October 05, 2008

Perverse Priorities in a World of Lies

In many essays, I've talked about the immense difficulty of trying to discuss any issue of genuine importance in today's cultural atmosphere. Among the primary reasons for the near impossibility of talking about any subject that actually matters is the fact that the overwhelming majority of people are entirely comfortable existing on a steady diet of lies -- lies about the genuine nature of the U.S. government's actions, lies about "the good guy" American, lies about the ruling class, lies about racism as a core element in America's history...the lies are endless, and most people swallow all of them.

Almost no one in national political life, and almost no writer of prominence, will acknowledge the full meaning of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq: because Iraq never constituted a serious threat to the U.S., and because that fact was readily apparent in the winter and spring of 2002-2003 (even to an honest citizen with no "expert" specialized knowledge), the U.S. invasion was a criminal act of aggression, identical in principle to Nazi Germany's invasion of Poland. This foundational fact has many further implications, and one of them is critical in evaluating the two major presidential candidates: since the invasion was a criminal act of aggression, the U.S. occupation of Iraq is similarly an ongoing series of monstrous war crimes. To vote to fund the continuing occupation is to be an accomplice to genocide and to the destruction of an entire nation and its peoples, and thus to be a war criminal.

Most Americans who vote this November, and probably many of you reading this, will vote for one of these war criminals. I no longer care what rationalizations people use to justify such a detestable choice -- that one war criminal is not quite as bad as the other for some unspecified reason, that one of these bastards speechifies more prettily than the other and touches some inchoate, indefinable emotional chord in your stunted soul, that (as a friend recently observed to me privately, in condemning this version of the excuse) we've had white assholes governing this country for so long that it's only "fair" to have a black asshole in charge for a change. I don't give a damn what reason you give yourself for your embrace of evil, for only one fact matters:

If you vote for McCain or Obama, you're voting for a war criminal.

If you still persist in your determination to vote for the "lesser evil" at this late date (and there isn't a "lesser evil" now), you should read this essay again or for the first time. See where that approach has led others. And if the horrors begin to mount in the next four years, I don't want to hear any of your pathetic whining. Without the support offered by you and many others who are similarly impaired morally and cognitively, those horrors would not be realized. And that is what you offer with your vote: support.

Given this background, the nature of many of the attacks on Sarah Palin continues to shock and astound me. Bad enough that much of the hatred for Palin proceeds directly from the loathing of women as such that is one of the pillars supporting Western "civilization" and thought. Bad enough that a great deal of the contempt directed at Palin stems from a thoroughly odious sense of class superiority: "She's awful, my dear. She's just not like us. And you know, she's really -- oh, dear, can I say this? But I must! -- she's just trash." (I see that Walsh is incapable of giving up this line of attack, and her writing about Palin should disgust any decent human being.) It is a measure of how deeply stupid our discourse is that so many people still fall back on the "experience" argument: poor silly Sarah doesn't have enough of it, don't you know. Such people never identify exactly what the nature of such "experience" is, given our system of murderously violent militarist corporatism.

It is certainly true that Palin doesn't speak in the comfortable circumlocutions and deliberately evasive phrases so beloved by Washington pols, and by most writers and far too many bloggers. To me, that is an enormous plus: more than any of the other three major candidates, Palin still appears somewhat recognizable as an actual human being. But for a decadent, murderous Empire entering what is likely to be an especially violent phase (both abroad and at home) as the fabric of day-to-day life shreds and tears apart, actual human beings are a hindrance to be avoided. Now we depend on form without meaning, symbolism drained of all content, vacant gestures designed to assure us that our world is not descending into bloody insanity.

Just for the hell of it, let's compare two passages from the vice presidential debate. Here is Palin:
Oh, yeah, it's so obvious I'm a Washington outsider. And someone just not used to the way you guys operate. Because here you voted for the war and now you oppose the war. You're one who says, as so many politicians do, I was for it before I was against it or vice- versa. Americans are craving that straight talk and just want to know, hey, if you voted for it, tell us why you voted for it and it was a war resolution.

