring even more power), and now that misogyny and sneering contempt for anyone and everyone who isn't them spews forth without respite, they may just accomplish what very few would have thought possible: they'll get John McCain elected president.

I wouldn't have believed it in a lousy movie or a trashy novel. But they may make it come true.

See also: I Approve the Entertainment Value of This Campaign (which includes commentary on some of Palin's known policy positions)

And see: This

August 29, 2008

I Approve the Entertainment Value of This Campaign

I have to say that, considering the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates are both war criminals, this campaign is much more entertaining than I had expected. (I wasn't the one who said they're war criminals, not this time. Al Gore did. Of course, neither Gore nor anyone else seems to have realized that is what he said, which is in large part the subject of that post.) It's as if every demon in the American psyche has been let loose. Racism, sexism, classism, love of war and slaughter, general mayhem and madness -- hell, it's like an old movie ad that screamed, "HERE'S THE ONE THAT FINALLY HAS EVERYTHING!" Sure, it's variously horrifying, shocking, and sickening -- and it's obliteratingly stupid almost all the time -- but you gotta admit, that's entertainment! Laugh at the nightmare and the nightmare laughs back! Then it kills you.

So, Sarah Palin. In strategic political terms, it strikes me as a very smart choice. More on that in a mo. But speaking of choice, her convictions on crucial issues are appallingly awful:
A significant part of Palin's base of support lies among social and Christian conservatives. Her positions on social issues emerged slowly during the campaign: on abortion (should be banned for anything other than saving the life of the mother), stem cell research (opposed), physician-assisted suicide (opposed), creationism (should be discussed in schools), state health benefits for same-sex partners (opposed, and supports a constitutional amendment to bar them).


"Teach both [creationism and evolution]. You know, don't be afraid of information....Healthy debate is so important and it's so valuable in our schools. I am a proponent of teaching both. And you know, I say this too as the daughter of a science teacher. Growing up with being so privileged and blessed to be given a lot of information on, on both sides of the subject -- creationism and evolution. It's been a healthy foundation for me. But don't be afraid of information and let kids debate both sides."
Should creationists be hauled off to detention camps until they learn the difference between facts and faith, what evidence is, and how to think? Should they remain in the camps for the rest of their lives if they refuse to change their minds? I'm not sure. Let's have a healthy debate! C'mon, don't be afraid of information!

Gah. Palin is horribly wrong on every issue identified in the first paragraph excerpted above. Her positions are not only wrong, but unspeakably cruel in human terms. (See "Of Abortion, and Women as the Ultimate Source of Evil" for further discussion of that subject.) But at least with regard to state health benefits for same-sex partners, the story gets a little more interesting. Via the comments at Corrente here, I was directed to this story:
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin vetoed a bill Thursday that sought to block the state from giving health benefits to the same-sex partners of public employees, the Anchorage Daily News reported.

In the first veto of her new administration, Palin said she rejected the bill as unconstitutional despite her disagreement with a state Supreme Court order that directed the state to offer the benefits.

"Signing this bill would be in direct violation of my oath of office," Palin said in a written statement Thursday night.

The anti-gay bill was passed by the Republican-controlled legislature during a special November session.

The state Supreme Court last year ordered Alaska to extend the benefits, finding that denying them violated the state's guarantee of equal protection for all Alaskans. Justices set a deadline of Jan. 1, 2007, for having the benefits in place.
This may not signify much; in light of Palin's support for a constitutional amendment to bar same-sex benefits, it almost certainly does not. She doesn't approve of same-sex benefits and only objects that this isn't the way to eliminate them. So the veto only indicates a kind of mindless obedience -- "We have to follow the roolz!" -- the way many people, including many liberals, shout, "The law! The law! We always have to follow the law!" What if the law is wrong? As I have discussed in some detail, even dictatorships have laws. Still, perhaps Palin's views and thus her likely actions are not completely horrible, just mostly horrible. Limbaugh and Hannity are consumed by delirious joy at the selection, a sign the devil is at work. The nightmare's gonna get you!

But it's smart politically. McCain immediately makes the major story of the day his story, even after Obama's speechifying last night. Honest to God, watching the media in this country is like watching an interminable stupid pet trick. Uh-oh, I'm writing about Palin, too. I'm a stupid pet! Oops. What the hell. Since I started, I may as well finish the trick. Where was I? Oh, yeah, smart politically. So McCain reaches out to women voters, perhaps especially to unhappy Clinton supporters of the independent variety. And Palin's arch-conservative beliefs solidify that bloc among probable McCain voters.

More interesting than all that to me is the generalized woman-bashing stirred up at certain Obamanoid sites, as noted in another Corrente thread. Some strategist working for McCain (and McCain himself perhaps) is one devious and crafty bastard. By selecting Palin, all the ugliness of the Democratic primary is dredged up again -- and this time it may both turn off some Democrats and redound to the Republicans' benefit. It's the devil again! So we can look forward to someone like Keith Olbermann telling us that Sarah Palin is just like that crazed woman played by Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction -- but this time, after she got religion. It'll be awful, but it's entertainment!

Should be a ton o' fun. I recommend stocking your liquor cabinet as if you were preparing for six months in some remote outpost. Make that a year. Doesn't have to be liquor, select your substance(s) of choice. Invite some friends over, the kind who are into, you know, experimentation and good times. Turn the nightmare into a bacchanale!

It all makes no never mind to me. As I said at the beginning -- and as Al Gore said! -- both major party candidates are war criminals. So it's this scenario for me. And since lots and lots of people seem eager to tear themselves and each other to bits, my political fantasy might be just that little bit closer to realization.

A boy can dream...

P.S. Hey, y'all. Next week, I may tell you a bit more about what happened this summer, and why I was absent from these parts for so long. Basically, it was an unrelievedly awful time. For over a month, I wasn't certain I would ever get back to writing, or to anything else at all. Yes, it was that bad. And yet, here I am. I'm not in good shape exactly; in fact, I still feel pretty lousy, but at least it's not as bad as it was. And I am enjoying the writing I'm doing now, and I hope you are, too.

Thanks to some very kind donors -- and thanks to several donors who have been outlandishly generous -- I was able to survive the summer even though I was immobilized most of the time. And thanks to some donations just this week, I can still eat and I have part of the September rent. Which is due next week. Ackety ack. I'm still short of about two-thirds of the rent, and I need to pay some overdue bills. And the cats need to eat too, of course. People sometimes tell me I should post pictures of my beautiful children, and then you'd all shower me with lots and lots of donations. Cat pity, ya know. Hard to resist. And I'd do it -- but I am very, very, very poor. No "luxuries" of any kind -- like teevee -- so I don't have a camera. Haven't had one for years. So no pictures. But my cats are the most gorgeous, the funniest, and the sweetest cats in the entire world. But you probably knew that.

So, if you have some money you'd care to throw in this direction, I would be deeply grateful as always. And Cyrano and Wendy say thanks, too. Given my health, I can't predict what next week might bring, but I'll keep up this writing streak as long as I can. I much prefer life when I'm able to write regularly, although that reality tends to fade away almost completely during the worst times. I hope this comparatively good time will be here for a minimum of several months, at least through the election. Who would want to miss all this fun and frivolity?!?

