September 29, 2009

Fools for Empire (I)

[Update added at the conclusion.]

Introduction: Two Scenes from My Nightmares

Last night, I had a profoundly disturbing dream. It left me very unnerved, and the aftereffects still remain.

For reasons that would take too long to explain, I found that I was required to defend myself against certain accusations. In my dream, it seemed that several weeks earlier, I had remarked to an acquaintance that I was thinking about possibly making some gently critical remarks to a friend of mine at some indeterminate time in the future. Some of my friend's actions had raised questions in my mind, and I thought it might be necessary to point out to him the troubling nature of his behavior.

These statements of mine -- that I was considering the possibility of perhaps offering mild criticisms to my friend at some undetermined future date -- had been transformed into the accusation that I had made detailed plans to murder him. Moreover, I was planning to murder not only my friend, but many additional persons as well. My allegedly criminal plans, which I was further accused of already having put into motion, made me an "outlaw" to "civilization." If I did not immediately disavow these plans, I would have to be severely punished.

All of that was very upsetting -- how do you even begin to defend yourself against accusations which are nothing but fiction and a tissue of lies? -- but two further aspects of my nightmare were even more upsetting. My accuser was a serial murderer -- a murderer who was sane and fully aware of the acts he had committed -- but he was steadfastly convinced of his own moral superiority and showed not even the slightest glimmer of remorse about the crimes he had repeatedly committed over many decades.

My nightmare grew still worse. My accuser had conducted his murders in full view of the entire world. He even boasted of them. Most people think that the end justifies the means -- and that even the slaughter of countless innocents is of no moral consequence, provided a sufficient number of people can delude themselves into believing the final result is a "success." It could accurately have been said that my accuser had no moral center, and that he was a murderer without a soul, and without a conscience.

But my accuser was very powerful; indeed, he was more powerful than any murderer who had preceded him in all of history. So almost no one was willing to identify his true nature or the ghastly criminality that he represented. No one would say: "This man is a monster. He is the one who should be condemned without mercy. How could anyone believe a word he says -- especially when he condemns others as being guilty of the crimes he himself has repeatedly committed, and when he does so without a shred of evidence?"

And that was the other deeply frightening aspect of my nightmare. Most other people did believe him. Even those people who said they had serious doubts about the truth of his claims proceeded to debate those claims as if they had some merit that deserved scrutiny. I tried to explain why nothing he said should be regarded with any degree of seriousness, but no one would listen to me. They engaged in endless debates over the particulars of his accusations. Since none of his claims was based in fact, all such debates were entirely futile. But my accuser -- this monster who had brutalized, tortured, raped and murdered an unending succession of innocent victims -- had achieved his primary aim: his accusations were regarded as legitimate, if only to the extent that they had to be disproved. Even if those who doubted my accuser's claims succeeded in debunking this particular set of claims, this monster without a conscience knew that he had won the most critical battle. He would simply invent another series of groundless claims. And so another debate over another series of fictions would ensue; this pattern would be repeated endlessly. Finally, in time, I would be punished, just as my accuser demanded.

I understood all too well that, because even those who sought to defend me were arguing within the framework and using the terms chosen by my accuser, my accuser would win in the end. Even if my defenders made a stronger case about one particular issue, my accuser had won the larger battle -- because almost everyone permitted the underlying assumptions and the general perspective to remain unchallenged.

Mercifully, as this terrifying realization came upon me, I woke up.

The second scene that horrified me was, regrettably, one that occurred when I was awake. The specifics of this scene were not horrifying in themselves, rather they were quite ludicrously comical. The horror resided in what the scene revealed about the dynamics of the kind of "debate" that took place in my nightmare, a debate about the meritless claims offered by a man who was himself a monstrous criminal.

This past Sunday evening, I listened to John Batchelor's radio program. During one segment, Batchelor discussed with Larry Johnson the allegedly shocking revelations about the allegedly "secret" second nuclear plant being constructed by Iran. It should be noted that Johnson has worked for the CIA and the U.S. State Department’s Office of Counter Terrorism.

Batchelor and Johnson mentioned the National "Intelligence" Estimate about Iran and its nuclear capabilities from 2007. Johnson noted that portions of that NIE had been released at a particularly "sensitive" political moment. The latest "revelations" about Iran's purportedly threatening activities now make indisputably clear, Johnson maintained, that the 2007 NIE was gravely in error. Therefore, Johnson demagogically continued, the unsettling question arises: did, may the heavens forfend, political calculations enter into that report? Then, in a moment that triumphantly rose to the heights of ridiculousness in the race toward ultimate absurdity in commentary on current events (which almost all political commentators, of all political persuasions, seem determined to win), Johnson proclaimed that "political considerations" must never, ever enter into intelligence reports. Johnson further expounded that political considerations must never, ever represent even the smallest part of intelligence work, which must always be focused exclusively on the facts and nothing but the facts.