And you had supported John McCain's military strategies pretty adamantly until this race and you had opposed very adamantly Barack Obama's military strategy, including cutting off funding for the troops that attempt all through the primary.

And I watched those debates, so I remember what those were all about.

But as for as Darfur, we can agree on that also, the supported of the no-fly zone, making sure that all options are on the table there also.

America is in a position to help. What I've done in my position to help, as the governor of a state that's pretty rich in natural resources, we have a $40 billion investment fund, a savings fund called the Alaska Permanent Fund.

When I and others in the legislature found out we had some millions of dollars in Sudan, we called for divestment through legislation of those dollars to make sure we weren't doing anything that would be seen as condoning the activities there in Darfur. That legislation hasn't passed yet but it needs to because all of us, as individuals, and as humanitarians and as elected officials should do all we can to end those atrocities in that region of the world.
Palin offers some telling criticisms of Biden's record in the first two paragraphs, and then provides details concerning her own views and her actions as Governor of Alaska regarding Darfur. I absolutely disagree with both Palin and Biden on Darfur insofar as military action by the U.S. is concerned, and I'll return to that shortly.

Palin speaks comparatively plainly, using straightforward, everyday expressions. But her views are clear, and there is nothing notably "stupid" about what she says or how she says it -- unless, that is, you have become so accustomed to Washington-speak that you have rendered yourself incapable of recognizing more normal human expression. Yet it is altogether remarkable how much time and concentration so many people devote to demonstrating how much smarter they are than Sarah Palin. Obviously, Palin is not any kind of "intellectual" (also an unqualifiedly admirable attribute in my view), and she is not an Einstein. So let me rephrase the point more colloquially: if you have to devote so much time and energy to proving you're smarter than Sarah Palin, how pathetic are you? Here's your answer: very pathetic. Most of those who repeatedly engage in this kind of Palin-bashing are nothing more than bullies. They're the kind of people who, given half a chance, might torture small animals or pull the wings off flies. Our culture values bullying of this kind more highly than almost any other quality, and most people have learned the lesson very well.

But you want to be comforted by the soothing syllables of the voice of "experience." Biden has a plentiful supply of what you want:
IFILL: Senator, you have quite a record, this is the next question here, of being an interventionist. You argued for intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo, initially in Iraq and Pakistan and now in Darfur, putting U.S. troops on the ground. Boots on the ground. Is this something the American public has the stomach for?

BIDEN: I think the American public has the stomach for success. My recommendations on Bosnia. I admit I was the first one to recommend it. They saved tens of thousands of lives. And initially John McCain opposed it along with a lot of other people. But the end result was it worked. Look what we did in Bosnia. We took Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks, being told by everyone, I was told by everyone that this would mean that they had been killing each other for a thousand years, it would never work.

There's a relatively stable government there now as in Kosovo.
Biden's first sentence is unquestionably true: so steeped are Americans in the myth of "American exceptionalism," that they don't care at all whether we engage in war crimes, whether we unleash a genocide, whether we murder millions of innocent human beings -- so long as we "win." Biden is correct on that point, and this particular truth is unutterably disgusting.

But every word that Biden says about Bosnia and Kosovo is a lie. Every word is a lie. These are the lies of liberal "humanitarianism," which is imperialism under a different but equally bloody flag. I can only deconstruct these particular lies so many times. For a great deal of background on Bosnia and Kosovo, read, "The Truth Shall Drive You Mad: The Wise Men and Women of the Empire of Death." Here's a very brief excerpt:
I've written about the Clinton administration's Balkans policy, in the second half of "Iraq Is the Democrats' War, Too," and in "Liberal Hypocrisy in the Name of 'Humanitarianism'."