As always, many, many thanks for your time and consideration, and for your extraordinary generosity. Okay, Wendy, I'm almost done, so you can write to your friends in a few minutes. (They both write a lot of email. You wouldn't believe the friends they have, all over the world. It's true, I can show you emails they've written. A few of you out there have even received some of them. It's a battle for the computer every day. We need a mediator.) All right, finishing up right now, Wendy. Kids.

August 28, 2008

A Choice of War Criminals

From Al Gore's speech tonight:
We can carry Barack Obama's message of hope and change to every family in America. And pledge that we will be there for him, not only in the heat of this election but in the aftermath as we put his agenda to work for our country.

We can tell Republicans and independents, as well as Democrats, exactly why our nation so badly needs a change from the approach of Bush, Cheney and McCain.

After they wrecked our economy, it is time for a change.

After they abandoned the search for the terrorists who attacked us and redeployed the troops to invade a nation that did not attack us, it's time for a change.
One of the Democrats' already standard slogans in this campaign is that we've been fighting "the wrong war" -- "the right war" supposedly being the one in Afghanistan (and possibly Pakistan). Although the line has become common, I don't recall hearing the point expressed in exactly the way Gore said it. Perhaps others have said it that way, and I missed it.

As I heard that phrase this evening -- "and redeployed the troops to invade a nation that did not attack us" -- I froze for several seconds. I couldn't believe Gore had said it, or that I had heard it. I doubt that even one commentator will say a word about it. If you hear or read any remarks about it, please let me know. I will be extraordinarily surprised. I similarly doubt that more than one or two bloggers will note Gore's comment. Chris Floyd doesn't count. Zeroing in on the meaning of such remarks is one of his many specialties, and bless him for it, two thousand times over.

Here is Al Gore, former Vice President, speaking just a short time before Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee for President of the United States. Given what we have read about the control exerted at "Obama's Convention," we can assume Gore's speech met with the approval of Obama and/or Obama's designated staff. Consider the line again: "and redeployed the troops to invade a nation that did not attack us."

Iraq did not attack us. Therefore, the United States was not acting in self-defense. The invasion of Iraq was an act of aggression. Thus, the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq constitute an ongoing war crime, indeed a huge, horrifying series of ongoing war crimes. The war crimes continue today, and will continue tomorrow.

Those people who have been paying attention, and who understood that the propaganda spewed forth by the U.S. government and our subservient media was a series of remarkably unsubtle and frequently blatant lies, realized this would be the case before the invasion in March 2003. But the U.S. government and our subservient media deny it to this day. If they go so far as to admit that the war was a mistake (which many still will not), they insist it was an "honest mistake," one based on "bad intelligence." But that's a lie, and it relies on a profound misunderstanding of the role of intelligence in decisions of policy. At worst, politicians and most of those in the media will say only that the invasion of Iraq was a "blunder," perhaps a terrible one, but still only a "blunder."

But Al Gore said we invaded "a nation that did not attack us." The United States committed a monstrous war crime. That's what Gore's statement means. Do not expect anyone to acknowledge that is what it means.

Consider the Principles of the Nuremberg Tribunal:
Principle VI

The crimes hereinafter set out are punishable as crimes under international law:

1. Crimes against peace:
1. Planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression or a war in violation of international treaties, agreements or assurances;
2. Participation in a common plan or conspiracy for the accomplishment of any of the acts mentioned under (i).
2. War crimes:
Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave-labor or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or illtreatment of prisoners of war, of persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity.
3. Crimes against humanity:
Murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation and other inhuman acts done against any civilian population, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds, when such acts are done or such persecutions are carried on in execution of or in connection with any crime against peace or any war crime.

Principle VII

Complicity in the commission of a crime against peace, a war crime, or a crime against humanity as set forth in Principles VI is a crime under international law.
All of these provisions apply to the United States invasion and occupation of Iraq. And always remember that the U.S. invasion and occupation unleashed a genocide.

So which individuals are guilty of the commission of crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity? Certainly all the major officials of the Bush administration during the period of the planning and implementation of the invasion of Iraq and during the subsequent occupation. Gore refers to "they," dishonestly attempting to place all responsibility with the Republicans. The facts and the historical record will not support flimsy strategems of this kind. So add to the list of criminals all those in Congress who voted for the Iraq AUMF, as well as all those who voted to fund the war and the continuing occupation. With regard to the Bush administration and Congress during the relevant time period, I think the list of those who are not guilty would be very short, indeed. To my knowledge, that list would include only Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich. (If there are one or two others, my apologies. But there are certainly not more than a few others.)

And who is one of the people who has repeatedly voted to fund the occupation of Iraq? That's right: Barack Obama. Obama, the Democratic nominee for President, is guilty of crimes against peace, war crimes and crimes against humanity. Al Gore told you that, and he is entirely correct.

Yet the meaning of Gore's statement will go completely unremarked. You may wonder why that is. This is why:
If you have ever wondered how a serial murderer -- a murderer who is sane and fully aware of the acts he has committed -- can remain steadfastly convinced of his own moral superiority and show not even the slightest glimmer of remorse, you should not wonder any longer.

The United States government is such a murderer. It conducts its murders in full view of the entire world. It even boasts of them. ...

We are a nation that has voluntarily renounced all its most crucial values, and all its founding principles. We can appeal all we want to "American exceptionalism," but any "exceptionalism" that remains ours is that of a mass murderer without a soul, and without a conscience. We have destroyed the most basic foundation of liberty -- and the nature and meaning of our act has already, in less than a couple of weeks, almost entirely vanished from public discussion. It is useless to appeal to any "American" sense of morality: we have none. It does not matter how immense the pile of corpses grows: we will not surrender or even question our delusion that we are right, and that nothing we do can be profoundly, unforgivably wrong.


No moral principle legitimizes our invasion and occupation of Iraq, just as it will not justify an attack on Iran. Therefore, when the first person was killed in Iraq as the result of our actions, the immorality was complete. The crime had been committed, and no amends could ever suffice or would even be possible. That many additional tens or hundreds of thousands of people have subsequently been killed or injured does not add to the original immorality with regard to first principles. It increases its scope, which is an additional and terrible horror -- but the principle is not altered in the smallest degree.


Iraq did not attack us. Iraq did not threaten us. Our leaders knew it. Our invasion and occupation of Iraq were blatant, indefensible acts of aggression. Therefore, when the very first Iraqi was killed as the result of our actions, we had committed an act that was gravely immoral, and entirely unforgivable.
Tonight, Al Gore told us all that he agrees.

The crimes of those Republicans who supported these actions are unspeakable and eternally unforgivable. Yet the crimes of the Democrats who supported the same actions are still worse. The Democrats insist that they think the invasion and occupation of Iraq were wrong, yet they have continued to fund it, even though it has been within their power to defund it entirely for over a year and a half -- and, of equal and even greater significance in one sense, the Democrats absolutely refuse to hold even one person responsible.

