October 10, 2009

Endless Lies, Endless Sucker Plays

[Update added.]

One interesting and somewhat tricky issue related to the obscenity of Obama's Nobel Peace Prize merits a few comments.

(As I was writing, I first put ironic quotes around "Peace." I then realized, and not for the first time, that given our massive cultural denial, avoidance and fervent dedication to lies without end -- mentioned here and here, with links to much more -- I would be required to put such quotes around a huge number of words, were I to be at all consistent. Obvious war crimes become transmogrified when committed by the United States, so I suppose they're only "war crimes." As we all know (or are endlessly and unctuously told), the U.S. is genuinely exceptional. But if we examine the historical record with a minimal degree of honesty, and thus appreciate the U.S.'s bloody dedication to regular campaigns of widespread murder and domination, to systematic discrimination and brutalization on the domestic front, and many similar horrors, we are compelled to state that the U.S. is "exceptional" only in the manner of a serial torturer, rapist and murderer.

And the U.S. has, in fact, murdered a vast number of entirely innocent people, from the genocide of the Native Americans, on through the ghastly, centuries-long horrors of slavery, on to Hawaii and the Philippines, into World War I (the consequences of which led directly into World War II and to the conflicts that continue to devastate the world even in our own time), Vietnam, Latin America, Kosovo, and on and on and on. But because the U.S. is "good" and always, always has "good intentions," I suppose we may only refer to "murders." Most people will only concede, if they concede even this much, that, while we are always undeniably well-intentioned, well, oh, dear, something seems to have gone wrong. Thus, the U.S. commits "blunders" and acts "incompetently." Almost no one will consider the possibility that very different motives impel the ruling class. For a consideration of the various motives involved, see this essay. In any case, I'll try to keep the use of ironic quotes to a minimum. The task shall not be an easy one, as this passage itself demonstrates.)

It's been suggested in various places that bestowing the Nobel on Obama might be intended to encourage a particular future course of action (by Obama and others as well), while it might simultaneously lessen the likelihood of very different outcomes. An interesting article in The Christian Science Monitor expresses the general point this way:
Unlike the other Nobels, which are given for a lifetime of generally indisputable high achievement in areas like physics, chemistry, and literature, the peace prize has often been awarded more in hope than hindsight — and with an eye to nudging world events.
Thorbjorn Jagland, the Chair of the Nobel Committee, first maintained that we "are not awarding the prize for what may happen in the future, but for what he has done in the previous year," but then went on to argue:
We are hoping this may contribute a little bit for what he is trying to do…. [The prize] is a clear signal to the world that we want to advocate the same as he has done to promote international diplomacy.
Some people have applied this general point to Iran specifically. I've seen the connection mentioned in some news stories, and one of Chris Floyd's commenters voices the idea very concisely: "How in the hell is a Nobel Peace Prize winner going to bomb Iran?"

I would prefer to think this commenter is himself being ironic, but I suspect he isn't. Assuming him to be serious, and while I have no wish to be especially harsh with this commenter or with the not insubstantial number of other individuals who have expressed the same hope, I have a question in response: How many different ways can you be suckered? In an endless variety of ways, it would appear.

The first problem with the notion that this prize makes it significantly more difficult for Obama to attack Iran is what I just indicated: it is merely a hope, and an especially fragile one, dependent upon a very large number of variables. And if you read further in the Christian Science Monitor story, you see how this Nobel Peace Prize is more than likely to work in precisely the opposite direction:
Martin Indyk of the Brookings Institution in Washington, writes that the atmospherics behind the award are politically useful for Obama. “Winning over world opinion, which the Nobel prize award signifies, can help. It frees up governments to respond positively to Obama’s call for them to assume their responsibilities. And that in turn puts pressure on rogue leaders to mend their ways and join the developing international consensus,” he wrote.
Right there, in the two sentences I've highlighted, you see how this Nobel may, if anything, make active military confrontation with Iran more likely, not less.

Who are the "rogue leaders" to whom Indyk refers? His full (albeit brief) commentary mentions only two countries specifically: Iran and North Korea. I refer you to Chris Floyd's summary of the operative facts concerning the latest warmongering about Iran, set forth at the opening of this article. I emphasize that Iran is and has been acting in ways fully permitted by the agreements to which it is a party. In other words, Iran is entirely within its rights to do everything it has been and is doing. All the rest -- Iran's frightening but non-existent determination to acquire nuclear weapons (non-existent insofar as evidence or facts are concerned, and even if Iran is so determined: "So What?"), its frightening and non-existent secrecy (which, of course, can only mean that it is committed to acts of evil, since, of course, Iran is not only inherently evil but run by a madman) -- all of it is propaganda. More than that: it is propaganda designed to demonize and isolate Iran, so as to leave Iran with no alternative but to acquiesce to the West's arbitrary, utterly unjustified demands -- and more particularly, to the arbitrary demands of the United States. But, then, "America is God. Let God's Will be done."

That's not all. Examine this sentence from Indyk: "It frees up governments to respond positively to Obama's call for them to assume their responsibilities." This isn't directed to Iran (or North Korea), for Iran is a "rogue nation." Instead, it's directed at those nations who resist the call for "crippling" sanctions (to use the Obama administration's vile phrase), sanctions to be imposed if Iran fails to be exactly as subservient as the U.S. demands. According to Indyk, the Nobel makes it more likely that these recalcitrant "governments" will "respond positively" and "assume their responsibilities" -- i.e., they will join in the efforts to punish Iran severely, for the unforgivable crime of exercising its rights and refusing to behave as the U.S. demands in every particular.