Johnson made this argument in all apparent seriousness. I remind you that Johnson worked for the CIA and for the State Department's Office of Counter Terrorism. In his statements during Batchelor's radio program, Johnson revealed himself to be one of the most stupendously stupid people who has ever lived on this planet, and/or he is lying through his teeth. (I concede that this additionally shocking "revelation" may be no news at all to those who follow Johnson's work regularly; I do not.)

In fact -- if we wish to speak of the facts so beloved by Johnson -- with very rare exceptions, "intelligence" work is nothing but "political considerations." In fact, I offered detailed arguments specifically cautioning against relying on the 2007 NIE when it was released: "Played for Fools Yet Again: About that Iran 'Intelligence' Report." This was my central theme:
I therefore repeat my major admonition, and give it special emphasis:
It is always irrelevant to major policy decisions, and such decisions are reached for different reasons altogether. This is true whether the intelligence is correct or not, and it is almost always wrong. On those very rare occasions when intelligence is accurate, it is likely to be disregarded in any case. It will certainly be disregarded if it runs counter to a course to which policymakers are already committed.

The intelligence does not matter. It is primarily used as propaganda, to provide alleged justification to a public that still remains disturbingly gullible and pliable -- and it is used after the fact, to justify decisions that have already been made.
You will find much more about this issue and many related ones in the earlier article.

In that essay from almost two years ago, I also said this:
The reaction from all quarters to the NIE relies on several interrelated central assumptions, ones that are regarded as so unquestionably true that no one thinks they need to be stated: that major policy decisions, including decisions of war and peace, are based on intelligence in the first place; that a decision to go to war is one made only after cool and careful rational deliberation; and that nations go to war for the reasons they announce to the world.


I put this fact in bold capital letters because I have explained these dynamics in detail in numerous essays over the last several years. I hasten to add that I suffer from not even a single illusion that this new article will make the slightest dent in "conventional wisdom," for I know it will not. Nonetheless, for the ten or twelve of you who are amenable to considering them, here are the facts.
My conviction that the numerous essays I have written on this subject would not "make the slightest dent in 'conventional wisdom'" is demonstrated to be tragically accurate by the reactions to this latest episode in warmongering -- warmongering, that is, by the United States and its fellow criminals in Empire, and most emphatically not by Iran. I regret to say that this is true even of those who work so hard to debunk the latest claims offered by the United States and by our Prince of Hope and Change, one Barack Obama.

On that point, which I will analyze in additional detail shortly, I draw your attention to the discussion in "Played for Fools Yet Again" of how Digby, as just one example out of many, completely falls into the trap of debating what the "intelligence" allegedly proves. I emphasize again that when you enter into this debate on the terms selected by those who are intent upon increasing the power and wealth of the ruling class, you will always lose in the end. Even if one grants the "good intentions" of those who challenge the latest claims offered by our rulers, although one wonders how many times the same pattern can be repeated without people understanding how this game is played if the truth genuinely concerns them, the final result is unchanged: if war is necessary to the achievement of the ruling class's goals, then war it will be, as it has been and is so often. See also, "So Iran Gets Nukes. So What?," for an analysis of the hideousness of the Clinton administration's sanctions policy against Iraq, and how that policy inevitably and necessarily led to the Bush administration's criminal invasion of that country in 2003.

For identical reasons, punishing sanctions against Iran now so eagerly sought by the Obama administration will, in time, lead to the same result, if the policy remains unaltered. Yet many liberals and progressives again champion a strong sanctions policy as the desirable, supposedly "peaceful" and "realistic" alternative to war. But as shown in ""So Iran Gets Nukes" and other essays here, a sanctions regime is not an alternative to war: it is the prelude to attack or invasion. Moreover, sanctions murder a hideous number of innocent people as surely as more overt acts of war. Again, I ask how many times the same exact pattern can honestly be repeated by people who so insistently claim to be devoted to "peace." I also note that the dead and grievously injured don't give a damn whether such people were honest or not.