But how can they hold anyone responsible? They would have to hold themselves responsible as well:
[T]he Democrats are not going to impeach any of these criminals, barring events entirely unforeseeable at present. And they will not for one overwhelmingly significant and determinative reason: always with regard to the underlying principles, and frequently with regard to the specifics, the Democrats are implicated in every single crime with which they would charge the members of the administration. The Republicans' crimes are their crimes.
I wrote that just over a year ago.

But no one will ever be held to account for the crimes committed by the United States, for the United States makes the rules and is their sole enforcer:
[T]o acknowledge the millions murdered by the U.S. government and our policy of aggressive military intervention across the globe would subject our own actions to the kinds of judgments that only the United States is entitled to make, and only about the actions of others. The United States is uniquely exempt from the standards we apply to everyone else; thus runs the catechism at the church of our inherent national superiority.
Not a single individual will ever be held responsible for the crimes of the United States, crimes which continue as I write this. Nancy Pelosi has said so:
After blocking any serious investigation or impeachment hearings on crimes committed by President Bush, Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally addressed the allegations of presidential crimes on that forum of deep intellectual and legal thought: the television show The View. She agreed to answer a question from Joy Behar, who will have to suffice as a substitute for Peter Rodino. In a perfectly bizarre moment, Pelosi stated that there is simply no evidence of any crime committed by the President despite the findings of the International Red Cross, various international groups, and a legion of constitutional experts. It seems that America has now had its impeachment hearing before the august body of Whoopi Goldberg, Barbara Walters, Joy Behar, and Elisabeth Hasselbeck.
And Barack Obama has said so:
Obama, a Harvard law school graduate and former lecturer on constitutional law at the University of Chicago, said impeachment should not be used as a standard political tool.

"I think you reserve impeachment for grave, grave breaches, and intentional breaches of the president's authority," he said.

"I believe if we began impeachment proceedings we will be engulfed in more of the politics that has made Washington dysfunction," he added. "We would once again, rather than attending to the people's business, be engaged in a tit-for-tat, back-and-forth, non-stop circus."
We have witnessed an ongoing series of monstrous war crimes, a genocide, countless lives destroyed forever -- but to hold even one person responsible would be to engage in "a tit-for-tat, back-and-forth, non-stop circus."

In his speech tonight, Barack Obama said not a word about holding anyone responsible for these crimes. But as noted above, how could he? He would have to hold himself responsible, too. Besides, if Obama is elected President, it will be time for "unity," and time "to move on." Accountability? Justice? Forget it.

And that brings us precisely here:
You desperately need to understand this: the next President of the United States, no matter who it is, will enter office knowing that he or she can systematically and regularly authorize torture, order mass murder, direct the United States military to engage in one campaign of criminal conquest and genocide after another, oversee uncountable acts of inhumanity and barbarity -- and he or she will never be challenged or called to account in any manner whatsoever. It may have taken the Bush administration two terms to bring us to the point where such evils are committed and even boasted about in broad daylight, while almost no one even notices -- but this will be where the next President starts.

And for this monstrous, unforgivable fact, you can thank the Democrats and those who whore themselves for the Democrats' success in our disgustingly meaningless elections.
If you vote for the candidate of one of the two major parties, this is your choice: John McCain, war criminal -- or Barack Obama, war criminal.

In view of all this, are people still going to seriously tell me -- are they going to seriously tell me -- that it is crucial to vote for Obama, because McCain is a crazy old man? Why exactly? Are they going to tell me it is critical for Obama to be the next President so that he can systematically and regularly authorize torture, order mass murder, direct the United States military to engage in one campaign of criminal conquest and genocide after another, oversee uncountable acts of inhumanity and barbarity -- and never be challenged or called to account in any manner whatsoever? But, they will whine, Obama would never do that. They may hope he will not, and I hope they are right -- although the prospects are alarming in the extreme -- but he will have the power to do all of it.

There is only so much I can stomach, and there are limits to what I will support. I will not vote for a war criminal, especially a war criminal who has insulated himself from all accountability for his own acts. Barring unexpected developments, I refuse to vote for either of these men. They are both vile, cynical, lying, ignoble, contemptible, sickening human beings. I therefore intend to follow a very different course.

But one of these men will be the next President. May God have pity on us, and may God have pity on the world.


GLENN GREENWALD: Yeah, it’s amazing. And essentially, we probably tried to interview twenty-five, thiry people going in, and every last person refused to even give their name, identify themselves, say what they’re here for, what the event is for. It’s more secretive than like a Dick Cheney energy council meeting. I mean, it’s amazing.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what are you here for? Why do you want to interview people?

GLENN GREENWALD: Well, because, I mean, it’s extraordinary that the same Blue Dogs that just gave this extremely corrupt gift to AT&T are now attending a party underwritten by AT&T, the purpose of which is to thank the Blue Dogs for the corrupt legislative gift that they got. So AT&T gives money to Blue Dogs, the Blue Dogs turn around and immunize AT&T from lawbreaking, and then AT&T throws a party at the Democratic convention thanking them, and then they all go in and into this exclusive club.
It's not "extraordinary." It's completely ordinary: this is precisely the way the corporatist state operates all the time.

Ordinary. The way business is done. All day long. Day after day after day. It's a systemic problem, and the system is rotten to the core.

But, Greenwald and many others will tell us, we must still vote for Obama and the Democrats (the "more and better" ones, that is), because --

The Democrats will end the occupation of Iraq

The Democrats will never wage war on Iran

The Democrats won't engage hostilities with Russia

The Democrats will repeal the Military Commissions Act

The Democrats will provide absolute protection for a woman's right to choose, that is, a woman's right to her own body

The Democrats won't engage in unending military interventions under the guise of "humanitarian" efforts

The Democrats will champion openness, transparency and accountability in government

The Democrats will reduce military spending and reduce the overall size of our military, and begin to close some of the 1,000 U.S. military bases around the world e c a u...

Oh, I remember. Because McCain is crazy! And he's old!

But Obama and the more/better Democrats are sane and young! And the sane, young Democrats are also fully committed to, embody and advance the authoritarian-corporatist state at home and the insanely aggressive interventionist foreign policy!

Huh. Same fundamental convictions and programs. One's crazy and old. One's sane and young. The sane, young one might actually have more energy and determination in pursuing all that authoritarianism-corporatism-interventionism. But of course, the crazy old guy is crazy and old, so who the hell knows what he'll do.

Decisions, decisions. But we have a choice! Is this a fucking great country or what?

"A Guiding Hand Is Needed" for the Poor, Backward Peoples of the World

Madeleine Albright figured prominently in "The Truth Shall Drive You Mad: The Wise Men and Women of the Empire of Death," a discussion of Obama's foreign policy brain trust.

In "All We Are Saying Is, Make Smarter War" -- and isn't that accurate summary of the Democratic Establishment's views a stirring slogan for the allegedly peace-loving Dems -- Matt Welch reports on the puzzling/contradictory/unintelligible/unresponsive/meretricious/nauseating doings of various foreign policy luminaries at the Denver poobah gathering. With stars like these, you would be better advised to let the heavens fall and live in perpetual darkness. Leave it to these Dems, and perpetual darkness may be what you get in any case.