I suppose it might be advisable to remind you that the major excuse employed to this day by many liberals to "justify" the bombing campaign -- "But a genocide was going on!" -- was a lie. Yes, it was a lie. Read Diana Johnstone's book, Fools' Crusade: Yugoslavia, NATO, and Western Delusions, and read her article from February of this year, "NATO's Kosovo Colony."
Get Johnstone's book, and follow the links, if the truth matters to you in any significant degree.

It is depressing in the extreme to see how crucial these particular lies are to many liberals and progressives, who repeat them even now. And so we see commentators who are otherwise often unusually perceptive continue to fall for this propaganda:
Now Biden is explaining about how we succeeded in Bosnia ...

And Biden is good on Darfur.
"How we succeeded in Bosnia..." These are some of the fruits of being drowned in "American exceptionalism": lies go down like sugar, so intent are people on believing that the U.S. acts, at least some of the time, for the "right" reasons, and that it acts on behalf of poor, benighted people and only "for their own good." In practice, what this means is that people are fully prepared to believe the lies if they are offered by those supposedly on "their" side, while they will repeatedly denounce lies that are indistinguishable when the "other" side offers them.

[I must add that I might even overlook the multitude of lies about the U.S. Balkans policy, and credit, in just a very small degree, the paeans to the wisdom and nobility of our government's actions there, were it not for the fact that almost everyone at every point on the political spectrum ignores entirely the reign of terror and death in Somalia that began and continues with full bipartisan support. Chris Floyd may be the only person who regularly reports on this unfolding nightmare: start here, and more importantly, here:
In the recent presidential "debate," both candidates expressed their eager, unstinting, even feverish support for the so-called "War on Terror" being waged by Washington and its proxies around the world.

Indeed, throughout the entire campaign, Barack Obama and John McCain have repeatedly pledged their fealty to the Terror War, and all that it entails: an even larger war machine (with even more public boodle for war profiteers); a continued military presence in Iraq (under one guise or another); a substantial expansion of the hate-fomenting war in Afghanistan (with a concomitant raise in "collateral damage"); an extension of that war into Pakistan (destabilizing and radicalizing a fractious state with a nuclear arsenal); pressing ever closer to the threshold of war with Iran (with bellicose threats, blockades and demonizing propaganda); establishing even more military satrapies to exercise dominion over the regions of the earth (including new proconsular commands for Africa and the United States itself); and -- as we have noted here over and over -- the bloody rendering of Somalia into a boiling, hellish cauldron of slaughter, suffering and chaos.

Somalia is the invisible third front of the Terror War, an American-backed "regime change" operation launched by the invading army of Ethiopia and local warlords in December 2006. In addition to helping arm, fund and train the army of the Ethiopian dictatorship, the United States has intervened directly into the conflict, carrying out bombing raids on fleeing refugees and nomads, firing missiles into villages, sending in death squads to clean up after covert operations, and, as we reported here long ago, assisting in the "rendition" of refugees, including American citizens, into the hands of Ethiopia's notorious torturers. [See note below for more links.]

Together, the American Terror Warriors, the Ethiopians and the warlords (some of them directly in the pay of the CIA) have created the worst humanitarian disaster on earth. Thousands have been killed in the fighting. Hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes, many fleeing to northern Kenya, where more than 215,000 people are languishing in a single refugee camp in Dadaab; 45,000 people have poured into the camp this year alone, says the UN. In some of the camps, Somali refugees are living without any shelter at all: "The BBC's Mark Doyle, who has recently visited the camps in Kenya, says some refugees do not even have a basic plastic sheet to protect them from the sun and rain."
He's just getting started. Go read Floyd right now, and follow the links for much, much more. And other than Floyd, who is discussing this orgy of blood and death on any sort of regular basis at all? That's right: no one.]