It is at this point that I must remind you of one issue which most people remain determined to deny, even as the world plunges into agony and death:
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.
This is the exact pattern that unfolded with Iraq, where the Clinton administration's loathsome sanctions regime inevitably and necessarily led to the invasion in 2003. And now, possibly encouraged by this obscene Nobel Prize, the exact same pattern is likely to be repeated with Iran.

Indyk works for the Brookings Institution, a permanent part of Washington's permanent war establishment. As I have often noted, the monstrous criminality of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq has not altered one element of the ruling class's devotion to American worldwide hegemony (by outright invasion, deadly sanctions, covert operations, or otherwise), all so that the ruling class's power and wealth will be increased still more. I also remind you that it was the alleged failure and unsustainability of the Iraq sanctions that led many people (including many liberals) to support the Iraq invasion. With Iran, they're ready to do it all over again. If Indyk thinks the Nobel is good news, and for the reasons he gives, you should run for your lives. You may not need to -- but many others will, and they won't be able to.

In light of these dynamics, Obama's Nobel is exceedingly dangerous for still another reason. Many of those who supported the Iraq invasion did so with enormous regret (they told us repeatedly, oozing sincerity), but after all, Iraq itself had made it necessary. The belief that Iraq had made it necessary -- that Iraq, because of its own actions, "had it coming" -- was the inevitable result of a pattern that is almost unrecognized, although it is hidden in plain view. In analyzing Israel's Gaza policy (in "The Slaughter of the Diseased Animals"), I described that pattern as follows:
For a very long time, the United States government has specialized in the pattern pursued by Israel. The vastly more powerful nation wishes to act on a certain policy -- almost always territorial expansion, for purposes of access to resources, or to force itself into new markets, or to pursue the evil notion that economic and ideological success depend on brutality and conquest -- but a specifically moral justification for its planned actions does not lie easily to hand.

So the powerful nation embarks on a course designed to make life intolerable for the country and/or those people that stand in its way. The more powerful nation is confident that, given sufficient time and sufficient provocation, the weaker country and people will finally do something that the actual aggressor can seize on as a pretext for the policy upon which it had already decided. In this way, what then unfolds becomes the victim's fault.

The United States government has utilized this tactic with Mexico, to begin the Spanish-American War, even, dear reader, in connection with the U.S. entrance into World War II, most recently in Iraq, possibly (perhaps probably) with Iran in the future, and in numerous other conflicts. It's always the fault of the other side, never the fault of the United States itself. Yet the United States has always been much more powerful than those it victimizes in this manner. The United States always claims that its victims represented a dire threat to its very survival, a threat that must be brought under U.S. control, or eliminated altogether. The claim has almost never been true. This monstrous pattern is "The American Way of Doing Business."
It is this pattern that the U.S. is pursuing with Iran, and it is more than likely, as Indyk and others eagerly proclaim, that the Nobel will serve only to encourage the continuation of this monstrous, criminal behavior. After years of "crippling" sanctions, and the unimaginable suffering and death to which they lead, the U.S. may still have no choice but to attack Iran -- and this outcome, which is, of course, so deeply tragic and regrettable, will have been made necessary and inevitable by Iran itself.

To combat this Empire of Lies and the endless suffering, destruction and death to which it is devoted, we must insist on the truth. In addition to those issues I've addressed in the articles linked above, I return to the almost incomprehensible monstrousness of any attack on Iran in the present or foreseeable circumstances. I wrote the following in, "Morality, Humanity and Civilization: 'Nothing remains...but memories.'" These observations were offered three and a half years ago, in April 2006. They remain completely truthful today:
These central facts lead to only one conclusion: an attack on Iran would represent a blatant, naked act of aggression against a country that does not threaten us. It would not be an act of self-defense, if that term has any meaning at all: there is nothing at present or in the immediate future to defend ourselves against. Of course, the same was true of Iraq. We refuse to learn any lessons at all.

So an attack on Iran, even if confined to the use of conventional weapons, would confirm beyond the point of any remaining dispute that we have abandoned all the constraints on military action that the world has accepted for some time. We would make indisputably clear that we believe we have the "right" to make war on any nation, at any time, and on the merest whim. The existence of a threat to the United States is irrelevant and unnecessary to our actions. In effect, we will have declared war on the entire world, at least by implication. No one will be able to view themselves as safe: those we consider allies today might be viewed as enemies tomorrow. All concepts of "right" and "morality" would be jettisoned forever. We will have entered a world where brute force and military superiority are all that matter. Since no other nation can view itself as safe from our wrath, we can expect the rest of the world to make plans accordingly.

When the unprovoked, aggressive and non-defensive use of nuclear weapons is added to this picture, we will have entered a world of potential global holocaust.
So much for the positive value of this Nobel Peace Prize.

Alway, always insist on the truth. It is the most powerful weapon you have.

UPDATE: I strongly recommend you read all of Anthony Gregory's article on many of these same issues: "The Real Problem with Obama's Nobel." Here are his concluding paragraphs:
As for Iran, the White House is still pondering engagement, which would be a calamity. Obama, like Bush, has misrepresented the threat from Iran and is reportedly contemplating a bombing mission. At the least, the administration wants more trade sanctions, which could also be deemed an act of war.

Obama probably deserves the prize as much as some previous recipients, like Henry Kissinger and Woodrow Wilson, but it is still obnoxious to see any warmonger get it. It says something perverse about what the establishment regards as pro-peace activism.

The real problem with Obama’s Nobel is not that it might neuter him, but rather that it may embolden him. In the name of peace, he and previous presidents have kept America in a virtual state of perpetual war for three generations. The Nobel is a signal to Obama that he can keep talking like a man of peace even as he acts like a master of war. Those who favored Obama, thinking he’d be less belligerent against Iran than McCain, now have more reason to worry.