Welch notes that Albright "is at the center of rebuilding the Democratic foreign-policy messaging and approach," and ponders the implications: "You'd think that such a disconnect between anti-war base and pro-interventionist leadership would cause a few brains to explode, but the only people who seem to be hearing the dissonance in Denver are journalists." Of course, we must not forget that, for Democratic Party loyalists, Democrats are good, and Democratic wars are good wars and Democratic murders are good murders. Dissonance begone!

It appears these Democratic foreign policy experts said quite a lot, but never quite managed to answer some critical questions. Well, actually nothing that important, just minor queries such as: "When do you go to war, and why?"

Albright is truly a piece of work:
[O]n the question of America's unipolar role, today Albright gave a luncheon speech that:

A) fretted that the "economic center of gravity" continues to move away from the U.S.;

B) stressed that we need to "enhance America's ability to lead," because even though "the world may not be clamoring for American leadership" right now, "there is no doubt that a guiding hand is needed," in part to provide "a more effective response" to "violent extremism" in Afghanistan, Pakistan, the Caucasus, the Middle East, Sudan and Congo; and

C) pointed out that it will "take time" to convince people that "we're not imperialists."
But Ms. Albright, we are imperialists, we are (note the Christopher Layne excerpts there).

"A guiding hand is needed..." Words fail. Perhaps not: this is, after all, the woman who dubbed the U.S. the "indispensable nation" and said the U.S. sees farther than anyone else because we "stand taller." Now be fair: it's difficult, if not impossible, to imagine why such a humble and self-effacing perspective might lead to resentment and even hatred on the part of others. And what is needed is an "effective response" to "violent extremism." Oh my, yes! Too bad none of that was available in the first few months of 2003. Win some none, lose some 'em all.

This game's rigged, folks. The ruling class always wins, and you -- oh, who the hell cares about you.

Wakey wakey, people!

August 27, 2008

Told You

From Biden's acceptance speech tonight:
[F]or the last seven years, the administration has failed to face the biggest forces shaping this century: the emergence of Russia, China and India as great powers; the spread of lethal weapons; the shortage of secure supplies of energy, food and water; the challenge of climate change; and the resurgence of fundamentalism in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the real central front in the war on terror.

Ladies and gentlemen, in recent years and in recent days, we've once again seen the consequences of the neglect -- of this neglect, with Russia challenging the very freedom of a new democratic country of Georgia. Barack and I will end that neglect. We will hold Russia accountable for its actions, and we will help the people of Georgia rebuild.


Should you trust the judgment of John McCain, when he said only three years ago, "Afghanistan, we don't read about it anymore in papers because it succeeded"?

Or should you believe Barack Obama who said a year ago, "We need to send two more combat battalions to Afghanistan"?

The fact of the matter is, al Qaeda and the Taliban, the people who actually attacked us on 9/11, they've regrouped in the mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan and they are plotting new attacks. And the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has echoed Barack's call for more troops.


Should we trust John McCain's judgment when he rejected talking with Iran and then asked, "What is there to talk about?" Or Barack Obama, who said, "We must talk and make clear to Iran that it must change"?


Folks, remember when the world used to trust us, when they looked to us for leadership? With Barack Obama as our president, they'll look at us again, they'll trust us again, and we'll be able to lead again.
Senator, I say this with all due respect -- which in my judgment is precisely none -- but I don't want the United States government, Obama, you, or McCain to lead a goddamned thing.


I most definitely don't want Obama to lead a goddamned thing in accordance with the program analyzed here. It wouldn't do for the United States simply to mind its own damned business for a while, would it? No, it obviously wouldn't.

From my post of last week, "How Deeply Stupid Can Progressives Make Themselves?":
I will have more on certain of the subjects Lindorff touches on in the future. Among other things, I will explain why ObamCo will bring you serious imperialism once they take power. If you think you've seen imperialism under Bush, you're as stupid as Lindorff. Bush & Co. are vicious, murderous amateurs. The people who make up ObamCo -- see here, for some examples -- are vicious, murderous professionals. You haven't even begun to see real trouble, to say nothing of real slaughter and real devastation.
But you won't listen to me.

You just won't.

And see: The Hideous Horror of the Biden Selection

P.S. Biden also said this, in an extraordinarily revealing passage:
And when I got — when I got knocked down by guys bigger than me — and this is the God’s truth — [my mother] sent me back out and said, “Bloody their nose so you can walk down the street the next day.” And that’s what I did.
Biden has obviously learned that lesson very well indeed. Equally obvious is the fact that he has no idea what the lesson is.

I shall have much more to say about this particular issue soon -- and if you think this is not crucially related to foreign policy (and domestic policy, for that matter), you are absolutely, grievously wrong.

Death Match (III): Follow the Money -- and Follow the Military Bases

Part I: If the Words Don't Kill You, the Bombs Will

Part II: The Hideous Horror of the Biden Selection

The major part of this post will concern U.S. foreign policy generally, and what we can anticipate from Barack Obama's foreign policy prescriptions more specifically. I most recently addressed the latter in the second part of this series. I want to preface the current discussion with some observations about a particular aspect of the Western cultural perspective. This is a very complex issue, which I will address in only an abbreviated form. If I have time at some point, I'll return to this subject in more detail. But it is important to understand the manner in which we tend to approach many (if not most, or even all) subjects, and the way in which we attempt to analyze certain questions. The relevance of this to certain problems of foreign policy will become apparent in short order.

On several occasions, I have offered excerpts from Jamake Highwater's fascinating and provocative book, Myth and Sexuality. (In particular, see "Of Abortion, and Women as the Ultimate Source of Evil.") One of Highwater's themes, and one which frequently carries great irony in the context of events of the last seven years, is that despite what many propagandists for endless "civilizational" war would have us believe, Judaism, Christianity and Islam all spring from the same cultural and historic roots. Those roots and the more specific beliefs to which they gave rise resulted in a series of dualities. More than that, and more to the terrible point in light of world events, they resulted in a series of warring dualities. In many respects, the current and likely future military conflicts are only the latest manifestations of this ancient set of conflicts. It might be more effective to express this idea in another form: if it is true that we often remake the world in the form of the ideas we hold and believe to be correct (whether they are in fact correct or not), most wars and other conflicts are only the physical manifestation of conflicts that first found expression in the way we analyze and organize the world in our thought.

Here is Highwater on some of the background to these concerns:
It is apparent that this Persian tale of genesis is thoroughly pessimistic. It takes for granted the corruption of matter, nature, the world, and the body. Even with its promise of redemption and the eventual defeat of evil, it is, nonetheless, so grim a vision of existence that we may find it difficult to imagine how it could have become the basis of a religious philosophy called Zoroastrianism, which ruled the lives of millions of people for thousands of years. It therefore comes as a shock to realize that our own viewpoint was greatly influenced by the moral cosmology implicit in this Persian myth of Creation, Fall, and World Renovation. In fact, as we shall see, Persian Zoroastrianism greatly influenced the Messianic ideas of Judaism and Christianity as well as the world view of Islam. This dismal, polemical cosmogony of absolute good and evil is very familiar in our own religious mythologies. ... [And recall Chris Hedges' discussion of "mythic war" on this same point.]