That returns us to Darfur, and to the general question of "humanitarian" intervention. Appropriately enough, that returns us as well to another earlier essay, "The Lies in Your Head: 'We Will All Die...If We Continue to Practise War.'" There is much more that could be said about allegedly "humanitarian" intervention, but I will provide you with this excerpt from the earlier piece:
And for those people, especially those liberals, who still cling to the "necessity" of war for "humanitarian" purposes, I recommend Jean Bricmont's Humanitarian Imperialism: Using Human Rights to Sell War. If I believed in such programs, I would make that small but indispensable book required reading for everyone who writes on political affairs, and for everyone who works or hopes to work in government. I would require that they read it repeatedly, until they demonstrate they have fully understood its arguments.
I then offered these passages from Bricmont, at pp. 65-67:
The basic idea of this school of thought [humanitarian intervention] is simple enough: since democracy and human rights are much more respected in the West than elsewhere, it is our right and even our duty to do whatever we can to see to it that these rights are extended to the rest of humanity. Moreover, that obligation takes priority, since human rights come first; they are even the precondition for development.

The success of that ideology in transforming the Western left has been remarkable. ... Numerous left intellectuals consider it their mission to criticize Western governments for their excessive caution and timidity. To hear their complaints, one might gather that the main problem in the world today is the failure of the West to intervene in enough places (Chechnya, Tibet, Kurdistan, Sudan) and with enough force to promote and export its genuine values, democracy and human rights.

In the moderate version of this ideology, we are only called upon to protest, by demonstrations or letter writing, against human rights violations committed in other places. The tougher versions demand economic and diplomatic sanctions or even, if necessary, that the West have recourse to military intervention.

The main thing wrong with the "tough" version, the one calling for military intervention, stems from the ambiguity of the "we" in statements such as "We should intervene in order to..." The "we" does not usually refer to a particular group to which the person making such recommendations belongs, as would have been the case, for example, with the volunteers who joined the International Brigades during the Spanish Civil War, but to armed forces powerful enough to intervene effectively, in particular those of the United States. During the conflicts in Bosnia and Kosovo, a certain number of Western intellectuals fancied themselves following in the Spanish footsteps of Malraux, Orwell, and Hemingway. But, unlike their predecessors, they largely remained at home or ensconced in the same hotel, rather than entering the fray, while the International Brigades and the Spanish Republican Army were replaced by the U.S. Air Force. Now, nothing in United States policy indicates the slightest sincere concern for human rights and democracy. Assigning it the prime task of defending these values is strange indeed. Moreover, to call on an army to wage a war for human rights implies a naive vision of what armies are and do, as well as a magical belief in the myth of short, clean, "surgical" wars. The example of Iraq shows that it is possible to know when a war starts but not when it will end, and it is totally utopian to expect an army that is under constant attack from guerrilla forces not to have recourse to torture in order to obtain information. The French used it massively in Algeria. The Americans used it in Vietnam and again in Iraq. Yet both the French and American torturers were citizens of "democratic countries, respectful of human rights" -- yes, but when they were at home, and in periods of relative social peace.
Most people, including most liberals and progressives, will fall for the lies an endless number of times, particularly when they are offered by an "experienced" member of their own political tribe. And so the murder and destruction will go on, into the bloody, mangled future.

For the reasons I have stated repeatedly, I refuse to vote for either McCain or Obama. McCain fully supports the U.S. drive to world hegemony, with all the death and chaos that requires. And even though Palin remains a bit more human at the moment, if she should rise to the national level in politics, her own hands will be drenched with the blood of innocents soon enough. As for Obama and Biden: they are swimming in blood, and none of their supporters seem to mind that to any noticeable extent. And they speak so well!

Never mind that almost every word they speak is a lie. Never mind the lives they so heedlessly and criminally throw away, as they eagerly pay for a military that will rip apart the bodies of more than a million innocent people.

But you can comfort yourselves with the pretty words and the empty phrases, as the flames engulf us and we drown in blood.

Lies are all most Americans know, and lies are all they will accept. Truth is the enemy, and truth must be destroyed, along with life, joy and meaning. But the devil will certainly turn a lovely phrase, as he leads you directly into hell.