Despite my earlier, sadly accurate prediction of the effectiveness of my work, I have some additional observations to offer concerning this neverending, lamentable business, for certain dynamics have become clearer to me in the intervening time. I again offer them because I remain convinced that the truth (or, at least, an interpretation nearer to the truth) has value both in itself and as a necessary prerequisite to the possibility, however remote, of a future that might place a greater emphasis on peace and the supreme value of a single human life. I do it for myself, and for the ten or twelve of you who may still follow my efforts here. I also do it for that lonely, defenseless person who will certainly be the victim of future criminal acts by the United States as long as this behavior remains unchanged, and as long as resistance to that behavior remains so ineffective.

Who are the "Fools for Empire" of my title? As you may already have surmised, and as will become much clearer if you read one or two of the earlier essays referenced above: almost everyone.

To be continued.

UPDATE: I would not want to leave the impression that I'm offering a version of the ad hominem fallacy in part of the above: that the United States deserves to be disbelieved with regard to its claims about Iran because the U.S. itself is a "bad actor," and that it is a bad actor specifically as concerns the nature of the claims it has put forth repeatedly, and that the U.S. should therefore be disbelieved on those grounds alone.

That is not at all my argument, as several of the linked essays should make clear in further detail. But this question, and a few related issues, merit additional discussion. I will offer some brief thoughts on this subject in the next part of this series, before moving on to other points.

AND: Part II: The Inescapable Pervasiveness of the Ruling Class Paradigm

September 21, 2009

Before the Heat

We interrupt our recent total absence of programming to bring you this brief, non-substantive announcement. Our pursuit of the Zero thus remains fatally compromised. Still, we persevere.

Here in the bloody maelstrom of fire, smoke, sun sun SUN, surf, sex and rotten teevee (I repeat myself) commonly known as "Los Angeles," we are about to have another heat wave. At least they've managed to get the worst of the recent fires under control before the Santa Anas arrive later today. See what's in store for us? Fanfuckingtastic.

I had just managed to pull my various faltering body parts into sufficiently recognizable human form to begin writing again. But the heat has had a very awful effect on me this summer. Let's hope this is the last of the very high temperatures, and that this episode will be mercifully brief. (The weather "forecasters" are already emitting noises that the heat may last until the weekend.)

I'll still try to do some writing this week, probably between 1 and 6 AM. When it gets this hot and given my health these days, all I can do between 1 PM and 10 or 11 at night is retire to a reclining position with a fan positioned to blow 90-plus degree air over my exhausted body. Moving hot air is very marginally preferable to hot air that just hangs over me. And the poor cats. Cyrano conks out on the bathroom floor, which is the coolest surface in the apartment. Wendy seeks refuge in the shadows under the bed. They join me on the bed as the sun goes down.

If the heat subsides toward the end of the week, I should be able to start publishing something then or over the weekend. So let it be written, so let it be done! (Yes, they make rotten movies here, too. And what was Anne Baxter thinking in that film, and why didn't C.B. stop her? Wait. They were probably thinking of the endless inspiration her performance would provide to generations of drag queens around the world. I unreservedly retract the criticism. Brava! If you don't know the film in question, shame, shame, shame.)

So, yes, I survive, kinda sorta. And as circumstances would have it, I have a lot to say about what's been going on. Christ, what a godawful mess. That would be bad enough, but it's the same mess over and over and over again. Which means I must continue the tribalism series (among other essays), to try to identify some of the reasons why so many people keep falling for the same exact shit time after time. (Fair warning: I fully intend to have an illegal amount of fun with the "progressive" movement. I am seriously considering the possibility that the "progressives" are, in fact, deviously clever political satirists. If they are serious and sincere in their recent behavior, that means only that they are significantly less self-aware, considerably more ignorant and more devoid of shame than the conservative movement of recent vintage. While I consider that explanation possible, it stretches my view of the elasticity of reality to the breaking point. Therefore, I find it much more credible that the progressives' behavior is intended to highlight, through wonderfully clever albeit extreme exaggeration and various other devices, the utter idiocy of those poseurs who pretend to challenge the status quo, when they actually embody and advance the status quo on every matter of moment. I would also point out that to view the progressives' performance as intentionally comedic and wittily targeted art is a far, far kinder interpretation of their otherwise embarrassingly, mortifyingly awful actions and attitudes. And after all, charity begins at blog. That is unquestionably one of the primary lessons of my copy of the Internetz Bible. The version of that bible in my possession is the standard one. I therefore contend that settles that.)

Pray for coolth. Let us reassemble several days hence. Please bring strong beverages. I can't imbibe the alcoholic ones any longer; they're bad for my heart saith the doctors, the unfeeling bastards. But at least I can smell the fumes as they waft toward me through the (hopefully) cooling air.

To the fans!