Like our own genesis, the key to Persian mythology is cosmic dualism, with a persistent battle taking place between the forces of good (or light) and the forces of evil (or darkness). That conflict is reflected in every aspect of our lives, profoundly and superficially. We take for granted the notion that darkness equates with evil and that light is a reference to good. We are completely comfortable with the depiction of dark villains threatening fair heroes in melodramas and science fiction, of cowboys wearing white hats and riding white horses in their battles against the bad guys who wear black hats and ride dark horses. We fear the dark. For us, the forces of darkness are evil. The night has a bad reputation. It is filled with demons, vampires, werewolves, and all the other creatures associated with the feminine moon that cannot tolerate the light of day. Even Mozart's beguiling Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute is envisioned as the consummately evil and devouring mother.

We find great comfort in such polemic attitudes. They provide the superstructure upon which we build our value systems of innocence and guilt, good and evil, pain and pleasure, normalcy and abnormalcy. So it taunts us to be told that this comfortable dualism is not an ultimate truth held by all peoples of all times, and that other cultures have drastically different visions of the cosmos. From what we know of the earliest cultures, it seems that myths, rites, and philosophies were comparatively affirmative in their vision of existence. Pleasure was valued over pain. It was assumed that life would bring fulfillment and pleasure, rather than denial and pain. Evil was not a given--an inescapable aspect of cosmic corruption. This affirmative attitude of antiquity would not persist in Western mentality. About 600 B.C., there occurred what [Joseph] Campbell has called "the Great Reversal," when the prevailing world view shifted from an affirmation of life to a negation of life, from the expectation of reward, comfort, and innocence to the acceptance of punishment, discomfort, and guilt. The Great Reversal was an epic moment in history, when a negative conception of destiny arose that would eventually be symbolized by that Original Sin which makes pain and punishment an implacable aspect of Western life.
It is this "negative conception of destiny" that dominates our world today, as it has for many centuries. You can see the results all around you.

More to our point here, "cosmic dualism" has set the terms for our discussion of any and all subjects. When we seek the answer to almost any question, we are most comfortable with an either-or structure. Either an individual's motives were good, or they were bad. Either someone is loyal, or he isn't. Either we are the "good guys," or we are not. These remarks are hardly novel, and they probably come as news to none of you. Nonetheless, we should observe how difficult it is for us to navigate the alternatives. Pause for a moment to notice what may have happened in your thinking right there. You may have thought there was only one alternative to the cosmic dualism perspective. Why would you think that? Because we are all trained to think in dualities all the time, from our earliest years. If cosmic dualism may be insufficient or unsatisfactory, what is the alternative approach? But why is there only one alternative approach? There might be a multiplicity of approaches. Or perhaps we have formulated the question in a way that fails to address the real problem.

The dualities that form the foundation of our thinking find expression in an endless variety of ways. One of the results is a particularly Western obsession, one that reaches heights of absurdity in our popular culture. We are absolutely manic on the subject of ranking: we constantly search to identify the "best," the "worst," the "greatest," the "worst blunder." Without exception -- for I can think of no exception which I would view as meaningful -- I view all such judgments as worthless, and even destructive. The "best" or "worst" -- compared to what exactly? Precisely what standards for judgment are being employed? What period of time is used for inclusion of the persons or works being so judged? There are many such questions. By the time you've answered all the questions that underlie such judgments of rank and hierarchy, you may actually have said something substantive -- and you will have arrived at the point where you might more effectively have begun. And notice the influence of the dualistic approach: there is the "best" actor -- and all the others. This writer is the "greatest" novelist -- and then there are all the others. There is the "winner" -- and then there are all the "losers." We invariably see every aspect of the world in pairs, one member of which is favored and approved while the other is disfavored and disapproved.

You might already appreciate that the dualistic approach has another effect, across every subject it touches (which for us is every subject): it makes simple and simplistic what is much more complex. It dumbs down the discussion. It eliminates the rough edges, it enables easy categorization, and -- very importantly -- it eradicates the specificity of the particulars with which we deal. Remember: particulars are all that exist. When you minimize or even eliminate what individuates the particular, you erase its identity. We must do this in certain respects in order to think (you can't form concepts without eliminating certain aspects of the particular), but when we seek to understand the particular, we cannot eliminate any of its aspects.

One subject that is particularly dumbed down in the manner I describe is psychology, and the question of motivation. I am condensing a great deal of material in this entire discussion, so here I will mention only one especially relevant aspect of certain questions of psychology and motivation as they pertain to foreign policy. With regard to the actions of the U.S. government over the course of the Bush administration, many commentators can see only two possibilities: either the Bush administration is attempting to defend the U.S. as it sees best, while it simultaneously seeks to bring freedom to oppressed peoples -- or the Bush administration is made up of crazed or almost-crazed criminals, who are happy to engage in murder and destruction as long as their corporate cronies are enriched. A cautionary note is in order: what I am discussing here is entirely separate from the area of moral judgment, when such judgment is appropriate and required. Here, I am attempting to identify what causes individuals to act in the manner they do. If, in fact, their actions lead to the death of many innocents -- as they have; if, in fact, their actions constitute criminal acts of aggression -- as they do; if, in fact, their actions destroy liberty -- as they do -- one may, indeed one must, make a moral judgment about the moral status of those actions and of the actors involved, regardless of what their motivations may have been. My own extraordinarily negative judgment of the Bush administration and those who support it is reflected in many essays here.

But if we want to understand why the U.S. acts in the manner it does on the world stage, the either-or approach will not do. If we wish to change our course and if we seek to move toward a world at peace, we must appreciate all the reasons that impel the ruling class to act. Again, I must oversimplify what is hugely complicated, so I will identify only two major components that inform U.S. foreign policy. Even though there are others (and some of those others are of considerable significance), I select these two because I think they explain the most.

The first component is one identified by Christopher Layne. I offered some excerpts from Layne's book, The Peace of Illusions: American Grand Strategy from 1940 to the Present, in the third part of my "Dominion Over the World" series: "The Open Door to World Hegemony." The first excerpt (and see the earlier piece for more) dealt with this part of Layne's thesis: "I take issue with those who have argued that the Bush II administration's approach to U.S. grand strategy--its determination to maintain overwhelming U.S. geopolitical dominance and its muscular idealism--breaks sharply with the principles and assumptions that guided earlier U.S. policymakers. Nothing could be farther from the truth." This is a point I make repeatedly, one that superficial Democratic apologists and hacks absolutely refuse to acknowledge or seriously address.

The following is the excerpt from Layne that I want to emphasize -- and I have set in bold the passage that is especially relevant in this context:
America's pursuit of extraregional hegemony results, I believe, from the causal linkages between the distribution of power in the international system and intervening domestic variables.


I believe that the "Open Door" explains America's drive for extraregional hegemony. The Open Door school of U.S. diplomatic history holds that beginning in the late nineteenth century the United States has pursued an expansionist--indeed, hegemonic or even imperial--policy, first in the Western Hemisphere and then in East Asia, Europe, and the Persian Gulf. The Open Door holds the answer to an important puzzle: Why didn't U.S. grand strategy change when the cold war ended? Why did U.S. forces stay "over there" instead of "coming home"? The Open Door incorporates both economic expansion and ideological expansion and links them to U.S. national security. Open Door economic expansion created new interests that had to be defended by projecting U.S. military power abroad, shaped policymakers' perceptions of how those interests were threatened, and led to a new conception of America's security requirements by transforming the goal of U.S. grand strategy from national defense to national security. "National security," Melvyn P. Leffler observes, "meant more than defending territory." Rather, it meant "defending the nation's core values, its organizing ideology, and its free political and economic institutions." The Open Door is as much about ideology as it is about economic expansion and the distribution of power in the international system. Indeed, these factors are linked inextricably, because U.S. strategists believed that the nation's core values could be safe only in an international system underwritten by hegemonic U.S. power and open both to U.S. economic penetration and to the penetration of American ideology. This is what William Appleman Williams called an "Open Door world." Because of the Open Door, U.S. policymakers defined threats not only in terms of the distribution of power in the international system but also ideologically in terms of threats to America's "core values."


The Open Door world described by Williams is a world shaped by liberal -- Wilsonian -- ideas.


Now it's easy to say, as some realists do, that the Wilsonian vision of an Open Door world is simply window dressing invoked by U.S. policymakers as a smoke screen to mask the fundamentally realpolitik nature of U.S. grand strategy. However, the role of Wilsonian ideology in U.S. grand strategy cannot be dismissed so cavalierly--it is far too deeply entrenched in America's political culture and foreign policy tradition for that. In fact, the subtle interplay between Wilsonianism and realism has been the hallmark of U.S. grand strategy. U.S. grand strategy defines U.S. national interests in terms of power, economic openness, and the promotion of U.S. ideals. ...

In grand strategy terms American liberalism is muscular--offensive--not "idealistic." It postulates cause-and-effect linkages about how the United States can gain security. The spread of democracy and of economic openness are embedded in U.S. grand strategic thought because policymakers believe an Open Door world fosters U.S. power, influence, and security. Wilsonianism holds out the promise of peace for the United States. As I demonstrate, however, this is a peace of illusions. Far from creating peace and enhancing U.S. security, the pursuit of an Open Door world is the motor that drives America's quest for extraregional hegemony. Wilsonian ideology is a potent generator of U.S. overexpansion and of unnecessary military entanglements abroad. Wilsonianism makes the United States less, not more, secure.
Note that national security means "defending the nation's core values, its organizing ideology, and its free political and economic institutions." Note also Layne's point, with which I fully agree, that this conception of national security should not dismissed as "simply window dressing." Put more simply: the ruling class believes this, as do most Americans. As Layne says, Wilsonian ideology "is far too deeply entrenched in America's political culture and foreign policy tradition [to be dismissed]." In fact, this aspect of Wilsonian ideology has long been a critical element in America's conception of itself as a nation. What the ruling class and most Americans believe is that America is "the last, best hope of Earth" -- a phrase that Barack Obama and every major politician repeat without end. Note the influence of dualism: there is the "divinely elected" United States -- "the last, best hope of Earth" -- and then there is everyone else and every other country on Earth. I have discussed this belief and its destructive effects in many essays (you can start with, "'Regrettable Misjudgments': The Shocking Immorality of Our Constricted Thought," and follow the links).

This is the first component of the beliefs that constitute the foundation for U.S. foreign policy. I repeat that, in the case of probably most of the people who hold this conviction, they genuinely believe it. You dismiss it as "window dressing" at your own peril, and I would submit that such a dismissal makes it more difficult, if not impossible, to address the argument and to alter people's perspective on this crucial question.

The second component has been addressed by Robert Higgs, in a passage that I have offered several times, because many people (even many severe critics of the Bush administration) seem to have great difficulty appreciating this issue. Here is how Higgs expresses the point:
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.
My argument, in essence, is that both Layne's point and Higgs' point are true. It is not a question of either-or. They are both true: the two points address different aspects of the same phenomenon, and they explain separate parts of the motives that impel the actors in question.

An example may help to clarify certain of the issues that concern me. It's a useful example, because it presents the problem in a fairly extreme form. In the fall of 2007, there was a huge to-do about Pete Stark's comment that Bush sent American troops to fight in Iraq to have their "heads blown off for the president's amusement." Here, I'm not interested in the public spectacle that ensued, which predictably forced Stark to apologize. That spectacle falls into the category of public pretense that I just recently discussed once again.

But consider the nature of Stark's remark. At some point in the future, I intend to discuss how everyone in American life now views him or herself as a professional psychologist, fully credentialed and able to diagnose every psychological malady at a distance of thousands of miles, without benefit of ever talking to the subject even once. We saw this kind of thing on full display in the reaction of many people to the Wright-Obama controversy. I offered some comments about a post by Digby that I found especially shocking on that subject, and most of her post is at the far edges of idiotic. But I haven't yet noted this remark of Digby's: "But Wright's latest round of media appearances have not seemed to me to be any kind of defense of liberalism or the black church or even Black Liberation Theology so much as one man's desire to deny a rival his destiny." Obama's "destiny"? Is it preordained, written in the stars as it were? Pity the person who thinks in such bathetic terms. Out with you -- and perhaps off to the reeducation camp -- if you dare to deny Obama his destiny! The Democratic apologists, who fear an original thought or a sustained attack on American exceptionalism more than they fear Jack the Ripper bearing down on them with a fully-loaded arsenal of the sharpest knives ever manufactured, did succeed in driving Wright underground and entirely out of the primary. O brave progressives!

But on what basis, pray tell, does Digby conclude that Wright viewed Obama as a rival (her italics)? To use one of certain liberals' own favorite put-downs: this is making shit up, because the shit in question happens to aid your argument of the moment. This kind of faux-psychology is irresponsible in the extreme, and it should be deeply insulting, not only to the person so "diagnosed" (read: attacked and dismissed), but to any adult capable of minimal thought. I suppose it may be possible that Wright viewed Obama as a rival, but neither Digby, nor you, nor I nor anyone else knows that in the absence of Wright's confession on the point, or before spending considerable time talking to the man. But note the further effect of this attack and dismissal that parades as a psychological diagnosis: it demeans the man, and it means that you do not have to engage the argument. And beneath the surface, dualism makes its appearance once again; the diagnosis means that Wright has bad motives and is a bad man, at least in part. It is therefore a good thing and a valid response to ignore the substance of what he had to say.

In general terms, the same can be said of Stark's comment about Bush. No one has condemned Bush's actions more severely than I have, but it would never occur to me to maintain that Bush is amused by the deaths of American soldiers in Iraq. As in the case of Wright, it may be the case that Bush is so deeply disturbed that he enjoys hearty laughs looking at pictures of the corpses of American soldiers -- but you don't know that. And as with Wright, it enables the critic to dismiss Bush entirely -- in this instance, as an apparent sadistic psychotic -- and thus relieves the critic of engaging the argument.

Setting aside the narrower question of whether Bush, et al. genuinely believed Iraq to be a serious threat to the United States, those who drive our foreign policy -- both Republicans and Democrats -- certainly believe in the Open Door policy described above. Remember: "The Open Door is as much about ideology as it is about economic expansion and the distribution of power in the international system." When Bush and many others talk about "spreading freedom," they believe it, or at least they give every indication that they do. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, you cannot conclude they don't. Of course, they are profoundly wrong -- and the error is an especially deadly one. But if you want to alter the terms of debate, you must point out why the notion of "spreading freedom" by means of murder and occupation is not only fatally self-contradictory, but one that is impossible of success.

The full truth, or at least a fuller version of the truth, is much more complex than the dualistic, either-or approach permits. Those who support the U.S. foreign policy of endless intervention with the goal of American global hegemony believe in the ideological arguments they offer -- and the corporate interests that support the same policies believe in the continued and expanded success of their businesses and in maximizing profits. It is the intersection and mutual reinforcement of these sets of beliefs and goals that result in a foreign policy that has become deeply embedded in our very system of governance, and that have effects that reach out to every aspect of American political, economic and cultural life.

As indicated in my title, we've begun to follow the money, and this is more than long enough for the moment. We'll follow the military bases in the next installment.

August 26, 2008

I Will Be Punished for Laughing So Hard

Last evening, I said I wouldn't eat until next spring.

Make that spring of 2010.

Is it wrong of me, when I'm in between bouts of nausea, to find all this hysterically funny?
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama's big speech on Thursday night will be delivered from an elaborate columned stage resembling a miniature Greek temple.

The stage, similar to structures used for rock concerts, has been set up at the 50-yard-line, the midpoint of Invesco Field, the stadium where the Denver Broncos' National Football League team plays.

Some 80,000 supporters will see Obama appear from between plywood columns painted off-white, reminiscent of Washington's Capitol building or even the White House, to accept the party's nomination for president.

He will stride out to a raised platform to a podium that can be raised from beneath the floor.


Once Obama speaks, confetti will rain down on him and fireworks will be fired off from locations around the stadium wall.


Ohhhhh, Barack, you're soooo dreeeeeeemy!!!!

For the sole superpower on earth, we have to be the stupidest goddamned country that has ever existed. And one of the most vicious. Now that is a fucking terrifying combination.

Death Match (II): The Hideous Horror of the Biden Selection

Part I: If the Words Don't Kill You, the Bombs Will

Here are some highlights from Stephen Zunes' article, "The Biden Betrayal":
[Biden]has been one [of] the leading congressional supporters of U.S. militarization of the Middle East and Eastern Europe, of strict economic sanctions against Cuba, and of Israeli occupation policies.

Most significantly, however, Biden, who chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during the lead-up to the Iraq War during the latter half of 2002, was perhaps the single most important congressional backer of the Bush administration's decision to invade that oil-rich country.

One of the most important differences between Obama and the soon-to-be Republican presidential nominee John McCain is that Obama had the wisdom and courage to oppose the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Obama and his supporters had been arguing correctly that judgment in foreign policy is far more important than experience; this was a key and likely decisive argument in the Illinois senator's campaign against Sen. Hillary Clinton, who had joined McCain in backing the Iraq war resolution.

However, in choosing Biden, who, like the forthcoming Republican nominee, has more experience in international affairs but notoriously poor judgment, Obama is essentially saying that this critical difference between the two prospective presidential candidates doesn't really matter. This decision thereby negates one of his biggest advantages in the general election. Of particular concern is the possibility that the pick of an establishment figure from the hawkish wing of the party indicates the kind of foreign policy appointments Obama will make as president.
Let's pause here for a moment. With regard to "the kind of foreign policy appointments Obama will make as president," the makeup of Obama's Senior Working Group on National Security is still more instructive and comprehensive. And the makeup of that group is sickeningly awful: see, "The Truth Shall Drive You Mad: The Wise Men and Women of the Empire of Death."

Of equal or greater importance is what Obama himself has said about what the broad contours of U.S. foreign policy should be. Obama gave a major address on this subject in the spring of last year; his views are the same today. In "Songs of Death," I considered the major elements of Obama's speech: the undiluted embrace of "American exceptionalism"; the belief that "the American moment" should extend for "this new century"; and an alleged justification for foreign intervention that would serve to justify any intervention, anywhere, anytime, for any reason at all -- or for no reason. Obama said:
In today’s globalized world, the security of the American people is inextricably linked to the security of all people. When narco-trafficking and corruption threaten democracy in Latin America, it’s America’s problem too. When poor villagers in Indonesia have no choice but to send chickens to market infected with avian flu, it cannot be seen as a distant concern. When religious schools in Pakistan teach hatred to young children, our children are threatened as well.

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

About this, I wrote:
While I do not minimize the (possibly) serious dangers of avian flu, it must be acknowledged that this is a novel justification of the notion that the U.S. must continue to maintain the greatest military in the history of the world, as Obama goes on to insist. It appears we must be able to invade, nuke or otherwise coerce every nation on earth into doing our bidding -- so that the world will be safe for healthy chickens. And here I had thought the Marx Brothers all were dead.

This is the Open Door world carried to impossible, entirely unrealizable and ridiculous extremes. The door is not only open: the door and the entire structure in which it had been installed have been obliterated. The United States must be the global hegemon so that every human being eats well, is properly educated, and has a good job, until every society and culture is thriving and properly "democratic" in the form we alone will dictate, and until there is a (healthy) chicken in every pot.
Thus did Obama tell us over a year ago that our future is war, endless war, nothing but war. The composition of his National Security Working Group and the selection of Biden only confirm this horrifying and deadly reality.

Back to Zunes:
It is difficult to overestimate the critical role Biden played in making the tragedy of the Iraq war possible. More than two months prior to the 2002 war resolution even being introduced, in what was widely interpreted as the first sign that Congress would endorse a U.S. invasion of Iraq, Biden declared on Aug. 4 that the United States was probably going to war. In his powerful position as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he orchestrated a propaganda show designed to sell the war to skeptical colleagues and the American public by ensuring that dissenting voices would not get a fair hearing.


Rather than being a hapless victim of the Bush administration's lies and manipulation, Biden was calling for a U.S. invasion of Iraq and making false statements regarding Saddam Hussein's supposed possession of "weapons of mass destruction" years before President George W. Bush even came to office.

As far back as 1998, Biden was calling for a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Even though UN inspectors and the UN-led disarmament process led to the elimination of Iraq's WMD threat, Biden – in an effort to discredit the world body and make an excuse for war – insisted that UN inspectors could never be trusted to do the job. ...

Calling for military action on the scale of the Gulf War seven years earlier, he continued, "The only way we're going to get rid of Saddam Hussein is we're going to end up having to start it alone," telling the Marine veteran "it's going to require guys like you in uniform to be back on foot in the desert taking Saddam down."

When Ritter tried to make the case that President Bill Clinton's proposed large-scale bombing of Iraq could jeopardize the UN inspections process, Biden condescendingly replied that decisions on the use of military force were "beyond your pay grade." As Ritter predicted, when Clinton ordered UN inspectors out of Iraq in December of that year and followed up with a four-day bombing campaign known as Operation Desert Fox, Saddam was provided with an excuse to refuse to allow the inspectors to return. Biden then conveniently used Saddam's failure to allow them to return as an excuse for going to war four years later.
Biden's selection as vice presidential candidate has nothing to do with "change" or "hope": this is the status quo of chaos, destruction and widespread death, with a vengeance.

I want to focus for a moment on a critical point offered by Zunes: that Biden called for a U.S. invasion of Iraq as far back as 1998. Biden was not alone in this call for war; many Republicans -- and not a few Democrats -- had similar views. You should keep this in mind in connection with a favorite defense offered by Democratic partisans of a certain kind; that if Gore had become president in 2001, the invasion of Iraq would never have happened, the genocide would not have occurred, and the destabilization of the Middle East would have been avoided (from a much longer list of baleful consequences).

This is an entirely invalid argument. I will mention here only several reasons for my statement. First, while they may be entertaining as a kind of "what-if" exercise, counterfactuals are of no genuine analytic value. That must be true for a painfully obvious reason: since we are dealing with hypotheticals, we simply don't know. If we don't know, we are not entitled to say X would or would not have happened.

But the notion that "if Gore had been president, this catastrophe would have been avoided" falters for much more fundamental reasons. Of greatest importance is the fact that the bipartisan drive to American global hegemony is precisely that: bipartisan. See my "Dominion Over the World" series for the fuller arguments, with much supporting historical material; all the installments are listed at the end of that essay. The very first part of that series was titled, "Iraq Is the Democrats' War, Too." Please see the full essay for the details. Here is one critical passage:
It may be true that a Gore Administration would not have chosen to invade Iraq after 9/11, but the Democratic apologists would attach undue greater meaning to this single particular. They would imbue the (possible) avoidance of the Iraq catastrophe with a significance that directly contradicts the historical context in which it has taken place. In effect, Democrats (and many liberal and progressive bloggers) would have you believe that something like the Iraq disaster would never occur if the Democrats were in charge.

This is flatly false. It is a lie offered for the least admirable and most petty of ignoble partisan motives. The Democrats would have you forget Woodrow Wilson and World War I, and the century of conflict to which our entrance into that war led (and the effects of which still play out in the Middle East and beyond today); they would have you forget Vietnam, which parallels the Iraq catastrophe in ways beyond counting -- and they would have you forget the Balkans and Kosovo.

The Democrats' unceasing defense of our interventions in the Balkans and Kosovo is especially revealing. The Democrats refuse to acknowledge the continuity between the policies championed by the Clinton Administration and the Iraq invasion.
See the earlier piece for much more on the Balkans and Kosovo, and this more recent essay as well.

For the moment, I will mention only one further reason why the "if Gore had been president" argument is worthless. It may be true that the U.S. would not have invaded Iraq, but the U.S. might well have done something as bad or even worse. If you want to engage in hypotheticals, there's one that Democratic apologists will mysteriously omit from their calculations. But, oh, no!, the Democratic apologists protest. The Democrats couldn't possibly do anything like that! These are the protestations of children, and not very bright children. Vietnam? The Balkans and Kosovo? And with the conflict in Georgia, we see some of the effects of the Clinton interventions playing out today -- and those effects are far from over, and we have very little idea how bad they may ultimately be (which would primarily be the result of the indefensible policies of the U.S., not because of Russia's actions; more on that another time).

One final highlight from Stephen Zunes' article:
Biden has been the principal congressional backer of a de facto partition of the country between Kurdish, Sunni Arab, and Shia Arab segments, a proposal opposed by a solid majority of Iraqis and strongly denounced by the leading Sunni, Shia, and secular blocs in the Iraqi parliament. Even the U.S. State Department has criticized Biden's plan as too extreme. A cynical and dangerous attempt at divide-and-rule, Biden's ambitious effort to redraw the borders of the Middle East would likely make a violent and tragic situation all the worse.
It is difficult to properly describe the murderous arrogance of Biden's plan for the "soft partition" of Iraq. Always remember that Iraq constituted no serious threat to the United States, and that this critical fact was ascertainable prior to the invasion of 2003. Many people in the U.S. and around the world understood the insanity of the course on which the U.S. was about to embark -- but that overriding truth failed to penetrate the distorted and corrupted thought processes of the ruling class in Washington.

Because the U.S. invasion of Iraq was an unjustified act of aggression, it was a war crime. War crimes of this kind are the worst of international crimes against peace. This war crime unleashed a genocide, and over a million innocent people are now dead. Many more are grievously wounded, and their lives have been altered and often significantly destroyed forever. After all this -- after all this -- Biden proposed that the United States, the genocidal aggressor that perpetrated these crimes, should redraw the map of Iraq according to its own judgments. Yes, Biden and others with the same perspective will insist that they would generously provide the victims of our crimes with a new map still one more time "for their own good" -- but this is what monsters always say.

This is vicious colonialist arrogance and condescension that brings to mind the perspective of Britain and the European nations in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. And it was at the conclusion of World War I that the Western powers first engaged in this kind of mapmaking in earnest. In "Narcissism and Paternalism as Foreign Policy," I offered an excerpt from David Fromkin's valuable book, A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East. For the sake of completeness here, I offer it again:
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 fronters 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 in 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, so that the especial interest and excitement of the years with which this book is concerned, 1914 through 1922, is that they were the creative, formative years, in which everything seemed (and may indeed have been) possible. It was a time when Europeans, not implausibly, believed Arab and Jewish nationalism to be natural allies; when the French, not the Arabs, were the dangerous enemies of the Zionist movement; and when oil was not an important factor in the politics of the Middle East.

By 1922, however, the choices had narrowed and the courses had been set; the Middle East had started along a road that was to lead to the endless wars (between Israel and her neighbors, among others, and between rival militias in Lebanon) and to the always-escalating acts of terrorism (hijacking, assassination, and random massacre) that have been a characteristic feature of international life in the 1970s and 1980s. These are a part of the legacy of the history counted in the pages that follow.
The beliefs and policies that resulted in this kind of world transformation -- effected by privileged men comfortably ensconced in their plush, well-appointed offices, men who were largely ignorant of the millions of peoples whose lives they so heedlessly, casually and criminally rearranged -- led to a century of bloody conflict. The effects of their actions continue today, as do the slaughter and death.

And by their own words and actions, Obama and Biden tell us that they will bring us another century of death and destruction, and war without end.

Will the ruling class ever have enough? No, I deeply fear they will not. In that case, they will deserve what they get -- but the unfathomable tragedy is that many innocent people will not. Our rulers can appeal to their fictitious God for forgiveness, if they wish. No decent human being should grant them dispensation.